To have, hold, and disable

Last May we filmed some promotional video for my upcoming book, including a short on self defense. My intrepid husband Scott volunteered to play the attacker, meaning that he spent three hours holding me up in the air and getting kicked in the groin. What can I say? The man loves me. Here’s a clip that didn’t make it into the final reel:

We had covered attacks to the face in a separate segment, which is why you don’t get to see me biting Scott’s ear or gouging his eye here. For that, you have to wait until the book’s official promotional campaign kicks off.

The shoot was the most fun either of us have had in years, mostly due to the fantastic (and all-union!) crew at Reader Films. Reader is co-owned by Senpai Max Benitez, a fellow black belt at Sun Dragon.

Kids and violence

Kidpower Introductory Guide CoverAmidst the fear and anger we’re all feeling about the children and teachers killed in Connecticut, it’s important to take some positive actions to protect our own emotional health, so we can work on problem-solving rationally. This is easier said than done. I’ve spent a lot of time assessing guns as self defense tools and the evidence is overwhelmingly against their use; thus I have very little patience for people who persist in believing the fantasy that guns keep us safer. This new epidemiological study out from the Harvard School of public health is just the latest piece of evidence exposing this fantasy. The NRA will no doubt attempt to criticize it, just as climate change deniers attack every solid piece of evidence about global warming. They can throw all the sand they want, but it doesn’t change the facts: Readily-available handguns make our society less safe, not more.

However, right now I want to focus on the nearer-term goal of keeping kids safe, and spread the word about an amazing organization called Kidpower. Kidpower is an non-profit, empowerment-based self defense organization. That is, they teach kids (and others too) how to stay safe without making them paranoid–no “Stranger Danger” horror stories. The methods they use for this are easily implemented by parents, teachers, and caregivers. They have very specific advice for what to say and how to say it, what to do, and how to practice skills. I recommend exploring their whole site, including the sections for teens, seniors, and special populations. But for now, everyone who spends time with children should read this article on empowering kids in the face of armed school violence. These are the points that struck me most when I read them Friday:

1. Talk to people at your child’s school. This is something I need to do more of. FInd out from teachers and administrators what the safety plan is, and talk to other parents. Network. Be in touch. We’re always safer when we watch out for each other.
2. Talk to kids about the way they are likely to feel in an emergency: disbelief, adrenaline, panic. Kidpower provides some excellent, age-appropriate language for this, that helps children understand and take control of their reactions.
3. Explain about getting away, and that getting hurt, if it happens, is something they can survive. I will definitely be reminding my kids that it is worth getting hurt to get away from someone who is shooting.

Talking with our kids–constructively–about how to navigate the violence in our society will give us something immediate and positive to do while we continue the longer struggle to return our country to sanity on the subject of guns.

Comments and Stuff

My apologies if you have posted a comment recently and I only just approved it. It turns out that writing a blog post about adultery approximately quadruples the amount of spam comments you have to moderate.

By way of atonement, here is a link to my latest McSweeney’s column, about the crosswalks of New York:

I had brought two books with me on my trip to New York, and was reading alternating chapters out of them at night in my hotel in Chelsea: James Wolcott’s memoir Lucking Out, about New York in the 1970s, and Clarence Day’s Life With Father, set in New York in the 1890s. Switching back and forth between the two works produced a mild strobe-like effect in my brain, not unpleasant, which was perfectly suited for walking around the city by day, watching people trip over hundred-year-old drainpipes while engrossed in their iPhones. New Yorkers may be savvy about traffic, I decided, but there is a lot of history here, cluttering up the beaten paths, and it’s hard to be aware of it all, all the time.