Tuesday, January 29, 2013

With 1968 in the Rear-View Mirror

Note: Forty-five years ago, tomorrow, the Tet Offensive was launched in Vietnam. A week before, the USS Pueblo had been captured at sea. It was a hell of a way to start a year. It was 1968. The piece below was written in 2012; after some foolishness it takes a look at 1968, a year shaped by unusual violence.

After no sleep for a couple of nights, while being overcome by a virus, I finally dozed off. Wouldn’t you know it, the ghost of Richard Nixon came to me in a dream. He said he had a message for Mitt Romney.

"Hey, I don't like Romney a bit," I said. So, I told Nixon to quit bothering me, he should just tell Romney himself.

Frowning and shaking his jowls, Nixon said he’d stop pestering me when I promise to never draw another mean caricature of him.

Naturally, I chuckled, “No dice.”

So, Nixon instructed me, “Tell that Romney not to let anybody discourage him from twisting the truth into whatever shape he likes, whenever the hell he feels like it. You tell him that when a Republican President-elect says it during his run for office, it isn't called lying. No sir! It’s called, advertising.”    

Nixon waited for me to laugh. I didn't. Then he wanted to talk about the everlasting genius of his famous Checkers Speech.

To shut his trap, I woke up and ambled toward the bathroom. Covered in sweat, I was hoping my fever had broken.  

Then, walking back toward my bed, I thought about the opinion polls that suggest most Americans are sick and tired of the war in Afghanistan, but they're itching to start a new war with Iran.

No joke.

After the Vietnam War, I foolishly thought I'd never see my country mired in a long, unpopular war again. Of course, before the Bush administration’s power-grabbing reaction to 9/11, I never anticipated such a thing as a never-ending war on a tactic -- the War on Terror.

Thinking about how wrong well-meaning people can be about the justifications of a war reminds me of 1968, a year that began with most Americans supporting their nation’s war in Southeast Asia.

With the still-escalating war in Vietnam as a backdrop, the stormy events of America’s 1968 unfolded the year after San Francisco’s Summer of Love. In 1969 our swashbuckling astronauts first set foot on the moon. My generation remembers 1968 for its wall-to-wall violence.


Jan. 23: The USS Pueblo was seized on the high seas by North Korean forces; at least that’s the story I got. At the time I was in the Navy and I had little doubt we would rescue the Pueblo’s crew, even if it meant another war.

Subsequently, as captives, the Pueblo’s 83 men endured an ordeal that was shocking to an American public that had naively thought its Super Power status meant such things could not happen.

Jan. 30: The Tet Offensive began, as the shadowy Viet Cong flexed its muscles and blurred battle lines with simultaneous assaults in many parts of South Vietnam. Even the American embassy in Saigon was attacked.

Mar. 16: Some 500 Vietnamese villagers -- women, children and old men (animals, too) -- were killed by American soldiers on patrol in what came to be known as the My Lai Massacre. However, it would be another 20 months before investigative journalist Seymour Hersh would break the horrifying story of the covered-up massacre, via the Associated Press wire service.

Mar. 31: Facing the burgeoning antiwar-driven campaigns of Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Sen. Robert Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson suddenly withdrew from the presidential race, declining to run for reelection by saying, “I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination...”

Apr. 4: America’s most respected civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots followed in cities coast-to-coast. The bitterness that remained after the dust settled was scary.

In Richmond, it ended an era. Young adventurous whites who followed music could no longer go in the black clubs they had once patronized. No more Sahara Club for me.

May 13: The USA and North Vietnam began a series of negotiations to end the war in Vietnam that came to be known as the Paris Peace Talks. Ironically, as a backdrop, France, itself, was in chaos. Workers and students had shut down much of the country with a series of strikes. The trains weren’t running, the airports were closed, as were schools, etc.

May 24: On the same day I was discharged from the Navy, Father Philip Berrigan and Thomas Lewis (of Artists Concerned About Vietnam) got sentenced to six years for destroying federal property, stemming from an incident where duck blood was poured over draft files at Baltimore’s Selective Service headquarters.

June 3: Artist Andy Warhol nearly died from wounds received from a gunshot fired by Valerie Solanis. She was a sometime writer and one of the many off-beat characters who had occasionally hung out at Warhol’s famous studio, The Factory. 

June 5: Having just won the California primary, Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles. The hopes of millions that the Vietnam War would end soon died that night. It’s hard to imagine that Richard Nixon would have been able to defeat Kennedy in the general election.

Kennedy's death meant the gravy train being enjoyed by big corporations supplying the war effort would continue to chug along. At this same time, 21-year-old Mitt Romney, who was a decidedly pro-war guy, was acting as a Mormon missionary in France.

June 8: James Earl Ray was arrested in London. Eventually, he was convicted of murdering Martin Luther King. Yet, questions about that crime and Ray's role linger today.

July 23: After watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Westhampton Theatre, I saw The Who play live on stage at the Mosque (now the Altria Theater). Looking at the long line to get into the concert, I was quite surprised at how many hippies there were in Richmond. This was in the period the band was into smashing up its equipment to finish off shows.

The acid I took that day served me well.

Aug. 20: Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush what had been a season of renaissance. As it had been with the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis, talk of World War III being one button-push away was commonplace.

Aug. 28: In Chicago the Democratic convention that selected Vice President Hubert Humphrey to top its ticket melted down. With tear gas in the air and blood in the streets 178 demonstrators/bystanders were arrested. Many were roughed up on live television. As cops clubbed citizens in the streets, CBS reporters Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were punched on the convention floor.

Watching the riots surrounding the Democratic convention on television, I began wondering if those who were saying our society was coming unglued might be right. Consequently, for the first time my political ideas were aired out in a newspaper, when my letter to the editor was published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That experience began a love affair with seeing my name in print.

Oct. 18: At the Summer Olympics at Mexico City, American track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the medal ceremony for the 200 meter race. Smith and Carlos wore black gloves (and other symbolic accouterments) for a protest gesture that was widely seen as a “black power” salute.

Nov. 5: Richard Nixon (depicted above) narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey. Although Humphrey, himself, was for peace, out of loyalty he refused to denounce Johnson’s failing war policy. It cost Humphrey dearly.

Also elected that day was Shirley Chisholm from Brooklyn. She was the first black female to serve in the House of Representatives.

Dec. 21: The first manned space mission to escape Earth’s gravity and orbit the moon began with the launching of Apollo 8.

Dec. 24: After having its way with them for 11 months, torture and mock executions included, North Korea released all of the members of the Pueblo’s crew but kept the ship. The U.S. Navy seemed to blame the Pueblo’s captain, Commander Lloyd M. "Pete" Bucher, for the entire painful fiasco. Mercifully, the Secretary of the Navy called off any official punishment.

At the time, there was a cumulative, escalating feeling that connected the most earthshaking events of 1968. Each crazy thing that happened seemed to be feeding off of the last crazy thing.

After 1968, the general public’s perception of the antiwar movement’s protests as being unpatriotic kaleidoscoped into something else. In June of 1969 LIFE Magazine published “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” It was a ten-page story that featured photographs and the names of 242 men who had died in the war in one week.

The effect was dramatic. Looking at all those hopeful young faces was too much to bear, when we knew each coming week was going to claim the lives of another two or three hundred young men.

In 1969 the Hawks' picture of how a victory in Vietnam would look was rapidly fading into a blur. With 1968 in the rear-view mirror, the Doves were beginning to prevail in the propaganda struggle ... the bloody war went on, anyway.

-- 30 --

Note: This story is part of a collection of them at Biograph Times. Words and art by F.T. Rea. All rights reserved.

The Big Stretch

This piece first appeared in STYLE Weekly in 2002

If Dorothy Parker wasn’t cool, 
who the hell was? 
The prototype was assembled during a lull in seventh grade shop class. After tying some 15 rubber bands together to make a chain, a collaborator held one end of the contraption as I stepped back to stretch it out for a test. Squinting to sight along the taut line to take proper aim, finally, I let go.

The whole thing gathered itself and shot past the holder. The released tip struck a target smartly, several feet beyond the holder. While the satisfaction I felt was a rush, the encouragement from the boys who witnessed that launching felt transforming.

Through a pleasant sequence of trial-and-error experiments, it was soon determined how to best maximize distance and accuracy. Once guys across the room were getting popped with the bitter end of my brainchild -- dubbed The Stretch -- the spitballs that routinely flew around classrooms in 1961 at Albert H. Hill Junior High -- were strictly old news.

A couple of days later, uncharacteristically, I appeared on the schoolyard an hour before the first bell. Inside a brown paper bag I had was an updated version of my invention. This one was some 60 links long -- the Big Stretch. No one at school had seen it and I was only too happy to change that.

Once the Big Stretch was tested on the schoolyard, demonstrating its amazing new range, boys were soon shoving one another aside just to act as holders. Most of the time I did the shooting. Occasionally, one of the guys from my inner circle was permitted to be the shooter. As the wonder whizzed by it made such a splendid noise that just standing close by the holder was a thrill, too. On the asphalt playground behind the yellow brick school building an enthusiastic throng cheered each flight.

The Big Stretch went on to make an appearance at an afternoon football game, where its operators established to the delight of the audience that cheerleaders on the sideline at a football game could be zapped on their bouncing butts with impunity from more than 25 yards away. After a couple of days of demonstrations around the neighborhood and at Willow Lawn shopping center, again, I significantly lengthened the chain of rubber bands.

But the new version -- about 100 rubber bands long -- proved too heavy for its own good. It was not as accurate or powerful as the previous model. Then came the morning a couple of beefy ninth-grade football players weren’t content with taking a single turn with the new Big Stretch. Although there was a line behind them they demanded another go.

Surrounded by seventh-grade devotees of the Big Stretch, I stood my ground and refused. But my fair-weather-friend entourage was useless in a pinch. Faced with no good options, I fled with my claim-to-fame in hand. In short order I was cornered and pounded until the determined thieves got the loot they wanted. They fooled around for a while trying to hit their buddies with it. Eventually, several rubber bands broke and the Big Stretch was literally pulled to pieces and scattered.

By then my nose had stopped bleeding, so I gathered my dignity and shrugged off the whole affair, as best I could. I chose not to make another version of the Big Stretch. A couple of other kids copied it, but nobody seemed to care. Just as abruptly as it had gotten underway, the connected-rubber-band craze ran out of gas at Hill School.

It was over.

At that time the slang meaning of “cool” had an underground cachet which has been stretched out of shape since. We’re told the concept of cool, and the term itself, seeped out of the early bebop scene in Manhattan in the ‘40s. That may be, but to me the same delightful sense of spontaneity and understated defiance seems abundantly evident in forms of expression that predate the Dizzy Gillespie/Thelonious Monk era at Minton’s, on 118th Street.

Wasn’t that Round Table scene at the Algonquin Hotel, back in the ‘20s, something akin to cool? If Dorothy Parker wasn’t cool, who the hell was? (Of course, I mean on paper, not necessarily in her day-to-day deportment.) And, in the decades that preceded the advent of bebop jazz, surely modern art -- with its cubism, surrealism, constructivism, and so forth -- was laying down some of the rules for what became known as cool.

Cool’s zenith had probably been passed by the time I became enamored with the Beats, via national magazines. Widespread exposure and cool were more or less incompatible. Significantly, cool -- with its ability to be flippant and profound in the same gesture -- rose and fell without the encouragement of the ruling class. Underdogs invented cool out of thin air. It was a style that was beyond what money could buy.

The artful grasping of a moment’s unique truth was cool. However, just as the one-time-only perfect notes blown in a jam session can’t be duplicated, authentic cool was difficult to harness; even more difficult to mass-produce.

By the ‘70s, the mobs of Hippies attuned to stadium Rock ‘n’ Roll shrugged nothing off. Cool was probably too subtle for them to appreciate. The Disco craze ignored cool. Punk Rockers searched for it in all the wrong places, then caught a buzz and gave up.

Eventually, in targeting self-absorbed Baby Boomers as a market, Madison Avenue promoted everything under the sun -- including schmaltz, and worse -- as cool. The expression subsequently lost its moorings and dissolved into the soup of mainstream vernacular.

Time tends to stretch slang expressions thin as they are assimilated; pronunciations and definitions come and go. Since then, when people say, “ku-ul,” usually it's to express their ordinary approval of routine things.

The process of becoming cool, then popular, pulled The Big Stretch to pieces. Once the experimental aspect of it was over it got old, like any worn out joke. Then it began to play as just another showoff gimmick, which was something less-than-cool, even to seventh-graders a long time ago.

Cool has always been elusive, never easy to corral. In the early-1960s, it was essential to grasp that a copycat could never be but so cool.

-- 30 --

This story is part of a collection of them at Biograph Times. Words and art by F.T. Rea.  
All rights reserved.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Recollections in High Contrast

Snow brings back memories. When we see the way snow changes the world around us into resembling high contrast black and white photographs, we can't help but connect to when we saw that distinctive look before. In Richmond, Virginia, it's a look we don't see every year.

We remember when a happy puppy first encountered snow. We remember snowball fights and the raised-glass revelry in crowded Fan District bars. We remember particular people we associate with yesteryear's snowy landscapes.

In the winter of 1958-59 I had just turned 11. Buster was probably six or seven months old when he saw his first snow. He was a white mutt, supposedly he had some Spitz in him. Watching him rooting in the snow, barking at it, rolling in it, was hilarious. He seemed to absolutely love the smell and feel of snow.

Maybe the best snowball shot I ever made was in the early '80s on West Grace Street. Rebby Sharp and I were across the street from the Biograph Theatre, ducked down behind some parked cars. It was after dark but I can't say how late it was. There was a snowfall underway and it was sticking. Rebby and I were battling some friends, who were in front of Don's Hot Nuts, next door to the cinema, which I managed in those days.

Rebby and her band, the Orthotonics, used to practice sometimes in the theater's large auditorium during off hours. Some of Rebby's fans might not have known it, but she wasn't a bad athlete; she pitched for the Biograph's women's softball team had a decent throwing arm.

When some snowballs thumped off of Donald Cooper's peculiar bright green candy business storefront, he came out on his porch to tell the snowball fighters to scram. As everyone associated with the Biograph knew Cooper to be an utter pest and the worst neighbor in the world, there was no need for a plan.

Rebby threw first. My throw left with dispatch a split second later. Both were superbly well put shots. When Cooper extended his hand to block Rebby's incoming snowball it shattered to shower him. Then my throw hit him square in the face ... ba-da-bing!

Cooper abruptly quit his stance and retired for the night.

The best rides in the snow I can remember were at Libby Hill Park. In the late-'70s and early-'80s I spent a lot of time up there. Used to play Frisbee-golf in that park quite a bit. And, there were a few heavy snows in that same period, which drew thrill-riders to what was then called the Slide of Death.

We rode inflated inner tubes from the top of a series of hills in the sloped park down to Main Street below. When the snow was right those tubes went airborne at least a couple of times; the fast ride was quite exhilarating.

There was a particular time that stands out. Dennison Macdonald, who died in 1984, had hosed down the first hill, so it would freeze in the frigid air and make the track as slick and quick as greased lightning.

Eventually, the run to the bottom got so fast you had to be drunk to take the risk of riding, which wasn't a problem for those of us standing around a fire-barrel passing a bottle of Bushmills around between wild rides.

Not long ago, Chuck Wrenn, who still lives across the street from the launching point of the old Slide of Death, and I talked about that night. We recalled the sight of Duck Baker pretending he was going to ride a shaggy dog down the chute. Duck had us laughing so hard, it's still funny today.

Of course, you had to be there.

-- 30 --

-- Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

LaPierre's Warning: For Those Who Have the Ears to Hear It

 The NRA's Wayne LaPierre: The only reason to register all of America's guns is so the federal government can confiscate YOUR guns. The only reason for that is so Obama’s black-booted agents can then melt those guns down, to pour the liquefied metal into YOUR ears.  

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

Saturday, January 19, 2013

About 'Lonely Are the Brave'

When I booked “Lonely Are the Brave” to play at the Biograph Theatre in the summer of 1980, I had probably seen it before on television only. While I don’t remember when I first saw it, I do remember that when it played at the Biograph most of the regulars hadn’t seen it before. So that made presenting it all the more fun.

Over the years since then, with subsequent viewings, it has slowly grown to be one of my favorites; it has crept into my personal Top 10. Here are the bare-bones details:

“Lonely Are the Brave” (1962): B&W. 107 minutes. Directed by David Miller. Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo. Score: Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Gena Rowlands, George Kennedy, Carroll O’Connor. Note: The story is set in what were then current times. To help his fellow Korean War vet best friend, a free-spirited cowboy on horseback rides into a small town in New Mexico, to fling himself recklessly at the hobbling effects of modernity’s demands … then he tries desperately to make a seemingly impossible escape.

To celebrate the Biograph’s 40th anniversary in February of 2012, I had the pleasure of being a part of presenting “Lonely” to an audience again, as the James River Film Society paired it with “Breathless” and showed the double feature as a fundraiser. Once again it was worth noting how many in attendance said they hadn’t seen it before.
If you ask the 96-year-old star of “Lonely” what has been his all-time favorite Kirk Douglas movie, Douglas would probably still say, “It's my baby.” He was the one who read the Edward Abbey novel, "The Brave Cowboy," hired Trumbo to write the screenplay and then assembled the production's cast and crew. Douglas intended to make it a modern western crafted for art house release. He was trying to make a lean Hollywood answer to European art films, like those of the French New Wave. 

Instead, the studio, Universal, slated the movie for general release and promoted it as an action film. So, like some other noteworthy film classics, “Lonely” flopped in its original first-run release.  

Below are links to a seven-part 2002 interview with Douglas on YouTube, during which he talks about making the movie. Each part is short, two or three minutes. If you haven't seen the movie yet, note there's a spoiler alert for a bit of info that is in Part Five.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five (spoiler alert)
Part Six
Part Seven 

Bonus! Here's a link to see the entire movie on YouTube.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Massacre Prevention

When it comes to reacting to a news bulletin about the mass murder of school children by a crazed shooter, until now, it has seemed there have been two kinds of people:
  • Most people have been stunned, then for a few days their feelings have teetered between quiet sadness and bitter outrage. Eventually, they have accepted that such killings are probably inevitable with the all-powerful NRA preventing change, so they have tried not to dwell on it.
  • A noisy and paranoid minority has gotten profoundly spooked. So, each time those folks have rushed out to buy what have been called "assault rifles." While at the gun shops the craziest of them have also bought large magazines and all the ammo they could haul. 
The fearful and focused minority has ruled in recent years. Now that's going to change, because to a great extent its power has been standing on noise.

In spite of what some politicians might think the majority of Americans now want change, and at long-last the NRA's noisy propaganda is going stale. Its ability to frame the issues is melting away like a drenched wicked witch.

Hey, we don't have to keep calling the rapid-fire weapons preferred by schoolhouse shooters "assault rifles," which is a term designed to make them sound cool to fools. Maybe such deadly tools are better described as "weapons of mass murder." Only a fool would want WMMs to be legal.

Instead of demanding better "gun control," which sounds like Big Brother is coming to confiscate old revolvers from locked drawers in bedrooms, maybe what we really need is "massacre prevention."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Row, row, row ... not!

There are 11 people in a lifeboat. Six of them are Democrats, five are Republicans.

In opposite directions there are two islands in sight. The debate over which direction to row the boat divides completely along partisan lines. After a vote, the Republicans flatly refuse to help row the boat toward Island A; they demand the group choose Island B, instead.

When the Democrats say, “Majority rules, so help us row toward Island A,” the Republicans start punching holes in the boat.

Which reminds me of an old slogan the stubborn rightwingers used a lot during the Cold War: "Better dead than red."   

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Norquist and LaPierre huffing and puffing

Grover Norquist and Wayne LaPierre share a particular scaredy cat view. Both fear compromise, because they see each instance of compromise as a fearful step toward a slippery slope -- a slope that could lead to the public actually liking the result of the compromise.

Heavens-to-Betsy! Then the public might demand more compromises. Next thing you know it could cost Norquist's and LaPierre's favorite deep-pocketed backers some money.

So both of those self-styled Grand Old Party bosses preach that any compromise whatsoever on their pet issues is tantamount to treason. Thus, purity tests loom over all discussions that touch on taxes or guns.

Consequently, Norquist and LaPierre see filibusters and gridlock as good options and it seems many Republicans in Congress still feel bound to vote as that pair dictates. Over the next few months the stale old government-shutdown-is-good smell is going to be hanging in the air. 

Hey, both Norquist and LaPierre would have been seen as crackpots in the 1960s or ‘70s. In spite of the power they’ve wielded over obedient conservatives during the last 20 years, or so, both scaredy cats will eventually be viewed in that very light. They both act like religious zealots, so why not?

Since elections do matter, time isn’t really on their side.

Until a day of awakening comes to the GOP, we can expect Grover and Wayne to keep on huffing and puffing to blown down all they can … that’s what they do. The myopic Republicans who stick by them the longest will pay the biggest price.  

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Weapons of Mass Murder

Since plenty of people drive their cars while inebriated, should we do away with Virginia's laws against drunk driving? Since rapes occur every day, in spite of laws prohibiting rape, why not also take those laws off the books? Since some bad citizens toss cigarette butts, gum wrappers and beer bottles wherever they please, without regard for anti-littering laws, what good are the laws? 

OK. I'll stop stretching the opening point, which is: Only children or outrageously selfish adults, who live to do as they please, would ask such questions.

That's because most thoughtful grownups have enough experience with life to recognize that the inability of laws to prevent all instances of bad behavior is hardly cause to eliminate the laws.

Most of us know the laws against the doings in the first paragraph routinely prevent millions of bad things from happening. They deter some people who simply don’t want to get caught and punished, while they set standards for others who recognize them as clear expressions of the community's sentiments.

Therefore, we say: Please don’t drive drunk, you’re more likely to hurt somebody. Never rape, it is immoral. And, littering is so disgusting and selfish that all modern societies prohibit it. Whether the laws against such antisocial behavior are always obeyed doesn’t stop them from branding it for all to see as wrong.

Societies need a collective sense of right and wrong. 

Then there are the ideologues and shills for arms merchants who defend the private ownership of military weapons -- such as assault rifles -- by saying Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of people in Oklahoma City without using bullets. Or, Jim Jones murdered his flock with poison Kool-Aid. Or, some other headline-making mass murderer used something other than an assault rifle.

So what!

No one thinks outlawing assault rifles will put an end to all bullet-caused murders. What it would do is make it more difficult for the next madman to kill a bunch of people in a few seconds, especially if he uses a large magazine. Renewing the ban on assault rifles would make them harder to get, so it would improve society‘s odds.

If it stops 10 madmen -- and yes it’s always males -- from getting a hold of an assault rifle, it might not prevent every one of them from going on a murder spree. But it would stop some percentage of them, because it’s obvious the mass-murderers’ top tool of choice is not a bolt-action rifle or a revolver.

Nor is it a bomb made out of fertilizer.

We, who choose not to own and fire assault rifles, can only guess at how much a potential murder spree guy might be emboldened by holding one tight as he imagines himself charging into an elementary school.

The more assault rifles there are in private hands, the more likely it is that you, your kid, or your dog is going to get shot by one of them. God only knows how many rapid-fire killing machines of this ilk are stashed on private property, waiting for the right crazy thief to steal them. And, after he does, it won't be just your dog or mine that will fall victim.

No, every damn dog in sight will get mowed down; slaughtered by way of a soldier's weapon designed to give a bad marksman the ability to kill every creature in sight with a flash of whim.

Isn't that exactly what a weapon of mass destruction is designed to do?

Hey, I don’t want tanks full of nerve gas or nukes in briefcases to fall into private hands, either. Even if the laws of the land can’t guarantee no bad actor ever will ever get his hands on them, oh yeah! I still want the laws against civilians possessing them enforced as well as can be done.

The proper enforcement of those laws helps to improve our odds. So would a ban on assault rifles. Bill Clinton might say, "It's arithmetic."

Anyway, don't tell me all the rapid-fire-armed murderers who have gone postal in the last few years would simply have switched over to bombs, or poison, if they couldn't have gotten a hold of their favorite tools.

Here's why I say that: Every bit as much as the grisly results, those shooters who fired indiscriminately into crowds wanted the thrill of shooting. They weren't bombers or poisoners. They were shooters. That's THE angle in this noisy brouhaha the ideologues and shills don't want to talk about -- the thrill.

-- 30 --