Friday, February 27, 2015

About the Las Vegas murder

At first, the death by handgun bullet of Tammy Meyers in Las Vegas seemed to be a simple case of road rage.  Meyers was teaching her 15-year-old daughter to drive, and the story was that their car, with the younger woman at the wheel, was involved in some near-collision with another car, and the situation escalated to a point at which the unknown driver of the other car chased the Meyers women to their home and shot the mother in the head.

And then, it didn't happen to have happened that way, although that's how the initial report from Robert Meyers, husband of the deceased, had it.  He said he was confused when he left out the details, such as that the women came home angry after some confrontation with a neighbor, rounded up their 22-year-old son, and went back out in pursuit of the other party, leading to two separate gunfights.  The final gunfight took place at the Meyers home, and Mrs Meyers was in fact shot at that time.

The 19-year-old neighbor, Erich Milton Nowsch, appeared in court on Monday but has not entered a plea yet.  His attorney, Conrad Claus, says Nowsch feared for his life and acted in self-defense.

Police and prosecutors are saying that the Meyers family gave conflicting information, misleading suspect descriptions, and incomplete information.  For instance, they claimed that it was some tall random stranger, while in fact, Nowsch is a smallish sort of guy who lives around the corner and was well known to the Meyerses.  The late Tammy Meyers used to slip him a twenty when he showed up claiming hunger and would routinely admonish him to pull his pants up when she saw him affecting a gangster persona at the local park.

So who knows what happened, anyway?  A mistake by a novice driver? Aggressive driving by Nowsch?  A long-standing dispute or a flashpoint disagreement with horrible consequences?
So sad, so avoidable

Whatever happens when the courts shake this all out, one thing remains certain: had Tammy Meyers and her daughter returned home and let either time or the police handle it, there would likely have been no murder.  But acting like an old western in which cowboys ran to the saloon and rounded up a posse to mount up and chase after the Dalton Gang is not bound to end up well.

You could ask the Meyers family about that.  Her son's defiant statement, "I did what I had to do to protect my mother" left out the possibility that he might have protected her more by staying home and acting reasonably.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Measuring Tape

There was an episode of The Simpsons in which Sideshow Bob was temporarily let out of jail so he could help the Springfield Police track the fiend who was attempting to kill Homer. Living among the Simpsons, he came outside to find Homer trying to trap the would-be murderer with an effigy of himself hanging in front of 742 Evergreen Terrace. But Homer flipped out and began assaulting the hanging dummy, leading Sideshow Bob to ask the rest of the family, "And none of this seems odd to you?"

"It's Sideshow Bob!"
Those words ring in my head ever since SB spoke them. And if you're paying attention, your head is shaking too at what people are up these days.

Let's go to the videotape!

For those who haven't noticed, everything is on video these days. So people's interactions with police out in public are most likely available for review from many surveillance cameras, and, soon, from cameras on the police themselves. Time after time, we see people whose account of some melee or fracas is shown to be at wild disparity with the reality that video provides.  So, the next time a delivery driver throws some fragile package 20 feet onto a porch, he or she should figure on being recorded...along with the sneak thief who darts onto the porch to rip off the package.

I make it a habit to wave wildly and do something flamboyant at the little smoky gray camera covers on the ceilings of banks and liquor stores. Might as well leave 'em smiling!

And the other day, a once-respected rabbi pleaded guilty to 52 counts of voyeurism. He had set up surreptitious video cameras to record women using the ritual bath at his synagogue.

And the other day, the proprietor of a string of bar/concert venues in our town was arrested for ALLEGEDLY installing video cameras in the ladies' room at one of his spots.

And there was the respected gynecologist from Johns Hopkins, one of the finest hospitals in the world, who was recording his examinations of hundreds - thousands! - of the private parts of his patients via the use of a video recording pen in his pocket.  He committed suicide when confronted with his enormous evil.

Now, you can ask any prostitute, or late-night radio call-in host. There is no limit to what people are into. There are probably millions of people who get a thrill from hidden-camera videos of others taking a bath or using the commode or being examined down there.

And so I ask the Rabbi or the night club guy, "None of this seems odd to you?"

It's a problem when some people's pleasure comes from misusing others.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From Zappa to Zendaya

I listened to Frank Zappa back in the day with the avidity of a history student hearing from Thomas Hobbes himself.  It's a pity that some people thought then, and some still do today, that Zappa was "that weirdo" with hard-to-understand lyrics and odd rhythms on his albums with The Mothers Of Invention and subsequent bands.  

I and untold millions of others found his philosophies helpful in getting to know myself and where I fit in in this crazy old world. Frank's whole point was the wonder of being what one was capable of becoming.  Listen to the album "We're Only In It For The Money" from 1968.  Over and over, we hear the theme: there are the freaks, and there are the superstraights, and you don't have to align with either group.  You can be one of the Other People and make your best life that way.

You remember that crazy thing people had with playing records backwards to hear Satanic messages, like when you spun a KISS album backward and were supposed to hear Gene Simmons asking you to give your soul to the devil?  (And this from Gene Simmons, a man interested in two things only: himself, and all of your money.) Zappa paid tribute to that by putting this verse on the end of the track called "Flower Punk" - "Take a look around before you say you don't care, and shut your #)@ing mouth about the length of my hair."

You wouldn't think Frank would have met with such resistance for something as helpful as telling people to do their best to be their best, and not to get all involved with the hair on the heads of other people,
Zendaya (l), Rancic
but you know how people are.  "People" are like Giuliana Rancic.  Rancic works on the E! channel, and part of her job is to stand around as celebrities arrive for events and comment on what sort of clothes they are wearing, how they have their hairdids, and whom they are with. 

What a worthwhile job!  

Meanwhile, I am so far removed from Youth Culture that I have no idea who Zendaya Coleman is. I read that she goes by her first name only, and is an actress, singer and dancer.  And I see that when she arrived for the Oscar awards the other night with her hair up in locs, Ms Rancic said, "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil and weed."

And then, you know what happened.  We see it every day. Insult, mad reaction, apology based on "I had no idea you would be offended by my offensive actions!"  

Zendaya tweeted: “To say that an 18 year old young woman with locs must smell like patchouli oil and weed is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive."  And she pointed out that plenty of people wear dreadlocks without being slammed about it.
She was wearing her hair the way she wanted to wear her hair, and did not deserve to have drugs dragged into it!

Rancic, predictably, grabbed her Twitter and tweeted: “Dear @Zendaya, I’m sorry I offended you and others. I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!” 

So now we know that if we want to compliment someone for being "bohemian" and "chic," the thing to do is to say they must reek of that 60's essence from a species of plant from the genus Pogostemon.  

Or just say they smell like dope.  

Or, shut up about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Titanic Decision

Mr Masabumi Hosono paid £13 (13 British Pound Sterlings, worth about 20 American dollars today) for ticket No. 237798 to cross the Atlantic on the Titanic in 1912, and we all know how that worked out.

But Mr Hosono, 42, the only Japanese passenger aboard, survived the shipwreck, only to be broken for it.  Here's what happened:

He was writing a letter to his wife while sailing for New York.  He began the letter using English, but finished it later in Japanese, aboard the Carpathia, the ship that rescued the Titanic passengers who made it into lifeboats.  When the Titanic hit the iceberg and began taking on water, someone knocked on the door of his second class cabin. He ran to the lifeboat area, but as a foreigner, he was ordered to go below the main decks.

(Every once in a while you come across a passage like that in history, and you wonder what people were thinking 103 years ago. And why.)

In the letter he later finished, Hosono wrote to his wife, "All the while flares signalling emergency were being shot into the air ceaselessly, and hideous blue flashes and noises were simply terrifying. Somehow I could in no way dispel the feeling of utter dread and desolation."

He went on to describe how he climbed back up to the upper deck. "I tried to prepare myself for the last moment with no agitation, making up my mind not to leave anything disgraceful as a Japanese. But still I found myself looking for and waiting for any possible chance for survival."

He came upon a lifeboat filling up with people.  An officer hollered "Room for two more!"   He paused and considered this his final chance to live and see his wife and children again, and jumped into the boat, lifeboat #10.

(Remember, many people chose to stay aboard, having bought into the myth that the ship was unsinkable.  These are the antecedents of people today who stay in large office buildings as the fire alarm rings, refusing to evacuate because "it can't happen here.")

Mr Hosono
And from that lifeboat, Hosono was rescued, and he returned to Japan to be attacked in his own country for saving himself when so many others died.  The government agency he worked for fired him (although he was rehired eventually), newspapers called him a coward, and a professor of ethics called him immoral.  He may have even become a textbook case; legend has it that a schoolbook was published that called him a "model of shameful behavior."

It would appear that Mr Hosono took the chance to save himself when it was presented to him. In his country, this was seen as a betrayal of the Samurai spirit of self-sacrifice," or that he failed to show the expected conformity.  As a result he was subjected to mura hachibu or ostracism.

He was said to be a broken man when he died in 1939 at age 69. Today, we wonder, who among us would not want to live, when given the chance?  Even if we knew it would cost so much...

Monday, February 23, 2015

There is only one truth

I hate to have to bring this up, but the mass slayings at that elementary school in Newtown, CT, did in fact occur, in December 2012.  99.75% of us know this, and I'm sure at least that many of us deplore the whole incident and wish it did not happen.

But, happen it did. And compounding the shame of it is the sad reality that a certain few gozzleheads among us choose to believe the bizarre notions and conspiracy theories promulgated by the supreme gozzleheads among us.  One of these theories is that the children and teachers were not really killed, that they were actors taking part in a fake that was all part of a plan to take guns away from gun owners.  You know that thing on Amazon, when you order something, that says, "People who bought this also bought..."? Well, the people who believe that Adam Lanza didn't kill anyone in that school are the people who believe that the president was born in Nigeria and that 9/11 was staged by the U.S. government.

What happened here is that someone got hold of the Connecticut State Police crime statistics for Dec '12, and found there were no murders reported in that area. Whoa! Ho! There's the proof of chicanery afoot! Except that the State Police stats only reflect crimes handled by the State Police, and that murder spree was handled by town police, whose stats are reported elsewhere.

But here's what happened next: Chipper Jones, former third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, saw the crazy web page that circulates among the easily bamboozled, and grabbed his Twitterer, so he could tweet this out:

"So the FBI comes out and confirms that Sandy Hook was a hoax! Where is the outrage? What else are we being lied to about? Waco? JFK? Pff … "
Shortly after this, someone who actually reads a newspaper got Chipper off in a corner and explained how things really are.  To his credit, Jones apologized.  But it was a case in which saying one is sorry is not really enough, because it damages the survivors and families and friends of the victims, it hurts them to have it all dragged out again, and, of course, the world is full of people who only saw the original tweet and will forevermore prance around saying, "There was no murder in Newtown...Chipper Jones said so!"

“For more than two years now, my family and the other families of Sandy Hook have been dealing with conspiracy theorists,” Cristina Hassinger, 30, told the New York Daily News. Her mother was Dawn Hochsprung, principal of the elementary school, and a fatality in the shooting.

“They harass us, saying it was all a hoax. They accuse us of being in on the hoax a lot of the time. So it’s really so disappointing to see someone who is supposed to be an American role model come out and promote the Sandy Hook hoax theory.

“I know that he apologized, but it’s not enough. We were met with a brand new onslaught of Sandy Hook hoax harassment. When you're dealing with these people, and they see that blue check mark (a verified Twitter account) that’s on their side, it starts all over again ... It's unconscionable.”

If I were Chipper Jones, I would look around and see that the two tweets of apology he has sent are only a beginning for what he needs to do to make this thing right.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Rerun: Thirty-Minute Miracles

Hal Peary as The Great Gildersleeve
I am huge fan of television (and radio!) situation comedies.  Nothing can tickle me faster than 23 minutes of boffo laffs, with seven minutes of commercials and promos.  In just 30 minutes, you've had your Minimum Adult Daily Allowance of yucks, chortles and guffaws.  From "The Great Gildersleeve" to "Ozzie and Harriet" to "Two Broke Girls," the set up has been the same for over eighty years, except there are a lot more dirty jokes in the newer shows.

The show opens with a brief sketch, usually involving someone looking perplexed, and then here comes the theme song, which plays while the actors are shown spinning around, laughing and living it up.

After the commercials, the premise of the show is set up: in the old days, it was that the boss was coming for dinner and Mom burned the roast.  Today, it's that Cousin Judy is six days late and frantic.  Either way, it's a mirthfest, mirroring our own lives, in which everything is funny.  Isn't it?

Then more commercials, for cars or beer or what-have-you.  In the penultimate act, with seconds to spare, the boss walks in with a whole salami for everyone to share, or Cousin Judy's Aunt Flo arrives to the cheers of all, and just like in real life, everything works out.  

Then more commercials, and a promo or two, and then the denouement, in which Judy, her worthless boyfriend of 17 years and a couple of others sit around ruminating over life's vicissisitudes.  Boom!  Closing theme, and time for "New Girl."

And speaking of which, the other night on "New Girl," her friend CeCe played the part that has been done over and over in tv and movies, namely: the really pretty girl who loves bad boys.  One of the three great sitcom stereotypes for women, right there.  She is beautiful, all the guys want her, and would strew roses in her path for just the chance to dally with her once.  

But she only likes the guy who shows up late, and ignores her or insults her.  Him, she can't get enough of.

The other two stereotypes for women in sitcoms and movies are:
  • The beautiful woman who never gets asked out because everyone figures it's not even worth it to ask her out (to the prom, the office Christmas party, the opening of a new abattoir) because she is clearly dated up through St Patrick's Day, so they don't ask, and she sits home alone night after night, wishing that new guy in Accounts Receivable would stop mooning over her and pick up the intercom to ask her out.  This role is usually played by women such as Cindy Crawford or Candice Bergen.  In the real world, beautiful women are busier than Lindsay Lohan's lawyer, and if the guy from Accounts Receivable ever did call to ask them out, the answer would be, "Who is this, again?"
  • The beautiful woman married to a chubby, yet jocular, guy.  Think Leah Remini ("King of Queens") and Audrey Meadows ("The Honeymooners"). In the real world, guys who look like Kevin James and Jackie Gleason are strangers to the Leahs and the Audreys, and don't marry lovely women. Except for me!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, February 21, 2015

They're not used to ice storms in northern Georgia, but there they were, the middle of this week.  Trees (and power lines) down and winter rolls on.
If you think it's a good idea to buy a '70 Dodge Charger painted up to look like The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, go for it.  You want to be noticed, we assume.  Also, plan on the police noticing you. How long do you think that smile stayed around?
This took place in an office with a lot of technically-minded people...they installed one of those lavatory spigots with a magic eye to see when you want to wash your hands and then dole out 1/2 cup of water.  So, these people, armed only with brains and a 3-D printer, made a simple control to block the magic eye.  So for my birthday this year, I want a drone, and for Christmas, a 3-D printer.
I have a friend who says she loves the smell of coffee and can't stand the taste.  Most of the time, except for Ellis® Coffee, it's too bitter for me.  But the beans and the brewed coffee sure do smell good!
SCUBA divers diving off the coast of Israel found these underwater - 1000 gold coins, about 2,000 years old.  They've been there all this time, and we missed our chance.
What makes Miss P the Best In Show at the Westminster Dog Show?  My money was on the dog that did magic tricks - the Labracadabrador!
Some scientists with way too much time (and research grant money) have concluded that certain breeds of penguins do not like fish.  This way to the salad bar, Percy.
Talk about stanky coffee - these beans are for making Kopi luwak, or civet coffee.  They take these berries, you see, and feed them to the Asian palm civet, which promptly defecates them, at which point they are roasted and ground for your coffee-loving experience.  Please don't think I am kidding.  Mmmmm!  Make mine to go, please!