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America’s Mass Shooting Problem Is a Domestic Violence Problem

Devin P. Kelley, the 26-year-old man who killed 26 people in a Texas church on Sunday, had a long and documented history of intimate violence. In 2012, Kelley was charged with assault and eventually received a “bad conduct” discharge from the Air Force after he kicked, beat, and choked his first wife. The charges against him included allegations he had pointed a loaded gun at his wife multiple times. Kelley also fractured his toddler stepson’s skull by hitting him with what was described in Air Force records as “a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

Over the course of the next two years, Kelley was investigated for violence against other women, including, according to a New York Times report, charges that he sexually assaulted and raped someone. He also brutally attacked his dog, hitting the animal repeatedly in the head.

Kelley is emblematic of a strikingly consistent pattern: Most mass killers have histories of domestic violence that went unaddressed. He joins a long list, including Omar Mateen, the Orlando Pulse nightclub killer; Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused in the bombing of the Boston Marathon; Adam Lanza, who killed his mother before walking into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killing 26 people; Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who plowed a van through a crowd in Nice, France; and Khalid Masood, who did the same in Westminster, London.

A 2014 study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety revealed that more than half of the 100-plus mass shootings in the United States between January 2009 and June 2014 involved the killing of an intimate partner or family member. Nine of the ten deadliest mass killings in the U.S. in the past fifty years were perpetrated by men with histories of domestic violence. Prior to last month’s attack on a concert in Las Vegas, the two worst mass shootings of 2017 were domestic violence cases, one in Texas and the other in Mississippi — both episodes largely ignored by media.

Shooters like Kelley are among the tens of thousands of men who are bludgeoning women and children in their homes with virtual impunity. Every day, three women are killed by male intimate partners in the United States. If these women were killed at once, instead of in a steady drip, drip, drip, the result would be a weekly mass killing of twenty or more women. In fact, the United States averages 47 murder-suicides a month, almost always involving male perpetrators who attack and kill their spouses and children, and then go on to kill themselves. Half of all women murdered in the U.S. are killed by men they know intimately.

Even when men are killing strangers, there is often a history of domestic violence behind the events. According to an extensive analysis of the Washington State criminal justice system, a domestic violence felony conviction is the strongest predictor of male-perpetrated violent crime. Men who feel free to hurt the people they know develop a sense of entitlement to hurt those they don’t.

And yet, intimate violence is, in the minds of much of the public and in politics, a lesser crime whose victims are seen as simply having made bad life choices, often indicated by the knee-jerk response, “Why didn’t she just leave?” That essential framing of this violence — that it’s private, based on individual illness, and involves the culpability of the victim — makes its systemic nature easier to dismiss.

After Kelley’s Sunday massacre, authorities were quick to point out, for example, that his killing of more than two dozen people was not racially or religiously motivated. At a news conference, authorities described, almost in relief, that the violence instead stemmed from a “domestic situation.” Another official seemed mystified by the way private violence had spilled over into the public: “There are many ways that he could have taken care of the mother-in-law without coming with fifteen loaded magazines and an assault rifle to a church,” said Commander Freeman Martin of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

It was in the context of his “domestic situation” that Kelley exhibited another textbook canary-in-the-coalmine behavior prior to his mass killing: He texted threats to his mother-in-law, sending the last one on Sunday morning. In almost half of shootings that include domestic abusers, perpetrators leave a trail of warnings that include threats like his, menacing behaviors, and violent acts.

If legislators, police officers, and mental health experts are genuinely committed to preventing mass shootings and stemming the tide of violent extremism, they should begin by addressing this nation’s epidemic of gendered and intimate violence. There are several well-understood ways of preventing domestic abuse and the public violence that comes with it. In 2015, activists Salamishah Tillet and Pamela Shifman cited a landmark four-decade study of seventy countries that found that having a social commitment to strong, independent feminist movements was a “more important force in reducing violence against women than the economic wealth of a nation, the representation of women in government, or the presence of progressive political parties.”

Instead of pursuing solutions like these, though, our nation is moving in the opposite direction in terms of policy and resources. President Donald Trump’s first round of proposed budget cuts, for example, includes plans to get rid of 25 grants focused on understanding and preventing violence against women. This would have a ruinous impact on exactly these types of organizations and solutions, making at-risk families more vulnerable and increasing the chances of mass killings.

Until our society understands that men’s intimate abuse of women and children is a terroristic, anti-democratic, and toxic expression of power and control — and that what happens to women matters — we will be doomed to see mass killings like these continue.

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This IPA Is a Force to Be Reckoned With

If you aren’t already familiar with the term Jade Helm, now’s as good a time as any for a good laugh. What sounds like the title of an upcoming James Bond film is really an upcoming, large-scale military exercise taking place in the Southwest — if you believe our president, that is. Informed patriots realize it’s actually a nefarious scheme by the federal government that ends with a forceful occupation of Texas and parts of Utah. Obviously.

Naturally, you’d have to be nuts to believe in such an outlandish conspiracy theory, which is precisely why Texas Governor Greg Abbott is buying it. He recently allocated tax money to send over the state guard as watchdogs, protecting his citizens from this imagined threat. We’d love to serve him a tall glass of reality, but since that’s clearly not his drink of choice, we’ll offer a Forcefield instead. You know, to shield his constituents and all. It’s a new double IPA from Grimm — Brooklyn’s favorite gypsy brewers — and the perfect beer for thirsty New Yorkers and delusional Texans alike.

Forcefield is a hop whopper of epic magnitude. Its creation required a Texas-sized load of the bitter and aromatic “C-hops” — Citra and Cascade, mainly. It also features a lesser-known variety of hops called Jarrylo, known for spicy zest. Together, they offer tropical fruitiness on the nose, eliciting a mouth-watering response before the pint glass is even raised to lips.

Once you go in for the kill, your palate will be rewarded with the beer’s deceptively light body. It goes down with alarming ease for a 9 percent ABV imperial ale, mobilizing a swift assault on your sobriety. In the end, bitterness is contained through a strategic deployment of malt in the finish.

Forcefield was brewed earlier this year on Staten Island — a place that, to most New Yorkers, remains as mysterious as Jade Helm. Brewed in limited quantities, it might soon vanish without a trace. But don’t be too paranoid: The proprietors of Pony Bar in Hell’s Kitchen claim to currently have it on draft — and we have a hunch you can trust them. That, or it’s a sinister plot to get you drunk. Keep your wits about you, folks. Trust no one! Except maybe your bartender.


 

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Bad Turn Worse Plays Like a Superior ’90s Indie Crime Drama

From the opening robbery in a hard-land gas station, Simon Hawkins and Zeke Hawkins’s Bad Turn Worse floors it straight into the past — it plays like one of the best of those chatty, reflexive, standoffs-and-monologues crime indies every young dude in L.A. whipped up after Tarantino hit.

Deep into the third act, one character actually says, “Now you’re bluffing”; another, after announcing a betrayal meant to upend our understanding of what’s been going on, executes a little bow. (That one’s also tasked with proving the film’s un-PC bona fides, saying, “No reason you’d kill someone who exists, right? Just fucking Mexicans!”) After blowing thousands of (stolen) bucks on one dumb casino weekend, three Texas teens find themselves entangled with nowheresville murderers/gangsters/whatevers, led by Mark Pellegrino as a speechifying lowlife always happy to off someone other than the heroes to make a point.

Those heroes, meanwhile, number two dopey, hobbit-y dudes and one long-limbed tomboy who spends the movie fending them off, falling toward both, and outsmarting everyone else. Played by Mackenzie Davis, she’s complex and appealing and far and away the best thing here. (She’s also consistently subjected to threats of sexual violence.) For all its familiarity and rote nastiness, the film’s sharply crafted and quite promising.

True to its meta ilk, Bad Turn Worse includes lots of talk about how stories work — Jim Thompson is quoted — and a climax in which the bad guy compares what he’s doing to the plot twists in Gladiator and Rocky II. But such thoughts about narrative remain no substitute for a surprising and involving one, which screenwriter Dutch Southern never quite nails.

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Darius Clark Monroe’s Personal Crime Doc The Evolution of a Criminal Is a Marvel of Feeling

Vital, thoughtful, and deeply personal, first-timer Darius Clark Monroe’s autobiographical doc stands as a testament to the power of movies to stir empathy. At age 16, honor-student Monroe had grown sick of seeing his hardworking family struggle to keep up with its bills. He had dabbled in employee-theft at the Venture store where he worked after school. Next, restless and foolhardy, he set his criminal sights higher, corralling a couple of friends and busting into a Stafford, Texas, Bank of America. Monroe wore a skeleton mask, one accomplice wielded a sawed-off shotgun, and a couple hours later Monroe’s mother found a shoebox on her bed filled with thirty grand.

Monroe’s film is an inquiry into who he was becoming — and who he became during a five-year prison sentence. He stages crisp reenactments of the crime, well shot by rookie director of photography Daniel Patterson, but what’s most arresting here are his interviews with family members and his two accomplices. They speak into the camera, but they’re all talking to Monroe, addressing him as “you,” an unusual intimacy for a documentary: The effect is part home movie, part family therapy, and part painful inquiry. His mother cries, talking about his sentencing, but she also admits that in the days before the cops came around she couldn’t quite bring herself to report the stolen money. There were those bills to pay, after all.

An uncommonly persuasive fellow, Monroe arranges interviews with bystanders who were in the bank that day and an assistant D.A. who worked his case. Monroe asks forgiveness in these scenes, but he’s after more than catharsis: Like Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s A Moment of Innocence, in which the filmmaker invites a cop he once stabbed at a protest to reenact the incident two decades later, Evolution of a Criminal is a heartening examination of what its central crime meant in the lives of all involved. Even the staged footage reenacting the crime is charged with meaning: Here’s a filmmaker re-creating the way he, as a kid, made his biggest mistake trying to re-create movie scenes in real life.

There’s a further complicating element, a fascinating one: a sense that Monroe, an African American from the Houston area, is demonstrating that he turned out to be something different from what that white D.A. might have expected. (She tells him that she’ll believe he’s reformed when he’s made it to 50 without backsliding into crime.)

The film started as a project of Monroe’s at NYU’s film school. It might seem indulgent for him to have shot interviews with his professors, expressing their surprise at learning of his criminal history, but such moments illuminate one of the film’s central truths: Americans prefer not to look at the why of crime, just the fact of it, and how far would a broke black kid from Texas make it if he mentioned a prison term in his application letters? The film is a triumph, as moving as it is courageous.

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Radioactivity+Bad Sports

There’s garage punk and then there’s Texan garage punk. Think Mind Spiders, Bad Sports, VIDEO. Remember when there was the danger that the Marked Men might disband? Phew! Radioactivity flourish in this world, perhaps at the forefront. Here’s why: they’re a supergroup, made up of all the aforementioned bands. Their music often veers into pop-punk territory, so if you’re thinking about converting that emo friend into some quality down south rock ‘n’ roll, look no further. It’s fast, it’s danceable, it’s undeniable. Yeehaw!

Mon., June 30, 8 p.m., 2014

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Jolie Holland

The mesmerizing Texas singer-songwriter sounds like she’s just barely weathering the elements on her emotionally turbulent new Wine Dark Sea. Flanked by an ominously skronking guitar and a yakety sax, Holland applies her distinctive plangent warble to songs about love, drink, and escape hatches of every variety. Benignly art-popping Brooklyn foursome People Get Ready open for the first of Holland’s three Tuesdays here.

Tue., April 29, 9 p.m.; Tue., May 6, 9 p.m.; Tue., May 13, 9 p.m., 2014

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RiFF RaFF

Perhaps Riff Raff’s existence, and subsequent ubiquity, in hip-hop was an inevitability. Perhaps it was written in the stars that a goofy white dude from Texas with corn rows, aspirations of superstardom and a penchant for describing normal things in terms of designer clothing would sign with Diplo and convince a legion of 17-year-olds to love him while confounding hip-hop’s old guard. Perhaps it is obvious that this very, very strange man would play larger and larger venues every time he hit New York. Perhaps Riff Raff is for real. Perhaps the neon, the strange mannerisms and the bizarre behavior are all part of an act. Perhaps you are thinking about all of this too much and should just enjoy the show.

Mon., April 21, 7 p.m., 2014

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Alejandro Escovedo

Roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo hits the City Winery with a three nights of alt-country magic. On Wednesday, he shares the bill with Texas legend Joe Ely; on Friday, he’s set to highlight the romanticism and lyrical atmosphere of his best work via an acoustic set that will feature a string quartet; on Saturday, he invites his touring band, the Sensitive Boys, onto the stage for a set of well-hewn tunes, played with the precision of old pros and with the abandon of old punks. Recent albums Real Animal (2008), Street Songs of Love (2010), and 2012’s Big Station have all offered up healthy servings of this open-hearted rock, which is sure to go down nicely with a bottle of some New World Pinot Noir.

Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 15. Continues through Jan. 20, 2014

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An Unlikely Friendship Without the TV Movie Sappiness in This Is Where We Live

Often threatening sentimentality yet never quite sinking into it, Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca’s This Is Where We Live benefits from the good taste of the filmmakers, whose appetite for understatement ensures that the picture maintains dramatic effectiveness and only rarely lurches into histrionics.

Menchaca stars as Noah, an out-of-work handyman in Texas hill country hired as an aide to August (Tobias Segal), a young man with cerebral palsy. An unlikely friendship ensues, but rather than mining TV-movie sappiness, the filmmakers employ a strategy of even-handed observation, presenting a comprehensive portrait of Noah’s work (taking August to the bathroom, bathing him), not just simply highlighting the pleasant moments (like an exhilarating scene where Noah takes August for a go-kart ride).

Barrett and Menchaca also avoid the perpetual pratfall of this subgenre: treating disabled characters with some mixture of condescension and patronizing affection — August is allowed to express his agency, which helps the friendship feels honest.

Noah, too, could have fallen into the realm of caricature — the character is built from the Western loner-drifter archetype, with no friends and little money — but something about Menchaca’s worn body language, as if he’s carrying a permanent weight, suggests genuine pain.

While the supporting characters in August’s family feel, at times, underwritten or too conveniently addled with additional problems (August’s father has Alzheimer’s), the honesty of the central relationship remains uncompromised.

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Midlake

Midlake’s music has always reminded me of a cup of tea—not necessarily thrilling or otherworldy, just simple and soothing. Fitting in somewhere between newish folk and old-school Laurel Canyon classic rock, Midlake formed out of Texas around 2000 and brought ’70s lullabies as far as the U.K. after their subsequent signing with Bella Union. Still fairly under the radar, their brand of warming, earthy music is a perfect foil for the EDM that’s pervaded pop this year. Although their fourth album Antiphon is decidedly more psychedelic, it manages to hold true to their minimal, pastoral core. Expect to feel the kind of sad that eventually ends up making you happier.

Wed., Nov. 6, 9:30 p.m., 2013