Monday, June 30, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chicago: America's Deadliest Place to Party?

It happened again this weekend.

A dozen people were killed, and dozens more seriously injured at an overcrowded party venue in Chicago. It seemed like the average summer house party...kegs, dancing and hanging out on the porch. Chicago is filled with 3 and 4-story brick apartment buildings with wooden porches like the one that collapsed this weekend, and building inspectors who examined the scene concluded that the ill-fated porch was in fact structurally sound at the time of the collapse.

That can mean one thing: there were far, far too many bodies standing on the structure when it plunged three stories down. What is wrong with people in this city - do they all have to pack like sardines everywhere they party?

Imagining 'accidents' like this always gives me the creeps...being crushed by a crowd, suffocating, falling down, down, down from a high place...sometimes, as this past weekend shows, it happens in real life.

All we can do is breathe a sigh of relief we weren't there.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Who Turned The Lights Out? [Woof, Woof, Woof]

It's cool and comfortable, like a midnight hammock. Aaaaah.

Thursday, June 26, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Ridiculus Mus

Do you know what happens when you read too much Kant and Nietzsche?

You have wierd dreams.

I mean, really wierd dreams.

Last night, after staying up late to finish the paper, I dreamt that I was in a tropical hotel and had somehow ingested a hallucinogen - that I was seeing inside people's skins. I could see the muscles and skull-bones beneath their faces, and other strange things. But only faces seemed to be affected: shifting, runny, tribal masks of skulls where faces should be. What I find odd is that somehow my mind decided to interpret that I was hallucinating, rather than just incorporating the bizarreness into the concept of "dreaming."

Then the dream shifted to my leaving the tropical hotel, and once I got outside there was a line of men dressed in long black kaftans, some of them handcuffed into a line or riding bicycles. They first looked like some sort of priests, but then I realized they were vampires wearing turbans - and they were becoming cross with me for getting in the way of their handcuffed bicycle caravan. One, in the distance, got so angry his face turned from chalky white to blood red. I knew I was in trouble then, and I woke up.

It was like Kipling meets Gaiman meets Edward Gorey meets Hunter S. Thompson...aaagh. I can't - won't - even begin to analyze that one.

If you're curious about the Kant and Nietzsche paper (or bored, or just plain masochistic) you can download the PDF version here. But don't say I didn't warn you.
"Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus" ("The mountains are in labour; a ridiculous mouse will be born") - Horace, Epistles, Book II, 3, Ars Poetica

Monday, June 23, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A Real-Life "Name of the Rose"

A mystery has been solved in the Alsace mountain monastery of Saint-Odile: 33-year old Stanislas Gosse has been fingered as the clever thief who has been spiriting away rare and ancient books from the library for the past two years, despite radical security measures. It's a fascinating story...Umberto Eco would be proud:
From the Guardian: "He had found the route after discovering a forgotten map in public archives which revealed the secret access from the monastery attic. The map was a key exhibit in the trial. The attic, reached by a daring climb up exterior walls, led to a steep, narrow stairway and then the secret chamber. A hidden mechanism opened up the back of one of five cupboards in the library. The plans suggested that the secret route to the library, once the monastery's common room, served in medieval times to spy on the monks' conversations. Inside the library, Gosse spent hours by candlelight picking out volumes, some of which he stored in the attic."
Thanks to fellow Chicago blogger That Rabbit Girl for the lead!

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Hot, Hot, Hot and Not, Not, Not

It's going to be a hot one today in Chicago...the forecast calls for plenty of sunshine and temps upwards of 90 degrees; 95 tomorrow. When it gets this summery, I like to challenge myself to see how long I can go without an air conditioner, especially when I'm alone in the office or driving. I get a kick out of having people say, "how can you stand this heat?" This is probably a consequence of having lived almost twenty years in a region with four seasons: cold, really cold, damn cold, and construction.

When I start to feel woozy and really irritable I give in and turn on the A/C, but I get some kind of strange satisfaction out of seeing how long I can go without it. It's like seeing how many jalapenos you can eat. Now please don't tell me, "Ha! 95 degrees! That's nothing! It's 110 in the shade where I am!" To the 100-plussers: I commend your magnificent chaleur. Huzzah. But I am only in Chicago, after all...not Phoenix, Alamogordo, or Lake Havasu.

So what does the image of the crank-operated onion dispenser have to do with anything? Nothing. They have one at the snack bar at Sam's Club™, with a matching relish dispenser. It's just one of things that make you go "hmm," to paraphrase the C&C Music Factory. You remember C&C Music Factory, don't you?

*static in* Caution: This blog may contain obscure and irrelevant content and/or non sequiturs. The reader is advised to use discretion. *static out*

On a side note, television is just too weird these days...public television (Chicago Channel 20) has a program Sundays called Religion Ethics Weekly. Yesterday afternoon they had a feature on voodoo in Haiti, complete with candles and chickens. Interesting - a primarily Catholic program doing an interview with one of the island's premier houngans.

Then, on The View, Barbara Walters was discussing sexual dysfunction - in prime time, mind you - and demonstrating the "squeeze technique" in pantomime for the audience. I'm no prude, but this is not something I care to see Baba Wawa doing on television; or anyone else on a news show, for that matter...I feel like I should wash my TV screen now.

With soap.

Friday, June 20, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Da Big Story: Howard Dean's Son In Hot Water Over Break-in

Barb and Jenna Bush may have set a President precedent: declare your intentions to run, and watch what trouble your kids get into. Here's the scoop. 17-year old Paul Dean, son of Howard, was charged today in an incident involving an early-morning break-in at a Vermont country club. Beer and champagne were allegedly stolen from the club's cooler.

As an former "radio-n-teevee" person, I have a question: since Paul is 17, isn't he technically underage, and shouldn't his name have been withheld from press releases? When I used to call the local police bureaus for stories, they wouldn't release the name of anyone under 18.

This afternoon it's listed as a WPTZ BIG STORY, just above the one about a freight train smashing into a bunch of homes in Commerce, California. Sure, they had to call in about a dozen ambulances and set up a triage area for the victims - but it's not as BIG a STORY.

*sigh*...news coverage begets more news coverage.

If you read the story, note that it is a "representative of the Burlington Country Club" that gave the details, not the police. WPTZ-TV reports the elder Dean says his son was [only] driving the car waiting for his friends, when a Burlington city officer became suspicious and questioned Paul, leading to the arrest of four other youths.

As Joe Pesci would have said in My Cousin Vinny, he an' da four udder yoots was chawged in de incident.

Something tells me the station could have been a little more circumspect about scooping the Paul Dean story. First of all, because it sounds like the incident was just a garden variety teenage prank: it isn't as if Paul were charged with drug-dealing or some violent crime. Secondly, WPTZ is located in Burlington, Vermont. That puts them in the catbird seat for covering the former governor's 2004 campaign.

They might want to play nice with Howard; one hand washes the other, and all that jazz...let's face it, if he weren't Presidential candidate Howard Dean's son, it wouldn't even be a story.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
How About You?
I like Chicago in June,
How about you?
I like a George Gershwin tune,
How about you?
I love Lake Shore Drive, when a storm is due ...
I like spicy plantain chips, moonlight and motor trips,
How about you?
I’m mad about good books, can’t get my fill,
And Mayor Daley’s looks,
don't give me a thrill ...
Holding hands in a movie show,
when all the lights are low may not be new,
But I like it, How about you?

I like Oprah’s jokes - to a degree...
I love the common folks, That includes me ..
I like to window shop, on Devon Avenue..
I like my sushi, late supper at Green Tea,
How about you?
I love to dream of fame,
maybe I’ll shine..
I’d love to see your name
right beside mine..
I can see we’re in harmony,
looks like we both agree
on what to do,
And I like it, How about you?
ca. 1941
Lyric by Ralph Freed, Music by Burton Lane
Mutilated by the farkleberry. The present is the integral sum of all our pasts.

Happy Summer, everyone...

I thought this was a headline from The Onion, but it's from CNN: "96 Percent of Cosmos Puzzles Astronomers".

Thursday, June 19, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Of Fat and Plutonium

New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz' proposed "fat tax" would hike the state sales tax by an additional 1% on items that "contribute to obesity", such as junk food, video games, and television commercials.

Television commercials? Does that include political campaign ads?

If anything, those are a great excuse to stretch your glutes and grab another beer from the fridge. Now, if we're targeting all things that contribute to obesity, logically we could extend this "fat tax" to everything from automobiles and alcoholic beverages to beds, couches, chairs and computers. You could tax virtually any labor-saving device like washing machines, dishwashers, and remote controls. After all, if we'd only get off our tushes, we'd all be a lot thinner, no? If we as a population get fatter, and presumably get sicker and spend more on health care - they profit with increased revenues.

Conversely, the longer you live, the longer you get to pay taxes. You've got to love those creative politicians - it's a can't-lose proposition.

Speaking of shortening your life...on a much more disturbing note, in the far corner of today's news was this little story: two vials of plutonium are missing from the Los Alamos laboratories, and no one seems to know where they went.

Although the vials are small, there seems to be some disagreement as to the nature of the plutonium they contained. Officials at the long-beleaguered nuclear lab contend the vials held only a small amount of dilute plutonium oxide that poses little or no hazard, while the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, DC based watchdog group, says the material was likely weapons-grade and could threaten public health and safety.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Vindication: No More Blue Fries

Last summer, on my old-school weblog Unzen Koans I felt the need to rant about outrageous processed food items like blue french fries. Well, lo and behold, CNN/Money has reported that OreIda's Funky Fries product line - which featured the above mentioned blue fries - are officially leaving supermarket shelves due to lack of consumer interest.

I think I may have a new career ahead as either a tabloid psychic or a marketing executive. Or then again, maybe not.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"Download that mp3, and the computer gets it."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) isn't going to be making any friends among college students, mp3 junkies and civil libertarians with his recent call for the development of technology that would remotely, automatically, destroy the computer of anyone attempting to download pirated music or software. How this would work is still unclear, but it's certainly a disturbing idea coming from a U.S. government official.

Yes, destroy - as in, "two downloads and the PC fries, capiche?"
From CNN: 'No one is interested in destroying anyone's computer,' replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds technology to deliberately download pirated material very slowly so other users can't.

'I'm interested,' Hatch interrupted."
What's next, Orrin? Why don't we develop a technology that destroys your car's engine if you're caught speeding? A house that burns down if you default on a mortgage payment?

Or, here's a really good one: how about a pacemaker that stops if you can't pay your hospital bills? Sorry, cheap shot.

However, Hatch's blustering is actually nothing more than a high-tech piece of pork: on the side, he is also a composer who reportedly earned $18,000 in royalty fees last year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WebWurst: It Hits The Fan

Some news stories just really make your morning.

Like this one from Phoenix, Arizona. Thomas O'Brien, a bishop who reached an immunity agreement in the sex abuse cover-up scandal - on charges he allowed pedophile priests to continue in their ministry - is now himself charged with a hit-and-run killing of a 43-year-old male pedestrian.

O'Brien reportedly told the arresting officer that he didn't stop his car because he thought "he had [only] hit a cat or dog." Shame, shame.

...and an, ahem, sign of the times: recalling the Depression-era practice of hiring homeless people to carry "Eat At Joe's" sandwich boards, Pizza Schmizza - a Portland, Oregon pizza company - is now reviving the practice for the new millenium.

Friday, June 13, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Comes to DVD

If, like me, you've never seen the BBC's production of Neverwhere, you'll be happy to know A&E is offering the 2-disc Region 1 DVD set of the 6-part series for sale, ahead of retail release. Neil comments on his blog...and wouldn't you know, after not going to last weekend's Printer's Row Book Fair - I know, I promised I would - I find out Neil Gaiman was there as a speaker! [damndamndamndamndamn] Sour grapeses: these days, he's hotter than a Coach bag in Rogers Park, so his event would probably have been sold out anyway.

Off topic: ever tried putting your name into the Googlism search page? Typing in my full name gives one precisely accurate result. Type in Lenka only and it's a whole different story, and I do mean different.

My favorite "Lenka" Googlisms are:That sort of gives you the idea. Try entering your name, and if that doesn't turn up any search results, try your last name or first name only. Try your friend's names, or your favorite celebrities. Trust me - its worth its weight in giggles.

Another really fun piece of web candy is Rob's Amazing Poem Generator . Enter the URL of your target site, and a few seconds later the program spits out a poem generated from the page's code. If you enjoy Mad Libs you'll get a kick out of this. Today's randomly-generated farkleberries poem is:
Bloody fools. Oh, nearly 15 years? They released the jammed, and say,
next question!!!
Why? Frankenmuth?
or illusions of short stories penned by Robert Silverberg
An alternate reality in the
CDC, the
source of the
Lambs, Red Dragon and
sausage City, Museum. dedicated to
look this spring.
That's just too good to be true.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Scourges of the Greens, and the Rules of Canadian Boat Golf

This morning, like each of the past several days, my morning Metra train ride was spoiled by a crowd of loud, obnoxious, smelly people.

Who are they? The minions traveling to see the U.S. Open Golf Tournament taking place this week in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Each day the Randolph Street station is packed to the gills with highly-cologned, polo-shirted, baseball-capped cell phone junkies who all have to yell at each other across the waiting area and the train aisles. Every one of them is either reading the Tribune sports section, USA Today or using their cell phones to spread the word of the latest birdies and bogies to their buddies around the country. At least the ones with Blackberry™ PDAs are relatively quiet, tapping away insanely at their minature keyboards.

Golf in the abstract is an interesting exposition of skill and triumph over the laws of physics, but it's pretty dismal as a social institution. My main ideological beef with golf is that it seems to be a boring, elitist game for the idle rich.

I know, I know...that sounds like a simpleminded generalization from someone who probably couldn't hit a brick building with a 9-iron.

You'd probably be right. I was always the laughing stock of the local mini-golf putting greens: those windmills and fountains would silently chuckle at my 10-stroke par-3 bumbling. On the other hand, there are some acceptable forms of golf, like Canadian Boat Golf.

Canadian Boat Golf is usually played in the dark, from camps or cabins along the shore of a lake or inlet frequented by Jet-Skis™ or recreational craft. The trick is to use your sense of hearing to hone in on the trajectory of the "hole" - i.e., the boat - and to swing at precisely the right moment to hear a loud clunk or crash, followed by choice curses from the boat occupants shortly afterwards. The final step is to hide silently far from view when the flashlight shines on shore. Now that's golf.

I'm sure there are some poor ghetto children somewhere being brought to the links by some wealthy socially-minded benefactor. But by and large, golf is for those who can call their assistant down at the office and say, "hold my appointments for the afternoon - I've got a business meeting with three very important people, *snicker snicker*".

Louis XIV would have probably played golf if it weren't too hot under his wig in the sun.

It's not a game for the minimum-wage, swing-shift working class Joes and Janes of the world. That's what baseball and basketball are for. You can learn to become a great player on the local basketball court with a ratty old Wilson ball your brother gave you and a cutoff t-shirt. You can become the next Sammy Sosa or Willie Mays with only a pockmarked Louisville Slugger, a sharp eye and a strong swing. At least theoretically.

Now those are games that sing - games with soul. There's plenty of baseball and basketball movies around. How many golf movies are there? Happy Gilmore and The Legend of Bagger Vance? Okay - Caddyshack. That was a good golf movie. But it says something that the majority of golf movies are comedies, not dramas.

I shouldn't complain, but it is Friday the 13th - and I feel somehow legally obliged to.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sausage City, Here We Come!

I am thoroughly excited about our little weekend trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan...not only will I get to escape daily routine for a short time, but we'll get to see two good friends - Lori and Ed - who currently live north of the border. Why Frankenmuth? Not sure...except that it's about halfway between Chicago and Toronto, and it's supposed to be a great little day trip.

Detroit was a definite "no", so it was either Frankenmuth or Battle Creek and the Kellogg's Cereal City Museum.

Have you ever read some of the historical accounts of Will Keith Kellogg? Interesting guy, to say the least...and I don't mean that in a good way. While he gave us the refreshing legacy of cornflakes and high-fiber cereals, he was apparently obsessed with "colonic cleanliness" and the elimination of "self-abuse" as the chief cause of all manner of human misery: yes, that self-abuse, Ke-Mo-Sabe.

Where would you rather visit: a town with pretzel and sausage festivals - or a museum dedicated to someone who believed in daily enemas and celibacy? Huzzah.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Six Random Bathroom Observations

I. The ladies' room on the 4th floor of my building has three sinks and two stalls. The company that makes the stalls is called Hiny-Hiders™.

II. I once got stuck in the larger of the two stalls when the twist-lock jammed, and I had to crawl under the door.

III. There is a pale, sickly-looking cactus with a plastic knife in its pot on top of the Tampax™ vending dispenser - which has been empty for the past two years. I don't know if there is a connection.

IV. Someone in the department is very odor-conscious, because there are always two cans (sometimes three) of air freshener in each of the stalls. We have a choice of Sparkling Citrus, Melon Burst, and Mango Splash to cover up organic aromas.

V. Personally, I don't think the words "burst" or "splash" belong anywhere near a toilet, but that's just me. I usually go for the Sparkling Citrus, since it's the least sugary-sweet; I don't care for saccharine smells. Not to mention I don't want to create any mental association between melons and mangoes and the office toilet.

VI. The First Law of Toilet Thermodynamics: all hot air in a bathroom will be expelled simultaneously. As soon as you sit down and shut the stall door, someone will will walk in and try to strike up a conversation with you.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WPLT 93.9-FM Memories: Where Are They Now?

Why didn't I do this before? It makes sense that many of my WPLT radio compatriots at SUNY Plattsburgh would be web-denizens, so I started some focused Googling:

Jack Weinstein, who had a Ska show during my WPLT tenure. Today, he's a philosophy professor at the University of North Dakota (NoDak!) - I'm sure he'd have something to say about my Kant and Nietszche rantings, no doubt. And he'd certainly be entitled to. I hadn't realized his father Mark was a renowned NYC jazz flautist.

John Allers was Program Director at WPLT in the late 80's, went on to commercial radio in Vermont at WEQX, and if I'm not mistaken is now at an alternative station in San Jose, California. At least that looks like his smooth-shaven pate in the website photo; and the eyes look about right. After all, how many John Allers can there be in radio? (Okay, theoretically there could be more than one - but the self-deprecating humor on that page has me convinced.)

Kerry Diamond, always a stylish gal even back in college, has made it big: she's the Beauty Editor for Harper's Bazaar magazine.

I'm certain more names will come to me...

Monday, June 09, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"American Vandals, Where Are You?"

Talk about a blast from the past...tonight I was performing random stream-of-conscious Googling (also known as Googlemancy) when the name "American Vandals" popped into my head.

The American Vandals. There's a name I hadn't spoken aloud in - oh, nearly 15 years? They were a late-Eighties "indie-rock" band from Rochester, New York whose lead vocalist, Tom Peter, was attending SUNY Plattsburgh. Like me, Tom Peter had a radio show on WPLT 93.9 FM (the SUNY Plattsburgh college station). I can't recall the name or even what he used to play on his show, but he was one of the people we regularly hung out with at the station in Yokum Hall...talking music, the music biz, life...you know, college daze.

Well, one February long, long ago Tom Peter brought his compatriots Doug Harradine, Rob Filardo and Lou Rossi to SUNY Plattsburgh to play a gig at the student union hall. That show was a lot of fun. Good raucous, energetic and crunchy music that made you proud to be 20 or so. Somewhere in my archives, I have a cassette tape of that show recorded off the band's mixing console, and a photo of Tom sitting at the WPLT board. I'll have to dig it up and show you sometime.

What information did I find Googling the American Vandals? Well, they apparently disbanded around 1990 and morphed into other Rochester bands like one named Zezozose. Sounds like they had a brief reunion in '99, and went the way of garage-band legend. They released an album called "History Skid" (I have a 12" copy autographed by all four Vandals).

Hey guys, if you're out there...remember "Queen Anne"?

I do. Hope you're still rockin' wherever you are.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Monkeypox In Milwaukee

The title of this post isn't mere verbal jabber, nor the 'too-clever-by-half' name of a blog. Unfortunately, it's a statement of fact.

Until today I'd never heard of a disease called monkeypox - much less suspected that this obscure Western and Central African viral disease had arrived in the placid Midwest, a stone's throw from Chicago. Apparently, no vaccine is available yet.
From CNN: "According to the CDC, the pet distributor got the animals from an Illinois distributor who had kept the prairie dogs in a container with a Gambian rat, another popular rodent pet. Health officials said they suspect the rat was the source of the infection because tests have shown Gambian rats have antibodies to monkeypox. Close contact with prairie dogs or Gambian rats could put people at risk, Hughes said."
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to smallpox, but the fatality rate for humans is only somewhere between one and ten percent. The disease is usually transmitted to people from squirrels and primates through a bite or contact with the animal's blood.

Moral: beware of prairie dogs and vampire squirrels. Not frightening enough? We now have the specter of camelpox as a bioweapon.

Should I laugh or cry at this?

But if you call in sick to work tomorrow with monkeypox, I don't know you.

Friday, June 06, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait, Even If It's 30 Years
Go, Speed Racer, Go!
Will wonders never cease? Artisan Entertainment has released the first 11 episodes of Speed Racer on DVD, with a passel of neat extras.

Speed was my favorite after-school cartoon (we didn't use the word anime back then) ever - I used to watch the syndicated reruns on some UHF channel in Philadelphia (can't recall the call letters) before The Banana Splits, Captain Scarlet and Ultraman; with the afternoon kid's programming hosted by some guy named Wee Willie Winkie. Actually, I think it was Wee Willie Weber: it's been a long time.

These days nobody could host a kids show with a moniker like that. I mean, think about it.

The seminal 60's "Japanimation" series was loud, simple and often just didn't "translate" - but it was funny, scary, and drop-dead exciting to a little kid like me. Between the cartoons and having a close family friend from that nation, I grew up to be quite the Nihon-o-phile.

Now I'll finally get to see the episode called "Race For Revenge" which featured a robotic race car, the Mallenge, with an absolutely terrifying-looking mechanical driver. I used to be phobic of driverless vehicles as a small child - I called them "monster cars" and nightmares about them coming to get me. Remember the 1970's movie "Killdozer"? Whew. I had to close my eyes through part of that one.

Okay, not every kindergarten-age girl loves shows about fast cars and villains, but Speed was truly cool - and Trixie loved him. Consider the source.

In the past few years, I think the Speed Racer Fan Club had managed to release a limited edition box set of the series, the price was very steep if you could get your hands on one of the few custom-made copies - I think it was $300 or so.

If you're a die-hard fan with money to burn, there's a company that makes custom Mach 5 racers on a Corvette chassis - if you're willing to shell out 125 big ones.

Anywhow, this new DVD release is much more wallet-friendly, so I can't wait to get my hands on a copy when I get some spare change.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The More I Know, The Less I Know I Know

I didn't plan it his way, but the two summer classes I'm taking seem to be having a strange synergistic drug-like effect.

Philosophy of Human Nature - a crash course in metaphysics and epistemology with the likes of Descartes, Kant and Nietszche - is giving my everyday world a surreal mushroomy psychedelic feel. I hope it's temporary.

What do I really know? Am I really seeing what I'm seeing? Am I really drinking a cup of coffee, or do I only think I am? With only about 13 people in the room seated round-table style, the conversation can get very unreal very quickly.

Last night, in discussing Kant's Foundations of Moral Philosophy, we pondered his test of universal maxims - his Categorical Imperative - which states that an action is morally right if and only if it could be applied universally. In essence, an action can be considered morally correct only if we could imagine everyone doing it all the time. Mind you, we're not certain if he means "all the time" as in "constantly", or in the sense of "at each instance of an action".

My silly question: "What would Kant say about cutting down a tree? If we use his Categorical Imperative test on tree-cutting, and everyone cuts down trees (and, do we cut down every tree?), do we infer that tree-cutting is immoral?"

Let's just say the class got really interesting from there on. We also bandied about was how Philip K. Dick used philosophy in his novels that spawned films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. Our teacher is really knowledgeable; the sort of mensch that won't say "next question!!!", but rather discuss any point presented, no matter how ill-advised, to its logical conclusion. I recommend him highly. I may even want to take another philosophy course before I'm done; I'll certainly vouch that taking philosophy is a big help in refining one's use of language and sharpening the thought processes.

Victims in the Criminal Justice System, on the other hand, makes me feel like I've taken a paranoia-induding stimulant. Hearing first-hand accounts of rapes, assaults and robberies makes me watch my back constantly on dark streets; and even on some not-so-dark ones. While some of the statistics we're presented with are somewhat comforting - our chances of being victimized by the worst of violent crimes is rather lower than the media makes them out to be - it's still filtering through.

This would probably explain the series of crime-themed nightmares I've been having lately, since I'm not watching the news or any violent TV shows. That would be just too hyperstimulating.

But let's not forget, this weekend is the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago....I'm there to regain some sanity!

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Remember the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu? The KLF? Intellectual property hacker and musical impresario Jimmy Cauty is up to his old tricks again; this time his chosen targets are UK stamps bearing the likeness of the Queen. His "Stamps of Mass Destruction" are causing quite the stir, with the Royal Mail threatening to sue the Artrepublic Gallery in Brighton for displaying the naughty works.

From Reuters UK: "Cauty and fellow KLF member Bill Drummond are best known for burning one million pounds of their own money in a ceremony on a remote Scottish island in 1994. They have never explained why they did it."

Bloody fools. Oh well...a burning pile of pound notes makes for better press than dumping a ton of Euro coins down the loo.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Martha, Martha, Martha...

I hear stripes and steel bathroom fixtures are the fresh and exciting new look this spring.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chateaugay Bridge: Echoes of Tears and Whispers

Ah, the simplicity and innocence of rural and small town living...how can anyone be sad in a land of white wooden steeples, grain-edged sunsets and green rolling hills?

It's never so simple, unfortunately. Take, for example, Plattsburgh, New York. It's a town of approximately 20 thousand souls, give or take; it's much smaller now since Plattsburgh Air Force Base, home of the 380th, was decomissioned over a decade ago. Plattsburgh has many qualities that feel big-town because it's located in the center of the triangle formed by Montreal, Albany, and Burlington - a little bit of urbanity comes through. But by and large, you can travel a mile or so from the town's center and encounter pure country lands populated by placid dairy farms, VFW's and country stores.

This afternoon, my partner received a call from Plattsburgh that our friend's brother had committed suicide last night by jumping off the Chateaugay Bridge. It's a very high bridge, bordered by an ineffectual 3-foot-tall concrete railing.

Back when we lived in Clinton County, every winter when I drove across the bridge I had a flash of losing control on slippery black ice, my car plunging into the black rapids. I'd hold my breath, grasping the wheel tightly. It was an awfully frightening image, and I'd always breathe a sigh of relief after when I safely reached the other side.

He was terrified of heights.

He was in his mid-40's and had endured some great personal losses in recent years. The eldest brother of a large family, by all accounts he was a "man's man": a traditional husband and father, and until recently worked at one of the area's several state prisons. Reportedly, a passing driver noticed an odd sight that morning - a man leaning over the bridge railing in the dark. Sensing something was wrong, the driver turned around, but the man at the railing was gone.

Unfortunately, his choice of exit mode virtually guarantees anonymity in the local media: Plattsburgh newspapers and radio don't talk about suicides, even if they fall from a bridge several hundred feet into a swift rocky river. The family will bear the burden of sharing that news themselves, his end resonating as a reverberating shock wave of tears and whispers - leaving an unfillable hole his family will constantly seek to mend. I believe that for the survivors, having a family member or friend die by suicide is the worst possible end because of the questions.

"How could they have thought things were so bad?"

"Why didn't they come to us for help?"

Or, the simplest and most resonant question:"Why?"

How can one help ease the survivors' pain? I can send them a card of sympathy, call them on the phone, think of them...but like many people I have a hard time confronting the bereaved face-to-face. I wish it weren't so, and I'm slowly working on it. There is a time and place to face loss: to this day I feel regret over not visiting a terminally ill co-worker and friend in the hospital in Plattsburgh, almost exactly three years ago. He knew his time was ending, but I couldn't muster the courage to visit.

I wish I had.

Monday, June 02, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Laissez Le Bon Reves Rouler?

This past weekend, I've been tormented by several ridiculous "daily residue" dreams - the kind where people, places and situations you come across in real life show up as bizarrely mutated pastiches. Analysts seem to consider them something the dreamer's equivalent of a garbage disposal.

In one, I was in a strange car driving over hills somewhere near Lake Placid, New York. The sunlight was blazingly bright, the coloring of the landscape was an autumnal orange-red, and the gas gauge was on empty (I had watched part of Far From Heaven this weekend, shot in a similar style). I knew I had to stop to fill up, but my passenger kept giving me nonsensical replies as to why we couldn't stop. The next thing I knew I was on an aircraft carrier docked in the middle of a small lake. The deck was marked with a gridwork of two-digit numbers, ranging from about 16 to 29 - and with a wave of my hands I flew upwards from the deck, landing on the opposite shore. In the dream I "knew" those numbers indicated the sounding reading from the deck surface to the bottom of the lake, but I have no idea how an aircraft carrier could draft only 16 feet: mind you, this is only a dream.

Then, I was in Chicago...I didn't recognize the streets, although it looked suspiciously like Lincoln Park fused with my neighborhood - somewhere Uptown but nonexistent. All the "L" lines were underground, which isn't the case in "real" life...my stop was the nonexistent "Lawson" Red Line (I had walked past the Lawson House YMCA on Saturday). In this figment of my dreams, the underground stop was several levels deep - and there was a long ticket counter where "emergency tickets" could be purchased for $ 1.00 (again, in real life one ride costs $1.50). As I tried to make my way to the train all the stairwalls became steep, and lost their handrails, so that it seemed I could fall straight down to the tracks - I felt panicked and couldn't even crawl back upstairs to ground level. Then I woke up with horrible heartburn.

Could it be the spicy andouille Cajun sausages I cooked for supper last night? Laissez les bon temps rouler, my foot.