Monthly Archives: August 2019

America, 2019: Bullet-proof backpacks the hot new back-to-school item. PK Subban narrates a dog eating race among his pups. And remembering Toni Morrison, a literary giant

If you’re still in a bit of despair over the horrible shootings in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, I don’t expect this story I’m about to share will make you feel that much better.

But I think it’s an important snapshot of life in America, 2019, and a sad reality to boot.

According to this New York Times story, bulletproof backpacks are in demand for back-to-school shopping this year.

Every paragraph of this story is eye-opening, including this: “In the past, some stores have reportedly sold out of the backpacks, which typically cost $100 to $200. Months before the Parkland shooting, a private Christian school in Miami sold protective panels that could be inserted into backpacks, charging $120 for the bulletproof shields.

This year, ArmorMe, a personal-defense company run by a former Israeli commando, Gabi Siboni, started selling a bulletproof backpack that can unfold into a larger covering.”

Another company, Guard Dog Security, has been selling bulletproof backpacks since shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting. The products are available at Office Max, Office Depot and Kmart, and the company recently released a model that costs less than $100.

“It could be the difference between life and death,” said Yasir Sheikh, who runs Guard Dog.

“We’re asking children to stand up to gunmen because lawmakers are too afraid to stand up to the gun lobby,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grass-roots gun-control organization. “There isn’t a parent in this country that isn’t terrified. These companies are capitalizing on that.”

Bullet. Proof. Backpacks.

We are living in a war zone, and our politicians are whistling past the graveyards.

Just unbelievable.

**Next up, I don’t mean to run a P.K. Subban clip again but the guy just keeps making great content that I enjoy. Here, the NHL star narrates an eating contest between three of his dogs.

Cracked me up all 11 times I watched it.

**Finally, a few words about the massive life and legacy of Toni Morrison, who died Monday at age 88.

There are very few books in my life where I can remember exactly where I was when I read it, and how I felt while reading it, and the exhilaration I felt when it was done.

My junior year in college I read a book I knew was famous, “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison. I knew nothing of the story except that it won the Pulitzer Prize for literature eight years earlier, in 1987. I wasn’t assigned to read “Beloved,” but picked it from a list my professor had suggested for a term paper on a book by a female, minority writer.

I read some of the book in my off-campus apartment at the University of Delaware, but mostly I read it at the library, absorbing page after page and just being kind of astonished at how good it was. I spent several late nights reading it way past the time I should’ve left the library, because it was so good and so absorbing.

I remember finishing it one night and closing the book and just kind of sitting there for about five minutes, not really sure what to do. I was sad it was done, I was exhausted from reading it, and I felt, as millions of us did, that I had just read something extraordinary, that I’d never forget.

Morrison was a titanic figure in American literature, having written so many stories extolling the African-American experience, especially the African-American female experience, that had just never reached a mass audience.

There were so many great Morrison quotes were flying around the Internet Tuesday as word of her passing spread. This quote may be my favorite of hers.

“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

What a powerful lesson. What a powerful life she led. For writing “Beloved” and so many other classic books, thank you, Toni.

Two more mass shootings in America, as once again hatred + guns +cowardly politicians is deadly. Champ Bailey makes a sensational Hall of Fame speech. And a hilarious slip of the tongue from an NFL rookie.

They were shopping in a popular store on a Saturday afternoon in El Paso, Texas, an American city like so many others along the borders of our nation that have become political lightning rods.

Or they were partying at a popular downtown spot in Dayton, Ohio, on a Saturday night, enjoying their lives and doing their best to live each day to the fullest.

And they were gunned down, with incredible speed by high-powered machine guns by men who had no trouble at all acquiring those guns. Guns that are SO available, everywhere in America.

In El Paso, Texas, in a city where 80 percent of the population is Hispanic, this happened.

There were 20 who died in El Paso, and nine in Dayton.

The Ohio victims were: Lois Oglesby, 27; Megan Betts, 22; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Logan Turner, 30; Thomas McNichols, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Monica Brickhouse, 39;Saeed Saleh, 38; Beatrice Warren-Curtis, 36.

The El Paso victims identified so far were: Jordan Anchondo, Andre Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, Ivan Manzano, Javier Rodriguez,  Sara Esther Regalado; Adolfo Cerros Hernández; Gloria Irma Márquez;  María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe; Elsa Mendoza de la Mora; Jorge Calvillo García.

Remember their names. And the ones in El Paso. Remember and honor them, because our cowardly political leaders in the Republican Party didn’t give a shit about them. Because they have done NOTHING to stop gun violence, and they helped elect and support a racist fomenter of violence as President

In El Paso, a 2,356-word diatribe, posted to an extremist online message board, shortly before the shooting began, outlined the killer’s so-called political and economic underpinning for a premeditated attack, including the weapon and ammunition the killer would use. The author railed against an “invasion” by immigrants to the United States and a political takeover of Texas.


And here we have the House Minority Leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy, blaming video games for mass shootings;

Bruce Arthur, a journalist and sportswriter I follow on Twitter, said this:

“The blood on the NRA’s hands — every employee, every associate, every politician paid for — accumulates every day, a brimming red tide of death, and they should carry it and drown in it every night for the rest of their miserable lives.”

But nothing will change. Nothing ever, ever, will change. The slaughter of children in an elementary school didn’t change the gun laws in America. I don’t know what ever, possibly will.

Read those names again. Remember their names, the victims in El Paso and Dayton.

They are far from alone. But they deserve to be remembered. Twenty-nine more casualties in a war that never, ever ends.

**OK, let’s get to something better.Every year the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony seems to bring some amazing speeches, and some heartfelt moments. This year’s event was Saturday night, and as usual the honorees didn’t disappoint.

Here is Champ Bailey, one of the best defensive backs who ever lived, at the end of his speech, speaking about being a black man in America, and his message to white people. The transcript of this is here, and what Bailey says right before this clip begins is: “So on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there, who’ve had most of the same experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all our white friends.:”

Great, great stuff from an NFL legend.

**And finally, another NFL rookie learns about how to talk to the media, hilariously. New York Jets first-round pick Quinnen Williams is, by all accounts, a delightful kid with a great personality, and we’re starting to see that come out.

After practice the other day while speaking with reporters, Williams was asked about his ranking on the Madden ’20 video game, which NFL players are obsessed with (they all think they’re ranked too low.)

Here’s Williams talking about his ranking:

Too damn funny.

Good News Friday: An artist puts a seesaw for kids on the U.S./Mexico border. An MLB player uses “Baby Shark” for a walkup song and it’s hilarious. And a bunch old folks in Salt Lake City give advice, delightfully

Happy Friday and Happy August, y’all! I know this isn’t a popular opinion but August is my favorite month of the whole year. It’s the month of my birthday, the month of my wife’s birthday, and the start of the U.S. Open is in August, too! So I love, love love me some August.

Here are a few stories to hopefully make you smile at the start of this delightful (if super hot) month.

First up, we hear all kinds of horror stories about what’s going on at the U.S./Mexico border these days, and instead of me ranting for hundreds of words about the atrocities, I wanted to share this cool story I learned about on

“A set of bright pink teeter-totters extend into both the U.S. and Mexico through the barrier between the two countries. Children and adults on both sides of the border can play together, seesawing up and down, their view of one another partially obscured by the vertical steel slats that separate them.

Ronald Rael, professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, associate professor of design at San José State University, came up with the conceptual drawings for the “Teetertotter Wall” in 2009. With the help of others, the two professors created the scene this week near El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and shared images and video of it on Instagram.”

Very, very cool and clever way to try to bring people together, don’t you think?

**Next up today, thankfully my 4-year-old has stopped demanding we hear “Baby Shark” every five minutes, as he’s moved on to better music I’ve exposed him to, like Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen. However, the youthful water creature song continues to be popular across all demographics, including, apparently, major league baseball players.

Check out how Washington Nationals player Gerardo Parra walked up to an at-bat during a game

**Finally today, this story made me smile. From the great Steve Hartman of CBS Sunday Morning, the tale of a bunch of old codgers from Salt Lake City, who’ve started a booth at the local farmer’s market that’s become wildly popular. It’s called “Old Coots Giving Advice.”

I love it.