Cross Burning in Arkansas

Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee may both be from Hope, but to the south lies the town of Friendship, not far from where a cross was burned last week in the yard of a mother of biracial children. A week later, her house burned to the ground. From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Jacob Wingo, 19, is charged with terroristic threatening and aggravated assault, jailers said. Hot Spring County Chief Deputy Richard Tolleson said there could be other suspects in the reported cross burning and it was still under investigation. Tolleson, who refused to release Wingo’s arrest report, also asked that Wingo’s name not be printed as “a courtesy.” Wingo was questioned Friday about the house fire. “He was first,” said detective Barbi Koder with the Hot Spring County sheriff’s office. Yvette Briggs, Wingo’s mother, vehemently defended her son, saying he turned himself in to authorities earlier and “told the truth.” “It was all a joke,” she said about the cross. “He’s got mixed friends. He’s got black friends — he does not hate people. If he knew it was considered a hate crime, he would never have done anything like that.” She said he couldn’t have been involved in the house fire because he was with his father after bonding out of jail.

I can’t find any reports from last week of the cross burning. Maybe it never made it to the papers. If so, I’m very disappointed in the local and state press. I’d hate to think that this sort of thing happens and is kept under wraps. Also, I find it really odd that the paper tells you the kid’s name and then tells you that the chief deputy asked the paper not to print the kid’s name. And I find it amusing that the kid’s mom said it was “all a joke.” Because, really, what’s funnier in Arkansas that a good old fashioned cross burning?

George Carlin (1937-2008)

George will be sorely missed, and my fear is that, thanks to email forwards, he will be the most grossly mis-quoted comedian of our time. I wish there were some resource that had a list of things he didn’t say. I’ve tried to find a few, but with the Internet, how can you ever be sure unless it’s listed on The only thing they’ve debunked is the “Bad American” email forward.

Here is one of my all time favorites from George. Caution: “strong” language ahead:

But remember, and this is a little soapbox of mine: words in and of themselves are not magic and cannot hurt you. Context is everything. There are plenty of words that you have no good reason to use in polite society[1], but that does not make them “bad.”[2] Similarly, there is no quantifiable difference between “crap” and “sh*t”[3] aside from the reactions that people cause within themselves. And so the only reason not to use “sh*t” in polite conversation is if you think you are conversing with those whose own perceptions might cause themselves discomfort.

1.) Racial slurs, for example.
2.) Quite the contrary, as my multi-cultural friends will attest to having great fun tossing around ethnic put-downs like so much expired ordnance.
3.) I am using the asterisk here to avoid getting pinged by various systems’ content blockers.

One Reason Vista Rocks

I’ve just discovered that Windows Photo Gallery makes basic photo editing a breeze. It does Auto Adjusts, Brightness/Contrast, Cropping, Color/Tint/Saturation and Red Eye Reduction. And it does it all without having to navigate the various menus that most other photo editors require (because of course, those programs do tons more things). I don’t recall if these were features in Gallery’s XP version (maybe one of y’all can tell me). Either way, Microsoft can say they made at least one program intuitive and easy to use. Sadly, they tried a little too hard with Microsoft Word, replacing the “File” menu with a clickable logo. NOT very intuitive. I had to google it to find “Save As.” Bad move there, Microsoft. Overall, though, Word for Vista is a definite improvement visually. If it weren’t for all the bugs, Vista might have been a serious competitor against Apple for non-tech types.

UPDATE: I’ve discovered that I have some older video files (ASF format) that Windows Media can’t play (it says it needs a codec), and yet Windows Photo Gallery will play the video just fine.

Book Recommendation

I recently finished The View from the Seventh Layer The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier and thought I’d post a brief review over at, which I’m slowly starting to use. It’s a great idea for a site – a place to talk about books you’ve read.

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
With this collection of short fables, Brockmeier has found a voice uniquely his. His sensitivity to detail and awareness of the fine movements of life are unparalleled, at least in my literary experience.

Back in the ARK Times

I’m doing freelance reviews for Arkansas Times again. This week: my thoughts on the new album by The Good Fear.

Also, a fun story. I was sitting in the park yesterday reading a book, when I noticed a guy out of the corner of my eye suddenly stop. I looked up, and he was staring at the trees across the water from me. The bushes below were moving. Slowly ambling out of them and up the tree: four young raccoons and their mother. Over the course of about 10-15 minutes various passersby all stopped and looked, fascinated by this surprising development. It’s good of Nature to occasionally stop us in our tracks to remind us of its casual awesomeness.


Twice this week I’ve come across this quotation from Eric Hoffer[1]:

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

The more I think about this statement, the more I realize how much it applies to religion, politics, pop music…even websites and magazines. As soon as a great idea spreads, it gains followers, and as soon as something has followers, it tends to lose focus, gain weight, and die. If power corrupts, then apparently popularity kills.

Upon reading more on Hoffer, I came across this little gem:

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

This is a perfect distilling of what I have always suspected to be the case among people who are excessively prideful in their nationalism, religious fervor, or racial superiority. When you have nothing to call your own, when you have nothing about yourself to take pride in, you have no choice but to attach your identity to the various labels and teams assigned to you by fate.

1.) His Wikipedia entry screams conflict, as it appears that conservatives and liberals are fighting to prove their positions with his words.

Love on Paper

One of my biggest beefs with the universe is that there is no reliable way to get to know someone well upon first meeting them. Initially all we have is the physical presentation, and that seems to suffice for most people[1]. It’s always seemed unfair to me, though, that conventional methods for meeting new people (i.e. bars or other social gatherings) take so much time and are so often unrewarding. My problem I suppose is that I’m looking for rare people[2], and they are, by definition, hard to find.

I’ve noticed that when I’m attracted to someone that there are specific things I can point to about that person that appeal to me. Generally, the more I’m attracted to someone, the longer the list of things I love about them. In fact, my ex-girlfriend Natalie once gave me a list of over 100 things that she liked about me. I gave her one as well. And I could do something similar for all the women on whom I’ve had crushes.

As I look at other people’s relationships, I tend to think that they’re just running on random emotional/psychological attraction: tiny causes and effects too subtle or unconscious to be verbalized or quantified. Most people have a physical and emotional template that they’re attracted to for whatever Freudian/evolutionary/behavioral reasons. For myself, I know that in addition to that stuff, I’m also attracted to talents and passions. When I see an attractive woman, I can appreciate the physical beauty, but a part of me stops and says, “you don’t know this person, how could you love her at first sight? Chances are far greater that she’s boring.”

I am reminded of one of the final episodes of Freaks & Geeks where Sam finally gets to date the girl he’s been idealizing all year, and it turns out she’s pretty and sweet but dull. I wonder how many of my junior high and high school crushes would fall into this category. Given the benefit of time, and knowing who those particular women became, I’m sure the answer is: “the vast majority.” Had someone pulled me aside and asked me, “why are you attracted to this girl?” I would have had no demonstrable answer other than “she’s pretty.”

Still, the instinct remains. I could fall in love every day with a pretty girl on the street, but what’s the use in acting on the attraction if the odds are so heavily not in my favor that she’ll be intelligent, insightful, creative, etc.? How does anybody fall in love and have it all balance out?[3] I sense that it’s probably easier for uninteresting people to fall in love because uninteresting people are largely interchangeable. All they have to do is achieve whatever level of socio-economic success and wear whatever clothes meet the societal standard of the day. Being charming and clever are helpful, but those alone won’t help you in the dimly sparkling social jungle that is the New York bar/club scene where love, sex and romance are just another sport at which to compete[4].

So what do oddly shaped, non-interchangeable people do? How do they find each other? Is it even possible?

1.) The fashion industry as a whole is predicated on this predicament.
2.) The Internet has greatly expedited this process, thankfully. Even at a local level (thanks, MySpace).
3.) Based on a discussion I had with two divorcees recently, the answer is, “they rarely ever do.”
4.) I’m trying to think of a satirical swipe to make at Sex and the City here but frankly it’s not worth the effort.