Fanfare for the Common Man

Off it goes, an unsecured gun in the Myrtle Beach Cracker Barrel.

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Myrtle Beach, where, this week, after five shootings in twenty-four hours, they barricaded Ocean Boulevard.

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‘A man was eating his lunch with his family in the restaurant’s back dining room when a small revolver fell out of his pants pocket and went off.’

‘The bullet lodged itself in the wall of the restaurant.’

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‘The joke about Cracker Barrel is that it’s exactly what it sounds like: a container for backward white people.’

‘A Change.org petition in 2015 called for the company to change its name to Caucasian Barrel, and 16,000 people signed, in mock protest of P.C. culture.’

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“It was complete chaos because people were going on like who has a gun and the man that had it didn’t realize that it was his that had went off.”

“Yeah, all day today we’ve been showing off the bullet hole to customers, they’ve enjoyed the story, so at the end of the day everyone was okay and our customers are getting a kick out of it.”

The American Way of Death Revisited

The image of an important American politician crawling in agony across a baseball field, trying to limit himself to just one semiautomatic bullet, comes right out of the novels of this nation’s most celebrated contemporary writer, Don DeLillo.

Anyone who has read White Noise or Players knows that postmodern death and near-death à la DeLillo typically involve some combination of playtime activities, guns, and videotape. In DeLillo, death has lost the majesty, the redemptive possibilities, it had as late as, say Tolstoy’s famous story, “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” Now it’s a sudden violent event that happens while adults are playing miniature golf; and someone’s usually around to film them expiring on the little fake putting green.

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In Players, affluent American death occurs on a grownup golf course on a bright shiny day, with middle-class men, dressed in crayola colors, engaged in “that anal round of scrupulous caution and petty griefs.”

The golfers on this sweet green morning attend to their game. Together again momentarily on a particular fairway they appear almost to be posing in massed corporate glory before a distant flag. It is now that the vigilant hidden thing, the special consciousness implicit in a long lens, is made to show itself.

A man, his back to the camera, rises from the underbrush in the immediate foreground, about two hundred yards from the golfers. When he turns to signal someone, it’s evident he has a weapon in his right hand, a semiautomatic rifle. After signaling he doesn’t reassume his crouch. One of the golfers selects an iron.

This leisure-time massacre is actually part of a film being shown first-class passengers on a WhisperJet. None of them watches with much attention; they’re in an alcoholic/anxious haze.

The audience’s emotional distance from the bloody mess on the screen is deepened by the fact that they’re in an in-flight piano bar, with a performer who uses his instrument to comment in a campy way on what he’s seeing — on the irony of simultaneous golf and terrorism.

Watching golfers being massacred, to trills and other ornaments, seems to strike those in the piano bar … as an occasion for sardonic delight.

Not all postmodern deaths involve bullets, but virtually all, as presented in the work of DeLillo, involve playtime. In White Noise, set in a university, Professor Dimitri Costakis is “lost in the surf off Malibu. During the term break.” The school’s dean, who once “serve[d] as adviser to Nixon, Ford and Carter,” has recently met “his death on a ski lift in Austria.” Death in America is something that happens when you’re having fun. The ski lift dumps you out; the surf engulfs you; men with guns interrupt your game.

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A blimp flying over the U.S. Open went down Thursday just beyond a rim of trees surrounding Erin Hills. The pilot, the blimp’s only occupant, was airlifted from the scene of the crash but was reported as alert and conscious, according to police.

Fan video caught the deflated blimp as it floated to the ground.

That one happened on the same day as the baseball game. It’s hard not to laugh at some of these misadventures, hard not to greet them sardonically. The disparity between the triviality (“petty griefs”) of blimpish voyeuristic activity, and the deflation and airlifting is just funny. It’s just so graphic an illustration of our superficiality, our childish spectatorial lives, so utterly unprepared for seriousness, reality, the crash, the spray of bullets.

A gunman at Ohio State University has wounded at least eight people…

… and has now been shot dead.

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Update: Maybe not a gunman.

[A] university spokesman …. said some of the victims had been stabbed and others hit by a vehicle. It was not clear whether the attacker used a gun.

The New University of Texas:

Now you can do this on campus as well as off! Y’all come down.

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Our students’ safety and well-being are paramount at the University of Texas.

SWAT officers ordered the suspects to come down with their hands up.

“Seeing that in West Campus is really just alarming,” [a student] said. “I saw the guns on them and the shields, so I was pretty terrified.”

Well, hold onto your hat, UT student! Booze, frats, and guns galore: Life of the mind, Texas.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Missouri legislators are furious: Football players at the University of Missouri can’t carry handguns. Coach says so.

Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton, called the policy “unbelievable.”

McGaugh is clearly shaken. He will need time to himself before he’s able to focus on countermeasures. I’m sure his fellow legislators are in the same boat.

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Once McGaugh and other lawmakers feel able to act, UD can guarantee that the kids will get all the handguns they want. Relax.

Remember the Dildo!

If you’re from Texas you know this venerable phrase, reminding you every morning to pack your cock (not Glock) in your knapsack (UD is so old she calls backpacks knapsacks) before you go to school. It’s part of a campus-wide protest against the new conceal-carry-in-classrooms law.

UD, a fervent supporter of this nascent open dildoes movement, admits to struggling a bit with the concept, though. What is the connection between showing a dildo in public and protesting against people bringing concealed guns to university classes?

At first blush, the gesture sounds merely aesthetic:

Cocks Not Glocks, a [University of Texas Austin] protest group formed last fall, is urging students and others to openly carry the sex toys around campus, offering a multicolored counterpoint to the concealed weapons that holders of handgun licenses can now legally carry inside UT classrooms and most buildings.

One of the organizers elaborates:

“As long as you have a dick on your backpack, people will be thinking about the guns inside of other people backpacks” [Jessica] Jin said Tuesday, dildo strapped to her backpack.

So it’s an aide–mémoire, a way of jogging your memory about the new fact of concealed guns all around you. Plus: obscene/obscene:

“The State of Texas has decided that it is not at all obnoxious to allow deadly concealed weapons in classrooms; however, it does have strict rules about free sexual expression, to protect your innocence. You would receive a citation for taking a dildo to class before you would get in trouble for taking a gun to class. Heaven forbid the penis.”

However, the university has announced it’s down with the dong, the more the merrier, go ahead with the dildoes, so the obscenity thing lacks a certain oomph.

I guess UD thinks of it as a counter-demonstration sort of thing, a provocative, amusing “response” to conceal carry… Also maybe a comment on guns as an aide-de-male-sexual-inadequacy-feelings? The gesture certainly skews female, certainly suggests a mordant womanly comment on boys and their toys…

Anyway there’s a rally on campus today and you should go if you’re in town because there’s something deeply shameful – not to mention dangerous- about so many guns out and about in states like Texas. UD doesn’t blame the UT architecture dean for resigning and moving to a non-lunatic state in response to campus carry (which, if I know Texas, will very soon be campus open carry), and she certainly hopes other faculty follow. Already a number of people who had planned to enroll as UT students have announced they’ll go to gun-free schools instead. And now you’ve got the dildo brigade, which is at once amusing and deadly serious.

A Gun-Owner Writes.

I’m a gun owner and Donald Trump doesn’t speak for me – or any of the gun owners I know. His suggestion on Tuesday that we “second amendment people” could take matters into our own hands if Hillary Clinton makes undesirable supreme court justice selections makes all gun owners look unhinged. But he doesn’t speak for us. He speaks only for himself.

… The responsibility to keep Trump out of the White House is on all of us, and that includes gun owners. We can’t let our care for the second amendment mean we turn a blind eye to this latest of many red flags.

After all, in the navy’s firearms training, we learn that ignoring the signs of danger can get us killed – so why would we ignore them here at home?

The Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight

He-Man Trump and his hunting party bagged them some big donor game in Portland Oregon. Lined up three rich guys from that city to host a Seattle fundraiser in a couple of weeks. His campaign sent out fancy invitations in their names and waited for the RSVPs to roll in.

One of the three hosts is a Portland State University trustee – UD mentions this merely because this is a blog about universities and it’s always nice to find a university angle.

So with the press alerted and the invitations circulating, one, two, and then three of the hosts listed said it was the first they’d heard of it and actually Donald Trump can go fuck himself.

A Ferndale state senator is forced to explain why three Portland businessmen listed [as hosts] on an invitation for an upcoming Seattle fundraiser for Donald Trump say they have no plans to attend.

Republican Doug Ericksen is a Trump campaign leader – he says the draft invitation was prematurely circulated and released to the media before plans were finalized.

Premature circulation is the sort of thing that can happen to any guy who’s too excited for his own good, shooting stuff out before asking if it’s also good for his partner.

And it can definitely lead to hard feelings. That Portland State trustee, for instance.

“I have requested that the campaign and Republican Party correct their records,” [Peter] Stott says, “and remove my name from any invitations or other materials.”

He doesn’t sound happy.

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Update: Ah fuck it.

Trump has cancelled.

“‘My friends and I were talking, how can he easily get this AR-15? He had no criminal history, but he definitely had some psychological issues,’ he said of Ivanov. ‘We didn’t think gun control was that important until now.'”

When you’re nineteen and you live in America and you’re bummed out about a breakup, you can mosey on down the lane and buy an AR-15 and blow away your ex plus a couple of random people in her vicinity. The shooter was about to be a sophomore at the University of Washington.

Love the Quotation Marks.

A recent Science Friday investigated the absence of research studies of gun violence. Why does the CDC, for instance, shy away from supporting this sort of research?

The NRA “declined to come on the program,” but sent a statement complaining that researchers typically fail to mention positive outcomes associated with gun ownership, and only incorporate

“negative” outcomes such as suicide and/or homicides.

People are taking bets: How many deaths in how many minutes …

… before the United States bans assault weapons? We’re up to fifty killed in – what? – sixty minutes? Probably less time than that. (“It was done very quickly also.“)

UD bets we’ll need at least 300 killings – say roughly the contents of an airliner – in thirty minutes before something begins to happen.

I mean, multiple events with that body count/time frame, of course.

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There are those who refuse to wager.

“Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, tweeted in June of last year. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

Investigated multiple times by the FBI, a “known quantity,” but still in possession of…

… an AR-15-style assault rifle.

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[G]iven permissive U.S. gun laws, even someone like Mateen who allegedly abused his spouse and was repeatedly investigated by the FBI, could legally purchase an automatic weapon because he had not yet openly supported a terrorist group.

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“He had an automatic rifle, so nobody stood a chance.”

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Florida’s love affair with it.

“In 1993, the siege on the Branch Davidian compound outside of town made national headlines; a decade later, a Baylor basketball player murdered one of his teammates, and then-coach Dave Bliss’s attempt to cover up his own knowledge of problems inside his program led to severe NCAA sanctions. Last year, a shootout involving a biker club left nine dead, 18 wounded and a police department under scrutiny for administrative errors — reigniting a perception that the 25th-largest city in Texas is perhaps its most unstable.”

Well, let’s just go down that list, shall we? Horrible hideous shit can happen anywhere, especially in a country where everyone has at least two guns. We’re getting the list now because of the latest entry on it – the nation’s premier Baptist university, and that university’s local police department, spent years ignoring rampantly raping football players. That’s Waco’s latest claim to fame.

Okay, so four things on the list are about Baylor, basketball, and football: The murder, the cover-up, the NCAA sanctions, and now the rapes. If you ask ol’ UD, who’s been covering big-time sports mayhem at America’s universities since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, there’s nothing reigniting or even igniting about that list — homicidal raping covering up and heavily sanctioned university sports programs are not uncommon in the United States.

Admittedly most of the murders take place shortly after the player has dropped out of the school.

Since 2007, [Aaron Hernandez has] been charged with, or linked to, the shootings of six people in four incidents. Three of the victims were gruesomely murdered. One survivor, a former friend named Alexander Bradley, has had multiple operations and lost his right eye. The other two survivors were shot in their car outside a Gainesville, Florida, bar after an altercation involving Hernandez and two of his teammates his freshman year at the University of Florida. While in Gainesville, he sucker-punched a guy and shattered the fellow’s eardrum, and reportedly failed multiple drug tests, though he was suspended only once for those offenses.

But who’s counting? It’s your beloved suspension-averse alma mater we’re describing here, and right this minute you’re loading up the Bud Light in anticipation of tailgate season for you and the young’uns.

So is Waco problematically special? Only stuff special on the list is the two cults – the Davidians and the Pagans.

I’m sure Texas gets more than its share of violent cults, just as Utah and Oregon do, because these states get all goose-bumpy over guns plus they hate laws and shit cuz that’s the state and fuck the state.

No, by prevailing big-time university athletics standards and prevailing state standards, there’s nothing special about Waco.

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UPDATE: UD thanks Derek for pointing out
that this is about basketball as much as football.

“[T]he norm in such cases is for the attacker to be male, for the attacks to happen on campus, and for the source of the students’ anger to go well beyond a grade (although that may be a spark).”

In the aftermath of the UCLA shooting, Scott Jaschik reviews what we know about the origins and characteristics of such events. Which isn’t much. Fields like engineering, math, and biology do seem to produce most of the attacks, but nursing professors and comp lit professors have also in recent years been murdered by disgruntled students.

I think that “spark” idea gets us somewhere. My own review of these attacks conjures, pretty consistently, a paranoid loser smoldering with rage.

Et alors? All professors who teach long enough encounter students whose behavior unsettles them. Maybe frightens them. (Professors lucky enough to teach on gun-friendly campuses get to worry that these unbalanced individuals may be packing heat.) Behind the vague word assessment lies the hard reality that most of us will never actually report a student, that we expect university settings to be about intensity and struggle and not giving up on people. Several of these killings came after a perpetual grad student was finally dropped from a program. University settings tolerate the sort of bizarre behavior that corporations would boot out the door in minutes.

For what it’s worth – killers in university settings (I’m thinking of professors who kill professors too, like the notorious Amy Bishop) aren’t just paranoid, from what I can tell. They are often strikingly grandiose, arrogant people. They kill those who refuse to acknowledge their superiority. They are solving a problem: They are ridding the world of people whose existence threatens their god-like self-perception. Professors who give middling or failing grades to shaky people who consider themselves transcendent geniuses would be at risk.

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The gunman has been identified.

[William] Klug was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and had been the target of [Mainak] Sarkar’s anger on social media for months. On March 10, Sarkar called the professor a “very sick person” who should not be trusted.

“William Klug, UCLA professor is not the kind of person when you think of a professor. He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” Sarkar wrote. “He made me really sick. Your enemy is my enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust.”

A source called the gunman’s accusations “absolutely untrue.”

“The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic,” the source said.

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… Sarkar has been studying for his PhD since 2006 with no graduating date, two years longer than any of the other researchers.

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The killer had a list of targets and killed one of them – a woman who lived in his Minnesota town – before driving to LA and killing Krug.

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The woman was his ex-wife.

Spot the Shooter!

Watch live from the shooter-copter as we try to find the guy gunning down people at UCLA.

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Two dead. Shooter apparently still at large.

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