Thursday, February 26, 2004
A Moral Mel Movie Dilemma 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I'm having a little moral dilemma about seeing Mel Gibson's new film, The Passion of the Christ.

My problem is not with the movie, it's with Mel Gibson. I don't know the man, I've never met him, and he could be a perfectly nice guy. I just don't like some of his viewpoints. Specifically, in media interviews he has been very hostile towards gays and lesbians, and for that reason I don't want my hard-earned dollars lining his pocket. Now, I realize that only a portion of my $9.50 will go to Mel, and that some of that money will go into the pocket of people who don't necessarily share his views.

Then again, I went to see Braveheart and Lethal Weapon, so it would be disingenuous of me to say I wouldn't put my money in his pocket under any circumstances.

A little about me: personally, I do not belong to any organized religious denomination, nor was I raised under any particular faith. Although most of my family is historically Christian (as far as I know), family members of my parent's generation onward are primarily agnostic/atheist in identification. That said, I have always had an interest in theology of all colors, both for its mystical element and for its important role in world history and events. You can't ignore its influence.

So here we are. 2004 A.D., anno domini, "in the year of our Lord," and dang, we're still fighting about it. My problem is this: I would like to see The Passion of the Christ because I've heard it's a powerful, unique cinematic work. I've seen The Ten Commandments, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Exorcist, and just about every good and bad movie about religion under the sun. Why? Faith makes for compelling human drama, and gives valuable insights into our origins and what we believe our destiny to be. I'm interested in seeing the movie, but I'm torn about where my money's going. Would I feel differently if I waited to rent it? What if I bootlegged a copy?

Maybe I should take a friend's advice: buy a ticket for another movie, then sneak into an adjoining theater playing TPOTC.

Afterthought: here's what the folks at Metacritic are saying.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Michael Jackson and ex-wife Debbie Rowe have reportedly hired a retired judge to help them resolve an "undisclosed family legal matter":
From CNN: "The retired judge who will hear the matter between Jackson and Rowe works with Action Dispute Resolution Services, a private company that offers private mediation or arbitration services to people involved in civil disputes.

'If you had a high-profile case and you didn't want it to be public, you would come here,' Lucie Barron, ADR Services' president, told CNN. 'If you have a situation where you don't want a lot of adverse publicity or scandal, you come to us because it is totally private. It is completely confidential.'
Wow. Confidentiality so air-tight, the only people that will ever hear about your problem are reporters at CNN.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Is Ralph Nader the "Goat" of 2004? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ralph Nader's declaration to run for President this year comes at an interesting stage in the election process. He's a long-time "dark horse" candidate with views well-known to the public, and he's managed to avoid the primaries' early-rush stage until the strongest of the Democratic contenders have been revealed. You have to hand it to him on strategy. Arriving late to a shindig is a great way to save on parking, if you're the least bit cheap: you may miss out on the cocktails and the soup, but you still get to try dinner and dessert.

He is making Democratic candidates and their supporters nervous by recalling the "Spectre of 2000," the belief that his campaign was somehow responsible for the very close election results that ultimately led to the infamous Hanging Chad Affair. However, thinking that Nader was the culpable spoiler four years ago is rather similar to the idea that Steve Bartman was the "goat" responsible for the Cubs losing last year's World Series.

"It ain't necessarily so." Nader may be sticking his mitt in the 2004 election field, but if he catches a couple of outside balls, that doesn't make him responsible for who wins or loses the game. He garnered about 3 percent of the vote in 2000, but where did that 3 percent really come from?

Because his nontraditional viewpoints tend to be perceived as pulled from the "liberal" bag, many people think Nader's voting base is composed exclusively of disaffected Democrats or disconnected extreme-left fringe voters. I personally do know Republican voters who have voted for him - but that's just me - I might be the only person that knows Republicans-who-voted-for-Nader, but I suspect that's not the case. If Nader is a spoiler, he may be more of an equal-opportunity spoiler than many think. Truthfully, I don't know how many people who vote for Nader do so because they truly like him as a candidate - or if he ends up being a symbolic "None of the Above" protest option. Multifarious Musings has an interesting look on the Nader bid.

Make no mistake, I think Decision 2004 is going to be one of busiest and most contentious elections of recent memory with plenty of involvement on both ideological and economic fronts - but even if Nader somehow managed to triple his 2000 turnout and collected 10 percent of the vote, the other 90 percent is still more than enough to focus on considering what's at stake.

I don't feel as if I have the luxury of taking my chances on a "dark horse" this year - even if he is a candidate that openly supports gay marriage, an important issue for me. Important, yes - but one issue of many, and quite honestly I would feel like I had wasted my one vote of 2004 in protest if I voted for Nader for that reason alone.

Monday, February 23, 2004
Overhead on the Red Line: Blue People 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Seen and heard in the reflection of an "L" door as I was waiting for the train to stop at Granville, a twenty-something man and woman talking:
Going to L.A....you know what that's like? It's like, say you're a blue person - and suddenly you're in a country full of blue people. You know, it's great...in a way. But then, everybody's blue. It's not like you're, like, creative or unusual any more. You can't be this crazy artistic person any more.
Sometimes it's good to be blue, but not when everyone else is.

Blood, Guts and Murder 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I think I have finally found a new (post X-Files) television show I can sink my teeth into.

About two years ago I watched a couple of episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; they didn't grab me at the time, but to be fair, I was watching the show on a 4-inch diagonal black-and-white set via peripheral vision while washing dishes. Now, I've been renting the DVD box sets, and I'm hooked. Besides, I've been a William Petersen fan since Manhunter, and CSI nicely showcases his enigmatic Shatnerosity.

Blood, guts, murder and cold hard science: I loved it in movies like Se7en, Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter, and now can I love it in easily-digestible 45-minute segments on the tube. I've finally caught on, two years after the rest of the country.

One-Note Samba* on the Political Organ 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"Lenka," I have heard recently from a few people (who shall remain nameless), "this whole 'gay marriage' thing is getting really tired. Blog about something else. I don't care about it." Fair enough, but before you write it off as a one-note samba on the political organ, consider this: there are times when politics calls for sitting on the sidelines, and other times when you have to speak up and speak your mind, especially when there are far-reaching personal and historical consequences.

I have posted my views on the nationwide battle over gay marriage because it's currently at the forefront of my attention - not only because of the continual headlines, but because people are asking me my opinion about it every day. Everyone can't care about every political debate, and there aren't enough hours in the day to give a damn about everything. However, sometimes there's a crucial time to put your money and your vote where your mouth (or your blog) is.

Gay marriage certainly isn't the only issue I'm concerned about, but right now, it's "in my face." What's also important to remember is that just because an individual holds a certain viewpoint about one matter, it does not follow that they will always hold similar viewpoints on other things: when in doubt, ask for clarification, but don't assume a priori. While this concern is personal, I am genuinely more interested in the discourse than trying to shout down opposing viewpoints. Honest discourse is the path of least resistance to genuine understanding or change, despite the seemingly circuitous route - shoutdowns only lead to escalation and raised ideological fortress walls.

Fences may "make good neighbors", but fortress walls rarely do, regardless of which side of the wall you're on.

*Speaking of one-note sambas, I groaned aloud this morning when I heard that Ralph Nader once again announced his intention for the Presidency in 2004. Every four years, he pops up out of his hidey-hole. Punxsatawney Phil has nothing on Ralph. Remember, Give a Hoot - Don't Dilute [the vote]! That's where I feel torn: ideologically, I believe Nader and all alternative political candidates need their time to be heard and deserve to be on the ballot; that's the "free market" system of voting. On the other (strategic) hand, non-Republican voters who punch the Nader chads may as well flush their ballots down the toilet.

Friday, February 20, 2004
"Housewives! You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today declared the same-sex unions being performed by the thousands in his state "illegal."

I'll try to resist a snide comment about the pot calling the kettle black, but goshdarnit, the man just does not have a steroid-pumped leg to stand on. We've all heard both truths and exaggerations about his wild arugula-salad days filled with drugs, starlet-groping and group sex parties, and he may well be a polished politician and a genuine family man today; his skeletons neatly cremated in the closet. But somehow, his cigar-chomping pontifications behind the Republican "read my lips - no gay marriage" party line strike me as disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst. There's nothing like a superficially reformed rapscallion.

I've had many people tell me that although they believe that same-sex couples should have some protections under the law, "most people don't believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry." Besides, they don't really need marriage.

The "most people don't believe" argument has a long history; we've dealt with it numerous times as a nation when deciding how to distribute rights and privileges among our people, and many times the reasonable and compassionate solution has called for an exception to "majority rule." Remember the early suffragists like Alice Paul, in the days when "most people didn't believe" women needed access to the polls? No doubt the concept of women voting must have seemed outrageous, "unnatural", even morally wrong to many back then:
From The Right To Vote:

"Women had campaigned actively for suffrage in America since 1848, when delegates met at Seneca Falls, New York, for the first Woman's Rights Convention. But convincing a majority of men to empower women was a tall order. Most people, male and female alike, believed that women were biologically unfit for politics.

According to one orator at a mass meeting in Albany, New York, 'A woman's brain involves emotion rather than intellect, [which] painfully disqualifies her for the sterner duties to be performed by the intellectual faculties.' Even those who thought women might be capable of political activity, often decided that the family had to come first. 'Housewives!' announced a Massachusetts journal, 'You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout.' "
How about a pre-civil rights era admonition that read, "Negroes! You Don't Need a Ballot to Work 40 Acres and a Mule!" or...

"Gays and lesbians! You do not need a marriage license to play house."

Conservative voters and legislators will no doubt respond with a forward push on the proposed federal Constitutional Amendment that would restrict marriage to "a man and a woman", but we need to remember that no Amendment has ever before taken rights away from a specific group of people. "But," you say, "What about the Prohibition?"

Not quite. That glowingly successful Amendment restricted everyone in the nation from using alcohol, in the name of morality and "preservation of the social good". I'm sure there would have been a more rousing hubbub had the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol sale and consumption by, let's say for the sake of argument, women or Black persons. Nevertheless, as well-intentioned as the 18th Amendment's creators may have been, it just didn't work.

That same argument being used by opponents of same-sex marriage, that somehow a federal amendment is needed to "protect society" from married gay people, is based on the same hollow premises. One blogger I read regularly claims that proponents of same-sex marriage are no less extremist than an organization like PETA. Regardless of how you may feel about vegans, animal-rights activists or same-sex marriage, I think there is an important basic difference between the folks that want to allow same-sex marriage and an organization like PETA.

I understand that PETA would like everyone to stop consuming meat and animal products. That would mean a lifestyle change for me (perhaps you), and everyone else that uses animal products in their daily lives. PETA are not asking for a personal right to not use animal products; that is a given. They are asking all people to make a change in their beliefs and habits. On the other hand, permitting same-sex marriage does not involve a lifestyle change for anyone except same-sex couples that wish to marry: gay marriage advocates are certainly not asking heterosexuals to "switch sides" and marry same-sex partners. Just like pre-suffrage women and Blacks, they want to take part in a social institution they have been previously excluded from.

But back to the Governator. California Guber Alles or not, I think Arnold should just take his cigar...and butt out of trying to deny people their civil rights.

Thursday, February 19, 2004
Should We Rebuild The Twin Towers? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There's a part of me, as a re-located New Yorker, that would love to see the Twin Towers rise again over the Manhattan skyline. When my family first came to the U.S. we lived in Manhattan; the towers were then beginning to rise, and in my lifetime those two buildings became part of the essential definition of 'New York'.

Some people say that rebuilding the World Trade Center towers would only throw salt in the wounds of those who lost friends and family on 9/11; others contend our country would be 'asking' for another terrorist attack by doing so. I disagree on both counts.

An advocacy group called Team Twin Towers proposes setting aside the Studio Daniel Liebeskind "Freedom Tower" design for the new WTC, instead rebuilding the site as it was. From the Team Twin Towers website:
Building anything shorter, or smaller than the Twin Towers is tantamount to kneeling to terrorism. No terrorist organization has the right to dictate building heights or what a skyline should look like and how ideals, hopes, and dreams should be compromised. Whatever is built at the WTC site will send a message around the world. What message do we want that to be? The world is watching how we choose to move forward.
Team Twin Towers also does include a proposed memorial to those lost on 9/11 in their design. You can sign their online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/rebuildtwintowers/.

What do you think? Should we rebuild the Towers, or move forward with the new SDL Freedom Tower design?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Fractured Philosophy, etc. 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Fresh from the farkleberries library, three semi-scholarly works for your pleasure - or to cure your insomnia, as the case may be:You think I'm kidding, don't you.

by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
1) I think Gain™ is the best-smelling laundry detergent around. Normally, I wouldn't feel the urge to post that on a blog, but we just got a humongous jug of it at Sam's Club, and I've been smelling my shirts and sweaters all week. Usually no one is around, but I've been caught sniffing publicly a couple of times. Damn, that's fresh.

2) Yesterday, after about twenty years of working with computers in one form or another, I finally discovered the true function of the PrntScrn button. I never knew that pressing the button copied an image of the screen to the clipboard. I'd been pushing that button, only to be disappointed time after time again after a page failed to emerge from my printer. I was convinced that button was a big practical joke Apple and IBM were playing on us.

3) After hearing lots of recommendations, I finally got adventurous yesterday and downloaded Mozilla™. It's not bad; it's fast, and the rendered web pages seem to look better than they do in IE, but that's probably my imagination. One silly question. Why does it look like Netscape Navigator?

Monday, February 16, 2004
Vile Spammers Strike Again! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
While posting a comment on a friend's blog recently, I came across a strange-looking entry from someone named "human growth hormone" that read, "I want to tell you I enjoy blog very much."

You probably know where this is going, but after I innocently clicked on the link - thinking that the comment was posted by some clever sap for whom English is not a first language - I later realized the commenting bin was filled with dozens of similar spam entries containing similarly generic bland 'comments', all linking to pages selling the usual spammer's array of weight loss pills, penis enlargement patches and money-making schemes.

One question: who exactly are the people that make these spamming efforts even remotely worth the effort? Are there people really stupid enough to trust and give money to a marketer who had to get their attention by spamming a blog's comment box? If you're thinking that mine was the blog spammed...er, no. Fortunately it wasn't.


I hope whoever wrote the app that spams commenting bins (which would bypass the "unsolicited mail" objection, since asking for comments is by implication consent to receive a communication!) gets a permanent scaly rash where the sun doesn't shine.

Friday, February 13, 2004
Where Do Red Line Bloggers Live? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
farkleberries has just been added to the chicagobloggers.com directory on the Red Line! The "ring's" (more precisely, the network's) listings are organized geographically by "L" stop and Metra train station; ours is located at Granville on the Red Line.

Let's examine the distribution of blogs along the Red Line, from North to South - I suspect the frequency of blogs along a given train route will generally correspond with the presence of higher education institutions; e.g., many bloggers are highly eduacted young adults, or people who associate with them.

On Chicagobloggers.com there seems to be a preponderance of blogs on the North Side, Edgewater and Andersonville neighborhoods, with another peak in frequency at Sheridan, Belmont and Fullerton. No surprise; these stops roughly correspond to areas near Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University. Interestingly, few blogs hail from the Loop, and the South Side is virtually unrepresented in blogdom save for 6 at the Garfield stop, where some University of Chicago-vicinity blogs (like Crescat Sententia) reside.

But why? I can understand that some Loop residents may choose to list their blogs on a route other that the Red Line; but do Southsiders just not blog?

Why Didn't I Think of That? The GrooveTube! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sometimes, the most amazing inventions are the simplest; take the *Ronco® Showtime Rotisserie, for example (I jest).

J-Walk's Blog (a 'classic' blog, in the purest sense of the term) tips us to the GrooveTube™, a rectangular grid of transculent plastic cubes that suction-cups to your television screen (provided it does not measure more than 22" diagonal) and transforms the realistic (ok, semi-realistic) image on your TV into a soothing, pixellated ever-changing interplay of colors.

"Ooooh! Aaaah! Look at the colors!" It's probably wonderful for nurseries, sickrooms, mental hospitals and crash pads.

*Note the ad blurb next to the Showtime Rotisserie that proclaims, "I LOST 26 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS!! and other amazing weight loss stories." Someone lost 26 pounds in a month eating braces of roast chicken? What were they eating before? Pound bricks of lard?

Thursday, February 12, 2004
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Killer Website 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
First reality turned fiction, now fiction turned reality: South Korean police arrested a 25-year old college senior on charges of conspiracy to commit murder after he was tracked down through his "murder for hire" website.
From CNN: "...the student, identified only by his surname Kim, received the equivalent of $8,600 from a 22-year-old woman who wanted her ex-boyfriend and his wife murdered, said Chung Dong-yul, a police investigator in the city of Daegu.

None of the killings were ever carried out and Kim will not be charged with attempted murder because he had no concrete plans to fulfill the transactions. Kim told police he opened the Internet site because he couldn't find a job and needed to repay a $1,724 loan...other requests made to Kim's online service ranged from changing grades to rape and gun smuggling"
What, did he forget to put a disclaimer on his site?

"The Perfect Husband": Wagging the Moneyhog by the Tail 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Something is very, very wrong here.

An upcoming trial jeopardized by a cable-television movie (The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story airs on USA Network tomorrow) that will "hit air" before the trial begins?

Does anything about this scenario strike you as more than a little odd? What exactly did the creators of the movie base their plot on, since the Scott Peterson trial hasn't happened yet?
The movie only focuses on the time Laci disappeared to the time Scott was arrested," said a USA spokesman, who declined to be identified. "We didn't go into any of the court proceedings that have followed. Everything that's in the movie is already out there."

The movie is told from the point of view of two fictional characters, Tommy and Kate Vignatti, who are composites of Laci's friends. Jeff Wachtel, USA's executive vice president for original scripted programming, outlined the movie's focus when the network announced its production plans in October.

"The Perfect Husband is not just a movie about a specific crime, it's also a movie about our culture -- how someone can gain and then betray the trust of a woman, a family, a community," he said
Really, what is the point of a fictionalized version of events when the whole story hasn't been told - and the true account of the murder events as they unfolded is 'out there', by the channel's own account? Why waste your time on a fake when you can have the genuine article? Maybe that's naive of me, and I'll be the first to admit I've enjoyed post facto dramatizations of true crime like Helter Skelter (Charles Manson played by Steve Railsback, later known as X-Files abductee/kidnapper "Duane Barry"), for example; but the key difference to me is the illogic of watching the drama before it unfolds. You know what I think?

"Wagging The Dog." Andy Warhol's nightmare. Krreppp. Whatever you call it, it's worse than Christmas decorations before Halloween. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

Constant Comment... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Is a rather tasty Bigelow™ tea flavor, but lately it seems people have been having problems with farkleberries' commenting service. Today we have switched over to a different provider, backBlog. Please let me know if you find this to be a better system - if you like it, or if you don't - I would appreciate the feedback, because different computers often run into different issues. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
I Dream of Bugwiches 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This is what I get for eating leftover Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice at midnight before going to sleep:

I was dreaming I was late for work, and I had get a cab to take me there...for some reason it's summertime outside, and the landscape looks suspiciously like my old hometown, Plattsburgh, NY - or perhaps Route 9 on West Chazy. Rural and green, in any case. {Ever notice how the day seems to unravel itself backwards sometimes in your dreams, like it's regurgitating the events back out into your dream-consciousness? No? It's rather strange.}

So I get into a cab; not just any cab, mind you, but a huge white 1940's 'Woody' sort of thing that looks like a giant PT Cruiser. {In dreams reality is often telescoped, omitting little details like actually hailing the cab, getting inside, and telling the driver where to go.} The cabbie is a chatty, plump, forty-something woman with a strong British Cockney accent. As we're riding down to work, suddenly I realize the taximeter is reading $58.01, but I only have two crumpled 5-dollar bills in my pocket because I forgot my wallet at home. $58.01?

"Well, luv, it's a historical vehicle, y'know." she says, as though that would justify this highway robbery.

I ask her to drive me back home to get my wallet so I can pay this outrageously expensive fare with a credit card. What a fool I am.

"Carn't do that, luv, it's a shift chainge." Whatever.

Even though it's "shift chainge" we manage to arrive back home, which for some reason looks like my old TV-station workplace - and, it's time for an outdoor barbecue! (We used to have those once a year) The odd part is, several of the University of Chicago economics professors are there, munching on the products of the grill in front of me: large roasted insects that looked like pillbugs, and falafel balls, served on hot dog buns with spicy sesame tahini sauce.

I realized I was hungry, so I proceeded to fix myself a bugwich, for some reason undeterred by the nature of the "mixed grill." I woke up before I had a chance to take a bite. And, I did wake up late for work.

Monday, February 09, 2004
Disgusted With Television, Part 1 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
For the past few years I've had a love-hate relationship with television, especially with the rise of "Reality TV." Normally, I avoid this genre of programming like the plague, but last Thursday I got sucked into watching an episode of Extreme Makeovers, where each week a couple of quite-plain-to-reasonably-attractive individuals subject their bodies to a massive plastic surgery and body-modification assault in the name of homogenized beauty and advertising revenue.

The program has a bizarre Brave New World aspect {cheery people going under the knife, displayed on a 3D computerized layout} that makes you rub your eyes and wonder if you're not watching some awful sci-fi show about a dystopian future, where everyone looks like Sigfried and Roy. And I mean everyone.

Then it hits me: I've seen this before - in the movie Logan's Run.

The particular episode {of Extreme Makeovers, not Logan's Run} I watched featured a couple who had been dating for about 3 years; each of them had been very obese until a recent massive weight loss, and had apparently never dated anyone until they found each other. He was in his early thirties, she nine years older and obviously very insecure about her aging. At a joint birthday party for the couple, they were surprised with the news that they had been selected for a His'n'Hers Extreme Makeover® - with Matching Fairy Tale Disneyland Wedding™!.

Don't get me wrong, they were both rather normal-looking geeky folks in love, and I'm not against plastic surgery per se, but the array of surgeries they each had performed equalled a serious car wreck: nose jobs, chin jobs, cheekbone implants, full-body liposuction, breast reduction for him and matching implants for her, hair extensions and implants, dental veneers and laser hair removal and vision correction surgery. Of course, the entire show is liberally sprinkled with infomercial-style plugs for the "surgeons to the stars."

Result? Both ended up looking like department store mannequins. At the "grand unveiling" at the Disneyland altar they didn't recognize each other, and for good reason.

Her face looked like a cross between Cher's tucked-n-pulled puss and Sissy Spacek's, and he looked like...well...I can't say what he looked like. Let's just say with his new highlighted hair, neon-bright tooth veneers, pancake foundation and fresh-out-of-the-box cheekbones he wouldn't have looked out of place in a Disney cartoon. The parents of the intended were stunned at how their kids looked, and you could have knocked them over with a feather. The father of the groom appeared to be reaching for his champagne glass every few seconds afterwards: Is it my fault? Is it my wife's? This is what we get for letting him sing "Copacabana" in that 5th grade talent show. My God, what will the neighbors think.

If my kid underwent that much surgery to looklike that, I'd have asked for the whole bottle: screw the Veuve, give me the Bourb.

Friday, February 06, 2004
R.I.P. Carlie Brucia (1993-2004) 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sadly, it appears that the Carlie Brucia abduction has reached tragic conclusion with the discovery of her body this morning behind a Sarasota, Florida church.

Everything about the case makes my skin crawl and screams "why did this have to happen?" - an 11-year old girl takes a shortcut behind a car wash, and is literally grabbed off the street by a hardened career criminal...and chillingly, a video camera captured the exact moment Carlie was snatched, but neither the widely-aired tape nor a massive police search could save her in time.

The way Carlie died qualifies as the nuclear blast of parental nightmares.

I can barely imagine the pain they must be in: the suddenness of the events that transpired, and the cold, unimaginable reality of their daughter's murder. Many parents who have lost a child in an abduction/murder wait relentlessly for weeks, months, even years not knowing if their child is dead or alive: Carlie Brucia's parents barely had time to absorb the abduction before they were faced with the news of her fate.

Only, her death wasn't 'fate.'

'Fate' is that boiling stew of chance, opportunity, motivation and a host of external natural (and perhaps supernatural) elements: but her abduction and murder are the purest, darkest, most concentrated form of criminal intent conceivable.

Though misadventure can bypass the sternest locks, many parents will watch this case unfold and hold their children closer and tighter, latching the barn and hiding the key...but the fact is, it isn't our children that need to be locked up.

Have you seen the film Se7en? The killer - John Doe - played by Kevin Spacey, bears a similarly monchromatic name to the suspect in the Brucia murder - Joseph Smith. Both names are almost pseudonymous in their blandness, but in both fiction and reality, what malice can hide inside the everyday.

One moment, one simple decision.

One shortcut.

Thursday, February 05, 2004
Holy Mackerel - It's...Mackerel 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
With recipes like Fluffy Mackerel Pudding, Cabbage Casserole Czarina, Inspiration Soup and Snappy Mackerel Casserole (it's not fluffy, and it's not pudding!) Weight Watchers™ Recipe Cards circa 1974 are a psychedelically vomitrocious lot, and Candyboots.com channels the spirit of James Lileks with painfully funny commentary.

Did I mention there's also a recipe called Mackerelly in the "Budget Fish" file divider - as opposed to "Convenience Fish"?
Ever wonder what that movie Carrie would have been like if it had been cast with chickens instead of people and also possibly entirely reconceived as a porno? No? Well, does it help to know that now you'll never have to? No? Sorry."
What did you say? Lileks isn't dead? Ahem. Sorry. What was I thinking.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Same-Sex Marriage Revisited 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This morning I received a letter from a [heterosexual] friend who read my previous post on the AFA Gay Marriage Poll. He'd wanted to leave a comment below the post, but unfortunately the commenting server wouldn't work. He called me on the issue of "loading" the ballots, pointing out that you can easily fool an online poll through various means - he was right; I didn't think of that before I posted, so can I say "thank you for setting me straight...ahem...correct?"

My friend, however, disagrees with the idea of gay marriage - and in fact isn't too crazy about marriage as an institution per se. I know other people who feel the same way. I think we can all have varying viewpoints, and I wanted to share a bit of the letter (edited to preserve his privacy) because he makes some very good points; and I wanted to share my response.

I would have liked to have commented on a few of your postings and wish the comments work, I wanted to say something about yesterdays'.

You made the statement "I took the poll myself, and can vouch for the fact that the site was configured to reject repeat votes from the same computer or IP address, which would tend to discount the theory that a small number of users "loaded" the survey." I found this very funny, I had spent the day 'loading' a survey on our local newspapers site. I don't think it will reject an IP address. With dial-ups every time you connect you get a new IP address. With a high speed connection your IP address can change, I have been registered from several different addresses. A person can also vote from work and from home (okay that only counts for two) If they vote from work your computer doesn't get an IP address, your business does. You have a router at work with one IP address that then routes it to your computer.

Most of the "you can't vote twice" protection is done with cookies. Cookies can be deleted or rejected totally. If you reject cookies and the site doesn't check for rejected cookies you can vote all day. If you delete cookies you can vote all day. Try it, it is FUN!

I wanted to comment on being against same sex marriage. I am. (hold that gasp and homophobia comment for...just...a...sec) I am also against opposite sex marriage. I think "marriage" is wrong and nothing more then a piece of paper. The commitment comes from the person, from the heart, and if it can't be proved with that, the legal piece of paper wont do shit for you.

On a side note, it does bother me that someone can have a same sex domestic partner and get all the rights as a married couple. But an opposite sex domestic partner is not entitled to those same rights...well...unless they get married.

But more than marriage (same sex or opposite sex) I am against the American Family Association. While I believe that a family can be a wonderful thing the "all sit down at the dinner table to talk about the day, hug your kids, discipline when they are bad" type of family values are a good thing to have and should be encouraged. But a police force such as the American Family Association isn't what is needed. I think the American Family Association are the same people that once said "The Simpson's" are horrible, and then turned around later when they saw the family values that the Simpson's have. The American Family Association is like a condo association, they want to impose rules that they think the world should have. FEH!

Dear XXXX;

Well, I supposed I jumped the gun with the last posting...I should remember that "Google is forever"! Computer technicalities aside though (I did not think of the cookies perspective, you're absolutely right, though), it is such a hot button issue that it takes considerable effort sometimes for me to put logic before emotion. I agree, 99% of the Internet is bullshit...our websites excepted, ha, ha...but speaking of the AFA poll, what I neglected to mention is that it would be an unfair and biased poll no matter -how- it was done - and it would be just as biased if it were hosted on a pro-gay-marriage site (or on a CNN Quick Poll for that matter). After all, you're 'preaching to the converted' in any case, and drawing from a non- random selection of 'poll-ees'.

Anyhoo: I agree (on the corporate level especially) that allowing only same-sex couples to receive domestic partner benefits is unfair. However, with the exception of Vermont - which provides for gay couples who have a civil union to receive these benefits statewide, as opposed to the luck of the draw with how progressive your employer happens to be; and a few states here and there with less comprehensive laws - there is no option or possibility for two people of the same sex to marry, whereas a heterosexual couple has that choice if they wish. They are penalized for not choosing to marry, but same sex couples are penalized, period, and are considered single individuals. To me that's what the issue boils down to: choice.

Don't worry about the gasp and accusations of "homophobia" - I've heard far worse. I agree that the institution of marriage isn't perfect and there seem to be more dysfunctional familes around than not, but I feel that doesn't really stem from "marriage" per se or the gender of the spouses. I think incompatible psychologies, interpersonal dynamics and ingrained social patterns are at the root of the majority of marital problems - and legislation (George W's 'promote marriage' proposal included) probably won't do a damned thing to help. It's true; plenty of couples that are married now probably have no business being married, and they're only making themselves and their kids miserable.

But think of it this way: whatever the government issue legislates or doesn't legislate on gay marriage will not change the fact that just like straight couples, thousands and thousands of same-sex couples are now living with the joys, pains, and responsiblities of couplehood whether or not the state or the nation will allow them the document of "marriage." (personally I think that's the wrong term to use, because the words "gay" and "marriage" both have such loaded meanings.)

The only difference between gay couples wishing to marry and their straight counterparts is that they currently have no option to give their committed relationship legal standing. Thinking logically, and putting 'moral arguments' aside, allowing same-sex couples to marry/civil union will have no effect on heterosexual marriage or families. Period. Why?

For the sake of argument, suppose tomorrow a law was passed nationwide that allowed same-sex couples to marry. I know you mentioned in your previous message that you're not too fond of the marriage institution yourself, but honestly, do you think that fact that gay couples -could- marry would make heterosexual people less likely to get married, or have families? I don't really think that barring gay people the option of legalizing their relationship is going to convince anyone to "switch sides" and enter into a heterosexual marriage, nor strengthen/weaken straight couples' resolve or desire to marry. I also don't think that allowing gay couples to marry is going to suddenly provoke a tide to folks to do so who would be inclined otherwise.

Truthfully, if you take the religious component out of the marriage concept you are left with a legally binding interpersonal economic and familial contract. In some less conservative countries like the Netherlands, Sweden or Canada providing the (same-sex union) option probably didn't seem like that much of a big deal.

Why would I push for gay marriage? Because although my partner and I are committed and we have had a civil union in Vermont, outside of that state our personal commitment has no legal standing.

That commitment will not let me see her in the hospital or make decisions for her, if, God forbid, she had an accident and was unable to do so for herself (and vice versa); we cannot in this state be each other's life insurance beneficiaries (we tried to, but the company had the legal right to bar that decision and force the beneficiary as "estate") or pension plans or inherit each other's property. No matter how long or close our relationship is, right now we have no legal status in Illinois and the law basically considers us strangers to one another. To me, being allowed to get married is about these types of fundamental legal issues so many people take for granted.

I think you can understand that it's a deeply personal issue for me.

Personally, I am very surprised the issue of same-sex marriage has come to the legal forefront so soon in the historical sense; I always that it would happen when I was very old, or even generations from now. A lot of people wonder whether our country is ready to make a decision on such a groundbreaking and divisive topic. But, looking at the global perspective and seeing how narrowly cyclical the political tides can be - things can be up or down, left or right in a matter of months rather than generations - I think: "why not now?"

We'll see. No politic (or any politician) is forever, and even Constitutional Amendments can come and go.



Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Oopsy Daisy - AFA Gay Marriage Poll Backfires 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Remember the recent web-based survey that the American Family Association intended to present to Congress as proof of Americans' overwhelming opposition to gay marriages and civil unions? Well, it turns out the poll didn't quite turn out the numbers the AFA planned:
The conservative American Family Association (AFA) said it will not take the results of its marriage poll to Capitol Hill after a majority of respondents favored same-sex marriage, according to a Thursday report in Wired News.

The AFA posted the poll online in December with a stated intention to forward the results to Congress as evidence of U.S. opposition to same-sex marriage. Respondents could select one of these three choices:

* " I favor legalization of homosexual marriage."
* "I favor a 'civil union' with the full benefits of marriage except for the name."
* "I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and 'civil unions.'"

But as of press time, the numbers support same-sex unions: Sixty percent favored same-sex marriage and 8 percent favored civil unions, leaving just 32 percent opposed.

AFA representative Buddy Smith complained to Wired News: "It just so happens that homosexual activist groups around the country got a hold of the poll -- it was forwarded to them -- and they decided to have a little fun, and turn their organizations around the country (on to) the poll to try to cause it to represent something other than what we wanted it to. And so far, they succeeded with that."

Matt Foreman, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce was dumbfounded. "The abject hypocrisy of these people never ceases to amaze me," he exclaimed.
Previously, the AFA had claimed the poll would back up their claim that "99 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage."

Interesting. You'd think that "99%" wouldn't have had much of a hard time putting their votes in, no? Maybe they're just not "web-savvy"? I took the poll myself, and can vouch for the fact that the site was configured to reject repeat votes from the same computer or IP address, which would tend to discount the theory that a small number of users "loaded" the survey.

Monday, February 02, 2004
"Houston, We Have a Wardrobe Malfunction..." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Janet Jackson with Justin Timberlake after halftime Super Bowl breast bearing. Photo courtesy CBS Networks/SI.com all rights reservedI'm not much of a Super Bowl watcher these days (last one I watched was Super Bowl XII, as a kid; yes, XII. Cowboys vs. Broncs), so I completely missed the Janet Jackson Halftime Boob Brouhaha, where the singer lost part of her costume during a duet with Justin Timberlake, exposing her breast to millions of television viewers.

The network issued an apology for the incident, saying "CBS deeply regrets the incident that occurred during the Super Bowl halftime show...we attended all rehearsals throughout the week and there was no indication that any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended." Timberlake also issued his own apology, "I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl...It was not intentional and is regrettable."

My two bits?

If the loss of Janet's nose-cone shielding was 'entirely unintentional', then why was she wearing pasties underneath the costume (although other news outlets are reporting she was sporting a 'sun-shaped silver nipple ring' rather than a pasty)?

Personally, I think Justin wanted prime-time payback for Britney's Madonna-smooching: not sure if he did, though. I think more tongues will wag for a longer time over Britney's same-sex buss than for Super Bowl audiences getting a flash of Ms. Jackson's mammaries.

Ironically, I think President Bush had the best take on the incident; on SI.com, Ye Prez reveals: "I don't want to admit it, but because this White House starts early, I missed it -- again," he told reporters Monday after a Cabinet meeting. "Saw the first half, did not see the halftime -- I was preparing for the day and fell asleep."

"(Slap, Slap) Who's Yer Daddy Candidate?" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
As the presidential primaries proceed and the slate of potential Democratic candidates shuffles, do you really know who you'll vote for? (Presumably, if you're voting Republican you shouldn't have much trouble deciding - but that's besides the point.)

I just took the AOL News/Time Presidential Match quiz, and found out that the three candidates that best match my personal political values are (in descending order) Kerry, Kucinich, and Dean. That came as a slight surprise, considering I'm pretty favorable on Dean (those of you that know I lived in the Vermont vicinity for about 20 years won't be surprised at my support for a 'home' candidate); but when Election Day comes, I'll be ready.

Looks like I have a little more research to do before popping into the voting booth...discuss among yourselves.