I Am Being Stalked By Canada

Please, Canada, I know you like my hot butt and my awesome taste in music but you gotta quit stalking me.

First, I am confronted with question I never thought I’d be asked, and now this. It appears somebody from Canada was attempting to get into my Facebook account:

And people are asking questions that I am just confused about. First Tim McVeigh (I just knew somebody was going to think my post about Tim McVeigh was supportive. It isn’t. Not even close. But Google thinks it is. Great.) And then some Arabic writing. WTF? And of course… a brilliant question about Canada:

Look, Canada. I know you have some cool parts. Goths kind of remind me of Quebec. They had the potential to be quirky yet charming, but they just end up annoying. But there is Lake Louise. Kudos, Canada. Major score for Lake Louise. And everybody knows I’m a huge Maple Leafs fan, if only because they spell it “leafs” and not “leaves”. And I hear you have some good beer up there, and some great maple syrup. So it’s not all suckage up there.

But honestly, you’re just not doing it for me. You need more … something. Tabasco sauce. You need something to liven yourselves up.

I am flattered by all the attention, but frankly, Canada, you’re freaking me out. I never hear from you for months and then POW, you’re all over me.

I’m with that google searcher. What is Canada’s problem?

The Obama Club

This makes me want to sing “What Up With That?” from Saturday Night Live.

The New Obsession: Tim McVeigh

Well, I knew it was going to happen. I’m officially obsessed with Tim McVeigh. What sealed the deal was this forty-five second video of McVeigh answering two questions:

I think I saw remorse in that video. I think I saw something… something fragile in that video.

Before anyone gets it in their head that I am somehow sympathetic to McVeigh, allow me to disabuse you of that notion right now. The Oklahoma City attacks were grievous and horrendous, and to this day I am haunted by the thought of a day care center being blown to smithereens just because some moron suspected that people were going to take away his guns. There is no excuse. There is nothing redeeming in his actions. I find him a vile human being and I am glad that he was put to death; if anyone deserved it, he did.

And yet, the same way people become obsessed with serial killers (phone call for Miss O’Malley), I find myself hungry for more information about Tim McVeigh, to worm my way inside his mind and bring out the ore. To simply understand him.

That elegant coffin-shaped face, the wide eyes, small mouth… in person, I would have found him handsome. That steely silence, the firmness about him, would have intrigued me. I’d have thought, as so many moronic women do, that I could have reached inside and changed him. This is how women think. We’re curious about silence and we want to “fix” it. So I would have been drawn to that.

But more than just a hero complex on my part, it seems to me that Tim McVeigh could have honestly been changed. He was a good soldier, but he washed out of the Special Forces try-outs. They were given a few weeks after he got home from Iraq, and his body was literally beaten up after being in the desert for so long. If only he’d waited six months or a year, if he’d gotten in shape… I think he could have made it into Special Forces.

But of course, he didn’t.

And that loss just devastated him. He was aimless. Interestingly, he was frugal and always had money. But he was still aimless.

He drifted. He stayed with his former Army buddy, Terry Nichols, for a while. He stayed with other friends. He started going to gun shows.

At this point I still think that if he had a sweet, funny girlfriend, she could have given him something to believe in, to invest in.

Rumors abound that he died a virgin. I find that almost unbelievable. As I said, I find him handsome. I am shocked that women weren’t throwing themselves at him. He was shy around girls, according to several sources, but still. A virgin?

If it’s true, the rejection he felt must have been awful. He must have resented women, and society in general.

But it wasn’t until Waco, I believe, that the “Tim McVeigh” we know came to fruition. He was in Michigan, watching the Waco massacre, and he was outraged. The government had gone too far. And thus the plot was hatched. I think he would be utterly furious to know that his actions resulted in nothing as far as a political shift. He killed people, whose families and nation mourn them even today. But the government certainly didn’t stop and think, “Oh no, we better become more republican in our ideals.”

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when that bomb went off in OKC. I was busy with school, involved in other things. But I know that when I drove to Colorado last summer, I made a special side trip to Oklahoma City just so I could see the memorial, to see the 168 chairs, and mourn the loss of my fellow Americans.

I felt overwhelming grief. I felt the same fury I do when I look at the giant pit in the middle of downtown Manhattan.

Tim McVeigh is a boogeyman, the lone random crazy. I just can’t help but feel that it didn’t have to be this way.

Songbook: Jessie’s Girl

I downloaded Jessie’s Girl a few weeks ago. Not the classic version by Rick Springfield, but the version sung by Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine. You know, this guy:

It is off key, growly, out of tune, faster in the second half than the first half, and sung like a man who is having his back waxed.

It brings me indescribable joy to listen to it.

I love it because Craig Robinson, best known for his work as Daryl on The Office, is way, way out of his comfort zone. His voice is, shall we say, probably better for whispering sweet nothings than singing. But there is something delightfully honest, almost confrontational, in his inability to sing. He sings like I sing when I give car concerts. Blissed out, and totally unselfconscious.

In the first few lines, he actually sounds pretty good.

Jessie is friend he begins, and his voice is scratchy as a loofah on “friend” which I actually find very sexy.
Yeah I know he’s been a good friend of mine
But lately something’s changed it ain’t hard to define
Jessie’s got himself a girl and I wanna make her mine.
And she’s watching him with those eyes
[and “eyes” sounds like it was said with his teeth clenched.]
And she’s loving him with that body I just know it
Holding her in his arms late late at night
And I wish that I had Jessie’s girl…

And then it falls apart. Delightfully. That’s not a criticism. I mean it in the best possible way. His voice goes all over the place. Were he on American Idol, Randy would say, “It wasn’t good, dawg. Pitchy…. yeah, not for me, dawg.”

And Ellen would say, “I love your hair.”

And Simon would say, “Look. You don’t belong here. You are a good actor, but singing just isn’t your thing.”

Yet because it is a song I like, and because Craig Robinson did it, he got up and song this dorky song, and he did it with joy and pleasure, I feel pleasure. I loved watching him sing this in the movie, and I was so, so happy that when I hear it on my iPod, it still gives me that great surge of pure mindless joy.

It’s not over-produced within an inch of its life. They’re not trying to cover up the fact he sucks. Frankly I wish more celebs would go this far out of their way to prove that they’re not good at everything.

I was just about to compare his singing to Madonna’s acting but that’s not quite right. Madonna is joyless when she acts; her movies always result in you feeling embarrassed and confused, like screaming why can’t you just let go, Madonna?! but this song isn’t like that. It’s just pure joy. Classic earcandy. The kind of song you’d listen to on the way to the beach with all your best friends.

On The Waco Massacre

My first book, God’s Country, was inspired by the events at Waco in 1993. I’ve always been obsessed with verisimilitude, and even more so when I was writing God’s Country so it seemed natural and appropriate that I would interview certain of the players involved in Waco in order to make my book better. I managed to make several good contacts at the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and got to hear second-hand stories about how they waited and waited for David Koresh to come out. And that terrible red morning when they began to insert CS gas into the compound, and the fires began and the children screamed and died and so few made it out alive.

Today is the anniversary of the Waco Massacre. Eighteen years ago today, people I began to call my friends assaulted the Waco compound.

As I wrote my book it was important to maintain a very strong pro-government stance. I still believe that if you are wanted by the police, you answer to them and then allow the justice system to work out matters of fact and guilt and innocence, so I couldn’t understand why David Koresh refused to come out.

Why not send some more kids out? Why not allow the women to go?

I don’t know because frankly I don’t understand psychopaths.

But as I look back, I’m devastated by the Janet Reno Department of Justice. Soft on al Qaeda, brutal on its own American citizens. That seems so wrong. There were opportunities to arrest Koresh when he was away from the compound. Yet they chose to create a stand-off situation. When the ATF agents got shot and killed as they attempted to serve a warrant, I would have unleashed holy hell on them in that first day, and I believe it would have saved a lot of lives. The FBI should have kept shooting. Reload and shoot again until they stopped receiving return fire. The reason is this: once those ATF agents were dead, the moral weight swung heavily to the government. The government could not allow some fringy group to push them back. Yet they did. They acquiesced and moved back, back, back until they created a perimeter that Koresh okayed. A stand-off ensued.

The snipers were under orders to observe. At that point they were just filtering information down to the assault teams. Every yahoo with a badge and gun in five hundred miles had showed up. A command center was created. The teams took turns sleeping and being on call. Day two everyone was still hopped up. Negotiations were getting nowhere. Day three. Day twelve. Day twenty.

By then all the FBI agents were bored out of their minds. The Hostage Rescue Team is an extremely elite group; I would never want to be on their bad side. They’re composed of very disciplined, very good guys. One of my friends was a sniper and the other was an assault guy. Both of them are upstanding people, and I believe they went into law enforcement with the best of intentions and because they really wanted to be the good guys. I don’t blame them or any of the others for what happened next.

I wish I could blame the negotiators. But the negotiators were limited in their ability to give and take with Koresh and his people. The DOJ basically had a “talk them to death” strategy. Also it is extremely important to realize that the negotiators had to sign off on any assaultive action. Until they believed they had exhausted every alternative, none of the men on the ground could do anything. Negotiators want to believe that any crisis can be resolved with words. You bond with them, make them see you as just a guy doing your job. But in this case, the usual tactics weren’t working.

The back and forth was basically Koresh making promise after promise that he would break. And still the negotiators kept trying to negotiate; they refused to punish Koresh for lying or refusing to follow through with his promises.

The decision to assault didn’t come from the negotiators or from the FBI. It came from Janet Reno, someone who was never even in Waco. We should all be extremely dubious when a Washington DC bureaucrat tells us how to do something a thousand miles away, but of course, nobody could argue.

So the FBI did what it was sworn to do, and what they probably should have done on the first day. On the first day, they were the good guys. On the fifty-first day, it aroused the question “why?”

The result was horrendous. Seventy-six people died, including 24 children. One person I spoke to said that Koresh trapped the people inside, including those babies, and even as the fire swept through the compound, he held ultimate sway over them. So they stayed and died. I don’t know. I just don’t know. Strictly speaking, the government was wrong to put innocent lives in danger. Those children didn’t kill the ATF. Punishing all of Koresh’s followers for Koresh’s actions is draconian and explicitly forbidden in our federal laws. For instance, FBI agents can’t just slaughter the family and friends of a suspected drug dealer in order to make a point to the drug dealer. But that’s kind of what they did here.

Koresh was ultimately responsible for his fate. He enjoyed being the center of attention. He enjoyed being talked about on the nightly news. He dragged it out, never imagining they could actually use all those expensive men and equipment against him. It was a gamble and he lost.

+++

God’s Country was sold then for reasons too complex and personal to explain here, it was quickly unsold. I never tried to get it published again, but I made it available on Smashwords.

Googlesnap

While searching for the lyrics of the Cure’s “Why Can’t I Be You”, I was confronted with a much more profound question.

Because It Is Tax Day

I wanted to post something uplifting. Something truly beautiful, that really illuminates the human spirit and demonstrates the best of mankind.

[Read more…]

Surveillance On A Sunny Day

I just like the looks of this. It’s in Houston. Another “illegal” picture.

Empire State of Mind

Since we were talking about having to surreptitiously take photographs of buildings, I thought I would post some from my favorite little town.

I, Terrorist Photographer

Last night I went for a long walk. It was a good night for it, warm with a nice breeze. Quiet. I was thinking about the future, and feeling really good about it. I ended up downtown. My favorite place. Anyone who has perused my blog or my Flickr page knows I love taking pictures of the buildings downtown – as a student of architecture, they fascinate me. I find them beautiful and I would rather look at them than the stars in the sky (to paraphrase Ayn Rand). Anyway, I found myself at 1400 Louisiana. The light of the windows, plus the glow of the address on the building, appealed to me. I whipped out my BlackBerry and:

No sooner had I taken the picture that I heard somebody saying, “Ma’am, ma’am.” I took off my earbuds as a security guard approached. “You can’t take pictures of this building.”

“Oh. Why not?”

“Because since 9/11, you can’t take pictures of any of the buildings downtown. If you do, I’m supposed to call HPD and they’ll call Homeland Security and you’ll be investigated.”

I decided it wasn’t worth an argument so I just apologized profusely. The security guard backed off and I went my merry way.

I don’t believe that it is against the law to take pictures of a building. Any building. If it is, I’d like to know when that law was passed and whether its a state or federal law.

Furthermore, it reminds me of the stories of the old Soviet Union. Even today, they do not allow tourists to photograph Lubyanka. I don’t know why this rubs me the wrong way. It feels like a violation even if I can’t express why. It’s not free speech; I’m not “saying” anything by taking a picture. Unless the picture is free speech. If I can prove that the photograph itself is free speech, I can prove that the act of taking a photograph must remain free. Pornography is protected speech – the actual photographs and thus, one must logically conclude, the act of taking the pictures is also protected.

So why does it feel so difficult to argue with a minimum wage security guard about my right to take a picture of the building? I suspect that such a discussion would result in indeed being investigated for terrorism. And frankly, that is just exhausting to think about. Yet if we don’t stand up for our rights when they are being violated, when we don’t push back, we are giving them up by default.

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