Thursday, November 12, 2020

Artist Spotlight Interview # 2: Chauncy Felisz

Everdoor: The Owl's Court
Book two in the Everdoor saga by author & artist
Chauncy Felisz

Since I was a child, I've been fascinated by people with the ability to create realistic drawings, particularly of people and places. It's a skill I envy greatly, and one that I've long since accepted being devoid of, myself. I've found solace in my own array of talents, noting that there's always a trade-off: being able to write, to play music, and to create photography balances out my inability to draw. One cannot be greedy, nor can one expect to have all of the talents...

...or so I thought, until I made the acquaintance of Ms. Chauncy Felisz. Not only is Chauncy a ridiculously skilled artist, she is also an adept writer who is in the midst of fleshing out her incredible Everdoor saga. Her ability to craft incredibly vivid fantasy descriptions is eclipsed by only her ability to bring them to life through her traditional and digital art.

I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Chauncy about everything from the roots of her artistic abilities to her love and appreciation for an N64 classic. Please enjoy the interview below!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Chauncy! How about we begin with the basics. Where are you from?

I was born in the UK, in London. But I got dual nationality from my mother's side, so I've been able to bounce back and forth between the UK and US and have lived in various different places in both countries.

That's awesome! Does your dual nationality impact your sense of home? Do you feel an affinity for one place over the other, or do they each have their own place in your heart?

Home has been a difficult concept. Often, no matter which country I was in, I missed the other, but more and more, perhaps because I'm getting older, I find I desperately want to go back to the UK and settle down. I don't know what the future will hold.

I know that I want to live in England again, but I am also a bit of a wayward traveler and miss the world. I could also see myself settling down in some foreign country like Japan in my much later life. All I know is, right now I feel as though I need to go back to England, so I hope one day in the near future I can do so with my family.

So, you were one of the first people that I interacted with when I joined the Writing Community on Twitter. I was blown away by the art that you shared on Instagram and totally intrigued by the description of your debut novel--Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory. How did your younger experiences influence your writing and your art?

Here, my story takes a bit of a dark turn. There were some beautiful parts of my childhood, and certainly all the adventures with my granddad in the back garden, that felt more like another world than a little quarter acre plot of land in Harrow and Wealdstone. They had a positive influence on me, but there were some very bad elements in my childhood, too, so I would retreat into a fantasy world.

That was my escape and safe haven, and, because of that--because I would escape in my mind to this fantasy place that became Eclipse--it had to feel real. I had to create every detail--I couldn't just imagine a character sitting down to eat a meal when I was creating these little dramas in my head, I had to know what they were seasoning their food with, where everything came from, where there clothes came from, what was the climate like, on and on because it needed to be a believable place. So while the origins of Eclipse were born out of an unhappy time, that dedication to the details and having to really know what this world looked, and felt, and tasted, and smelled, and sounded like formed such a strong foundation for me to build off of when my continued building of the world came from the pleasure of doing so, rather than merely escaping from the bad things happening around me.

I feel like a lot of us can relate to that, unfortunately. It's like that creative catharsis is necessary for us as a means of sorting through our pasts, but it also serves as a conduit to our futures, in a way. I think that a lot of my best work comes from a dark place, personally, and it sounds like yours does, too. 

You've clearly been a creative soul from very early on, but how did you wind up getting into the fields of art and writing, in particular?

Drawing went hand in hand with that early escapism, I think. I would picture the world so vividly that I desperately wanted to transcribe my vision into reality. When I was little, I remember feeling overwhelmed because I thought the world I envisioned was so beautiful, and I wanted so badly to show people the pretty pictures that were inside my head, I wanted it so badly that it hurt.

The things that I was feeling were perhaps too big for my young self to be able to actualise, or even know how to at the time. So I would create--I would draw and I would make languages and maps and even little paper models. I was compelled to create, and I was compelled to create stories. I would entertain myself with made up narratives that were often of a mythical, folklore type of tale. I would make up fables and creation myths, I would tell myself stories and lose myself in them. 

I was a rather lonely child, I guess you could say, but I did not necessarily feel alone and I enjoyed my own company.

That's great that you were able to take that negativity and use it to produce something beautifully constructive rather than destructive. You have a natural talent for crafting fantasy imbued with supernatural and sci-fi elements. What would you say is your favorite genre to write?

Fantasy, by far. But, more specifically, I love to create god creatures, things of fables and legends--the types of creatures and characters that are saturated in that old world mysticism. Perhaps growing up in England, where the notion of faerie tales and celtic lore are still intrinsic to the land, helped nurture that. And I try to get an element of realism in my art as well. I try to make the lighting, the textures, believable.

I guess I'm still trying to put the pretty pictures in my mind on paper so everyone else can join in my world that has brought me so much joy and taught me so much. I just want to create art that lets people believe in magic again, even if it's only for a quiet moment.

So who are your favorite artists? What drew you to their work?

Peter Mohrbacher is one of my all-time favorite artists. He's created his own world with his majestic angels and he paints them with the kind of believability that I want to eventually attain in my own works. I don't remember exactly how I came across him--it was likely through Magic the Gathering, as he used to do art for them--but I remember that I became aware of him during the time I was doing my Bachelors.

Shameful as it might seem, I never really took note of artists before then. I just liked certain pictures but didn't pay attention to the artists. And on my social media I tend to collect artists for their art, but if you asked me to name them I wouldn't know where to begin. I remember their pictures more than their names.

But the type of art that draws me is a range. I love good graphic design, good line art, good realism, fantasy, surrealism—anything that grabs me and is designed and structured well.

I don't know much about art, but, as a photographer, I'm a sucker for lines and lighting. I love the interplay of shadow and light, and the way that good line art helps not merely to frame a scene, but, in many ways, to create it. That's an important element of video game design, too. Do you have any favorite games that served to influence you?

Well, I'll tell you that Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 was mind-blowing to me. And it forever has a place in my heart. I was immediately enamored with the world. I would look at every detail, all the little peripheral things that the designers and modelers had plopped in to populate the world—pictures on the walls, little details in every dungeon, all the set dressing. Kokiri Forest certainly acted as an inspirational spark for a lot of Eclipse—how that place made me feel, so steeped in magic and mystery, it was an essence I wanted to capture and perpetuate throughout Eclipse. 

There's been many experiences through games, music, life, movies, books, that influence my art and storytelling, but Ocarina of Time sowed some of those beginning seeds.

I will never forget my first encounter with a Moblin in Ocarina of Time! I had been a Zelda fan since the original came out on the NES, but Ocarina of Time was the moment where the game felt real, you know? I was able to forget that I was playing a game, and that I wasn't actually in Kokiri Forest!

I think that's what I love about writing, too. The best writers remove the barriers of the page and enable us to feel like we are truly transported to these places (like you did with Everdoor!) Do you have any favorite writers, in particular?

Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Peter V. Brett—Terry and Neil I was introduced to through friends and immediately fell in love with their work. The humor and the realness that worked so well together pulled me in. I try to bring that into my own work. 

There is that touch of satire and self awareness in Everdoor. It's meant to be funny and tragic, and happy, and lonely all at once. And I feel that both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman use humor so expertly that it renders the experiences of their worlds and their characters into something more real and relatable.

Life isn't one dimensional, and you have to be able to see the great irony of existence, of our experiences to grasp the fullness of life. I'm also an avid lover of thrillers and the horror genre in general, which Stephen King does so well. His stories and characters are compelling, you care about what happens to the people. Peter V. Brett I discovered in a book store one day many years ago. I just liked the cover, it seemed interesting, and when I began reading his first book, I was hooked on his world. He created something with a really fresh pacing, and a simple concept of man vs. demon but with a compelling edge.

With all these writers, they created worlds and characters that meant something to me--that highlighted some part of humanity that compelled me.

Absolutely! And do you feel like your unique writing voice was influenced by any of them, specifically?

I can't say if it was any one in particular, but I do think that I have a very British way of writing. It's something I've noticed, particularly in the writing community. Many American writers tend to be rather against flowery prose and adverbs. Admittedly, I think I could slim down on my use of adverbs as well, but I do think that how I structure sentences is still rather British, which can be difficult for some of my American readers to digest, as I've found. 

The funny thing is, most the time when I speak, I sound American, it's just my internal dialogue that retained my mother tongue, as it were. What I will say though is that whenever I read something good, I like to pick apart why it's good, what I like, and how I can incorporate it into my own writing. My own writing voice is an amalgamation of many others, but I think that's how it's supposed to be.

What novels would you recommend? Any favorites that might have inspired you in one way or another?

The Thief of Time—Terry Pratchett 

The Hannible series, all of them! —Thomas Harris

Good Omens—Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

The Warded Man— Peter V. Brett

My Life as a White Trash Zombie— Diana Rowland

The Dragon's Touchstone— Irene Radford

I could probably go on a while, I consume books!

It's amazing how many of my favorite writers cite Neil Gaiman as one of their favorites. I'm learning more about his creative process through his Masterclass right now, and I've read a lot about Stephen King's. How would you describe your own creative process, whether for art or writing?

Messy. If I have a clear vision, I'm almost possessed by the need to create and will grind away, whether it be art or writing. Sometimes I'm just muddling through, trying an idea that seemed enticing but wasn't fully fleshed out. Often those weaker concepts get scrapped but the core of what I was trying to do gets incorporated elsewhere.

There is a basic formula I follow—with art, I'll sketch out a very rough scene, refine, then do some base painting to see color and lighting, and then clean up and neatly render all the parts, adjust lighting and do some final passes. And, ideally, that's what happens, but sometimes there's drudgery and dragging feet, and I'll go back and fundamentally change the scene if needs be. 

With writing, I tend to begin very linearly for as long as I can, and if I find myself stuck, I'll tend to plop in a little note about what the scene is supposed to be and skip ahead to a more interesting scene, then go back and flesh out all the pieces so that it all flows smoothly together. I tend to know the ending of the book when I begin, but getting to that point is a journey of discovery. Sometimes whole scenes get scrapped, and sometimes my characters surprise me and adjustments have to be made for the ending. 

Do you prefer to create your art digitally or traditionally? 

I started off as a traditional artist, and, while I adore digital art—there's so much you can do with it, and I do primarily work in digital—traditional art skills are vital. Any great digital artist will tell you how important it is to keep up those traditional skills.

There is nothing quite like putting an actual pen to paper or paint to canvas, so I do maintain my traditional skills as well, and I hope to bring my traditional painting skills up to the level of my digital skills at some point. But, for the sake of creating within a reasonable timeframe, I tend to work digital. It's just quicker and I'm more practiced in digital painting than traditional painting—for now, anyway.

Which method, do you feel, allows you to create your best work?

In regards to art, right now I do feel my digital pieces are superior to my traditional pieces—they're just a lot cleaner and more refined. However, doing monthly challenges like Drawtober and Mermay are great little artist boot camps to help elevate my traditional skills.

What is your favorite piece that you've ever created?

Currently, my favorite piece is Lehlune, Goddess of Intuition and Prophecy. I feel like she is a step towards that Peter Mohrbacher level of refinement that my other pieces lack. I've still a ways to go, but I'm really quite proud of that piece, and, as I've said, I love to create those epic god-creature-like pieces and Lehlune is, quite literally, larger than life!

As creative types, we're rarely influenced solely by our respective outlets. What other interests contribute to your creative output, or just making you who you are?

Games, movies, music—I am a big fan of each. I've been playing games since the SNES came out—and not just video games, I love board games and card games as well. I've adored movies since I can remember, and music is just fuel for the soul.

But I also like crafts—I enjoy making things with my hands. I'll make solid perfumes, and I love writing letters with my quill pen. I even have a wax sealing kit, and I send letters to my friends periodically just for the joy of it.

Because I tend to work a lot in digital mediums, those physical activities help ground me in reality. I've also read palms and tarot cards for nearly a decade. Witchcraft and divination interest me greatly. Whether or not you believe, I find it enjoyable to learn about and practice certain forms of these arcane arts.

That's awesome! I love the diversity there--especially the handwritten letters. Such an awesome personal touch that provides a sense of realism that nothing else can. 

Actually, it's that element of realism that I loved the most about Everdoor--the fact that, despite the fantastic events and circumstances, there was little need to suspend disbelief. What, in particular, inspired you to write Everdoor?

In my early 20s, I spent half a year traveling around Europe by myself. It was a good soul-searching journey, and, at the time, I was writing a story which included an early form of what would become Jerro, but no Etcher. The original story I finished near the end of my travels, but I hated it. It was flat and lacking, and, for a few years after, I sort of abandoned writing.

Things happened--my grandma died barely a few months within my coming back to the US, and I was suddenly faced with homelessness. A good family friend helped me get into college and gave me a direction in life, and, during that time, I talked about my book but wasn't serious about it. Another friend back from when I lived in Edinburgh called me one day and we were simply chatting, and he very casually asked about my book—which was gathering cobwebs—and he told me not to give up on writing. 

So I didn't. I went back to that original story and tore it down and kept only the good parts that I liked, and somewhere along the lines I came up with Etcher. I don't even remember how it happened. It felt like Etcher was always there in my mind, she was just waiting for me to look the right way.

Well, once Jerro and Etcher were paired, the dynamic was so much more compelling, so much more interesting. And I decided to make the story more reflective of my adventures and my life—it's why the first book starts in what would be Edinburgh on our Earth, but in Jerro's version of Earth is called Midgard. 

I love that--when actual places inspire the creation of impossible realms like Eclipse. What are the creative influences behind it?

There are many influences, and I had mentioned one of them—being Ocarina of Time--but really, Eclipse has grown out of my experiences and wants and desires--feelings that I wanted to capture, and the early magic of my childhood. Sometimes, Eclipse just evolves on its own, and other times I'll see a movie or read a good book and I think, "Ah! I need something like that on Eclipse," or "Oh, how would Ecliptians handle that situation, I wonder?" 

Eclipse is the Faerie reflection of my own life, the other world that stands back to back with my own.

Aside from painting an incredible tapestry of places, you've crafted some of the most memorable characters that I've ever read. Do you have a favorite?

In book 1, I would have to say Etcher, though I am very fond of Mr. Gribs because he is so much fun to write. And I love Jerro, but I think Etcher might take the cake in this one. As for later books, well... There's a few other favorites in book 2, but I don't want to give them away just yet.

I can already hear Mr. Gribs saying, "Oh dear" in anticipation! Do you have a favorite moment from book one that you can share?

One of my favorite moments in Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory is when Jerro is confronting Etcher for the first time in her shop. I just love Etcher's snarky replies to him, which make Jerro ball up with rage because he just can't argue with her calm logic. I think that scene shows such an interesting foundation to their dynamic. Etcher absolutely gets under Jerro's skin on numerous occasions, but you love to watch it unfold.

Totally! It's funny because, for as different as they are, I felt like they butted heads because of the similarities in their personalities. Suffice to say, I can't wait to continue their adventure in book two. How long do you envision the series being?

I'm aiming for 5 books for the Everdoor series, though it will either be slightly shorter or longer than that. I prefer shorter sequels. That's not to say that the characters of Etcher and Jerro can't be revisited in a different series, but I do believe everything should have a death clause, as it were. 

I wouldn't want Everdoor to stretch on and on and get mutated in such a way that it lost touch with its core. And I have many more stories about Eclipse and that universe that I want to write. I'm actually working on a sci-fi series that loosely takes place in the same universe but is not related to Everdoor or Eclipse, and I'd like to have a lot of different series, instead of just staying within one.

With such a rich, visual tale at your disposal, would you ever consider expanding into the graphic novel realm?

Yes, and that is something I'm working on, though it's very early development and I've found that, while I love to paint my epic creatures and scenes, I'm a bit shite when it comes to comic art. I just can't get into it—I love graphic novels, but it isn't my forte, so that's something I would want to pitch to a team or production studio and would rather stay on as a creative director myself, than actually make the whole graphic novel myself and hate every second of it.

That's awesome to hear! It sounds like there is still quite a bit to come out of the realm of Eclipse--something that I am looking forward to a great deal! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your art and your writing, Chauncy!

Where can readers and future fans find your work and interact with you?

No problem, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me--it's been a pleasure! People can find my work and my social media accounts here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Review of Chauncy Felisz's Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory


Awesome cover of the first Everdoor novel

It’s been said that everything’s been done before—that there is no new terrain to be explored within the arts; author Chauncy Felisz’s brilliant Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory says otherwise.

An inventive adventure of truly epic proportions, the pages of this first entry in the Everdoor canon are rife with unforgettable moments, vividly visual descriptions and depictions of fantastical people and places, and unique characters that drive the action forward with distinctly entertaining personalities. Dual protagonists Etcher Everdoor and Jerro Ahliss serve as perfect foils for one another, embodying traits that are conflicting and complementary in equal measure.

The magical realm of Eclipse feels like a character unto itself—richly crafted with Felisz’s inimitable array of adjectives that truly bring it to life. From the delectable taste and aroma of moon buns to the dazzling display of dancers parading through the lunar-lit streets, Gahza’Dune is one of the many Ecliptian locations we have the pleasure of glimpsing as our beloved heroes work towards unraveling the central mystery of the novel, while also simultaneously generating many more.

Despite its surfeit of foreign names and terminology, Everdoor never confounds the reader with its array of languages. Instead, these serve to create a formidable backbone that further renders the realm as realistic—believable in spite of the many magical miracles that inhabit both Blank-Space and beyond.

Simply put, this is an incredible page turner and a series that I am utterly hooked on. I just put down book one upon reaching its conclusion and cannot wait to continue the adventure in part two of the saga!


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Artist Spotlight Interview: Andrei Cosma of PhotoCosma/PhotoDesign

A sample of Cosma's incredible ability to capture nature's surreal, tenebrous beauty.

I first encountered Andrei's incredible photography back in 2017 when I was designing the cover for my third novel, The Metamorphoses. I had signed up for an account with, and, as part of a promotional free package of images, I spotted one similar to the photo featured above. I was stunned: not only was it exactly the style that I was looking for, I couldn't get over how hauntingly beautiful it was.

I made contact with the photographer, purchased a photo for use with my book, and came away with a new favorite artist and a new friend as well. I refer to Andrei as an artist because his photographic skills go far beyond merely snapping still shots; instead, he manages to create entire worlds that blend the ordinary with the otherworldly--realms of shadow and light where terrifying uncertainty and awed curiosity are born in equal measures.

I asked him where he conducted his photo shoots, and his response brought an instant smile to my face. After all, it's not every day that an American horror writer and a Transylvanian photographer come into contact! (And, really, is there any more classic location for fans of dark fiction than Transylvania!?)

Aside from continuing to produce his incomparable photography with his brother, Andrei has begun a book cover and promotional materials business. To help spread the word about his work and the new services he is offering, I conducted an interview with him that you can find below:

So Andrei, where are you from?

I'm from Zalau--a small town in Transylvania, Romania

How long have you been involved in photography/graphic design?

I've been a photographer since 2008.

Wow--that's more than a decade in the industry! What made you want to pick up a camera/begin designing?

I've always liked visual things like drawing, painting and comics. When I was a little kid, I loved the way it stopped time--capturing something that otherwise would be lost forever. I've been involved with photography since I was about 10 years old, but since 2008 I've actively tried learning more about the field, and getting a strong knowledge foundation.

Who or what are your biggest photographic inspirations?

Starting out as a nature/landscape photographer, my biggest inspiration is Ansel Adams.

I love Ansel Adams's work! He's definitely one of my favorites, as well. What do you like the most about his photographs?

I like the way he basically simplified landscapes, almost making them abstract in some cases. And his edits are the best - the contrasts, light and shadow in his photos are amazing. I think shooting his photos in black and white helped, but that's what I like about his images: they are so good, they look surreal.

I completely agree. Do you have any other influences or inspirations?

Other photographers that I really love are Robert Capa and Francesca Woodman. There are more, but I think those three cover all of the picturesque beauty/photojournalism/moody atmospheric photography that I enjoy.

What do you look for when you're creating an image/how important is the original image versus what's done in post editing?

I want to get a good photo out of the camera to begin with, but I am not afraid to edit my images. The camera, the computer--they are all just tools in achieving my vision.

I feel the same way. I strive always to keep my images authentic, but sometimes what I see when I take the photo in my mind isn't what appears on the memory card!

Editing is an important part of the process. I think sometimes photos have to be helped to reach their true potential. The camera isn't yet capable of capturing the true beauty like we see it, so we have to help it a bit in post processing.

What do you enjoy about photography/graphic design?

What I enjoy most about photography/graphic design is that I can create feelings, emotions with my images, create worlds for the viewer.

Speaking of creating worlds--Romania seems like an incredible, almost fantasy-like place for photography. What's it like shooting there?

Romania still has some great landscapes, but I have to say that the wild and beautiful parts of Romania are getting smaller and smaller with each passing day. The reasons for this are multiple--and a lot of the times have to do with stupidity and corruption--so this leads to a lot of interesting photo tours.

A lot of times, it's an adventure just getting to the place I want to photograph, or getting the photos and getting back home in one piece. But when everything is well, and all the pieces fall into place, I can get some interesting results.

Transylvania is often typecast as the focal point of horror, at least in American popular culture. Do you find any similarities between the stereotypes of the region and what you actually experience there? (In other words--does the setting help to influence the photos?)

Transylvania really has some interesting places to photograph, especially if the atmospheric conditions are right. I can see where the authors (book and film) have got their inspiration. Some of the stereotypes really do work--like walking through a cold, damp, autumn forest in the evening. Your imagination starts to act up on you, and you can almost see the fantasy creatures lurking in the shadows.

What are your interests beyond photography? Do you think that they influence your creativity?

Music influences my work the most, I think. A lot of the times when I am out photographing, or when I am sorting and editing the photos, I have certain songs in my mind, and this helps me create those atmospheric images.

Books and movies also have a big influence on me. The most important book authors would be H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien. Of course there are more, but I think these three have all the pieces needed for my imagination to work: strange, surreal, paranormal and fantasy worlds.

As for movies, I am a big fan of Stanley Kurbick and Alfred Hitchcock.

Those are all excellent choices--masters of their crafts, for sure! So where can folks find your photography?

You can find my photography on I have images for sale on, and I'm also present on social media. All the links are on the website.

On the topic of websites, you just launched a book design service, right? What do you offer there?

Yes, besides photography, there's also a new service: book covers and album covers design. You can find more about those on: 

There, you can get your custom eBook cover, full book cover, or social media promotion kit. Here is a sample of some of my work:

Sample cover artwork from:

Thank you to Andrei for a great interview! If you're a writer looking for an eye-catching, high quality book cover or promotional materials, please consider checking out! Also, be sure to give Andrei a follow or a like on his social media channels!




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Love Letter to The Captain

A Love Letter to The Captain

The playgrounds are empty;
The hospitals are full.
Captain Trips is here—
There’s nothing we can do.

There are just too many bodies
For only one bed.
I can hear the Monster Shouter screaming,
“Bring out your dead!”

They want us to stay inside
To help them flatten the curve.
Maybe this is all karma—
Just what we deserve.

We suffer from the strain
Of COVID-19,
And slowly go insane
From social distancing.

The sports are gone,
The concerts quiet.
Too much more
Could spark a riot.

No one saw this coming
Despite the writing on the wall.
It was always “when” not “if”,
This fate we would befall. 
It’s quiet now in Jungleland
As we adjust to the new norm.
We’re writing our own epitaph
As we seek Shelter from the Storm.

The beaches are abandoned—
You can hear the Night Surf.
Step outside and you might think
That you’re the last person on earth.

From Arnette to Ogunquit—
And Vegas out to Boulder,
In New York and L.A.
The fever burns a little colder.

They say Don't Dream It's Over—
That we shouldn't Fear the Reaper.
Is it the Eve of Destruction?
The darkness grows deeper.

We’re antisocial socialites
All across the nation.
We love to hate and hate to love
In silent isolation.

We’re led by narcissistic sycophants—
Solipsistic dilettantes.
Puerile pedants and
Misanthropic hypocrites

Who care more about money
And their corporate bottom lines,
Than the millions who will suffer
For a greed so blind.

It all starts at the top—
That’s where it all comes from.
The WHO and CDC say
The worst is yet to come.

Still we Stand and salute
The American Flagg,
With Sympathy For The Devil:
Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?

Monday, June 18, 2018

When Winning Isn't Enough

This flag football season has provided me with arguably the most fun and excitement that I’ve ever had engaging with youth sports. My son was one of the best players on an excellent team and getting to watch him develop as an athlete and a leader on the field was extremely rewarding. My daughter is the youngest and smallest player on her team but she has proven herself (I hope) to be a worthy member of her own team—one that sits a single game away from a championship.

As thrilling as this season has been for me, though, it has been equally disheartening and disappointing. Sarah’s team finished the regular season as the only unbeaten team in the K-2 Gold division, which should be laudable in its own right—and ordinarily would be, if it didn’t happen to be a team comprised of all girls.

I try to keep my opinions to myself and limit the frequency with which I proffer them—particularly on divisive issues. Personally, I feel like, collectively, our society has become way too sensitive; too many innocuous statements and situations get blown out of proportion—diluting the overarching message and dampening the underlying cause by drawing all of the attention onto the seemingly menial issues and instances.

I hope you’ll take my word for it that what has happened this season, with this team of young women, is not trivial or dismissible. Instead, it is atrocious, disgusting, and indicative of what a sham the purportedly progressive purviews are that people claim to have regarding women in this country.

Throughout this season, this Broncos team has been scoffed at—derided and outright dismissed by everyone from kids and parents from other teams to competing coaches and, sadly, even the commissioner of the league who, on SEVERAL occasions, had the gall to pompously predict that the girls had “no chance whatsoever” of beating the team in front of them.

And yet that’s all they did. Repeatedly. Girls’ teams, coed teams, all boys teams. Whatever team they faced, they didn’t simply defeat—they absolutely destroyed them. These weren’t fluke victories—squeaked out with some miracle occurrences: they were blowouts. The Broncos more than DOUBLED the entire scoring output of the combined efforts of EVERY TEAM THEY FACED. They outscored their opponents 190-78 based upon the posted scores (which are actually underreported).

Despite all of this—yesterday at the field, my wife overheard several different parents—some even on my son’s team—saying after they lost, “well at least we didn’t lose to THEM [the Broncos].” That’s been the sentiment all season—that this team somehow doesn’t belong—that they’ve had things handed to them. People are saying that a Super Bowl victory would be great because it might engender an all-girls’ league.

To me, that’s utter bullshit. This Broncos team is proving exactly why there SHOULDN’T be an all-girls’ league or division. They’ve beaten more all-boys teams than all-girls ones. Why, then, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to compete with “the best,” (a.k.a. the boys) when they’ve not only demonstrated an ability to win but dominated?

The reason why is simple: too many men in the world still think of women as being inferior. Whether it’s in one tiny way like their driving skills or a more egregious, deep-rooted sentiment that speaks to the very core of their capabilities, misogyny is like a virus that is thriving in this country.

“What’s the big deal? It’s just sports, man.”

What’s the big deal? These girls are between 5 and 8 years old, they’re playing in a RECREATIONAL sports league—one that’s supposedly all for fun—with absolutely nothing at stake. No cash prizes, no national press, no glory other than the sheer joy of competition. Despite ALL OF THIS, they have faced nothing but dismissive commentary when they’ve won, questions about the very validity of their playing in the first place—snide comments, hurtful “jokes,” complaints about their schedule—all of this because they are winning. Because they are beating boys teams. Because they are ruffling the feathers of the long-established tradition of males playing out on the field and females being relegated to the sidelines.

The saddest part in all of this---and certainly the most telling—is the fact, from its inception, this has been a coed league. Some of the best players have been girls but apparently, in small doses, that’s acceptable—probably because there are other equally talented boys to capture the adulation and adoration. There’s never been an all-girls team like this one and a sickening majority of men are incapable of recognizing the beauty in what they are achieving.

I’ve heard people say, “Well they don’t have daughters so they just don’t understand,” and, while that is true, it’s still a cop out. Many of these men have sisters and female cousins and most, presumably, have or had mothers, aunts, and grandmothers—women who have had to face the same type of vitriol that they themselves are spewing. But here’s the kicker—the worst part: all of these men that are engaging in this conjecture have kids playing in the league…which means that most of them if not all of them have wives, girlfriends, or even exes who are women—the mothers of those children.

If these men can sit there in judgment about a group of 5-8 year old girls, then what the hell do you think they really feel about those wives—the other women in their lives? If they are rankled by the idea of young girls succeeding against their sons, then what are the odds that they would champion adult women earning positions and higher salaries in male dominated professional industries? Breaking barriers in professional athletics? Securing equal stature in damn near anything that ACTUALLY matters in life when they can’t even do so with a group of kids in a just-for-fun football league?

You want to know why it matters and why it bothers me so much to have experienced this this season? It’s because this is just the start of what these girls are going to face in their lives. It’s the molehill that’s going to precede the mountains that each and every one of them are going to be forced to climb simply because too many men are too fucking insecure to admit not only that women might be equal to them, but that they might actually be superior to them.

This season has been a microcosm of what the rest of these girls’ lives are going to look like. When they’ve been faced with a challenge, they’ve been told that they stood no chance to win. When they’ve succeeded, it’s because it’s been made easier for them—that they were somehow gifted an advantage of either an easier schedule or a team not having all of its players.

If they win the Super Bowl, I’m sure it will be more of the same, but if they lose? The thought of the sick, smug delight that so many of these fathers will rejoice in fills my veins with acid.

But I guess that’s just something they’ll have to get used to, isn’t it?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Role of Parenting in Modern Mass Shootings

Whenever I'm faced with a situation, I try to approach it analytically and with a critical eye. I take the available information that I have, stand it against any presumptions or assumptions I might make to the contrary, and do my best to find the solution or truth somewhere in the middle ground. I trust my gut instincts rather than my emotions--employ logic and reason wherever possible.

With regards to the latest school shootings and the consequent rash of reaction on social media, I feel compelled to take the same approach in examining the issue. Scientific inquiry oftentimes necessitates the use of both constants and variables to determine the underlying cause or nature of a situation. By employing that approach with the school shootings, we can reach the following conclusions:

Education and school buildings along with student bodies represent a constant; we have had them on our soil well before we even became a nation.

Firearms and firearm ownership are also constants; these too have been guaranteed in our Constitution and have been a part of the fabric of American culture since our country's inception.

The variable, then, as I see it, is society itself--the mores and purviews that inform us, collectively, and the parenting that informs our children, specifically.

My point is that, for the past 242 years, we have had guns, we have had kids in schools, and yet, historically, we have not had drastically high numbers of incidents bringing those two things together. If anything, the very notion didn't jump into the collective conscience until the Columbine shooting happened--an integral moment in our societal evolution as the rise of the Internet and eventually social media was beginning to build steam.

If schools and gun ownership have remained the same, then what has changed? To me, it's obvious: our society itself is what is leading to these horrific atrocities. And, really, should that come as a surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together?

Look at the way modern life occurs versus merely twenty years ago. Back then, you would get bullied IN school by the SCHOOL bully. You would come home and find refuge. You might even talk to your parents/siblings/friends about it but, largely, it remained a geographically bound issue: once you left the school grounds, you were free to recover from the mistreatment and figure out how to cope with it.

Now? The most insidious abuse occurs OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL ON TOP OF whatever bullying is going on within the school's walls. Modern children (CHILDREN, for Christ's sake!) spend a great deal of their time on social media--whether it's Snapchat or Instagram--Facebook or Twitter--they exist largely in a world that caters to the cowardly--people who are emboldened by anonymity or at the very least the physical distance that the Internet realm provides them. These modern children are ill-equipped to deal with the responsibility of inhabiting such a realm (and it IS a responsibility--too many parents fail to recognize that) and, as a result of their lack of coping skills, they find themselves filled with rage and sorrow and no constructive way to expel the emotions that haunt them everywhere they go.

But I don't blame the kids--not in the least; after all, they merely learn from us. Look around you the next time you go out to eat at a restaurant. Take note of how many families are at a table together and how many screens are lit up. Children--hell, toddlers and INFANTS--sit there with devices shoved in front of their faces. They are completely disengaged not just from the conversation but from reality around them.

And who's fault is that?

It's the same damn people who do the same damn thing! The reason so many parents think nothing of how much time their kids spend on devices that are turning their brains into pudding is because they, themselves, think nothing of spending their own time doing the same thing. There is NO reason that a child should be sitting at a dinner table with a fucking iPad or iPhone watching videos, playing games, or otherwise being detached from their lives.

The reason it happens is at once obvious and appalling: it's a cop out--the easy thing to do. Our collective attention spans are approaching zero as are our levels of patience and abilities to cope with negative situations. These parents don't want to be bothered with expending the additional energy required to corral their kids when they're out to eat or, worse, to find more constructive ways to get their kids to do what they want them to do at home (do you have any idea how many times I've heard, "Oh, I don't know how you do it! So and so just refuses to eat dinner without his/her iPad!"


Are you fucking kidding me?

You're a goddamn parent! It's your RESPONSIBILITY to parent your child, whether you like it or not and whether you want that responsibility or not. I cringe every time I hear someone say shit like that--things like, "I have no choice," "(s)he won't let me," "they just don't listen." Who the fuck is in charge here!? Is it the kids or is it the adults?

You know how often you'll see my kids playing on my phone at the supermarket? At a restaurant? In the car? Entertaining them with electronics--appeasing their appetites for virtual distractions?

Never (or as close to it as possible). I don't allow it. I won't allow it because, in my eyes, I can't allow it; the consequences of so seemingly simple and innocuous an action are so far reaching that most people can't even fathom the ripple effect.

And guess what: my kids survive just fine. No tantrums--no whining. Hell, they don't even ask! In fact, if they DO ask, I remind them of the importance of self-control, discipline, and entertaining themselves rather than allowing a device to do it for them.

Do you know why it works? It's not magic, I assure you. It's the fact that I am unequivocally, unquestionably, in charge. It's undeniably still a democracy--they have voices and are encouraged to speak up, respectfully, when they have opinions on things--but, ultimately, I don't give them even the slightest opportunity to think that they run the show. I rule with an iron fist that can be as soft as velvet or as strong as steel but, above all things, one that is consistent.

That really is the key to all of it: consistency. My kids know what to expect from me every time we go out somewhere (or really in most situations in general). There's no wiggle room--no gray area. There's no "suddenly THIS time it's okay to play on daddy's phone but then the next time it's not okay." It might seem counterintuitive to folks who are afraid to step up and be hard on their kids (though, in truth, it's not being hard at all--it's doing what you're supposed to be doing) but children actually thrive when they have structure like that, even if it diminishes their perceived happiness.

I know this not just from parenting but from teaching too. I was lucky enough to teach in a school that had its student body representing the absolute worst, most dangerous areas of New York City. My classroom was filled with kids who were in gangs, who found themselves routinely suspended for fighting and otherwise engaging in violence. I treated every one of those kids the same way and, for the most part, they excelled. I had the toughest kids confide in me--ones who terrified their schoolmates simply by looking at them coming up and giving me pounds and high fives in the hallway.

How did I do this? By having high expectations for them, strict rules for them to follow, and the belief in them that they would be able to achieve the former AND honor and follow the latter. Did it work for every kid? Of course not--but the results that I did enjoy were remarkably encouraging.

With parenting, the percentage of success is even higher because, well, they're your kids! You spend far more time with them and both of you are far more invested in the circumstances and relationship because of your filial bond. The problem though is that you actually have to be hard on them AND consistent.

Nowadays, though, everyone takes the easy way out with things because damn near everything has lost its value. When I was in high school, very few people that I hung out with had beepers let alone cell phones. We would make plans at the beginning of the week for the weekend--arranging a meet up at the movies or the mall or even just at someone's house. Do you have any idea how low the rate of canceling was back then? It's so disconcerting to compare making plans back then with doing so today.

I love everyone that I have in my life and I truly enjoy spending time with them. With that said, the vast majority of people outside of my very, very small circle of closest friends are absolutely AWFUL with following through on plans. I'm not exaggerating when I say that out of the last FIFTY times I engaged in the process of making plans with people--meaning individual "let's meet up and do this at this place at this time" plans--I successfully met up with those people fewer than a dozen times. That means that fewer than one in every four conversations actually resulted in a get together.

Many times it's people bailing at the last minute but far too often it's a text/online conversation that goes almost exactly like this:

Me: "Hey! Good to see you!"
Them: "Hey, absolutely! How are you? We should totally get together sometime."
Me: "Definitely. When are you free?"
Them: ::gives availability::
Me: "Great--I'm free on all of those days. Just let me know which one works for you and I'll be there!"
Them: ::silence::

Maybe it's just me but I think that the higher likelihood lies with the way people interact with each other, especially online. Such little value is placed upon conversations and interactions because there are just simply so damn many of them. We say things we don't mean "Let's get together!" knowing that we can easily either forget about or actively dismiss them without much consequence, if only because, again, it happens so many times!

People's impulse control has diminished severely since the advent of social media; it's all about instant gratification with an emphasis upon whatever makes us happy, regardless of anyone else's feelings. People bail on plans with disheartening frequency, frankly, because they found something else that is more appealing to them. There's no honor anymore--no sticking with your word because, well, no one else does either. Plus, online interaction has become a surrogate for actual physical interaction (having a "conversation" on Facebook amounts to the same thing as spending time with someone in person).

Twenty years ago, AOL was still nascent and other online means of communicating weren't even available. If you wanted to interact with people, you really had two options: get together in person or speak on the phone. Some folks might equate the latter with social media due to the geographical separation but there is a glaring, undeniable difference between having an actual, physical conversation over the phone and even just texting: you have access to real-time emotional reactions. If you say something hurtful (or happifying--it doesn't have to be all gloom and doom), you're not only privy to the immediate impact of those words--you're responsible for the consequences at that exact moment!

These younger generations--the ones who are shooting up schools and crying out for help--are growing up in an environment that offers very little meaningful development. They're told or shown literally from their infancy to find meaning/entertainment/anything online rather than being encouraged to explore the actual world on their own. Kids in 2018 watch OTHER kids opening and playing with fucking toys as a form of entertainment.

Please--let that sink in for a minute.

How utterly, abjectly pathetic is that? I'll bet you many people don't see anything wrong with it though! Never even gave it a second thought!

"What's the harm?" they'll ask.


The harm is that these kids are being taught to value things of absolutely no importance whatsoever--to prioritize these little bite-sized morsels of fast food existence that will sate them just long enough to pursue the next one. They're not being encouraged to use their OWN imaginations--to ask questions about the world and to seek their answers. They're not being told, tacitly or otherwise, that their parents or society as a whole believes that they can do things for themselves but rather that they should be watching others do those things...and somehow they're supposed to be fulfilled by this?

Give me a break.

People are so out of touch with themselves let alone their kids or other people in general that it feels like life has become a lost, meaningless cause. They are unwilling to expend the effort--to take the difficult road not even purely for the sake of the experience it will be provide but the very tangible, tactile results and rewards that such a course provides. They are failing their own children and failing themselves in equal measures by not stepping up to the plate and actually parenting them--engaging with them in real time, in actual space.

Encourage your kids to spend quality time with people in person and to stop wasting their lives on Snapchat, Instagram, and whatever other dozen social media outlets they're spreading themselves across. Stop acting like your hands are tied--like controlling your children (whether they're toddlers, teenagers, or anything in between) is an impossibility or, worse, is someone else's job. Stop seeking sympathy because your kids don't listen to you when your absentee parenting don't merit their damn respect in the first place!

You want these kids to stop picking up guns? Have them put their fucking devices down first and stop spending so much time online. Then, give them the structure and the support that they'll need to navigate this crazy cesspool mindfuck of a society that we have created for themselves. Don't worry about fucking your kids up--about them not liking you or about you being their friend. Be their parent first. Show them what leadership looks like--give them something to aspire to. Embody the change that you want to see in them--in society at large.

There is absolutely no reason that an elementary school or even junior high school child should have unfettered, unsupervised access not just to a device like a smartphone or tablet but specifically to apps that encourage negative communication and emboldens keyboard cowards. These kids do not have the mental faculties and emotional maturity to navigate the turbid waters that social media presences represent. There is something about things like Facebook and the like that excites the darkest, most primal, primeval aspects of ourselves. We've proven in the past two years that most ADULTS don't even have the self-control to use these things properly and we're somehow expecting that children--particularly hormone-riddled adolescents--are supposed to figure it out for themselves?

Bullshit! If more parents demonstrated not just an interest but an actual presence in their kids' lives--in ALL aspects, particularly online--then so many more of the warnings signs that are out there would be picked up upon! You're not being intrusive by demanding to look at what your kid is doing online--to see how they're interacting with others through social media nor are you being cruel or antediluvian by outright denying them access to those things. What you're being is a good goddamn parent--one who not only cares about YOUR child but all those with whom they interact, by association.

How else can you explain things like the following:

"An American Airlines employee saved two young girls from getting on a plane to meet someone who authorities suspect is an online predator. The girls, 15 and 17, hoped to travel from Sacramento to New York to go spend time with a man named “Drey” they met on Instagram, KOVR-TV reported."

Social media isn't inherently evil nor are the devices that we access them from. The problem of course is the way in which we use these things and the lack of importance that we place upon regulating them within our own households. Too many people are allowing their children to use these things in a decidedly adult manner, oblivious to the responsibilities that are inherent in maintaining an online existence. There's no oversight--no authority other than that which is formed within those virtual communities and conversations.

It's like a modern, digital version of Lord of the Flies. No matter how mature our kids might seem to us, they're still children and as such they need not only our love and support but our guidance and structure too. They need to learn from us what matters, truly, in life and what should be relegated to leisure time and entertainment. We have to hold not only our kids accountable (that's a separate issue entirely--this pandemic of "not my kid" mentalities that shirk responsibility and onus ownership) but ourselves for the consequences of our inactions.

If we all made ourselves aware of what was going on in our kids' lives beyond what we can see--whether that means peering into their virtual realms or simply encouraging them to discuss the aspects of our lives that we are not readily privy to--then maybe we could solve many of the issues that could potentially lead to tragedies like the ones we've seen. You're never too busy to take an active interest in your child's life no matter what you do. Turning a blind eye or failing to expend the effort to know--REALLY know--what is going on inside of their hearts and minds (let alone their phones)--is an active choice.

We need to start making better ones if we expect to see any real change in these horrible events.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Microcosm of Modern America

Ever see this commercial? If not, give it a quick watch.

What did you see? I suppose that depends upon your degree of proclivity towards moral umbrage. I really liked the song and went looking online to see if I could find the name of it so that I could buy it. This was what I found instead:

"I would like Verizon management to review a Fios Quantum TV ad where a pre-pubescent girl is fetishized with red nail polish, red lipstick, 'Lolita' type sunglasses, and a bikini, to look as though she's twenty-five. The child is barely ten years old. Do you believe that masquerading a pre-pubscent child in the trappings of adulthood to market a product is okay?

In this moment of cultural awareness, WOMEN are speaking out about being preyed upon sexually — and Verizon management's approval of the overt-sexualization of this child must be understood for what it is —'bait'.  When a young girl is 'fetishized' as a means to signify 'DESIRE' it is offensive.

Your ad has struck such a negative chord in me, that every time I see it, I become angrier.

Women do not want to see their children objectified in advertising.

Verizon (Fios Quantum) does a disservice to our intelligence by continuing to run this ad."

My first thought was, "Wait...what?" I was so lost because I didn't see any of that in the ad. And yet, the further along I scrolled upon the page, the more indignant commentary I encountered:

"The current FIOS ad depicting a young girl as an object of sexual desire is repulsive on its merits, and doubly so given the current social climate.  Objectifying a prepubescent girl for the sole purpose of promoting your products is blatant exploitation.  The national conversation concerning the behavior of Roy Moore should have been enough for your executives to reject this ad campaign as tasteless and inappropriate.  We are FIOS customers and are very disturbed by your choice of subject material."

Then, out of the ether, voices of reason:

"No we aren’t. She’s a girl in a swimsuit in a pool. I came to look for the song."

"You have got to be kidding, I see a young girl floating around in a pool and dont see anything wrong with it and you see something sexual lolololol. So I guess every young girl around a swimming pool with a swim suit on is wrong in your eyes? This thread is unreal and just plain stupid."

Now, to this point, I began to view the thread as merely a dichotomy of perspectives--two sides that reached drastically different conclusions about the same objective material. I respect people's inherent right to think for themselves (when they do) and to express the viewpoints they have reached through their own internal decision-making processes...

...but then I got to these two comments:

"Agree that this is a terrible commercial.  It sexualizes a young child to look like Lolita.  Why don't more people complain?  This is a pedophile's dream.  I hate it.  Fios should be ashamed as well as the advertising firm that produced it."

"Absolutely appalled by the audacity of this company.  Continuing with this disturbing ad.  After the backlash from your own customers over this commercial you choose to continue running it.  So this ad isn't meant to sell us a product as much as an idea?  One too disturbing for this dad.  I'm leaving verizon and encouraging others to the same." 

There, in those two admissions of abject horror, lies a microcosm of everything that is wrong with our country right now and the reason that we are so utterly separated as a nation. People walk around agog with their mouths open asking how the hell we got to be in the position that we are in--how people could elect someone like Donald Trump into office.


It's because of shit like the above! For the past fifteen years at least, there has been this growing sense of moral indignation and entitlement among people (mostly of liberal sociopolitical leanings). This, consequently, has led to ever more boisterous, vociferous voicings of complaints about, well, everything!

Somewhere during the last two decades people stopped being capable of accepting the fact that, just because they don't like something, a massive change is warranted. Far too many people cannot simply be in disagreement with something--or even just to hold it in disdain and derision. No--whatever the object of their opprobrium is, it must change simply and solely because THEY are offended by it.

Look at the first of those final two comments. That question that's asked--"Why don't more people complain?"--is EXACTLY why Donald Trump got elected. TOO many people complain! About anything and everything!

So many conservative Americans have endured an unending barrage of bellyaching at the hands of their liberal brothers and sisters--a never-ending stream of complaints about everything from the environment and global warming to gender and racial rights. It's not enough for those individuals to be upset with something--they have to force their viewpoints upon everyone else. Their outrage is at once palpable and puerile.

I ask, instead: Why don't FEWER people complain?

When did we suddenly become so ridiculously thin-skinned? I thought that we were pretty damn tough, as a people, and yet, time and again, the village idiots become the town criers, prattling on about whatever latest thing has "offended" them. Isn't it said that when everything is offensive then nothing is?

How about the guy in the second quotation?

"I'm leaving verizon and encouraging others to do the same."

Seriously? Over a fucking advertisement?

And yet, this speaks precisely to what really serves as the underlying, subconscious core of the issue: our collective lack of self-esteem and skewed perception of value. I explored this issue back in 2015, somewhat satirically, but the point remains the same: people have lost sight of things that truly matter and no longer pursue things that provide actual fulfillment in their lives. They'd rather chase the ephemeral, evanescent serotonin squirts they get from social media and the safety and comfort of like-minded people than actually go out and improve themselves--challenge themselves, risk failure--engage in activities of meaning.

The guy who is leaving Verizon is sending a tacit message of superiority--one that is echoed, unconsciously, by millions of people in millions of way every day. What he's really saying is this: "This [the ad] is morally objectionable and I, being a being of higher moral value and more discerning taste, cannot allow myself to be dragged through this societal mud and must instead adhere to my strict code of ethics that elevates me above the rest of the swine [who, in this case, enjoy the ad or don't find anything wrong with it]."

In other words: if you don't leave Verizon then you're a terrible person and, because this guy IS leaving, it somehow makes him better than you [and everyone else who chooses a different path].

Here's the problem with occupying the moral high ground when it's as rocky and unstable as this: you risk falling and looking damn foolish when you start dancing around, drawing attention to how noble you are.

This moral knight is making a stand with this Verizon ad but I'll be you anything that he breaks a hundred ethical codes every day either without realizing or it choosing to ignore them. People like this forget that they're human and thus fallible. They think nothing of judging the shit out of something inane and innocuous like a television ad and then ignoring the very real rules and regulations that comprise our society. Do you think this guy holds the door for people at the store? Does he stop several feet BEFORE every stop sign he comes to? And uses his turn signal every time?

Probably not.

And therein lies the rub: this selective morality. The moral fabric of our society has become more of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel rather than a verifiable codex laden with absolute terms. People think nothing of reaching conclusions without engaging in any hermeneutical analysis--forgetting that theirs isn't the only viewpoint nor is it necessarily the right or defensible one.

Me? I see a precocious tween attempt to effect adulthood has she sees it (as evidenced by the macaroons where most kids that age would be wolfing down Oreos and the like). She is attempting to appear older than she actually is--thus her expression of disgust for her younger brother, who, clearly, has no trouble embracing his youth.

Or, as another contributor put it:

"I think she's a cute kid trying to look and act all grown up as she shows disdain for her childish younger brother."

Just because you're offended by something doesn't make you right! Not only that--just because you're offended, it doesn't mean that anything needs to change. Only when people save their outrage for matters of true import will we begin to bridge the gap that exists between the two American factions. Until then, we will remain a nation divided--crippled by the sniveling drivel of those who cannot bear to use their analytical energy to examine themselves critically rather than to find ways to force society to change to fit into their very narrow views of how the world should be.