Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chris and John

My coworker Chris Tin, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Silent Epidemic, is headed out today for a trip to Cabo San Lucas.  Just in time to catch landfall from Hurricane John.  We wish him the best trip possible under the circumstances.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

DNA and John Mark Karr

Apparently, the DNA profile from the evidence under JonBenet Ramsey's fingernails does not match John Mark Karr.  While this seems to be exculpatory in Karr's case, it's still a good thing for the Ramsey family.  Clearly Colorado law enforcement is looking at DNA evidence as a means to solving the case.  What many, many people may not have known is that all members of the Ramsey family gave DNA samples to the police, and none of them matched the evidence on JonBenet's body.  More people may be aware of the Ramsey's exhoneration now because of the media interest in Karr.

Another good thing is that Karr, a self-confessed pedophile and sexual outlaw, will never again be anonymous, and hopefully because of that, will never again be in a position to abuse children.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sophie's Choice

This weekend watched Sophie's Choice again.  I hadn't seen it since it was last in the theaters, 1982 or thereabouts.  While I remembered the eponymous scene and it was just as raw and vivid and horrific as I remembered, I didn't believe it.  I question whether this could have happened.  I've read a great deal about the holocaust, and this scene just doesn't ring true to me anymore.  While the behavior of the concentration camp guards was sadistic and cruel in the extreme, what point could offering such a choice have made?  The doctor was based on Mengele, and he was a sadistic psychopath, but would he have engaged in any kind of discussion with any prisoner?  Would the guards have allowed Sophie to speak to him?  The only way the Holocaust could have happened (it seems to me) is for the prisoners to remain faceless, part of an indistinguishable mass.  So this is a problem.  Sophie's Choice is the crux of the book and the film.  Is it realistic?  I guess so--realistic enough.  It certainly works as a metaphor for the character. 

My research reveals that the Germans reassured the new arrivals that all would be well, that they would be reunited with their loved ones soon, right after a routine disinfecting shower.

The evil was banal.  That's why it was so effective.  For a factual description of the arrival at Auschwitz, I recommend "Man's Search for Meaning" by Dr. Victor Frankl.  In it, Dr. Frankl says that there were decent guards, and indecent prisoners, and he was there.  He describes Mengele as flicking a finger, or a pointer (I can't quite remember) very disinterested in the humanity of any of the prisoners before him.  And the destination was either to the work camp, or to the gas and the ovens, and far more went to the latter than the former.

So what does this mean about fiction?  What it tells me is that for an event as powerful as the holocaust, you have to have your facts straight.  William Styron and Meryl Streep got away with it because the image was so powerful.  But they couldn't get away with it on second thought.  And that's a weakness.

Friday, August 25, 2006

1st Amendment v. Harassment

Discussion of a bill in the California Assembly devolved into personal attacks and acrimony yesterday.  Here's where I stand.  I support everyone's right, if they so believe, to disagree with and politically oppose what they consider "a homosexual lifestyle."  I do not support a right to discriminate against homosexual persons.  It is a fine line, but it is a very clear one.  It reminds me of a discussion Tucker Carlson was having with a principal of a middle school in California that I caught one day on tv.  Carlson asked the principal whether a student who said to a gay student, "I think what you're doing is sinful" would be protected speech.  The principal said yes.  I would have said no, that there's a difference between protected speech and harassment and bullying.  When someone uses speech to defame or otherwise torment an individual based on their individual characteristics, it's harassment.  One is free to opine about the legitimacy of a concept, but criticisms of someone's life choices can be excluded from the first amendment in certain contexts, such as school.

School is a place of rigid standards and rules of behavior.  One is not as free in school as out of school.  One expects to submit to rules of behavior and conduct when entering a school.  School is more like the military than the public square.  Certain restrictions to ensure cohesion must and should be expected.  Criticisms go both ways, too.  Since everyone is sinful, pointing the finger right back would be a natural response to being called a sinner.  Everyone loves to spot a hypocrite.   I'm sure that there are skeletons in the closets of those assemblymen, or their colleagues.  It is to the gay assemblymen's credit that they didn't indulge in such recrimination.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hard Ware

Well, the TV has problems.  When I attached the HDMI cable, the TV said, "In power save mode, press key or mouse to resume..." or something like.  Also, attaching the component cables (Y,Pr,Pb) had no effect.  "No video signal."  Apprently there was no magic solution such as tuning to channel 3 and Dell is sending me a replacement.  Which means that I have to package up the TV I now have and send it back.  Bother.

I really wish that I had a vehicle with more cargo space.  I've been looking at the Honda Element, and it really has the best roomy interior of the SUVs on the market, but at $21,500, it might as well be $100,000.   I'm stretched to the limit as it is.  So, short of a windfall, I'll have to make due with my T-Bird.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tele Vision

My LCD tv has arrived and it is magnificent.  I'm somewhat embarrassed to crow about it since it seems like conspicuous consumption, but I love my movies, and this is an excellent item.  Last night I was able to configure the cable and I watched the 2nd half of Sleepy Hollow.  I'm anxious to see what the unit does with a film that's lighter in tone.

Slate magazine is excerpting a chapter a day of the illustrated graphic publication (not a graphic novel, as it's factual) 9/11.  It is excellent and well worth your time.  Click here for a link to the site.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Die Tag

Apparently there's been some vandalism on my condominium mailbox and mail may be interrupted until it's fixed.  Crap, crap, crap!  Crapo de tutti crapi!  This will interrupt my Netflix. 

Saw an interesting netflix last night: Immortality, aka The Wisdom of Crocodiles.  Jude Law plays a vampire of indeterminate age and origin who drinks love.  Because the love is present in the blood, he drinks the blood.  But there's also guilt, rage, sorrow, worry and a host of other emotions also present in the blood, which he then quite painfully passes (as though it were a kidney stone) in the form of a crystal. 

It is an interesting spin on the vampire mythology, like George Romero's Martin, for example or The Hunger.  No black capes or fangs.  It's a well-made film, but since it isn't action oriented, one I'm unlikely to see twice.

I've got Brick waiting, and I'm excited about it.  A noir thriller set in a high school with high-school aged characters.  Too cool for school.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The more I look at John Mark Karr the more he looks to me like a factually innocent person, troubled by a narcissistic personality disorder, coupled with pathological guilt over his pedophilia.  But that's speculation.  Were I on a jury, I would be looking at evidence.  Of which there exists nothing--except for Karr's e-mails.  Hey, if DNA puts him at the crime scene, I'll be convinced.  Until that happens, I'll remain a skeptic.

Presumption of Innocence

Let's all give John Mark Karr something we never gave John and Patsy Ramsey, namely, presumption of innocence.  While it appears that he is a good, credible suspect, it may also be true that he simply became obsessed with the case, and over the years the obsession became pathological.  He may now have so closely identified with the murder emotionally, as to actually believe that he committed the crime, when in fact he may not have.  If this is the case, the psychopathology may have resulted in a frame of mind called a factitious disorder.  I hypothesize that false confession can be a form of factitious disorder, like Munchausen's Syndrome.  There is no clear motive for such behavior other than mental illness.  This is something that needs to be ruled out, in my opinion.  While I still personally believe that an intruder killed JonBenet (Lou Smit's work has proven this to my satisfaction), John Mark Karr may not be that individual.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Legitimate Suspect--At Last

Fox News has reported that today an arrest has been made in the Jon-Benet Ramsey case.  I am astounded that I lived to see it.  Regretfully, Patsy Ramsey did not.  Be that as it may, Patsy is vindicated by these events.  The wild speculations that she killed her child by mistake for peeing the bed--what balderdash--those responsible for these rumors will have it on their consciences, if they have consciences, that is.  It's doubtful, when you look at the kind of pathological emotionalism that engenders such hateful musing. 

Sometimes policework is hard.  The Ramseys have shown themselves as individuals of remarkable character, to have been able to withstand the ferocity of the attacks against them.  May John and his surviving children find peace of mind in these new developments.  And let us all reflect on what justice requires: presumption of innocence.

And let law enforcement everywhere reflect on what should be a tenant of good policework: attention to detail and open minds.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Changing Skins

"To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard.  If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects.  They reflect one's mind and psyche of yesterday.  I throw away what has no dynamic, living use."

                                                                         --Anais Nin, novelist and diarist

I'm gearing up for yet another attempt to clear out the dross and effluvium of decades of hoarding, which attach to me and follow in my wake, as though such objects form the parameters of my existence.  They don't give me meaning--I give them meaning.

Anything which does not support me, drains me.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Untenable Position

Mel Gibson back in the news after his arrest for drunken driving during which it has been reported that he made misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments.  In vino veritas is an old Latin epigram that suggests when one is in one's cups, the mask that we present to the world is stripped away, and our true characters are revealed.  While that may be true for normal drinkers, pathological drinkers are different.

As a person familiar with the disease of alcoholism, I know that the disease of alcoholism has a physical, emotional, and spiritual cost.  People say and do things contrary to their value system.  Alcohol is a spirit--and imbibing it fills one with a spirit other than one's own. 

Those of you familiar with my antipathy for Mel's movie, The Passion of the Christ, may wonder if this is a defense of Mel.  While I despise most things Mel, he's still a very interesting person.  People who allow their psychological problems to influence their public lives--strike that--people who are powerless to prevent their psychological problems from influencing their public lives invariably are. 

Be that as it may, Jews were on Mel's mind when he was pulled over in Malibu.  He didn't lash out at Native Americans, or Japanese businessmen, or muslims (or elves, dwarves or hobbits).  Those who suspect that there is something defective in Mel's character can put their minds at ease.  If he's an alcoholic, which he professes to be, character defects are part of the package.  While it may be true that alcoholism causes one to act contrary to their value systems, it may also be true that the part of the situation contrary to Mel's values was the driving while drunk and the speaking of his mind, not the substance of what he said.

However, there's also something defective in my character if I can love Wagner who was also a virulent anti-Semite, and hold it against Mel.  That indicates a certain schadenfreude on my part that disgusts me.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Back to Work

After a few weeks off, flying to Iowa and back, and then down to Portland for the Willamette Writer's Conference, I'm back at work.  Yesterday I attended the farewell lunch for my Aussie coworker who is leaving Seattle for So.Cal. where her husband has found a new job.  I will miss her terribly.  She is cool, amusing and genuine. 

Okay, when flying across country, don't connect in Chicago or San Francisco.  Minneapolis and Dallas are great.  But O'Hare is a nightmare, and San Francisco has three separate terminals which are not connected, so you have to go OUTSIDE, take an elevated train, and pass through another security checkpoint just to make your connecting flight.  I arrived with 10 minutes to spare.  My luggage didn't make it.

The trip to Iowa was the best in years.  I really had a good time.  All of my friends have lost weight!  Grandma recognized me.  It's so painful to visit though.  We spent about an hour with her.  She kept asking after relatives who have passed on, where they were, had I seen them?  I just kept saying that no, I hadn't yet, and that they couldn't make it today.  What else can one do?  At the end of the visit, Grandma clearly didn't want to be left alone.  "What am I going to do?"  She said.  I gave her a hug and a kiss and left.  Sometimes I wonder if it causes more pain to visit than not to.  For me, that's true, but I wonder if it causes too much agitation and confusion for Grandma.  She has just enough awareness to be miserable, it seems to me.  The horror.

I'm going to try to be a better blogger, if only for my Aussie friend, who is apparently a regular reader.  So, hats off to you, L.