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Pardon Me While I Kill Myself. (Please get a room of your own.)

So here’s why you and I should get stuff done.

Stories change.

The Germanwings plane disaster hit me hard because of one fact: 18 of the dead were from one high school, sixteen kids and two chaperones. I still don’t know for sure what they were doing in Spain, but it didn’t make the slightest difference to me: they were kids, teachers were with them, and that interaction has meant the world to me for much of my life, and life to me in most of my world. I’m an education guy. I’m a school freak. So I got writing. The emotional vein was rich, and I had it going. 613 words in, I knew where the piece was headed and how it would end. Powerful comparisons had been summoned, and hearty stories from my direct and tangential experience just needed a little more flesh. I was tired. Maybe a bit distracted. Probably could’ve finished, but close enough. The writing beast had been slain for another day. Well, badly wounded, anyway, so I knew it couldn’t run much farther.

Life intervened, though, and I couldn’t get back to the piece the next day, and didn’t the day after that. Not only was nobody waiting for the piece to be done – standardly lame working conditions for an aimless blogger – but my take, full of emotion though it was/is, wasn’t exactly a hot one. It was elegiac and backward-looking and somber. No rush, right?

And then the air disaster story changed for me, dramatically, with the reports of the co-pilot having done the deed purposely, by and for himself.

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2014: A Howdy-Do Year in Review

Last January, I didn’t get my 2013 lookback, The Great Eighteen, up until the 20th, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to call this prompt. Efficient. Timely — at least for me! Reflection on accomplishments never comes at a bad time. (Does it? Of course, you ninny! Okay, but — Which doesn’t mean it’s always foolish to look backwards, either. Alright then, so maybe — Just get to it!)

I posted to JH.com 93 times last year, which is as productive as I’ve ever been, and that with December nearly ringing up a doughnut. (That’s jock-talk for nada. Zero. Hole in the JZone layer. Nuttin’, honey. I missed that bizarro perfection by one lonely post, so the rest of the year must’ve been excellent.) Starting with my self-conscious blurts in the middle of 2005, JH.com now has an archive of 637 posts. That seems like quite a few.

So, I consulted a panel of experts. What were the most meaningful, artistically satisfying and world-changing posts of 2014 on JamesHowden.com? No. I didn’t. I trawled through 2014 and asked myself, “Okay, self, what do you still like and think others might, too?” Oh, I did take my readers into account, based on what got read most, or what found life elsewhere on the ‘Net, but mainly this is me Me ME. So here is a quick skate through some of the things I wrote here last year. It gives a reasonable portrait of what gave my head a shake in 2014. It’s a quick read, and you can click on anything that appeals. Here, then, are the

Fabulous Fifteen!

1. Sequel: The (Not Quite) Christmas (Late) Show* Must Go On (Jan. 2)                 (with Chinese Characteristics)

For the last three years in China, my wife and I taught in the School of International Business, a small college within our university in Dalian. Every December, there was a spangly student SHOW. Here, I reviewed this incredible, excessive, odd, passionate, obligatory celebration of something-or-other. Warning: this is only the second half of the extravaganza, and you may not be able to resist dipping back into December 2013 for the full jaw-dropping effect. It was amazing. (And only occasionally depressing.)

2. Lost in Cambodia  (February 5)

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Tabatha Southey (on calling hatred hatred)

Ms. Southey is a fine Canadian writer. The Santa Barbara killings couldn’t have shocked her, but what she noticed in all the public commentary was that many issues suddenly needed to be talked about right now. Mental illness was there, of course. Guns. Race. She wasn’t complaining about our culture’s developing capacity to talk about realities that were once hush-hush. She was pointing out that misogyny wasn’t among them. What do people talk about when they talk about “honour killings” of supposedly shameful women, such as recent events in Pakistan (or Ottawa)? Insane ideology might get a mention, and Muslim extremism in general. We’re less likely to mention a rampant condescension towards what some men persist in regarding (sometimes consciously) as an “inferior” species, and a hatred of that stubborn species when women and girls presume to act as if they were capable of deciding and acting like human beings — that is to say, men — are expected to do. The road to realizing the equality between men and women is thorny, bloody dangerous — not only for women, but most brutally and frequently for them.

Southey’s strong, grimly witty article is here, and well worth a read. I quote only a bit of her true and pointed conclusion.

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Men and Guns and Murdered Sleep

UPDATE: A shorter version of this piece, with a somewhat different focus and some extra authority, also appears at the Baha’i Teachings website.

I can’t help myself. I have to say something about Santa Barbara, but what to say that others haven’t about a young “man” – oh, how that word is mutating like attention-deficit cancer cells – who so pathetically, so enragingly, so outrageously, so pitiably, so hatefully, so sadly and so narcissistically wore all his grievances on his electronic sleeve. Then he found, what – not courage, for God’s sake – enough petulance-gone-mad, enough entitlement-gone-toxic, enough Internet-chutzpah-gone-fatally-virulent, to spew the tantrums of a deeply spoiled child with the sick can-do of an adult, and with the cold metal of “equalizers” that would never require him to face his victims as an equal. God help the innocent. God help us all to sleep, and to keep finding hope and goodness.

The numbers are hard to gather, let alone fathom. Just in the USA, some dedicated carnage-counters in the gun-addled States (the on-line magazine Slate, for one) throw out statistics that mainly seem to numb us. “35,000 gun deaths since Sandy Hook”. “A mass shooting every five days.” “90 American gun deaths per day.” And so on. More than half of these are suicides without the murder, it appears, since guns are the American way to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them… So yes, Hamlet, there’s that, but at a certain level of super-hero self-hatred, offing yourself just isn’t cinematic enough anymore.

But there’s more.

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