Thursday, November 30, 2006

idea for my story

I have come up with an idea for my detective story. I am setting the story in Berkeley, CA. The detective is that daughter of hippies, who rebelled by joining the police force. Her parents are very active in a peace group, and their headquarters (possibly an old vw van) is ransacked and graffitied. This gains lots of press for their group. The end result is that it was a child of one of the members (or maybe a member) who did it to gain press. The moral is that violence is the only way to gain media attention...even for pro-peace protesters. I'm thinking that I'm going to have a "personal redemption" ending like the "Parker Shot Gun Mystery." I have some details left to figure out, but i'm hoping it will work out well. I tried to work in a murder, but I just can't see that happening in that Berkeley community...

The beginnings of something, can't say what...

Chuck Steiner would later boast to his friends that his first thought upon seeing a corpse floating near the rocks of the Berkeley Marina was, “Christ, not again.” How he thought it in later recollections depended on who he was trying to impress. To his more seasoned colleagues of the marina’s waste disposal crew, he had been frustrated, inconvenienced even. He had sighed, rolled his eyes and damn near rumpled up his sleeves to pull the bastard out himself if he could’ve done it without wrecking the crime scene. To his friends and family in Princeton NJ, he was grieved, but not surprised by the sight of another casualty of the gritty underbelly of Berkeley. Though the truth was, when he first saw it, he thought it was another dead seal. Dead seals were a common nuisance, often tumbling in with the waves and resting on the beach at low tide, or at high tide softly crashing against the rocks. That’s when Chuck would call Animal Control and wait by the pier for three hours for a pickup bed lined with tarps and a student in waders carrying a pole with a hook on the end. He was dialing their number that very moment when he looked up and noticed that this seal had a tattoo and a full head of hair. In spite of himself and the morning cold, Chuck began to sweat.
"Uh..."
And for a good thirty seconds that was all he could say.

Monday, November 27, 2006

beginning of story...

I was still coming up with ideas for my story last week so I just posted something random, but now I have the beginning of my story...I think.

"It's just not right. The boy needs to be studying," he grumbled in between the intermittent squashes of chewing his day old deli sandwich. "I don't see what the big deal is. He's having fun you know?," she responded over her shoulder while balancing a can of soup in one hand against a measuring cup in the other. A mother can never bring herself to condemn her own child's legitimate passion, regardless of the dismal moneymaking potential it offers. "How many of those damn archaeologists you think actually make a living for themselves?" he argued topping the sandwich off with the remaining four ounces of Milwaukee's Best sitting in front of him. "I don't know, but if our son wants to go digging through the desert for who knows what, then just let him, ok?" This was nothing new. They had had this argument a number of times; the severity of which was determined by the quantity of beers consumed and the time of day; early evenings being the worst for his arthritis.

"Come quick! Come quick!" The dank desert evening shouted from the other side of the screen door. Soon a small figure could be seen following up his initial explosion with another enthusiastic appeal, "I found something. I'm not kidding. I think I got something out here." The tiny brown and white Jack Russell Terrier in toe energetically barked his approval as if to cast away any lingering skepticism the boy's parents may still have. "Alright alright. What is it this time?" his mother inquired. "Come, I'll show you." Quietly removing her apron and turning the stove down she followed her son as he ran ahead outside looking back to encourage his mother to move at a more youthful pace. He ran the remainder of the seventy-five yards before dropping to his knees and signaling at the ground to prove to his mother he wasn't lying. She was still about ten yards away when she began to make out the form of a gnarled hand protruding from the ground in the most unnatural of ways. She made up the rest of the distance almost immediately and before she could take in all of what she was seeing a sick reactionary noise bubbled up in the back of her throat and erupted out of her mouth. She too fell to her knees, but not in the way her son had done just moments ago. She fell to her knees because, for the first time in her life, she saw a dead body.

That's one of the things he loved about her. She was punctual by nature. Not the kind of promptness that relies on the projected weather or the flow of the 405, but the kind of promptness that defies logic at times. Over the years Julie Bennet's friends became aware of this quality, often to their own startled amusement, having mistakenly planned dinner parties for seven thirty with hopes of having guests trickle in by eight. It was something she took pride in. Something, when asked about, she would laugh off and claim was no big deal. To her fiancé, however, it was the biggest deal in the world at that moment. It was twelve thirty-three.

Dennis Slade sat nervously praying the twenty-dollar Timex strangling his wrist had recognized its own value and in an act of rebellion ceased to function properly. He kept running through the plans he had made with Julie in his head, visualizing every spoken word and relentlessly searching for something that would banish the thoughts that had begun to creep their way into his mind. He had intentionally made the plans simple and straightforward so as to not add any additional strain to Julie's already hectic life. They had agreed to meet at the Corner Café on Julie's lunch break, which she said would be twelve fifteen. That would give her more than enough time to make the four-story descent down the federal courthouse and complete the three-minute walk across the street to the café. What if she forgot where we were meeting? No no, couldn't be. The Corner Café was like a second office to Julie; a place where she sought refuge from the formalities of her profession often indulging in a cup of hot chocolate while mulling over minor details of upcoming cases. There would be no mistake over where to meet. He was sure of that. The suppressed fear boiled deep inside of him now, patiently waiting to rear its ugly head at the first glimpse of vulnerability.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

gory story of doom. what i came up with last night.

The mosquitoes would be thick this year. I knew this because the old man in the gas station at the base of the mountain smacked his gums and drawled through an explanation of the fact that temperatures and rainfall averages throughout the season didn’t matter at all compared to the tingling of his nostrils. On clear nights he would walk outside and face westward. The tingling he felt in his left nostril was directly proportional to the amount of mosquitoes spawning in the surrounding area. The tingling in his right nostril told him how big they would be. Generally I’m disinclined to believe in such unconventional ways of foretelling nature experiences, except for the fact that I get arthritic in the joints that I’ve broken before when there’s a storm out over the ocean where I live. I don’t know how that old man deals with tingling nostrils every spring and summer, because my wrist and fingers drive me crotchety even though I’m in my 20s. I guess you’d learn how to deal. And then buy mosquito repellant accordingly.

The dock I stood on stretched out about 30 feet into Posey Lake. Even the 30 feet couldn’t save me from the swarms of mosquitoes descending on my bare arms. These are the kind of mosquitoes that will bite you right in the ass if you peel off your clothes to take a piss in the forest. They’re the kind you think might be some other species of bug because they’re so huge. But you can’t mistake the bite, that delayed sting and the nagging burning itch. I hate mosquitoes. I wanted to jump into the lake. Instead, I stood there, hands on hips, watching the clouds swirling over the lake like water circling a drain. The lake sits in a depression on the side of a mountain, surrounded on two and a half sides by much higher ridges. During monsoon season the wind hits the ridges just the right way and stirs the clouds. It can be menacing. But tonight it was beautiful. I’m a city girl, but I knew that there would be about 45 minutes of good light left. Time to pitch a tent.

I ambled back toward our site after my survey of the lake. For all appearances the campsite was empty, and even the camp host’s vehicles were gone, so I assumed that tonight was the night the couple went back down into town for a nice dinner and some supplies. The same couple had been hosting the small campsite for years, and I remember coming up to this site as a kid when I was 5. Posey was a great lake for fishing because it was large enough to find some great fish, but not big enough for water sports or too many people to spoil the serenity of the water. There were trails around the perimeter, and even a hike up to the watchtower above the lake. That hike is pretty short, about a mile, but it’s up and down the side of the ridge. For people with asthma like me it’s a killer hike. Especially if, like me, you happen to be shapefully less than in-shape. It was almost strange that there was no one there to enjoy the hiking and fishing and scenery.

I was camping with my crazy Uncle Steve from my mom’s side, along with my cousin Kendall, his daughter, my dad, and my sister Rachel. Everyone else was down the mountain at my grandma and grandpa’s house. We usually only came up for some day fishing. Sometimes we came to camp for a few nights at most. We had claimed the best site in the camp. It was a slightly bigger clearing up near a shortcut to the watchtower hike trailhead, right on the edge of a steep incline that led down to the lakeside trail. Usually a bunch of out-of-town hick men got to it first and set up camp with a big roaring fire and lots of beer. I never liked walking by them because they jeered at anything female with two legs, old, young, skinny, fat, whatever. I guess they’ll take what they can get in the woods.

At our site my uncle had the tent inside out looking like a nylon-polyester blend shish kabob. Uncle Steve was the nut in the family. It started with him being the only son in my mother’s side of the family. He never really grew up. He got married, had a daughter, and then got divorced and re-socialized as a 30 year old adolescent. Always drinking and smoking and playing cards, always doing something a little wacky, always telling ridiculous scary campfire stories… that was my uncle. His favorite campfire stories were about the Chupacabre and Hatchet Woman. I couldn’t figure out how he could have shish kabobed his own tent, especially since I consider him more of the mountain man, self-sufficient type, but my sister and Kendall were busy trying to turn it right side in. He started reinforcing the fire pit with his shovel.

I lent my helping hand by grabbing the hammer to drive the tent pegs into the ground. The ground is unpredictable on the mountain. In clearings it can be soft, silty even, like a softer version of sand. It’s hell to drive a truck or car anywhere near that silty ground because the tires lose traction and sink up to the axle, usually involving a lot of sweat and innovation to rescue yourself. Unless you want to wait for a friendly but unsightly hickish man with a winch on his truck to drag your vehicle out. If that silt got wet it turned into a slippery deep red mud, the blood of the earth, sucking at the tires and staining everything it touched. I can’t tell you how many pairs of my white socks are now permanently dirty red. Sometimes the ground is hard and rocky. Sometimes it’s the dense kind of hard, where rain has continually pounded the soil until the only thing that grows is the sparse, coarse grass and weed that can gain purchase. Sometimes you really need a strong arm and a hammer to sink the tent pegs into the ground. My sister and cousin situated the tent and looked at me expectantly.

In the fading light, the ground in the site looked like it had been recently churned. Maybe the latest occupants had aerated the place to make it softer to sleep on. Maybe a bear had brought its cubs to daycare here. It didn’t matter to me as long as I didn’t look like an idiot trying to drive the peg in. At least they weren’t plastic pegs, the kind that bend and split and never really dig deeply enough to fortify the tent against wind, weather, and Uncle Steve. I aligned the first peg at an angle and started tapping the hammer against its head. The earth gradually dulled the clinking until the peg was far enough in to hold down the tent. I moved a few feet over and angled the next peg. It was cold against my palm.

Suddenly my uncle staggered back from the fire pit with a strangled yelp. He was doing some kind of dance that I associated with gross buffoonery, as if he had shoveled his foot. My father was hopping toward the circle of stones hunched with interest. Men.

I chuckled to myself and tapped the peg. It dully clanked, but didn’t break through the earth. I tapped it harder, and again it clanked. I made a frustrated grumble and my sister and cousin leaned over to watch me give the peg a square hit. It made a thunking sound and sunk into the earth with an audible squish. Immediately a thick dark fluid surged out around the head of the peg and spilled onto the ground, gleaming in the light that was slowly disappearing over the western ridge. I jerked my hand back in horror and made a gagging noise in my throat as uncle Steve yelled something garbled. Kendall and my sister stuttered “Wha what is that?” It was blood. I stabbed the earth and it bled onto my hand.

“It’s a friggin’ skull! It’s a friggin’ human skull!”

A flurry of movement by the fire.

“There’s blood over here, I think she stabbed a body!”

My sister’s wide eyes and tense hand gestures.

“It’s a friggin’ skull in the fire pit, oh god, it’s got some of the scalp still…”

My dad with a hand over half his contorted mouth.

“Where the tent peg is, it squirted out blood, there’s gotta be a body in the dirt…”

My cousin retched loudly in a bush near the entrance of our campsite.

I felt a rushing in my ears, and for a moment became very acutely aware of every detail of our campsite. A beer was perched precariously in one of the indentations of the tailgate on the Jimmy, which was down and holding the red cooler. The fishing poles were leaning against the right side of the tailgate. One fishhook was caught in the upholstery of the spare tire cover. My father had abandoned the bag holding the utensils at Uncle Steve’s initial outburst, and it rested lumpily against the left tire. Except for the sounds of revulsion coming from our camping party, a hush folded thickly over the clearing as all of the birds and little animals recoiled in horror along with us at the gruesome discovery. The mountain held its breath.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

To be honest, I don't know if I want to do a story or a research paper. I lack creative writing skills, so a research paper seems so much less painful. But anyway, here's my attempt:

The last thing I remember is the glint of the light off the pipe. The glint had a peculiar coloring- bright white with a flash of red, which I can only assume to be residues of Jasmine's blood that remained on the pipe. Despite the blinding headache, I realize I need a new tie. I'll never be able to wash the blood stain off the once pristine white. I can't help but feel that I wasted forty bucks. And the life of that chick. But it wasn't like she wasn't asking for it.

I sluggishly get up; my eyes struggle to adjust to the resplendent translucent bulb that hangs from the ceiling. My bed hugs the corner of the room. To the left of the bed is the door. Besides that, there is nothing. The room screams desolation. Speckles of red paint dots the walls. The floor is littered with the red paint that's already peeled. A year ago, the wretched condition of this room would have really disgusted me. Thankfully, Jasmine opened my eyes to the depths of physical and moral degradation. Nothing, but lovely Jasmine, disgusts me now. It's surprising when things aren't like how they appear. It's even more surprising when they are exactly how they appear. What a wench.

My bed is surprisingly comfortable. A nice mattress layered with a comforter, a quilt, and a duvet with a cover. I must be in Jasmine's bed then. I wonder where she is. I clumsily stumble to the door. I guess the pipe really did mess me up a little. I reach for the knob and discover it to be unlocked, as usual. That's one of the overlooked advantages of dirty hovels located in an upperclass neighborhood. No one even considers robbing the disgusting shack. Too bad no one realizes that its full of blood money.

tentative beginning of my story

Elvira was washing the dishes when she heard her phone shout “VICTORY!” which could only mean one thing. Jude was calling; he had programmed his own personal ring tone him self. She rinsed the soap off her hands, walked in to the living room and flipped her phone open.
“Oh. Em. Gee.” Jude greeted her. “Did you watch tonight, E?” “Did you, did you, did you?!”
E. Jude always called her that, he could never get over that her parents had been such fans of Elvira that they could actually think to name their daughter after her. Elvira never cared about her name, though. E almost bothered her more.
“Yes! Dude, it was hella good tonight,” she responded.
“Veronica is so cute! And she kicks some awesome ass.”
“I know! Man, sometimes I just want to be Veronica.”
“Well, E, my one true lovity love love. Here is your chance, girl.”
“Um, what? ”
“That Religious Studies TA that you absolutely despise was found dead at Stow Lake.”
“OMG, what?”
“I know, right! Haha, you didn’t do it, did you?”
“Haha, of course I didn’t! I mean yeah I fantasized about it, but I could never actually kill someone.”
“Couldn’t you? You know what they say about Fantasy Prone Personalities; sometimes people confuse fantasies for reality and reality for fantasies,” Jude said teasingly.
“Very funny, Jude. I do not appreciate it.”
“Oh please, you know I was just kidding! Sooooooooo?”
“Soooooo, what?”
“Let’s do it, E!”
“Do what?”
“Solve this case! I mean think about it: you can be ‘Veronica Mars’ just as you’ve always wanted, and I can be your fantabulous gay sidekick. Ohmygod E, I’m already excited.”
“I’m not solving anything, Jude. I have enough on my mind as it is, and besides, I don’t exactly want to be mindlessly wandering the streets of San Francisco to find a murderer. Not exactly my cup of tea. Especially when my ‘gay sidekick’ freaks out at the sound of a bush rustling and runs in the opposite direction…”
“That was only ONE TIME, E! gosh! So come on! Let’s do this! Please, please please please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…”
“OKAY! Okay, we’ll do it. I’ll do it, but I’ve gotta go, so I’ll call you back, k?”
“Alrighty, babe. I’ll see you!”
Elvira closed her phone and stared at it for a minute. It was covered with scratches. She didn’t care though. She tied her sleek, red hair into a ponytail and continued scraping week-old food off of plates. She couldn’t get what Jude said off her mind, though. Could it be? Could she really have killed her TA and not even know it? That’s why she had agreed to try and solve this case; she had to relieve her conscience and prove to herself that she was not a killer. She didn’t even like to kill bugs, much less people. So then why couldn’t she shake the eerie feeling that something was very, very wrong?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I have a friend...

I have a friend. His name is Conrad. I have known Conrad for 13 years. I know EVERYTHING about Conrad.

We have the type of friendship that doesn’t require much cultivation. The roots are too deeply embedded at this point. I go weeks without seeing or talking to Conrad and then I receive one of his trademark phone calls, “What are you doing? You need to get your ass over here now.” “Conrad, it’s 1 am, I live 3 hours away from you, and I have class in the morning. I am NOT coming over.” Those are the easy ones. Other times I get the “hope your cell phone battery is fully charged” “write off the rest of your night” “find a comfortable seat” phone calls. These are a bit more common and all the more dreaded.
So far his life has played out like a noir fairytale. He was born out of wedlock to a middle class nutritionist mother and Syrian-born real estate tycoon father. Prior to moving out on his own he operated in two fundamentally opposite worlds. His mother epitomizes the traditional middle class vision with the little white picket fence enclosing a modest house sitting uninhabited from 9-5. His father has a different story. To put it bluntly, the man runs shit. Having immigrated to the United States at age 19, it is beyond me how this man came across the millions upon millions of dollars he is in control of. He resides at a far from modest Newport Beach mansion where he doesn’t appear to do much “work”. I guess that’s what being a mogul is all about. Others work for you. Your money works for you.
Don’t get me wrong, Conrad is a great guy and I value our conversations at times, but there is nothing scarier than an unsolicited dose of Conrad when you least expect it. I used to have a programmed ring tone for when he called, but found it to be redundant when, a few years ago, I noticed I could instinctually predict his calls. Thus far I may have inadvertently implied that these conversations are mutually participatory. HA! How foolish of me. Let’s just say that we could get the same thing accomplished if Conrad made a voice recording of what he had to say and then mailed it to me to listen to. Come to think of it, I need to get this guy a diary. That could solve everything. Anyway, you know how it goes, I throw in the periodic “oh yeah”, followed by a “wow”, or maybe a “really”. These three phrases coupled with half a dozen or so different tone fluctuations provide me with more than enough responses. In retrospect it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to create a soundboard of me saying these three things. That way I would just have to play the appropriate response when he takes a breath and refuels for another rant.
Other times I actively listen to what he has to say. Usually he begins by updating me on new business ventures he’s pursuing ranging from investments in the stock of mining companies to the acquisition of real estate in underdeveloped regions of the country. Then he diverges, as if prompted, into a discussion on the intricacies of the Lakers’ triangle offense usually leading to his conclusion that Lamar Odom should get more touches in order to make them a legitimate playoff contender. During football season he sings the praises of the unstoppable Chargers’ tandem, LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers, with Antonio Gates being the x-factor to the team’s success. Typically he concludes with a brief summary of his actions during the past 48 hours. In any other context I would be tempted to classify them as debaucheries, but that would be irresponsible and clumsy of me after the lengthy discussion promulgated in class last week regarding the overuse of the word.

So that is the story of Conrad. I think I am going to call him now.

Beginning of (untitled) story

The first encounter I had with the horse world was when my little sister, Amy, had a pony party for her third birthday. I was six at the time, and the only thing I vividly remember is the pungent smell of crap and a snappy little beast named Sunshine that bit my hand when I tried to feed it a carrot. Amy eventually took up horseback riding as a hobby, and although I learned a thing or two through osmosis I never really took interest myself. I'm not really a horse person, let alone an animal person. I'm not even a people person, really, but when you're a detective you kind of have to deal with people. Pungent crap and all.
So when I got the call that there was a murder at Fair Oaks Stables, a hoity-toity equestrian facility off the North highway, I instinctively growled in disgust. It wasn't so much the horses I was worried about, because at least they don't talk. It was the people. Rich horse people are worse than country club people, because not only do they flaunt their money in the form of nice cars and fancy houses, but they pour it on their animals as well. Think of the heiress-types with their dressed-up Chihuahuas under their arms and then multiple the Chihuahuas by about a thousand pounds. That's a show horse. Big and expensive and dressed to the nines in braids and polish and expensive leather. They eat better than we do and they only work for about three hours a day - then they get a massage, a sponge bath, and then they go back to eating. Dear God what I'd give to be one of those animals.
You might think it's strange that there'd be a murder at an equestrian show stable, a cesspool of money and wealth and filth and prestige. But rich people are really no different than the rest of us. They kill people too, probably just as much as regular people. The only difference is that they tend to be less clever. They think their money will save them - and most of the time it does. But this time, the police were involved. They called me: Detective Ben Sanders; mid-thirties, single, middle-class, and cynical.

{{ P.S. just so everyone knows... I actually really love horses and this doesn't necessarily reflect my true feelings about the horse world... just thought I'd take a different spin on it. :) }}

intro to story

Sitting there, alone, in my completely unfurnished Oakland apartment I couldn’t help but think: is this really where I want to be right now? Is this apartment, this city, this unbearable loneliness all really going to be worth it? Always the idealist in my family it isn’t any wonder that I would end up trying to change the world one underprivileged kid at a time. But is college really a viable future for these inner city kids? I guess I have about two weeks to become a little bit more sure of my goals before starting this Teach for America gig. Sometimes I just wish I were back at school or living at home with the parents. At least then I’d be occupied by all those trivial problems that seem to inundate normal everyday life.

I decided to call my mom, she always seems to put me back on track. So, exchanging one empty room for another, I walked into my bedroom. Utterly depressing, not really a bedroom at all. Matrress on the floor, the desk lamp, also on the floor, is the only light, and my phone is plugged into the wall next to my pillow. As I grabbed my cell to call my mom and receive her always accurate, painstakingly appropriate, wise advice, I noticed five missed calls. All from home. She must’ve known I’ve been directionless, gotta love her intuition, she always knows when I need her. Calling her immediately and anticipating the peace of mind I would have at the end of the phone call, I was completely unprepared for what she had in store for me.

“Hey momma, what’s happening? I was just thinking about you!”
“O Maddie! Finally! Where the hell have you been? Why don’t you ever pickup your goddam cell phone?--”
“I’ve been here, contemplating life’s meaning. What do you think? What’s life all about? Think I have a chance at helping these kids…think they have a chance at all?”
“Listen, your father’s gone, he never came home last night. He was at one of those stupid little rugby practices and he never came home. I assumed he went out for beers after, ya know? With Tony and Rich”
“Wait a minute, dad? Dad’s gone? What do you mean? Dad doesn’t just disappear.”
“Maddie, a lot’s been going on here since you moved to Oakland, we didn’t want to worry you so we just left you out of it. You need to fly home immediately”
My sister Katie called today. Which was curious since I recently talked to her two weeks ago, and I am going to see her in two days for Thanksgiving break. Admittedly, my family's idea of "recent" is warped. My family works like that, however. Like a well-oiled machine, we each have our role and don't bother trying to tell the other sprocket, spring or hinge how to do their job, live their life, etc. which resolves itself in very little communication. Well, maybe we aren't well-oiled after all; communication is apparently a sign of the health of relationships, so a lack of it, in light of how abrasive family functions tend to run, might render void my idealistic analogy of machines, oiled or otherwise.
Anyway, the message Katie left on my voicemail was characteristic of our long and tumultuous relationship as sisters/partners in crime/rivals. In a breezily abrupt though girlish voice she set in literally right on top of the voicemail beep, "Hello Meg, the girl who is IM-possible to get a hold of. It's your sis, just calling because I will just burst if I don't tell somebody what happened today. So call me. Well when you get a chance, or I guess I could just tell you all about it when I see you, in case you forget your phone's existence again. You really should check your phone once in awhile. Ok, hope the day's been good....call me."
Now I didn't really feel like jumping to the phone, yet I was not ready to ignore it. On the one hand, her uppity attitude was not exactly enticing me to engage in conversation with the world's most condescending little sister. My paper was also beckoning me to ignore distractions. Yet, I did want to know what was so important that she broke family tradition and actually communicated with me. Plus it would feel satisfying to prove wrong her whole theory on my lack of phone skills. So I dialed her up, the cell phone equivalent of rolling the dice, because honestly God only knew what sort of interaction we were about to have.
"Hey Kate. Got your message."
"Oh whoa, you called back...Hahahaha! It takes a mystery for you to call me back, is that it?!" she laughed. Now this laugh has plagued my childhood. It starts as a fast hyena giggle ending on a drawn out sort of barking "Ha!" It is very grating since it is meant to make you feel a fool. It's rather malicious, like a gleefully mischevious elf.
"What's up?" I say, trying to hold back my impatience. Am I not calling her for some purpose other than to be laughed at? "Katie, honestly I have ten minutes, use it how you will."
"Hahaha...hmmmm ooh, Hahahahaha..ah Meg!....hahHA!" After 19 odd years of feeling like a solemn and sober joke, her antics are just boring me right now.
"HAHAHA!"
"Are you ready, yet?" I ask.
"Yeah, hehehe, ok. Oh Meg you crack me up, 'ten minutes, use it how I will'? Loosen up kid! Well that just is not enough time for this story, what are you doing? Homework? Come ON! You know you wanna listen to this."
"Katie, I do want to listen, but I have a paper to finish before I come home for Thanksgiving break. And my flight's tomorrow."
"Fine. haha, Miss Uptight, hehehe, I guess this will just have to wait till the Turkey's on the table then!" she quickly and snidely counters, oozing nonchalance. It is so embarrassing that I can't rise above her baiting, but when she plays the "you're so uptight card" I feel like it's back to the days when we shared a bathroom and there was the daily sibling rivarly sort of sniping. I know I am not under attack, but geez, it just feels like it on a very primitive level.
"Kate. I am sure you can tell me before the feasting ensues. You ARE coming home on Wednesday."
"Yeah well whatever then-I'll see ya then, sis."
"OK sis" I finish. We hang up, and I get back to writing about prions and people's brains gettting turned into spongiform due to eating Mad Cow infected beef. Well at least my brain will only get holes of a figurative kind over the break, since turkeys do not harbor the pathogrnic agent, though I have a sneaking suspicion there is something a little bit sick about my family.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Intro for my story ("The Corpse" part)

Silas slammed the door of his son’s rusty Chevy S-10 with his left hand. With some effort he hoisted himself up onto the rear tire on the truck’s driver’s side and reached in the bed for Lena’s nail gun and its 52 feet of heavy-duty extension cord. It was a beautiful morning—the frosted ground crunched under Silas’s boots and sturdy beams of sunlight shot through the oak trees in Lena’s front yard. Silas figured he’d just put the gun back in the bottom drawer of the old upright Waterloo—no need to wake Lena if he didn’t need to. Nail gun in hand, Silas trudged toward the barn where the big toolbox was. He was looking forward to a couple cups of quiet coffee at The Star before 6 am, when he had to be at the hotel. Guests got pissy if there was no one at the front desk to tell them where to find the ice machine (there wasn’t one).
Silas walked up the old ramp and through the open barn doors. Something didn’t feel right. Silas looked around the big, hollow barn—everything was as it was supposed to be. Silas didn’t know why, but as soon as he walked up that ramp and through those barn doors, something had caught his attention. Silas’s thoughts of coffee had quickly shifted to an acute awareness of his surroundings. What the hell was going on? Silas checked behind the stacked hay, peeped into the horse pens, and even climbed the ladder to the storage loft. Absolutely nothing was out of order. Silas felt ridiculous for taking his groundless inkling so seriously; he shoved the nail gun into the Waterloo and left. But on his way out, Silas realized exactly what was wrong. He’d been walking in and out of this barn since he’d built it in 1967. That damn ramp had always squeaked. He and his men had tried everything—they’d reinforced every plank—but that squeak was resilient as hell.
The ramp wasn’t squeaking now. Silas walked up and down the ramp a couple times, he even jumped on it—no noise. Silas walked around the side of the ramp and realized that the triangular side panel had been pried off and was now just propped against the side of the ramp. Was Lena using this little space for storage? Curious and a little apprehensive (this was private property, after all), Silas climbed back on top of the ramp and kicked the side panel over with the toe of his boot. No longer contained by the propped-up panel, a stiff, pallid arm fell into the dirt.

Closer to Home

If you missed the story about the UCLA student who forgot his BruinCard and was tasered 5 times in Powell Library, there's a good summary on the Daily Bruin website . YouTube and Kontraband have the video. It's not Rodney King quality, visually, but the audio track is fairly horrific. He is suing.

One letter writer, Jose Fuste, said the following:

Taser guns were invented as substitutes for the use of lethal force against a suspect who is clearly threatening the security of an officer.

After Tabatabainejad was handcuffed, it would not have been hard to carry him out.

What really bothered the officers is that Tabatabainejad's calls for help actually worked in getting students to stand up to police officers.

I Scare Boys. My weekend observation with descriptive detail…

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely afternoon with an older lady from my church. She’s got the short, spiky grey hair and the plastic surgery-tight face, and she’s also that matte brown color that inevitably spells out lots of money and lots of surgery treatments. Like her skin never had a chance to get over the shock of being lasered and nipped and tucked. Like she never had a chance to grow into age and wisdom. Denial. Wealth and perpetual youth. You know the type.

Anyways, I showed her pictures of my summer on tour with the band. We ate at a little place on the beach down across the way from the community college, right in the sand. I remember how difficult it was to sit down because the chairs would dig their legs into the sand and sink if you sat down or shifted your weight. In fact, I didn’t like sitting in the sand very much, because I got bites up my left leg to the knee from what I would presume to be sand fleas. They bite. Literally. It’s a pun. …Moving on.

After our little rendezvous she remarked casually that she had a friend who had a son who was very tall and my age, as if those were the sole qualifications in the world for en eligible bachelor that I might be interested in. Let me tell you, I’m not looking for love. I’m a lone ranger. I’m a woman who cannot be tamed.

At least not until I get out of college. Or college boys somehow magically transform and become mature overnight. Or I lose IQ points and settle for settling down. I laughed it off.

The next day I got en email in my inbox from my favorite old lady. The opening line read: “I saw Jane Doe* today for a face waxing for my trip to Acapulco.” (*name changed to protect the mother) The first thing I did was laugh really hard. I mean I laughed the kind of laugh that burns calories. And then I read the rest of the email out loud to my roommate, who was slightly less amused, having never met this scheming old lady. Well, she gave my email to the boy’s mother, her face waxer, who assured me that we should most definitely meet. I got set up on a blind date by an old lady and a boy’s mother. His mother. Who does this happen to? Me. But I didn’t sign up for it.

Now that you know the background, I can skip ahead to our post-church meeting and brunch. I sing with the band for church services, and I’m up front, singing with my acoustic guitar, so I saw him walk in from stage. He came with his friends as a social bumper guard. Sometimes they do that, you know, making sure that if they get completely rejected they have their little groupies to fall back on. The first thing I thought was something to the effect of, “props for the black shirt (even though you’re not confident enough to come alone).” Why? Because I like black. It’s classy and edgy and has a slimming effect on people like me. But apart from the black, I want to skip ahead to actually meeting the kid.

My winglady Megan and I walked out of the theatre toward the front of the school where church meets, and there he was, strolling toward us. If he was an animal he would be walking like a giraffe. He had the long stride and the slight hunch that told me right away that he was the kind of kid who was a little socially awkward around people like me, the confident people who approach such contrived meetings with the straight back head high shoulder width stance swagger kind of physical attitude. Plus I was wearing heels, which made me about 6’2. When you’re a girl and you’re 6’2 you’re entitled to a little bit of a swagger. Not the kind that makes people think that you’re the kind of brat they’d like to take out with a swift kick in the knee cap… but the pleasant, confident swagger. You know. Anyways, I can’t remember who extended a hand first, but we shook hands and said our pleasant little hellos.

He was separated from the pack and I had a full view of his herd. They were mulling about, always with a watchful eye on the exchange. I feel as if I shared in their amusement at the situation. I cocked an eyebrow and tossed a smirk in their direction. They were like 16 year olds at a dance. I was like… embarrassed. We got set up by an old lady and the kid’s mother.

Megan and I watched him while he chatted with us about where we’d be meeting for breakfast. I watched especially as he gestured with his left arm, initially because his watch caught my attention. I was like a crow to a shiny thing. And then I was watching his arm because the hand attached to it was shaking. His hand was shaking. He was scared.

Everything about him betrayed his nervous terror. His eyes were darting between mine and the wall and the floor and then my eyes again. His palms had been slightly clammy. His laugh was a little too quick, a little too eager and unnatural. I couldn’t trust him.

All of the sudden I thought back to our detective fiction class. What was he trying to pull? Was he the big guy, the sidekick, or the nobody? Was he trying to fill the gaping chasm of his unprocessed loss by attaching himself to me, the rocker blonde? Was our meeting triggering the post-traumatic stress of a social war he had experienced at his high school? In this noir world, I couldn’t be sure of anything except the fact that I couldn’t trust him. But showing his terror made him weak.

For the time being I had the upper hand. I would be careful in dancing with this kid and his cronies. I would watch my back and stick close to Megan unless she was going to double cross me.

Or maybe I freaking just scare the shit out of boys. The poor kid was shaking.

OJ Sequel Cancelled by Fox

News Corp. has pulled the plug on O.J. Simpson's unconfession. The lead plug-puller was apparently Rupert Murdoch himself. "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."

Translation: the project was axed by the unhappiness of the Tribune Company and Sinclair Broadcasting, who own a large number of Fox affiliates: both said they wouldn't run the two-part interview with O.J. about how he would have killed Ron and Nicole if he had killled them. Network executives are tasteful people who would never sacrifice thoughtful, probing coverage just to make a buck. Thanks to their high standards, we'll never know how O.J. didn't kill Ron and Nicole.

a thought and questions:
1. yes people are right to be pissed about buying a big fake non-confession to a double murder when they thought they were buying the truth.
2. why did anyone think they were buying the truth?
3. it it wasn't about truth but about entertainment, why does this entertaining exploitation of human suffering for money cross the line when all the others don't?
4. Do we like News Corp better now that they retracted?
5. Since Murdoch is so rich, does that mean we are so dumb?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

O.J Is Back

Here's a story with my favorite combination - crime and power. You all remember that former football star O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, captured after a bizarre "low-speed chase" on the San Diego Freeway in L.A., given infinite media exposure in the trial that launched a thousand book deals, and acquitted even though nearly all white - but a much lower proportion of black - observers assumed he was obviously guilty. I would argue that "Rebuild L.A." was killed by the racial wedge forged by the O.J. trial, but that's another story. The families of the victims brought a civil suit against Simpson and he lost this one, and was ordered to pay over $33 million in damages (as yet unpaid). He moved to Florida, his Brentwood house was bought and razed to the ground, the street number of Nicole Simpson's condo was changed, the Mezzaluna restaurant where Nicole ate the night she died (and where Goldman worked as a waiter) became a Peet's Coffee. Famed defense attorney Jonnie Cochran ("If the glove don't fit, you must aquit") passed away in 2005. All obliterated - but not forgotten.

Now O.J. has written a book with the title "If I Did It," due out November 30. People are pissed! Here's the link between this old crime and mogul power, in case you were wondering. It's Tim Rutten, media columnist for the L.A. Times, doing the writing. The piece is called "O.J. Sewer Leads Right to Murdoch."

"'If I Did It' is the product of the former football star's collaboration with an unnamed ghost writer and will be published at the end of this month by ReganBooks, the euphonious shock-and-schlock imprint Judith Regan runs for the HarperCollins publishing house. Fox, ReganBooks and HarperCollins all have something important in common: They're owned by the predatory Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who has devoted his life to making money by making sure that news and entertainment are as coarse and vulgar as can be imagined in as many places as possible.

"In fact, if there is a single compelling argument for restrictive immigration policies, Murdoch is it. It is one of history's inexplicable perversities that this avaricious antipodean has been welcomed into this country while honest Mexican workingmen are walled out."

Rutten goes on to talk in terms that would do a poststructuralist social theorist proud, pointing out how the Murdoch system produces its own (fake) resistance: "So let's see here … Judith Regan publishes Simpson's book. To whet the buying public's appetite for it, Regan herself interviews Simpson and the results are aired on Fox Broadcasting during the sweeps week, which is critical to the network's advertising. To build buzz and controversy, which means audience, the commentators on Fox News denounce the whole thing as a cultural low point, something they'd recognize more easily than most. Keep in mind that both networks report to Ailes, who once created a talk show for Regan. Ailes, Regan, O'Reilly and Rivera all work for Murdoch, who ultimately profits from both the outrage and the outraged."

It's definitely a foolproof system. Rutten goes on to note another twist that we would expect from our heavy noir dosage this term. Regan doesn't think it matters that Simpson doesn't really confess in the book: "It's not because she's in rehab — it's because she's a victim herself! That's right, domestic abuse. In a rambling, semi-hysterical statement distributed Friday, Regan said she was unsurprised by Simpson's acquittal because she was disbelieved when battered by her husband more than 20 years ago. According to the publisher, he was 'tall, dark and handsome. A great athlete. A brilliant mind. He was even a doctor, with an M.D. after his name and a degree that came with an oath: "First do no harm." He was one of the brightest men I'd ever met. And he could charm anyone. He charmed me. We had a child. And then he knocked me out, with a blow to my head, and sent me to the hospital. He manipulated, lied and broke my heart.'

"Simpson's acquittal, Regan insisted, was 'a seminal moment in American history' and, recalling her own experience going to confession as a Catholic schoolgirl, said that she 'made the decision to publish this book and to sit face to face with the killer, because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth, to confess their sins, to do penance and to amend their lives. Amen.'"

Many black folks thought whites assumed Simpson did it because the victims were white and he was black, meaning hypersexual with poor impulse control: unconscious if not conscious racism kept the LAPD from investigating other possible suspects and hung it on O.J. It does make sense that someone who had been wronged but not believed (Regan) could imagine the same thing having happened to Simpson. But if they are both innocent, why wouldn't they call Simpson's book "I Didn't Do it!" Too obvious? Too much like yet another denial that it wouldn't sell? Or too false? Or what?

It's a great story: real confessions, fake confessions, rejected confessions, confessions that are actually denials, and the media brokers of all this making a huge pile of dough. Maybe this isn't a newsflash after all.

Meanwhile, back in Unrebuilt L.A., somebody asks a black person what they think. A restraunt manager, LaShawn Tillman, says that "she had her own run-in with an assistant district attorney, who told her she was 'like O.J' when she disputed a drunken driving charge, she said.

"'The system is prejudiced,' that's for sure,' Ms. Tillman said, 'but I think this book is bad. It is making money off a tragedy'" (reported by Jennifer Steinhauer in the NY Times, Nov 18 p 10).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Rendezvous at Freebirds

I guess since Liz beat me to the punch and blogged about our friend's adventure with drugs, I'll have to blog about something equally as exciting: sitting outside of Freebirds.

So on Wednesday at around 1 AM, my roommates and I went to get Freebirds, and we decided to sit outside and people watch (in an inconspicuous manner, of course. I left my dark sunglasses and stalker-style overcoat at home). We just chillaxed and watched people come and go. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, since it was a Wednesday, there were barely any drunk people. Freebirds was basically full of normal sober college kids who happened to have the midnight munches, either from the weed or from odd dinner hours. Luckily, a few drunk guys spiced up the night by completely tripping over the steps in front of the door and falling flat on their faces. I wonder why people would leave their apartment when balance has become such a problem. So, the drunk guys, who I assume are frat, persevered and made their way into Freebirds, slurred an order at the Freebirds workers, and made quite an effort to not miss the steps again as the left. My roommate started to get sleepy, so we headed back to our apartment, passing our neighbor who has a wonderful habit of blasting techno music at 2 in the morning. I'm not a big fan of Mexican food when I'm sober, so thats the first time I've been to Freebirds on a weekday. It was a lot tamer and duller than I expected.
Like Eric, I didn't notice anything unusual this weekend either. On Thursday night I saw 2 young people humping one another against the side of a house and a friend of mine (as Liz mentioned in her post) was arrested and lost his drivers license for a year. When I woke up on Friday morning and came downstairs, I noticed that a construction sawhorse covered in magic-marker profanity had been set atop my kitchen table (a roomate of mine tends to drag in road cones and such when she drinks and put them on the breakfast table). On Friday night, at a house party, this same roomate bit my earring out of my ear when she was (I assume) trying to be playful (we found the earring on a staircase the next morning). On Saturday night I went to a friend's birthday party; the house was crowded, so I hung out in the backyard with a dozen or so of my friends. We stood around, talked, and horsed around for a couple of hours--no gyrating, no smoking, and no hard alcohol. Under these conditions, Isla Vistans seem to think that they can't have fun. But, ironically, Saturday night was my favorite night of the weekend.

frightening weekend

Last weekend I was on my way to pick-up my friend at her apt to go to a party, when her boyfriend called and said something was really, really wrong. So my roommates and I rushed over to her apt, and found her unable to breathe on the couch. Me and her boyfriend took turns performing CPR to make sure didn't stop breathing. He told us they had been smoking pot, so we decided it was likely laced with something a lot more dangerous. I called 911 and the rescue team got there pretty quickly. They were all really rude to us the entire time though. At first they just thought my friend was hyperventilating and didn't need to go to the hospital, but we all thought it was more serious than just hyperventilation. Ultimately they put her in the ambulance and she started freaking out, which made us even more convinced that the weed was laced.
My friend is fine now; but this whole experience was rather terrifying, and made the IV drug scene look a lot more dangerous than I ever thought it was.

Airport security

Yesterday, I had to go through the “new and improved” airport security. After the recent scare, security is extremely cautious about liquids and gels. This tighter regimen requires that passengers store all of these items in quart-sized Ziploc bags. Flustered by this new routine, I completely forgot about the sample mascara my grandmother had given me that I had stashed in my purse. Don’t worry though, security found it! My forgetfulness was an act worth reprimanding. I was allowed to keep the mascara after placing it safely in my Ziploc. What was most curious about my experience, however, was that security not once mentioned the tennis racquet I was brining as one of my two carry-ons. In our new world of anti-terrorist fear, has make-up been placed on a higher pedestal than a racquet? Perhaps in the liquid bomb scare, security has forgotten the original weapons. And how effective are plastic bags for containing these bombs?

Party Time!...don't get too excited

As you all know we were required to attend some sort of function and observe the actions of those around us. What first appeared to be an interesting “assignment” quickly became just another party, as I didn’t observe anything out of the ordinary. By out of the ordinary I mean I didn’t see anyone carry themselves with class or dignity, or anything for that matter other than with the air of belligerence fueled by the copious amounts of alcohol circulating through their bloodstream. Most of the people in attendance did not appear to be in a state of mind capable of making premeditated decisions. This made my analysis of their actions difficult to judge. I did notice the typical pattern of male aggression and competition. One girl would be situated in the room completely encircled by four or five guys vying for her attention. This seemed to please her rather than discourage her. Philip Marlowe and Eileen Wade kept popping into my head as the evening unfolded. Each woman at the party regardless of hair color, or even attractiveness for that matter, seemed to be hypnotizing the men with super blonde-like powers. I wish I had observed some extremely deviant or suspicious behavior that I could report to the class, but in fact my evening was relatively uneventful. Did anyone else see anything exciting or interesting they would like to share?

Arrests, Disappearances, and Cheesy Pick Up Lines

Debauchery in Isla Vista, hard to avoid at any cost. Friday night not only did a friend of mine get arrested (while dressed in tiny blue shorts with the rest of his body painted yellow) but many other interesting things happenned as well. At a party, where the main attraction was watching a beer pong tournament, basically a competition to see who can get the drunkest and still have good enough aim to make ping pong ball into a red party cup, thus forcing one's opponent to drink more beer, I was having a conversation with three of my roommates when all of a sudden, one was missing. Not very concerned I looked around and noticed that she had joined into a conversation with a young man who lives at the house. I didn't think very much of it and continued on in my conversation only to look up again a few minutes later just in time to see her disappear into his bedroom. Later that night she strolled home alone. Using the observation inference technique we've learned in class I can safely infer all that went on that night. Saturday went much the same, being my friendly and social self I decided to meet people at the birthday party I went to and was able to discover why males at UCSB have the stereotype they do. A young man approached me, wearing an atrociously bright hot pink shirt, and said "so...how'd you break your wrist?" To which I honestly responded, "o, playing intramural indoor soccer...it was a bummer." His response consisted of quickly making eye contact with me, looking me up and down, grinning, and then replying "sooo, you're a soccer player..." I am not exactly sure what he meant by that, but his actions seemed to say "sweet, i have a thing for soccer players, wanna go to my place?" Along those lines, I was talking with an old friend later at the same party when his roommate came up, completely ignoring my presence, interrupting our conversation, and saying "hey look over there those are the types of chicks i was looking forward to meeting tonight...high five dude" indicating two girls so inebriated that they were drinking bacardi straight out of the bottle and chasing it with tampico from a gallon jug. "Good luck getting those girls home with you man, if they can walk there without falling over then they will most certainly pass out upon arrival...I can tell you are a really good guy," was my response...Needless to say he didn't find it very funny but he did add, out of politeness I am sure, "O, well it was really nice meeting you too."

Isla Vista Observations

So unfortunately I didn't observe any major instances of Isla Vista debauchery this weekend, although I'm sure there was plenty of it happening elsewhere. I did, however, catch a snippet of an inebriated conversation as I was walking home on Thursday night: right as I was about to pass Freebirds (a hotbed of intellectual conversation, especially on a Thursday at midnight), I walked past two girls who were clearly a bit buzzed. They walked arm in arm, either as a safeguard from the cold or as a tool to keep them walking straight, and I overheard them talking about the profound nature of psychological behavior in very hushed, serious tones.

"Some girls are just... they're just bad apples. They're just bad. They're rotten."
"Yeah? That's true..."
"Don't be an apple. That's it. DON'T be an apple."

Words to live by, folks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Roman Polanski

Alright I know we were supposed to post about something we observed this weekend whilst out and about. Well, I observed a lot of careless college revelry-but nothing horribly malevolent, just naive rebelliousness/silliness/awkward debauchery. What is extremely disturbing is that in the midst of all this blithe frolicking, there are disturbed individuals ready to take their advantage where they can.
I know I sound like a paranoid schizophrenic here, but watching Chinatown in class made me think of its director Roman Polanski, and his awful association with the Manson family murders. Polanski's wife Susan Tate and her friends were brutally murdered in their home while Polanski was away on business. Tate was not herself targeted specifically nor was the target Polanski himself, in fact there was really no reason, sense or provocation to the horrific crime. Chinatown was made 5 years after this murder. Frankly, this knowledge makes me question why the movies wasn't MORE fatalistic and noir.
I just read a long recounting of the murders www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/notorious/manson/murder_1.html - 82k - I know this isn't the war "coming home" and is a shock-value type crime, but in light of Polanski's firsthand experience with the horror, his film is understandably an unresolved noir tribute, yet I only wonder why it isn't more upsetting.
Anyway, I know I have digressed on the blog but I was watching the sound of music with the roomies while reading about the manson murders and needed an outlet ( I didn't want to spoil the fairy tale-haha!)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"'Nut-nappers' have gotten brazen"

haha... I just couldn't resist.

**

Nut-nappers' have gotten brazen
From the Associated Press
7:46 PM PST, November 7, 2006

FRESNO — At first, Larry Ladd just let it go. But when the farmer caught six thieves plundering his walnut orchard in less than a day, he knew he had a problem.

"At first, I'd just ask the deputy to impress upon them that this is the wrong thing to do," said Ladd, who figures he's collared about 25 would-be crooks, including families with children, hauling hundreds of pounds of walnuts off his farm. "But then it got ridiculous."

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As prices for almonds and walnuts rise with demand, a growing black market has emboldened nut nappers to cut holes in fences, sneak into distribution centers and drive off with truckloads of nuts. California farmers have reason to be vigilant: Growers here produce about 80% of the world's almonds and 99% of the walnuts grown domestically.

Ladd, who farms 24 acres on the outskirts of Modesto, said he expects to get about $1 a pound for nuts this year. California walnuts earned nearly $4.4 million in 2004, according to the latest figures available from the California Farm Bureau Federation.

But savvy scoundrels are also eyeing a more valuable nut: the almond.

Last month, a Fresno County task force that tackles rural crimes recovered 44,000 pounds of processed almonds taken from a distribution center. The recovery was a rare break in a series of thefts that have cost California farmers at least $1.5 million in stolen almonds this year, according to the Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network.

There are typically one or two almond thefts every fall, but in the last 18 months there have been at least a dozen reports of larger looting, said Marsha Venable, spokeswoman for the Almond Board of California, a marketing group.

"Almonds have become such a huge crop. It's attracting anyone," she said.

Acreage devoted to almonds has increased 13% over the last five years as growers have abandoned other crops. Almonds were a $2.2-billion commodity in California in 2004, the farm bureau said.

This year, growers expect to harvest a little more than 1 million pounds of almonds, a figure that's expected to rise to 1.5 million pounds over the next four years. Almonds sell for about $3 a pound wholesale and for twice that in stores.

The nuts are so valuable — the stolen load was worth $135,000 wholesale — that thieves who drive away whole truckloads have been known to abandon the vehicles and keep just the almonds.

Farmers, processors and trucking centers have added cameras and security guards, though monitoring their grounds can be difficult and expensive.

"My farm's right on a busy road. I can't install motion detectors, and I can't afford to pay someone to watch the grounds around the clock," Ladd said.

The recent nut heists appear to be well organized and sophisticated. The criminals use computers to track shipments and seem to be aware that fall is the time when demand and prices are high and supply is still low before the remaining harvest, said Deputy Royjindar Singh, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

"It has to be someone who knows the market well and has a buyer lined up," he said.

About 70% of the almonds grown in California go to other countries, and that's where rural crime investigators think thieves are selling them. Paperwork and a well-linked industry in the U.S. would make domestic sales of big loads of stolen almonds difficult, Singh said.

Farmers have kept each other abreast of the thefts by sending out e-mails and faxes about each case.

"Even though we're competitors, we talk," said Jeannine Campos, a spokeswoman for Campos Brothers Farm, a family-owned company that has grown almonds in Fresno County since 1981.

After the raid on Ladd's walnut farm, authorities arrested six people on suspicion of petty and grand theft, though no arrests have been made in the large almond thefts.

"You can figure that whatever harvest season we're in, we're dealing with thefts of that crop," said Fresno County Assistant Sheriff Jeff Hollis. "But this isn't taking a few peaches off the tree anymore. They've gotten big and brazen."

Injury Updates

Bryn has written from San Jose to say that the leg that got smashed up in a late-night car crash ten days ago is getting better. She'll be able to leave the house next week and will be back before the end of the quarter. This is good news. Hello from the section, Bryn - it will be great to have you back. And I'm looking forward to you explaining why you sound so coherent while on serious painkillers.
In other crash news, Elizabeth has broken her arm. Luckily it isn't the one she writes with, and there she was taking the midterm on Tuesday proving that we don't have to worry too much about her. Still, these things do hurt. Apparently no car was involved.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

So I was browsing Yahoo News, desperately searching for something thought-provoking or interesting enough that I can bullshit a blog on intelligently discuss with mindblowing insightfulness, when I happened to stumble upon an article portraying the sickening extent of human degradation:

"Jolie, Pitt face al-Qaeda threat

The couple have been in India filming A Mighty Heart, a biopic on the life of slain journalist Daniel Peal that Jolie stars in and Pitt is producing.

On Thursday, Intelligence Bureau sources in New Dehli said that Brangelina have been provided with Y category security due to threats to their lives from al-Qaeda.

British security experts were flown to Pune earlier this week and local police have been informed about the threat perception as the film is based on Pearl, who was assassinated by al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan after being abducted on January 23, 2002 while working on a story on Islamic militancy. Jolie plays the role of Mariane, the widow of Pearl."

Copy and pasted from Perezhilton.com (a very reliable news source... and totally not a site about celebrity gossip.), source: TheFinacialExpress.com


I mean, to rape your mother or cannibalize your girlfriend is one thing, but to threaten the very foundation the world is built on is truly nauseating. Does Al-Qaeda honestly have no sense of shame? Or not know how baby-eatingly fabulous these two were in Mr. and Ms. Smith? Wasn't 9-11 enough? Now they have to attack the leaders of America, the apex of human perfection, the pillars of moral righteousness? For shame, Al-Qaeda! Attacking America and its ideals of liberty, justice, and freedom is understandable, since all that jazz is abstract and hence insignificant in the eyes of anyone that matters (I, of course, am talking about myself.) But now- I finally see that our war on terrorism is worth the sacrifices.

We must be bold and defend our beliefs. We must stand strong in the face of depravity. We must finally proclaim, "Enough is enough!" No more, Al-Qaeda. You've finally gone to far. I love you, Brangelina (your baby is so cute!!!!!)!

ax murder....for real!

Christopher Porco was recently convicted of killing his father and brutally injuring his mother with a fire ax. This 22 year old student at the University of Rochester will soon be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Christopher studied biomedical engineering and economics and was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He scored higher than 1400 on his SATs, but was not noted for his academic success. But why did he do it?

Christopher was said to have recently been fighting with his parents. He had forged his father’s signature for loans to pay for school and a new car. Angry emails were exchanged, but they had supposedly reconciled prior to the attacks. Christopher, however, had been accused of theft in earlier instances. But can financial problems lead to the murder of your parents?

The evidence did not seem overwhelming for the accusation of Christopher. Even his mother Joan continually testified for his innocence. His father, Peter, was related to the Bonanno crime family in New York city. He was said to have been on bad terms with a certain member nicknamed “The Fireman.” Here is a link to the prosecution’s allegation and the defense’s rebuttals: http://timesunion.com/specialreports/porco/graphics/porcocase.pdf. Do you think that the evidence is enough to accuse? It scares me to think that someone of my generation could lose his entire future if wrongly convicted.

CBS “48 hours Mystery” will be showing a segment on the murder on November 4 at 10pm ET/PT.

(the information was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Porco and http://timesunion.com/specialreports/porco/)

Zach Bowen Chops Up, Cooks Girlfriend, Kills Himself

By Chuck Hustmyre

Ocotber 20, 2006
"Tuesday night, Oct. 17, Zackery Bowen, a 28-year-old part-time bartender and part-time grocery delivery man, leapt from the eighth floor of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter and plummeted to his death.

Inside one of his pants pockets detectives found a plastic bag holding a suicide note. After reading the note, the detectives knew that what they were dealing with was no ordinary suicide.

The one-bedroom apartment Zack Bowen shared with his girlfriend sat atop the Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center, Voodoo Priestess Miriam Chamani proprietor.

On the stove in the tiny apartment were two pots. Inside one was the charred head of a woman. Inside the other were a pair of hands and a pair of feet. On the counter beside the stove were sliced carrots and potatoes. In the oven, lying on turkey-basting trays, were two arms and two legs.

At least two of the limbs had seasoning sprinkled on them.

The woman's torso was wrapped in a plastic bag and stuffed into the refrigerator.

The body parts belonged to Bowen's girlfriend, 30-year-old Adriane "Addie" Hall.

According to Bowen's letter, he strangled his girlfriend on Oct. 5. Then he repeatedly raped her corpse until he passed out drunk beside her. The next morning he went to work delivering groceries and came up with a plan for disposing of her body. When he got home he dumped Addie into the tub and used a handsaw and a knife to cut her into pieces.

Then he cooked her."

the article is paraphrased. you can find the entire story here: http://www.crimelibrary.com/news/original/1006/2002_cooks_girlfriend.html


basically, i just found this crime incredibly disgusting, and yet also quite intriguing. even though it doesn't particularly relate to anything we've talked about in class, i thought it would be cool to read about. so clearly this guy is rather insane and a complete freak, and i really don't understand why anyone would want to cook their dead girlfriend...but maybe you guys have some ideas??

Good Cop Dirty Cop

ndictment: Crooked deputies sold guns, drugs to public

From Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Virginia sheriff covered up a scheme in which a dozen of his deputies sold seized guns and drugs to the public, a federal indictment alleges.

The indictment names Henry County Sheriff Harold Franklin Cassell, known locally as "Frank," and 19 others.

All but two of those indicted were taken into custody on Thursday morning, the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

"It is disgraceful corruption," said U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee. (Watch how the good guys allegedly became bad guys -- 2:13Video)

"These were drugs and guns that were seized as part of their law enforcement duties that were then stolen from the property room and put back out on the streets."

Brownlee added, "You have law enforcement [officers] risking their lives to take these guns off the streets and then a very few members of law enforcement putting them right back out there."

He acknowledged that the arrests would affect the department's ability to carry on day-to-day operations. Virginia state police are being sent to ensure safety, Brownlee said.

Among the schemes alleged in the indictment:

  • The theft of drugs and firearms in the custody of the sheriff's department
  • Distribution of cocaine, marijuana and a date rape drug
  • Money laundering
  • Obstruction of justice
  • The DEA said 13 of those charged are either current or former sheriff's office employees in Henry County, part of southern Virginia's Piedmont region.

    A U.S. Postal Service employee, a probation officer and five civilians also were charged in the 48-count indictment.

    According to a report by The Associated Press on the indictment, William R. Reed, one of the civilians indicted, began cooperating with authorities after he was arrested last year on narcotics charges.

    The indictment says Reed said he acted as a middleman in the distribution ring, paying a sheriff's sergeant to use a house as a drug distribution point, according to the AP report.

    Officials allege Cassell was advised by authorities of drug transactions going on in his department but took no action. Authorities also allege the sheriff covered up several illegal activities by lying to federal investigators.

    Cassell was elected sheriff in 1992. The department employs 122 people, 96 of them as sworn law enforcement officers.

    "Today's indictment serves as a clear reminder that no one -- not even a senior member of law enforcement -- is above the law," Brownlee said.

    Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

This goes back to the ideas brought up in lecture about justice and law prevailing in the classic mystery novel structure. But what do you do when you have to use law on the law? The character of the "dirty cop" is one that we've all seen in TV shows and movies (and in Chandler) but I'm always fascinated when they actually catch one in the act, indict them, and have a story make it to the news. What Noir should have taught me by now is that law enforcement authority figures aren't all worth the costumes they work in which makes me want to know more. How long were they being investigated? What brought on the investigation? Sure they got help a year ago from a witness for plea bargaining leverage, but how much did they know before that? It appears that superiors knew what was going on, but the ringleader Cassel never got more than a warning for it and that they were allowed to take their dirty moonlighting to great lengths. Will the superior officers be held accountable as well as the participants? How much jailtime will these people actually see?

Crime on the rise in Koreatown

Recently the section of Los Angeles known as Koreatown has experienced an inordinate amount of violent crimes leaving residents and visitors feeling unsafe. So far this year the community has seen a 40% increase in homicides, an 11% in robberies, and a 47% increase in rape. These are staggering numbers considering the year is almost over and therefore not the result of a few unlucky incidents at the beginning of the year. Residents report feeling terrified of leaving their apartments at night for risk of being subjected to such violence. In the past Koreatown has served as one of LA's favorite tourist destinations as well as an ideal place for investors to pursue business ventures. Underneath the glitz and glamour and cultural livelihood, Koreatown has regressed to a primitive state ruled by fear and regulated by the primal instincts of defenseless citizens. This is a sentence straight from the latimes.com article. According to one woman, "Koreatown is one of the densest areas in the city, but you hardly see patrol cars." Later on in the article it says, "In response, the Korean American Federation next month will begin citizen security patrols on weekend nights, using a car purchased by the community organization." It is unimaginable that these citizens have been forced to take matters into their own hands in this way. And yet the real "fear" is that "the crime issue could make Koreatown a less attractive place for South Koreans to invest in and visit." Gab Jea Cho, a federation board member in charge of the community security project, stated this in response to the escalating violence. Shouldn't someone in charge of the community security project show a little more interest in the lack of security in the community? Clearly something must change in Koreatown if normalcy is to be achieved once again assuming this recent trend of violence does not become normal.

This story touches on a couple of prevalent themes that have been brought up in class. In a sense there exists a criminal oligarchy in Koreatown, where a small number of criminals have rendered countless others helpless. In this way they have exerted complete control over the other citizens by exposing them to a life of fear. I think the criminal acts, though isolated in each of their individual attempts, represent a coherent effort on the part of a few to terrorize a community. Those responsible probably sit back watching the local news all while basking in the reports of insecurity. They see these reports as recognition for a job well done and perhaps perpetuate the cycle by inspiring likeminded criminals to partake in future attacks in hopes of achieving similar notoriety. It is a vicious cycle that must be suppressed if Koreatown is to ever be the same, and from the looks of the article it appears that at least some of the citizens are taking active steps to combat the problem and take control of their lives.

"Convicted Sex Offender Chooses Canadian Exile Over Jail"

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jail or Canada? Malcom Watson chose Canada.

"In an unusual sentence that has immigration lawyers questioning its legality, the U.S. citizen has agreed to stay out of the United States for the next three years as punishment for having sex with a 15-year-old female student. The exile starts Monday for the 35-year-old former Buffalo Seminary teacher, who was arrested in April after a mall security guard noticed him and the girl sitting in a parked car for two hours.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark called the plea deal "a little dicey" but said the girl's family was happy with it. Under the sentence for sexual abuse imposed by Cheektowaga Town Court, Watson can enter the United States only to report to his probation officer. Watson already lives across the border in Fort Erie, Ontario, with his Canadian wife and three children. But exiling a citizen is unheard of, said Robert Kolken, a Buffalo immigration lawyer. "I don't see how a judge sitting in a criminal court in the U.S can lawfully banish a citizen as a condition of sentencing," he said. Cheektowaga Justice Thomas Kolbert could not be reached for comment.Another immigration lawyer, Robert Berger, warned that Watson could be barred from entering Canada because of his new criminal record.
Even Watson's lawyer, Oscar Smukler, said he was surprised by the deal."We did some research on the question of whether Canada might consider throwing [Watson] out, which would make him a man without a country," Smukler said. The alternative sentence? As much as a year behind bars."

**

First of all, I'm baffled that this sort of sentencing would ever be permitted. Just because the criminal is out of the country doesn't mean the problem has been solved. I, too, question the legality of the sentencing, and would be absolutely shocked if the Canadian government allowed this blatant sex offender to enter their country without penality. Has the American judicial system really come to this? Has "out of sight, out of mind" really become the criminal justice motto? It would certainly explain why each year California builds more prisons than schools (as Prof. Newfield has said). It also explains why a judge would think it appropriate to turn Canada into the U.S.'s own personal criminal garbage recepticle. And on another note... how can the girl's family actually be "happy with" this decision? Aren't they worried that the same creep who violated their daughter is out there, prowling around somewhere in Canada, fully capable of committing the same crime again?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"The first time John M. Shirley and Mallori Scott tried to escape from the armed intruder, he caught them and pistol-whipped them. The second time they tried, he shot them and then stabbed them. The intruder was Scott's ex-boyfriend, Anthony Lee Burdis. Yesterday, Burdis, 38, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing Shirley and to malicious wounding for nearly killing Scott inside her Fair Lakes apartment in November.... Burdis and Scott had broken up about six weeks before the attack...Burdis smashed a rear window and broke into Scott's two-level apartment. When Scott and Shirley arrived about 10 p.m., Burdis was waiting in the upstairs bathroom with a gun, Scott testified at a hearing in December. The armed man ordered Scott and Shirley downstairs to her living room... Scott crawled toward Burdis, begging him not to do anything.
Then Scott reached out, pushed the gun away from Burdis toward Shirley and darted upstairs into the bathroom while the men struggled for the gun. She dialed 911. "While I was on the phone," Scott said, "I heard John say, 'No, no, no.' And then I heard three gunshots." Burdis then came upstairs and forced his way into the bathroom. He asked whom she had called, Scott said, then shot her in the side of the head, though she was only grazed. She collapsed. Burdis went back downstairs, then returned and stabbed her in the chest and neck, causing permanent damage to her lungs and face, Morrogh said..About 45 minutes later, Burdis was arrested, hiding behind the Target department store in the Fair Lakes shopping center. When detectives interviewed Burdis, Morrogh said, Burdis said he didn't know how Shirley had been shot. Told that Shirley had been stabbed 19 times, Burdis reportedly said: "I guess that is a little excessive. . . . I should have stopped." These excerpts are from a Washington Post article written June 13, 2006 by Tom Jackman. While this crime appears to be the story of a disgruntled and jaded ex-lover, I am shocked by the excessiveness of it and the absolute premeditation that occured. Burdis was waiting for his ex and her boyfriend when they came home. He had a gun and readily used a knife. It seems like a crime that someone would have to have been temporarily insane to commit, yet when questioned about the 19 stab wounds found on Shirley, Burdis simply admitted that it was excessive and that he should have stopped! One thing this article is missing is a profile of Burdis. We are not told the he was a likeable next-door neighbor or always ready to help if needed, we are not told that he was angry or a loner, we are not even told his job. I wonder why this type of information was left out of the article and I wonder how well anyone can really evaluate a crime if not given at least a rough personality sketch of the suspect.

Teen Charged With Raping Own Mother

October 30, 2006 11:58 a.m. EST

William Macklin - AHN - Americas Staff Writer

Albertville, AL (AHN) - Police say a 19-year-old man admitted that he raped his own mother in what authorities described as a shocking act of retaliation for a family dispute.

According to police, Gary Dean Helms, Jr. confessed that he sexually assaulted his 45-year-old mother on Oct. 26 at the Willow Terrace Trailer Park, following an argument with his brother about a girlfriend.

CNN.com reports that Helm's mother was passed out drunk on a sofa at the time of the rape. Sgt. Jamie Smith of the Albertville Police told CNN that the mother apparently woke up during the attack. A police report states that she "tried to get away, but he held her down until he was finished."

Police were summoned to the home and Helms was placed under arrest. He was charged with first-degree rape.

Albertville is located in northeast Alabama and has a population of around 25,000 people.

Reacting to the attack, Sgt. Smith wondered how "someone could dip to the low to do something of this nature." He called the crime, a "shock to the conscience of the general public."

check it out here, and there's also video on cnn.com: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7005345301

WTF mates?

Insidious Technology Aiding Peeping Toms

In December, 28-year-old Edward Wainwright was arrested in Omaha after police say he videotaped an undressed 16-year-old girl in a tanning booth. Wainwright pleaded no contest to unlawful invasion. He was sentenced to five days in jail and 18 months probation, and was told he could not possess a camera.

It wasn't an unusual incident, said Sgt. Scott Christensen of the Nebraska State Patrol. He's worked with two local cases involving candid cameras."How many cases are going on that we don't know about — people that just haven't been caught?" said Christensen, a cyber-crimes expert who tracks what he calls the evolution of the Peeping Tom."The only difference is technology is changed now," he said. "They're using infrared cameras."Cameras that can fit in a smoke detector or the tip of a shoe can produce clear, quality video. And they're within many people's price range, some as cheap as $99, said Matt Schott of Jasa Investigative Services of Omaha."The general public can purchase this through any catalog," he said.

Cell phone cameras have made surreptitious photographing even easier. A person ostensibly typing a text message on a cell phone may actually be taking pictures. As a result, many health clubs don't allow cell phones in the locker rooms.

The 16-year-old victim at the tanning salon said she still feels violated. She's scared to use the restroom or even try on clothes at a store.

What is the motivation for spying on someone in a state of vulnerability? Could it be that there is an immense feeling of power in taking advantage of a person's trust in an expectation of privacy that is made all the more addictive by its combination with the thrill of doing something not only illegal, but doing something that is secretive and has the potential at every moment "to be found out"? Are these Peeping Toms so very emasculated that they must prey upon the weak and unsuspecting in order to feel in control and dominant? What rendered these individuals so perversely passive aggressive-for the act of spying on someone who is undressing is at once an aggressive violation of decency and privacy, while also remaining a passive action of simply watching what passess before their eyes with little control of what they see. They are at once in control of the victim at least superficially, and under the victim's control, psychologically. What motivates Peeping Toms? Is the behavior a symptom of a bigger disease? And is technology making it easier for them to use this innapropriate method of handling a psychological dysfunction?