When I was young I developed quite a relationship with guns, albeit all from the receiving end.

I first was held up with a gun outside of Seward Park High School. I was 14 years old.  It was 1974. Three big guys grabbed me, pointed a gun at me and dragged me up to Delancey Street. I managed to get loose and run into a bank. They didn’t shoot me but they hit me very hard on the top of the head. I was bleeding. I was alone.
Later, as i got older, much of my experience with guns was working as a restaurant manager. I was held hostage, ironically by a student from the college I work at now. First time I even heard of BMCC. Really! It was the early Eighties, so when the cops finally came they acted like it wasn’t a big deal. I got everyone out alive but the police didn’t care. I think I handled it quite well. When I was tied up with my head in the toilet bowl it did occur to me that the boss really wouldn’t miss the money in the safe all that much. I was the manager. I had a cook, a busboy and a cashier. The cook had a gun to his head. My head was in the toilet bowl. I didn’t have much leverage but I think I negotiated a pretty good deal for everyone. It was win win.
Without being held hostage I was held up at least a dozen times with guns. .22, .38 and .357 Magnum pistols among others. Once by what I was sure was a toy gun, but why take chances? Another time someone tried to rob me saying he had a gun. Then a knife. Then he knew Kung Fu. Needless to say in that situation I demanded proof. In any case I saw lots of guns. Shiny ones chromed like a car bumper. Blue ones. Black ones. Tiny ones. Big ones. Revolvers. Automatics.
One time I had to fight two big transsexual purse snatchers who stole a customer’s purse. I locked the restaurant door and they attacked me with plastic takeout knives. They were over six feet tall and looked like RuPaul before there was a RuPaul. I got the purse back but the police officer said “lucky they didn’t have a gun.” I didn’t think about that. I should have thought about that.
Once I was on the D train when three guys with guns robbed the entire car. When we got to 125th Street my friend and I got off and reported it to two nice policeman in the station mezzanine. Then one guy with a gun went running by followed by two other guys with guns chasing him. The two nice police officers excused themselves and ran after them. Two hours later we were still there waiting for them to come back. They never did. We jumped the turnstile and went uptown. I ended up at the lake in VanCortlandt Park watching the sun rise as a flock of swans swam by. It was beautiful. I had only one subway token in my pocket. I was hungry. I was alive. I wanted to throw up.
Then I was shot at. On 139 Street between Broadway and Hamilton. He missed. He was far away. But I felt the bullet go by my left ear. I remember clearly it was my left ear.
I also had to break up a fight with two roommates, one of whom had a crappy little revolver. The other had a machete. When you are between a gun and a machete I have to admit the machete is much more impressive.
Then a mentally unstable relative threatened to kill me. Multiple times. So I threw his rifle out the window and destroyed it. My mother made me pay for it. It was expensive. Monthly installments.
While doing my thesis film on the Emergency Medical Service in Harlem (on 16mm film no less) we picked up a guy on New Year’s Eve shot in the arm above the elbow with a large caliber handgun. You could tell because the wound was huge. We weren’t filming so, as the crew were short handed I got the job to cut the sleeve off the leather jacket at the level just below the arm pit. It was tough work. A large amount of blood was held in the sleeve by the cuff of the jacket and splattered all over the floor. It was bright red. Arterial blood. The man was scared. He was in intense pain. His arm looked like hamburger. He was going to start the New Year in the hospital, in intense pain and he just lost a beautiful leather jacket. It was his right arm. At the hospital I mopped the floor of the ambulance. Blood is sticky, like cherry jello before it gets hard, and it is warm. It is hard to clean.
These are all true stories. I think the time between 1978 and 1990 must have been some kind of golden age for gun related crime. At least from my perspective.
Last year I went to shoot a gun. I did very good. Most of my shots ended up in the center of the target or close by. With practice I could really be great at this I thought.
It was something of a let down. Having someone shoot at you is much more exciting than shooting at someone yourself, or at least shooting at a paper target in a basement. I think I’ll stick to being shot at instead.
I found I don’t like guns much. At least real guns. While shooting the gun it reminded me of bad sex. Not that most sex is bad, but when it is bad it is like shooting a gun, but not as loud and you have your clothes off. I think for some people it must be like good sex but I really don’t want to have a conversation with them about it. I don’t talk about sex with strangers. Abortion, birth control, prostitution, but never sex. Sex related things only. But it gave me an idea.
If the First Amendment can guarantee you freedom of speech but still make it illegal to do things like child pornography can’t the Second Amendment make it just a little harder to kill a kindergarten class? I know I am asking for a lot here, but why do we even need to talk about it all that much? Do we really need to make a big national debate about this?
I guess so. Oh well. Here we go. Let’s make it really hard for someone to kill children in a kindergarten class with a gun. I think we can agree on that. If we can’t, then we should really be ashamed of ourselves. Each and every one of us. Really ashamed, because it means we suck. Right now, we suck.

We Live in Troubling Times?

Yes, we do. And no, we don’t. Yes there is significant environmental degradation, a poor economy and they are fracking the hell out of some places. All true. But on the other side of the equation that institutional murder we call war is not only less frequent it is less deadly. Life expectancies are up all over the world. They just re-engineered the AIDS virus to cure leukemia and we just re-elected a guy President who actually is African American when not that long ago that would have been just a dream. Yes, there still is work to do and problems to solve, but it isn’t what these people would like to believe. Or the Mayans. Keep moving forward. Better to live now than when our grandparents did.

I Want to Do Something…

“To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?”– John Boyd. Warrior.


“You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”– President Barack Obama.

This is a sad day for America. It really is.

Is It a Greater Crime to Rob a Bank or to Own One?

I think that is an open question after HSBC managed to walk away with a mere fine for laundering money for drug dealers and terrorists. No banker will go to jail, but of course if they run into trouble we will bail them out. Absolutely outrageous.

So, Be Outraged. Watch this video and read this book.

Basic democratic values need to be fought for. Oh, and when you are done reading visit this place.

CUNY is More Like the Military Industrial Complex Than I’m Comfortable With

When academics like myself look at the Pentagon we would like to think our distributed governance and academic freedom somehow make us different, but unfortunately when it comes to how we administer our self licking ice cream cone we aren’t that much different. Top down decisions, huge failed projects, unaccountable administrators in silos…hey, sounds like CUNY to me. We even, like the Pentagon, have people who retire and never leave. Ever.

Right now the Air Force, which is in terms of head count as big as CUNY, has to pull back from a huge, universal Swiss Army Knife solves all their problems software project built on an Oracle back end. Yes. The United States Air Force tried to do their own version of CUNY First. And they failed.




Bill Cope and Scholar

Bill Cope is up here at Columbia from the University of Illinois and he’s presenting his Scholar project. It is at first a mish mash of LinkedIn, Facebook and the like but it is something more. He’s got something called a semantic editor which pretty much drops all the legacy aspects of traditional computer tools such as world processing. Very interesting. Not too sure what to think but it does at least make me think.

The Strange Case of Petrus Ramus…

One of the problems I’ve had in my career as a technologist is the problem of novelty. We think we are doing something new, exciting and wonderful. Well, I guess we are, but less than we think. Formal education has always been a technological enterprise and it always will be. Sure, we aren’t sharpening quills any more and we don’t need the lecture format to essentially take dictation of our textbooks but are we really all that much different from our Renaissance predecessors? I’m always finding myself looking at the broader scholarship of Walter Ong. While he did make some provocative and interesting claims for what he called a media charged secondary orality He also did some great work on Petrus Ramus of the old University of Paris who, while seen as a mediocre scholar by many, made some serious print driven technological innovations to the teaching profession that would warm the heart of any instructional designer or, alas, PowerPoint devotee. In fact, were Ramus to rise from the dead he probably, sadly and unfortunately like PowerPoint. He probably would be writing a Title III grant now and feeling very, very important but like Ramus…

As for Ong, he and McLuhan were quite well aquainted, so for your viewing pleasure:

Too bad they tore that movie theater down a long time ago…


Had a meeting at the old Port Authority building in Chelsea with the Livestream people. Looking to build streaming video into our operations, especially for public events like commencement. Looks good. We’ve already done some events and it is fairly easy. More, more, more…

2K in the Theater

Well, despite lots of obstacles we now have a beautiful 2K projector installed in our moderately sized theater. Played Wings of Desire and we had a gorgeous black and white image on the screen. Wings was shot by the master cinematographer Henri Alekan on 35mm Kodak negative stock and it is as beautiful as can be, especially the wonderful tracking shots in Berlin’s Prussian State Library, that masterpiece of modern architecture built by Hans Scharoun to anchor the cultural complex that used to be up against the Berlin Wall. This is one of my favorite films because it captures the old West Berlin so well, has two of my favorite actors (Peter Falk and Bruno Ganz) and I saw it at a time when my life in New York was one film after another in the lost movie theaters of my youth. Nostalgia.

But here is the rub. The 2K projector is BETTER than HD and the Sony circuitry actually makes the picture look better than it probably did back in the beat up old theater that was torn down a generation ago. And the film is being played back from my iPad. No more tape, DVD or 16mm film.

Next step is to finally get the 4K installed in the big theater…

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