Long Story Short: October madness


illustration by JP Thimot

Buffalo reacts

Our city responded to the horrific mass murders in Las Vegas by finding local connections, checking political track records, and, of course, blowing up social media.  


The Buffalo News managed to locate an Amherst couple that were at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the gunman was located, when the shooting began.  They provided a firsthand account, which sounded like every other firsthand account by people who were nearby. Almost every major media outlet referred to the murderous rampage as “the biggest mass shooting in modern American history,” as if they were inscribing a trophy. 


Congressman Chris Collins—a noted gun rights supporter—had this to say: “The Democrats are going to keep politicizing every tragedy that occurs; I think that’s despicable on their part.” As if shooting hundreds of people with the type of guns that Congress expressly refused to permanently ban, has no political implications, while calling for a “total and complete” Muslim ban after the San Bernardino shooting is not politicizing a tragedy. Collins supported that. Collins’ pending Second Amendment Guarantee Act (SAGA), which would end New York’s SAFE Act, is now certainly dead. Collins has a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association NRA, and a 0% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.


Predictably, left-leaning Facebook (FB) commentators viewed this as yet another opportunity to vehemently advocate for tighter gun control, while right-wingers turned to Second Amendment memes. One local neocon FB contributor announced that there were actually two shooters, which he determined by listening to posted videos, while hundreds of investigators on the scene somehow missed this. This is America; we welcome all conspiracy theories. Long Story Short’s favorite neocon video: Chuck Woolery Tells Us Why We Need Weapons, a heaping pile of strained humor and imprecise statements narrated by the game show host. Precious.


Congressman Brian Higgins came under FB scrutiny for accepting a $5000 dollar donation from the NRA. One FB commenter reported that occurred before the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary killings. The commenter urged Higgins to own up and contribute the total donation to a non-profit gun control organization, something he claims to have done already. Sounding a bit repentant, Higgins posts on FB  in part: “While I cannot change the past, I can demonstrate to you—through my actions—that I am listening and fighting. For over five years, I have refused to accept contributions from the NRA, and while I have not chosen to return previous donations, I have instead chosen to donate those funds to local and national organizations fighting for common sense gun safety policies.”  


Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz posted a long FB comment, which includes this: “It is time we pass legislation that values our unalienable right to life over the right of some person to terrorize us or end our life no matter where we are: at school, a church, a movie theater, or as witnessed in Las Vegas, a concert.”


Local politicians’ NRA and Brady Campaign ratings:
Brian Higgins: NRA B-, Brady 33 (earned for acts in the past that he cannot change)
Congressman Tom Reed: NRA A, Brady 0
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter: NRA F, Brady 100
Senator and senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer: NRA F, Brady 100
Senator Kristen Gillibrand: NRA F, Brady 100
New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: NRA A, Brady unknown


The takeaway:

High profile mass shootings drive both ends of the gun control debate further into their respective corners. Then nothing changes. Though it appears that the bump stock device the Las Vegas Shooter used to turn his semi-automatic guns into automatic guns may face new legal restrictions. (They are currently selling like crazy.) The NRA has endorsed the idea, though the wording is largely smoke and mirrors. It’s a bone Republicans are throwing Democrats.  



The Great Pumpkin

Little Valley farmer Andy Wolf is a three-time winner of the heaviest pumpkin award at the annual Great Pumpkin Farm festival in Newstead. He won previously in 2005 and 2006, so this year’s win is Wolf’s comeback. His mammoth pumpkin was 1,971.5 pounds, just short of a ton. That’s a new record in New York State, but as big as it is, it’s well short of the world record of 2,624.6 pounds. But what exactly are these alien pods that look like they might suddenly burst open and snatch human bodies? The answer is not as simple as you think.


The details:

The word “pumpkin” is akin to “hotrod.” We know what hotrods are, but there is no specific car make, model, or modification, that makes a car a hotrod. Pumpkin is a variety of squash, from the same Cucurbitaceae gourd family that includes melons, zucchini, and cucumbers. There’s no strict botanical definition for pumpkins, so at least forty-two varieties carry the designation. They are not even all orange; they can be blue, red, white, or yellow. The kind you buy in cans to make pies are Dickinson pumpkins, a variety of Cucurbita moschata related to butternut squash. It doesn’t look suitably round and orange for Halloween use though. That kind is Cucurbita pepo, very photogenic but not as good tasting. You may have read that canned pumpkin contains no pumpkin; that is not correct.


Cucurbita maxima is a South America variety cultivated from the wild Cucurbita andreana over 4000 years ago. This is what they use to grow giant pumpkins, so forget cultivating something enormous from the seeds of a Jack-o-lantern. In fact, every champion pumpkin since 1979 has been grown from Howard Dill's patented Atlantic Giant seeds. Seeds from champion pumpkins go from $10 dollars to $100 dollars or more per. When they exceed 1,000 pounds, these mammoths typically look like half-inflated hot air balloons, with cellulite. Their flesh can be a foot thick.


The takeaway:

The fruit you call a pumpkin, is just one of many winter squashes that carry that name. When I think about pumpkins, I can’t help recalling the immortal words of Frank Zappa at the end of his song, "Soft-Sell Conclusion,"  “What a pumpkin.”



The Juice is loose

OJ Simpson, the former Buffalo Bills running back, broadcaster, actor, advertising spokesman, conspirator, armed robber, and kidnapper has been paroled, and is a free man. You will recall that Simpson was famously not convicted of murder, but found personally liable for the wrongful deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson in a civil suit, because of “intentional and unlawful conduct…” (i.e., repeatedly stabbing them both with a large knife).  


The details:

The seventy-year old was released from the ironically named Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, after serving nine years for a botched hotel room heist in Las Vegas. Most people would have gotten a short prison term or a suspended sentence for the same crime, but the longer penalty was widely viewed as a proxy punishment for not being convicted of the double murders. After nine years of being a model prisoner—easy for a celebrity criminal—there was no justifiable reason for not granting parole.


After being released, Simpson got right down to playing golf, posing with fans, and allegedly shopping around for a TV interview deal. The famed criminal announced that he was planning to move back to Florida, where he lived before his conviction, to which Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi said um, no. "Floridians are well aware of Mr. Simpson's background, his wanton disregard for the lives of others, and of his scofflaw attitude with respect to the heinous acts for which he has been found civilly liable," said Bondi, who, eerily, bears an passing resemblance to Simpson’s murdered wife, "The specter of his residing in Florida should not be an option.”


The takeaway:

Before Buffalo’s Super Bowl years Simpson was the greatest Bills player ever, a national sport’s icon. He still holds the NFL record for the highest single-season rushing average. He is a member of the Bills Hall of Fame and Wall of Fame, though the team plays that down. During some tough years in Buffalo, the Juice was a source of civic pride. However, while Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas succumbed to Buffalo’s charm, settling here, Simpson is rumored to have disliked the city. We lucked out there.



Shout out to a Buffalo photographer

For twenty years, Michael Mulley has operated College Street Gallery. Originally located at 83 College Street, the artist co-op later moved to 244 Allen Street. Mulley eventually opened a second space named Queen City Gallery in the Market Arcade building on Main Street downtown. From the start, Mulley’s approach was democratic. He wanted to distinguish himself from the art world gatekeepers he encountered as an artist, so the gallery walls were open to anyone who wanted to join and exhibit. Many local artists got their start there.


A few years ago, Allentown gentrification kicked in, and College Street Gallery was forced to leave the building where it had been through all the lean years. His beloved gallery was converted into a pizzeria and bar, but Mulley persisted. In the warm months on First Fridays, he holds outdoor exhibitions he calls Art Under the Stars, in his yard at 64 College Street. It’s the only art show in town with a campfire.


Pictures of Buffalo

Photographic images of Buffalo architecture and events are common in town, but Mike Mulley makes some of the better ones, and has for decades. The prints are often in glorious black and white, and can be found, modestly priced, at Queen City Gallery. Every Buffalonian needs a photograph of Buffalo in their home.



Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.



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