Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Final review in EU Film Showcase

The final film I saw in the European Union Film Showcase was I Am Not Your Friend from Hungary, which I was highly anticipating, because I saw director György Pálfi's Taxidermia at the 2007 festival, and was very impressed by its blend of grotesque imagery and emotional depth. Palfi's new offering is far less graphic but just as emotionally intense. It revolves around several residents of Budapest and their deceitful, manipulative relationships with each other. In a bar, a woman, Rita, tells bartender Sophie that she is planning to divorce her husband, but doesn't know that Sophie has been having an affair with the husband she is about to leave, an affair which the husband, Andras, treated as almost a joke, letting his friend Mark (who turned out to be Sophie's husband), listen in on her telephone seductions of Andras. Mark is also having an affair with his employee Sara, who has been cheating on her boyfriend, and it goes on like this. Every relationship is shrouded in lies and weighed with infidelity and distrust. There are no clear cut heroes and villains, everyone gets hurt and hurts others. The film is preceded by a short documentary set in a kindergarten classroom, where the children, with typical fickleness, switch who they call friends and leave others out of their groups. The short is meant to illustrate how early we use relationships to manipulate each other, but at least the kindergarteners are honest about who they like and dislike at the moment, where the adults in the feature take to lying and manipulating. Although they are the "grownups," they can't be honest about what they want with each other, and may not even know what they want.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two more from the EU Film Showcase

Over the weekend I saw two documentaries in the European Union Film Showcase. The first, Citizen Havel from Czech Republic, was a look at the political life of former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Although I know very little about Havel and his policies, I very much enjoyed the film. It provided a look at political meetings and strategy rarely seen in the public media. Havel was seen meeting with his advisers about conflicts with the Czech premier (in the Czech Republic, the president is elected by the Parliament, not directly by the people), preparing for speeches with advisers telling him how to stand and his wife checking his suit for dandruff, and discussing upcoming meetings with other leaders. Two highlights include a trip to a Prague jazz club with former US president Bill Clinton, where Havel presented Clinton with a custom-made saxophone, and Havel attending a Rolling Stones concert and later inviting the band to the Presidential Palace. The film offers an unparalleled look inside the structuring of a new nation, and the triumphs and trials of its leadership. Havel even gives a glimpse into his private life, and, in an emotionally charged interlude, shows him looking out onto the Palace grounds at the state funeral for his late wife. After he remarries (which is also shown), he recounts the 30+ years of his first marriage. The portrait of Havel is multidimensional, private and public lives, achievements and setbacks. The only downside is that the film offers little history of the Czech republic or background on its government, which could leave some viewers lost among the policy discussions. Clarity issues aside, the viewer gains an unprecedented look inside the life of a world leader.
The other documentary was Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, a look at the legendary French filmmaker's abandoned project Inferno. Film restorer Serge Bromberg collected Clouzot's footage and shows it with readings from the script (the sound had disappeared from the decades-old footage) and interviews with crew members, trying to restructure the film and determine why the project didn't make it. It's hard to tell whether Clouzot's intended film Inferno would have been any good. With odd dream sequences that took a lot of technological wrangling, and Clouzot's obsession with getting the scenes exactly right, it was a highly ambitious endeavor, and a few of the crew members interviewed suggest that it was this over-ambition that led to the project's demise. As a look in the creative process of the renowned director, however, Bromberg's film is invaluable. Through behind the scenes footage and interviews, Clouzot's film-making techniques are revealed, including his preproduction storyboards that also used color coding to indicate the moods and emotions of the characters in the particular scene. The crew also reveal that Clouzot was particularly invested in Inferno, spending hours and hours trying to create the perfect scenes. Clouzot, called the French Hitchcock, was equally demanding on his actors, up to the point where his lead actor left the project midway through. The crew interviews alternately suggest that the actor had contracted a rare illness or that he had just had enough of Clouzot and his demands. Though the film itself was never made, Bromberg used the dead project to create a masterwork of his own, a look into the film-making process and a profile of one of film's most renowned artists in one of his less renowned periods.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crime hysteria

Monday night I saw another offering in the European Union Film Showcase at AFI, a Danish film called Deliver Us From Evil. While some of the techniques used were questionable, like the portentous music and images of gathering storm clouds between scenes, and the odd presence of a strangely dressed narrator at the beginning and end, it told a strong story of how people can lose their heads in the quest for vengeance. Lars, a shiftless truck driver with a far more successful brother, runs someone over while on the job, hides the body and other evidence, and plants more evidence on a Bosnian immigrant, who is later besieged by the dead woman's husband, who is also Lars' boss, and other employees who get caught up in the exciting prospect of violence against a supposedly violent offender, although all evidence, and the scene itself, indicate that the woman's death was an accident. While the film is at times a bit too ambitious in attempting to explore multiple issues of class and race (and a rape scene with ensuing battle at the end that is totally superfluous), the illustration of how crazy people can become in pursuing justice is a powerful one. In the climax, the husband, with his employees, has tracked the Bosnian, Alain, to the home of Lars' far more successful brother Johannes, a friend of Alain's who has decided to protect him from the mob. But, as Johannes' wife notices, he becomes just as zealous and violent in his struggle as the mob outside, using a nail gun to staple the arm of an intruder to the door. Johannes himself says that he wants to show up the "proletariats" outside. Ingvar (may not be the exact name), the grieving widower, has an assistant who ultimately refuses to get the bullets for Ingvar to reload his shotgun after shooting into Johannes' house, a doctor Johannes had brought in to examine Alain and police responding to a call. At this point, Lars, shocked at the extremes to which Ingvar has gone, has confessed to running over Ingvar's wife, and Ingvar is unable to harm him. The scene of the angry mob searching ostensibly for justice but in reality to serve a base desire to harm a perceived enemy, recalls Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, where a retarded man wrongly accused of rape is chased and, though I don't remember exactly, is either killed or almost killed, and Fritz Lang's Fury, where an accused criminal (also innocent) is murdered by a mob that has surrounded the jail where he is being held.
This doesn't just happen in the movies. In a book I just read about Italy's still unsolved case of serial murder, the Monster of Florence killings, after a composite sketch is released of the suspected killer (seen by witnesses near the crime scenes), anyone who vaguely resembled the sketch was terrorized by angry citizens, their businesses suffered, and one man committed suicide as a result of the barrage of threats he received. This was hardly the only problem encountered in the Monster of Florence case; the litany of power struggles among officials, the refusals of investigators to admit fault in accusing ultimately innocent men of the crime, and the terror they inflicted on a journalist who dared to question the official path of the investigation, all of which led to the killer remaining free and unknown (though the terrorized journalist has a convincing theory as to the killer's identity) to this day, warrants its own post, which I will write at another time. I mention it here as an example of the kind of hysteria that can grip a community that has seen a crime wave or suffered any significant loss; they want to blame someone, and when their anxieties finally have a human face, they set upon that, whether or not an official investigation has been conducted and whether or not that person is guilty, and their fear and rage often turn violent. Common sense, logic and everything that separates humans from other animals, except a disturbing organization of brutality, disappears.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ft. Hood, respect and menstruation

Since I don't know all the details of the case, I'll keep the discussion of Ft. Hood brief until I read more. But I will say, for the moment, that I do not believe the shooting was an act of terrorism. Although the shooter had embraced a radical sect of Islam, it seems unlikely that the shooting was motivated by ideology, which is the definition of a terrorist attack. More likely, since the shooter was also dealing with personal issues, including possible mental problems, it's far more likely that he was another troubled man with violent, possibly psychotic tendencies that reached his breaking point. It's happened many, many times before, and will happen again, maybe on another military base.
On a related topic, I read a post on Facebook from a friend saying that he would defriend anyone who said that the military was unnecessary and never did anything for anyone. It received a flurry of comments denouncing "elitists," which I took to mean "liberals." While, as the title of my blog clearly indicates, I do not mind being called a liberal, but I do resent when liberals are called elitists. On a recent episode of 30 Rock, Jack told Liz that she needed to get in touch with the "heartland," where people are "kinder" and "simpler." A trip to a rural Georgia comedy club proved that the people in small towns can be total jerks as much as those in big cities. However, in big cities, since more people interact more often, the animosity comes to the surface more often in a more concentrated area. And while California, the bastion of liberal elites in the eyes of dogmatic conservatives, shot down the legalization of gay marriage, the very middle America state of Iowa has passed pro-gay marriage legislation. There are good and bad, liberal and conservative, people everywhere.
Where the military is concerned, I can vaguely recall a routine from the late great George Carlin where he is arguing against the automatic respect that those in certain positions, like police or military officials, have come to expect, which is encouraged by society. Carlin says that, for him to respect someone, they have to earn it through actions. I do not automatically give someone my respect just because they're wearing a uniform or served in a war. As the case of Steven Green in Iraq illustrates, there are soldiers in our military who abuse their power and enlist for entirely the wrong reasons. The recently executed Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammed served in the first Gulf War, Charles Whitman was a former Marine, and serial killer Arthur Shawcross served in Vietnam. There are respectable people, even heroes, who have served in the military, and, on the other side, I don't automatically hate someone who has been in the military. But just because someone enlisted in the army does not make them a hero, or even a decent person.
The second installment of my reviews of the European Union Film Showcase: Slovakian documentary The Moon Inside You, which examines the myths and perceptions surrounding menstruation. In interviews with pubescent girls and boys, the stuttering comments of squeamish men, psychologists, gynecologists, and the incoherent babble of New Agey types, the director examines views of the natural, but hidden, phenomenon. The point made frequently, which got to me too, is that even modern women do not talk about their menstrual cycles, and, for many women who grew up in more traditional families, it became shameful as a result, making the mere fact of openly creating a film about it a brave act. While the film could have gone into more depth, particularly in examining the ways that governments and social scientists have tried to impede the progress of women by publishing "studies" that the hormones of the menstrual cycle deter women from fully functioning in the workplace. One of the more illuminating, and disturbing, interviews was with a (male) Brazilian doctor who has given women implants to stop them from having periods, and calls menstruation "unnatural" because it's so painful. It recalls the organic fetishists who seem to think that anything "natural" is automatically good, although this is not at all true, considering all the poisonous substances that occur naturally in plants (the cyanide in apple cores is an excellent example). Luckily, the director of the film was available for questions after the showing, and she mentioned that the implants offered by this doctor have been under investigation for causing severe health problems. The symptoms connected to menstruation can be so severe and so shameful that women are willing to have an experimental object implanted inside them to keep it from happening. On the other side, there were psychologists from Australia who advocated embracing the natural rhythms of the body, and, while a bit New Agey for my tastes, it still seemed more reasonable than implants to prevent the very natural, though annoying, process of menstruation. The director told the audience that, because of the topic, she's had trouble finding distributors, particularly in squeamish America, although an American education foundation has expressed interest. The element that put of American public television was a comment by a Spanish gynecologist that masturbation can relieve menstrual cramps (which, through research and personal experience, I've discovered is true except in extreme cases). The most illuminating part of the film was a discussion with pubescent boys, describing their impressions of a woman's period, mostly describing how awful and creepy it sounds, a view which, unfortunately, does not change as boys get older. Although I thought the images of blood that pepper the film were a bit much while watching, an audience member made the point that we see blood in action and horror movies and think nothing of it, but when images of blood are connected to a woman's reproductive process, we automatically recoil. Because menstruation is still considered a taboo, shameful subject. But hopefully a film like this one, where the subject is openly discussed, will trigger more discussion and thoughtful examination.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I realize that on my post about the Roman Polanski arrest that I may have come across as condoning his crimes. That was not my intent. I know full well that he raped an underage girl, fully conscious of what he was doing. My concern with the case being brought to trial after all these years is that it's not what the victim wants. She's a grown woman now, and wants to put it behind her. I am not defending Polanski's actions, from the rape to fleeing the country. But I hope the California courts keep the wishes of the victim in mind in their zealous quest for "justice."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

John Allen Muhammed executed tonight

Yes, Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammed was executed earlier tonight, and I was, as always, extremely dismayed at the sense of celebration I've seen from press releases and even among my friends. For the record, as I've stated many times before, I oppose the death penalty. I can't see that it's about anything but revenge. The most disturbing comment was a post on Facebook wishing that not only Muhammed but his accomplice Lee Malvo got the chair. The electric chair was a terribly cruel method of execution, and I've stated before how I feel about Malvo's involvement in the crimes. But, of course, I didn't support the death penalty for Muhammed either. All that happens is, as Camus wrote in his essay "Reflections on the Guillotine," is the barely cloaked sadism of the masses, relieved that the usually hidden part of their psyches finally has an outlet against a "bad" person, and the chance to revel in the thought of a now-dead criminal burning in hell, and wishing that he had a more painful death. There is something extremely troubling about otherwise decent human beings wishing pain and suffering on another human being, even if that person is a murderer. There is a very simple saying, but it's so true: two wrongs don't make a right.

A Serious Man review

A Serious Man, the latest offering from Joel and Ethan Coen, is brilliant in many respects, such as the revelatory performance by Michael Stuhlbarg in the lead, which deeply deserves recognition come award season, and the Coens’ trademark quirky humor. What makes the film stand out is how it expertly blends broad comedy with biblical tragedy, causing the viewer to think that the two inevitably go together. Small in scope where the Coens’ other recent masterpiece, No Country for Old Men, was wide, it centers on the fall of one ordinary, self-described “serious” man.
Larry Gopnik, the protagonist, is cursed with an insufferable family; a bratty teenage daughter whose shrill whining fills the house the second he comes home, a pothead son in debt to a local bully who gets high before his bar mitzvah, a wife who reveals that she’s having an affair and, with the assistance of her new lover, forces Larry out of his house into a motel, and a brother who compulsively gambles and ends up getting arrested. Larry’s job as a physics professor doesn’t offer much comfort; there, he’s being bullied and bribed into changing a student’s failing grade by both the student and the student’s father, and has to jump through legislative hoops to get tenure. On top of all of this, he’s low on money (meaning he can’t afford a lawyer for his divorce), his neighbor is building over the property line, and his quest for spiritual enlightenment is more frustrating than enlightening. He is also plagued by nightmares, which form some of the more entertaining and disturbing dream sequences in recent film history.
Larry’s trips to three ineffectual rabbis form a frame in the middle of the story. The first is a young, inexperienced one who can only offer empty platitudes. The second, while more experienced, only offers an odd story (it must be seen to be believed) that has no relevance to Larry’s problems. On the trip to the third, most revered, rabbi, Larry has reached his breaking point. He is clearly exasperated as he begs the rabbi’s secretary for an appointment. She then walks into a book-filled office where the rabbi is sitting quietly. She shortly comes back, and tells the frustrated Larry, “The rabbi is busy.” When Larry shouts that he doesn’t look busy, the secretary, in the same deadpan voice, says, “He’s thinking.” The spiritual quest, which his soon-to-be ex-wife was convinced would help, comes up empty.
Larry’s story does not have a neat ending. A tornado approaches a school as a group of students, including Larry’s son, hides in the basement. At the same time, Larry receives a call from the doctor he saw for tests at the beginning of the film, and the doctor is clearly bearing bad news, but the screen fades to black before the news is revealed. There is no redemption in Larry’s suffering, as there was, of sorts, in the Biblical story of Job, whose story Larry’s symbolically resembles. Unlike Job, Larry finds no solace in faith, and, the viewer can infer from the grim voice of the doctor and the black tornado clouds overhead, will not gain back what he has lost.

In the first installment of a series during the European Union Film Showcase at the AFI Silver Theatre, a brief review of the Bulgarian film Zift. This film could best be described as an Eastern European homage to American film noir. The story centers around a thief who goes by the name Moth, just released from prison in Communist Bulgaria, and is told both forward and backward, in what happens after his release, and how he ended up in prison. While occasionally Moth's voice-overs lend too much exposition, and explain things that don't need to be explained, the film is a classic noir, full of twists, including the subtle but jarring ultimate twist at the end, and moody cinematography. The lead actor, whose name escapes me at the moment, is coolly charismatic and gives a stunning and nuanced performance, particularly while Moth, in the second half, is walking the streets after being poisoned by a former partner in crime. The bleakness of Communist-bloc Eastern Europe proves an excellent setting for a film noir.
While there is no way I will get to see every film in the showcase, or even every one I want to see (I unfortunately missed a very interesting-sounding Polish movie called Piggies this past weekend), I will mention the ones I do get to see here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Edmund Kemper: fact and fiction

I just saw a movie about Edmund Kemper I found on Hulu. Considering that I found it online, I wasn't expecting much, but even so, I was severely disappointed by its inaccuracies. First of all, although Kemper committed his crimes in the 1970s, the movie featured contemporary accouterments like laptops and cell phones. Edmund Kemper was 6'9" and weighed 300 pounds, but the actor who played him was shorter than the actors playing the detectives. He looked more like Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway than Kemper. Even worse than the anachronism, it took dramatic license with the story to the point that it was barely recognizable. While Kemper spent time at a bar frequented by police officers and befriended a few of them, he did not have a detective as a close friend, much less help the detective solve other murders, as portrayed in the movie. When the detective learns, through a phone call from Kemper, that he is the killer the police have been tracking, the movie turns into a cat and mouse chase that never happened. In the process, it loses the already fascinating true story, and one of the most interesting aspects of the Kemper case is lost. Edmund Kemper is the only serial killer that I know of who turned himself in, and waited for the police to come get him.
While Kemper is not as well known as the likes of Bundy, Gacy and Dahmer, I've always considered him one of the most interesting serial killers. Like many other killers, he grew up in an abusive home. His mother, embittered by having been left by his father, and because her son looked so much like his father, hated Edmund and didn't try to hide it. Because of his size, and because she hated him, she assumed he would molest his sister, and made him sleep in the basement. She also, an aspect only hinted at in the movie, constantly belittled him, telling him, among other hateful things, that no woman would ever love him. At fourteen (not ten, as depicted in Kemper: The Coed Killer), Edmund's mother sent him to live with his father's parents, and, one day, he shot them, saying "I wanted to know how it felt to shoot Grandma." At a juvenile facility, he learned how to manipulate psychological tests. In his adult killing career (after, in an exceptionally stupid move, being released to his mother's custody), he once passed a psych test administered during a parole meeting, while the head of his latest victim was sitting in his car. A true cinematic moment, but it was left out of the film version of Kemper's life. As the psychologists who later interviewed Kemper realized, the young women he killed were a substitute for his mother, who he was metaphorically killing each time. But one night, he decided to actually kill the woman he hated most. In the film's one saving grace, it included what Kemper did to his mother's dismembered corpse, such as using her head as a dartboard. Also, in what I've heard described as one of the more symbolic gestures in criminal history, he shoved her larynx down the garbage disposal, which he considered appropriate, "seeing how she bitched at me over the years." Kemper then invited his mother's friend over, and, after she saw what he had done, killed her too. Then, either to gain attention for his crimes, or because, having killed his mother, his demons therefore fully exorcised, he drove to a pay phone, called the police and told them to come get him. He stayed until they came to arrest him. That would have been an excellent ending for a film.
While the close friendship Edmund Kemper had with a local detective never happened, FBI agents who later interviewed him admitted, uncomfortably, that they liked the killer. He was intelligent, articulate, and fully aware of the impact of his crimes but stopped short of true remorse. Former FBI profiler Robert Ressler recalled an interview with Kemper where the hulking serial killer told Ressler that he could "screw off his head." When Ressler pointed out that Kemper would get in trouble, the prisoner serving consecutive life sentences replied, "What will they do, cut off my TV privileges?" Thoroughly shaken, Ressler signaled for the guard. When he was about to leave, Kemper told him, "You know I was just kidding, right?"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roman Polanski arrested in Switzerland

As a fan of both crime stories and film, this case is intriguing, even though it's a fairly standard case of statutory rape. France doesn't want to extradite Polanski, and while I don't feel that his artistry holds him above the law, as some of the French seem to, the charges are over 30 years old. Also, his victim, now a grown woman, has said for years that she wants to drop the charges and get on with her life. Now, against her wishes, the grim details of her ordeal are once again being dragged into public scrutiny. If, as many in the American justice system claim, the search for "justice" in these cases is for the benefit of the victim, then why are they going directly against what the victim has said many times that she wants to happen? It leads me to believe that it is not about justice for the victim, but a personal vendetta against any type of sex offender.
Recently, The Economist had a story titled "America's Unjust Sex Laws." One of the related stories was of a man who had been convicted of statutory rape, served his sentence, and later married his "victim." Despite all of this, he is still listed as a registered sex offender and considered a potential threat to his community.
An adult having sex with a 13-year-old girl is wrong, no one is disputing that. But when the victim herself has moved past the troubling incident, she deserves to have her wishes in regard to the case honored. But the American justice system, in an urge to appear "tough on crime" for "the sake of the children," and an American public that is alternately appalled and morbidly fascinated by any sex crime news, it's unlikely that United States officials will let this quietly go away, which, I must say this again, is what the victim wants.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Edward Kennedy: RIP

Read the last quote of this article. It's a moving, eloquent assessment of the need for health care reform. As many of us know, Edward Kennedy recently died after a long battle with brain cancer. He lasted far longer than any experts predicted, who thought he'd be dead within six months of diagnosis. While that's usually the case, Ted lived for over a year.
Despite the unfortunate Chappaquiddick incident, which left an innocent woman dead, and Kennedy a reviled figure and symbol of how the rich and powerful protect their families from actions that would land the rest of us in jail, Kennedy was a tireless fighter for the left. And, among conservatives, he was as hated for this even more than Chappaquiddick. Right to the end of his life, he fought for health care reform. I heard someone say, after Kennedy's passing, that, although President Obama will likely honor the late senator with a moving eulogy, the best way to honor Kennedy's memory would be to finally get health care reform passed. And I agree. There would be nothing that would have made Ted Kennedy happier than to see every citizen of the United States have access to affordable health care. In his memoir, soon to be published, Kennedy expresses his regret and remorse for the woman who died as a result of the car he drove off the Chappaquiddick Bridge, and his later drinking problem. Even in his tormented personal life, he held nothing back at the end.
It's odd to think of a world without Ted Kennedy. While his brothers John and Robert died far too soon to fulfill their promise, Ted spent his long life crusading and getting laws passed for working wages, affordable health care and social programs for the poor. I never thought Ted would die. After Chappaquiddick, campaigning for Obama despite the cancer eating away at his brain, and living with the cancer longer than anyone expected, he seemed indestructible. But, in the end, he was just as human as the rest of us, and fought to make the human struggle a little easier. Rest in peace, Ted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Evil children

One quote in this article, about how children were "easier to control" before television "exposed" them to the "world of adults," is pure bullshit. Ask any parent or teacher, from any era, and they will tell you that any child is a challenge. In my experience working with children, I know that they can be demanding, unruly and even vicious (particularly toddlers and toddlers with hormones, aka adolescents). Anyone who's read The Lord of the Flies is familiar with the fear that, if left to their own devices, meaning outside the influence of television, children will devolve into pre-civilization savages.
This is probably one of the reasons the "evil child" is such a compelling narrative device. Children, with still developing senses of empathy and morality, feel they can act without consequence and, as a result, are very self-centered. The evil child is a regular child's selfishness and occasional cruelty taken to its logical extreme.
The portrayal of the young Lord Voldemort in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is mentioned, and, connoisseur of evil and deviance that I am, while watching, I noticed the signs of a psychopath in training in the portrayal of young Tom Riddle. As a child, he is cold, unfeeling, with an inflated sense of his own self-worth and a tendency to bully other children and torture animals. Animal torture is, of course, one sign of a future serial killer. As an adolescent, he uses careful flattery and superficial charm to get what he wants, the psychopath's mask of sanity.
My obsession with crime began with Columbine, a mass murder perpetrated by two teenagers. In a new book on the subject, the author interviews a forensic psychiatrist who concludes that Eric Harris, one of the killers, was a fledgling psychopath, a cold, manipulative egomaniac who considered everyone else inferior and, therefore, deserving of their fate. His partner, Dylan Klebold, was suicidally depressed and angry at the world, but with the inertia that comes with depression, was unable to act on his feelings by himself. When the psychopath with something to prove collided with the depressed boy with a death wish, they exploded.
The scariest "evil kid" I've read about is Jesse Pomeroy, the "Boy Fiend" of Boston in the late 19th century who, at 14, was sentenced to life in prison for two torture murders. At an age where most serial killers are still dismembering dead dogs or tormenting family pets, Pomeroy, the product of a poverty-stricken family and a viciously abusive father, had already graduated to human victims. He tortured several children before killing a four-year-old boy and a ten-year-old girl. Most teenage killers fall under the categories of school shooters, going into their school with guns to let out aggression, or thrill killers, bored kids who kill for profit or out of twisted curiosity. But Pomeroy was disturbingly focused on his own sadism as his motive, his murders matching the savagery of adult murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer or Andrei Chikatilo. Even before television, the moral watchdogs of the time found a sinister pop culture object to blame for Pomeroy's crimes, in this case the lurid dime novels popular among the nation's youth. When he was captured, Pomeroy was originally sentenced to death, but, because of his age, this caused a public outcry, and his sentence was changed to life in prison.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Patrick Burris: the South Carolina spree killer

Patrick Burris, suspected as the killer who had been terrorizing a South Carolina community for the last couple weeks after being killed by police during a burglary investigation, has been linked by ballistics to the shooting deaths of victims in five different murders.
The article doesn't reveal much about Burris' motives or background, but neighbors recall him as "scary" and "someone you didn't want to cross," unlike the "nice, ordinary" men who later end up in handcuffs after opening fire at their workplaces or with bodies in their basements. Burris had been in and out of prison for burglary-related offenses for much of his adult life, and he reportedly intimidated a victim he tried to extort money from to the point where the victim wouldn't testify, and the case was thrown out.
A former FBI profiler commented on the case, saying that Burris didn't have the "mentality" of a serial killer, noting the random victims and shooting method. Most serial killers have at the very least a gender or age preference for their victims while others, like Ted Bundy, had specific physical characteristics in mind. But Burris' victims, like those of the Zodiac or the Night Stalker, were random, victims of opportunity. The relatively short span of time between Burris' crimes indicates that he was a spree killer, not a serial killer. Serial killers usually kill one victim, have a cooling-off period, then get the urge to kill again, sometimes with an "escalation period," where they kill in quicker succession. But Burris often claimed more than one victim at one crime scene, and killed in rapid succession, suggesting a man on a rampage, not a calculating murderer, as does his method of shooting. Serial killers usually prefer the more personal methods of strangulation or stabbing, where spree and mass murderers, who want to get their rage out fast, are inclined to use firearms. With Burris dead, we may never know the motives for his rampage.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Connecticut man burns down house with ex-wife inside

Yet another man who couldn't accept that his wife wanted to leave him. The list of men who murder or attempt to murder their wives, or kill their wives and others in one blow, or lash out at strangers after being left by their wives, is far too long, especially since, according to popular psych theories, women are the ones who become emotionally clingy and can't let go. I think that sending an ex-wife threatening messages saying, "We are not getting divorced...we are married until death do us part," constitutes not being able to let go. There is an interesting twist to this rather standard crime story; the disgruntled ex-husband got a priest to perform last rites on his wife before setting their former home on fire with her inside. Another odd element: the man gave himself up, instead of taking his own life or goading the police into shooting him, as often happens in cases like these.
Personal news: I have a new boss at the learning center where I work, and she is taking her new position of authority way too seriously. She sent an email about the teacher meeting last night, saying at least twice in three sentences that it was "mandatory," even though, with all the changes happening in the three weeks since last being reminded of the meeting, many of us forgot and had made other plans. Plans which, of course, we now had to rearrange. And, after I had emailed her telling her that I had to make an effort to arrange my schedule to be at this "mandatory" meeting, which ended up covering the same old bullshit at least four times over in slightly different wording, taking almost an hour of our time, when I showed up for the meeting, my new boss said, with false gratitude, "Thank you for being here." She also has an annoying habit of smiling whenever she speaks, which she probably thinks sells her "sincerity."
I bring this up because, this morning, it took said boss almost one hour after the center opened to post the schedule for the day, meaning that the teachers who came in on time (which she self-righteously reminded us to do at last night's meeting), had no idea where we were supposed to be, and had to divide the tasks among ourselves. The core of this is, bosses rarely feel the need to hold themselves to the same standards as their employees. Employees are raked across the coals for being five minutes late or not properly filling out forms, but when the directors are an hour late posting the schedule, or schedule employees for times when employees have said they're unavailable, or ask us to stay an extra hour, or, worse yet, just expect it, because they've screwed up the schedule and don't have the balls to tell parents to stick to their kids' previously determined schedules, the employees are just supposed to accept it. It's not right.
Some good news: a friend offered to give me a chance to review albums for his music site, ReGen: I just sent in my first review, and am waiting to hear if I made the cut. It gave me something to do while waiting to get a job and for my boyfriend to stop working and my so-called friends to acknowledge my existence.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holocaust museum shooter identified

The suspect is a Holocaust denier who once tried to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board (something he calls "citizen's arrest"). James Von Brunn managed to kill a guard before being shot himself, and is currently in critical condition.
He is described as a "frustrated artist," who angrily stomped out of a gallery that wouldn't show his work. On his website he describes a childhood bully, service in World War II and many problems he blames on Jews and other minorities.
Because he was caught early in his rampage, and is currently in no condition to explain himself, it's difficult to tell exactly what Von Brunn's motives were. His rhetoric and choice of location suggest an ideologically motivated assault, but, going into a federal museum with little effort to hide his weapons, and killing the first person he encountered with security everywhere guaranteed that he would be caught almost immediately. The sheer amount of his arms also guaranteed that security would feel impelled to use force, so was this an attempted "suicide by cop," as many mass murders have ended? In addition to racist anger that the Jews are "undermining" the white race with the "browning of America," Von Brunn's website describes various perceived personal hardships, the kind that can lead an unstable mind to mass murder culminating in suicide. I think psychologists have said that this level of hatred in an individual can be traced to a projection of self-loathing, at least in some cases. But Von Brunn isn't talking right now, and at the moment, all we have to go on is his self-aggrandizing website and the details of an appalling but poorly executed crime.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Suspect in Dr. Tiller's murder held;_ylt=AjSM8xOQdCHG6BZAkb560Nqs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTJrM3Iwams1BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkwNjAxL3VzX3RpbGxlcl9zaG9vdGluZwRjcG9zAzMEcG9zAzEwBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3N1c3BlY3RqYWlsZQ--

A man tangentially affiliated with the disgusting anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has been arrested, but not formally charged, with the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller was shot in church, which makes the crime particularly appalling. While I'm not fan of organized religion, someone goes to church (usually) to achieve a certain type of peace and spiritual solace. Also, if these "prolife" types are all about upholding the laws of God, wouldn't shooting someone in a church violate the sanctity of "God's house"? Under Kansas law, the man who reportedly made veiled threats against Dr. Tiller on Operation Rescue's website can be held for 48 hours before charges have to be filed.
I have been of mixed opinion on Barack Obama's presidential actions so far, but I felt his response to this event was appropriate and, as is characteristic, quite eloquent (paraphrase): "No matter how we differ on the complex subject of abortion, these conflicts cannot and should not be resolved through heinous violence." While one Operation Rescue spokesperson condemned the killing as "vigilantism," the group's founder, the truly reprehensible Randall Terry, refuses to show any sign of sympathy for a man killed while sitting in church, referring to him as a "mass murderer" and "evil." I thought these people were trying to support every human being's "right to life." I guess those principles don't apply to killers who act on the anti-abortion agenda, at least to Terry, who has openly advocated hate and intolerance. Check some of his past speeches if you don't believe me.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tiller's family and friends remember him fondly as a good man devoted to the right to choose for women, and he will be another victim of assassination who, instead of furthering the assassin's cause, becomes a martyr and rallying symbol for the values the killer wanted to destroy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Refusing medical treatment on "religious grounds";_ylt=AsmHA6BZbrBE2.Y_HVvRh6tvzwcF

Shortly after a girl died of diabetes after her religious parents refused to seek medical treatment, believing that "God would heal the child," a mother has gone on the run with her cancer-afflicted 13-year-old son in the face of being threatened with legal action after refusing to continue her son's chemotherapy due to religious objections. The child's father, while baffled as to why the authorities have gotten involved, said that he supports chemo in this and other "extreme" cases.
The mother is part of a fanatic Roman Catholic sect that advocates "natural" healing. Her son, in addition to having Hodgkin's disease, is also learning-disabled, leading doctors and authorities to conclude that he didn't fully understand the process and effects of chemotherapy. He did fear that it would "kill him," but who knows if he came to that conclusion on his own or if he was influenced by his mother.
The question is, can parents refuse to treat their children? The obvious answer appears to be yes, since, if the government orders "conventional" medicine to parents who may not support it, this is a slippery slope in government intervention of civil liberties and freedom of choice. If they force chemotherapy in one extreme case, what will stop them from continuing to enforce specific treatments? Another, almost as obvious answer, is that the government has a duty to protect its citizens, including children when parents fail to do so. The state where the chemo-dodging mother lives has a law enforcing medical treatment for children, and states that "alternative and complementary medicine are not enough." "Alternative" medicine, consisting of homeopathy, herbs and "natural" medicine, have not been proven effective. Even less effective is the method of prayer and divine intervention, practiced by the religious zealots who most frequently refuse medical treatment.
Further complicating this issue is the fact that religious fanatics are not easy to get through to in terms of crime and punishment. If a suicide bomber is willing to die for his god, how is a court on earth going to punish him so it will make an impact? Similarly, religious fanatics who believe that God will heal ailments and, if he doesn't, than it was due to some divine plan. If a religious parent is convinced that they were acting according to God's will, no earthly judge or jury will convince them otherwise. They will go to their prison cell, or to their execution, confident they are still good in the eyes of God, and, to them, that will be the only thing that matters.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Louisiana middle school shooting;_ylt=AsSQkHD_j2uBDoNbLfTQatVvzwcF

An angry but immature and insufficiently armed 15-year-old went on a rampage at a Louisiana middle school, a crime that officials say was planned far in advance, as evidenced by journals kept by the gunman. With the exception of the all too real body count and injuries, this almost felt like a childish playacting of a massacre. It fit the mold of the mass murder, through the angry journal entries to the shooter's attempt on his own life, which left him in "critical but stable condition" but alive.
He "geared up" in camoflauge, dressing up for the part, and told a teacher to "Hail Marilyn Manson," an odd and very immature statement. But someone who thinks they can solve their problems in a hail of bullets is hardly a role model of humanity. His journal reveals phrases like "y'all will die."
This shooter was 15, with a still developing and still immature mental capacity, and, most likely, ruled by hormones rather than logic. Regardless of age, once a man (usually) has come to the decision to run rampant with a firearm as retribution for perceived injustices, he has ceased to be a rational human being and is ruled by overactive emotions, like any teenager.
The serial killer, in emotional processes, is also, in a way, a perpetual adolescent, demanding that what he needs is more important than anything else in the world, even if what he "needs" is to commit murder. The vast majority of teenagers are not violent, although their demands for possessions and an independence for which they are not ready can border on insistent and almost violently pushy. Killers, like addicts and teenagers, need instant gratification, and are easily bored and need higher levels of stimuli to keep them interested. Ted Bundy's college girlfriend dumped him (this was the trigger on his festering hatred of women) because, among other factors, she thought he was "immature." Gainesville Ripper Danny Rolling was also called immature by a police psychiatrist. Ed Gein had a childlike inability to cope with the outside world after the death of his domineering mother, which lowered him into insanity. Somewhere along the way, the emotional development of these men stalled, while they physically grew into adult men and, in most cases, developed higher mental capacities that allowed them to trick their victims and outsmart law enforcement. Physical and mental strength, combined with an adolescent selfishness and demand for instant gratification, took men damaged by biology or abuse down a murderous path.
Adolescence is also, particularly for men, a hypersexual period, which doesn't taper off until the early to mid 20s (or, an argument can be made, for the rest of their lives). Older men, with some exceptions, don't often begin serial murder careers (angry men of this age are more likely to go on shooting rampages) because, possibly, even if the crimes themselves have no sexual element, most serial killers gain a sexual satisfaction from murder. In the first episode of the second season of Dexter, after commiting his first murder in several weeks, as Dexter plunges the knife into his victim, his face looks like one in the midst of an orgasm. That many serial killers choose the phallic knife is potentially significant to the Freudians among us, and, while Jack the Ripper's victims were not sexually assaulted, profilers theorize that the stabbing was the Ripper's substitute for sex. Male serial killers usually begin their careers in their late teens or early 20s, where they are legally adults but still hypersexual adolescents. Female serial murderers, on the other hand, if they are not acting as accomplices to male killers, tend to begin their killing later in life, as Aileen Wuornos did in her 30s; women reaching their sexual peak in mid-adulthood rather than adolescence.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Allen Muhammed appeals;_ylt=Asa1MntilrAtqc95sGpuQy9bIwgF

John Allen Muhammed, the dominant force in the Beltway Sniper attacks, is appealing his conviction, claiming ineffective counsel and withholding of evidence on the part of the prosecution. Muhammed chose to represent himself. As an old saying goes, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Muhammed's decision, which I'm sure his co-counsel advised against, was a stupid one. But at least, in a way, he's now acknowledging that, in the court's refusal to stop him, that it was a bad idea. Still, Muhammed is an egomaniacal sociopath, and I doubt his ego would have allowed anyone to stand in the way of what he felt was his right to represent himself. Now that he's been convicted, like so many before him, he's trying anything, no matter how futile, to get out.
Muhammed also claims that the prosecution violated terms by withholding an early police profile of the suspected shooter, indicating that it was likely a "loner," not a duo like Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo. He and his new attorneys neglected to mention that the profile included a brief mention of the possibility of an accomplice that was acting under the direction of the primary shooter, an accurate description of Muhammed and Malvo.
According to Muhammed, there were also letters written by Malvo in prison that were not admitted, letters which illustrate that Malvo was an active, not passive accomplice. Malvo was 17 at the time of the sniper attacks, having been taken from his native Jamaica by Muhammed. While Malvo is no innocent, it's clear that he was operating under the influence of a much older and domineering authority figure.
John Allen Muhammed was, in terms used to describe mass murderers, a time bomb. Two failed marriages, a string of failed businesses, a discharge from the Army (where he was court martialed twice), combined with the sociopath's sense of entitlement, were waiting to erupt. Muhammed was angry at his ex-wife (who had a restraining order against him) for taking his children away, and at the world in general. He had motive, opportunity, sharpshooter training from the military, and a willing and naive accomplice.
Final note: Muhammed's lawyers also say that testimony from a psychologist stating that Muhammed suffered brain damage due to years of abuse from his parents was not admitted, but prosecutors say this was because Muhammed refused to cooperate with the psychologist.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Craigslist killer and Alabama shooter

Phillip Markoff, the "Craigslist Killer" still has his fiance by his side, who sounds too typical of a suspected killer's loved ones who are still in shock. She says "he couldn't have done this" and that this is "not the man I know." It never is. If Markoff is the Craigslist killer, he's hardly the first to duck under the cover of a "normal" life to cover his deviant desires. No one suspected devoted family man and Boy Scout troop leader Dennis Rader of being Wichita's feared BTK killer, or attractive law student Ted Bundy of murdering 30-plus women, but both turned out to be true. With surveillance video showing Markoff leaving the scene of the murder and an earlier robbery, a victim also contacted on Craigslist, and items belonging to the victims found in his apartment, there is a strong case against Markoff as another Jekyll/Hyde killer, despite the understandable reluctance of his loved ones to believe it.
Phillip Markoff is the one at fault here, not Craiglist. Even though the site offers services that some may find distasteful, not all people who use the service turn out to be murderers. Just because many serial killers target prostitutes does not mean that prostitution is the cause of serial murder; killers target prostitutes because, unlike other women walking down the street, prostitutes are willing to get into a stranger's car. There are no men who suddenly become murderers because they see a prostitute on the street or an ad for erotic services on Craigslist. Markoff, if he is the Craigslist Killer, was intently looking for victims, and thought Craigslist would be a good place to find them. While this should make people who advertise on Craigslist more cautious, it should not place the blame on the site itself.
Markoff is not the first killer to look for victims through personal ads. The "Want-Ad Killer" got his name because he targeted his first victim by placing an ad for an employee at his gas station. The "Lonely Hearts Killers," or "Honeymoon Killers," found victims through the dating mail-order services popular among aging singles in the 1950s. Albert Fish found his last victim, Grace Budd, after placing a help wanted ad for a farm he didn't have, but took the applicant's sister after her 18-year-old brother, who answered the ad, turned out to be far too strong and adult for the aging sadist and pedophile's tastes.;_ylt=AmnO810bf3L9iodOIId29sVbIwgF

The man who killed 10 on a shooting spree in Alabama last month, starting with his mother, before setting her house on fire, sent a letter to relatives explaining his crime. It seemed like another case of a down on his luck, angry young man who thought he could restore some kind of balance to the universe through murder, except for one factor. In his letter, he said his mother had cancer, which was not found in the autopsy. His mother had recently been laid off, and in his letter, he says he wanted to make people pay for how he and his mother had suffered. Why this involved killing his mother and burning her corpse, I can't say. The mental processes of these offenders are never easy to navigate. He had also trained to be a Marine, but was discharged from basic training after failing to mention on his application that he had chronic shoulder displacements. His commanding officer also said that he "didn't seem too bright." Unlike the more sophisticated serial killers, who can go for years without getting caught or even suspected, the mass murderer, who commits his crimes out in the open with only self-destruction and the destruction of others on his mind, appears to be on the lower end of the mental spectrum of the criminal.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Joseph Fritzl: Austria's "Dungeon Dad"

This featured story on Crime Library caught my attention. An Austrian man, who had been raping his daughter since she was 11, constructed a dungeon in his basement to keep her prisoner. Not surprisingly, he himself grew up under the iron fist of a violently domineering mother.
Next to the US and Great Britain, Germany has produced an unusually high amount of serial killers and sexual sadists. The "Dungeon Dad" was technically Austrian, but there are strong cultural similarities. Among Germany's contributions to the hall of infamy are Fritz Haarmann, the "Vampire of Hanover"; Georg Grossmann; Peter Kurten, the "Monster of Dusseldorf"; and, most recently, Arwin Meiwes, who made headlines for killing and cannibalizing a willing victim. Cannibal killers are also oddly prevalent in Germany. Although the country has also given us Albert Einstein and other great minds, German history often recalls the Inquisition, the Holocaust and sadistic killers.
I haven't posted in a long time. Things haven't been great in my life. Along with the rest of the country, I'm having money troubles and can't find a job. This has forced me to move out of my apartment and into a house that I have to share with someone else. It will be a tough adjustment, after living on my own for so long. And I can't bring my cat. But this is a time for sacrifice.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

57 victims of mass murderers in past month;_ylt=AsbstHt5.yub3ZYOx524u6VbIwgF

A while ago, I wondered if the economic crisis would spawn a spate of mass shootings. And many of the gunmen responsible for the high body count had recently lost their jobs, along with the men whose wives had left them. In one case, a man in Georgia had not only lost his job but was lashing out at Obama's supposed plan to ban gun ownership. What better way to prove that every citizen should be able to own a gun than by proving just how dangerous guns can be in the wrong hands, murdering police officers because of a predicted amended gun law?
Cases like this illustrate the mentality of the mass murderer, a man (usually) who has a predisposition to violent behavior combined with recent stresses, like losing a wife or a job. Which makes times like this potentially conducive to more homicidal outbursts. These men likely felt wronged by their circumstances, and were for whatever reason unable or unwilling to deal with their problems in a rational manner, like most of us respond to stress. One more reason this economy needs to be put on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

California arson killer on trial;_ylt=Agdq5gVQKACRy1o5MMMuFfhbIwgF

While the biggest crime story of the past week is disgraced financial wizard Madoff going to jail, white-collar crime is not my area of interest. But the story of an arsonist-mass murderer of firefighters in California captured my interest. As those who have studied the worst serial killers attest, pyromania in childhood is considered a "warning sign" of future violent behavior. David Berkowitz set over a thousand fires before going on his shooting spree in the streets of New York, documenting each arson in a journal. Australian spree killer Martin Bryant also had an obsession with fire as a child, landing him in the hospital, where he told local reporters that, despite his life-threatening injuries, he would continue to play with fire. The California arsonist chose to combine his lust for murder with his obsession with flames, and, in an ironic twist, killing firefighters in the process. The arsonist said he felt "powerful" while setting fires. Many serial killers and other criminals speak with awe about the sense of power their crimes give them. Ted Bundy said that a person in his position, about to take a human life, is "God." I don't know anything about the California arsonist murderer's background, so I have no idea how he got to this point. However, I'm sure he grew up feeling powerless, either because of rejection by his peers or an abusive home life, like so many others of his type. The rage at the people who hurt or rejected him, combined with a feeling of powerlessness, led him to think, in a mind warped by hurt, that the only way to assert himself was through random violence.
While I'm not covering it extensively, the devastation caused by the financial manipulation of the likes of Madoff cannot be underestimated. Although he didn't physically harm anyone, he conned those who put faith in him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and caused misery among them and their families in the process. I don't know if his motive was greed or a lust for power similar to that of more physically violent criminals, but, either way, the damage was done, and he's now, thankfully, answering for his crimes.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Search for LA serial killer still cold;_ylt=Av.lJnNC1A4kMuS8NmZpElxbIwgF

Police tracking a Los Angeles serial killer nicknamed the "Grim Sleeper" have very few leads in the 24-year-old case. The killer first struck in 1985, and took a 14-year hiatus between before striking again in 2007. One witness who called to report a suspicious man dumping something in a trash bin, then speeding away in a van, refused to give police his name, saying that he "knows too many people." The killer, like many American serial murderers before him, kills prostitutes and minorities, likely knowing that the general public and police won't pay as much attention to such crimes. But the killer made a mistake that is almost always fatal: he left a living victim, who has given a description to police after being picked up by a man, then shot and left for dead.

In New Mexico, at least ten bodies have been found in one section of desert. The ones that have been identified are young women, one of whom was pregnant. The article didn't say how long the bodies have been there, but while reading it, I thought of New Mexico torture killer David Parker Ray, who claimed many victims whose bodies were never found. Ray, with a female accomplice, kidnapped, tortured and murdered a young woman, and was arrested when his partner turned him over to police, and because he left a living victim who identified him. When asked in an interview why she went along with Ray's sadistic activities, his partner recalled a sick fascination with Ray, along with a fear of him. Are the new bodies more victims of David Parker Ray, or is New Mexico plagued with another killer targeting young women?

Friday, February 13, 2009

US court dismisses anti-vaccine suits

US scientists and courts have made official what the legitimate scientific community has known for years; there is no concrete link between childhood vaccinations and autism. This absurd and potentially dangerous claim was publicized by a small but very loud group of confused parents looking for something to blame in the face of their ignorance of a child's disorder, and misguided members of the medical fringe. Their argument was based on hearsay and the perceived surge of diagnosed autistic children in recent years. Although responsible doctors and scientists made clear through studies that there was no clear link, this group of the misinformed tried to convince the world of their baseless theory, using the typical "alternative medicine" argument that the medical establishment is purely profit-based, and therefore wants children vaccinated. Children are vaccinated because it works. When I was a kid, I never knew anyone with measles, mumps, rubella or meningitis. In one publicized case, parents of a little girl who died of meningitis revealed that they never had the girl vaccinated because they bought into the anti-vaccine hysteria.
I was skeptical of the supposed vaccine-autism connection from the start, for two reasons. One, while it appears that there are currently more autistic children than ever, most likely there are no more than there have ever been. The reason it appears that way is because of the publicity and increased knowledge of autism in the last five to ten years. Whereas before, if a child had autism or Asperger's Syndrome, there was no name for it, and very little knowledge of what that name would mean for the child. When I was growing up, no one, including me, knew why I didn't fit in with the rest of the world. But now I know what it is, and can recognize the signs if I see them. It's not that there are more cases of autism, it's that now we know what to look for, and when we know what to look for, we can see more clearly. Another possible reason why there may be more cases in recent years could be that, with the advent of autistic-friendly professions like computing and engineering, those with autism spectrum conditions are more likely to marry and have children, and scientists are looking into the possibility that autism may have a genetic component.
The other reason I never bought the vaccines cause autism argument is that it seemed improbable. Millions of children are vaccinated, and only a small percentage show any sign of an autism spectrum disorder. My sister, brother and I were all vaccinated, and only I ended up with Asperger's Syndrome. My brother could even be described as "anti-autistic" since he's highly social and has a comfort around other people that I could never attain or understand. Also, my grandfather, a retired IBM engineer, has all the signs of Asperger's, but he grew up long before the diagnosis existed, therefore was never identified as such. Also, I don't think he was given the now common childhood vaccines. In conclusion, this ruling marks a victory for medicine and a blow to the lunatic fringe who, for whatever reason, feel compelled to attempt a reversal of medical advances and go back to the age of common childhood illnesses.
Tomorrow, I have an interview for a temp job. The hostile environment of gossipy moron coworkers at my current job has me at the breaking point. Job interviews have always been tough for me, because they require eye contact, quick thinking in response to questions, and cloaking the truth in more friendly and palatable language, things I and other with autism spectrum disorders cannot do easily. But this time, Anthony, who regularly conducts interviews, offered help, and now I know what kind of answers are expected and how I can give the interviewer what they want without having to lie. It will still be a hellish 20-30 minutes, but being coached might help me get a job that I desperately need.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A new era in America

For better or worse, America has a new face and brain trust. President Barack Obama and his colleagues have a big mess to clean up: Iraq, economic crises, and the faltering opinion of the US on the world and domestic stages. I don't think that anyone could live up to the expectations heaped on Obama, due partly to his own speeches and partly to the media coverage, but I do believe that he will do what he can to help the country through this rough time. Conditions won't improve overnight, there's a lot of hard work to do. But, to use one of Obama's favorite words, for the first time in eight years, I have hope that the state of the nation has a chance of improving. Although the anti-abortion protestors I saw on the Metro today, who likely mobilized their fanatic forces due to the swearing in of a pro-choice president, will disagree, I am looking forward to the new American era. The Obama/Biden team has a lot of work to do as an emergency rescue force after Hurricane George devastated America and the rest of the world, and I'm sure they're feeling the pressure. But I have a message for them: Millions of people voted you into office hoping you would make a difference for the better. Don't let us down, or you'll feel it in 2012.
On a happier note, the tide has shifted, new faces and minds are in the White House, George is off to his ranch, which he never should have left in the first place, and Dick Cheney will return to his underground pod to plot his next evil move.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A new year

And more Darwin Awards to come:

Today is not only the first day of 2009, it's also the 7-year anniversary of a Darwin Award "winner" from Croatia trying to open a grenade with a chainsaw. It didn't end well.

Anthony and I had a great time at Bound's annual New Year's party last night, even though the venue had possibly the worst bar staff in DC. They didn't accept credit cards, they carried bills around in their hands, took several minutes to fulfill orders and make change, and appeared to spend more time arguing with each other than working. The awesome bartender at Club Liv can do more as one person than the staff at Asefu could with three people. And that's just sad. Still, it was great to ring in the new year with my guy and our friends, including some we hadn't seen in far too long. With the full crowd at the New Year's party, I'm hoping this means a comeback for Bound in 2009. It's already looking like a good year for me; in addition to a great relationship, I've also heard about a few job opportunities. And few things would make me happier in the next year than to say goodbye to my current coworkers and take a more positive direction in my career. Also, with a brand new replacement for my piece of crap laptop, I hope to be posting more in the coming year. I didn't update my blog nearly enough last year.