Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Newtown massacre.
Around noon yesterday I took a short break from work to get something to drink with the sandwich I'd brought to eat at my desk. I also checked my smartphone for new e-mails, and saw a breaking news item about a shooting at a school in Connecticut. One dead, one wounded was the initial report. I mentioned this to a fellow worker, who said he'd seen a report that the principal had been killed and one student wounded, and that it was believed the shooter was a parent of a student at the school. As time went by and we kept getting updates, it became evident that we were in a "fog of war." The shooter was 20. No, he was 24. His name was Ryan Lanza. He drove to Connecticut after killing his father in New Jersey. No, he was Ryan Lanza's younger brother, Adam. He lived in Connecticut. He went to the school to kill his mother, a kindergarten teacher, then started shooting children. There were eighteen dead. No, twenty.

As the extent of the horror was revealed, I became more distracted and depressed. I imagined as yet unwrapped presents hidden in a closet and the anticipation of a delighted smile on a young face. I imagined myself, at age five, cornered in a room and frozen in terror as a gun is pointed at me.

"What can be done?" is the natural, the inevitable reaction. Adam Lanza was not a deranged person who was able to buy guns; the weapons he used belonged to his mother, who became a victim of the firepower of her own arsenal. Is it understandable that someone in suburban Connecticut would want a weapon for self-defense? Well, yes. Did she need two 9mm pistols and a carbine? Probably not. Have similar mass murders occurred in countries with stricter gun controls than ours? Yes, although the Dumblane massacre led to the enactment of even more stringent legislation in Britain. Could school security have been better?  It's reported in today's New York Times that the principal, who was one of the victims, buzzed Adam Lanza in because she recognized him as the son of a colleague.

I didn't write the paragraph above as an argument against gun control or any other measures that may be proposed in response to this tragedy, but just to observe that, if you'll forgive a perhaps inevitable expression, there is no magic bullet.

Update: This story continues to develop. It's now reported that Lanza was not buzzed in by the principal, but instead forced his way in. According to the same Gothamist story his mother, Nancy Lanza, was not a teacher at the school, was a "gun enthusiast" who owned a large collection of firearms in addition to those used in the massacre, and taught her sons how to shoot.  The story also reports that on Tuesday before the massacre Adam Lanza tried to buy a rifle "but was turned down because he didn't want to undergo a background check or abide by the state's waiting period for gun sales."

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Dee Dee Sharp, "Hard Candy Christmas"

Dee Dee Sharp is a veteran of the 1960s Philadelphia R&B scene, part of the stable of artists who recorded for Cameo-Parkway (another of those artists, who provided the label with its first chart-topping hit, "Butterfly", was Charlie Gracie). Dee Dee's biggest hit, which I remember fondly from high school dances, was "Mashed Potato Time." 

In the video above, thanks to Paul Piccari, that I found through Mike Miller on Facebook, Dee Dee sings "Hard Candy Christmas," a lovely bittersweet song from the play and movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.