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Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. He enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey), and he firmly believes that Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is the single greatest atrocity committed against mankind. He is a graduate of Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD ('13) & Emerson College ('08).

Gun Violence Isn’t a Problem—it’s actually 5 Problems, with Different Solutions

I’ve written extensively on gun violence, spoken on international TV and radio on the subject, and even pursued a gun license in the strictest city of one of the strictest states in the country. Despite my first-hand experience, the most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment will still tell me things like, “We don’t need more laws! We need to enforce the laws on the books!” or “We can’t stop every shooting because that’s just the price of freedom.” However, those #2A Avengers will still acknowledge that yeah, okay, maybe NICS has some problems, or maybe those Parkland cops should have done something earlier — that is, until they swiftly retreat back into the same tribalistic mindsets that always prevent human progress. But maybe, just maybe, we can find more common ground.

Naming something gives you power over it.

That’s the basic idea behind all the magic in every folktale dating back for centuries, from “Rumpelstiltskin” to the Rolling Stones’ “Hope you guessed my name.” Ancient shamans didn’t practice “magic”; they just had knowledge, and names for things like “eye of newt” that no one else could understand. To name something is to know it, and knowledge is power. Think about the relationship between “spelling” and “spells” and you won’t be so surprised that Harry Potter has been all over the gun violence conversations lately, on both the Left and the Right—which makes sense, considering that they have a word you memorize and practice reciting in order to kill people.

But when we talk about gun violence—or gun control, or gun reform, et cetera et cetera ad nauseam—we’re all too busy tripping over words to see the problems that we’re trying to address. And no, I’m not talking about “gunsplaining,” or even about the eye-roll-inducing “assault weapon” terminology (which is a distinction that I have come to understand and appreciate, and also a debate that is nothing but distracting on every single side of it). It’s hard to deny that gun violence is a problem in the United States of America, but it’s in our attempts to name that problem where we start to lose our footing, and thus, our focus (and I know a thing or two about focus). Perhaps if we learned to name the individual issues of gun violence that need to change, then we can start to identify specific solutions — one at a time, without infringing on civil rights or liberties. Then maybe then we could have some real conversations about how to make our society safer.

Instead of seeing at gun violence at One Big All-Encompassing Monolithic Problem, let’s look at the isolated areas where gun violence needs to be addressed: Domestic Violence, Suicides, Mass Shootings, Gang Violence, and State Violence.

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♫ Everybody cut loose ♫ Bluetooth ♫ wait what no that's not —

Also on Wirecutter, I did a big ol’ rewrite on our guide to Bluetooth car stereo adaptors. If you — like me — have a car from the early ‘00s and don’t want to bother with installing a whole new fancy stereo system, you can still broadcast your phone to your speakers over Bluetooth transmitted through aux-in or FM radio waves. I’ve also got a pick for dedicated Bluetooth speakerphones, which are fantastic if you’re one of those weirdos who actually uses their smartphone to make phone calls, and does so in the car on a semi-regular basis.

Lawncare Masterworks, Part 2:

Continuing on my strange new journey into lawncare products, I just finished a comprehensive Wirecutter guide to hose-end sprinklers. While this certainly not something that I ever thought I’d find an expertise in, I’m quite proud of the work I did along with my editor, Harry Sawyers. We dove pretty deep into something that a lot of people don’t give much consideration to, and spoke with experts from various manufacturers to figure out the “who,” “what,” and “why” of sprinkler-seekers. So if you’re in the need to water your lawn — I gotcha covered!

Smash Mouth wrote “All Star” to warn about climate change & anti-intellectualism 20 years ago—and we turned it into a stupid meme.

I've been working on this very important research for a year now, and I'm proud to finally share the truth with the world: how Smash Mouth tried to warn us about climate change & modern anti-intellectualism 20 years ago with a little song called "All Star."

This is a very serious work, and you’re welcome for my sacrifice.

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STREETS LIKE THIS: A New World Premiere Play!

For the last couple of months, I've been working with AC Sidle on the Civic Ensemble's Re-Entry Theatre Program to create a new play about prison and addiction, inspired by the real-life stories of people who've lived the struggle. The play started with scenes, written by the program participants—most of whom are or were transitioning out of prison and/or rehab—which I then took and transformed into a full-length, fictional dramatic work.

It started out with their stories, but I gotta say: I'm pretty happy with the final product, and I hope we can continue giving it life across the country, because these conversations aren't going away.

StreetsLikeThisPosterBESTQUALITY.jpg
Ithacans, Civic Ensemble invites you to sit with Deon and Dennis, two local men getting up there in age. Deon is black, Dennis is white; both are worn out from past convictions, dysfunctional institutions, and the preventable deaths of loved ones. From their stoop, watch Crystal, Abby, and Brian struggle with their diverse obstacles and mistakes while stuck in the United States’ broken criminal justice system. Deon and Dennis narrate the stories of these three and other characters navigating the perils of real life and their own demons while dealing with the consequences of probation, incarceration, parole, and court-ordered rehabilitation. Streets Like This, based on true stories, travels from the Meadow Street Mobil to Social Services offices and the curb outside Day Reporting to their own workplaces and homes. The play offers no single solution but rather brings you into their worlds. As Deon says, “But maybe next time, you’ll do more than turn your heads away as you toss some spare change in their cups.”

Saturday May 5 at 7:30pm, followed by opening night party
Sunday May 6 at 4:00 pm & 7:30pm
at Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 MLK Jr St, Ithaca

Monday May 7 at 7:30pm
at GIAC Gymnasium, 301 W Court St, Ithaca

New Album Preview! Hooray!

I've been putting this off for far too long, but I'm finally making headway on a new full-length solo album of songs I've been working on, tentatively titled "Five Years on the B-Side." If all goes well, it'll be out sometime in the early spring, and I might even do a few live shows around the Northeast to support it!

In the meantime, here are a few rough draft demos to give you an idea of what to expect. (just, ya know, keep in mind that they're sketches of the final arrangements, to help me figure out production things myself, which is why they're kinda messy and why they'll also disappear when recording is complete)

4 things the Left keeps getting wrong about gun reform.

Another day, another awful tragedy. Several months ago, I'd pitched a story to Huffington Post about tangible, rational, fact-based suggestions to help curb the epidemic of gun violence in America—specifically, things that might be a little uncomfortable for Left-leaning liberals to acknowledge, but things that would actually make a difference (and have a chance of getting passed).

But every time we planned to publish it, it was always felt too uncomfortably close to another mass shooting. So we put it off for a while longer, again and again and again.

Then Las Vegas struck. And if it wasn't clear before (it was), then it certainly is now (it is) that the time to talk about gun violence is right now, and the longer we put it off out of some kind of expectation of polite social courtesy, then the higher the body count will climb. 

So here it is. Now let's do something about it.

(I also had the privilege of speaking with Chris Frates on the Smerconish Show on Sirius XM Potus Politics. You'll need to be a Sirius subscriber to listen, but we had a great chat about finding common ground on gun violence issues, which inspired some wonderful call-in comments from listeners as well)

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My first full guide for Wirecutter!

That's right: not only did we revamp the entire Wirecutter website with a cool new look and fancy mobile friendliness, but I've also published my first official guide for them! Check it out:

 Ironically, I also shaved my beard off this morning, so my author photo is no longer accurate.

Ironically, I also shaved my beard off this morning, so my author photo is no longer accurate.

So uhhhhh I just signed with a literary agent? So that's cool?

That's right: I just signed with a literary agent! The Kepner Agency was so impressed with my Irish Boston supernatural punk rock noir tentatively titled Pints of 'Gansett Make You Strong  that they want to make something happen with it!

Excuse me while I go dance over here in the corner.

In the meantime, you can listen to the official unofficial Pints of 'Gansett Make You Strong soundtrack to tide you over, 'cause publishing takes a while.

How science fiction helped me understand my mental disorder.

My first week at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, I decided to kick things off with a bang: an 8,000-word short story that never ended.

Clarion is a highly-renowned training ground for sci-fi/fantasy writers, so naturally, I wanted to make an impression. Hence, I introduced myself to my cohort and award-winning instructors by writing a recursive metafictional time travel story. The main “plot” was only about two pages, followed by another thirty pages of footnotes, each with multiple internal references to other footnotes, all to explain the theoretical science behind the causal loop that lead to the main characters’ spacetime-crossed romance. This had the effect of taking the reader on a self-directed non-linear journey through characters’ pasts, presents, and futures, in an endless circle of effect-cause-effect that was unique to each reader.

That was 2013. Me and the other 17 members of my cohort still talk regularly; some of them have already become award-winning authors in their own rights. And to this day, not a week goes by without at least one of them giving me shit for that story. But I have a good excuse for my obnoxious ambitions:

I have ADHD, so it made perfect sense. To me.

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