January 24th, 2006

naked and ashamed

Proud to be an American!

Last Wednesday, New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis was playing a game against the Bulls here in Chic when he entered the stands to confront a fan who he believed was threatening his wife. No punches were thrown, no blows were exchanged, and no violence took place; however, the NBA has a strict policy about players entering the stands. Davis was suspended for five games and will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary. Even if the player's union (of which Davis is the president) succeeds in reducing or voiding the suspension, Davis will be fined a minimum of $15,000.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Weishofer, who in 2003 helped torture to death an Iraqi general -- stuffing him face-first into a sleeping bag, covering his mouth, and jumping on his chest until he asphyxiated -- received a fine of six thousand dollars. When the sentence (the bare minimum, with no jail time, for the charge of negligent homicide, which came after the jury declined to find him guilty of homicide) was read, Weishofer's fellow soldiers stood and applauded. His attorney claimed throughout the trial that Weishofer had only been following orders, a hauntingly familiar defense for anyone familiar with the Nuremberg trials of 1946. Weishofer will not be imprisoned, discharged or demoted, and the Army (who engaged in a cover-up about the death from the very beginning, claiming falsely that General Mowhoush had been captured, claiming falsely that he had given information about insurgent activities, and claiming falsely that he had died of natural causes when the autopsy revealed signs of torture and gave the cause of death as asphyxiation) plans no further prosecutions in the case.

It's too bad Davis can't get a deal like Weishofer. For what it cost him to just walk up into the stands, he could have tortured two, three Iraqis to death.

What we learned from last week's poll

1. To the question of hot-air hand dryers, a slight majority (22 to 19) use them over not. (The 13% of you who use both the air dryer and paper towels balance the ratio.) Evidence that you are all wearing big boy pants can be found in the fact that no one copped to not being able to figure out how to work the air dryers, but nearly ten percent of you admitted that you use them even though they are nearly worthless at their assigned task. petit_chou wins this question for waxing so enthusiastic on the subject in the Comments section.

2. A very sensible 67% of you said that, given the choice, you would prefer not to have any diseases at all, even ones with comical names. Of those expressing a preference, respondents slightly favored swimmer's itch (a.k.a. cercarial dermatitis) over all listed diseases. This is probably because it's non-fatal and with a short life-cycle, and not because you usually contract it by swimming in birdshit. (The Wikipedia entry on swimmer's itch delightfully informs us that it should not be confused with seabather's eruption. GOT THAT?) Other popular choices were rickets, gout and scurvy, with scrofula, scabies and dengue fever getting no votes. You bunch of high-falutin snobs.

3. When asked to select a humorous NHL player's name that begins with the letter K, the majority of you -- 21% -- chose San Jose Sharks third-string goalie Seamus Kotyk. My guess is that the Ontario-born former Rockford IceHog's popularity is due to the combination in his name of the vividly Irish and the fragrantly Eastern European, which I'm hoping is a comfort to him as he spends night after night riding the pine. The handsome Mr. Kotyk is a born scrub, having spend several years in the minor leagues; his sole claim to fame is being the eighth goalie in AHL history to score a goal. My own choice of Kemil Kreps was surprisingly unpopular even though it is pronounced "camel craps". Other funny names not even included in the poll were Lukas Kaspar, Nikholai Khabibulin, DJ Kong, Rostislav Klesla, Espen Knutsen, Ygor Knyazev, Kiril Koltsov, Kristian Kudroc, Tomas Kostopoulos, and Anze Kopitar.

4. The presence of a poll question about DC Comics' Infinite Crisis was correctly seen by an overwhelming majority (57%) as evidence of my geekery and/or nerditude. The geeks and nerds among you goggled at the sight of Superboy kicking a dog, and a reasonable few wondered why on earth you would put gloves and boots on a giant plastic man filled with hazardous chemical waste, particularly if you were just going to drop him out of an airplane anyway.

5. It is clear that most people do, indeed, find a particular kind of accent sexually stimulating. Leading the way were the accents of Ireland, northern England and snooty London, proving that Anglophilia is alive and well in your genitalia. There were a number of pleasing responses to this question, but moondispatches wins again by admitting "I just like it when girls talk to me."

Oh yeah, the weekend

It was an extremely lovely one, one of the best I've had in a long time. A recap was slow in coming because, as I say, I've been busy as a fact-checker at the National Review isn't lately. Any weekend spent with ninafarina and her kid is a good one, but this one just shone for me, I can't really say why. Perhaps it's because I missed her a lot and it did me a lot of good to see her after a stressful, busy week; perhaps it's because I'm so happy with the direction our lives and futures are taking; or maybe it's just because I like driving through rural Wisconsin listening to evangelists ranting on AM radio. But it was a fine time, at least for me.

Friday, I got to the Twin Cities a bit later than planned, but in time to meet my girl at Li'l' Duce's day care. We headed home to sup on decent Vietnamese takeout, and later on, we watched La Strada. ninafarina is a big fan of Fellini's, and I got her this and a couple of other flicks for Christmas; I like Fellini just fine, but I haven't seen a huge amount of his stuff. Well, La Strada's reputation is more than justified. The lead (played by Fellini's wife) is just absolutely phenomenal, with an incredibly expressive face and an ability to convey emotional weight in her movement that I've rarely seen onscreen. Anthony Quinn is quite good in it, almost making me forget that he spent much of the rest of his life as a hack, playing variants of Zorba until you prayed for death. And the direction...I'm not really familiar enough with Fellini's career path to comment cogently on the movie as a shift from neorealism to magical realism, but there were so many fantastic shots in it, and the whole arc of the story was just perfectly done. It had an intensely operatic feel to it, but without any level of spectacle; and the emotional reversal they pull off at the end of the movie is one of the finest things I've ever seen.

Saturday, we did a bit of shopping (including a hassle with a rude clerk at a clothing store; young women who work at clothing stores seem to rival young men who work at record stores for sheer life-hating shitty condescending attitude -- no offense, thevulgartrade) and then dropped Li'l' Duce off at her grandparents so we could prepare for a screening of this film. It was being sponsored by a major magazine, and introduced by my girlfriend's boss; ninafarina put an enormous amount of effort into (and received an enormous amount of frustration out of) putting the screening, speech, and after-party together, but it all came off quite well, and I was very, very proud of her, as she should be of herself. The movie itself was fascinating -- The Real Story of Farmer John is essentially the biography of John Peterson, a farmer in rural northern Illinois who's maintained his family farm for decades through inordinate amounts of personal and financial difficulties. It's eventually been transformed from large family farm to ruined wasteland and back to organic farm, and now is one of the largest CSA (community-supported agriculture) farms in the country. John himself answered questions at the screening and was also at the after-party with the director; he's a fascinating, charismatic guy, a natural bohemian who's faced a tremendous amount of prejudice from his neighbors. The film is useful in that it really calls attention to the ever-increasing gap between the food producer and the food consumer, and gets everyone who watches it really excited about CSA. (There's a moment when an old farmer breaks into tears when describing suburban expansion; he talks about watching concrete poured overnight onto good soil, and it's hard to watch.) It's also fascinating as a portrait of Peterson, a real character whose life is documented meticulously through literally decades of archival footage taken by himself, his mother, and his friends. Overall, it really speaks to the positive qualities of the rural lifestyle, while never allowing itself to gloss over the ugly side of rural culture. See it if you can. Shauna did a fantastic job with everything, and her celebration was well-deserved.

Sunday, I had to head home after we picked up Annie; I listened to AM radio most of the way, because that's the kind of shitbird I am. Even on a lazy day when we do nothing, I'm glad to be with my girl, and even when I've just left her house, I miss her. You wish you knew her, gang, and if you do, you wish you knew her better. An inexplicable fog engulfed my car on the way back, but life being what it is (that is, nothing like a Stephen King novel), it did not turn people inside out. I made it home safely, answered some e-mails about various freelance stuff, and hit the sack. (I later realized that I left my wristband, the source of my awesome powers, up in the Twin Cities, so prepare to read stories in the paper about ninafarina, who has not yet learned that with great power comes great not-having-any-fun-ism, knocking over banks, pushing around big-shots, and throwing elephants at people. It's a constant temptation, I tell you.

P.S. Lileks today, in case you were wondering, claims to have an extensive iPod playlist of songs from 1938, even though he doesn't really like any of them.
more bad news


I have created a new community, called QuoteDump. It is a place to dump quotes. I read a lot, and I encounter plenty of baffling nonsense -- usually in the worlds of politics or entertainment -- that for one reason or another, I don't want to forget, but which doesn't justify an entire LJ entry. So as so save time, space, and annoyance of my friends, here is QuoteDump, with a few choice ones to get me started.

Anyone can join or post; the only rules are, post quotes only (save the opinionating for Comments) and you have to provide a source. Enjoy.