It’s the guns

I was 14 years old and a sophomore in high school when a man named James Huberty fatally shot 21 people and wounded 19 others at a McDonald’s restaurant in the San Ysidro neighborhood of San Diego, California, on July 18, 1984. The perpetrator was killed by a police sniper approximately 77 minutes after he had first opened fire.

I remember the incident well. This was a very rare event in the early Eighties and a completely new phenomenon to me. It wasn’t shown on live TV, but the evening news had plenty of descriptions of wounded people hiding under tables screaming for help or mercy. One of those killed was 8 months old; his pregnant mother was also killed, shot 48 times while shielding a niece. A 4-month-old was among the wounded.

I really thought this was an unthinkable tragedy—the kind of thing that could never happen again. The only event I knew of that even resembled this tragedy was the “Texas Tower sniper” incident in 1966 on the University of Texas campus—where just three years later I would start my freshman year of college.

And a few months after I graduated in 1991, I was living in Austin, Texas, when a man drove his pickup truck into a Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, about an hour away, and proceeded to kill 23 people and injure 27. He shot himself after a brief firefight with police. This seemed closer to home for me than San Ysidro, because I frequently ate at a Luby’s near my apartment in Austin. (For my Louisiana friends, Luby’s was very similar to Piccadilly in size, food and general atmosphere.)

Then, in 1999, Columbine happened. And everyone said, this is it, this has to stop. Even though many people saw the shooters as outliers, disaffected teens with perhaps a bit more ambition than most, people still agreed we would all take care of it and this would never, ever happen again! This was the first time many of us saw footage of teenagers jumping from windows to escape, running across green school lawns with hands on their heads to distinguish themselves from the shooters.

Columbine High School students escaping, 1999

In fact, I believe this was when the term “school shooter” became a thing. In my mind, these people should be called mass murderers, and their weapons should be called murder weapons, not “military-style” or anything else that might sound “cool.” God, I’m starting to sound like my age, but I’ve just lived through too many of these horrors.

Over the next few years, these incidents came along faster and closer together. And in 2012 came the Aurora movie theater shootings and the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 second-graders and six adults were brutally murdered in their classrooms. I’m not even going to discuss the sickening, detestable “conspiracy theories.” I’ve seen some of these children’s parents speak, and their loss and pain are unbearable.

Kindergarteners undergoing “training” from a professional in how to not be shot to death before they turn 6.

I have to admit that at the time, I thought something would finally change. These were 6-year-olds, innocent babies. We must protect them! everyone cried. We shall protect the children!

But we didn’t protect them. We didn’t protect any of our most vulnerable. In 2015, 10 elderly worshipers were shot in church. Also 2015: another movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, 50 miles from my home. In 2016, we saw truly shocking numbers at the Pulse nightclub: 107 shot, 49 of them dead. Police and first responders spoke of tiptoeing carefully among the bodies, looking for any still living, while cell phones rang, beeped and chirped incessantly—loved ones desperately calling to find out if their friend or relative was safe.

But in 2017, we learned there was still no high bar for mass murder when a heavily armed man shot more than 470 concertgoers from a 32nd-floor hotel room in Las Vegas, killing 60. One month later, another church massacre, another 27 dead and 22 wounded.

In 2018, a former student killed 17 and wounded 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida. Many survivors of that tragedy launched a major gun-safety movement with the March for Our Lives and a pretty impressive grassroots organization, which I joined and still support.

Of course, there was another burst of public anger after Parkland, but nothing substantive was done. And just a few years later we got more children murdered in Uvalde and yesterday, three 9-year-olds and three adults in Nashville.

Obviously the focus today is on the Nashville shooter being transgender, giving the gun rights hardliners yet another excuse for mass shootings, since of course the problem is never the gun, or guns, or piles and heaps of guns, or hundreds and hundreds of rounds of ammunition just about any American over 18 can buy with very little inconvenience. “It’s not the guns!” cry people like Rep. Andrew Clyde of Texas, a gun-store owner and supplier of arms and ammunition to the federal government, who has no skin in this game whatsoever. Clyde is the fellow who handed out the AR-15-shaped pins that fellow Republicans are now wearing as lapel pins and tie tacks, sometimes instead of their American flag pins.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, proud gun store owner, U.S. congressman, arms dealer and jeweler (check out that tie tack). Also cowerer from J6 mob and door-barricader who later called the rioters “tourists.”

I’m not even going to begin trying to refute the stupid arguments about why it’s “not the guns,” because first, others have done it much better, and second, no one one the side of guns will listen. I will say that I find the Second Amendment to be clearly about allowing states to raise and arm a well regulated militia, not about every person in this country having the right to own as many and whatever types of guns he/she wishes, but again, anything I might say about that would be a spit in a hurricane.

No, we aren’t going to win against the gun faithful with reasoned arguments or pictures of terrified children. This only changes when every state and federal lawmaker who is either for gun safety—or on the fence and fearful of the gun lobby—is flooded with our anger, outrage and fear and our demands for them to do the right thing.

This morning I called Rep. Clyde’s office to tell him it is shameful that he wore that pin today. Tomorrow I will be calling both my Republican senators and Republican representative, intending to do my best to add my voice to a tsunami of never again. I’m quite mindful that Clyde won’t give a rat’s patoot about my call, but imagine if his office got 100,000 calls, and they couldn’t do any other business for a day or so? If all of us called our congresspeople, we might shut down the phone system for a time. Flood their email boxes and bury their desks in mail. We can’t be distracted again in a couple of days just because Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski accident case gets a verdict.

This time, for good and all, for the lives of our children, our elders, our loved ones and our first responders, too, we have got to push through reasonable safeguards on guns and ammunition at the federal level. We must find better ways to keep people from getting their hands on massive amounts of guns and bullets.

We must also, certainly, pursue better mental health treatment for both kids and adults and develop effective security measures for schools and other public places.

That said, it is well past time to own up to the fact that the problem is the guns.

A child is evacuated from the school shooting crime scene in Nashville on Tuesday, March 28, 2023.

Four Points for Communicators During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As an accredited PR professional with nearly 30 years of communications experience, I thought until recently that I had pretty much seen it all. Having lived in both Texas and Louisiana, I had lived through more than my share of crises—peaking, I would have to say, with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented communications challenges to PR pros, whether you’re working in an independent firm, nonprofit, corporation, or government agency. In late May I wrote the following four points—what I see as four important ways communications professionals should be keeping key audiences engaged during the pandemic.

Coronavirus illustration with molecule
What everyone is talking about, and you should be too.

At the time, the worst of the emergency seemed to be easing. The daily statistics began to look less grim, some governors relaxed restrictions on eating at restaurants, and there was good news on the vaccine horizon. Now, of course, the pandemic has surged back with a vengeance, and people need information and help more than ever. Communicators can and should adapt these ideas for their own situations.

  1. Talk to your team

First, keep your PR/communications team members informed, engaged, and motivated. Managers should take care of their employees individually as much as they can, if only by checking in frequently. It’s important to chat, hold small team meetings, and generally keep in touch using tools like Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. Or, just exchange email about current projects and workload.

And I don’t see anything wrong with a modest amount of personal communication; “How was your cousin’s virtual graduation?” shows you remembered something important to the employee and that you care. I read a long thread elsewhere on LinkedIn about the current spate of personal greetings and sign-offs, like “Stay safe,” many people are using even in business email. The consensus was that there’s too much of that, and people need to rein it in and be professional. My opinion: You should know your employees well enough to gauge what’s considerate and what is weird.

2. Keep all company employees informed.

Communicate frequently and regularly with employees about what’s going on in the outside world, as well as within the company. This does not apply only to your team. As a communications expert for the company, you should be able to advise senior leadership about all-employee communications. If you work for a very small company, this might actually fall on you. If you’re an independent consultant, it’s all yours.

Let these very important internal stakeholders  know where to get reliable information about the status of the pandemic, how they can help others, and— if applicable—how the company is helping in the community (including how they can help). My organization has a deeply ingrained culture of volunteerism in our communities statewide, and we have found that employees really want it to continue, but it’s hard right now to find relatively safe volunteer opportunities. They are looking to us to help them with that need.

3. Communicate with all other stakeholders.

Communicate as frequently and regularly as is appropriate with your stakeholders, including customers (including members or donors), local and state government, regulators, industry certification boards, etc., and if applicable, with investors, stockholders, or others with a financial stake in the company.

You should already have a good handle on these folks: who they are, what they want from you, and how they like to get their information. In a larger company, you may lead a communications team that reports up a couple of levels before hitting the C-suite, but use your expertise to advise senior management on how to hit the right notes.

Remember that right now customers, partners, suppliers and legislators are busier than ever, possibly with literal business survival. This is not the time for a casual “check-in to see how ya’ doing” kind of call. Instead, find a way to be on their side in a really tough time.

4. Carve out a core

The fourth and last point is really a foundation for the first three. Develop a core message about your company’s reaction to the crisis and how you plan to keep moving forward. This is a brief statement, as short as one paragraph, that outlines the emergency’s impact on your company, what you’re doing about it, and what stakeholders should do. Examples of the latter might be how they can help you (donate), how you can help them (discounted rate, free stuff, toll-free helpline or other resources).

A simple but substantive core message is really important, because you should be able to draft all other communications materials based on the core message—so all the details are correct and consistent. Examples of these other messages include employee emails and newsletter articles, messages to the sales force, press releases, website content, or investor communication.

You should also write some succinct talking points for your CEO and any other company spokespersons, so they can have pertinent facts and key messages at their fingertips if they’re interviewed. At Blue Cross, we have a large customer service department who are the first point of contact for many of our members, so we make sure to give them talking points as well. Keeping those up to date is absolutely crucial.

Be clear and consistent.

With all four points, strive for clear language. People still don’t have time to try to wade through knee-deep corporate jargon. Also make sure to keep your company voice consistent and on-brand. That core message and your frequent team check-ins will help with that.

A long-time PR expert reading this now might be thinking, “Well, this is pretty basic!” And it is. However, people sometimes forget the fundamentals when a crisis hits. And, you can share this post with some of your less-experienced colleagues (see point three).

A response to my friend’s extraordinary Facebook post about systemic racism in America

It’s hard to answer a post like this. You already expressed so much of what I feel. I’m not a mother (unless you count my fur-son, which in this case, we’re not 🙂 ), but I have two nephews I dote on and another little boy in my life (age 6) who’s like another godson to me. I would die for any of them.

But—all of them are cute white boys, growing up in “good families,” with all the privileges you can imagine. It’s very unlikely they will ever face anything like George Floyd or Eric Gardner or Trayvon Martin did. Laura, although what happened to your sons and their friend was horrific, I also think it was an aberration. I could be wrong; I know things have changed a lot since we were Gus and Wyatt’s age. But in general, my belief is that young black men are stopped for “nothings” like your kids were doing much more frequently.

I pray nothing like that ever happens to them again or to my little guys. The other thing I think you understand is that this does go back 500 years in America, and even farther than that in the world, and anyone who doesn’t believe that is deluding themselves.

Think about almost every story you’ve ever experienced by reading, watching TV or in the movies—even in TV commercials: “Black” or “dark” is bad, evil, a stain, undesirable—with a few exceptions, as in the case of ads for chocolate or coffee. The devil is always dark or black. The bad guys in Westerns wear black hats. A bad person is black-hearted.

I recently re-read the The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the umpteenth time, and—although it wasn’t the first time I noticed it—this was the first time it really bothered me how much **dark/black = evil** is woven into the fabric of the story. The ultimate bad guy is the Dark Lord, who lives in the shadowlands, the black tower of Barad-Dur, the black land of Mordor, and his main servants are the Black Riders, the Nazgul, who dress in black from head to toe and ride black steeds. The hobbits and other common folk in the story call them “those Black Men,” meaning dark with evil and literally black in the color of their garments (there are only a hint of actual black-skinned folk from countries far south and east of where the good guys live in Middle-Earth).

Now, I don’t think Tolkien was a virulent racist or that TLOTR is some kind of racist polemic. He was a man of his Victorian times, which means he was probably “a little racist” (kind of like a little pregnant?), and he was using language that everyone used then and still do. But my point in all this was how much more all this bothered me in the books than it ever has before.

I hope that’s a good thing, in a way, in that it means I’ve grown a little bit, but I also think it’s a sign of the terrible times we are living in. I am isolated, lonely, depressed, sad, angry, hurting, and completely disillusioned with any and all authority. I want to join a protest but can’t unless I can wrangle someone to push me in a wheelchair, but I’m also scared to be around hundreds or thousands of people yelling and spraying out their COVID germs. I’m terrified at the thought of being caught in a wheelchair if people start spraying smoke or tear gas and people start running, or anything like that. My bones are brittle and have already been broken enough times that, let’s just say, I’d rather not go through that again.

On top of all that, I know in my heart that none of this pain, anger, or existential angst holds even the barest candle to what people of color in America feel. I have a dear friend who has a wonderfully mixed and exotic heritage who has taught me so much over the 20+ years I’ve known her about the experience of being “not white” in America. I am so grateful for how much she has opened my eyes, but I need to continue learning and understanding more what I can do personally to effect change.

People: IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. It is long past time. We can’t go back and erase the sins of the past, but we cannot allow this cruelty and pain to continue for one more day. Let the protests and the anger become a catalyst for each of us, no matter what race, to do something, even one thing.

My pledge is to:
1) Write letters to our local mayor and police chief;
2) Write letters to the governor and “my”* local state rep/senator;
3) Write letters to “my” U.S. rep and senators;
4) Always be mindful of my own thoughts, words and actions; and,
5) Read three books recommended in a good article in the New York Times, I think, which I either bought or borrowed free on Amazon Kindle. I think seven or eight books were recommended, but these three seemed a good place to start. Yes, I’ll find the article and post it here, if I can! 🙂 

*Note that “my” is in quotes because I really don’t believe right now that any of those folks have MY interests in mind, or even, let’s say, the interests of the area they represent. I understand that a senator represents a whole state, and can’t pay too much attention to any one person, but I don’t think they even do that any longer.

Thank you for reading, if you are still here, and love to all. Please post your comments and any of your ideas for making change in the world.

Yes, I AM silently correcting your grammar

My friends and family often apologize for typos they make in emails or even texts to me. I always laugh it off or text back that it’s no biggie, or that I didn’t even notice the mistake.

They know me only too well, however. Family members have witnessed my nitpicking almost since I learned to write. My oldest friends, who knew me in middle school and high school, remember I was a straight-A student who loved to read and write. In college, my skills and my hopes for the future focused first on journalism and then, more specifically, on public relations. I knew I would be a writer.

I do love to write. I have four unfinished novels on my computer. I’ve had two young-adult graphic novels published, and I also write poetry and short stories. But my dirty little secret is that I really love to proofread and copyedit.

Yes, today I am making a confession. My name is Robin, and I am a copyeditor. (“Hi, Robin!”)

What brought me to this precipice? We are currently doing some rearranging at work. Some people’s cubicles are being moved, which means they are packing some of their stuff and doing a little cleaning up and clearing out. Even though I don’t have to move this time, I caught the cleaning bug and organized some of my own stuff.

While doing this I unearthed a magnet I’d forgotten I had. It says, “I am silently correcting your grammar,” which made me laugh–because yes, I am. Right now. (Just go with it.) It also made me laugh a little because it reminded me I also have a T-shirt that says the same thing. I only wear it to sleep in because it got some kind of indelible stain on it, so, of course, I had to buy a second one. A couple of years later I had lost quite a bit of weight, so obviously it was completely necessary for me to buy a third one.

That’s right. I have three T-shirts (and a magnet) threatening you with grammar prosecution when you haven’t even written something yet.

I also have, I kid you not, a purse made out of the Chicago Manual of Style. The actual book. I stumbled across it on Etsy; the shop sold mostly book-purses and book-wallets, and the CMoS one was on display as a sample, although it was not for sale. But I inquired, learned the shop owner could make another one, and spent an inordinate amount of money buying a CMoS purse. And almost no one–even many writers and PR peeps–don’t know what it is.

Last, but not least, I also own a T-shirt (on which I spent actual hard-earned cash) sold on the CMoS website when they re-branded the book and site. The T-shirt was just too funny and cute for me to miss out on. It has the CMoS logo with the words purposefully misspelled/disordered then corrected with proper proofreading marks. Hahaha! Get it!?!

Oh, laws. Am I crazy? I’m crazy! But editing is just so. much. fun. It’s a really great feeling to help another writer to improve his or her work. In college, I worked on the yearbook staff, and my junior year I was THE copyeditor–reading every word of a 700-page book, including headlines, cutlines and lists and lists of students’ names. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. Too bad I didn’t have my magnet back then!

I once got to copyedit a wonderful YA novel called Echohawk that won a couple of awards. I copyedited and revised a series of YA self-help books about coping with things like divorce, peer pressure, etc. That was more fun than you might have expected. I copyedited the personal and company memoir of a local businessman whose family coffee company has now spanned four generations and is still family-owned. And, I had the amazing honor to co-edit my grandfather’s World War II memoir.

For my next trick, as I’ve just learned, I will be editing the 2020 Dwarf Stars Anthology for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. I did this back in 2016 and really enjoyed it. I’ll spend the next four months searching for the best speculative poems with 10 lines or fewer so I can compile an anthology of nominees for the SFPA’s Dwarf Stars Award. I can’t think of anything more fun than immersing myself in great poetry–but–wait a second–

Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire — Spirits Rising Up to Freedom

Memorial at the site of the 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire.

I don’t know why I didn’t know a thing until last week about the Mont Blanc Tunnel, a highway tunnel through the Mont Blanc massif that connects France with Italy to “avoid the need for lengthy circumnavigation.” It was built starting in 1959 and opened in 1965, and you can read all the other specs and stats on the Wikipedia page that quote came from. 🙂

No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The page also has some really wonderful pictures of the area that kind of make me wonder why one wouldn’t enjoy a lengthy circumnavigation of the massif. Of course, if you needed to get somewhere quickly, like if you had a truck full of flour and margarine to deliver, you’d want to use a tunnel.

Unfortunately, it seems that margarine and flour catch fire when hit by a spark.

On March 24, 1999, that’s what happened to a big truck full of margarine (equivalent to a 6,000-gallon oil tanker) partway through the tunnel. The driver jumped out and initially tried to fight the fire, but it spread too fast, and he had to run.

The fire spread like crazy, fed by the flow of air and wind gusts through the tunnel, and most anyone whose car or truck was backed up “below” the fire on the French side of the tunnel died. Poisonous, choking smoke killed 39 people, and the fire reduced them to bone and ashes. The fire burned so hot that it took five days to cool down enough for officials to start picking their way into the damage.

There is so much more to this tunnel–its nascence, construction, the fire, the trial, the reconstruction–that you really should start with the Wikipedia article and read more. It’s really very interesting, especially when you consider this happened just 20 years ago.

A close view of the Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire memorial on the French side of Mont Blanc.

Anyway, my real point to this post, and the reason why I even learned about the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the fire in the first place, is the memorial on the French side. March 24 was my grandmother’s birthday, and I was looking for something online related to that, when I saw a photo of this amazing monument. Look how lovely it is! Memorials are inherently sad, but this one gives me a really powerful feeling of soaring or even shooting upward and outward. The mountain and the tunnel in it are obviously there to be seen, and then the metal rod or rays make me see spirits or souls suddenly rising, launching upward to heaven/the clouds/Elysium … freedom.

Rest in joy!


My beloved grandmother, Annabelle Elsine Klay White, would have been 102 years old on March 24. She was my mom’s mom, whom my brother and I called Anna, because when I was born she was only 27 and not ready to be a Mimi or Maw-Maw or Granny. (As an aside, my other grandmother felt exactly the same way when I was born–I was the first grandchild on both sides–and all 14 of her grandchildren called her by her first name for all her life.)

Most other people called my Anna “Ann.” My Grand-dad usually did, but he would sometimes call her Annabelle in a special voice, just that little special voice you hear between two people who have been married since the end of World War II.

My grandparents together circa World War Two
My grandparents together circa WWII.

Not everyone saw Anna as excessively warm or emotional. She could be a serious nag. But she was a pretty great grandmother. When she knew we would be visiting, she would tape a soft sponge over the sharp corner of a particular counter that my brother often banged his head on when we were running around in the house. Since he was shorter than me, I would maybe bump that corner but he could really hurt himself on it.

Anna rinsed out and re-used foil paper. She rinsed out and re-used her water glass. But, she and Grand-dad did splurge, in a sense, on bottled water delivered from Kentwood (probably much better known as the birthplace of both Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears).People in Thibodaux, the small Louisiana town where they were living at the time, got their water from the Mississippi River, and their community was one of the first to adopt bottled water for both drinking and cooking.

She had high blood pressure, and she cooked without salt. She fussed unrepentantly at all of us when we salted our food. She worried about all the chips we ate.

She always had a jar of “silver bells” (our name for Hershey’s Kisses) in the kitchen.

When I was quite small, she would let me “cook” next to her at the stove. She pulled up a stepstool for me and turned one of the burners on the special “barely more than room temperature” setting that only small children use, then put a pan of faucet-warm water on it. She showed me how to turn the handle away from me so I wouldn’t accidentally knock it and spill what I was cooking. I would put ketchup, hot sauce, Pickapeppa sauce and every spice in her pantry in my “soup.” Anna kept stale pasta and a few cups of dried beans and peas in little jars in the pantry so I could add them to my creation. I always knew it wouldn’t be edible, but I had so much fun cooking and just yakking at her. I was a motormouth from the age of about two minutes.

Anna always let me and my brother do things that I imagine would at least bother if not horrify another grandparent. She had a small sandbox that we could bring out in the backyard and play with. She let me play with (almost) all her jewelry. We colored with our paper laid out on the carpet, floor or furniture, and there were no washable markers in those days. I think she knew we were both cautious and somewhat anxious children. Maybe that’s why she let us do all these things.

I do know she trusted me with her amazing vintage typewriter, with which I was fascinated. She used it to type letters to our Mom and both of us kids on small stationery that must have been frustrating, but I think saving paper was also important to her. I typed all kinds of things on that typewriter, and I know for a fact that her encouragement of reading, typing and even “interviewing” my grandparents on Grand-dad’s hand-held recorder was a contributor to my love of all things journalistic. I remember that they gave me The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy for my 11th birthday. Phew. That was a monumental moment for me in so many ways!

Anna was also one of the relatives most concerned for me after I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 21. She worried about me so much, and she often sent me articles about treatments she had seen. After I had my first knee replacement, she fretted about me driving a manual-transmission car with a clutch that I had to press with my non-replaced knee. She finally talked my Grand-dad into agreeing they would buy me an automatic car. They bought me a car! It was a beautiful little black Honda Civic that I loved to pieces and drove for 10 years.

After my mother and grandfather crossed over, my brother and I were the relatives nearby who could care for Anna. She began showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and caregiving became harder and harder. But the hardest thing for me was her confusion about the disease. She had been an incredibly sharp lady, and in the early stages she knew enough to understand something bad was happening to her. I remember once when I sat next to her at the end of her bed and held her hand while she cried, asking over and over, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I remember things?” She remembered enough to know she was losing her ability to remember.

Gosh, I really loved her. She had told me several years before she died what she wanted for her funeral, and I followed all of her wishes except one. She asked me to sing “In the Garden,” and I couldn’t do it–I knew I would just cry and not finish. So I played a version of it that I thought she would have liked on my iPhone. I felt so bad about that for a long time, until at some point I realized of all people, she would have forgiven me for that.

Anna (foreground) with a friend and the young fella who would become my grand-dad.
Anna traveled with her sister to Arizona just before my grandfather was sent to Alaska to fight in World War II. That’s where she met him, and they are both shown here. My grandmother is the lovely lady with the radiant smile.

Throwback Friday with Depeche Mode

In honor of Throwback Friday April 6 (I know, I know), I have a few things on my mind. I had happened earlier that week to see a recent picture of Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore. You know precious little Martin Gore with his puffball of blond hair, adorable bad British teeth and slightly B&D-ish outfits? (Hey, I’m not condemning a man who can rock a chain mail skirt and feather boa onstage.)

Anyway, it’s bad enough that Martin Gore is old, like myself (I might be able to FORGET that if people I remember from high school as young and adorable didn’t keep showing up looking like creepy old weirdos), but he got his teeth fixed! He has a mouthful of blinding white veneers that make me want to cry! (Do you think crying something like, oh Martin, I loved you back when your teeth were gross, please sing me “Shake the Disease” would do it?)

Anyway. Lo, I am sad. I remember when my friend Ali B Mecom introduced me to Depeche Mode when we were in high school. I think I first heard “People Are People” at her house. It blew my mind. She was way into “Blasphemous Rumours” and insisted on explaining all the lyrics to me.

So, all this led me to watching some Depeche videos on YouTube, then a whole Depeche documentary that was quite good, then some more videos. I hadn’t been into their videos back in the day because I didn’t think the band members were cute. Now, I have realized that those boys made some fucked-up videos. There is imagery in some of them … well, clearly my 14-year-old self blocked it all out.  Our parents definitely blocked it all out, or else there would have been some conversations in my house about the lyrics of “Master and Servant.”

Anyway, somewhere down the YouTube rabbit hole of ‘80s videos, I came across another rock-doc, this one about Genesis from 1967 to 1977. Now, those of you who thought Peter Gabriel sprang fully formed out of some lesser god’s forehead in 1986 and wrote “Sledgehammer” need to get educated.  Peter Gabriel had an illustrious solo career from the late ‘70s until—well, basically, now. But before he went solo, PG was the lead singer of a little band you might have heard of called Genesis.

Watch the docu to learn more. There is some really, really interesting stuff in it about the transition from PG to Phil Collins as Genesis’s lead singer. But it still didn’t answer satisfactorily the question of why PG left. I never have read why.

Oh, back to Peter’s 1986 album (called So, by the way): Did you all know that Phil Collins plays drums on a number of tracks on that album—most memorably on the song “Red Rain,” which also features the inimitable Stewart Copeland on hi-hat and an extraordinary lead vocal by Pete—and actually has done so on albums both before and since? Pete and Phil have remained friends—maybe not big buddies, but they share a lot of musical history and talent.

Thus endeth my little musical trip down memory lane. Eighties music still can bring back a lot of fun memories. After all, I was still in college when 1990 rolled around, and many—if not most—people I knew then would have happily sat down and listened with me and Alice to Depeche Mode. I think most of us would still happily do that right now, today.


Welcome, again!

Welcome to the new Bluebonnet Equinox! After neglecting this blog shamefully for three years … ouch! … I’m relaunching it with a new design and a new commitment to keep it going.

I hope you’ll register so you can get notified when I post. And, I hope you’ll comment on anything that strikes you!

By the way, in case you’re wondering about the site name—it’s kind of a long story, but the phrase, which I came up with years ago, was influenced by my 14 years living in central Texas. The wildflowers blooming in spring there, especially the bluebonnets, were an amazing and joy-bringing sight. People would often bring their families out in Easter finery to take pictures among the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush and little pink and yellow flowers whose names I don’t know.

Equinox joined the title just because I liked the way it sounded with the word bluebonnet. I sometimes write that way, especially when writing poetry. I have emotional reactions to certain words and groups of words. Equinox is also a cool word because it has science-y aspects and ancient religion-y aspects. See what a wordsmith I am!

Right now I’m serving as editor of the 2016 Dwarf Stars anthology, a product of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. The anthology is  both a showcase of short-form speculative poetry and a voting tool for the SFPA members to choose the best speculative poetry under 10 lines from 2016. The selection process is very hard work, but wonderful, wonderful!

Check out the SFPA website sometime and learn a little about speculative poetry. You might be surprised.

Why is everyone surprised about the NFL?

I’ve been paying pretty close attention to the NFL controversy over the past few weeks—I guess since the “first” video of Ray Rice abusing his then-fiancée was released. In that video, what we see is the aftermath Rice-Screen-Shot of him cold-cocking her in an elevator. He is dragging her completely boneless and inert body along the floor to get it out of the elevator, pulling her limbs into awkward positions that would likely be painful if she weren’t unconscious. I was horrified by the video and will never understood why so many people apparently had to see the “second” version—in which we actually see his fist connect with her face, dropping her like a stone to the floor—in order to be properly upset by the whole thing.

I guess I should be glad that people are getting upset, even if it’s belatedly. I’ve actually been bothered by several previous NFL “controversies,” most notably the Michael Vick dog abuse case, for a good while now. It really nagged at me that Vick was allowed to rejoin the NFL and keep playing, albeit after he did spend some time in jail. I believe he paid some fines and had to speak to kids about why it was a bad thing to electrocute dogs with rods inserted in their anuses, because the dogs wouldn’t properly tear one another apart in a fighting ring, or because they were worn-out from such fighting.

Well thank the good gods for small favors.

I believe it is wrong and contemptible to abuse and/or murder dogs, cats, women, men, children, convicted felons and all living beings. Before anyone asks, no, I am not a vegan. I do eat meat on occasion, and I wear leather. And that troubles me. I wish the world were perfect, and we could survive eating only what animals died of natural causes, or that at least all farm animals could live in free-range situations and be killed for their meat in as humane and painless a way as possible.

But we do not live in that world. I just do what I can to make things better in small ways. I have rescued and fostered both cats and dogs, mostly cats, for many years. I contribute to several animal charities, including the Humane Society of the United States, which works toward the reduction and eventual elimination of cruel factory farming and other inhumane practices. I also speak out against the death penalty and contribute to Amnesty International.

In the past I have not actually contributed much in the way of money or time to organizations dedicated to preventing domestic violence and helping its victims. I do give to our local United Way, which does support some local agencies that do these things. And I’ve spoken out at times about the wrongness of spousal abuse, of hitting the ones you profess to love. But not really very often.

I think, now, that it’s time for me and people like me to give this some serious thought. I’ve often thought, in the past, that I was more involved with animal rights because animals can’t speak for themselves. In fact, one of the marketing slogans for the ASPCA is “We are their voice.” But it seems that the voices of abused women (and please don’t start with me about how some men are abused by their wives; I’m sure it’s true, but let’s all be adults here and realize that the vast majority of people being punched in the face and knocked unconscious by their spouses are women being hit by men) need some help being heard. I know that Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, hasn’t heard them loudly enough yet.

[As an aside, did you, Gentle Reader, by chance actually watch that insane press conference on Sept. 19? Or read some of what Goodell spewed and sputtered out? In case you missed it, here’s a choice gem:

NI am wearing a black suit, and black suits are serious. I had a committee pick the suit, and I will have a committee look into domestic violence, because domestic violence is a problem we need to address, and it’s a problem in the NFL and throughout society and also in other countries, but I take full responsibility for my mistake, and, really, there may even be domestic violence on other planets, because I mean, ya never know…

Ya never know.]

So I think it’s time for all good men, and women, to raise our voices quite a big louder and make sure men-of-quality-women-rightsGoodell—and the offenders of the NFL and other sports and those abusers in homes all over our country and the world—hear the outcry. Domestic violence has got to stop. We must work together to stop it.


Whatever it takes.


Sunday Morning News

One of the topics I planned to tackle with this blog is the news media. I became interested in news and journalism in high school and knew before I graduated that I was going to major in journalism in college. Unlike many of my freshman-year friends, I never changed my major, with one exception: I did change my “concentration” from news reporting to public relations. And I concede that was a HUGE change.

Fox_news_sundayBut at that time at the University of Texas at Austin, where I got my Bachelor of Journalism degree in 1991, the journalism degree with PR concentration still contained a large news focus. I’m glad for that. I think I can work with reporters because I trained for several years in their field. And I’ve remained interested in the media ever since, following journalism review publications and shows like Reliable Sources on CNN.

One of my favorite parts of the weekend, each week, is to get up early Sunday and watch a series of morning news roundup and talk shows. I usually start with Good Morning America on ABC, then switch to Fox News Sunday, then back to ABC for This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I may also watch Meet the Press, Face the Nation or the CBS Sunday Morning show, depending on topics.

Dick Cheney, 2004
Dick Cheney, 2004

This morning’s guest on Fox News Sunday was Dick Cheney, who served both Presidents Bush in various capacities. He was secretary of defense for the first President Bush and vice president under Bush 43. I actually heard Cheney speak live at a convention held in Houston by my then-employer when he was secretary of defense. I think it’s fair to say the man makes my skin crawl. To be totally honest, I’m a pretty liberal Democrat, and he’s obviously a pretty conservative Republican, and we aren’t going to see eye to eye on a lot of things.

But with that said, I thought it was very irresponsible of him to spend his time on Fox News Sunday talking about how the current president is “dead wrong” on numerous policy issues–dragged along, unfortunately, by Chris Wallace’s extremely leading questions. I can’t stand interviewers who go on like, “Let’s talk now about the terrible scandal about the IRS. Isn’t it true that the Administration has handled this just terribly? I’d like your opinion on how terrible this is.” I mean, what’s the interviewee going to say?

I usually watch this diverse mix of morning shows on Sundays because I think it’s good for any and all Americans to listen to a variety of opinions. That’s what the very First Amendment to our Constitution is all about. But I think Wallace does a disservice to his viewers when he leads his guests along to say what he wants people to hear. And for Cheney to happily go along with it, when he has not been in “power” for more than four years and really has no insider information any longer, just compounds the problem.