Put Down Your Phones and STFU

I think I have gone to my last show at Stage AE.

At least it was a good one! The Pixies don’t do anything in the way of stage patter – I mean, zero audience interaction – but they are a good band who does a solid show. Frank Black and company slammed through a 30+ song set, including most of the big hits. (As I drove home, I tried to think of one song I wanted to hear that I didn’t. The only one that came to mind was “Is She Weird.”)

So, no complaints there.

But the crowd at Stage AE is consistently terrible.

Look, if you want to go have a conversation with your friends, go to a bar. It makes no sense to buy concert tickets and stand in the pit discussing your latest boyfriend woes or workout routine. I am trying to see a show and hear the music, not your prattling.

If I ask you not to talk during a concert – and chances are I will – don’t correct me with, “You’re at a loud rock show!” Yes, I am at a loud rock show, BUT I CAN HEAR YOU OVER THE MUSIC. You are in the wrong, here. For the love of all that’s holy DO NOT address me as ‘hon.’ Uh-huh. That’s not going to go well for you.

Specific to the Pixies show, and the poor lost woman inquiring every two minutes, “Where’s Kim?”: If you are displeased that Kim Deal is not with the band any longer, don’t go whinging to everyone in a five-foot radius about it. She hasn’t been with the band since 2013. I love Kim, and I wish her well, and I, too, miss her. But Paz Lenchantin more than adequately fills her shoes.

The constant chatter during concerts is consistently a problem at Stage AE. It’s the only venue that I am forced to choose between listening to the band or the group of friends who are apparently celebrating their high school reunion directly next to me.

And, look, phones: I get it. It’s exciting! You’re at a show! You might be watching your favorite artist!

Take out your phone. Take a picture (no flash!). Put the phone away, and enjoy the show. The people standing behind you don’t want to watch the show through your phone.

At the Pixies show, I literally started moshing with the two young gentleman in front of me during “Debaser” in order for them to stop recording. (It totally worked, too.)

I am not crazy about the pot smoking that goes on at shows – and I mean every show; this is not a Stage AE problem. I have nothing against the recreational use of marijuana. But I don’t need it in my face. Or in my clothes and hair the next day.

All I am asking is for a little more consideration at concerts. It’s not the symphony or a Broadway musical, I know. But it’s something I do for pleasure, and I would like to be able to enjoy it. Talk between songs. Talk between sets. But if you want to have an extended conversation, go someplace else where you don’t have to yell over the performer. It’s just good manners.


What’s a pet peeve of yours at live shows?

Copyright for featured image: aetb / 123RF Stock Photo

An Open Letter to The Afghan Whigs

Dear Guys,

Everyone who loves music, and especially everyone who loves live music (which I have come to realize is not everyone) has that band. We own all the music, wear the t-shirts, watch the videos, stalk the set lists. We have the band or artist we will go out of our way to see.

For me, that band is you.

And, after making my second trip to Cincinnati to see you play a live show, I just have to drop you a note of thanks. If logistics allowed, I would take in more than one show per tour, and maybe next tour I will get that lucky. But this tour, I only got one show.

Thanks for leaving it all out on the stage.

Since I discovered you, which by most accounting is fairly late (cough*2014*cough), you have been my obsession and my catharsis, my chemical and my comfort. Especially, of course, in frontman Greg Dulli, who speaks to darkness not in order to banish it, but instead to show us that we are not alone in the darkness.

For better or worse.

I bought a VIP ticket to the show in Cincy because it was the only one I could attend, which in addition to admission to the show also got me a t-shirt, a tote, a poster that you all signed, and admission to the sound check. Thanks for doing “Demon in Profile,” with Greg on vocals. Nothing against Har Mar; he’s got a great set of pipes. But I’m glad I got your take on it.

I just want to thank you, pretty much for everything you do. Thank you, first of all, for letting us into your grief for Dave Rosser. He is sorely missed by your fans, and I can only imagine the way you all are grieving him.

And thank you, most of all, for giving everything you have, during every show that you perform. The night I saw you, you came out of the gate on fire, and you didn’t let up. I was the barrier chick in the gold lame, dancing and singing to every. damn. song. (John Curley saw me.)

Patrick is a beast on drums – some might say, an animal – and has a rare smile that is real and warm when it appears.

Jon Skibic has serious chops, and a lean guitar player aesthetic that is widely appreciated.

Rick is immensely, immeasurably talented. And has the most beautiful eyes.

John Curley anchors the Whigs with his solid bass playing. I have encountered Curley offstage at each of the three shows I have attended, and he has been the sweetest, loveliest man.

Me and Curley
Ladies and gentlemen, John Curley.

And, of course, our muse, our main man, our savior of misbehavior Greg Dulli. Thank you for doing what you do, and please continue to prowl the stage in all your virile glory.

++

We have to take these times, these events, these days to celebrate what we love. When each day can bring news like we got early yesterday morning, when each day can take our heroes from us (R.I.P. Tom Petty), it’s especially important to show our appreciation.

Thank you, Afghan Whigs, for being that band, not just for me, but for all your fans. Thanks for continuing to make music and go on tour.

We’ll be there. I’ll be there, as often as I can be.

Love,
rpm

Football player taking a knee

Take A Knee

I know why I’m not blogging — it’s because I have too much to say, not that I don’t have enough.

Plus, some of the issues I am dealing with, especially with my two girls, are more private in nature.

In the good news column: Michael got a bicycle, and has been on it every day since Saturday. He’s even taken a couple of spills, and STILL jumps on it at the first opportunity.

The thing that’s been driving me insane this week is the national conversation about the protests at NFL games.

It’s not an anthem protest.
It’s not a flag protest.
It’s not a protest of the military.
It’s not even a T*ump protest. Is the President wrong tweeting that the NFL should fire players that kneel? Yes, yes, he is. (I am hard pressed to think of ONE THING the current President is right about, though, so YMMV.) Should people “boycott” the NFL over players that take a knee?? I mean, sure, go ahead.

I started “boycotting” the NFL years ago, after a slow process of disillusionment. So don’t act like boycotting the NFL over protests is admirable. It’s not.

Colin Kapernick started kneeling during the anthem last year (here’s a timeline). He did it to protest the treatment of people of color in America. To quote:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

And that’s what the media should cover, and what we should be talking about. Instead of counting heads — who knelt, who stood, who stayed in the locker room or tunnel (hi, I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh Steelers) — instead of talking about who has the right to say what, and who is allowed to protest and how, we need to return to the conversation.

Maybe instead of showing up in a sports bar and asking patrons what they think of the NFL or the protests, we need to ask harder questions. What do you think of racial oppression in this country? What do you think of white officers shooting black men, and getting acquitted? What do you think of white supremacists?

I could go on.

I have respect for those decide to protest something, especially something as wrong and as pervasive as racial inequality. Kapernick put his livelihood on the line to make a point.

We need to talk about WHY Kapernick and other players are protesting. The protests are not the news. We need to have more difficult conversations about race in America. It’s not going away. I don’t know that it’s a solvable problem, but if we don’t start talking about it, we’ll never know.

Copyright for featured image: ostill / 123RF Stock Photo

When Anxiety Attacks

After two nights of anxiety-fueled insomnia as we started into the new school year, I did manage two nights of decent sleep. At least, I didn’t wake up at 3 a.m. and stay up with a pounding heart and shortness of breath.

Here is a short, non-comprehensive list of the things about which I am having anxiety:

    1. Flora, and her newly developed dislike of soccer. She’s on the school team, and has zero interest in showing up for games and practice.
    2. Kate, and her deepening sadness. Her transition to middle school has not gone as smoothly as I had hoped it would.
    3. Michael, getting off the bus, by himself, every day.
    4. All the bad things that can happen to my children because I’m not right there.
    5. Dan, and me, and our continuing struggle to stay connected. Today is our anniversary.
    6. Money.
    7. The children’s will and ability to do the chores. I have asked, repeatedly, to come home to a clean house. I don’t mean sparkling, but clean. Especially in the kitchen. I would like to come home and be able to make dinner — not come home, tell the children what chores need to be done RIGHT NOW, help them clean the kitchen, THEN start dinner.
    8. Meal planning.
    9. Coming home and cooking every day. I’m over it. There’s got to be a better way (that doesn’t involve lots of going out).
    10. Having another anxiety attack and insomnia.

As we started into the school year, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that I had control over NOTHING. I am cognizant that I don’t have lots of control over a great many things, and I have found ways to make peace with that. But lately, I haven’t been able to rein in the worry. I think a contributing factor is the horror of playing witness to the sheer incompetence of the T*ump administration. That daily onslaught from the Idiocracy has exacerbated my anxiety (I am sure I am not alone).

Solutions I am contemplating to deal with anxiety/insomnia:

1. If I start having sleepless nights, I may try melatonin. I fall asleep just fine — I am TIRED when I go to bed. But some nights, I wake up, and I’M UP. And some nights, even a little TV or reading, or counting sheep/relaxation, don’t do the trick.

2. If the anxiety gets too big to deal with, then I may see my doctor for a prescription. I have never taken anxiety meds. I came close when I was leaving my last job, because it was giving me daily panic attacks and tension headaches. But if my anxiety gets in the way of my day-to-day functioning, medication is a short-term solution I am willing to try.

3. Therapy? The question mark is for: when? In theory, I would love to return to talk therapy. I think part of my problem is simply that all my stuff runs around in my head.

4. Doing something different regarding meals. I’m not sure what yet. Maybe cooking a lot on weekends, putting together meals for the week. I can come home and throw something in the oven, or serve soup and sandwiches. The problems: what to cook (that everyone will eat); and getting in the habit of prepping and/or cooking, like, four big meals on the weekend. Plus, omnivore husband, daughter, and son vs. vegetarian me and other daughter. *sigh*

4b. I am considering a meal prep delivery service. A friend suggested Fresh 20, which is a meal planning service. They give you the menus, and what to shop for; you just have to shop, prep, and cook. But I looked at the first offering on the veggie menu, and I knew my children wouldn’t all eat it. They aren’t picky, but I’m not sure they are going to go for coleslaw wraps with hummus and a side of sweet potato fries.

5. Prayer. This isn’t a new one, but it’s a solid standby.

I can hear some people thinking: stop paying attention to the news/social media! But, look, that is a luxury. I think it’s more important to pay attention and do what I can — even if in some cases that’s just worry — than isolate myself from the crap in the world.

What’s your go-to anxiety defuser?

White Like Me, Part II

When I was in my mid-20s, I was working full-time and freelancing. My full-time job was at the University of Pittsburgh, and I was struggling to be a successful freelance writer and editor. I placed a small advertisement — in a paper newspaper, no less — for my copy editing services.

I received a call from the New Pittsburgh Courier. The New Pittsburgh Courier (and its predecessor, simply Pittsburgh Courier) is an African-American owned-and-operated newspaper, based in Pittsburgh. I think it’s the longest running African-American focused publication in the United States, if you go back to the original 1907 date. (More information here. It has a fascinating history.)

The New Pittsburgh Courier was looking for a copy editor who could come twice a week, in the evenings, to proofread the paper before it went to print. I interviewed with the man who is still the editor and publisher, Rod Doss. I got the job.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would take myself down to the Courier offices from about 6 p.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. I was mostly just looking for typos in the pages that were already laid out. My biggest task was to rewrite press releases for the Features department. I was usually there with then City Editor Sonya Toler (look her up; she works for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto now), Mr. Doss, and three women in the graphic design department.

The graphic designers were Terra, who was black; Deb, who was white; and a third woman, whose name I don’t recall now, who was also black.

I enjoyed the job very much. The copy in the news section was usually pretty clean, but I would catch one or two things. I had to get used to a couple of unique style notes the newspaper had — for example, when referring to people, Black was always capitalized.

The graphic designers gave me a hard time about re-writing press releases, but otherwise they would simply reproduce them as-is, with attendant CAPS LOCK and high praise for whatever film or book was coming out. Sometimes, the press releases would capitalize the names of the movie or actor through-out. “THE COLOR PURPLE starring OPRAH WINFREY will be in theaters this weekend. THE COLOR PURPLE tells the story of…. THE COLOR PURPLE is adapted from the novel of the same name by ALICE WALKER.”

You get the idea.

Now, because I don’t understand racism, I have to tell you I didn’t stand around in the NPC offices thinking, “I am working with black people.” Like, it literally didn’t occur to me to dwell on. And I don’t mean it in an “I was colorblind” way. I just didn’t feel one way or another about it. Not intimidated or worried about it.

Along with differences in our skin color, there were age, religion, marital status, parenthood, and educational differences. I think I was more aware that I was working with mothers than I was that I was working with black women. Does that make sense?

The newspaper covered issues and stories that impacted the black population more than, say, the Post-Gazette did. Almost all of the writers and editors were people of color. I thought they were providing a public service to the black population, not just of Pittsburgh, but of their national service area. I understood that news I read and followed wasn’t necessarily balanced to show the perspective of people of color. I understood the NPC fulfilled a need for a population that I wasn’t intimately familiar with. I didn’t feel threatened by the idea that black people had access to news and views that affected them. “White journalism” wasn’t endangered.

When I first started working there, Terra had long, braided hair. One evening, after I had been there a few months, I came in, and Terra’s hair was short.

“Oh, Terra!” I exclaimed. “You got your hair cut.”

Terra leveled a long look at me. Then, turning back to her computer she said, “Deb, tell Dawn how black hair works.”

This is when I learned about weaving.

I honestly did not have the first clue.

Deb explained the process, and that Terra hadn’t gotten her hair cut, she had simply had the braids removed. I was the object of some good-natured ribbing that evening, that’s for sure. I hope I took it in stride and with graceful good humor.

++

The gulfs that separate black and white people are bigger than just not knowing about hair weaves. And they are fully on display in our country: the wounds of slavery and the Civil War; the impotent anger of the white supremacist movement now finding its footing; the inability of the men in power to denounce the evil that only exists ON ONE SIDE.

It’s not up to us to declare any kind of victory (because “we” elected a black man President, or because “we” enacted civil rights). And it’s not up to black people to educate us. It’s not up to them to fight the fight alone anymore. We white people have to step up to the front lines and join our voices to those who have been aware of what’s been going on for decades.

Thy Will Be Done

From the first reading of Mass yesterday: “As for foreigners who adhere to Yahweh to serve him, to love Yahweh’s name and become his servants… [T]hese I shall lead to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer… for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

From the second reading: “God has imprisoned all human beings in their own disobedience only to show mercy to them all.”

And in the Gospel, Jesus heals the daughter of a foreign woman who is not Jewish. I actually found this reading to be a rather harsh depiction of Jesus. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs,” Jesus says, when the woman persists. “Yes, Lord,” the woman answers. “But even dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ tables.”

I wonder if how many white supremacists call themselves Christian, and if they were in a church yesterday. Did they hear the words? Did they understand them?

++

Some say that T*ump is part of God’s plan – I don’t know why they didn’t believe that about Obama, but I’ve very little doubt that some of those who trumpet this current administration believed that Obama was a secret Muslim.

And here’s a thought I had in Mass yesterday. What if T*ump is part of God’s plan, but not in the way that Falwell Jr. and the evangelicals would have it. Maybe T*ump was elected not to save America, but to reveal it, and God “let” it happen (insofar as God directs things here on Earth; the Big Guy [or Gal] did give us free will) so that we would see the worst of human kind, not the best.

Maybe God said, “All right. They’re going to go ahead and put this fool in the White House, and even though he’s hardly done service to me – except lip service, am I right? – we’ll just let this go. I work in mysterious ways, after all.”

Instead of the example of Jesus, who humbled himself even unto death, we bear witness to the vainglorious antics of T*ump and Bannon, whose narcissism knows no bounds. Instead of the welcoming and generous mien of Jesus, we watch as petty men enrich and empower themselves and their families, with no thoughts for the ones they harm.

Instead of a moral leader who can point out the wrongs in this world, and vow to do better to make things right, we have a weak man who thinks the wrong extends in every direction, and he’s the only one who is brave enough to say it. T*ump will admit no wrong or weakness. Jesus knelt at this apostles’ feet to wash them. He sent his believers into the world to be servants, not to be kings.

++

And even if we are willing to buy into this idea, that God does have a plan to profit us (and I don’t mean make us rich with material things), it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak out and speak up when we see the wrongs in the world, and the feckless, faithless people in power won’t do it. I pray every day that T*ump and his minions fall from power. I use my voice to decry injustice and hate, and I will keep doing that. And, more importantly, I will amplify the voices who know better than I do, and I will listen to those who know better than I.

White Like Me (Part I)

I am not the most “woke” person on the planet, and I’m not here to persuade you of any of my bona fides.

What I am here to do is to start a conversation – overdue, to be sure – about race. I’m going to tell you where I come from. Because I am having these conversations with my children. Because these conversations have to be had.

We can’t NOT talk about race.

My father’s parents were Irish immigrants, and my father grew up in a lower-income neighborhood in Pittsburgh. My mother’s parents were first generation Italian-Americans, and they lived in the Italian neighborhood in Erie, Pennsylvania.

I grew up in Erie, the oldest child of two college-educated white people. My parents never talked about race, but they hardly had to. Erie was strikingly white and Catholic in the 1970s and ‘80s – probably still is for that matter. I grew up in a white neighborhood; my K-8 school was white and Catholic; my parents’ friends were white and non-immigrants, and they had children who looked just like me. All my friends were white.

I, obviously, was aware that people of color existed – I watched Sesame Street and The Electric Company growing up. But until high school, I barely interacted with people of color. Not that I didn’t want to, or felt I shouldn’t. It simply didn’t happen.

It’s safe to say that my parents weren’t (aren’t) racist. We didn’t use racist language, they didn’t draw bright lines between “our kind of people” and any other kinds of people. My parents’ parents may have been racist, but I never heard the n-word growing up. My mom’s father was prejudiced against, to use his words, Krauts and Jews, which I always found confusing.

My pap-pap died when I was 6, and I’ve no idea on his views on race. He was, however, an Irish beat cop in Pittsburgh, so they probably weren’t super enlightened. Although my father has said that his father never used the n-word, and when my father asked about it as a child, he told my father, “We don’t use that word.”

I remember my Italian grandmother occasionally talking about ‘colored’ people, and I used to tease her. “What color were they, Grandma?” So, yes, probably some racism there. But hardly malevolent, white-supremacist-flavored racism.

Fast-forward to high school, and finally, I was going to school and seeing non-white and non-Christian people on a daily basis – not many, but some. I went to a small, Catholic all-girls school.

When I tweeted about this the other day, I said, “I didn’t witness any overt racist acts”, but I’m not sure that’s true upon further reflection. We had one Indian girl who was definitely targeted for some harassment, for example, being asked if she was in an arranged marriage. I didn’t do that; she was someone I would’ve counted as a friend. I bet if I asked Robbie, one of the black girls in my class, she would have a story or two to tell.

I never remarked on this limited diversity in my high school at home. We didn’t talk about race. Again, I think it was more the default position of not *needing* to talk about it, about having enough privilege that racism was something that happened in the ‘60s. Everything was cool in Erie! Everything was cool because of civil rights!

Clearly, since the time of Barack Obama’s running for president, then becoming President, since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, since the (continued and now publicized) murder of black boys and men by white cops, since Black Lives Matter and the Safety Pin Box, it has been made abundantly clear that we hardly live in a post-racial society. If the election of T*ump and the events of Charlottesville are any indication, we may be moving backwards.

I talk about race with my children. They go to school with, play sports with, and live near more black and brown children than I ever did. We talk about shootings (in age appropriate ways). We talk about Charlottesville and white supremacy.

I don’t say we are “colorblind.” I tell my children to see and to be aware of differences in their peers and in the wider world, whether that’s skin color, or sexuality, or religion, or disabilities. Differences matter, although they do not make anyone superior to anyone else. Differences matter, because they mean individuals have different experiences and views.

We have to understand and recognize difference. Knowing in our hearts that everyone SHOULD be treated the same doesn’t mean everyone WILL be treated the same. And we have to recognize when differences lead to injustice, and how, and what to do about it.

*with apologies to the book of essays by Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son – which I promptly bought and will be reading post haste. Buy it here.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“What is white supremacy?” Flora asked.

Before I could formulate my answer, she added, “It sounds totally stupid.”

It made me laugh.

“You’re right,” I said. “It is totally stupid.”

It’s stupid to think that you are better than someone based on the color of your skin.
It’s stupid to think that other people getting rights to things like job parity, education, and healthcare means your rights are being taken away.
It’s stupid to chant Nazi slogans while carrying a tiki torch.
And it’s stupid to fight to preserve a history of which American should be embarrassed.

It’s stupid to think that we need to preserve “white culture.” It’s a fucking joke.

We stole this country, and built it on the backs of black slave labor. We can be clear-eyed about that, and work to fix the mistakes of the past. (Don’t tell me ‘your grandparents were immigrants who were treated just as badly as slaves.’ They weren’t; stop telling yourself that lie. And don’t come at me with “violence on both sides.” A man killed a woman WITH HIS CAR.)

And the President of the United States endorses and condones this shit.

++

Kate, my performer, Kate, my orator, on white supremacy:

“Trees change the colors of their leaves. Do we judge the trees? No, we do not…. Apples come in different colors. Do we judge apples on the colors on the outside? No, we judge apples by their taste. We don’t judge people by their skins; we judge them by what’s inside.”

++

Michael has been watching Holes. (It’s an excellent book as well as an excellent movie.) He loves it.

One of the plot points involves a black man, Sam, and a white woman, Kate, played by Dule Hill and Patricia Arquette. **SPOILER ALERT** Sam and Kate are falling in love, and the white townspeople (the story is in a flashback) don’t like it. When Kate is spotted kissing Sam, her schoolhouse is burned down, and Sam is murdered.

When Michael wanted to watch it yet again, I decided to say something.

“Do you know why Sam is killed in the movie?”
“I think so.”
“Why?”
“Because that other man likes Kate, but she likes Sam.” (Accurate.)
“It’s also because Sam is black. Black people and white people weren’t supposed to be together, or get married.”
“That’s dumb.”

MY CHILDREN GET THIS. It’s not hard.

*sigh* I’m tired. What a luxury.

Credit for the featured image: @AndeStrega

A Completely Unsolicited Review of The Dark Tower Movie

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

It is one of the best opening lines in a novel, in my opinion.

Stephen King screen adaptations vary from wildly terrible, nearly unwatchable dreck, to classic very watchable horror (think Carrie and The Shining) to inspirational (think The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies in the history of film, full stop). Vulture did a fun list ranking every one, which is a pretty entertaining read. I disagree with their number one choice, but not by much.

I also did not realize there were thirty-eight King adaptations out there.

Despite the “controversy”, I wanted to see The Dark Tower, mostly because I was curious of the “how” of it. How were they going to tell the story? Was it going to unbearably long? Was it going to be the first in a series of movies based on the novels? How were they going to deal with the one aspect of the story that didn’t work with a black actor playing Roland?

Short version: The Dark Tower actually pretty good, so don’t believe the naysayers. If you want to go see it, go see it. It’s entertaining, the story is solid, the acting is great, and Idris Elba.

Longer version:

I was skeptical about a movie adaptation of The Dark Tower Series. I mean, sure, they did it with Harry Potter, but – with apologies to my favorite author – The Dark Tower is not Harry Potter.

The Dark Tower movie, fortunately, is not an adaptation of The Dark Tower books, except in the absolute broadest sense. See that opening line. There was a gunslinger, Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger; there was a man in black (played to great effect by Matthew McConaughey); there was the boy Jake.

The Dark Tower movie pulls from many elements of the books, to be sure, again, the broadest plot points and themes. A tower stands at the center of all the universes; the man in black is trying to destroy it, and let in the darkness beyond all the universes. The man in black is aided in his task by low men (and women) who go out into the worlds, capture special children, and use their psychic powers – their “shine” in the parlance of the King multiverses – to break the Beam.

I will admit that the movie probably makes much more sense if you have read all the books. The screen adaptation more or less takes place after the last book in the series, which is one of the reasons that they could cast Idris Elba. Since Roland’s life resets after Book 7, he could literally be any race. This is a new timeline, and who knows if Eddie and Susannah are going to make an appearance in this version of Roland’s life. Who knows if they will even make another film? (I’m in if they do.)

Elba is fantastic as Roland. Dispassionate, bent on one thing (and it ain’t saving the Tower), indifferent to his well-being, and pretty much willing to kill everyone and anyone who gets in his way. McConaughey must take great delight in playing the man in black, Walter. He swaggers with a palpable air of evil through every scene. Jake Chambers is played by Tom Taylor, who captures the character’s vulnerability and grit to a tee.

The movie makes several nods to its source material, but because it is not trying to be everything in the books, it works. The story stands on its own. Elba and Taylor have good on-screen chemistry. If I have any criticism, it’s that the end is a little too neat, a little too easy. But it gave the film closure and it enables it to stand on its own.

I would recommend The Dark Tower to King fans who liked the books. I think it does a good job of adapting the material available while not trying to be all things to all people.

If there are other movies, I hope Elba gets a shirtless scene. I’m just saying.

What’s your favorite King movie? What’s your favorite King book?

Copyright for featured image: supergranto / 123RF Stock Photo

Introverted to a Fault?

Before I get to the meat of this post, I need to tell you a little bit about myself as a child.

I have been an introvert my entire life. I am comfortable spending time by myself – I *need* to spend time by myself – and I often explain this predilection by saying, “Being alone is different than being lonely.”

When I was a child, not only was I naturally introverted, but I was shy. Not socially anxious (I don’t think), but just shy. I tended to be quieter than other children; I was uncomfortable interacting with strangers or anyone I didn’t know well; and I did not have cadres of friends.

My preferred activity was reading.

Recently, the Atlantic published an article titled, rather alarmingly, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” It posits that the generation after the Millennials – called by this author “iGen” for “iPhone generation” – is more depressed, and while it doesn’t explicitly blame smartphones, it notes the correlation between lots of teens having smartphones and the spike in rates of depression and anxiety in teens.

So, go, read it, think about it, see what you think.

Obviously, I am dealing with this right now to a certain extent, with tablets and the children, rather than phones, but same idea. And sooner or later, they will need phones; I reluctantly realize that.

Here’s my two-fold solution: 1. Talk to my children. 2. Limit the use of screens.

Flora and Kate have social accounts, although not on the major sites yet (Snap, Twitter, Facebook). They are able to video chat and text with friends. Kate is more outwardly social than Flora; she has a couple of friends in the neighborhood; and she asks about seeing her friends more often.

Flora is a very solitary girl. She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age. Although she participates in family activities, has friends, and plays soccer, the majority of her time is spent at home, usually in her room drawing. That’s what she likes to do.

Flora is a cheerful girl, although when she gets upset, her reaction is anger. She has a tendency to apologize too much, in my opinion, and it is something that we talk about. She has brought difficulties to us without hesitation (so far). She is thoughtful, sensitive, smart, and easily distracted. She has opinions that she isn’t afraid to share.

I check in with her often, in little ways. I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS listen to her. (I need to strengthen this skill with my other two children.) And when they do start participating in social media more, we will talk about their feelings, and how social media shows a carefully constructed reality – and how to manage around that.

I also check in with Flora from time to time about her posts on the social sites she is on. Flora belongs to a couple of different fan art sites, and people can “like” things and comment. I often ask her about her participation on those sites – and not just by saying, “Is everything cool on those sites?” I ask her to show me her stuff, and comments, and so on.

Limiting time on screens has gotten away from me again because I’m lazy about it – I ain’t going to lie. I am going to solve it in the laziest manner possible as well: We are investing in a Circle device, and the children’s tablets will be shutting off at 10 p.m. They go to bed at 8:30-9 p.m., so an hour or hour and a half is plenty of time to fall asleep. (I have advised the children that this is happening.) The biggest reason this needs to be managed is so they sleep at night. Flora is especially terrible about her sleep habits. (She comes by it honestly; I am a little better than Dan only by the virtue of the fact that I am a monster if I am not getting enough rest, and I totally recognize that.)

Do I think smartphones, or Facebook, or screens are destroying a generation? I do not. This is the familiar hand-wringing that all older generations do about the ones coming up behind them. Does that mean I should ignore my children’s interactions with smartphones and social media? No, of course not. But, like most parents, I am not in the habit of ignoring stuff in which my children are interested or participate.

Do you think smartphones are destroying a generation?