Gun Violence Overload

February 17, 2018 2:26am
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My brain is completely fried from everything surrounding this week’s mass shooting at a high school in South Florida.

Yesterday I wrote an essay about my thoughts, which didn’t get the support that I had expected.

Today I spent way more time than I should commenting on threads with people who will never ever ever consider guns to be even one iota of the problem because it’s everybody else’s fault – parents, violence in the media gun-free school zones – you name it, they’ll point the finger and then make sure that we never mention their beloved guns in a negative light on their watch. It’s so apathetic and sad, it leaves me speechless.

When I went to pick Christopher up from school, I couldn’t help but notice that the flagpole out front had the American flag flying at half mast, and I paused for a second to try and figure out how to explain to a four year-old that it was a symbol of respect because a very bad person had hurt some kids at another school.

On the plus side, holding his hand as I walked back through the parking lot to our car renewed my position on this matter because I realized that I’m going to have kids in the public school system for probably the next 15 years and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and just accept that active shooter drills need to be a part of their curriculum because adults can’t get their shit in gear and figure out how to stop bad people from barging into their schools carrying guns.

I’m still VERY ANGRY about the topic, and I’m rapidly losing respect for anyone who shrugs it off and says that there’s nothing we can really do because that’s bullshit and my children deserve better.

It really disgusted me to find before I started writing this that in fact I’ve already written about mass shootings many times before…

I don’t know how we as a nation got to be so lethargic about gun violence, as if it’s just the uncomfortable side of our right to bear arms that we all have to accept in the name of freedom.

The NRA, an organization that as far as I’m concerned should be leading the charge on responsible gun ownership, spends tens of millions of dollars every single year lobbying politicians to steer clear of any legislation even remotely resembling gun control.

And gun sales spike every time there’s a shooting, just like they surged whenever a Republican talked about how Obama was trying to take away our guns when calling that statement an utter lie doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

My mind goes numb just trying to wrap my head around it, but I know that we’ve got to change. We’ve got to have open dialogues about all sorts of ways to combat mass shootings, from mental health to better background checks to more parental awareness, better security in schools, and maybe some guns even need to come off the streets, too.

I know that gun advocates consider that to be treason, but if we can’t even protect our own children in their own schools anymore, we don’t deserve to call ourselves The Land of the Free. 

Kids deserve better from us and adults need to start acting like adults.

When kids who had to hide inside of closets beg on TV for adults to do something, anything to help protect them from all of this senseless violence, every last one of us should be ashamed. 

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their teenagers because you’re too afraid to loosen your grip on the assault rifle that you cuddle with in bed every night out of this paranoid delusion that it’s the only thing protecting you from your government.

The entire world shakes its head and sighs about how pathetic it is that America can’t seem to figure out its gun problem when it has almost as many weapons as it does people and it spends more on its military than it does on taking care of its own people.

America cannot possibly be “the greatest country in the world” when we stand by and do nothing while our kids are murdered at their schools, and I’m tired of listening to people give excuses – young and old, gun owners and paid-off politicians and just crabby Republicans in general – who shrug their shoulders and say, “There’s nothing that we can do…”

Stand up and get the fuck out of the way so that those of us who still care about our kids can do something before even more schoolchildren are chalked up to statistics.

Creative Brain Drain

February 16, 2018 10:56pm
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I haven’t really written much for the last couple of months.

Part of it has been between work and the holidays and money issues and parenting stress and about a billion other things, my brain just hasn’t had much bandwidth left to be creative with at the end of the day.

Another part is that – I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a proper crisis of faith – but I’ve been kind of demoralized about writing and publishing online, and even now I’m not quite sure what to make of it…

It’s weird because whereas 20 or so years ago when I started doing all of this, I looked at the Internet as freeing because I could publish things online that would never be accepted by a print publisher. But now the landscape has become more mature, and I don’t necessarily think that my issue is that there are a ton more people publishing online than ever before – which does make it tougher to fight for an audience, but moreso it feels like social media has become overtly cumbersome to the point where it’s no longer this helpful tool to boost your signal and connect with your audience, but instead this weird ecosystem of its own that commands its own rules and yet doesn’t really pay back creators likewise for their efforts whatsoever.

This article about Funny or Die laying off its editorial staff because of Facebook speaks a lot of greater truths that over the years I’ve observed firsthand with my own creative projects because it seems like what started out as these neat social networks gradually evolved into their own walled gardens where traffic doesn’t really flow away from Facebook and the likes.

It used to be that you’d write something, post it to your website, and then share it on social media and your fans would click through and check it out…

But instead today when you share a link on Facebook, it reaches a very small subset of your fans and Facebook generously encourages you to boost your post by paying them an advertising fee! Which would be fine if that then in turn increased your clickthrough rate, but instead today most Facebook interactions stay squarely on Facebook, so instead of reading an article and absorbing a few ad views, now a fan might only read your headline or blurb on Facebook, Like it, and engage in a comment war right there on Facebook without ever even visiting your site or actually reading what you wrote in the first place.

Worse yet, you lean more towards creating content specifically for Facebook through albums and memes and embedded videos and your Facebook page looks awesome, but at the end of the day it’s a giant time suck that doesn’t attract any new readers to your actual work or improve your ad revenue in any conceivable way.

Oh yeah, and there’s also scammers and fake accounts and clickbait posts that compete with yours for views that drive up advertising costs and crash otherwise diminishing returns even further into the ground!

On top of all of this, I have other issues with the Internet that have made it a less desirable frontier than it once was…

  • Misleading clickbait Taboola ads on even some of the most otherwise legitimate sites
  • Less interest in the written word in favor of video, memes, throwaway content
  • Clickbait content in general overshadowing actual creative effort (e.g. sometimes it’s hard to even watch movie trailers on YouTube anymore because people will create fake trailers labeled as official that get millions of views when the movie isn’t even in the works)

At the end of the day, I still want to write things that can make people laugh and make people think … I’m just not sure how that works online in 2018 anymore?

In the past I’ve never had a HUGE audience, but most of the time it was respectable, and maybe I had a project here or there that was admittedly more for me because it didn’t really take off, but when everything that I’ve just described all balls up together and it feels like nothing is getting any traction anymore, I suppose it’s admittedly kind of depressing and eventually it leads you to wonder if maybe there are other things that would be a better use of your time.

…particularly right now when finding “free time” to write is often such a struggle as it is… 🙁

So that’s where I am right now.

Yesterday I wrote probably my first piece in a good while – something about the perpetual cycle of inaction that we seem to see after our mass shootings here in America – and I was honestly pretty happy about how it had turned out, but then I let some early criticism from someone close get to me and it sort of took away most of the energy that I’d built up after finally posting something new for the first time in ages! :<

I know that I desperately need this creative outlet in my life. It helps to keep me sane and happy and organize the thoughts in my head, but I’m really struggling in a way that I’ve never quite felt before and I’m not entirely sure how to move forward from here.

This was kind of a fun, little introspective that I did on Instagram over the last week – admittedly I broke the rules a bit because I guess the original text says something about “no people, no descriptions,” but whatever.

I personally used it as an exercise to consider what seven unique things serve to define my life today, and so the following is what I ended up coming up with… 🙂

(in no particular order)

7 days, 7 black and white photos describing your life… (7/7) #blackandwhitechallenge #family

A post shared by Scott Sevener (@ssevener) on

Excessive Viewing

October 28, 2017 2:21pm
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One of the unique things that I’ve experienced as a parent is that we tend to watch the same movies over and over again in our house.

Case in point – I think I’ve seen The Lego Movie three times in the last 24 hours, and Moana at least twice … although once was this morning and I was still asleep for the majority of it.

Only with a toddler is it possible to have the conversation:

Dad: That movie was great – what do you want to watch next?

Kid: Toys!

Dad: We just finished watching Toy Story … the credits are literally still playing on the screen.

Kid: Toys!

Dad: Toys it is…

Admittedly we probably let our kids watch TV a little more than we should, but frankly there’s three of them and only two of us, and when one of us is incapacitated with work or whatever … hey, I’ll take any help that I can get! 😛

Besides, I don’t really paint TV as the terrible threat that a lot of people consider it to be because I’ve seen plenty of its pros firsthand. Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse have done a great job of supplementing and reinforcing what Christopher is learning with his letters and numbers and shapes and colors, not to mention speech, creativity, and gaining a better understanding of the world around him and how things work.

Yesterday he came into my office and I was drinking out of a bottle of water, and so he pointed to it and said, “Me try it!” and we had a fun, little (albeit wet) mishap of him trying to drink straight from a bottle, and regular water no less! All because of a Sesame Street song with various singing foods convincing Elmo to try something new.

And a big part of why I introduced him to The Lego Movie last night is because he’s gotten more and more into Legos in the last year, to the point where he’s not only playing with Duplos but also most of my own Lego sets which are several years above his age range. It was really awesome to look over and see him playing with his own in between watching scenes in the movie – I was finally able to capture a picture of it this afternoon…


If my kids were literally just vegging in front of the TV for hours on end not doing anything else, I might be more concerned, but they tend to watch a lot like Sara and I do. We’re almost always doing something else while we’re watching, and a lot of times I’ll just have it on in the background to listen to episodes of Shark Tank or something while I’m doing the dishes or other simple work. TV has way too much value to tune it out completely, and as long as the kids are getting something worthwhile out of it, I’m ok with that.

…even if it means watching Bolt for the fourth time in a row on the same day… :O

Toying with Contently

October 25, 2017 5:30pm
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For the longest time, I’ve been in search of a really good hub website to showcase all of the various things that I write. I ended up making one myself because I just never found anything that I liked – you can see it on the front page of this site – but it’s still not perfect.

My ideal option would be a WordPress theme that I can plug RSS feeds from all of my other sites into, and then it would aggregate everything that I write from everywhere all into one nice and pretty news feed.

A layout similar to what Pinterest looks like would be ideal, which is why I was kind of curious when I saw Contently mentioned on social media the other day, so I decided to check it out. The site is actually designed to host a portfolio for freelancers, so the display itself is very cool. The part I’m not crazy about is that it’s entirely manual because it’s meant to be a curated portfolio, so I had to enter URLs for every single article listed, as well as tweak the excerpts because it just grabbed the first X characters of each post…

I still like it from the perspective of creating a portfolio of my favorite work, so I took a few hours to scour all of my recent projects to find 30 – 40 pieces to fill it. And it was neat that I could include my books in it as well, although it kind of stands out that the site is designed for people working for mainstream sites because all of those boring, text file shapes at the top of my profile are supposed to be much larger “As seen in…” logos if I had work for any bigger sites like The New York Times or The Huffington Post.

I’m kind of surprised that they don’t grab a site’s favicon if it isn’t already a preferred outlet – would make for a nicer presentation…

I honestly don’t know if I’ll do anything else with it just because there’s not really much else to do, but if you’re looking for something to read, right now I think it’s a solid collection of some of my own personal favorites that you might enjoy reading as well!

(Tip of the hat to Sara Benincasa whose post on Facebook about her own portfolio pointed me to Contently in the first place…)

Entertainment vs Politics

September 24, 2017 4:21pm
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I’ve never quite understood the arrogance with which some people cite that celebrities should stay out of politics.

Politics affects all of us whether we’re fast food workers or policemen or teacher or multimillion dollar actors and athletes, and just because they’re lucky enough to have a larger paycheck than the everyday man shouldn’t diminish their right to voice their own political concerns and beliefs.

I think what rubs me the wrong way the most about all those currently up in arms about the football players who’ve chosen to protest by either taking a knee or simply not coming out of the locker room during our national anthem is how crude these so called fans are towards a very real fear for the very people that they idolize. You would think that if someone who you religiously follow every game day took a few minutes before each game to speak out against something as serious as racial inequality and police brutality, then the least a fan could do is take a few minutes to listen.

…and not try to follow this bizarre, Republican talking point about how it makes them unpatriotic and disrespectful to deflect attention away from the real issue at hand…

Of course, Donald Trump came out tweeting all sorts of rage about how horrible these displays are, even calling for the team owners to take a stand and fire these individuals … which is A) ironic, considering the bile and hatred that he tweets on a daily basis, not to mention B) a gross interpretation of the 1st amendment to the Constitution … you know, the thing that soldiers actually fought and died for out on the world’s battlefield.

Now I don’t really care about what the President says because eight months plus an enduring campaign in, we know that his prerogative is to chant out whatever will best get his base riled up.

What I do care about, on the other hand, is his base who stands behind and believes in this mentality that patriotism is about unwavering allegiance and even more importantly, that police brutality is mostly something that black citizens bring upon themselves … blah blah blah … Chicago, black on black violence, etc, etc…

It shows that these people don’t care so much about our actual freedoms as they do about protecting a symbol of our freedoms … one that maybe doesn’t shine quite as brightly as some of us would like to think. But it’s easier to call a professional athlete spoiled and ungrateful across the Internet than it is to accept that racial inequality is still very much alive in this world – even if the only black people you ever encounter in your own little slice of rural America is the ones throwing the pigskin around on TV every Sunday for more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

It says something when no matter how a group of people choose to protest, none of them are “acceptable” to you … protests in the streets are too violent, yet a silent protest before a game is deemed disrespectful. It says that you would prefer just to not hear about their protest at all, which is crude because this is a really important issue to someone you claimed to be a fan of, but it’s also frankly disrespectful to the freedom itself – so which is a grosser crime, making a silent protest of our national anthem or disregarding the very freedom that our national anthem represents???

Not everyone has the luxury to not care about politics, but the least you can do as an American is respect other people’s rights to care about politics themselves for a few minutes before they spend the next two hours risking life and limb to entertain you.

Dream Journal : Fragments

September 19, 2017 10:26pm
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It was a bizarre cross between a cub scout meeting and a D&D game, and we were trying to solve some sort of puzzle.

There were other groups “competing” at the same time as we were, but after a few steps of rolling dice we came to learn that the puzzle wasn’t solved by the results of each step, but simply by taking a step back to look at the steps themselves and how they related to each other. When we finally came to realize that “the answer” was Back to the Future, we ran upstairs to tell whoever was running the puzzle, only to find that it had all been a facade and we were lost in this strange, urban area once we left the basement behind…

* * * * *

For whatever reason, I was grocery shopping when the power went out at the store, and no one really knew what to do. All of the employees had randomly disappeared, leaving just a handful of us alone in the dark, empty store with things in our carts that hadn’t been purchased yet.

After much deliberation, I decided that the things I had would spoil either way, so I reluctantly walked out of the store without paying for them, only to be confronted with a very large, billboard-sized sign in the parking lot citing that food taken when the store had been abandoned was still stealing and considered to be a very bad crime.

By the time I had everything in my car, I was being chased by several police cars as I zipped through the darkened city, desperate for a place to hide. Eventually I came across a row of miniature compartments – not like houses, but akin to the mailboxes found at an apartment complex, only large enough to fit inside. So I did.

As I was stashing a few items away in the back of the locker and stuffing my pockets with anything that would fit, Lisa Simpson appeared and asked if I’d like some help carrying the rest of my items home.

* * * * *

We were canoeing in a tropical area and suddenly came upon many sharks in the water, all no more than probably 4 – 5 feet each. Though they were mostly harmless, our guide reminded everyone to keep their hands out of the water as we cautiously glided among them.

Eventually we came upon another boater whose boat was filling up with water, which made everyone nervous because he himself was in the water and dangerously close to the sharks.

Just then – a hundred or so feet away – a much, much larger shark took down the larger guide boat that had brought us all out to the area.

I paddled away as fast as I could, following the shoreline that soon became cluttered by all of the discarded boats that had come before us and too had fallen for their trap…

* * * * *

We were moving into a new home that was much smaller than the apartment where we previously lived. It was going to be tight quarters, but it seemed all for the best as we struggled to find places for our essentials and get rid of the excess that we didn’t need and frankly didn’t have room for.

We still had one load of larger things (which we didn’t have room for) left to bring before we handed back our keys, so I was trying to shuffle things around to make some space. As I was sorting through the small bedroom that was to be shared by the kids, I was interrupted by a large, older man who proved to be our new maintenance man. He was friendly enough and seemed to already be taking to the kids when our neighbors suddenly began playing their music very loudly.

Without a second thought, he walked over to the bedroom wall where there was actually a door dividing the two rooms and pounded on it to prompt them to quiet down. A moment later, someone opened the door and showed that it wasn’t another home on the other side, but a store of sorts. The maintenance man and the store owner chatted for a few minutes while I looked around and saw mostly displays filled with candies nearest to our door, with one of our other neighbors eventually walking by inside the store with an armful of candy telling me, “You’re really going to like it here!”

After the maintenance man left and closed the door, I noticed that it could only be locked from the store’s side and looked around for something I could put in front of it to help remedy the situation. There were pieces to one of the boys’ beds nearby, but all were too light, so instead I considered an old, ornate dresser that had been left behind.

Opening its top drawer, I found the inside scrolled with seemingly satanic rituals, and began to wonder why the last family had left it behind.

movie thoughts … Transformers: The Last Knight

September 18, 2017 2:43pm
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I remember a time when I actually liked the Transformers movies.

The first one (2007) wasn’t bad – a good, solid action flick with plenty of humor thrown into the mix.

And even the second one (2009) was alright, though I never really cared for the name.

From there, though, is where I feel like this franchise started to go downhill – first with Megan Fox’s replacement in #3, and then with Shia LaBeouf being randomly bumped for Mark Wahlberg in #4.

Just to be absolutely, 100% clear without equivocation – Transformers 5 is a raging dumpster fire that should make every last person who appeared in the credits ashamed, as well as everyone who went to see it in the theater, and oh hell, pretty much everyone who spent their 2 hrs 34 min to watch it EVER.

Spoiler #1 – Marky Mark is “The Last Knight.” Because why have some awesome, giant robot fill that roll when … Mark Wahlberg is around?

Spoiler #2 – He’s every bit as awful as he was in Transformers 4.

I don’t even know what to say about these movies anymore. Continuity is garbage, seeing Wahlberg written as a cooler star than Optimus Freaking Prime is just mind blowing, and the plot reads like somebody just throwing darts at a board, and then remembering that they promised a role to XYZ actor every 30 minutes or so and just penciling them in wherever.

Every time the name Cade Yeager is spoken out loud makes me want to punch an Autobot in the face.

The idea that apparently every historical event ever was won only because of the Transformers reads like a Hasbro wet dream.

Megatron negotiating with lawyers is … not what I want to see a 40-foot evil robot doing in a movie, ever.

Oh yeah, and P.S. This plot about bringing Cybertron to Earth already fucking happened once in Transformers 3!!! But I guess while they needed to teleport the planet back in 2011, now it’s cool for them to just drive it across the universe like a planet-sized taxi cab?!

Also also – drones??? 

You have 40-foot tall fighting robots – why do you also need drones?!

*sigh*

So yeah, the movie is garbage … even moreso than the last one was, and yet it will probably be less garbage than Transformers 6 whenever that comes out, because when it comes to Hollywood, dumpster fires are almost impossible to put out.

Coming Home to Walt Disney World

September 16, 2017 1:00am
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Even though admittedly I still tend to snicker at the Welcome Home!” slogan aligned with the Disney Vacation Club despite now being a member myself for several years, today I found myself feeling an unexpected sense of ease as we made our first trip to the parks in a couple of months not to mention our first visit since we evacuated for the hurricane last week…

We were riding Journey of the Little Mermaid at the Magic Kingdom – I had Matthew in one clam shell, Sara had David behind us, and my Mom had Christopher in a third shell – and as we were tipping backwards to enter the first part of the ride, it was almost akin to that same feeling when we had pulled into our own driveway at 7:30am a day prior to find that everything (for the most part) was safe and sound, and that we could finally begin to start getting things back to normal again.

Sure, it was super hot out, and we were already pretty exhausted from our long car ride back from Memphis, but it was nice to be back someplace familiar where we knew that we could have a good time in our own special way between taking in a few snacks, going on some rides with the kids, and just enjoying the unique atmosphere that Disney World has to offer.

Our home survived Hurricane Irma just fine, and now that we’ve confirmed that our second home also did ok, it’s enough to put our minds and ease and get back to having fun living in the Sunshine State! 😉

The Art of the Brick … in pictures

September 5, 2017 12:45am
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Although I’m not really much of an art person – at least the kind to spend an afternoon trying to guess what mood an artist was in while he was painting something 100 years ago, anyways.

But I do love Legos, and so when I learned that The Art of the Brick was going to be making a stop in Tampa this summer, I knew that we had to check it out. I’ve been a fan of Nathan Sawaya for a while now, so there was the added bonus of getting to tour the work of a famed Lego artist in addition to simply checking out the unique art form that nobody else has ever really worked with before!

Now admittedly I noticed right away that the exhibit was a bit different than walking around all of the larger than life models found around Legoland Florida and Disney Springs – it did feel a bit more academic, even though some of the more familiar painting recreations like The Starry Night, Scream, the Mona Lisa, and even the American Gothic sculpture made me feel a bit more cultured. 😉

I think what was most impressive is just considering that throughout the entire exhibit, each and every last one of the pieces was created by one guy … compared to the giant models around Legoland that are very impressive, yet are the works of entire teams of builders between computer modelers and fabricators and builders actually putting the bricks into place. And I think that helped me to bridge that gap between art and model, in a way, because my own art (writing) has very much always been a singular exercise as opposed to writing with other people.

It’s neat to walk around this huge exhibit and see some of the ideas inside the head of another creative person brought to life.

Above all, I think by far my favorite piece in the exhibit, though, was the model of the exhibit itself … particularly once I realized just how meta it got when the model itself was found within the model of the exhibit! That delighted me to no end – to first track my way through the exhibit from the front door to where I was standing, only to realize that within that the entire exhibit had been replicated again. So cool! 😀

I also really appreciated the interactive section at the end where kids could finally touch the bricks and play on their own … because if the other kids in the exhibit were anything like my own, they were more than due for a reward by the time they got to the end! Plus, it was just a nice way to end the presentation by bringing the art down to a relatable level for children because that’s the age when the seeds for any good, lifelong passion find their roots.

As a final thought, before writing this post today I did a little digging to see where The Art of the Brick would be going next because this was its last weekend in Tampa, I was intrigued to find that there are actually multiple shows currently touring the globe, meaning that the show I saw this weekend may not be the same other people will see – which is kind of neat and makes me wonder what pieces the other shows feature, too!

This one, in particular, over in the UK looks especially neat because it’s focused primarily on DC Superheroes – and though I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy myself, some of these models even beyond the giant Batmobile look like they’d be very cool to check out.

All in all it was a great exhibit, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t end up venturing over to the Lego Store to buy some new sets for ourselves after we were done, too! 😉

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