Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Current Events

I'm still swamped but felt the need to catch up with the news of the day.

Here’s the most obvious. I find the crime committed this week in Virginia deplorable. I've been to Blacksburg. It's a beautiful place, well off the beaten path. They filmed Dirty Dancing there, for god's sake.

But watching the media/blogosphere/rapt audience taking in every detail of the incident in open-mouthed absorption is an exercise in futility. People watch because the crime was horrific but they also watch with a queasy fascination for the same reason they watch CSI and Saw.

I’ve made this argument before but I don’t like most true crime stories. I think there's a place for them and I think the principle of great writers tapping the source is a valid one. But the reality of them on a day like today are harsh indeed.

Yes, this site is named after the sound of a gunshot. A fictional one.

I write about crime fiction, among my myriad other interests. I like Black Mask stories about dull-eyed thugs with nickel-plated .45s, the large-scale, high-velocity machine gun firefight in Michael Mann’s Heat, and the enormous “BLAM” at the end of Frank Miller’s That Yellow Bastard. And each and every one of them is as fictional as Tom Sawyer.

I also like tales during which we need to pull back to the Sulaco and nuke the entire planet from orbit. That doesn’t mean I support the proliferation or utilization of nuclear weapons. I don't need to suffer radiation poisoning to appreciate Mad Max and I certainly don't need a preforating bullet wound to enjoy pulp fiction.

The shooter was able to buy a 9 mm Glock high-end semiautomatic pistol for less than a month's rent. It holds 15 rounds and has an option for up to 33 god damned bullets. It takes just five pounds of pressure to fire. And it can easily be converted to be a fully automatic pistol. It’s used by the New York City Police Department and the Shabak (Israeli Security Agency), among other legitimate agencies.

This instrument should never been able to find its way into the hands of an unhinged civilian with a loose credit card.

Will this ignite the debate over gun laws? CNN says no. Why not?

“…public anger is not usually sustained very long, whereas gun owners remember every gun control vote as a threat to their rights. Gun owners vote the issue. Supporters of gun control typically don't. So politicians believe they will pay a price at the polls if they support new guns laws, even when most voters agree with them. When it comes to public opinion, intensity matters. Not just numbers.”

If you happen to be interested in those numbers, you might consider a moment to visit The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. If you insist on rubbernecking, Crimeblog is doing a good job of debunking the idiotic rumor mongering being rushed to air on the networks.

“When a murder is satisfied, it isn’t the beginning of the story; it’s the middle. We shouldn’t forget that fact because murder has ripples. You never go back to being the same. The people that investigate these crimes never go back to being the same as they were before they started the investigation. The people’s whose lives have been affected, the victim’s families, even the murderer themselves are profoundly changed. That’s why murder is still the most interesting crime for us to write about because it is the only crime where something unique is taken away from the world, something that can’t be replaced.” Ian Rankin, in Bookslut

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Briefly, Kurt Vonnegut. Sorry, not in my orbit. I’m sure I tripped over Slaughterhouse-Five somewhere between Robert Heinlein in grade school and Don DeLillo in college. I do love this elegant illustration on his official website. I think Chris Moore summed it up best for those who loved these books. But the man survived the bombing of Dresden, a house fire, his own suicidal impulses and the majority of old age. It's a damned good run at it. Another soul loosed. And so it goes.

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