Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Inadequate Assassin

"You've got an 'inferiority complex.'"  Or so I've been told.  So it gives me pause when I read criminal profiles of inadequate loner types who fantasize and then kill.  The recent mass murder in Colorado at New Life Church and the Youth With a Mission training center, involving Matthew Murray, is an example of an extremely shy, awkward teenager, with limited social maturity due to having been homeschooled, and with an underlying psychosis:

    Richard Werner, who was Murray’s roommate at YWAM in Arvada in 2002 for missionary training, recalled Murray as an odd 19-year-old who was painfully shy and displayed extreme “mood swings.” Werner said Murray, who growled and spoke to himself in the middle of the night in strange voices, had trouble socially with other young people.

Clearly here are personality traits that are shared with other mass murderers, including the Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech killer, and the recent Omaha Mall shooter, who may have been instrumental in sending Murray over the edge. Martin Bryant, responsible for the worst mass murder in modern Australian history is described as "a quiet lad and a bit of a loner." 

What separates these types from other inadequate loner types apparently comes down to three things: 1) proximity of guns or other weapons (one mass murderer used a tank), 2) a psychopathic belief that his needs trump those of other human beings, 3) a stressor that sends him over the edge.  The stressor trigger is often "the straw that breaks the camel's back," yet also the result of months or years of slowly building rageful feelings and homicidal and suicidal fantasy. 

When confronted by an armed security guard, Matthew Murray shot himself in the head.  He needed to control the outcome completely.  While he sought out unarmed and defenseless victims, when challenged, he opted out of confrontation because it wouldn't have fit his fantasy of slaughtering a hundred or more church-goers.  He was a coward.

The two sisters at New Life Church were his perfect targets, representing other happy, well adjusted young Christians which he felt estranged from and victimized by.

    “If you’re an extrovert, and popular, then yes, there is plenty of love waiting for you in christianity,” Murray wrote May 8. “If you ask questions and want to understand things and/or desire a real and deep spirituality, or if you’re just not popular . . . well . . . you are considered as one of the horrible people and are either going to be abused or kicked out by ‘holy spirit love filled’ christians.”

One of the great treasures of my life has been connecting with other introverts.  I have sought out and bonded with people who share my interests and understand my feelings.  I have also succeeded enough in my pursuits to avoid the damning inner voice of the "critic" which would indeed motivate me to violence if it wasn't held in check.  This sometimes manifests as an interior verbal monologue of self-criticism, or of painful memories from my past, projected into my mind's eye, usually at a vulnerable moment.  I have learned to deal with this phenomenon, which is a symptom of depression.  I am not the only one who suffers.  My own treatment has involved heightened awareness of the voice, when it is speaking or showing me embarrassing or stress-causing images.  I take a moment to stop and confront the unreality of the negative thoughts.

For various reasons, the killers above did not have the coping skills necessary to avoid their violent codas.  Three things can be done: 1) Learn to recognize underachieving loner types and reach out to them.  This can be harder than you think.  In the case of the Virginia Tech killer, one of his professors took extraordinary steps, including private seminars and counseling, to reach him.  She failed.  He was too far gone.   2)  If you're introverted, seek out other introverts.  You both will benefit.  Have the courage to say hello.  3)  Don't buy guns, no matter how strong, capable, macho and in control of things they make you feel.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Borat Sued Again

The producers of Borat will be defending against another lawsuit.  Another disgruntled individual, duped by the producers of the smash hit film, is fighting back.  The producers make my teeth grind with statements such as this:

"He signed a release, and we have an agreement," [producer] Brilliant said. "Now, 2 1/2 years after giving his consent and more than one year after the movie was released, Mr. Psenicska has decided to file a lawsuit, citing the financial success of the film, in spite of our agreement."

First, there's a statute of limitations involved: probably 3 years.  Mr. Psenicska likely filed suit in order to preserve his claim against the producers.  Allowing the statute to run would negate any legal standing he has.

Second, Mr. Psenicska signed an agreement to be in a documentary about foreign born people adjusting to life in America, and this is clearly not the film Mr. Brilliant or the other producers of Borat planned to make.  The producers lied in order to coerce cooperation from Mr. Psenicska, because if he had been in on the joke, it would never have been as funny as his reactions were while being duped.

Other filmed entertainment has met this same litigious fate.  Candid Camera was sued.  More recently, Scare Tactics was sued.  I don't know, but I imagine there are bad feelings and billable hours concerning Punk'd. 

You can't lie to people to induce them to sign a contract.  You don't even have to go to law school to know that one.  If Mr. Psenicska was not fully informed, he could not have made an informed choice entering into the agreement.  The contract is null and void.  If he suffered damages, he deserves to be made whole. 

All Mr. Psenicska is asking for is $100K plus punitive damages (which are usually less--but this is likely a California venue, so who knows?)  That's chump change.  Mr. Brilliant complains that it was only because Borat was successful that Mr. Psenicska is suing.  Well, that stands to reason that the more successful the movie was, the more people saw it, and thus the more damage was done to Mr. Psenicska.  I see no profiteering motive here since the damages prayed for in the lawsuit are so freaking LOW.  Because the damages are so low, I imagine the case will settle and quickly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mitt Romney and the Temple of Doom

Christopher Hitchens, my favorite conservative athiest, has written a crackerjack editorial about Romney's duck, cover, obfuscate and dodge strategy with regard to his religion and answering questions about it in the press.  My position:  While I hold no personal animosty toward individual Mormons per se (with the lone exception being Orson Scott Card), the church as a whole has the kind of nutty supernatural/science fiction nonsense shared by Scientology.  Purported golden plates and faux old testiment nomenclature are not enough to make me a believer.  As I have said before and am proud to say again, I believe Joseph Smith was a False Prophet.  If I didn't, I would be a Mormon, wouldn't I?  I suppose that goes without saying, and that by saying it, I'm effectively spitting in the eye of the CJCLDS--be that as it may.  The famous anti-Morman South Park episode, which turns the tables at the end, taught us: all religions are a little bit nutty--what the church believes doesn't matter, it's what the flock does that matters.

Oh, really? 

Hitch raises the specters of racism and polygamy that the LDS eschewed by prophetic fiat at critically convenient times.  Some might see that as divine inspiration, while others might see it as the Prophet holding his spit-covered finger in the wind.

My position: I don't know what's in Romney's heart, nor do I presume to judge.  I only know what he does, and says.  Right now, he's saying nothing about an issue that matters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Why don't I like Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 as much as I should?  The game is far too complex.  Rules for rules's sake really, which relegates story and structure to the back burner. 

I like roleplaying games because I get to play a role--not roll a bunch a dice.  Role/roll--get it?

I still think that Chaosium's Fantasy Roleplaying (CFR) is the best system I've ever used.  Granted characters can die much more easily than in D&D, but them's the breaks as they say.  I became familiar with CFR playing Call of Cthulhu.  The "game" aspect of the activity was simply a method for gathering a group together to create interactive stories in which the game designer creates the scenario and the players interact with each other and the given circumstances.  This is the kind of gaming I like.  Fast.  And roll checks are simply there to throw obstructions in the players' paths.  Because if it's too easy, it's no fun.

But it's also no fun if it's too hard!  I played D&D last night, but it is simply too complex.  In order to combat the drow rogue I was fighting, I had to stand inside an anti-magic area which negated all my magic bonuses.  I didn't care to do the necessary math so I simply made up a number.  I guessed.  When you're roleplaying, it's difficult to engage the part of the mind responsible for calculations and math.  So I simply don't.  Not my job, as they say.  My job is to roll dice and have fun.  Someone else has to do the math.

Political Pragmatism

Okay, so I didn't vote today and I don't plan to.  I'm leaving the area in a few months and they can have it.  It's hard not to get apathetic when the majority of the electorate votes against new sports stadiums several times and they get built anyway, and when the majority votes for a particular kind of mass transit four times and it doesn't get built.  But that's Seattle politics for you.  Democracy shemocracy.

We can't let issues of such importance be left to an uneducated and politically incorrect electorate!

I'm tired of political correctness, except when I'm not.  What I really want to discuss today are gay Republicans.  Or more specifically, Republicans caught with their pants down with someone of their same gender.  Usually with Republicans there's at least a generational age difference between the two parties, usually but not always, boys.

Thus do gay activists get their homophobic cake and eat it too.  First, a member of a party that is unfriendly to gay concerns is outed as a gay person themselves, and by extension a hypocrite.  Another c**ksucker is exposed in the party of family values, is the subtext, and gay activists know it, and they know it's homophobic.  Their rationale is that they're using homophobia against the homophobes.  But they know the hate and the irony go even deeper.

They know that political correctness has seeped into the very fabric of American life there will be Republicans who will not deal harshly with the gay Republicans exposed in their midst because they don't want to appear to be gay bashing.  They don't want to appear to be the homophobes they probably are...

Gay activists know that this is how they'll react.  So the gay Republican at the center of the scandal is allowed to keep his position because his party members don't want to appear to be intolerant and some of them really are tolerant.  But the gay activists know that the longer the gay Republican stays in office the more difficult it is for the party of Lincoln to appear to be the party of family values.  The gay activists are counting on those gay Republicans at the center of the storm to become a priori evidence of Republican hypocrisy at the next election.

Thus are the gay activists exposed as the homophobes they are.  But hey--it's a political win-win for them...  Karl Rove isn't the only one who knows how to use fags to further his own political ends.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Studying Genocide

Pacific Lutheran University has received an endowment for a Holocaust Studies chair.  I've never heard of such a thing, but it makes sense.  I've researched only one of the concentration camps, KZ Mauthausen, and have discovered that what I knew about the holocaust before undertaking the research was a mere drop in the ocean.  I learned enough to know that I knew very little. 

So much of what I knew about the holocaust was based on films and television, and the odd documentary or two that I had glimpsed.  The truth of the horror was far more involved, planned, and complex than I had imagined.  The genocide of the European Jews was an industry that employed tens of thousands of people - only a fraction of whom were ever brought to justice. 

We must find a way to understand how it happened.  To simply say it was the abberant result of a madman's fiendish plan is to completely discount the possibility that it was the result of a fundamental shift in the conscious, shared perception of reality in the minds of millions.  And that it was facilitated by the poison of propaganda.

We look back at the militarized politics of Germany and say that it could never happen here.  But it may be happening right now!  In 60 years, how will the world look back on what we're doing, or allowing to be done, by our leaders?

Soon all who had direct personal experiences during the holocaust will pass away.  We must find a way to preserve their stories.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life of the Party

Pardon my silence.  I've been so busy over the past few weeks.  I have a new part time job writing for the Bella Sara website. and we've been trying to do a major update that launches today.  Please visit the site, learn more about the fantastic world of Bella Sara, and most important, buy cards.  

I also went to a Halloween party on Saturday.  The theme was Rock & Roll.  I went as the only rocker I'm qualified to impersonate: Meat Loaf.  Had a lot of fun singing Karaoke.  I learned through this experience that pop songs are very difficult to sing.  The recording artists make it seem easy--which is why they make the big bucks.  I suppose it helps when the song is arranged in your key.

Finally, politics:  I'm not embarrassed to admit that from time to time I watch Fox News.  And that usually means Bill O'Reilly.  (I also watch Keith Obermann's trenchant, sardonic critiques of Mr. O'R as well).  At any rate, I was watching the other day and something he said had stuck with me.  He had on one of his bimbos that he "converses" with--essentially they are there so that he can have a dialogue with himself.  She read a dictionary definition of "patriotism" that defined is as having love or allegiance to their country's "authority."  My heart sank.  (i.e.: I fell for it...)  I certainly don't love or pledge allegiance to our current president.  Could that mean I am truly not patriotic?

Hold your horses buster!  Authority in the United States is vested solely in the Constitution--not in any one man--not in any administration.  Yes, I can condemn, disparage, criticise, hold in contempt, and otherwise denigrate the President without being unpatriotic because I think he's vile and pursuing policies contrary to the values I think America stands for.  I am a patriot after all even by the Bimbo's definition!

One final thing--the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal on the Exxon matter.  That means there will be no resolution for another year.  Once this collection of corporatist, right wing idealogues gets hold of it, there'll be nothing left. 

One paralegal here opined that their easiest route would be to simply declare that Maritime law applies, and there are no punitive damages in Maritime law.  I think that will probablyhappen.  They wouldn't have agreed to hear the case if they didn't think that there was a possibility of reversal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Comparisons are odorous

In Shakespeare's masterpiece Much Ado About Nothing, one of his characters, Dogberry, says to his sidekick Verges:  "Comparisons are odorous.  Palabras, neighbor Verges."  A little research reveals that the phrase is a malapropism: what Dogberry means to say is that comparisons are odious.  That phrase pops up in Cervantes, Donne, Marlow, and Sir John Fortescue; it was a common axiom, proverb, expression of the time.  Palabra means a word, or to talk, possibly related to the root of "palaver."  Dogberry seems to be cautioning Verges to "get to the point."  Shakespeare sui generis certainly knew the difference between odious, "something foul" with odorous "something that smells foul."  Odorous is a much more sensory, concrete evocation of foulness than the abstraction odious.

For Dogberry the line is a tossoff, a response to a nonsensical simile that Verges made in the previous line of dialogue.  But its implication runs deep.  And it is a phrase that means a great deal to me personally, ever since I played Verges in 1981.

One of the axioms heard in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is: Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides.  It makes a good deal of sense.  The axiom cautions against looking at someone else's success and comparing your own situation to that, and finding yourself lacking.

Success has not come easily for me.  In some ways I am successful, but in other ways I wish I were more successful.  Yesterday I received an e-mail from Pacific Northwest Writer's Association that our monthly talk would be given by Seattle author Jim Thayer.  Thayer has not only written and published 12 thrillers, he's also maintained a law practice, and runs an editing service.  Compared to him, I felt quite inadequate.  My fevered brain began bellowing at me.  And last night I had a very difficult night--a nightmare woke me up moaning with terror (Molly was quite upset) and other problems sleeping. 

I need to remember the wisdom I learned from my good friend and former sponsor Matt Hornyak: There's success at every level, and there's value in that, no matter what level you're on. 

Monday, October 15, 2007

Inept Democrats

A letter castigating Rush Limbaugh for calling troops who disagree with him about the War in Iraq "phony soldiers" has backfired on the senators who signed it.  Rush is auctioning the letter on E-bay with proceeds going to an education fund for children of Marines KIA.  (The fund has already dispersed $29 million in scholarships--this is significant).  Rush has turned the tables on the senators, showing them up as inept grandstanders, just exactly like the senators who signed onto the condemnation of's Petreus/Betray Us ad.  The republicans seem to know instinctively how to seize upon a political opportunity and squeeze every millileter of juice out of it.  Democrats, attempting the very same strategy, stumble, bumble and issue incoherent, pathetic diatribes. 

The sad fact for America is that the democrat's ineptitude never rises (or lowers) to the incompetence of the republicans when the republicans are actually governing.  Why?  Arrogance.  Democrats are incoherent sometimes because they're always self-reflective.  They often change their minds.  When they do they're called flip-floppers.  Republicans have the luxury of total self-confidence, sure in the knowledge that they are completely, and totally correct in everything they do and think.  When is America going to get tired of this mind-set?  That's the only thing that will bring about the sea-change necessary to rescue our democracy from the hands of those who place ideology above the law.

Personally, I'm content with the shifting of poles between democrat and republican power.  From time to time we need a big bully in the white house in order to show the rest of the world that the U.S. is not to be trifled with.  But most of the time, I'm much happier with a democrat who builds bridges (rather than watches them fall down--as the residents of Minnesota know all too well George Bush has done).

Friday, October 5, 2007

Truck and Field

Not being much of a sports nut, I had not heard of Marion Jones prior to her recent much publicized admission to doping, after having denied the practice for years.  However, one look at her hulked out physique would have caused anybody to be suspicious. 

It will be interesting to see if the controversy goes away as fast as the Lance Armstrong doping rumors disappeared from the press

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Chopin's Prelude No. 15 is one of my all time favorite pieces of music.  Currently it's being used as background to a TV ad for Halo 3, and every time I hear it, it stirs my soul.  For the complete piece, visit here.  I also wrote a short story in which the music plays a strong part:



The Wehrmacht entered Krakow on September 6, 1939, when I was 17 years old.  My father, who had trained me from childhood on the instrument of my life, beat time contrapuntally to the tread of Panzers as they jingled through Rynek Glowny toward Wawel Castle, snapping the bricks with their weight.  We had known for five days they were coming.   The army of Poland had met the blitzkrieg mounted upon chargers, armed with sabres, discarding their lives like stalks of wheat falling before the mow.


That morning I had worked for three hours steadfastly on the first movement of Pathetique, which I still found difficult.  The score fell, rustling, as father rose and moved to the window to look down at the street. 


“Keep working,” he said when I paused.  My attention returned to the opalescent console of the Blüthner, product of Leipzig, the home of Bach and Goethe, Wagner’s birthplace.  Father opened the window to the early autumn air, and the tractor-like rumbling grew louder.  A whiff of smoke came in at the casement.  I continued with the opening of the sonata, but my heart would not inform my hands.  Yet, fatherdid not seem to notice my mistakes—or if he did—he did not comment. 


He returned rubbing his glasses with his kerchief.  “Halina,” he said, and laid his warm hand over mine.  “Let us put aside the Viennese composer.”


From the shelf he took our beloved slender volume of Chopin’s preludes.  “On this day let us hear the music of our countryman.  Turn to page 19.   Prelude 15 in D-flat major.”


He spoke as I played.  “Yes, daughter—you have his music in your soul.  It begins like a gentle spring rain—a soft downpour on flat green leaves, sustaining, revivifying.  Hear now, in the middle section, how the storm increases, now growing in malevolence, yet not merely a storm—but also a test—what may we men and women abide?  Yes, even in the midst of the tempest there is triumph, hear it!  Feel it!  And now the grief and loss—as, the storm subsides and the gentle rain falls again to nourish the ground.”


When I finished, he wiped the tears from my eyes with his kerchief.  “Halina—the pain will pass away and the darkness will lift, and the world will be well again.  Politics and war flame brightly but, in the end, they always burn themselves out.  Only art endures.”

Ten years later, while studying in Paris before the Fourth International Chopin Competition, I visited the maestro’s grave in Père-Lachaise.  His mausoleum, bestrewn with garlands and wreaths, bouquets of gladiolus and mums and votive candles that guttered in the light rain, invoked despondency as though he had been laid to rest only the previous day, rather than a century before.  On that drizzly April day in 1949, I remembered my father’s words.   For the hell had indeed passed—but not soon.  Laying a spray of lilies upon Chopin’s tomb, I mourned for my poor country.  I did not grieve for myself.  For I had suffered nothing—except insomniac nights in Krakow; sleepless, clutching my pillow, my stomach a pit of fear and dread and anguish, hearing, far away, shrieking train whistles fade away west.

It's been a Month!

It's been an entire month since my last entry.  My apologies to my regular readers if there are any left...

I just signed a contract to write for Hidden City Games, the company that develops and publishes Bella Sara.  Please visit the site.  Notice that it's aimed at girls between the ages of 6 and 12.  I'm excited by the opportunity, and I've learned more about horses in a week than I had in my whole life up til now.

I'll be writing for them for several months as a freelancer.  Hopefully I will be able to keep some association when I move to Iowa. 

I'm excited to see my friend Steve and his wife Sherry and daughter Leah when they come to Seattle two weeks from now.  Very excited.  Steve has been here before but it will be Sherry and Leah's first trip.  I love showing off my city, even though it won't be my city for very much longer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Hmm, lotsa gayness

Jerry Lewis called one of his production team an "illiterate fag" during the telethon.  Apparently, as soon as Jerry found out today that GLAAD was skipping mad (as opposed to hopping mad), he apologized profusely and contritely.  Come on GLAAD, Isaiah Washington, self-important actor bully, was one thing, but Lewis is a comedian.  His joking insult was in the tradition of "the Roast."  Watch a celebrity roast sometime, see how many times the "f" word gets dropped.  Lighten up already.

Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead are being outed as lovers in a new book.  Apparently, one of the interviewees claims that a video exists of the two engaged in oral sex.  Birkhead denies the heady reports, saying that the witnesses and the author are "losers."  Still, it makes a smarmy, crazy kind of sense....  Oh, and the book also alleges that Stern and Birkhead conspired to keep ANS anesthetized with a steady supply of narcotics, pills and booze before she died of an overdose of narcotics, pills and booze. 

I wonder if the same thing's happening to Trouble--Leona Helmsley's pet Maltise--if at some undesignated location, the poor puppy is being kept prisoner on a steady diet of beef fat and doggie downers. 

What happens when a dog dies intestate?  Certainly Trouble can't will his fortune to anyone else--you have to be a human being in order to sign such a document.  Or would it go to Trouble's next of kin?  I'll ask one of our estate attorneys.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Senator Larry Craig

I suppose it's time to weigh in on the Larry Craig situation.  Craig, a senator from Idaho, was recently exposed as having plead no-contest or guilty to a crime stemming from lewd behavior in a Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport men's lavatory.  Apparently, Craig sent out signals, such as toe-tapping, foot pressing, and finger wiping, that amounted to, in the opinion of his stall neighbor, a solicitation to a sexual tryst.  The neighbor in question happened to be a police officer engaged in a sting operation.

This makes the third GOP sex scandal in about as many months.  Florida congressman Allen, Senator Vitter, and now Senator Craig.

Idaho is not a state which is fond of gay people.  When I lived there, back in the mid-90's doing the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, it still had a statewide sodomy law.  I regret to say I broke that law.  I apologize to the good people of Idaho, but I don't feel I owe any debt to society.  In any event, it's not the place to be faced with a sex scandal and then come out of the closet as a proud gay man, as Barney Frank and Gary Studds were able to do as democrats from Massachusetts.

The republicans, who have for the past 20 years held forth as the party of moral and family values, takes a particularly difficult hit when confronted with sex scandals.  Just one, that of congressman Mark Foley, caused congress to shift to control of the democrats.  What can three highly publicized scandals do?  Clearly the republicans, because of the image that they seek to sell, are much more vulnerable to sex scandals than democrats.  Everyone expects it of morally relativist demoncrats.  (Sorry, Freudian typo).

A little bit of history.  Sex in men's restrooms is as old as Western Civilization.  In fact, in the 20th Century, these came to be known in the lavender patois as "tea rooms."  Airports, bus stations, libraries, almost every one of these has a tea room.  From time to time, law enforcement runs a sting, like the one that caught Larry Craig, and the tea room shifts to another spot, but before long, the action is back.

The concept of the tea room is time-honored, and reflects an era of oppression, when simply gathering together could cause gay people to be rounded up and put in stir.  Back in those days raids on gay bars were common and a person could be arrested for just having a limp wrist or wearing a red tie.

In our more enlightened age, the crime is not in being a degenerate, but demonstrating it in public.  Sex in restrooms, public parks, etc., can get you pinched. 

All that leads me to -- what?  Craig says he isn't gay.  That's quite correct, even if he is a homo.  Being gay means being in some way public to a greater or lesser extent about one's sexuality.  Craig may be, in the Roy Cohn tradition, a straight man who just happens to have sex with other men.  Because divorcing one's wife and taking up with a younger man, as Ariana Huffington's husband did, means being in some way honest about one's sexuality.

The motivating factor to not be honest?  Shame.  Being gay--open and somewhat honest--means that you have in some small way faced the shame and dealt with it.

Because Craig is incapable of being honest about this, he will go down in flames. 

All that said, I'm not sure that what Craig did was a crime in my view.  All he did was solicit--using ambiguous "signals" in the opinion of the arresting officer.  If, for example, someone did that to me, I would say, "I'm not interested," and the behavior would doubtless stop at once.  Personally I believe that solicitation should be protected under the first amendment, and that in order to be arrested for lewd behavior, one should have to have one's lips around someone's Tom, Dick or Harry.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Deception, deception, deception . . .

What, precisely, is MySpace selling?  Or more appropriately, giving away?  For the most part, MySpace is free for users.  One puts up a MySpace page, which acts as an internet billboard.  On the page, one can list one's interests, put up pictures, write a blog, etc., in essence a personal website.  One can also ...

(My coworker just made a funny: "...driving under the influence of what?  Of denial?")

Anyway, back to MySpace.  Does MySpace have a duty to insure true and accurate information on user sites?  Consumer Protection Acts prohibit unfair and deceptive business practices.  Essentially what MySpace is doing is similar to "personal ads" in newspaper classifieds.  Are newspapers liable for deceptions placed in personal ads in their paper?  Yet, MySpace goes beyond what classified personal ads offer, in that they provide a set of tools for interacting online.  So, is the telephone company responsible for deceptions or misrepresentations made during fraudulent phone calls?

I think the parents of the abused teens are going to have a difficult time proving liability on the part of MySpace. 

*    *    *

Once again I'm reminded of how pragmatic and centrist I am.  I was reading Susan Estrich's blog over at Fox News.  Estrich is a liberal democrat who was Michael Dukakis' campaign manager.  In this piece she bemoans the quality of public discourse over the Internet.  She's getting flamed by liberals to the left of her.  This is what I can't stand about far left liberals any more than the far-right wing: polarization.  What ever happened to digging in and finding common ground?  I have lived long enough to form an opinion as to who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs.  I believe it began with Lee Atwater and continued with his homonculus, Karl Rove.  They pushed liberal hot-buttons into critical overload.  Liberals are just as truculent and intractable as neocons.  Essentially what her readers were doing to Susan Estrich was faulting her for being politically incorrect, simply for receiving a paycheck from Fox News. 

Personally I like Susan Estrich's opinions no matter where they're posted.  I enjoy hearing her point of view--just as I enjoy hearing the point of view of Bill O'Reilly from time to time, Keith Obermann, Jon Stewart and in very small doses, Pat Buchanan.  I find Ann Coulter too intellectually defective that I cannot bear to read much of her.  That said, I have read a few of her columns, along with those of Maggie Gallagher, William Buckley, George Will and others.  And though I will never vote for any Republican for the rest of my life due to the evil that they have wrought with this particular administration, I am not a true believer in any political philosophy.  What we need to do in this contentious, polarized society is find common ground. 

This is what Hilary Clinton has tried to do in her years in the Senate.  To fault her for trying to work with and achieve common goals with Repuglicans (sorry, that's a Freudian typo) is to engage in the most self-defeating politics.  For liberals to stand on the narrowest of principles is to engage in the same posturing that Operation Rescue's Randall Terry did over the Terri Schaivo debacle, when he demanded that Jeb Bush stand on principle, sacrifice his political career, place himself above the law and prevent the feeding tubes from being removed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Goodbye Gonzo

I must apologize to Octavia Butler, who apparently wrote a manifesto on her creative writing process entitled "Furor Scribendi."  When time and creativity intersect at some point in the future, I may retitle my blog.  But in the meantime, I'll just go ahead and use this Latin phrase that I picked up on a list of Latin phrases somewhere.  I can't remember.  I can't recall. 

I do recall meeting Octavia Butler, though.  At the Foolscap writing conference in Tukwila.  Must have been oh, 10 years ago now.  She was gracious, elegant, poised--a wonderful conversationalist.  I and my writers' group had the great good fortune to be present at the kickoff party, which was not very well attended, with GOH Butler.  She spoke about her time at the Clarion Workshop.  She then went on to be a linebacker of science-fiction, winning every prize under the sun (and a McArthur Fellowship).  I asked her advice on whether I should attend Clarion, and she said she would only recommend attending for someone very new.  If you've been writing for a long time, or have had a lot of classes, it might be too difficult to give yourself over completely to the ego-busting and refining that goes on.  Thank you Octavia.  She died in a fall a couple of years ago.  I saw her one other time at the Post Office at 3rd and Union--the downtown branch.  She was busy with business and seemed distracted.  I almost tapped her on the shoulder and said hello.  I wish now that I had.

Alberto Gonzales has resigned.  I watched his resignation speech.  Sorry, my liberal friends, but I feel sorry for the guy.  Not because I feel he got a raw deal.  But because, like his boss, he had risen to the level of his incompentence.  I think he meant well.  He clearly was a quality individual.  But it's sort of like using your family attorney to negotiate a book contract.  Gonzo was GWB's attorney.  He kept being GWB's attorney at the DOJ.  He needed to be strong, independent and wise.  John Ashcroft, for all his faults, was a prince by comparison.  But it just goes to show you that trivial, banal evil can happen, even when one has a pure heart with the finest motives.  All it takes is having unfettered power and unquestioning loyalty.

Ashcroft wasn't going along with the philosophy of the Unitary Executive, if he had ever even heard of it.  With Gonzales, the Bushites found their stooge, their team player, their man.  If you read the description of the Unitary Executive Theory at the Wiki, linked to above, it will curl your hair and give it split ends.  The Bush Administration and its allies have tried to create a 4-8 year dictatorship in the United States (or for however long they choose to claim we're at war).  Gonzales was not the architect of this edifice--that was the neocons, and their brain trust, one of whom is John Yoo.

I don't know about you--but I don't want to live in a dictatorship, even if/when we're at war.  It will be interesting to see who Bush picks for the next AG.  If it's Professor Yoo--run for the hills.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Television II

Yesterday I stumbled upon an idea that has stuck with me.  In what ways has technology influenced the substance and form of television?  I have never given this idea much thought.  In fact, when I have thought about the evolution of storytelling on TV I have usually linked it to societal changes, politics, the economy, current events and film. 

But I'm starting to think that technology has played a larger role than I have given it credit.  The switch from black and white to color caused an explosion of sunny, happy shows: Happy Days, Love American Style, The Bob Newhart Show, variety hours with Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Dean Martin, everything filmed in glorious, saturated color.  Perhaps this was due to geopolitical concerns: denial of the Vietnam zeitgeist.  But it was equally programming that took advantage of the color technology.  Sure there were dark shows: Night Gallery, for example, but their shock value was based more on twist endings, than any evocation of mood.

Another innovation in technology was larger and more affordable screens.  When the largest TV screens were 13 to 20 inches, closeups were de rigeur.  With a 26 to 30 inch screen, establishing shots, traveling shots, panning shots, the language of filmmaking, could be utilized on television.  This changed the way television looked and worked.  Television had always been closer in essence to radio than film.  With larger screens and the employment of cinematic techniques, television became more and more a visual medium. 

I anticipate that with the super large screens of today employing High Definition technology, this trend will strengthen rather than diminish.  Within two generations cinemas will be rare, home entertainment will stream from a central hub (whatever the internet turns into) and packaging will no longer exist.  Intellectual property--anything which is capable of being sold digitally, will be.  While it is tempting to consider this negatively, I don't think it will be.  Television has improved with the advent of VHS technology.  The business model changed, but it still supported higher and higher quality of work. 

Where will it ultimately end?  Three-dimensional entertainment of course.  Total immersion and the assumption of a point of view.  Whether that's a holographic "room" or a set of goggles and gloves, or a biomechanical symbiosis of hardware and wetware ala William Gibson.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

TV Shows that Deliver

Television as an artform has certainly gone through its ups and downs.  While I generally have an idealized vision of my youth, that certainly doesn't include the quality of the TV shows during the 70's.  They don't hold a candle to what's available now.  Why?

First, I think we owe a huge debt of gratitude to a trio of gentlemen: Stephen J. Cannell, David Lynch, and Chris Carter, and to a lesser extent Dick Wolf.  Stephen J. Cannell developed and produced of The Rockford Files and The A-Team, but it was his visionary work on Wiseguy that really took television in a new direction.  This series, which starred Ken Wahl as a cop very deeply under cover with the mafia, ala Donnie Brasco, refined the concept of season arcs.  Though arcs within television shows were not unheard of, Wiseguy featured complete arcs over an entire season.  A new set of villains would be featured in the second season, and yet a third set in season 3.  The story arcs within these seasons were resolved.  Within each episode there is also a central challenge for Vinnie to overcome.  It meant action packed television that rewarded viewers who watched the entire season. 

At this point, it is necessary to mention that the rise of videocassette recorders made this kind of television possible.  A person could record the episode to watch at their convenience--they didn't have to worry about missing an eposide and falling behind on the story arc.  In this way, VHS technology improved the quality of television.

Taking the next step, David Lynch in Twin Peaks offered a story arc that was really a pretext for showing the lives of a large cast of small town characters.  Its odd, quirky mix of humor and darkness created a legion of fans.  More than any other TV show, Twin Peaks brought cinematic lighting, editing and acting to the small screen.  The visuals were complex and carefully constructed.  Compare any episode of Twin Peaks with Charlies Angels, The Bionic Man or Happy Days.  The washed-out studio lighting of the latter is flat and inert.  On the other hand, Twin Peaks offered a wide range of color, from super saturated reds to almost black.  The richness of the visuals hinted at something powerful and ominous under the surface--which is a quality in all of David Lynch's film workas well.

Finally, Chris Carter took the groundwork laid by Cannell and Lynch and combined it in the X-Files.  Not only the filming techniques, but also the storytelling concepts.  Carter's first season featured stand alone episodes, but with each one, certain elements began to stick--who was that mysterious smoking man that never said anything?  What mysterious, powerful invisible forces stood in the way of Mulder's search for the "truth?"

The cinematic quality of the X-Files is also plainly evident.  Perhaps it was simply the TV studios had finally recovered from their love-affair with color television, that they permitted a darker chiaroscuro.  In some ways, X-Files feels more like a black and white show than a color show--it has the same sensibility of light and shadow.

These three series form the transition from 70's cheesecake to 80's grit to 90's noir.  There were others to be sure: The Streets of San Francisco; Law & Order; Miami Vice; NYPD Blues all come to mind.  But for sheer innovation, Wiseguy, Twin Peaks and The X-Files are peerless.

They have ushered in the 21st Century and made The Sopranos possible--which in itself is the culmination of the novel for television concept, a work of series storytelling genius.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Period of Adjustment

Currently going through a period of adjustment with my adopted dog Molly.  Molly is a 7 year old cairn terrier who has a striking personality.  Striking in that she seems to have moods and attitudes that confound me.  Sometimes she loves going for a walk and is excited and energetic.  Other times she takes one look outside and wants to head back for the apartment.  She is disinclined to walk in the rain or upon wet ground, which is a problem in the City of Seattle.  Just wait until she encounters snow!  She has skin problems and scratches herself or rubs her back on the carpet.  She has medication for this condition which I have been giving her like clockwork.  Nancy (Janice's sister) told me that when they cut her hair very short for the summer her skin was much better.  Molly has an appointment with the groomer this weekend.  She'll be getting what we used to call "a Butch."

A butch for the bitch...

This past weekend Molly and I went up to Whidbey Island for a writing seminar.  The seminar was 7 hours long (wayyy tooooo long) and Molly got restless about halfway through.  So I unhooked her lead and let her walk around the room.  What should she do, but start grinding her hindquarters on the rug.  I'm sure you've all seen dogs do this.  One of the attendees pipes up--"she's got worms!"

Doubtful.  I researched the condition and found that it most likely is the result of obstructed anal glands.  Yes, you read correctly.  Anal glands.  Dogs have them--that's why they sniff each others' butts.  It's how they recognize each other.  When they have a good diet and such, the glands get cleared when they go poo.  But sometimes they become clogged and full and then it's like a doggy hemorrhoid. 

The solution is to express the anal glands.  Isn't that quaint?  That's the technical term: Express.  As in "freedom of expression."  One can do it oneself.  I put Molly on the counter, and tried to find them (poked around her butt for a little while) but I couldn't locate the glands.  So I took her to the vet and the technician took her into the back room and a few minutes later she came trotting out.  Federal express.  "They were pretty full" said the tech.  So hopefully that takes care of the problem. 

She was still spinning last night.  She sits down and then twirls around.  Sort of the "sit and spin" method of butt relaxation. 

But it still doesn't answer the question of why, if her butt is bothering her, does she wait until she's in a room full of strangers to begin demonstrating the fact.  Sheesh.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Malaise of the Modern Age

Years ago I read renowned feminist critic Elaine Showalter's book Hystories (unfortunately out of print) which is utterly fascinating.  Showalter's premise is that hysterical syndromes clearly point to the hidden fears and needs of a culture.  That's important.  The hidden fears and needs of a culture.  Not of an individual.  Showalter lumped together several disparate phenomena: False memory syndrome, Satanic Ritual Abuse, Alien Abduction; and closer to reality and which caused her to be a lightening rod for vituperous criticism: chronic fatigue syndrome; Gulf War Syndrome; recovered memory of all stripes; multiple personality. All of these exemplify what Freud and Charcot would have termed "hysteria."

Although hysteria is somewhat different, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome bears an uncanny resemblance to the 19th Century diagnosis: neurasthenia.

Here's a quote from the medical record I was typing today:  "Tired all the time; don’t feel well; weak; weight problems; headache, dizziness; blurred vision; loss of vision-R. eye; double vision-L. eye – several times a week; leg pain with walking; joint pain; neck pain; low back pain; indigestion; abdominal pain; anxious; tense; irritable; trouble sleeping; sexual difficulties; nocturia; leg and feet and L. arm go numb a lot and remain numb for hours; lots of muscle spasm..."

So what's to be made of this?  Perhaps the neurasthenic is in a constant state of what John Bradshaw called "hypervigilance," and the host of physiological effects of stress find their expression in musculoskeletal strain, joint inflammation, and fascitis.  Perhaps, we are literally "tearing ourselves apart," dealing with the stress of our culture.  Perhaps this is why less freedom can feel more comfortable.  I wonder if people who live under rigid, predictable, draconic regimes have less physical pain than those who live in a democracy with its chaotic factional distress.  It would be an interesting study.

Myk van Dyk

Little motivation to work today.  Hard to get enthusastic about laboriously transcribing dozens of audio tapes that have been prepared by a paralegal dictating a person's medical records.  A good deal of fatigue this morning.  It is 10 degrees cooler, which felt pleasant.  Molly was in a mood this morning.  She was bad yesterday.  Got hold of a bag of treats (foil, with a vacuum seal) and tore it open and ate every single one. 

That's what dogs do when you're away. 

This weekend I'm scheduled to run up to Whidbey Island for a writing seminar.  I'm looking forward to that.  Involves a short ferry ride, which will be very nice on a Friday evening. 

My shingles outbreak is fading, but it still itches like I went wading in poison ivy. 

My offer on the triplex in Decorah was countered and I accepted the counteroffer, which means that we've stepped closer to a purchase.  I think now that the sale is "pending". 

The subject line "Myk van Dyk" is just a jesterly attempt at a nom d'plume

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sin, Sinner, Sinnest

A Texas church that promised to host a man's funeral reniged after it learned the man was gay.  Apparently it wasn't an issue until the slide show that was intended to provide a retrospective on the man's past, contained images that showed "kissing" and affection between persons of the same gender. 

"Some of those photos had very strong homosexual images of kissing and hugging," Simons told the [Dallas] Morning News. "My ministry associates were taken aback."

I thought that the Biblical proscription was limited to the act of sexual intercourse by unmarried persons of the same gender--how does hugging and kissing conflate with that?

In the end, the nondenominational church said it would not hold the funeral because Sinclair was gay, which went against High Point's doctrine. "Can you hold the event and condone the sin and compromise our principles?" Simons said ... "We can't."

Again, conflating the "sin" with the state of being--not a presumptive sinful act.  The "sin" in this case was being gay and happy and having friends.  Sufficient basis to be cursed, ridiculed and ostracised by the good conservatives among us, who want us all to be better people, and shun us when we don't measure up to their standards.  Christians?  Or is it just Texas?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Barak Obama--Too Inexperienced?

Last night on the Daily Show (rerun from the night before), Senator Biden inadvertently boosted Barak Obama's presidential campaign.  Early in his first term, President Bush asked him, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to come over to the white house and brief him on Europe.  When Biden arrived the President said, "I'm going to Europe for the first time."  Biden said, "As president?"  No.  For the first time in GWB's life.

How can Barak Obama be any more inexperienced than that!

Biden recounted how confused the President was over Chancellor Schroeder, the recently elected German head of state who was a member of The Green Party.  "Why is there such friction with him?" asked the man who pulled us out of the Kyoto accord.

Although I am adverse to calling Bush an idiot, his cluelessness in this instance was idiotic.  Further evidence that Bush lives in a bubble surrounded by sycophants and cronies hand-picked by the Machine, who give him bad advice which he trusts too much.  Not stupid precisely, but certainly naive.  Obama, I feel, would be his own man.  Bush is enamoured of the mystique of being President, I think.  He likes being insulated, contemplating his place in history, crafting his image as a righteous defender of democratic liberty.  In other words, he's deluded by the very people who should be challenging him.  If he is a King, like many are saying, he's not George III, he is Richard II.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Invasion: Sci-Fi/Horror at its Best

Recently I've been watching the ABC series Invasion which went off the air in 2006.  Impressed with its creativity and its new spin on old ideas.  The "Body Snatcher" idea is one of the oldest in sci-fi, and hearkens back to folklore, in tales of doppelgangers and changelings.  This particular spin on it is truly interesting, and has provoked my contemplation and brooding long after finishing each episode. 

If you aren't familiar with the series, the "aliens" which are never presented as having technology--rather they are biological entities that attack human beings.  They look like a cross between giant orange manta rays and trilobytes.  They sieze a victim and suck out DNA material.  At this point, the creature itself, using the DNA material, metamorphose into replicas of the humans they consumed.  In one very well written episode, a botched attack results in a botched replica. 

The replicas have memories of their original lives, but they are not human and don't have, apparently, souls.  There's something hard, brittle, and coldhearted about them.  They don't have consciences.  Essentially, the replicas are sociopaths from the get-go.

There is one, however, which has been around quite a while longer than the rest, who was created after a plane crash in the Everglades (the Value Jet crash standing in).  He performs a kind of midwife role in the first season.  The second season introduces a shadow uber replicant named Zura, who is attempting to achieve a foothold in the American military. 

The interesting thing for me, what this show has made me ponder, is the nature of memory.  Clearly the replicants have the memories of the human beings they consume/devour/drain/absorb.  Memories are nerve impulses stored in our brains.  The creatures clearly absorb not only the DNA, but the neural patterns that make up their victim's memories.  That's so cool!

This is similar to a discussion of John Carpenter's The Thing, that I was reading the other day.  In that discussion, one opinion was that a person infected with the Thing did not necessarily know that they were infected.  (Norris).  The thing took them over, cell by cell, replicating each cell and neural pathway individually.  Not until the underlying Thing consciousness felt threatened, did it reveal itself, rise to the surface, and overwhelm the faux consciousness of the being it had replicated.  We see this as Dr. Copper attempts to defibrillate Norris after his heart attack.  The Thing considered the electricity an attack, and defended itself.  Up until that point, Norris was unaware that he had been transmuted into a Thing, cell by cell.

I wish I could come up with ideas this rich and cool.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Love My Enemy

I don't have many enemies, but a lot of people infuriate me.  Most of them I don't know personally since I don't permit anyone close to me to infuriate me more than once.  However, in order to manage my own fury, I often follow Jesus' advice and the advice in the Big Book of praying for those people. 

I use the Benediction, which is found in the book of Numbers.

"May the Lord bless and keep you.
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you
and give you PEACE."

I've often wondered about this little prayer which I love.  For years I thought His face and His countenance were the same things.  Not entirely.  I looked at Webster's today.

The fourth definition of countenance is:

4.approval or favor; encouragement; moral support.

So, when I say this prayer, I will say it with this meaning: May the Lord lift up his encouragement and support of you and give you peace.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Skip Along

My friend Skip had a heart attack on Tuesday night and died yesterday morning.  He was a good man who had a hard past six months dealing with a discordant situation at home, worry and stress over finances and the insanity of drug addiction - a housemate's addiction - not his own.  While it is tempting to blame the housemate for driving Skip to a premature grave, the truth is that on some level, Skip chose his own poison.  He had options.  He also had suffered a previous heart attack and still smoked three packs a day.  I spoke with him on the phone at length on Monday night, and he told me that he had just received his cigarette shipment from back east (in order to sidestep Washington state tobacco prices).

Personally I'm tired of the melodrama.  Tonight I'm going to partake in Morita therapy, which is the therapy of puttering, peace through action.  It's Japanese.  It works.  You get lost in simple tasks.  It's very peaceful.  I'll organize, clean, tidy, and vacuum, do laundry, the sundry domestic chores that take the mind away from pain.  And in the end, I will have accomplished something--a clean house, as well as avoiding heaping misery upon misery by acting out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Things I won't Miss About Seattle

Here are some things I won't miss about Seattle (in no particular order)

Crack - and the people who make, market and use it.


Public Transportation.  Smelly, stifling, seats too small, trips too long.

10% sales tax.


Trying to find parking.

Population density--the feeling of being crowded, oppressed, hemmed in.

The dark side of Anonymity: the feeling you're completely on your own, and God help you.

Earthquakes and the possibility of earthquakes, volcanoes, mudslides, tsunamis and other natural catastrophes.

The proximity to the Asian ports and the nasty flu bugs that disembark here.

The feeling that everything is always constantly changing all the time.

How you have to fly in order to go anywhere else in the country.

How expensive it has become to live here.

I used to love Seattle, but my love affair has ended.  I have 8-10 months left before I leave, and that's going to be a long haul.  I'm trying to get prepared by eliminating the clutter now. 

Friday, July 13, 2007

Delores Umbridge

I haven't yet seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but I will say that it is my favorite of the books. 

This is primarily because of its villain, Delores Umbridge.  I'm going to discuss her character here, but rest assured that this won't spoil the film if you haven't seen it.  Hopefully, it will deepen your appreciation.

Among the most important elements of character are their values and codes of conduct.  With protagonists, values often revolve around "the common good."  Heroes typically take action to benefit community.  Thus heroes place value on truth, justice, fairness, equality, etc.  Antagonists, on the other hand, often place themselves ahead of community.  They value self-aggrandizement.  Greed, pride, control, etc.

The greatest and most literary heroes often display values along a continuum between the self-centered and the altruistic.  Such characters have mixed motives or inner conflicts, and their principles need to be refined or defined.

So too, with villains.  Delores Umbridge has positive qualities: she values loyalty.  She is fiercely loyal to Fudge and the Ministry of Magic, and to well-ordered society.  She places societal well-being over individual well-being.  Thus she could be said to value community in a similar way to a hero.  So what makes her a villain?

Her willful denial of the truth.  She refuses to entertain the heresy that Voldemort has returned.  Her desire for the appearance of order and well-being is so strong it blinds her to the truth.  When voices of dissent challenge her pre-conceived ideas, she stifles them through intimidation and torture.  In her zeal to protect her vision of the well-ordered life, which is based on willful self-deception, she sacrifies justice for security.  Lies and deceit, especially willful self-deceit, is a character defect that, left unaddressed, will lead to hubris and downfall.  This is art mirroring life.

And the parallels to the Bush/Blair administrations couldn't be more obvious.

Delores Umbridge, because of her mixed motives, is one of the greatest villains of literature, and joins Madame Dafarge, Mrs. Danvers, Lady Macbeth and Clytemnestra in the pantheon of the great female evil doers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Deflecting Liability?

Brian Wells, the Erie Pennsylvania Pizza deliveryman at the center of the collar bomber case, was detained by police for more than 40 minutes before the device exploded.  Imagine you're in the policemen's shoes: frightened, apprehensive, never seen anything remotely like this, unsure of what to do, etc.

The bomb squad wasn't called for 32 minutes into the ordeal. 

Now unsealed indictments paint Wells as a willing coconspirator.  We'll never know for sure.  Wells was killed by the bomb.  His family has been given the silent treatment by officials from the beginning, an arrogant arms-length approach that antagonizes them.

For what purpose?  Law enforcement is clearly hostile to the family.  Why?  Is it because they are engaging in CYA shennanigans?  If a mother, for example, were to bring a lawsuit for wrongful death against the law enforcement agency that neglected to call the appropriate experts until it was far too late, in an emergency, she would have a much, much stronger case if the victim was an innocent hostage, rather than a willing co-conspirator. 

By naming Brian Wells a co-conspirator, prosecutors have eviscerated any civil action the family might bring for negligence on the part of law enforcement.  This is the circle-the-wagons approach in goverment that we see time and again--especially when lawsuits are likely.

Of course, Brian Wells might factually be a coconspirator, but he'll never have a chance to defend himself.  It will never be proven or disproven, but will sit in legal limbo until a civil action commences.  The cloud of that uncertainty will allow the state's defense attorney to make mincemeat out of the plaintiff's case.

And there's the matter of Well's previous association with Deihl-Armstrong's boyfriend Barnes.  That's circumstantial evidence that really stinks.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

My Father's Physician

My father's doctor was recently arrested, charged with trespassing and burglary.  It doesn't add up.  Burglary is much better defined in the Minnesota criminal code (under which Dr. Heine is presumably charged) than the Iowa code.  The Minnesota code defines burglary as:

 Subd. 3. Burglary in the third degree; Whoever enters a building without consent and with intent to steal or commit any felony or gross misdemeanor while in the building, or enters a building without consent and steals or commits a felony or gross misdemeanor while in the building, either directly or as an accomplice, commits burglary in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.


The Iowa code requires theft in order to be convicted of burglary.  Theft is defined by degree based on the value of the property stolen.  The Minnesota statute does not make that fine point--requiring only the taking of property that doesn't belong to the accused.  But--can the taking of something which is essentially worthless be stealing?  Without a set definition in the statute, the law relies on the standard dictionary definition of the word.  Websters is the dictionary of choice for most jurisdictions and Websters defines steal as: "To take (the property of another) without right or permission."

Are items in a "lost and found" box anyone's "property?"  They certainly have no intrinsic value. 

In order to find the doctor guilty, the jurors will have to find that the doctor not only factually did everything the prosecution said he did, but that those actions fit the law as it is written.  I believe the law was written to cover property of value.  Thus, if the doctor had taken audio-visual equipment, band instruments, computers, etc., he could correctly be charged with burglary.  But taking worthless pieces of fabric unclaimed as property by any individual is stretching the law in order to accuse him of a more serious crime than that which was allegedly factually committed.  I suspect that's because of the suspected sexual motive for the talking--which is not covered by the statute, I note. 

All of this is a railroad in an attempt to deprive the accused of his professional standing in the community.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Personal Questions

Answering personal questions from nosy Iowans.  Hmm.  I'm going to have to get used to it.  Or, if not precisely used to it, develop a strategy on how to cope.  Because you gotta know, it's coming. 

"So, arya still acting?"  "How longya gonna be here?"  "Whenja get back?"  etc.  But now when people discover that I've abandoned Seattle, they're going to be doubly curious. "What broughtcha back?"  "Whatcha gonna do now?"  "Whatcha gonna be do'in in Decorah?"  or the really nosy who don't care if they're being impolite and don't really care if anybody else (including me) knows it--"Gotta job?"

Some of this can be deflected with humor:  "I left Seattle because I got tired of all the traffic and all the liberals."  "Too expensive, too many people--especially, too many liberals."  etc.

This will immediately cause a republican to laugh, and also I would think an Iowa democrat, most of whom run a moderate stripe--the only ones I have to watch out for is the hippie-commie-peaceniks up at Luther, whose blue is the color of the deepest ocean trenches.

As far as the job goes, if I leave it deliberately vague, it only invites further prying.  Thus I must always couch it in terms Iowans understand: Family.  "I wanted to be closer to family"--which has the double advantage of being the truth, and something they can understand.  If they probe, I can always say, "well you know Dad has a lot to cope with, with Norma in that wheelchair..."  [arched eyebrow].  This redirects the question to perhaps a prejudice that the interogator already possesses--that of Dad caring for his invalid wife and what a pity that is--and wouldn't things be different if Betty were still around...

"I'm going to be doing some things for the firm over the internet from home," also has a mysterious ring to it and could invite a peppering of questions, but ones that I don't necessarily mind answering.

The response I would truly love to give?  "I've got a book contract and I'll be working on revising and editing my manuscript for publication."  Between now and next spring, I hereby promise to commit to trying to make this response a truthful one, one that I can use with pride. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Racial Profiling

Racism.  The US Supreme Court yesterday stood up in support of racism by deciding against the Seattle School Board's practice of ensuring racial diversity in Seattle schools by taking race into account when deciding which students attend which high schools.  Seattle has 10 high schools in diverse economic neighborhoods.  The school at the center of the case, Ballard High, is a highly regarded, progressive, artistically oriented school, like Garfield High, in South Seattle, whose graduates tend to go on to college.

Apparently the Justices want to create a "color blind" society in which race is not an issue.  What they are taking aim at are quotas, preferences and the concept of "reverse discrimination" if that indeed exists.

Nothing needs to change.  The school board can learn from the lessons taught by Republican racists themselves.  To wit: the redistricting of Texas by Tom Delay.  You can get around the issue of race, yet achieve the same racial aims by making the quotas and preferences have to do with economics and geographic location. 

Use their own weapons against them. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pushing the Envelope

Apparently Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler) is pushing the envelope in his independent film Suffering Man's Charity, given a screening recently in New York.  It provoked a stampede for the exits and fainting spells.  "Margaret!  My smelling salts!"  Subject: a whipping/torture scene between Alan and David Boreanaz.  I say: Bring it On!!!  The salient question on my mind: who was whipping whom?

Oh De Sade can you see?
'Neath the whip's forceful lash
As so loudly we whaled
Upon the buttocks' pale gleaming....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Plotzensee and Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise hit a snag in his desire to portray German hero of the Nazi resistance, Von Stauffenberg.  Von Stauffenberg was the pivot point behind a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and other Nazi top brass on July 20, 1944.  The plot failed when the heavy wooden table at the Wolf's Lair bunker muffled the blast from the bomb left in the attache case at Hitler's feet.  Hundreds of conspirators were tried in the notorious people's court (where Roland Friesler presided as judge, prosecutor and jury).  All were condemned to death, and executed at Plotzensee prison in Berlin, where they were hung in rows of eight.  I've heard reports that they were hung with piano wire and the executions filmed for the delectation of der Fuhrer.  Somewhere I heard that.  Don't know if it's true, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Plotzensee also had Germany's last functioning fallbeil (guillotine).  It mysteriously disappeared after the war.

Apparently, in a move that would leave American officials stymied, wringing their hands, Germans have no trouble whatsoever denying the right of Scientology to proselytize in the Fatherland.  Moreover the Bundeswehr (German military) does not want Von Stauffenberg to be portrayed by Cruise--for whatever reason.  And there the matter stands. 

I just saw the infamous South Park Scientology episode the other night.  Hilarious.  They should take to heart the lesson of Microsoft: with success comes exposure, with exposure and money the sharks will circle.  Up to now, though, they've made brilliant strategic moves, attracting celebrities, disguising the extent of their assets within corporations and subsidiaries wholly owned by the church, but not generally known to be, such as Earthlink: all tax free courtesy of the U.S. Government.  Time for congress to revisit this issue, perhaps?

Monday, June 18, 2007


Sometimes I worry too much what other people think, which is why I hesitate to write this entry.  But I've been dealing with a desire to leave Seattle ever since I gave up acting.  In retrospect, buying the condominium was not a fortunate decision.  Now I have a strong desire to return to my roots, like a salmon, not to spawn, but to reconnect with my family, and to spend time writing in a slower paced environment that doesn't have such a high cost of living.  Living in Seattle costs $50,000 a year minimum.  Eventually salaries will catch up with that reality but it just hasn't happened yet. 

My father is aging, and he is now the sole caretaker of his invalid wife.  It would be nice to be around to help him out.  I want to be of service to the people who mean the most to me.  I needed these two decades in order to establish my own identity, but now it's firm.  I can return without becoming mashed potatoes.

I spoke to my sister about this and she doesn't think it's crazy.  Knock me over with a feather.  I thought for sure she would think it was nuts but she was actually supportive.  Big check in the "pro" column.

Found a wonderful online I-Ching.  I asked the question, "Should I leave Seattle and move to Decorah to write and reconnect with family?"

Lin-Approach.  Above: K'un-the receptive, Earth.  Below: the joyous, lake.  The judgment: approach has supreme success.  Perserverence furthers.  When the eighth month comes, there will be misfortune.

About the clearest positive response one can possibly receive from the oracle.

I plan to hang on here at the minimum, until we discover whether the Supreme Court will take the Exxon appeal.  I'll sell and move in the Spring, after profit sharing.  Either 2008 or 2009.  Probably 2008 (that's about 8 months though.  I may wait until after the window of misfortune according to the oracle).  Next June.  Maybe I'll be back in Decorah for my Dad's 75th Birthday celebration.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Official English does not mean English Only

English.  When did it become something to be ashamed of?  England was imperial, no doubt about it.  But our founding fathers spoke English (and probably French, Dutch, some Spanish, and very likely German -- King George III, as a Hannoverian, likely spoke German--and perhaps French). 

But History is no comfort to us as we face this issue.  I'm taking the moderate road.  I favor the establishment of English as the official language as a practical matter.  Not as a way of disenfranchising any special group or population, but as a way of warding off future strife.  Make no mistake it's only going to get worse.

At some point in the future, some parts of the United States will see a majority of Spanish speaking residents.  When that happens, will legal forms, documents, descriptions of property, laws, writs, summonses, and the courts, human services, public policy, etc., switch to Spanish?  And if and when that happens, will the presumably white, English only speaking minority reflect on how difficult it has been for those who have spoken only Spanish in this country, living in a society wherein all the rules, laws, et al. are codified in a foreign language?  Will we English speakers pause then, and say, how insensitive we were?

Absolutely not. 

The hue and cry will make the debate now seem like a garden party.  Civil war?  You bet.  Language is power.  And the sooner we recognize that the better.  We are engaged in a cultural war.  One of the battle fronts is the battle over language.  If English speakers lose that battle, then all power and privilege will be lost with it.  And all because we let it happen.  Here's where I part company from my liberal friends.  Call me a xenophobe if you wish.  I hate and fear no one.  But I do think there should be practical standards.  English is the international language of business; so, why isn't it good enough to be the national language of our government?  Why?  Because certain people want to take away the language power of the entrenched, presumably white, English speaking majority.  Nothing wrong with wanting a piece of the pie.  But the best way is to earn it.  And it's historically been the sad problem of immigrants in the US that it often takes a generation or two to fully assimilate.

Official English doesn't mean English only of course.  We can and must communicate.  But when writingour laws, when codifying the public will, describing who owns what, I want that to always be in a language I can understand.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Transcontinental traveler/TB patient Andrew Speaker will be forgiven by the media for putting fellow travelers at quantam risk for TB infection because (1) he's good looking: if he was fat and middle aged, he'd have already been arrested.  (2) he's good looking and heterosexual: his travel was the result of his desire to get married and go on his honeymoon, hubba-hubba.  How can one preserve umbrage at such red-blooded American motives?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Steve asked yesterday why I was blogging about these psychological defense mechanisms.  Well, it had been my intention to delve deeper into them, once I had established precisely what they were.  Tip of the hat to Wikipedia for the definitions. 

When I see projection in others and myself, I'm disgusted.  As the Wikipedia states, it is a primitive defense mechanism, but it's also so vile, so based in willful self-deceit, that it can only be deemed evil--when it is given expression either in word or deed.  Aesop knew that the grapes were sweet and nourishing.  But the fox, unable to get across the stream, despite his wiles, to taste them, was sure that the grapes were sour. 

When we do this with people--then it's ugly, depraved and evil.  Projection was the grease between the gears of the Holocaust.  When people don't do what we want them to do, when they won't give us what we need, or when we make ourselves feel better by denigrating someone else, then we are projecting--and it's heinous.  It's primitive, disgusting and vile--animalistic and brutish.  It's pernicious because it's so unconscious, and I must be on guard.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Projection and Transference

I'm still grappling with the most interesting of all the defense mechanisms: projection and transference. 

In psychology, psychological projection (or projection bias) is a defense mechanism in which one attributes to others one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts or/and emotions. Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted subconscious impulses/desires without letting the ego recognize them. The theory was developed by Sigmund Freud and further refined by his daughter Anna Freud.


According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else.

To understand the process, consider a husband who has thoughts of infidelity. Instead of dealing with his undesirable thoughts consciously, he subconsciously projects these feelings onto his wife, and begins to think that she has thoughts of infidelity and may be having an affair. In this way one can see that projection is related to denial, the only defense mechanism, some argue, that is more primitive than projection. The husband has denied a part of himself that is desperate to come to the surface. He can't face his own feelings of infidelity, so instead he will project the feelings onto his wife and dwell on that.

Historical uses

Peter Gay describes it as "the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable—too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous—by attributing them to another."[1]

The concept was anticipated by Friedrich Nietzsche:

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach based his theory of religion in large part upon the idea of projection, i.e., the idea that an anthropomorphic deity is the outward projection of man's anxieties and desires.

Psychological projection is the subject of Robert Bly's book A Little Book on the Human Shadow. The "Shadow"—a term used in Jungian psychology to describe a variety of psychological projection—refers to the projected material.

Psychologist Marie-Louise Von Franz extended the view of projection to all cover phenomena in Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in Creation Myths: "... wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image."


When addressing psychological trauma the defense mechanism is sometimes counter-projection, including an obsession to continue and remain in a recurring trauma-causing situation and the compulsive obsession with the perceived perpetrator of the trauma or its projection.

Jung writes that "All projections provoke counter-projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject."

Common definitions
  • "Projection is the opposite defence mechanism to identification. We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have."
  • "A defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits."
  • "Attributing one's own undesirable traits to other people or agencies."
  • "The individual perceives in others the motive he denies having himself. Thus the cheat is sure that everyone else is dishonest."
  • "A man harboring attractions for a woman would perceive other men as having the same attractions for her."
  • "People attribute their own undesirable traits onto others. An individual who unconsciously harbours his or her aggressive/sexual tendencies may then imagine other people acting in an excessively aggressive or sexual way."
  • "An individual who possesses malicious characteristics, but who is unwilling to perceive himself as an antagonist, convinces himself that his opponent feels and would act the same way."


In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with certain personality disorders:

Transference is a phenomenon in psychology characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another. One definition of transference is "the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person's childhood." Another definition is "the redirection of feelings and desires and esp. of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object." Still another definition is "a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, esp. of childhood, and the substitution of another person . . . for the original object of the repressed impulses." Transference was first described by Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged its importance for psychoanalysis for better understanding of the patient's feelings.

It is common for people to transfer feelings from their parents to their partners (emotional incest) or to children (cross-generational entanglements). For instance, one could mistrust somebody who resembles an ex-spouse in manners, voice, or external appearance; or be overly compliant to someone who resembles a childhood friend.

In The Psychology of the Transference, Carl Jung states that within the transference dyad both participants typically experience a variety of opposites, that in love and in psychological growth, the key to success is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process, and that this tension allows one to grow and to transform.

Transference is common. Only in a personally or socially harmful context can transference be described as a pathological issue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Set Back

Severe depression over the weekend.  Let me describe the pain: It's like life is worthless, there's no point in going on, that I'll never achieve my goals, that even if I do it will be hollow and unenjoyable, that I'm totally alone and isolated.  Well that last part is objectively true, though I did try making phone calls to my friend Mike B. who was down in LA.  He works for Gencon and was taking in the gala Star Wars celebration.  He has the career and the luck we all dream about. 

But back to me...

So I look within to see if there's any cause for the pain.  Is there anything causing it?  And the result of my introspection?  Zip, nada, nothing.  So, intellectually I have to tell myself that it will pass.  So what got me there?  I started to obsess about what kind of car I needed to purchase when my T-Bird finally has to be replaced.  What would it be?  A diesel or a hybrid?  I wouldn't get another gas-powered vehicle.  Not right for the planet.  And I want to do everything I can to reduce the US dependency on foreign oil.

So I was down to three choices: a Ford Escape Hybrid, a Jeep Liberty Diesel, and the car I really, really want: the Mercedes Benz M 320 CDI (diesel).  Unfortunately, I could have both the Ford Escape and the Jeep Liberty for what it would cost to purchase the Benz.  My mind just went around in circles--like the maelstrom in Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Or, I could just try to get along without a car.  Ain't that a concept? 

I could save probably $300 a month if I didn't have a car.  And the bird spends most of its time garaged. 

But the real source of the pain--it must be bio/chemical.  How can it be anything but?  These are not issues of dire concern.  Not like a horrible medical condition or the death of a loved one.  But just feelings of personal worthlessness and isolation. 

Not all alone time is bad.  As a writer I have to spend a lot of time alone.  Solitude=good.  Isolation (hiding out)=bad.

Thus I am forced in the end to use my brain.  If I cannot control these feelings, where they come from, nor how to put them aside, then I must convince myself that it is a temporary situation.  They will pass.  And that gets me through. 

I'm feeling much better today, for which I amgreatly relieved. 

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Can't Quite Shake It

Mood still run-down.  Trying desperately not to get grandiose with my checkbook and purchase a big ticket item in order to lift my spirits.  Went to the Lenovo site last night and ordered a 1GB memory upgrade for my stinkpad.*  I'm trying to breathe new life into it so that I don't plop another $2000 of unsecured debt down on a new one.  It's perfectly good, useable.  There's no reason to upgrade yet.  It's still under warranty!

*To clarify: I LOVE my Thinkpad, and I will probably never own anything but.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

False Prophets

I think it's important to separate the shepherds from the flock.  Is it possible to gain salvation from a tainted source?  I expect it is, because God is a loving God.  And besides, it is impossible for me to judge what lives in the heart of another.  So I accept the fact that my Mormon and Islamic fellow citizens are children of God, even though I believe that their prophets are false.  I suppose those are fighting words to some. 

But it goes deeper for me.  Suicide is a sin.  Murder is a sin.  When the followers of Jim Jones drank the potion in the jungle, did they lose salvation?  I cannot judge.  I do not know what was in their hearts.  Their leader was, beyond doubt, a false prophet.  The same was true of David Koresh.   The fruit of their prophecy and revelation was not life, but death.  Through their guile and deceit they obscured the truth, but that does not mean that all their followers shared their taint. 

The same is true for Islam and the the Latter Day Saints.

Monday, May 21, 2007

This is the verse that settles it...

St. Paul is a troubling individual, but here's the nitty-gritty (from Galatians):

    8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The word gospel to me here means "revelation", and as such, it invalidates both Islam, which preaches that Christ was not divine and Mormonism, which purports to preach a gospel of a risen Christ in the New World.  The Galatians quote is especially damning for Joseph Smith--all but mentioning Angel Moroni by name.

But it is interesting to consider Mormonism a middle-eastern Religion.  It is full of Jewish mystical symbolism as well as Freemasonry and Illuminati symbolism.  As two of the most rapidly growing religions in the world, what may occur at some far flung distant time when they lock horns with each other?