Friday, February 28, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
NEW! WebWurst

Introducing a new little irregularly-recurring farkleberries feature, WebWurst! It's a little place to find some of the worst, weirdest and wildest stories I've gleaned from my surfage. Are you ready?Have you got a "link" you'd like to add to the WebWurst? Write us at farkleberries!

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
It's Friday Five Time, Kids!

1. What is your favorite type of literature to read (magazine, newspaper, novels, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)? Magazines in the bathroom, newspapers in the living room on Sunday with a mug of coffee, novels on the train, and nonfiction anywhere else.

2. What is your favorite novel? Legion by William Peter Blatty (he also wrote The Exorcist) This 1983 book was a sort of a sequel (not the "Exorcist II" that became the 1977 John Boorman movie) that combined horror with detective drama and profound theological mystery, with a spritz of Borscht-belt comedy. I think it's very underrated. It was semi-successfully turned into a movie, "William Peter Blatty's Exorcist III" in the 90's, but most of the novel's intricate plotlines and concepts were lost for the sake of Hollywoodity.

3. Do you have a favorite poem? (Share it!)
The Storm / Fourteen
How can we be sure of anything
the tide changes.
The wind that made the grain wave gently yesterday
blows down the trees tomorrow.
And the sea sends sailors crashing on the rocks,
as easily as it guides them safely home.
I love the sea
but it doesn't make me less afraid of it.
I love you
but I'm not always sure of what you are
and how you feel.

I'd like to crawl behind your eyes
and see me the way you do
or climb through your mouth
and sit on every word that comes up through your throat.

Maybe I could be sure then
maybe I could know.
As it is I hide beneath your frowns
or worry when you laugh too loud.
Always sure a storm is rising.

-- Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm (© 1967 Random House)

I like this poem because in its few lines it crystallizes the existential aloneness and unpredictability of human life, even in the intimate context of love. A very telling piece.
4. What is one thing you've always wanted to read, or wish you had more time to read? The Classics.

5. What are you currently reading? Have a peek at my blog sidebar - under "Books in Hand."

Thursday, February 27, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Loop Symphony #1

In the country, you get to observe some amazing natural phenomena; in a city you get to observe some amazing human behavior. Not always good amazing, but amazing nonetheless. Out in the woods, like the Adirondack region you get a sense of the intricate machinery of the wilderness - the flow of water, the change of seasons, and the food chain of plants and animals. In an urban setting, it works the same way, but the food chain is a little different. You can see over the space of a few blocks the range of the human food chain...yes, that is what it is.

It's visible when an affluent person tosses their McDonald's bag into a trash can from the window of their SUV and a few moments later a homeless person who was standing a few feet away pulls the sack out of the dumpster and has their one meal of the day.

When a man in sunglasses, leather jacket and shiny shoes walks briskly by the flatiron corner of Broadway and Clark, tosses a half-spent cigarette on the ground - and a man in a dusty navy hoodie and jeans standing outside the Salvation Army at the same corner bends down and puts the still-smoldering butt in his mouth without missing a beat. I've seen both of these scenarios; more than once.

One person's half empty glass is another's half full one.

In the city, you can sometimes feel that you are but one corpuscle in a massive circulatory system where the only dictate is properly-paced, continuous motion: no stopping, no slowing down, and certainly no going too fast. Any of these options gathers attention from passers-by, and the authorities. If you stand still on the sidewalk without a good reason to do so, a passer-by's first assumption is that you have a problem - that you're lost, or that you'll ask them for directions or spare change, or even grab their purse.

The Loop: at night, at the busy intersection of Randolph and Wabash Streets elevated trains roll overhead, spilling occasional sparks off their elderly rails, the metallic roar oddly soothing to the downtown dweller. Buses spew their fragrant noxious exhaust all hours of the day, taxis blare their horns and dare pedestrians to cross the street in time.

Everyone needs a raison d'etre downtown, so be a good little red blood cell and keep it moving, folks: there's nothing to see. Haven't you got somewhere you need to be?

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

It's decided, then. The winning entry by Daniel Liebeskind Studios for the new World Trade Center design competition was selected from thousands submitted; beating out the other finalist, Team THINK, lead by architects Rafael Vinoly and Fred Schwartz.

At 1,776 feet, the height of the new WTC will both symbolize the year of America's independence, and make the proposed building the tallest in the world, outstripping both the dual Petronas Towers (1,483 ft.) in Kuala Lumpur and our very own Sears Tower (1,454 ft.) in Chicago. After all, if it wouldn't be the new tallest building in the world, why bother rebuilding, right? The only problem is, the only really tall structure in the Daniel Liebeskind design is a gigantic vertical greenhouse. Perfect: Philodenrons for Victory!

What I found disturbing in an "oh, please" kind of way was the description of the losing firm's reaction to not having their design selected:
From CNN: The THINK team, working in offices within walking distance from the site, was "truly disappointed," said a staffer. "Those that didn't collapse went home crying," the staffer said.
Call me Cruella, but would you want a job candidate you turned down (from a "short list") to collapse or go home crying when you told them the news? I'd be afraid they'd start stalking me, or start pouting and threaten to take their blueprints home. Boo effing hoo.

Besides, I think their design looked like a monstrous set of monkey bars, with little odd-shaped skyscraperlets suspended inside the mesh structure. Excuse me, but that's supposed to be a building? To me, it didn't say "World Trade Center rebuilt," it said, "hollow shell of its former self" and "let's get something really tall built on Ground Zero and hope nobody notices it's not really a building. We'll fill it in later."

I've had landlords tell me the same thing about those "new additions" they promised to put on.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Goodbye, Neighbor

Sad news to report today. Fred McFeely Rogers, known to millions as Mr. Rogers, died this morning following a brief battle with stomach cancer. He was 74.

As a young child, I remember watching him enter the door of his neat, cozy stage set, don his signature slippers and cardigan and greet his audience in his soothing, hypnotic tone. He was a nonthreatening, inclusive father/grandfather/uncle figure who used stories, drawings, mini-films and handpuppetry to instill values like friendship, tolerance, respect and generosity without preaching or patronizing.

His show was a comforting night-light in a pre-hectic pre-Internet era, where every viewer was made to feel not only like a guest, but like a lifelong friend. I'll miss the show's signature jazzy theme and zoomed-in closeups of Mr. Rogers' toy town, following the Neighborhood Trolley to a kinder, gentler version of the world we knew. Goodbye to Mr. Fred Rogers, who by all accounts was a truly Good Neighbor.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Read on the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Backfence: "Going to war without France is like going hunting without an accordion." -- Bill Charette

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Disposing Of The Body: A February Christmas Story

You may not think so, but disposing of a Christmas tree almost a full two months behind schedule is no mean feat; in fact, the logistics are similar to the clandestine disposal of a corpse. For a host of reasons we just could not bring ourselves to discard this symbol of holiday bliss, letting it mummify in our living room to a crispy-dried, half-bald skeleton of its former self. It was a present, shipped from a certain upscale homewares and clothing company that specializes in delivering the illusion of genteel countrification to urbanites...oh, hell, it was from L.L. Bean's. But first, let me tell you the story of the tree's arrival.

Packed tightly wrapped in a cardboard carton, the tree came bound with that super-strength yellow plastic strapping of the sort used to restrain war protesters being arrested en masse. It was about five feet high, and in its compacted state roughly one foot across - but after the restraining tape was cut off (and the new owner's fingers almost were, as well), it was still, discouragingly, only one foot across. This might be an interesting-looking tree. Fortunately, inside the box the bound-up balsam came in, there were instructions on a white sheet of paper:
"after removal of packing tape, cut off about one inch from the base of tree to allow water to be absorbed properly. When mounted upright, tree will relax into its natural shape."
Now, cutting off an inch of solid wood from a six-inch diameter tree trunk is easier said then done, especially when you live in a city apartment and the sharpest sawing tool you have is a steak knife. That simply would not do, so a quick search of my big yellow toolbox uncovered a more appropriate set of cutting implements - an old one-inch chisel, a rubber mallet, and safety glasses. One can't be an impromptu Dahmer of the Trees without proper precautions.

Laying the tree on its side in the hallway, I began to hack away at the trunk ineffectively, chipping off tiny pieces of the pitchy green stem, covering my chisel and gloved hands with sticky fragrant goop that would require half a can of WD-40 to remove. After the better part of an hour, I had managed to chop away enough old stem that the tree might possibly suck up enough fresh water to live a week or two...or so we thought.

Needless to say, the tree did "relax into its natural shape" after a day of soaking. It was now as wide as it was tall, a squat five-foot-by-five monster more resembing an Alaskan tumbleweed than anything seen on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. It was so relaxed, it looked like it wanted a cigarette. We managed to decorate it nicely with ornaments both new (lights and a few glass globes from Target) and old (some vintage bells and balls from the local antique markets), with no coherent theme. An Adirondack wooden moose shared the branches with a Polish green glass pickle and a 3-inch mirrorball from India. Yes, it was a fine, fine international Christmas tree. So fine, we couldn't bring ourselves to take it down for almost three months.

Cut to present day: This past Saturday, after much thinking of the Rhode Island nightclub tragedy and visions of this fatwood disaster waiting to explode into flames dancing in our heads, the decision was made. After all, weren't martyrs burnt upon stakes and smeared with pitch to better feed the holy flames? That tree would have to go.

But where? The last of the trees disposed of in our courtyard apartment had been dragged to the alley dumpsters back in the first few weeks of January - surely, the telltale trail of needles coming from our back stairs through the alley would give our crime away, especially after reading the stern notice all the tenants received with their December invoices:
Solution? We had to Jimmy Hoff-ize the body. We laid the tree on an old blue checkered blanket, and repeatedly stepped on its spine. The dried branches snapped with a sickening crunch that sounded awfully close to breaking bones...."Yo, Jimmy, where's da money? We told'ja we'd be around Tuesday for da balance! (snap) Ya gonna tell us where da money is?" A few tortured bootcrunches later most of the remaining needles fallen away, and our tree lay in a ruined pile on the floor. I actually felt bad for it, the poor thing.

We'd planned on disposing of the remains after nightfall, since the forecast called for clouds and possible snowfall, and the roar of the passing "L" train would mask the noise. Naw, the hell with it. We dragged it out back and brazenly left a trail of tree-gore five feet wide to the dumpster. By morning, it was gone, and a fresh duvet of virgin snow concealed our tracks. We got away with it - this time.

Now we'll have to watch our backs and screen our calls for the Chicago Christmas Tree Mafia.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

1. Holland or Netherlands? Netherlands is the ultimate in civil libertarianism, Holland is windmills, Dutch cocoa and clunky wooden shoes.
2. Emu or Ostrich? Emu? Isn't that the kind of band Weezer is?
3. Biff or Happy? Iz call 'Beef', no?
4. Quincy or Braintree? When I drove through Boston, I believe they were called 'Massholes'.
5. Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali? If Muhammad Ali were starting out, he'd have a rough time in today's political climate. Ouch.
6. Instabul or Constantinople? Now that's a great They Might Be Giants song!
7. Pig or Swine? 'Swine, of course, dahling. Aren't they S'wonderful?
8. Barf or Puke? Puke is the color of my walls at work, so 'barf' it must be.
9. Potatoes or Spuds? Everyone know's they're called 'taters'.
10. Squeeze Box or Accordion? Only Pete Townshend's lawyer knows for sure.

And, a classic for those of us regular falafel-eating elevator jockeys, 100 things to do in a crowded lift.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
While we're on the subject of Lileks (whenever I'm having a bout of writer's block, a visit to his site is always inspirational), there's a new section in the Institute of Official Cheer called "Big Little Books" - I enjoyed quite a bit, because I actually owned a few of these hardcover pulp fiction kid's books. I remember the "Major Matt Mason: Moon Major" one, with the giant rabbits and algae cakes. Do you ever have these little fragmented recollections - of images and pieces of old books, TV shows and movies - in your head that you just can't place? Well, looking at Major Matt Mason just placed a few for me. Not to mention, that red-headed chimp still gives me the creeps. Or, how about the White Man's Forty?

Everyone's heard of Writer's block, but is there such a thing as Writer's diarrhea?

Monday, February 24, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There, I burst out laughing at my desk. Thankfully, no one heard me. I was reading today's Bleat on Lileks.com, where James elaborates on Target's new "designer" cleaning products, which he began on Friday:
"...they’re awful. They smell wrong. The Ylang Ylang scent, which I feared would stink like rutting pandas, smells like very old people. That’s the only way I can describe it. The “melon” kitchen cleaner smells nothing like melons - but what does a melon smell like, anyway? It has a musky-vanilla odor that wars with the overall citrus profile of the other cleaners, and I don’t like it. The bathroom cleaner smells like cucumber, as advertised, but so what? That’s like saying “leaves your bathroom celery-fresh” or “cleans your toilet with the power of watercress.” They’re not exactly words I associate with efficacious surfactants. I love that word: surfactants.
And lest we forget,
"And every so often - say, when you’re standing in the aisle of Target, woolgathering, recalling something you heard on the radio on the way over, or read on the web that morning, and you see headlines: Israel retaliates; Syrian forces push south or Smallpox appears contained, for now and you wonder whether this simple trivial moment will seem unutterably precious in six months, or three - and then you shake it off, and buy Tupperware. Another normal February day. March is named after which Roman god? Yes, yes. Of course."
The Gospel according to LILEKS (James).

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Friday Five - the Monday Edition!

1. What is your most prized material possession? My music and movie collection.

2. What item, that you currently own, have you had the longest? A small spoon, which I like to use for dessert. My parents gave it to me when I moved for college, but I used to eat with it when I was about 2 or 3 years old.

3. Are you a packrat? Perhaps a packmouse?

4. Do you prefer a spic-and-span clean house? Or is some clutter necessary to avoid the appearance of a museum? I prefer "clean clutter" - the lived-in look. Martha Stewart I ain't.

5. Do the rooms in your house have a theme? Or is it a mixture of knick-knacks here and there? The theme is "Ancient Geek."

Coffee Haiku
magic brown bean juice
perk, smell, pour; stir, sip, delight.
heaven's true nectar

---LR 02.24.03

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Monday writer's block never felt so blockish, but it's nothing that magic brown bean juice can't remedy. Yesterday, we went for our usual walk to the pier at Rogers Park, a few blocks north of Loyola's Lake Shore campus. Sunday was an amazingly windy day, the gusts bullying pedestrians and inanimate objects alike and making for an entertaining natural display on Lake Michigan. A dangerous time to walk in the city for sure, because on days like this three-ton scaffoldings and windowpanes have been known to crash down on unsuspecting passersby with lethal results. Remember the Hancock tower tragedy last March?

The sea of sunlit broken glass we observed by Loyola last week had thawed and recongealed into a sandy moonscape by this weekend, battered by repeated fusillades of slushy waves forming and re-forming the winter coast of the lake. Brownish water rumbled like an oncoming train with each crash, the force of each wave sweeping up bucketfuls of glittering iceballs ten - sometimes twenty - feet into the air, only to have them fall with tinkly, anticlimactic pops onto the icepack. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were on a Bering Strait cutter. Pictures soon, folks.

You are the Quaker Oats man! Stodgy and old fashioned, you probably still churn your own butter. Since you don't have electricity, what are you doing online?

Take the Which Breakfast Cereal Character Are You? quiz.
Published by JC.

Or..."Dude, you're getting a buggy!"

Friday, February 21, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Once Burnt, Twice Shy

02.24.03 Update: from United Press International

First, the E2/Epitome tragedy in Chicago, now a deadly blaze at a Rhode Island nightclub when stage pyrotechnics ignited flammable sound insulation at a Great White show. You may remember Great White's late-80's pop-metal hit "Once Bitten, Twice Shy": okay, so the title of this post is in poor taste. Sue me.

The band's management said they received the club owner's permission to use flaming special effects, but wouldn't you hope the road crew might have some training to judge whether open flames are safe to use at a particular venue? Checking back on updates on this developing story, it seems there are conflicting accounts over whether the band actually received permission to use fireworks during the show.
CNN describes one eyewitness account:

Initially, fans casually made their way toward the exit. Then panic broke out, according to videographer Brian Butler, who was taping the rock concert for a story on nightclub safety. Firefighters work at the entrance to The Station, trying to find victims and control the blaze. "It was that fast. As soon as the pyrotechnics stopped, the flame had started on the egg-crate [foam] backing behind the stage and it just went up the ceiling and people stood and watched it," Butler said. The video showed piles of people lying on top of each other, trying to push their way out of the club.

"Some people were already trying to leave and others were just sitting there going 'Yeah that's great!' and I remember that statement because I was like, 'This is not great, this is time to leave,'" the videographer said. As the flames spread inside the one-story building, band members jumped off the stage and joined the crowd, heading toward the exit.
Who is at fault? It's hard to tell just yet. Using any kind of fireworks inside a relatively small, enclosed club sounds like poor judgement, but then, so does not having a sprinkler system - reports say The Station wasn't required to have sprinklers under the local fire code, but if I were a club owner, I think I'd want to cover my a** in case a fire broke out. It didn't have to be a flashpot that started the blaze - it could just have easily been a shorted electrical cable, an overheated light, even a misplaced cigarette. Unlike Monday's Chicago nightclub stampede, I don't know if the deaths could have entirely been prevented once the fire broke out - sources say the entire Rhode Island club building was fully involved in less than five minutes. That's not a lot of time to evacuate a frightened crowd.

I don't know about you, but I think I'll be staying away from nightclubs and such for the foreseeable future. Al-Qaeda's enough to worry about for the time being.

Thursday, February 20, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Happy Birthday, Wherever You Are!

I'd like to take this time and space to wish a happy birthday to an old friend I've lost touch with over the years. Her name is Mary A. Ponticello, and we met back in 1981 while taking the bus to Hamilton High West in Trenton, New Jersey. She was in 10th grade, I was in 9th, and that would be my last year living in New Jersey. We spent a lot of time talking about matters big and small; had plenty of laughs, as well as some tears like all friends do. My family moved to northern New York in June of 1982, and Mary and I kept in touch for a number of years by phone and "snail mail", and we even visited one another a few times over the next ten years - I like to joke that we would visit every 5 years, and that was true!

People always change a lot in 5 years' span, especially in their teens and twenties. She had a lot of difficult stuff going in her life for a while, and as happens so many times, we lost touch - and we haven't spoken or communicated since the late 90's. The last I knew, she was living somewhere in Philadelphia, but she may no longer be.

Happy birthday Mary, wherever you are. I hope the day is special and fun, and I hope peace, love and joy have found you. I wouldn't even know where to send her a card at this point. So if by chance anyone reading farkleberries today knows Mary, which her a happy birthday from me!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
An Easy Trip To Splitsville

I just discovered the website of an old friend of mine from college days. He's now a photographer (among other things) in the Adirondack region of New York; I think he's traveled a few cities, and ended up settling in one of the most beautiful regions of the East Coast. What a treasure trove of amazing sights to capture! I know. I lived in the region for almost 20 years. Here's a little something from his web archives that I really enjoyed, called fatwood factory. Reading it, you're there in the peaks:
getting to the fatwood factory is not something you set out to do. all of a sudden, it is possible to split every piece of wood. "split" implies a certain sense of halving, but here it's more akin to "splitting up." making parts for distribution. or burning. more surface area; hotter fires from the same amount of wood. i filled a wheelbarrow full of a number of very hot, fast fires. my general rule of thumb is that if i can stand the piece of wood up on the block, it gets split. two things happen when i find myself in fatwood factory. the first is i become more concerned with accuracy than power. as each piece of wood gets thinner, the need to power through it decreases. it's a direct proportion: less is less. it's a well placed tap that does the job not a swift cut. that's because, in the end, splitting wood is not about cutting. it's about separating the wood from it's structure and order. you are taking it one step closer to chaos. you can "read" the wood. the ends of the sectioned wood can give you a road map to easy trip to splitsville. the cracks indicate places where drying has loosened the bond betweens cells that hold the tree together. what was once a aqueous network of structure and exchange becomes a brittle dotted line that says "cut here." a mindful examination of the wood's surface will reveal untold tales of potential cleavings. you can almost see into the heart of the wood. adventures en flambe await: pop me big boy, what are you waiting for? instead of cutting the wood in two with a heavy sharp object, you're directing force through a focused locus, transferring it and liberating kinetic energy latent in each log section. bone wielding space oddessy ape guy becomes wheelchair scientist guy with the tilt of your head. most folks would prefer the wood that they have to split be uniform and "straight." no burls and the like making for hard splitting. you hit one of those hard spots and the axe can sing out like a bell. in the crisp winter air, the bang echoes off the trees and warps around the drifts in the snow. it accents the howl of the coyotes in a flurry filled afternoon as the light wanes. most times, a big gnarled old log section is a long burner. no splitting much more than quartering. the density of the wood, at a place where two or more directions of growth merge (more or less), is insane. the wood locks in on itself, making a near indestructable fist. wood like that burns for a long time. some twisted bastard of a log that, dry, gives you a hernia slogging to the stove is just the ticket for couple of hours of uninterupted, untended fire, warmth, running water...... you can leave the house. -- Brady McTigue

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the Ohio Beacon-Journal:
Big N' Tasty to cost more at McDonald's
McDonald's Corp., the world's largest hamburger chain, will drop the Big N' Tasty sandwich from its Dollar Menu, easing price cuts that hurt profit and prompted discounts by such rivals as Burger King. U.S. franchisees voted Friday to replace the lettuce-and-tomato burger in the national advertising for the Dollar Menu with a double cheeseburger, said McDonald's spokesman William Whitman. Restaurants can now begin selling the Big N' Tasty at a higher price, though the ads won't air until this summer.
Not to mention the name lends itself exceptionally well to pranks. Since most McDonald's restaurants still use removable plastic letter signage, it's a relatively simple (I said "simple", not "lawful") matter - on low-mounted signs - to remove the first "T", and shift the "N" over.

Result: the Big Nasty! I actually saw this once, on the sign outside of the Wrigley Field McDonalds.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Pass Me the Reality Check, Please?

Yet another morning when I turn on the radio and hear about something that sounds like a terrorist attack - that isn't. The subway arson fire in Daegu, South Korea that's killed over a hundred people with many more missing turned out to be the work of a "lone nut," so to speak - a 46-year old man with a history of mental illness reportedly started the fire by setting alight a gallon jug of flammable liquid.

How did a jug of anything flammable - gasoline, alcohol, etc. - spread throughout the subway train and line so quickly? Aren't there some sort of sealed doors between trains to prevent something like this? On the CTA trains here in Chicago, the cars are separated by about two feet of junction space, with each door securely latched. Even if one door is opened, there is a pressure-relieving gap that would seem to prevent most of the blast force from entering the next car? Perhaps the subway cars are closer together in Korea's system - but still, it seems like an awful lot of fire for a single jug of accelerant. What on earth was in the jug?

Even stranger, the man who started the blaze is in custody: suffering from burns, but very much alive. How can that be?

Do you ever get the feeling that the world is so saturated with heightened terror anxiety that some crackpots are now taking it upon themselves to start disasters - without waiting for the terrorists to act? It's like they can't stand waiting for the "other shoe to drop", so they have to bomb something and get it over with.

Pet Peeve of the Day

When co-workers try to have conversations with you while you're sitting in a bathroom stall. Isn't there some sort of unspoken promise of privacy when you close the stall door? When I don't answer, or am not particularly talkative, I'm taken for being rude. I know guys are often accustomed to having conversations over the urinals, but personally, I prefer to not chatter about worldly affairs while I'm "occupied," thank you.

Monday, February 17, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Duck (Tape) and Cover, Part 2: Update

Revision to the last post: we had reported that photos of the interior of the Epitome nightclub in Chicago were posted on Onesti Entertainment's website. Since we made that post at 10:00am, the images have been removed, and the website has a disclaimer that reads:
"Onesti Entertainment Corp. does not own or manage The Epitome Nightclub nor have promoted or had any dealings with The Epitome Nightclub in over a year. The Family and Friends of the those effected by this tragedy remain in the thoughts and prayers of The Onesti Entertainment Corp.
However, my impertinent question is: why did Onesti keep photos and a listing of Epitome on their website as one of their holdings when they "had not been connected with them for over a year"? Sounds a little fishy to me. Perhaps the fact that fire marshals estimate that over 1500 people were in the club at the time of the tragedy, and the club's stated capacity was only 1000 - making it 50% overloaded?

On a side note, ABC News.com reports that military technology has inspired a new product that may save the lives of firefighters and other rescue personnel responding to a potential terrorist strike - the HazMat Smart Strip: "The baseball card-sized Smart Strip can detect chlorine, pH, fluoride, nerve agents, oxidizers, arsenic, sulfides and cyanide in liquid or aerosol form at minute levels." The Smart Strip will cost approximately $15.00, no word on if and when it will be available at retail. Sounds like a good accessory for anyone's "duck-taping" shelf.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Duck (Tape) and Cover, Part 1: The Hidden Cost of Fear

Shades of the fateful Cincinnati Who concert in 1979 that claimed the lives of 11 fans, crushed when concertgoers tried to storm the sold-out show:

At roughly 2:00am today, over 20 people were killed - and many more seriously injured - when over 1500 patrons of a near Southside Chicago nightclub crushed to escape what many undoubtedly thought was a terrorist gas attack. Details of the case are not yet clear, but news reports say that shortly before the deadly stampede began, someone had sprayed Mace or pepper gas inside the club. Like many nightclubs, Epitome at 24th and Michigan had only one main point of entry and exit, and a rear door was reportedly sealed shut to prevent unauthorized - unpaid - partygoers from getting inside.
From CNN today: "Everybody smashed; people crying, couldn't breathe," patron Reggie Clark told The Associated Press. "Two ladies next to me died. A guy under me passed out." Cory Thomas, 33, said he was waiting outside the club with friends when the stampede occurred, according to the AP. "You could see a mound of people," Thomas told the AP. "People were stacking on top of each other, screaming and gagging, I guess from the pepper spray. The door got blocked because there were too many people stacked up against it. "I saw them taking out a pregnant woman," Thomas said. "She was in bad shape. I saw at least 10 lifeless bodies."

Some club patrons opened doors and went into broom closets. Apparently there was only one way down from the second level to the first, contributing to the problem. Firefighters had to pull trampled bodies out of stairwells. "They're stuck in the hallway. They literally can't move," a panicked patron told police.
You can understand the point that club owners don't want to lose income by allowing freeloaders, but in today's heightened atmosphere of terror, measures for patron safety have to be given priority - and enforced. When I first heard this story today I was under the impression someone at the club released the irritant gas as a very poorly-chosen prank; however, accounts seem to be saying that the pepper spray was released following a routine fight - not an unexpected occurrence at a crowded urban nightclub.

You can imagine the sequence of events that must have unfolded: the room is dark, pulsing with thumping bass and flashing lights, nearly everyone under the influence of some intoxicant - whether alcohol, drugs, or the music itself. You can barely discern what the person next to you is saying, much less what's happening on the other side of the building.

Your reality and judgment are altered and blurred. Shouts, screams. Suddenly, searing pain - your eyes start to water and burn, your throat closes up. You're choking. Adrenaline surges through your system, the crowd begins to panic, and pure animal self-preservation takes over. What is your first thought? This morning, it wasn't "Oh, man, somebody blew some Mace in here! Get down on the floor." Instead, it was "We're being gassed! We're all going to die in here, like those people in Bali and Moscow!" UK's Ananova says two young women started the fight that led to the fatal melee:
"Amishoov Blackwell, 30, was handing in a coat on the second floor when people started rushing past. The flow pushed him back down the stairs and he fell on top of several people. Mr Blackwell, who was rescued by firefighters 30 minutes later, said: "It wasn't nothing but two girls fighting. Why'd they have to spray Mace?"
With the terror clock tick-tocking in the back of everyone's mind, what would normally been just an unpleasant disruption of the night's activity turned twenty times deadly as the Epitome patrons' collective backlog of fear exploded over a simple blast of pepper spray.

Friday, February 14, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Happy Anniversary, Unzen Koans/farkleberries!

The original logo for Unzen Koans:Ramblings from the Midway
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Today, I wish you love and peace, and never before has that saying seemed so urgent as now - especially the wish for peace. It was one year ago today that I began keeping a web log, although it wasn't a 'blog', per se. Originally the postings were pretty stream-of-consciousness in style, and ranged from high school memoirs to movie and album reviews. Fairly tame personal stuff. Over the past year we grew to live in "more interesting times," as the old Chinese curse says, and the content followed suit.

In January of this year, I began keeping the log exclusively on farkleberries, so this format is new and still evolving. It's been a fun year! Thank you for reading, and for sharing your time and thoughts. Here is the first post ever to UnZen Koans (even I have trouble remembering the name, ok?).

Yeah, that was me - in that b/w shot on the left. Hm. A three-year-old with muskets. A Blogger in the making, eh?

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Remember Robert Chambers?

On August 26th, 1986, a Upper East Side college boy named Robert Chambers was sentenced for the murder of Jennifer Levin, also a well-to-do student attending a private New York School. You may recall the headlines screaming "Preppie Killer Case." Chambers' then (and still) outrageous defense: that he killed Levin accidentally while they were engaged in consensual "rough sex." Perhaps we were all more easily shocked by such allegations back then? Viewers across the country were stunned by video images of the handsome, clean-cut looking Chambers. How could such a 'nice boy' be a murderer? Surely not.

Today, Chambers was released from prison. Plenty of evidence points to him being a cold-hearted murderer, who showed depraved indifference and no regrets for the crime:
From CNN.com: "Chambers, now 36, accumulated violations behind bars, including heroin possession, assaulting a guard and weapon possession. His bids for parole were rejected five times, and he spent about a third of his time in solitary confinement. Chambers admitted strangling Levin after they met in a bar on the Upper East Side. Her battered, partially naked body was found by a bicyclist under a tree behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the pair went after leaving the bar.

At a 1995 parole hearing, Chambers expressed no remorse about the crime. Chambers was about a month short of his 20th birthday when he was charged with murdering Levin. Jurors were in their ninth day of deliberations when Chambers opted to take a deal, pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in return for a 15-year jail term.

Levin's family never believed Chambers was sorry. Shortly after his sentencing, a videotape surfaced showing Chambers snapping the head off a small doll. "Oops, I think I killed it," Chambers cracked, the doll's head in his hand."
I'm glad he served his full 15 years, and that his privileged socioeconomic status didn't fully protect him from justice. But in a case of murder, how can justice ever truly be served, when no legal remedy can ever return a life? Not even the death penalty can give true satisfaction in that regard; the taking of a life for a life is essentially a symbolic anodyne.

Robert Chambers' crime, as gruesome as it was, is probably no worse than most murders the NYPD see. But even after 15 years, my gut tells me a person like this bears close and careful watching; I don't think prison ever made anyone a better person. He is now 36 years old, looking fit and trim (bread, water, and cable TV have served him well) - and he isn't too old to get hired or tell his story to the tabloids or bestseller press. In the press shots of his release, he looks like any other whitebread urban businessman you'd pass on the street. "Memoirs of a Preppie Killer" - I can see the covers now.

Both of these people are - or would have been - my age. He will probably move to someplace comfortable and anonymous, and his still handsome (but relatively un-memorable) face probably won't get too many shocked stares or whispers of, "Look! That's the Preppie Killer!"

The painful part is that Chambers still has most of his life ahead of him, to live as he chooses. For the cost of one ill-spent night, Jennifer Levin never got to live hers.

Thursday, February 13, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I've been a fan of the Japanese anime Akira for an long time - since I first saw it with a group of friends in college back in, well...1989? Ahem...I mean, the first time I was in college. Yeah, it's been a while.

It's still one of the more mindblowing pieces of celluloid out there. Now, a group of people - Arcadian Entertainment, a group of indie LA filmmakers - are making a live-action trailer for the movie (presumably because it would be impossible to make a full-length live action feature on anything less than a Spielbergian budget) - check it out here. Looks like the project started in 2001 - anyone know if it was completed?

Speaking of comic-books-turned-into-movies, the buzz on the street says even with the star presence of Mr. J-Lo, 'Daredevil' is a dastardly dud. Surprahz, surprahz.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Read on snazzykat.com:
"...It's one of the hardest parts of this job -- to learn that you're not going to change someone's way of thinking overnight -- much of what he believes is because that's how he was taught. I'm glad he chose to come to me about it, because it means that there's something rattling in his head, and he's not quite sure he believes what he's saying. It's about opening their eyes to other ways of thinking, planting those seeds in their heads, helping them question what they believe and letting them find their own answers."
She's talking about counseling a young man of a different cultural background who feels his girlfriend is now "dirty" or "worthless" because she had recently been raped. How do you change someone's mind, when you passionately feel the other person is wrong? Arguing or pushing never seems to do the trick. Something valuable to stay aware of whenever you feel like at loggerheads with a person who doesn't share your beliefs. You go, 'kat.
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Venus and Mars Episode 122: Lessons from the Magnificent Mile

Random overheard conversation at the Gargoyle Cafe, the University of Chicago business school's cafe, where you can not only get lattes and macchiatos, but custom-made sushi. At the condiment bar, a female customer has placed her change, a wad of paper bills, in plain sight. Being the theft-conscious person that I am, I'm a bit surprised:
Man: You keep your small bills on the outside? That's just like a woman.
Woman: Well, yeah! That way if someone sees it, it doesn't look like a lot of money to take.
Man: (laughs) You've got it backwards. See, when guys have money in a clip, they put the big bills on the outside! That way it looks like you're flush.
Woman: (giggles, both leave with their lattes)
I'm willing to bet that guy's never been mugged or had his money clip stolen. Sure, money makes you attractive - but often for the wrong reasons.

Last night I had an odd experience walking back to the "L" stop from my night class at Loyola. The building is actually in the heart of the "Magnificent Mile," across Michigan Avenue from the Hancock Tower. I was wearing a nondescript dark green jacket, a grey hooded Loyola sweatshirt (with the hood up) and a black toque underneath. It didn't occur to me that I probably looked like one of the indigents that frequent that part of Chicago Avenue, until a fellow female student (no one I knew personally) saw me: she looked a bit frightened or irritated, then threw up her hands palms outward, and shook her head "no".

I was confused for a moment, and then realized she thought I was going to ask her for spare change. I was a bit insulted, to say the least. Bum, moi? However, I considered the situation. She looked about 18-20, petite, probably from some Iowa or downstate Illinois town; a little girl in the big city, probably always pestered for money on this stretch of the street. I'm not tall, but when I dress in "city casual" mode (read: lil' thug) with a grey hood over my cap, I probably look a little offputting, especially to the uninitiated. However - that's OK with me.

When I "walk the gauntlet" from Lewis Towers to the Chicago Red Line stop, past the Gucci store, the ritzy hotels and shops, the street undergoes a rapid transformation in about 2 blocks from valet-parked-Lexus Jet Set to Skid Row. The McDonald's at Rush Street and Chicago Ave. is usually filled with the homeless and poor during winter months, and you can expect to be accosted by at least four or five people asking for handouts in the course of your walk to the train.

Generally, I don't get troubled by them much, probably because I don't look like I've got much to offer. But I have observed that people in slightly more upscale garb - say, a woman's business coat - are relentlessly pursued by the panhandlers. One woman I saw was followed for two blocks by a man pleading loudly for change. Truthfully, If I'd have stopped into Gucci's dressed like I was that night, I'd be given the bum's rush the moment I set foot in the door.

As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather lay low and keep my "small bills on the outside."

Wednesday, February 12, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Soft Targets

Just when I go off on how sick I am of feeling war anxiety, here I am feeling war-prickly again today, with all the rumblings of imminent terror attacks. CIA Director George Tenet says the "chatter" is highly specific and mentions attacks on "soft" targets like hotels, schools, public transportation; and the date to watch for is Thursday - the end of Hajj. CNN story today. That, and the breaking story that North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. West coast - and may have two plutonium-based warheads it could lob.

Grrr. I'm trying to distract myself with work but the ruminations creep in like a bad smell - you waft it away, light some incense, but it's still there. We love conflict: black and white, man and women, rich and poor, gay and straight, even manufactured conflict like American Idol, for Pete's sake. But it's not until the real blood and guts of war in all its unknown modern-day horror looms that we all begin to agree on something. Or almost agree, anyway.

This watchful waiting for the next attack is like waiting for the other shoe to drop - on a centipede.

Need something to lighten the mood a bit? Our friends in the UK have come up with a new - yes, competitive - way to make public urination a more enjoyable pastime, at least for half the population. It's called PeeBall(TM)!!
From the Sweetapple.com site, creators of the game: "Peeballs are biodegradable compacted-powder balls that are fantastic to wee on. Every man who has ever used a urinal is already familiar with the basic skills of the game, having played it, unofficially, with disinfectant cubes or discarded cigarette butts as targets.

The genius of the sport of Peeball stems from this essential simplicity and the fact that all a player needs is a Peeball, a urinal and the need to wee.. Firstly, the gentleman removes the Peeball from its protective wrapping and places it carefully in a urinal (single and trough urinals are both acceptable playing surfaces). He then takes aim and relieves himself on the Peeball - attempting to destroy it in the shortest possible time."
"Oi, mates, wanna play some PeeBall?" Them's fightin' words in Texas. Anyway, no need to fret, a portion of proceeds from that soggy game go to benefit prostate cancer charity...presumably, if you're having trouble with that little gland, you're going to have trouble winning at PeeBall.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
DSEA - Is This For Real?

I never really intended farkleberries to be a politblog, but something I read this morning profoundly disturbed me. It's from Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country web journal, and pertains to a proposed bill called the Domestic Security Enchancement Act. Here's a quote excerpted from Whitley's journal dated Feb. 10th:
Among many other things, this new bill enables the Attorney General by fiat to revoke the citizenship of anybody found to have ever contributed money to or participated in any organization the Justice Department deems to be a terrorist group. This means that the Attorney General can simply take away your citizenship if it decides that some group you once gave fifty dollars to was, even though unknown to you, a terrorist organization. The bill does not require any particular definition of that term. It’s up to the Attorney General to decide...

...The bill also authorizes secret arrests. Never in the history of our country has such a thing been countenanced...

...Making arrest secret removes due process from the equation. More terrifyingly, people may be held under secret arrest without access to any outside contacts—and if their citizenship has been revoked, presumably held indefinitely without trial...It gives the government the right to deport any foreign national whose presence it decides is damaging to our economic interests, without regard for his visa status at the time of deportation. It does not require the government to explain its action to anybody, and excludes any sort of effective due process.
Above quoted from Whitley Strieber, emphasis mine.

You can view the DSEA document he's talking about on Incunabula.org; read at your own risk, and I won't make any claims about origin or provenance of this proposed bill. There are a lot of conspiracy theories being bandied about, and I don't subscribe to many of them, but in my opinion this one bears some watching.

Let's look into it. Is this for real? Why isn't anyone else talking about it? Certainly we've got enough going on in our country to distract us, but I certainly hope this isn't for real.

Monday, February 10, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There's a New Blog In Town

NEW! Adventures in viewing the X-Files with Lenka Reznicek

I'm proud to announce a new, third blog to my roster - this one featuring commentary on one of my all-time favorite TV shows, the X-Files. While it won't be one of those completist sites with reviews of every single episode, I'll basically use it to review and muse on episodes as I watch (or often, re-watch) them. Besides a summary and report, I plan on giving the episodes an "overall rating", a "fright factor", and a "Re-watchability" scale. Expect some tweaking; it's brand spankola new.

You can check out The X-Log and my first post (a review of 1X12, Beyond The Sea).

Saturday, February 08, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The (in)sanity Dance

When I logged onto CNN today (something I usually do to confirm that the world hasn't been blown away yet), more news about the slippery warslope slide and the Homeland Security threat risk being raised to "high". I notice that Chicago is not on the official list of cities raising their security, but that doesn't mean they haven't. Still, I'm feeling a little antsy about taking the "L" train today if I venture out...maybe I'll take the bus. I don't think someone will blow up a bus or blow VX gas in the windows, will they. I can't believe I'm actually thinking about this, and blogging this; none of this cr*p would have crossed my mind two years ago. As you can tell, I'm in a bit of a cynical mood this morning. Sez CNN:
"Of possible concern could be attacks involving chemicals, such as ricin, cyanide, or organophosphates and/or radiological dispersal devices (RDD), and dirty bombs," the letter from Virginia officials said. In eastern Virginia, the FBI had already alerted its law enforcement partners Tuesday about threat information suggesting that "soft targets," such as hotels either frequented or owned by Jewish people, could be attacked.
Guess I should avoid shopping on Devon Avenue today? Perhaps not. Devon Avenue is as much Hindi and Muslim as it is Jewish. Supposedly we're at increased risk because the Muslim Hajj ends mid-February. I'm sorry, but I just don't think ending a period of religious devotions calls for terrorists attacks. I mean, what if we celebrated the end of Christmas by blowing up (insert your choice of non-Christian place of worship here)?

Forgive my mood. Part of it is because my old cat Nathaniel has been howling at me incessantly this morning (despite getting love and treats and fresh water), and the upstairs neighbors have been engaged in noisy rhythmic activity for over an hour, rattling my coffee mug and the ceiling lights.

To drown out the thawump grr thawump grr, I'm listening to a disc called "The Eternal Om" - which is over 60 minutes of ethereal synthetic drone mixed with a loop of the "om" chant. It's pleasant enough, and relaxing. At least now I feel spiritual enough not to whack a broom and scream at my ceiling. They're using a stairclimber machine. What did you think I meant, (ha ha)?

I think I'll have some more coffee and watch a good afternoon DVD. Oh boy, this post is starting to sound like a real blog. Perhaps I'll be in a more edified state of mind later today.

Friday, February 07, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Magically Expensive

It's enough to make Gutenberg cry, if he was still around.

CNN has a story today about the upcoming Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", being the most expensive mass-market children's book ever - it'll retail for a whopping $29.95 (USD):
A spokeswoman for Scholastic, Judy Corman, acknowledged that some customers may object to the price, but cited increased production costs and the new book's anticipated length, well over 700 pages. "Clearly, the cost has gone up for printing, paper, etc.,"' she said. "We're hoping people can afford it, but this is a very big book, a third larger than the last Potter book, and we have to be realistic." Few will actually pay $29.99 because stores offer significant discounts. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, which had been selling the book for $17.97, will now charge $17.99.
That's a pretty pricey tome, if you ask me. Certainly the publishers need to recoup their costs, but I can't help thinking they're bumping the price because they can - "Order of the Phoenix" has been topping the bestseller charts long before its projected June 21st release date, and pre-orders are a captive audience. The order's in, and they could probably charge $50.00 and people would buy it - the sky's the limit.

Just last night I was looking at the covers of Newsweek and TIME, emblazoned with photos of the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrating in flames like some temporary Pleiades...then I noticed the cover price. $3.95. Since when did they get so expensive? Seems like we are moving backwards from the era of mass-market printing for the masses; because we obtain so much of our content from electronic and non-paper sources, there's less overall demand for hard copy so each copy has to become more expensive for a printing run to be profitable. I don't think we're getting more illiterate, but our written communications are becoming more temporal and evanescent instead of permanent (as permanent as paper could be!). On the upside, fewer books mean fewer trees chopped down - but I'd rather kill a tree for a book than for most of the goshawful junk mail that comes through our mailboxes, and those smelly perfumed inserts in your Sunday paper.

As for the new Harry, I think I'll wait for the paperback. Used. At the local thrift shop.

Now it's time for me to do something embarassing and trite: post my results from one of those "blog tests". This one looked interesting.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Bleat Goes On

Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist James Lileks is one of my long-time Web heroes: he's written the pointedly piquant Bleat, an old-fashioned Web-Log, for years. He's also the creator of the Gallery of Regrettable Food, and one of the original Gobbler Motel websites on The Institute of Official Cheer - that site that inspired me to create my own, the Requiem for the Gobbler Motel. I think Lileks is one of the funniest and most intelligently sarcastic writers around, but I thought you might want to check out his take on the the new WTC design competetion finalists.
"This is the problem I have with so much of modern architecture: it seems a sin to let a building be a single thing. It has to fragment, shatter, recombine, and stick fingers in the eyes of the beholders. It’s as if the architects think they’ve failed if we walk away from a building satisfied, or find harmony in the idea. These are not harmonious buildings. This is atonality. If the original WTC consisted of two hands banging out an obvious C chord, this is the visual equivalent of dropping a cat on the keyboards."
Sadly, I tend to agree with him. Krrrrrrrep. Bleeech.

There, Mr. Lileks. Now will you answer my emails? ;)

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Our little planet, seen at night from far above as the Shuttle astronauts would have seen it...courtesy of NASA.
"View from the space station. The image is a panoramic view of the world from the new space station. It is a night photo with the lights clearly indicating the populated areas. You can scroll East-West and North-South. Note that Canada's population is almost exclusively along the US border. Moving east to Europe, there is a high population concentration along the Mediterranean Coast. It's easy to spot London, Paris, Stockholm and Vienna. Note the Nile River and the rest of the "Dark Continent." After the Nile, the lights don't come on again until Johannesburg. Look at the Australian Outback and the Trans-Siberian Rail Route. Moving east, the most striking observation is the difference between north and South Korea. Note the density of Japan. What a piece of photography. It is an absolutely awesome picture of the Earth taken from the Boeing built (go Lockheed!) Space Station, in November on a perfect night with no obscuring atmospheric conditions."
Author unknown, from an e-mail I was forwarded today. Funny how different things look from a distance...and how similar. My only question is, how did they take this photograph of a 360-degree view of the planet with the entire surface in darkness? Certainly at any given time, only half the planet is dark, and the other half illuminated by the sun?

Strange. Maybe it's a computer-generated composite of multiple nighttime images? Any thoughts?

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Good Medicine for the Age of Terrorism

Last night I had a bathtub discussion about the possibility of war breaking out in Iraq. What exactly is a bathtub discussion, you ask? Well, it's when you're in the tub and someone else is listening to your ramblings; sort of like a therapist's couch, only soggier. This particular discourse was prompted by a message from someone "in the know" that we should be careful about terrorist activity in major US cities in the near future.
I don't know about you, but I'm a bit burned-out over daily worrying about terrorist activity. It's not that I don't believe that it will happen, but I am becoming emotionally fatigued by constant headlines about weapons inspections, restarted nuclear reactors and isolated cells of terrorists in my back yard. I'm certain they are here - in our country, in my city, no doubt - and they will probably strike at some point. However, I refuse to let that fear suck away at my life and absorb the mental and psychic energy I need for daily living and growth.

Yes, there will be future terrorist activity both abroad and domestically. But worrying about when and if today will be the day that it happens here at home is tantamount to spending your waking moments in fear of getting cancer, or being hit by a stray bullet. Certainly, it could happen, but consider the effect that the worry itself has on your life before the event happens? After all, isn't that what "terror"-ists hope to accomplish - to create a pervasive sense of fear and apprehension in a target population that brings normal life to a standstill?

We're relatively new to the terror experience here in the US. What about people in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and other strife-torn parts of the world? Let's consider Israel, for example. Almost weekly (or daily, it sometimes seems) we receive reports of suicide bombings and other tragedies from the cities and the countryside. I wonder, how on Earth do people live with this? How does one go about their daily business of rising, living and sleeping when any moment can bring unspeakable atrocity? It's as if those who live in war-stricken areas develop a shell around them, a protective layer against the daily onslaught of explosions and blood, because to truly experience the fear these events engender is to capitulate to terror. I don't live there and I don't personally know what life is like lived in the "shadow of the valley of death", but it does highlight just how good things are where we live, despite all the bad news and gun thumping.

Does it feel like the world we live in is dangerous? Perhaps it is, but is it any more dangerous than the world we lived in 100 years ago? I don't believe so. A century ago, childhood fevers and shaving nicks often proved deadly, and half of us died from exigencies we today reflect with a vaccine shot or the pop of an antibiotic pill. Our world is more palpably dangerous since 9/11, but mostly because the thief has struck and we feel vulnerable - and the rest of our lives seem relatively placid in comparison to the nightly news.

Remember that terrorism is a man-made danger, and by definition someone has control over it. The problem is, we don't really have that control right now, and perhaps never really did. Zealous anger and boiling rage among extremist factions around the world has been seething far longer than we know, and only recently have we felt its presence so personally. I am actually far less afraid of Saddam Hussein's ability to build a nuclear, biological or chemical weapons arsenal - or for that matter North Korea's reactivated reactors - as I am of the weapons that very likely are in our back yard as we speak. We worry that our enemies could develop weapons of mass destruction? I believe our enemies already have them, and have had them for some time. What I'm most afraid of is that in this day and age we can no longer pinpoint our enemies with geographic precision as we have in years past. The next wars will be utterly unlike any before, if only because the wolf doesn't have to knock at the door: he's living in our basement.

The enemy is no longer a discrete country or foreign leader, but a funguslike web whose tentacles have spread into many nations - and they can't be extracted with any real effectiveness. Terrorist cells can be entrenched behind the faces of people we see every day. Certainly government intelligence gathering works, but it's probably no more effective against the metastasized cancer of terrorism than chemotherapy or surgery is against bodily disease: we can control it, but we still can't cure it. We can make educated guesses, keep our fingers crossed and hope that today won't be the day our fortunes turn. This won't be a war of nation against nation, but ideology against ideology, and it could make the Battle of Tours in 732 AD look like child's play.

We may not be able to control the time and place terrorism may strike, but we can control how far we let that fear into our lives. Living our daily lives and moving forward despite the dangers we see in the media isn't living in denial. It's also "good medicine" for us, and our nation as a whole. Like those who live with a chronic disease, we have the option of dying with it a little bit every day....or living with it. The choice is ours.
There you have it, my bathtub speech. Confessions and cleanliness!

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Blog This, Baby: the new frontier

Spoiler: this post will be one big noodle about my blogging habit, so if you're not interested, please scroll down or visit the archives! It's amazing how quickly one can get addicted: back in January of last year, I started keeping a 'blog' of sorts on my personal webpage, called Unzen Koans. All told, I posted about 30 items - averaging out to a little less than one a week - but when you consider that they were made by the laborious process of building individual web pages in Microsoft Word(TM) and ftp'ing them through a secure SSH server, well, that puts it into perspective. Image-heavy, my Unzen Koans pages took ages to load and looked pretty schitzy (a word stolen from my boss) in Netscape. I'll chalk it up to youthful indiscretion.

Just last month I opened up my Blogger(TM) account, and a few abortive attempts at "Unzen Koans - the blog" later, a word flashed into my head: farkleberries. Mm. Catchy. I like that. No sense having a blog if no one remembers the name, right? The account finally "took", and I made my first stabs at true blogging. Then came the next step: customizing my template. You're looking at the finished results now, but the starting code was a Blogger pre-fab special called "Color Blocks"; at least blogging has forced me to learn some HTML!

If you've checked out this blog before, you may have noticed some changes recently - there are a lot more banners and links on the sidebar, and it's starting to look like a NASCAR special. I suppose the millenium's version of lunchbox decals or bumperstickers is having a lot of banners on your site...at least here, they have an actual function. Can I tell you about some of my recent acquisitions?In any case, happy hunting and blogging. I'm sure you will be hearing more from me soon.

Monday, February 03, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
To Reach For The Sky

Saturday morning started out normally enough; sleeping in a bit late, putting on a pot of coffee and checking the e-mail inbox. It wasn't until I saw the CNN Breaking News alert that had arrived shortly after 9:00 AM that I heard of the Space Shuttle Columbia's demise. Besides the initial shock and sadness, the news brought back a flood of memories from early 1986, on the day the Challenger exploded. The tragedy of both Shuttle disasters contains not only the feelings surrounding the crew's loss of life, but the collective loss felt when such grand missions come to a sudden, unexpected end.

As time has passed, each mission has increasingly been an international envoy: we speed much more than a group of people into the dark skies, we send them as mankind's emissaries into the unknown frontier, hoping for their swift safe return with a packet of knowledge that may bring us closer to the future.

Alas, that was not to be for the Columbia. Not this time.

Have you noticed something different about people's reactions and comments following Saturday's Shuttle disaster? Back in 1986, I heard many people say that the Challenger's explosion proved that these [space] missions are far too dangerous and expensive to justify continuation. That we should abolish the manned space program in favor of robotic probes that do not place astronauts at risk. I have a feeling that we - humanity - are somehow more determined to continue our dreams and grand missions following 9/11. Now, we understand more clearly that we cannot let tragedy and loss stand in the way of moving forward, because in moving forward we also offer an uplifting, appropriate memorial to those we have lost.