Merry White Christmas!

December 25, 2012

Red berries and white snow

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Pine tree with fresh snow

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And, as a bonus, it is a White Christmas here in the Mid-Atlantic.

Here’s hoping in a world seemingly gone mad that there is peace and joy to be had and, if not now, in the near future.

Take good care.

Texas

December 24, 2012

Denton, Texas Courthouse

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Had the opportunity to go to Texas for a few days and while there, found out that Texas has 254 counties, each with a courthouse similar to the one above.  It’s my understanding that these courthouses are encircled by a square and the area is then referred to as “courthouse square”.  This one is in Denton, Texas, and the square contains an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.  It was a pleasant place to be.

United States and Texas state flags at half-mast

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Outside the courthouse, the United States and Texas state flags were flying at half-staff in memorial to the Shandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place just a week ago.

The National Rifle Association  (NRA) also announced its response to the Sandy Hook killings in the form of a press conference wherein  Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated the organization’s solution-the use of armed guards in all schools.   Any form of gun control would be unacceptable as guns are not the problem according to the NRA.  While not an entirely surprising answer from this group, it is important to remember that the Aurora, Colorado shooting occurred in a movie theatre and the Tuscon, Arizona shooting was outdoors at a shopping center.  Will there be armed guards to protect individuals in these venues as well?

Citizens of the United States are certainly well-armed and it worth examining the scope of the firearm ownership in the US and this report discusses the topic from a variety of angles, including gun deaths, as a result of said ownership.  Of particular note are the Centers for Disease Control statistics cited.  Here is the CDC site.

Relative to the of the use of armed guards to protect schools, the United States is currently facing the “Fiscal Cliff” wherein there is much debate, if not actual results, in controlling the federal government’s expenditures thereby bringing down the national debt.  Too much money being spent on too many services is an argument voiced by many.  Programs are to be cut as it is not acceptable to raise taxes in order to generate revenue is another theme.  This presents quite a problem to the NRA’s response as, on a local level, many states have been facing financial problems which could lead to bankruptcy-this report is one example from 2011.  Given these local and national fiscal concerns, from where would the funds be found to pay for the NRA’s call for police officers in all schools?  The NRA appears to have an answer as it is proposing the use of  well- armed volunteers and an NRA-approved “National School Shield” program that would be used to train security personnel for free.

Which brings me back to Texas.  Representative Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, argued the concealed-carry position and suggested that the Sandy Hook shooting would have gone differently had school personnel been armed. Perhaps, but that is not a guarantee. (As an aside, that same article also contains additional information related to the overall issue of gun control.)  However, meeting guns with more guns conjures up the specter of MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction-the precept that fueled the Cold War nuclear arms race between the United States and the then Soviet Union.  Granted, nukes were not used during this time period, but we sure fought a couple of wars (or “police actions”), Korea and Viet Nam, using conventional weapons.  Having guns available did not solve those political problems as eventually both sides started shooting at each other with civilians being caught in the cross-fire.

And that cycles us back to Sandy Hook.  One of the weapons used in the killings was a civilian version of the M-16, the mainstay of the United States military during the Viet Nam era. Mr. LaPierre is right, this level of violence is a cultural issue within the US and is a complex, multi-factorial problem requiring a multitude of changes.  However, in my opinion, the NRA is absolutely wrong in the assertion that assault rifles and 30-round magazines are not part of the problem.  These are weapons designed for military applications and adapted for civilian use-that is, they are not fully automatic and require the pulling of the trigger for each round to be fired.  Even with that “liability”, these rifles put out enormous firepower for which, arguably, there is no valid civilian use.

In my mind, this brings to focus the cultural issue that we continue to bump up against as we try to resolve chronic issues such as gun violence:  as long as certain options are declared to be “off the table”, be they taxes (the Fiscal Cliff point again) or firearms, then we will continue to chase our tails as a society.  And many will suffer needlessly.

Take care.

Fire and its Aftermath

December 15, 2012

Fire damaged building braced for re-construction

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This seems to have been a year for fire in Fells Point.  An earlier post contains photographs from a recent fire and these are from a couple of subsequent conflagrations that occurred nearby. While fire has certainly been an integral element in human evolution, survival, and comfort-watch Tom Hanks at the beginning of Cast Away for a modern example of those latter points-it is also, of course, supremely destructive.  What starts as a small spark can quickly engulf whatever is available and often leaves behind empty shells.

Fire damaged building braced for re-construction

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Fire-damaged store sign

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Street view of fire-damaged building

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Just up the street from the previous damage is another fire-gutted building.  The results are similar.

Fire damage to building in Fells Point

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Fire-damaged awning of building

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

According to FEMA, “Each year more than 2,500 people die and 12,600 are injured in house fires in the United States…” That is a lot of people.

Yesterday, another type of fire was unleashed in Newtown, Connecticut leaving 26 people dead-the majority of whom were first graders.  President Obama addressed a mournful nation this morning and, indeed, “we have endured far too many of these tragedies…” Not too long ago we were discussing Aurora, CO; before that it was Tuscon, AZ.   Virginia Tech and Columbine are in the relatively near past.  Heartfelt sympathies and condolences to all who have had to deal with, and will continue to have to deal with, such mind-numbing acts.

This post begins with a mention of fire’s role in human evolution and now we are talking about a different application of that element.  Firearms, too, have played a key role and a force people have used against each other for centuries.  At a very basic level, guns provide power and that power arguably gets used for both good and evil.  That judgment is often a matter of perspective.  However, these incidents make one wonder just how far we have evolved especially when first-graders become the target.   It goes without saying that we as a culture should have long ago figured this out-there are far, far too many empty shells left behind.

Take care.

The “New Normal”

December 15, 2012

Thames Steet establishments

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today is December 15, 2012.  Yesterday, the temperature was in the 60s.

Take care.

No Explanations

December 14, 2012

No photos-just outrage and bewilderment.

I have extensive knowledge of both psychology and sociology and their various theories of human behaviour;  however, is there really any way to understand and/or explain what recently happened in Connecticut and China?

To Buy or Not To Buy?

December 4, 2012

Tree alight in front of Shepherdstown Library.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

‘Tis the season wherein we are encouraged to spend more on the latest and greatest.  How else can it be explained that stores were open for business on Thanksgiving  Day this year?  Cyber Monday was evidently a record-setter so those sales certainly got folks’ attention.  A perusal of popular culture (TV, the internet, newspapers, etc.) provides an overload of “Best Of” lists as well as recommendations of what to buy for practically everyone on a shopping list.  And it goes without saying that the mailbox fills with catalogs-both wanted and unwanted.  (How many trees are sacrificed for media that goes right to the recycling bins?)  While this conspicuous consumption would certainly help the economy, especially the smaller mom-and-pop shops, it is also worthwhile to ask if all of this stuff is actually needed. 

Shepherdstown University at night.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having said that, it is useful to support the local, smaller retailers as they are often under much pressure from the big box stores and reductions in spending.  Before leaving the theme of consumerism, though, a final thought or two about the process of procuring those presents:  from a cultural perspective, we have been socialized that buying something for someone is a demonstration of love and caring, which, in turn, adds to the stress of rushing hither and yon in order to find the “perfect gift(s)” to meet the real and perceived obligations presented by the holidays.  Here is another suggestion: 

Crowd watching Shepherdstown Christmas Parade.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Slow down.  Just get out and walk around and enjoy the scenery.  Find people with whom to talk.  After all, what better gift is there than to be present instead of giving a present?

Take care.