Zachary Klein


(Substituting for Susan Kelly)

Okay, we have another month mugged with another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. How many times can we as a society feign shock or surprise? Since the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been 142 school shootings in the United States. That’s an average of almost one school shooting per week. To be fair, there is some disagreement about the specific number, but there is absolutely no argument about the FBI’s conclusion that there’s been a “sharp rise” in mass shootings since 2000 through 2013.13Yrs

Let’s be honest. The numbers just confirm what we already knew and the tired old gun control arguments once again have hit the fan.

On one side stand those who argue that “guns don’t kill, people do.” Many “anti-gun control” advocates add that the real issue is the mental health of the person(s) who pull the trigger. Problem is, our political representatives have been unwilling to adequately fund mental health programs. In fact, though most Americans believe mental and physical health are equally important, about one-third of those surveyed see mental health care as inaccessible, and 40 percent see cost as a barrier to treatment—according to a new survey released in September.

Worse, many states have been slashing funds. Between 2009 and 2012, states cut a total of $4.35 billion in public mental-health spending from their budgets. So, if those who truly believe it’s all about mental health really want to reduce the slaughter, put your fucking money where your mouth is. How about instead of signs and politicians screaming, “No New Taxes,” we increase our social service spending? I’m sure there is a Republican candidate for president who’ll support significant funding for mental health, right?

Because they sure won’t support any rational regulations regarding gun control. Again, to be fair and balanced, George Pataki not only supports it but, as governor of New York, also passed what was, according to the New York Times, the strictest gun control legislation in the country at that time.

All those who believe Governor Pataki has a legitimate chance at winning the Republican nomination, please raise your hand.

But there’s no reason to stop with Republicans. Before the Brady bill was finally signed into law in November 1993, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders voted against it. Moreover, in both 2003 and 2005, when he was in the House, Sanders voted in favor of a measure to prohibit lawsuits against firearm makers, though after last week’s shooting in Oregon, he did call for “sensible” gun control laws. (Whatever he meant by that.)

But in all honesty: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% of Likely U.S. Voters believe laws regarding the ownership of guns should be the responsibility of the federal government.” Says something about the nature of the American beast. Especially in the face of:Terror

We have little or no qualms about passing laws that have evolved into frontal assaults on the rest of our liberties in the name of the “War on Terror.” Is it my eyesight or is something is wrong with this picture?

And how about this picture? America has 4.4% of the world’s population, but almost 50% of the civilian-owned guns around the world.Guns

Of course the gun didn’t pull its own trigger in Oregon. The fucker that did, however, allegedly owned a large number of firearms. Now, I happen to believe in people’s right to bear arms, but I also believe in laws that are as least as reasonable as the ones that regulate car ownership:

  1. Point of sale background checks in real time for each and every purchase and those checks include sales at gun shows, mail orders, and the elimination of any “secondary” market that cannot or will not adhere to all these reforms. That is, individuals who sell guns to another person without that person’s compliance with licensing laws.
  2. A seven day wait for each and every purchase to receive a firearm for all purchasers regardless of a clean background check.
  3. Passing a gun safety test before the purchase of any firearm.
  4. Passing a marksmanship test before the purchase of any firearm.
  5. Passing a psychological exam before the purchase of any firearm.
  6. Serious prison time for “straws.”  (Those who are qualified to purchase guns and do so for another who may or not be qualified.)
  7. Strict regulation of firearm production. Production not to exceed legal licensees plus some small percentage above, along with lifting the prohibition of lawsuits against manufacturers who, in fact, overproduce.
  8. Mandatory liability insurance to cover all accidental and purposeful shooting incidents. No insurance, no permit. Period.

Ahhh, but here’s the rub. I’ll be dead and buried before any of the above come to pass—if ever. And by any, I’m talking about the increase needed in mental health funding and accessibility along with reasonable gun regulations. Our society is sliding into social psychosis and fast approaching the point of no return–but Americans just don’t seem to care.

Yes, there are some voices howling against the madness, but sadly, they are few and far between.

To mourn those who have fallen victim to our collective insanity and inaction, the following is a list of just the school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre.




Zachary Klein

zachIt’s 2015 heading into ’16 and our national discourse seems like a throwback to before I was born—and that’s a serious journey in a time machine. Frankly, it’s extraordinarily depressing to watch presidential candidates scurry into racist, xenophobic postures pandering to people who aren’t worth the air they breathe.

Yeah, I feel as harsh as I sound. This is shaping up to be my winter of discontent. I see the beauty of scientific progress in the close-up videos of Pluto. But I’m listening while our politicians rail against immigration, Muslims, educational standards, a woman’s right to choose and the name #Blacklivesmatter, while, at the same time, they dismiss evolution, climate change, and environment protection. One long run-on sentence in opposition to the 21st century.

“But Zach, they took down the Confederate flag. Obama has gone rogue and is finally acting like a progressive. Clinton opposes the pipeline. Feel the Bern!”

Feel THIS. As of June 2014 “More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of those saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising.” Whoopie.

EvolutionMaybe I should dance because Alabama will now teach evolution. BUT, Alabama will also keep its disclaimer sticker on the textbook cover. That sticker is actually a one-page insert placed on the inside of the front or back cover of every biology textbook a child reads in public schools in the state, according to Steve Ricks of the Alabama State Department of Education. “It encourages students to question the theory [of evolution] and ask questions about it.” The insert was advocated for by conservative Christians, according to the Associated Press.

Which brings me to the bullshit about the “war on Christianity.” Presently, more than two-thirds of Iowa Republican voters surveyed said President Barack Obama is doing the waging. Then who the hell is his army? Jews? African-Americans? Buddhists?

Ahh, what’s the matter with me? Must be those Muslims because, according to a new (Sept.14, 2015) CNN/ORC poll, 29% of Americans say they think Obama is himself a Muslim. That’s a whole lot of stupid. Sorry Kim Davis et al, you folks are fucking crazy.

We get Christmas shoved up our asses from November on. Look at the “evolution chart” presented earlier. Look at the Christian know-nothing stranglehold Texas has on text books. Hell, look at the abortion issue.

Roe V. Wade was settled in 1973. Forty-two years and counting and this is where our country sits. (Abortion | Gallup Historical Trends)

AbortionTo nuance the issue, according to a recent national CNN poll, the “take-away” becomes this:

AbortionPollThis does not suggest any assault on Christianity. Not while politicians fall over each other to wrest away a woman’s control of her own body. Rather than a war on Christianity, what we’ve got is a religious war on basic freedoms. Hell, if the NSA ain’t hacking, the pious are. And succeeding.

I’m fine with anyone who chooses to not have an abortion, or has religious objections to it. But the idea that they have some sort of moral superiority over those who believe in a woman’s right to choose is flat out dog dung. Especially since I really haven’t seen these Holier-Than-Thous lining up at adoption agencies despite our country having 397,122 children who live without permanent families in the foster care system with 101,666 of these children eligible for adoption. Where is the morality in the fact that nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Or wait forever. Please, spare me ethic lessons.

But I do understand the religious jihadists’ panicked projections. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans want to dismantle the Constitution and establish Christianity as the official national religion. So, of course, we must be fighting a war against them since they just haven’t gotten their way.

As a typical old White guy, I haven’t yet discussed our viciously racist, supremacist society. Where to begin? We don’t lynch anymore? Well, why bother? Just throw ’em in jail or have the police beat or kill them.

“Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons.” (Emphasis mine.)

UNARMEDNationally, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, African-Americans are incarcerated five times more than Whites are, and Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to be incarcerated as Whites:

INCARCERATIONI ask my conservative Christian friends, who is the war really being fought against?

And so it goes. And goes. And goes.

I know this is the paragraph that should be screaming “strap ’em on, win one for The Gipper,” but I’m no Howard Beal from Network. I can’t sit here and write, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” because I am going to sit here and take it. I’ll sign my petitions, vote, and maybe even work for Sanders—despite his ugly numbers, (Clinton is backed by 42% of Democratic primary voters nationally, compared to 24% for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 22% for Biden and 1% for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.) but so what? Just another exercise in futility.

Anyhow, I have to barricade my door to protect my Jewish ass from the war on Christianity.

“Stripped of ethical rationalizations and philosophical pretensions, a crime is anything that a group in power chooses to prohibit.” ~ Freda Adler

Random Hypotheticals about Books

Susan KellyBy

Susan Kelly

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought that the silliest hypothetical question ever posed was, or is: If you were only permitted to take one book with you to a desert island, what would that book be?

Seriously, dude? One book?

What happens when you finish reading it? Or re-reading it? What do you do then? Write your own sequel?

I would have to beg the question, and respond by saying that I’d want to take with me every good book I’d never read. Which would, of course, require a freighter to transport, or at least a cargo plane.

Let me pause here so we can all remember one of the all-time great Twilight Zone episodes, in which Burgess Meredith, an avid reader, survives some unspecified mega-disaster that apparently wipes out the rest of humanity but leaves the local library intact. Meredith is ecstatic at the thought of spending the rest of his life in solitude,immersed in his beloved books.

And then he breaks his glasses.

Trust me, there is no writer on the planet who doesn’t rank this as one of her or his Top Ten Fave TZ episodes.

Another concept I’ve never quite grasped is that of “summer reading.” Why would you want to read a book in the summer that you wouldn’t want to read in the winter? Or the fall? Or the spring? Are novels seasonal?

Is this like only wearing white shoes between Memorial Day and Labor Day?

The same holds true of so-called “airplane reading.” Are there books you can only read on a Delta flight from Boston to Atlanta? A British Airways flight from New York to London? And, conversely, are there books you can read only at home, or at least on the ground?

“Hey, Alice, remind me to stick the newest Tom Clancy in my carry-on bag. Airport security will confiscate my copy of ‘The Critique of Pure Reason.'”

It just occurred to me that there may be people who read only on airplanes. In the summer.

Hypothetically speaking.



Zachary Klein

zachI know. Boston’s been flirting with record high temperatures this past week. But so what? We’re a third of the way into September and no amount of heat and humidity can shatter my cringe as winter approaches.

I remember the last one all too well:PIC1So I cling to my fast fading memories of summer. And honestly, there aren’t all that many. This wasn’t a kick-out-the-jams season since we’re in deep reno prep for a long overdue overhaul of our living space. We rent out the first floor apartment, live on the second, and have our offices on the third.










By “prep,” we’re talking about packing up everything from the kitchen, pantry, and a good chunk of the living room and hauling it to the third floor to stuff into our offices and anywhere else we can stack boxes.PIC3


Which meant no long trips but didn’t mean no fun. We took a couple of weekends to visit cousins in Western Massachusetts, who have a sweet home on Lake Buel in Monterey.

PIC4Of course it was also wonderful to stay in Brooklyn and drive to Connecticut to visit our grandchildren, who are on the move now—crawling, pulling themselves to their feet, and making all sorts of strange sounds.PIC5





Between the family visits, Sue and I continued our ongoing tour of “not particularly first rate cities”—a weekend in Portland, Maine, and, a day in Salem, Massachusetts.

Ahh, what sacrifices we make for CULTURE. Portland Museum of Art (PMA) was showing a exhibit culled from eight Maine museums called Directors’ Cut: Selections from the Maine Art Museum Trail. It was a hell of a lot easier to view the best of each museum gathered in one place than scrambling around—no matter how beautiful the roads might be. This wasn’t leaf-peeping season.


Andrew Wyeth-Turkey Pond.


Marguerite Thompson Zorach

The exhibit placed images by distinctively different artists next to each other to treat us to the breadth of visions inspired by the state. For the most part it was successful, showcasing the talents of Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and Andrew Wyeth alongside works by Lois Dodd, Marguerite Thompson Zorach, or Robert Indiana.





Winslow Homer-Sunset Fires.

Winslow Homer-Sunset Fires.

Robert Indiana-Eat with Fork










As is the case with many small city museums, Portland’s is a nice size—that is, you don’t start blurring out by the time you leave.

Poker Night from A Streetcar Named Desire

Poker Night from A Streetcar Named Desire

And there was certainly no blur when we visited the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem to see American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood.

While the exhibit focused on Benton’s years in Hollywood, creating huge poster-like paintings that captured a sense of story (and were often about great movies), the show included a number of his earlier, more political paintings—some of which were surprisingly (at least to me) powerful. The man didn’t like what we did to Native Americans and abhorred slavery.

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

Of course you can’t visit museums without proper nourishment. Each of these two cities had a number of good restaurants, though Portland takes the prize. Rapidly becoming a real artisan, locally sourced foodie town, our favorite meal was at Fore Street.

Pic12The atmosphere was New England coast casual, but the food was not. And people know about it. Fore was banged out for months, but if you were willing to check in at 5 p.m. and hang at the bar for about an hour until they opened the restaurant, it was possible to be seated. ‘Course, I’d be pretty much willing to wait at a bar any time of day, but this time it let us score the best meal we had all year.

PIC13Lunch in Salem’s Finz Seafood and Grill didn’t match Fore. But we left with wide smiles and full stomachs having split a FINZ Burger that came loaded with fried oysters, melted onions, boursin cheese and bacon—and then, there were those fish tacos.


In between our “not ready for prime time” tours, we went to a number of friends’ parties, including our traditional July 4th at Bob and Randee’s house. Always great people time with super food. (Hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here.)

The other party that jumps out was Mike and Carol’s 50th wedding anniversary. Mike had been working for close to fifteen years rebuilding a ramshackle carriage house that was crumbling behind his beautiful Dorchester Victorian. We hadn’t been over in a while and the carriage house, where the celebration was held, just blew us away. As did the pig roast and band. It had been a long time since we’ve heard live music at an indoor/outdoor private party. A whole lot of happy.

There were two more day trips to Rhode Island. One to Newport with Bob and Emily, sans Sue, Randee, and Michael, where we sat on a windblown beach protecting our subs from marauding seagulls.



With Emily

With Emily

And finally at summer’s end, a group excursion to Pawtucket R.I. to see the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox.PIC16Upon reflection, summer turned out to be a fine time. And while we were fooled (according to Snopes) about having a once in a lifetime view of Mars on August 28th, it was still something to see.PIC17Luckily, we were easily able to fall back asleep. Musta’ had to do with schlepping those boxes.

“This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but to say that it is the worst is mere petulant nonsense.” ~ Thomas Henry Huxley







Great Inventions of Our Time


Susan Kelly

Susan KellyActually, this column is going to be—mostly–about great unheralded, or at least underappreciated, inventions of our time. Do I need to talk about antibiotics, which have saved countless millions of lives? (Unfortunately, about 10% of the population of the planet is allergic to them.) Or Novocain and its successors, which have made trips to the dentist, if not a joyride, far less unpleasant? Or the Salk vaccine? The internal combustion engine? (Yes, it pollutes, but seriously—in the event that it’s necessary, do you want to be conveyed to the hospital via horse-drawn buggy?) Civil rights? Universal education? Computers? Telephones? Refrigeration, which has also saved countless millions of lives? Air conditioning? Vodka martinis? Mel Brooks’s movies?

No. I don’t need to talk about those things.

What I want to write about are those little things that make life so much easier, that we take for granted (our grandparents wouldn’t) and never acknowledge. The following list is not in any order of importance.

  1. Suitcases with wheels. Whatever genius invented rolling baggage deserves the Nobel Prize for so doing. I’m not sure which Nobel Prize. In my case, the Peace Prize, since it prevents me (and zillions of other people) from having meltdowns in airports as a result of having to carry all that stuff.
  2. Salad spinners. How did we prepare salads before these were invented? Well, we did, but it was considerably more work than necessary. I’m old enough to recall the time when you had to use a roll of paper towels to dry the lettuce you just washed. Or soggy-up a bunch of clean dish towels doing the same thing.
  3. Stamps that you don’t have to lick before you stick them on an envelope.
  4. Carpet-sweepers. These have been around a long time, but I really like them better than vacuum cleaners. They don’t jack up my electric bill and I don’t have to buy bags and change them.
  5. Rolled oat cereals. (These are commonly known as Ch—rios, but I don’t want to get into potential trademark violation. I wasn’t allowed by my editor to use the word Sty—f-am in a novel to denote a disposable coffee cup, so I’m careful about these things.) No, not for the fact that rolled oat cereals are apparently a heart-healthy breakfast food, but because they endlessly entertain babies. As soon as the kid’s able to maintain an upright position, buckle your infant into a high chair, sprinkle the pristine-clean high chair tray with you-know-whats, and the child will be absorbed for hours trying to pick up the things and insert them in his or her mouth while you occupy yourself with other matters. (Of course you don’t leave the kid unattended. I suppose I need to say that, just as blow-driers now come with instructions NOT to use them while one is taking a shower.) Babies seem to be able to pick up only one Ch—rio at a time, which is why I say they provide hours of entertainment for her or him. Full disclosure: I don’t actually like to eat this cereal, and never did.
  6. Plastic ice cube trays that you twist to release the contents. When I was a kid, ice cube trays were metal, with levers that you yanked back in order to relieve the cubes from their confinement. But you had to be Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime to do this successfully.

Here are some modern inventions I could do without:

  1. Reality television
  2. Ice tea or lemonade that purports to be kiwi-strawberry-flavored. This is not a beverage. It is what you pour into the anti-freeze compartment of your car.
  3. Boy bands
  4. Microwave pizza. This is not food. It is mattress stuffing compressed into a circular shape and topped with ketchup and a sprinkle of cheese product.
  5. Any carbon-based alleged life form calling itself Kim Kardashian

Neither of my lists is by any means comprehensive. In fact, as soon as I send this column to Zach, I’ll probably think of a dozen other unheralded but vital inventions that I love. And even more inventions that I hate. That being the case, I invite you to list your own loved and hated inventions. It’s still summer: This is the silly season, as they say in the news biz. So go for it.

I’ll be back later in September with some, ahem, more serious commentary. Promise.

But in the interim, tell us what you love. And hate.