What I’m Reading

Happy Saturday everyone, I thought today I’d write about this fantastic book I’m reading. It’s called The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva. It’s about a former Israeli Secret Intelligence officer named Gabriel Allon, who now works as a meticulous art restorer.

I grew up reading spy type thrillers, in Middle School I read the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, Live and Let Die was my favorite. I also read The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy which was great because I’d already seen the film The Hunt for Red October and it was exciting to follow those characters like Jack Ryan and Marko Ramius again.

I guess one of the big things is that I enjoy continueing stories, probably a result of being a life long comic book reader and get new adventures with my favorite characters each month on the regular.

They are numerous long running novel series. I’ve read 13 of the 15 Longmire novels by Craig Johnson. However, in getting back to Silva and Gabriel Allon, the book is written incredibly well. Very well paced and the supporting characters are well thought out and developed. Usually I want to get back to the main characters when other authors devote a chapter to the antagonist, but Silva makes you wanna know the back story of the entire depth of the terrorist background.

The cool thing I love about the novel is that Gabriel is also a world class art restorer and he is working on a Rembrandt and a hidden find that an art dealer picked up for cheap at a Christie’s auction that could end up being quite a prize. However the art gets put on hold as Gabriel is asked again to comeback to the spy game and possibly have a chance to assassinate the Palestine terrorist responsible for the death of his wife and child years before.

The Kill Artist is the first in a 17 book series as of 2017. It’s a tight read with deep characters and some art thrown in. Plus Gabriel is around 50 years old and that’s a neat change of pace as well.

MGM is currently in the process of making a series based on the books. Odds are this will suck, but if you wanna get a feel for the character now before Hollywood casts a 25 year old hunk meat head, now is the time. Consequently, my actor for Gabriel Allon would be Daniel Day Lewis. Enjoy your weekend and please check out fresh content daily from Mid-American-Culture.

Video Game Characters That Almost Made You Put Your Controller Through the Wall

Hello all, and welcome back to the Mid-American page. This week I was playing a classic console with a classic game. The deadly combo of NCAA 2006 and the original Xbox is still an amazing one-two punch, and still presents a challenge. I made it to the National Championship with THE Ohio State Buckeyes. Yes, it was not hard making it to the national championship because Troy Smith, Anthony Gonzalez, Ted Ginn Jr., Nick Mangold, and Antonio Pittman. However, when I got to the championship, I was put up against the Texas Longhorns featuring, Vince Young.

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“Now Derek, it is stupid to rage over a game that is twelve years old.” Let me start by saying, no the hell it is not. Vince Young is a God on there and nearly beat me. This experience made me think of my many raging experiences in video games and the athletes who did it and made me feel like these kids (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE).

So without further ado, lets get into it.

Michael Jordan: NBA 2k11

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Possibly my favorite 2K ever. The folks at 2K brought in these challenges involving Michael Jordan and to unlock his highly sought after shoes. However, when you were not using Jordan, playing against him was a pain in the ass. Jordan is the GOAT, but he does everything. Wanna hold him under 50? Forget about it. Wanna drive the lane and not get your shit sent to the third row? Forget about it. Wanna bring the ball up the court? Forget about it. Needless to say, they made Jordan definitely look like the GOAT in 2K11.

Michael Vick: Madden 2004

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Man, back-to-back Mikes to start the list. You know the term, “You must have the sliders turned up?” Well, that is what it was like using cover athlete, Michael Vick in Madden 2004. Vick had a cannon for an arm and the speed of a cheetah on crack. Here is a video to show his dominance (do not mind the asshat in the video).

Kobe Bryant: 2K10

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Kobe Bryant. Another guy people could argue to be the GOAT, and for those who do not know sports, merely playing NBA 2K10 would make it believable. Now, I suck ass with Kobe in every 2K, and I do not know why. However, when people used him against me, I was cooked. Kobe hits unbelievable shot after shot, and really makes you want to throw your controller through the TV.

Jason Giambi: MLB The Show 2006 and MLB 2K6

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Since there are no pictures or footage of Giambi on the Show on the internet for some reason, you are just going to have to believe me on this one. Giambi is one of my favorite players of all-time. I remember whenever I received both the Show and 2K for my birthday. I instantly used my team (the Yankees) against my step dad’s team (the Red Sox). Giambi went five for six logging five home runs. This started my obsession with the game. Anytime Giambi gets a fastball, well you can forget about it.

LeBron James: Any 2K ever

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Due to video games getting more realistic, LeBron is not as dominant as he use to be on 2K, but he is still hard to stop. I have used and played against people using LeBron in almost every single game he has been in. It is truly nothing to score a fifty piece with LeBron on these games. You only love him when you are using him, but throwing your TV out the window seems pretty reasonable whenever he is against you.

Tim Tebow: NCAA Football 2010

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I was a huge NCAA Football video game lover, and spent many hours playing this game. Whenever I took my talents online and played, nothing made me more mad than some douche bag using the 2010 Florida Gators and Tim Tebow. You have to have no skill to use him. Just hold down the sprint button and occasionally hit the truck stick or B button and you are going to be competitive. This game started my unfair hatred for Tebow, but now, I think he is a pretty cool guy. Cut to the 2:30 mark for the run down on his skills.

Reggie Bush: NCAA 2006

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I remember playing this game with my friends back in the day, and there was only one rule, nobody could use Ohio State or USC. The Ohio State rule was because we all loved Ohio State, but USC was because of Reggie Bush just being unfair. Bush was another player that required no skill to use.

I could honestly go on and on about players that were unfair to use in sports game, but these few were the ones who stuck out to me, but that concludes the list. As always, thank you for spending a part of your Friday with me and stay tuned for fresh daily content from myself and the rest of the Mid-American crew. If you have not checked out this weeks playlist, do it!

Spotify and Apple Music

 

 

 

Addressing What Happened In Florida

By now, I would think that just about everyone is at least vaguely aware of what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On the off chance that someone reading this is unaware, a gunman walked into the school and opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 17 people and injuring many more. I feel that it is necessary to address this senseless tragedy. There are certainly people who think that this is the wrong time to talk about what happened and what needs to be done to stop it. I completely understand this viewpoint because children being slaughtered in our nation’s schools is an uncomfortable topic. However, there will never be a “right” time to discuss something like this. It will always be uncomfortable. Mid-American Culture has given me a platform with which to express myself in an uncensored, honest, and very personal way. I am going to use this platform to give my thoughts on the situation as honestly and directly as I possibly can.

I was just over one year old when Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold opened fire on the students at Columbine High School in 1999. The events at Columbine were horrific. News of the shooting dominated the media for weeks and weeks afterward. For the most part, Americans had never experienced something like that before. The thought that children attending school might have to find themselves under attack by deranged gunmen was unprecedented. Citizens and politicians alike were determined to never let anything like this happen again. This, of course, was not what happened. Since Columbine, there have been 25 fatal school shootings in the United States. Myself and my generation have grown up in the era of mass shootings. Politicians have made countless attempts and empty promises regarding the prevention of gun violence during my lifetime. As what happened in Florida clearly shows, nothing has helped. Nothing has helped at all. Many lawmakers aren’t even trying to solve the problem anymore. But, at least we have their thoughts and prayers.

 

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Florida Governor Rick Scott’s tweet after the shooting in Florida

 

While all mass shootings are obviously horrendous, school shootings hit especially close to home for me. I am a 20 year old college student studying to be a high school teacher. During my first semester of college, I was in an entry level class for education majors. One day, we did not do any work in this class. Instead, the chief of the campus police came to talk to us. The topic was mass shootings. He gave my class some background about mass shootings and what to do in the event of a shooting on campus and things like that. After he left, the woman who taught the class had a conversation with us that I will never forget for the rest of my life. She pointed out the frequency with which school shootings occur in the United States and the undeniable possibility that we, as future teachers, might have to face an active shooter situation one day. She addressed the importance of protecting students at all costs in these situations. We discussed teachers who had given their lives trying to protect students in these situations. I came to the disheartening realization that protecting students from gunfire had become part of the curriculum for those studying to be teachers. Gun violence in our country should never have reached the point where teachers have to be taught how to shield their students from bullets. But, here we are. Some people even take it a step further and say that teachers should carry guns in every school throughout the country. They really think that teachers should be expected to prepare themselves to kill an active shooter, who in many cases would be a student from the very school in which they teach) at a moment’s notice. If those in the field of education wanted to carry a gun and shoot bad guys, they would have entered the field of law enforcement or maybe joined the military. That is not what teachers got into the profession to do. They want to teach. The fact that a teacher having a handgun in his or her desk to fight off an attacker armed with an AR-15 is the best idea that many of our nation’s leaders have for preventing these shootings is sickening. But, at least we have their thoughts and prayers.

 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s tweet after the Florida school shooting

 

As more facts about the school shooting have become available, one thing is increasingly clear: This could have been prevented. Florida has some of the least strict gun laws in the country. Buying an AR-15 rifle is as simple as walking into a gun store, filling out a small form, not having a felony record, being over 18 years old, paying for the gun, and walking out with it. Stricter laws about the sale of firearms very well could have prevented this.  In September of 2017, a YouTube user under the username Nikolas Cruz commented that he was going to “become a professional school shooter”. The FBI received a tip about the comment but nothing ever came of it. On February 14, 2018, a 19 year old man named Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School carrying a legally purchased AR-15 rifle and unloaded “countless magazines” of ammo into the students and faculty of the school. President Trump stressed the importance of reporting potential threats to law enforcement after the shooting. What he apparently fails to realize is that Nikolas Cruz was reported to authorities. Under President Obama, regulations were put in place designed to prevent people who are identified as potentially having mental illness that could lead to this kind of attack from purchasing firearms. Critics of gun-control argue that if gun-control laws work, this should have prevented the shooter, who was said to have been known for erratic behavior, from getting a gun. The question is valid. Why didn’t this stop the tragedy in Florida? It is because President Trump signed a bill revoking these mental health checks in late February of last year. In the last few years, the Republican controlled Congress has voted against several pieces of gun-control legislation. Any number of these failed laws could have prevented this attack. But ultimately, Congress gave us no such laws. Fortunately for us, they were courteous enough to offer us their thoughts and prayers.

 

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President Trump’s tweet following the Florida school shooting

 

When I write for this site, particularly about politics, I try to write with as little bias as possible. But, given the circumstances, I am going to admit my bias here. I am biased against mass shooters, the deadly assault weapons many of them use, and the people who do nothing to prevent these attacks. I am biased against the gun lobby who is indirectly responsible for the deadly gun violence epidemic in our country. I am biased against every single politician who takes money from the gun lobby in exchange for pro-gun votes because they find the sound of campaign contributions to be louder than the screams of dying children will ever be. I am biased against the law in the United States that prevents the CDC from researching the national epidemic of gun violence because the NRA against such research. In 1996, Australia was struck by a senseless mass shooting, the likes of which it had never seen. Just weeks afterward, the country enacted some of the strictest gun laws in the world. It banned certain types of firearms and the government bought the firearms back from its citizens as compensation for their loss. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since. Gun control laws work. When something tragic happens, whether it be drunk driving deaths, workplace accidents, mass shootings, or whatever the case may be, the answer is not to give up. The answer is certainly not to try to solve the problem by introducing more of what caused the problem to begin with. The answer is to eliminate what is causing the problem. Until our government acts, the epidemic of gun violence will not stop. The American people have demanded it in the past. Instead, they were given thoughts and prayers.

 

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President Obama addressing the nation following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012

 

I found myself slightly optimistic that real change could occur after the Florida school shooting. The aftermath of the tragedy feels different. People are calling for real change. Our leaders seem passionate about preventing violence from striking again. It did not take long for me to lose this optimism. I remembered how different things felt after the Las Vegas shootings. I remembered how different things felt after the Pulse Nightclub shootings. I remembered how different things felt after the San Bernardino shootings. I remember watching one of my greatest heroes, President Barack Obama, crying after the Sandy Hook shootings. The defeated look on his face said it all. Despite his best efforts, and the efforts of many others, he couldn’t bring about the kind of change that this country needs when it comes to guns. No change will come until the American people demand it. Not everyone will wants to hear this, but thoughts and prayers will not do a damn thing to stop these atrocities. I will not apologize for saying that. I will not apologize for pushing my radically liberal stance of wanting less dead schoolchildren in America. Nobody should ever apologize for saying what is right. The time has come for change. The time is now. Demand it.

Remember Television Sign-Offs? I Don’t, Since They Were Before My Time, But They’re Interesting Nonetheless

Do you ever just stay up late one night and watch television? We’ve all been there, but what if I told you that you couldn’t do that years ago? That’s because television was still figuring stuff out, even in the 1980s. For years, local television stations would shut off their transmitters, or “sign-off” for the night. In place of programming, those famous color bars or a test pattern would be displayed accompanied by an insufferable beep. They would then “sign-on” for the morning to resume programming.  Continue reading “Remember Television Sign-Offs? I Don’t, Since They Were Before My Time, But They’re Interesting Nonetheless”

Why Hasn’t This Been Made Yet?

The genre of rhythm video games seems to have been dwindling in recent years. Guitar Hero and Rock Band, once a pair of mighty 3rd party series, faded into obscurity, only to get revival editions that not many people seemed to play, and even recycled songs that had already been featured in the series. I don’t think these series deserve to be left in the dust, however, but a little bit of innovation would help both series bounce back.

Continue reading “Why Hasn’t This Been Made Yet?”

The Art of Working a Dead-End Job

So you’re going to school, went to school, are gonna go to school, or said screw school, and right now you’re working a dead-end job. Continue reading “The Art of Working a Dead-End Job”

Mid-American Culture Weekly Waves Vol. 18: We Goin’ on a Road Trip

Mid-American Culture is goin’ on a road trip! The theme of this week is that all the songs on the playlist are named after places, check it out and come back for fresh content daily from the MAC staff.

Spotify and Apple Music