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Monday, January 30, 2012

How much does Hillary hate Barack?

During Obama's State of the Union speech a few days ago, he made reference to the teamwork that taking down Osama bin Laden required -- and how on that fateful evening he sat next to Hillary Clinton -- "a woman who ran against me for President."

When he said that, the camera panned to Hillary's face. I was struck by how pained Hillary's smile was. And it hit me how much she must hate Obama.

Put yourself in her shoes. In 2008, it was fairly obvious that a Democrat was going to win the White House. The public was sick of the two wars Bush started. The Iraq War was widely viewed as a mistake. The mortgage crisis was heating up, and the stock market was down.

Hillary had Bill on her side (she hadn't stuck with him all those years for nothing). And she had experience: she understood the kind of games she would have to play to win the Presidency. After all, she had learned at the feet of the Master. (Though not on her knees -- that was Monica's job.)

Hillary also had big money on her side, a raft of endorsements, and the rabid support of the feminists. She was all set to make history by becoming the first female President.

Then along came that brash young pretender, who traded on his race the same way she traded on her gender. (There's nothing more annoying than to see someone use your own tricks against you.)

Well, we all know what happened next.

Now Obama is the one who gets to jet around on Air Force One. He's the one who is greeted with shrieking adulation by adoring crowds. He's the one who gets to meet all those heads of state on an equal basis. He gets to live at 1600 Pennsylvania, which used to be her house. (How much of a dagger in her heart is that?)

And all this despite the fact that it's become increasingly apparent that he has little idea of how to run a country.

So now Hillary has to watch him give the State of the Union speeches, while she sits in the audience and tries to look appreciative.

While swallowing her bile.

There are a lot of people who hate Barack Obama. But almost certainly none more than Hillary.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Romney's expression

During the Republican debates, whenever the other candidates are speaking, Mitt Romney always seems to be wearing an appreciative half-smile. It comes across as if he's demonstrating an avuncular, almost paternal pride in the other candidates as they speak. It's as if he's saying, "I find your little foibles quite cute and charming, and it's always a pleasure to listen to you despite your being wrong on so many issues. Anyway, my occasional annoyance with your errors is far overshadowed by the enormous affection I feel for you. And aren't we all having just a swell time with these debates?"

"Aw, go ahead Newt, give it your best shot. You know, despite all your vitriol, I actually like you." 

It's a masterful performance, and it works. It conveys the impression that Romney is somehow above the fray, and that even when his opponents are doing their best to savage him, he just takes it with the same patience an indulgent father might show when his five-year-old lobs snowballs at him.

"Rick, I want you to know, you've been like a kid brother to me. And even though 2012 may not be your year, I know you're going to get it right eventually. I just know it."

Learning how to look appreciative is a highly underrated skill that can serve you well in any number of social milieus. It can make people feel appreciated. But by far the best thing about it is that it makes you look as if you are in charge, and as if you're the one who's in a position to judge them, not vice versa.

"Ron, others may say you're like the crazy uncle who needs to be locked away, but I enjoy your company. I really do."

When someone insults you and you just laugh, it not only takes the sting of his insult away, it makes him look utterly powerless.

"That was a good one, Newt. I really enjoy your sense of humor, seeing as how you're no threat to me."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How many feel they've wasted their lives?

I recently spoke to a friend whose personal style tends toward brutal honesty -- about society, himself, and me, among other things. During the course of the conversation he happened to say, "Sometimes I think that I've thrown my life away. I might have amounted to something if I hadn't tilted at windmills...."

This guy has a tested IQ of 160, speaks three languages fluently, graduated from an Ivy League college and got a masters degree from a prestigious European university. He has worked as an editor for a computer magazine, as a banker, and is a published author. He is also quite handsome, but his lady-killing days are behind him; he has now entered his philosophical years (roughly defined as 55+).

I can't help but wonder if there aren't a lot of people who feel the same way he does, especially those who were constantly told how promising they were when they were young.

My guess is that many do.

In this country, if your IQ is above 150, it would be hard not to be aware of it. No one who goes through the school system doesn't get tested, and the higher people score on their early tests, the more likely they are to be tested further. And sooner or later, someone is going to tell them where they rank. It's inescapable. (And after all that, such people tend to enjoy taking IQ tests on their own for the positive reinforcement they get.)

Plus, people who are smarter than others tend to sense it. (Of course, there are a lot of people who aren't smarter yet still sense it, but that's a different matter.)

The percentage of the population with IQ's over 150, or slightly more than three standard deviations from the mean, is roughly one-eighth of one percent. That doesn't sound like a lot. But in a country with 311 million people, .12% would mean that there are 373,200 people with IQ's above 150. The IQ bell curve has been normed for Caucasians, so taking demographics into account, the actual number is probably closer to 300,000. But that's still a huge number. How many of those get to be truly "great?"

Very few.

After all, only one guy gets to be President. (And neither our current one nor his predecessor were likely members of the 150+ club anyway, though the guy before them seemed to be.)

Add up all the centimillionaires and Nobel Prize winners there are. Then throw in all the authors, inventors, doctors, lawyers, professors, journalists, politicians, and comedians who could rightly be called famous. The total number is still an extremely tiny fraction of 300,000. (And many of the famous ones have IQs below 150 anyway.)

Admittedly, only about a third of the current 300,000 have reached an age where they are resigned to the fact that greatness has eluded them. But most of the younger two-thirds are destined to eventually reach the same conclusion.

Being told you have a high IQ when young is a sort of curse: all it does is raise your expectations, and make you feel like a failure afterwards.

The trash heap of those with IQ's above 150 who never amounted to much is far, far larger than the small pile of those who did.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Narcissistic excuses

Newt Gingrich's justification for his affairs is a classic:

"There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate."

In other words, he went after the stray poontang not for the usual reasons, but because he suffered from an excess of patriotism and work ethic.

The general rule is, the lamer the excuse, the more narcissistic the personality. And no one is more narcissistic than a sociopath.

But Gingrich still looks as if he could be the Republican nominee. If the lameness of that excuse hasn't stopped him, probably nothing will.

It's sort of an Aesop's fable in reverse. Perhaps others could learn from the master, come up with similar justifications, and their careers could move forward the same way. A few suggestions:

For the child-molesting priest:

"Yes, well there's no question that at times in my life, partially driven by my overwhelming love of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I tried too hard to spread His good word, and I might have gotten carried away."

For the greedy Ponzi schemer:

"There's no question that at times, partly because of my love for this great country of ours and its wonderful system of free enterprise, some aspects of my business may have gotten a bit exuberant."

For the corrupt politician:

"There's no question at times in my life, driven partially by my desire to help the people of the great state of New York, I may have worked too hard to please my constituents."

For the big time drug dealer:

"There's no question at times in my life, partially driven by how much I love bringing joy to other people's lives, even if only on a temporary basis, I've worked too hard to make them happy."

For the serial killer:

"There's no question that at times in my life, partially driven by my concerns about the environment and overpopulation, I've worked too hard to restore Mother Earth to her original pristine state."

You too can go far in life if only you can learn to obfuscate like Newt.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sociopath Alert: Newt Gingrich (Part II)

This blog made the case last May that Gingrich is a sociopath. That view has not changed.

Last Thursday, when CNN's John King asked Gingrich about his ex-wife Marianne's allegation that he had asked for an open marriage, Gingrich declared that he was "appalled" that King would begin a Presidential debate like that.

But Marianne's claim had in fact gotten a lot of publicity, and was something that Gingrich would have to address sooner or later; King merely gave him the opportunity to do it sooner. Yet Gingrich said that for ABC to have aired that interview two days before the debate, and for King to have brought it up, was "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

Gingrich then slyly shifted the issue to how the media protects Barack Obama. Gingrich is, of course, right that the media does focus on Republican faults in a lopsided way. And there is a lot of conservative resentment about that, which Gingrich cleverly tapped into. But his outrage -- when he plainly did have an affair -- is reminiscent of the way Bill Clinton waved his finger at that group of journalists and angrily declared, "I did not have sex with that woman."

Sociopaths act outraged when accused of something they are guilty of the same way non-sociopaths do when falsely accused. Most non-sociopaths cannot imagine acting that way if guilty, which is why they get fooled by sociopaths.

This is not a brief against extramarital sex. Some would say that such betray a lack of character. But plenty of non-sociopaths stray -- roughly 60% of married people, according to the polls. What betrays sociopathy is the outrage mustered when caught.

Another Gingrich-ism was to say that he was hired by Freddie Mac as a historian. But as Romney pointed out last night, they don't pay people $25,000 a month for six years to be historians. And, if Gingrich was a historian, why would he be reporting directly to the firm's chief lobbyist?

True, Gingrich didn't register as a lobbyist himself. He undoubtedly made it clear to Freddie Mac that he didn't want to be labeled as such to protect his political future. But Freddie Mac obviously would not have hired the former Speaker if they hadn't wanted his influence. For Gingrich to deny this is just the sort of lawyerly evasion sociopaths specialize in.

What may betray Gingrich's sociopathy most clearly is that he is simply never seems to get nervous, even in the debates. He thinks well on his feet, never gets flustered, and is always glib. It might seem unfair to attribute good performances to sociopathy, but such nerve is in fact a sociopathic hallmark.

Republicans watch Gingrich's masterful debate performances and think, wouldn't it be fun to have this guy dismantle Barack Obama the same way he did some of the moderators.

The problem is, although sociopaths are great performers, they are dissemblers as well. And in the fishbowl of Presidential campaigns, lies have a way of being exposed.

It would be sort of cool to watch Gingrich eviscerate Obama. But if the Republicans are smart, they'll choose the more electable Romney.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eva Marie Saint

My parents mentioned a few days ago that they were recently introduced to Eva Marie Saint by mutual friends. They now see her around their neighborhood in Montecito, and chat occasionally.

My first reaction was wow, cool!

My second reaction was, what exactly is it about meeting a movie star which is so cool, but also weird? After all, they're only actors, who as a group tend towards dysfunction.

Here's a clip with Saint and Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront which partially explains the allure:

If we were to meet Ms. Saint, we wouldn't just be meeting the actress, we'd feel as if we were meeting Edie Doyle. And, for that matter, Eve Kendall from North by Northwest:

At a certain level, we see movie stars as whoever they've played. It's hard not to conflate the actor with the character. (The stars themselves are not supposed to make that mistake, though, as per the previous post.)

And when the movie the actor starred in is a revered classic, you feel as if you're meeting a part of Americana.

Surprisingly, Saint was already 30 when she played the teenage Edie Doyle in On the Waterfront. Which brings me to how many react to meeting a star: it's always a little shocking to see that an Edie has gotten old, or that an Eve Kendall now has wrinkles.

But onscreen, they're immortal -- and forever young.

My mother asked, "Do you know the most frequently asked question she gets?"

It wasn't hard to guess: What was it like working with Marlon Brando?

Saint's stock answer is evidently, "Why did no one ever ask him what it was like working with Eva Marie Saint?"

Action star-itis

Two days ago Mark Wahlberg, referring to 9/11, told an interviewer, "If I was on the plane with my kids, it wouldn't have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in the first class cabin, and then me saying, 'Okay, we're going to land somewhere safely. Don't worry'."

A day later Wahlberg apologized for his statement, saying he hadn't meant to offend any 9/11 victims or their families. But then a day after that he said that his comments were misinterpreted, and that it was unfair for the journalist to have asked him leading questions.

It does seem as if Wahlberg mistook himself for Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger, the role he played in Shooter. Or perhaps "Irish" Micky Ward, the boxer he portrayed in Fighter. Or any number of other tough guys he's portrayed.

This sort of confusion appears to be an occupational hazard.

When Russell Crowe was briefly considered a potential kidnapping target in 2001, he reportedly said, "They wouldn't be able to hold me very long."

Crowe seemed to have mistaken himself for Maximus, the Roman general he played who single-handedly vanquishes giants and tigers in Gladiator. Or maybe Officer Bud White, his character in L.A. Confidential.

Either way, one suspects the kidnappers could have held onto him as long as they wished.

After Sylvester Stallone made Rocky in 1976, he said that he thought he'd be able to hold his own for ten rounds with a ranking heavyweight. Stallone weighed approximately 175 pounds at the time, and to that point his main exercise had consisted of bench pressing, jogging, and acting. The average ranking heavyweight weighs roughly 220 and has boxed for a decade.

A couple years after Rocky, Stallone sparred a few rounds with Roberto Duran, then the lightweight (135 pound) champion.

At least Stallone had the grace to later say of that experience that "it was like being lowered head first into a Cuisinart."

Mistaking oneself for the action hero one portrays does seem to happen often enough that the American Psychiatric Association ought to include it in their next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

It's not quite as serious as schizophrenia, but there is a certain similarity.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Dave Moriarty forwarded above article with the comment, "We have gone too far."

Only if you consider insanity too far.

On a different note, did it not occur to even one member of the school board or faculty to switch the name to "Pumas" or "Mountain Lions?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Motivational speakers

Every now and then one reads about an ex-athlete who makes a career out of motivational speaking. It's always surprising that there's enough of a demand to support these ex-champions. Watching these athletes be interviewed, it's hard to imagine most of them using words to inspire others. But there seems to be a market for them.

What must happen is that some manager decides he must inspire his troops by having some ex-champion come in to give a rousing speech.

The inspirational tale usually goes something like this: the athlete got injured a year and a half before the Games, and thought his dreams of Olympic glory were dead, but he kept at it and managed to work around his injury and train. And then, he went to the Olympics, no longer the favorite, but still managed to win a gold medal. The message, visible from a mile away: don't give up hope, keep trying and you will achieve your dreams.

You have to wonder what goes through the mind of the average employee forced to endure such a speech. His thoughts must run something like this:

"I sorta remember this guy from twenty years ago....Geez, he's so tall he's sorta of freakish. He hasn't aged any better than the rest of us though.....Listen to the guy go on and on, like I give half a shit......He sounds so pleased with himself. Now how am I supposed to relate to this? How does this story help me with my asshole of a boss, and his impossible demands? How does it help me pay my mortgage, or deal with my harridan, spendthrift wife? How does it help me sell our product? How's this going to help me get my son off drugs, or help my aging parents? I only wish my life were as simple as this guy's back when he was a teenager, when all he had to worry about was getting in shape.....I wonder how much they paid him to come here and tell that useless story? What a goddamn waste of money."

Al Gore and Aspergers Syndrome

The post about famous people with Aspergers last month mentioned that Al Gore was included on a couple of lists of people with Aspergers. Seeing his name on the list was an eye-opening moment; the diagnosis makes perfect sense.

In 2000, press analyzed Gore's charisma-challenged personality by saying he was a beta male who hadn't yet learned to be alpha, as evidenced by his choice of earth-toned clothing. The press was wrong, as usual. Gore's problem had nothing to do with being cowed too easily, or a lack of self-esteem.

Gore was also described that election year as being a bit of "a wooden Indian," which was a lot closer to the mark. He's just awfully stiff. Even walking and gesturing don't seem to come naturally to him. He moves like someone who has just been taken out of a box.

Gore comes across like a robot who's learned how to act like a human being from a book. After painstaking study, he now does a passable imitation. But really, it's only just passable. (And the robot does seem inordinately proud of that second-rate imitation.)

Think of how he speaks, in that slow, slightly overemphatic, pedantic tone. He always sounds as if he's explaining something to a group of particularly backward third graders.

Another trait of people with Aspergers is that they are very rigid in their beliefs. While there are respected scientists on both sides of the global warming argument, Gore obviously believes in it as if it is established fact. And he gets becomes infuriated at anybody who doesn't believe in it -- as a true Aspie would.

Despite all of Gore's preaching, he himself lives in a sprawling house in Tennessee whose carbon footprint is famously twenty times that of the average citizen's house. He takes private planes and drives around in an SUV. Hypocrisy of course does not prove Aspergers, but tone deafness is an indicator. And being unaware of how you come across is one of the essential components of Aspergers. 

I once heard another Aspie say that her child had to go to the right school "in order to earn social skills." This is a prototypically Aspergerian belief, that learning the social niceties and how to get along with others is something that you would need a school to teach you. Normal people pick up social skills through trial and error wherever they grow up, and whomever they interact with. Only someone with Aspergers would believe that you have to be "taught" how to say hello, how are you, and so on.

Now that I think of it, a specialized school just for people with Aspergers actually wouldn't be such a bad idea. Such a school might teach its students to be less robotic, to recognize humor, to banter, to look people in the eye, to not have a meltdown when criticized, etc.

Al Gore would make a good student body president there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Huffpost and mockery

Reading about dumb criminals is a little like reading those lists of stupid mistakes that high school students make: it's fun because it makes us feel smart. (Okay, I may not have gotten an 800 on my math SATs, but I'd never be so stupid as to make prank call to 911.)

Reading about the criminals listed in the posts below has the added benefit of making us feel normal as well. (Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a freak for liking women's feet, but Geez, that guy actually had sex with a dog!)

Admittedly, making fun of dumb people is not very sporting. (After the last four posts, the bottom of my fish barrel is riddled with bullet holes.) But this blog has never shied away from acknowledging that there are IQ differences between people -- and peoples.

The Huffpost, by posting all those mugshots in the first place, was also mocking dumb people. Yet the Huffpost is a liberal publication which in other circumstances finds the concept that there are differences between people absolutely anathema.

In fact, they fully subscribe to the notion that those who look too closely at IQ differences are evil. And they regard people who see homosexuality as an abomination as reactionary, intolerant trolls.

But in the meantime, their collection of mugshots essentially mocks both dummies and perverts.

Unanswered questions, Part IV

I promise, this is the final installment about mugshots which raise more questions than they answer. (I just don't seem to be able to repress my inner bully.) As before, the shots and descriptions of the crimes are from the Huffpost, the italics mine:

This might be the worst way to use your one phone call. Police in Sandusky, Ohio, say Joseph Walsh was already in custody when he dialed 911 on a cell phone and said he was being held against his will. Walsh reportedly called 911 while he was handcuffed in a holding cell early on March 13.

What exactly did Mr. Walsh expect to happen? Another group of rival uniformed officers to come barging in, guns blazing at those unfair local cops? The cavalry coming to the rescue him from the cavalry? How long will it be before Mr. Walsh's acquaintances let this story die?

Police in Florida say they busted a man responsible for prank calling 911 about a Viagra overdose. Matthew Wade Douglas Jr. is accused of making two obscene 911 calls in January in which a caller demanded medical attention and graphically described the effects of taking a few too many little blue pills.

Isn't it easy to imagine that face convulsed with laughter as he made that call? What sort of expression did Mr. Matthew Wade Douglas Jr. have when he saw the cops at his front door? How stupid do you have to be to make prank calls to 911? How proud is Mr. Matthew Wade Douglas Sr.?

Investigators in El Paso County, Colo., say Jack Herbst caused $250,000 of damage to his neighbor's property while driving a front-end loader -- all because the victim owed him $80. On March 9, Herbst allegedly drove the construction vehicle onto Ronald Morphis' property, wrecking part of his home, his garage, campers, trailer, propane tank, classic cars and more than a dozen mature elm trees.

Seriously -- if this guy were your neighbor, wouldn't you just pay him back the eighty bucks?

Some suspects are caught with their pants down. Others are caught with no pants at all. Police say this drunken driving suspect was driving naked in a pickup truck with three nude passengers. Nickolus Borgman is accused of driving under the influence and other violations after a sheriff's deputy pulled him over and spotted two nude men and two nude women crammed in the front seat of the truck.

Doesn't this ride sound as if it were taken on a dare? Exactly how much alcohol was consumed beforehand? Why is it so many criminals seem to have misspelled names? And how much did Nickolus pay for that haircut?

It's always best to practice what you preach. Police in Florida say they arrested the former president of a local chapter of Mother's Against Drunk Driving for driving under the influence. Debra Oberlin has been charged with drunk driving for the Feb. 18 incident.

How sweet is that?! This is evidently the first time Ms. Oberlin has been caught, but doesn't she look like a habitual drinker? And why exactly was she not the president anymore? Had the other members caught on to her shenanigans?

You shouldn't mouth off to police -- especially when your mouth is filled with feces. Police in Colorado say a drunken driving suspect spit fecal matter on an officer. Paul Andrew Kausalik, a 61-year-old postal worker, was in a police station after being taken in on drunken driving charges when he allegedly put his own excrement in his mouth and spewed it on an officer's face.

Has it ever once, in your entire life, even occurred to you to try that? Will Mr. Kausalik bring the phrase "going postal" back into popularity? Does he ever worry about bad breath? How often does Mr. Kausalik brush his teeth? Would you want to be his dentist?

Jerome Smith's forehead says he's a "Genius," but police say he wasn't being smart when he allegedly struck a pregnant woman with a handgun. The Cincinnati, Ohio, resident is accused of repeatedly pistol-whipping a woman who was eight months pregnant in late January.

If your IQ is over 150, isn't it considered bad form to boast about it? What had the woman done to incur Mr. Smith's wrath -- denigrate his solution for integrating the unified field theory? Are the other members of the local MENSA chapter embarrassed by his violence? Once in jail, will he at least tutor the less intelligent inmates?

Onslow County Sheriff's deputies in North Carolina arrested Dale Foughty after he allegedly tried to rob a convenience store while wearing a Spider-Man mask and waving a sword. His plans collapsed when two clerks fought back by poking him in the gut with a broom. They ripped off his mask and part of his ponytail before he fled. Police found him nearby with a shaved head.

Wouldn't Mr. Foughty actually have been more intimidating without the mask? Had those two clerks seen his face, do you think those they would have dared poke him with that broom?

Real doctors conduct breast examinations in their offices. Phony doctors conduct breast examinations in bars. Kristina Ross, 37, has been charged with practicing medicine without a license after she allegedly offered breast exams to bar patrons in Boise, Idaho.

Are the police perhaps taking this case a tad too seriously? Doesn't Ms. Ross's crime sound like the kind of offer that juvenile guys will make without seriously meaning to convince anyone that they are actual medical professionals? After a few drinks, do lesbians turn into juvenile guys?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Unanswered questions, Part III

A friend just wrote to say that the previous two posts were "funny, but in a cruel intellectual equivalent of torturing small animals way."

Fair enough. And no, it's not very sporting to mock dumb criminals. But it is fun. Anyway, Snark is my middle name, so here goes:

This booking photo from the Broward County Sheriff's Office shows traffic court magistrate Rhonda Hollander. Hollander was arrested after allegedly taking photos of men in the bathroom of the West Regional Courthouse in Broward County.

Did Rhonda not pay attention in her Gender Studies class in college? Isn't this the kind of thing men do to women, and not the other way around?

Police in Pennsylvania are investigating three separate incidents of indecent exposure involving a 35-year-old man named Handy Henry Wood, who allegedly exposed himself to two women.

With a name like that, did this poor guy ever stand a chance of not growing up to be a pervert?

Eugene Hickman's family called Walton County (Fl.) police after his grandson allegedly saw him trying to have sex with a pet bulldog.

Aren't bulldogs the ugliest things imaginable? Were there no aesthetically appealing dogs available? How old is the grandson, and is he now scarred for life? How exactly did that family discussion go down? Will ol' Grandpop be welcome at family gatherings from now on? Did the expression "screwed the pooch" originally derive from a similar situation?

Janet Chiauzzi was arrested after sending threatening letters to her son's little league coach.

How scary is that face? Chiauzzi manages to look high strung, malevolent, and intelligent all at the same time. Is there anyone in the world who finds that a relaxing combination to be around?  

Levon T. Sarkisyan, allegedly broke into a Connecticut home and smashed statues and furniture, because he claimed God told him to do it, according to police.

Did God also tell Levon to do his best Pee Wee Herman imitation while having his mug shot taken?

Bernadette Besario Catan-Keeler, 30, was arrested and charged with domestic violence battery after she attacked her husband and bit him on the night of their wedding, according to Broward County Police.

What are the odds of this marriage lasting even six months? And what did her husband do to make her so angry? Does Bernadette look like the kind of inexperienced, blushing bride who has no idea what's in store on her wedding night? 

Drunken driving suspect James Scarborough allegedly told police in Florida that he wasn't responsible for crashing his motorcycle -- but the boogeyman was. The 49-year-old reportedly declined to explain exactly who the boogeyman was. He has been charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license and obstructing police, among other charges.

Given that Scarborough has the kind of chin and neck which advertise testosterone to spare, why didn't he pursue sports instead of drunk driving? (His coach probably wouldn't have put him in against the boogeyman.) Think he might still have been under the influence when he struck that devil-may-care pose for his mugshot? Doesn't Scarborough look like Pat Tillman's no-good older brother? 

Mark Thompson, a 19-year-old from West Virginia, is accused of killing his neighbor's pygmy goat in his bedroom and possibly sexually assaulting the barnyard animal. Police say they found Thompson hiding in the woods, covered in blood, wearing a bra and panties.

Wasn't just slaughtering and having sex with an animal OR cross-dressing enough of a thrill for Mark? He had to do both at the same time? We all get jaded eventually, but Mr. Thompson is only 19! What combination of wild perversions will he need to get himself excited by the time he's 35?

This suspect likely won't forget his 64th birthday -- and neither will the elementary school students who saw a man naked from the waist down shaking his hips and genitals. Jack Snyder is accused of flashing a school bus in Port Richey, Fla., as students headed home from classes.

Could Central Casting have picked a more likely looking flasher? From his loony grin to his unkempt hair to his age to his red drinker's nose, doesn't Mr. Snyder look exactly like what he is? And yet, somehow, doesn't he look sort of harmless at the same time? 

Johnathan Washburn, 23, allegedly hit a man on the head with a skateboard after he took a picture of his bizarre triple-mohawk hairstyle - landing him in police custody.

Why would anyone affect a hairstyle like this if he didn't want people to pay attention to him? Isn't it gratifying when someone like Johnathan -- love that spelling -- fulfills a negative stereotype (this time, about skateboarders) so perfectly? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

More unanswered questions

Here are some more things to ponder about those Huffpost mugshots. The captions are theirs; the words in italics are mine. 

Police in Iowa City, Iowa have accused 28-year-old Melissa Barbara Minarsich of attacking her boyfriend after he refused to have sex with her.

If a man did that, wouldn't he be prosecuted for rape? Will she be? Was she actually thinking that this attack would encourage her boyfriend to be more amorous next time around? What part of "Honey, I'm not in the mood" does she not understand?

Police say Wilnelia Caraballo attempted to rob a convenience store using a toy gun, but found herself on the ground when one of the clerks yelled "Palm Bay police. Get on the ground!"

Wouldn't you think that someone who uses subterfuge -- a toy gun -- while trying to commit a crime would be aware that others might use it as well?

Ashton Graham allegedly used an inhaler to steal two cases of beer before slamming his head through a police cruiser windshield.

What?! How do you use an inhaler to steal two cases of beer? Most of the people portrayed in these mugshots have been pretty dumb, but if this guy can figure out how to use a little inhaler to steal all that beer, then he is a criminal mastermind. But then why did he put his head through that window? Had he already drunk one of the cases and thought he was just peering out the window?

Even if Juan Aguirre got away, he would have ended up empty handed. Police said the 21-year-old Kansas stole six empty DVD boxes from a local adult entertainment shop.

Get it? Empty handed? (They were porn tapes.) 

Josephine Smith is seen in this booking photo from the Pinellas County Jail. Smith was arrested after allegedly attacking and biting a piece of skin off a homeless man in St. Petersburg after proclaiming "I am a vampire, I am going to eat you."

I don't mean to sound snobbish, but I personally have never found homeless people all that appetizing. Is Josephine's olfactory system in working order? Has she ever heard of germs? And if she's a Twilight fan, why does she identify with the bad vampires instead of the good ones? 

Edwin Tobergta, 32, is seen in this booking photo from the Butler County Sheriff's Office. Tobergta was arrested after allegedly having sex with an inflatable pool raft. 

Could Edwin not afford one of those inflatable sex dolls, or is he actually more attracted to rafts? And why did the Huffpost have to say "having sex with" rather than "making love to"? How could they be so sure there were no romantic feelings involved? And doesn't Edwin look a little like that guy ("Mayhem") who advertises insurance on TV?

Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, of Galveston, is being held on a charge of burglary with intent to commit assault after allegedly forcing his way into a woman's apartment and biting and striking her, according to police. Bensley later told officers he was a vampire who "needed to feed," according to The Houston Chronicle.

Another Twilight fan, evidently. Lyle doesn't look gay; is he aware that most of the actors in the movie are? And with all these Twlight-inspired crimes, when is some enterprising lawyer going to file a class action suit against the producers of the movie?

Justin Dale Little Jim is seen in this mugshot from Prince William County Police. Little Jim was arrested after allegedly breaking into a sex shop and caught in relations with a sex doll.

How embarrassed did Justin feel at the moment he was caught in flagrante? (How embarrassed would you be?) Did it not occur to him to just steal the doll and enjoy it at his leisure later on? Had he imbibed firewater beforehand? How many chuckles did the boys down at the station house have over this later on?

Amelia Love Oveide, 46, of Las Cruces, NM is seen in this booking photo. Oveide has pleaded guilty to twisting off her daughter-in-law's nipple in a drunken brawl.

Did it ever occur to Amelia that her son might not appreciate that particular move? Or that she would be consigning her own grandchildren to half rations of milk? Whose side will her son take in this dispute? One would think his wife's. Then again, blood does run thicker than water. Or milk. And who twisted the tip of Amelia's nose off?

This booking photo from the Shasta County Sheriff's Office in California shows Patrick Francis Brooks and his obscene tattoo after his July 11 arrest on charges of burglary, receiving stolen property, forgery and violating the terms of his parole for a previous conviction.

What possible motivation could anyone have for getting "FUCK YOU" tattooed across his forehead? No matter how slick an interviewee you are, it's hard to imagine a potential employer reacting positively. Oh well; there goes that career with Morgan Stanley. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unanswered questions

While browsing through the Huffpost's collection of mugshots yesterday, I found that many of them raised more questions than they answered. All of these mugshots and the descriptions of the crimes are from their site; the questions in italics are mine. 

That's Mr. Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop to you. The man with the amazing name was born Jeffrey Drew Wilschke. He changed his name in October 2011, but got in trouble with Madison, Wisc. police on Jan. 5 when he was arrested for alleged possession of a knife, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 

Think this guy might be a Johnny Depp fan? Does he ever mimic Captain Jack Sparrow's mannerisms? How did his parents feel about him changing his name? And does Mr. Zopittybop-Bop-Bop have a nickname, or must his friends refer to him by his full name? When he gets married, will his wife be tempted to keep her own name? Isn't it refreshing to see a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously? 

Ray Lynn Mitcham Jr., of Linden, N.C., was arrested Jan. 9, 2012, in Cumberland County, N.C., for crime against nature with a dog. Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said Mitcham's next door neighbor went to speak with him Jan. 2. The neighbor, who is also Mitcham's landlord, told detectives she opened the door to his mobile home and saw him attacking her dog. The mixed-breed female was taken to a veterinarian, who recovered a DNA sample. Tanna said Mitcham was arrested Monday after his DNA profile matched the sample recovered from the dog.

Is Mr. Mitcham not attracted to human beings? Or was he just using a dog because no human was available at the time? How can the police be sure the dog didn't try to seduce him? The breed of the dog wasn't mentioned; does Mr. Mitcham find one breed more attractive than another? Will other bestiality fans take the moral of this story to be that one should use a condom? 

John Robin Whittle wouldn't let a good beer go to waste, police say. The 52-year-old ordered a beer at a bar, left to rob a bank, then returned to the watering hole to finish his brew, investigators in Pasco County, Fla. allege.

Wouldn't this make an awfully good beer ad? Whichever beer company he was patronizing really ought to consider taking advantage of the free publicity; Whittle is certainly the kind of masculine-looking fellow beer companies like to feature in their commercials. A little shave, some contact lenses, a nice smile for the camera, and it could be Miller time. At least after he serves his federal time. 

During a stop for an alleged traffic violation, sheriff's deputies in South Carolina seized two crack pipes that Ella Jo Price had allegedly hidden in her private parts: One was concealed in her crotch and the other was stashed in her buttocks, deputies said.

Ella certainly gives new meaning to the term "crack whore." Despite her addiction, she's still sort of good-looking; she must have been a beauty when younger. Which clique did she hang with in high school? Was she one of the popular girls? Perhaps even prom queen? How much schadenfreude are her former social inferiors feeling now?

Gwinnett County, Ga. police say Trevor Jones broke into a home, then used the victim's laptop to log into Facebook. The problem for Jones, allegedly, was that he forgot to log out before he left.

Is this not proof of how addictive Facebook can be? Wouldn't you think that a man who evidently takes such painstaking care of his mustache would be more careful while breaking and entering? Should Mark Zuckerberg get partial credit for having solved this crime? 

Police in Illinois say that Olivia Ornelas blamed her DUI and crashed vehicle on her boyfriend's failure to take her, as he promised, to the new "Twilight" movie.

Seems to me I've dated women like this. How does Olivia react when something actually is her boyfriend's fault? How sorry do you feel for her future husband? And what does this incident reveal about the mentality of "Twilight" fans? 

Tina Arie and Howard Windham allegedly got frisky in the backseat of a patrol car taking them in on drug charges. Even though their hands were shackled behind them, Windham's pants were unbuttoned and lowered, allowing Arie to perform oral sex. The deputy ordered them to knock it off and they weren't hit with any additional charges.

Well, at least Tina seems to be a much better sport than Olivia: she's not holding her arrest against her boyfriend. Imagine you've just been busted for drugs, and your life is about to be completely upended. What would your reaction be? Chagrin at having been caught? Concern about how it will impact your career? Shame at the impending social humiliation? Or would it just make you horny?  

I would like to know (a) what drug these two were on, and (b) where I can get some.

Police in Florida arrested Karen Henry, 45, after she allegedly threatened her 80-year-old father with a knife for not sharing his potato salad.

Evidently when some people say "Please pass the potatoes," they really mean it. But how can you tell who the serious ones are?

Police arrested Joseph Wilson for the hundredth time after he allegedly stole $174 worth of socks and underwear from a Bealls department store in Port St. Lucie Florida.

After the first ninety-nine arrests, why would it not occur to Mr. Wilson to get a real job? Does Florida have a one hundred-strikes-and-you're-out law?

Florida police arrested Ian Stuart Wood at his home in East Naples after he allegedly choked his wife over a heated game of Yahtzee.

Given how passionate Mr. Wood and his wife seem to be about Yahtzee, would it not behoove them to try chess, or perhaps Scrabble?  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dumb criminals

Just wasted an hour looking at mug shots along with descriptions of crimes:

Just go to the bottom of the page and scroll through the slideshow. I'm not recommending it, but it is entertaining.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Charlize Theron

Saw Young Adult about a week ago. It's an excellent  portrait of a narcissistic personality who descends into alcoholism while self-delusionally trying to win back her married high school boyfriend. It's enjoyable if you have a taste for awkward scenes where people make fools of themselves. It's a little like a Ben Stiller movie, but more realistic.

Charlize Theron was terrific in the main role. The most impressive thing about her is that she is not at all a vain actress. She is completely game when it comes to uglifying herself for a role, or appearing as an unsympathetic character. In Young Adult her character was pathetically self-indulgent and irresponsible. Theron famously fattened herself up to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, the ultimate Robert de Niro-like sacrifice for her art. (Unlike DeNiro, however, she regained her looks afterward.)

An example of a vain actress would be Angelina Jolie. She is always shot from a flattering angle, with the lighting just right, and her makeup perfect, in stylish clothes. I haven't seen all her movies, so can't speak with complete authority, but she seems to only accept roles where she gets most of the cool lines. It's hard to imagine her agreeing to play a nerd. She may be serious about being a movie star, but she's not a serious actress.

Maybe Theron can afford to be less vain because she's better-looking.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Cult

My laptop's hinge came undone (again), so two days ago I bought a MacBook Pro. Most people seem to love theirs; I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

My first impression upon walking into the Apple store was of how many salespeople there were. There seemed to be a mildly festive air there, at least compared to most retail stores.

I was helped by a pleasant young man named Romar. I asked him a few questions, undoubtedly betraying my ignorance of Apple computers.  He actually started one of his answers by saying, "Well, since you're new to the ecosystem....."

Ecosystem? That's a somewhat pretentious -- if not entirely inaccurate -- word to describe Apple computers.  It's also an indication of the way the company -- and its employees -- think of themselves as a world apart. (As in, sniff, we don't sell cars, we sell Rolls Royces.)

When I bought the MacBook, I made a point of using Romar, since he was the one who helped me initially.  But it was apparent that they weren't on a commission system; that would evidently have detracted from their communal spirit.

I'm certainly not the first to point out the cult-like nature of the company, but it was the first time I'd experienced it firsthand. It does seem at times as if Apple is roughly halfway from Dell to Scientology.

Apple stock has always attracted its share of near-religious devotion from adherents who seem to just want to own a piece of the magic. And people line up early in the morning for the launch of a new product like the iPad the way the Star Wars geeks used to camp out to get tickets to the opening of a new episode.

Certainly the company had its own cult of personality, as all proper cults should. In retrospect it's almost surprising that unlike, say, Kim Jong Il, Steve Jobs didn't just appoint one of his own children as his successor.

Walter Isaacson's recent book makes Jobs sound like a sociopath. Evidently Saint Steve never invented a thing himself, he just cracked the whip until others did for him. He was extraordinarily harsh with those around him; as a result, a lot of his employees, at least the ones who had extended contact with him, disliked him intensely.

But that seems only appropriate as well. What kid of self-respecting cult would worship a well-adjusted nice guy?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nice guys, average guys, and sociopaths XIII

Situation: A 22-year-old guy cuts an accidental, audible fart while on a date with a new girl. How does he react?

Nice guy: Turns beet red, figures he's entirely ruined his chances with the girl, and will never live this down. Apologizes profusely. For several minutes he is so mortified he has a hard time making conversation.

Average guy: Mumbles, "Oh Jesus, that was embarrassing. Sorry." Feels awkward for the next minute or so.

Sociopath: Says, "Whoops" in an almost exaggerated tone to disguise fact that he doesn't feel embarrassment. Knowing how annoyed he is when others fart, he winks and says, "That wasn't the slickest move I've ever pulled." Ten seconds later he's forgotten about it.

Situation: Same one; what is the woman's initial reaction? 

Nice girl: Pretends she didn't hear.

Average girl: Pretends she didn't hear, but moves away slightly.

Sociopath: Grimaces and rolls her eyes, as if this is the very last straw. Opens her mouth as if about to say something, but then ostentatiously shakes her head and says nothing, as a demonstration of her superhuman patience.

Situation: Two guys are talking; one of them mournfully says, "Girls never give me a second look." How does the other one respond?

Nice guy: "You're better-looking than me. I'm sure girls notice you, you just don't realize it." It occurs to him to tell his friend that Mandy said he was cute the other day, but he refrains, realizing that Mandy might not want this passed along.

Average guy: "You're not that bad-looking. You just need to lose a little weight, that's all." Thinks to himself, he'll never do it.

Sociopath: (with annoyance in his voice) "That's cause you're so fucking fat." Sees the the other guy's expression, and backtracks with, "You oughta to hit the gym, lose some weight. You gotta show a little discipline though. No more thirds on the chocolate cake." Feels gratified that he was able to work these digs in under the guise of concern.

Situation: Three guys are walking down a country road when a 450 pound black bear emerges from the woods to cross the road about thirty yards in front of them. When it reaches the middle of the road, it turns to give them a look, then, after a few seconds, ambles on.

Nice guy: His heart starts pounding wildly; he is terrified that all three of them could be mauled. Is slightly relieved not to see any cubs nearby. Knows he is supposed to yell in order to scare the bear away, but when he tries to, all that comes out is a strangled squeak.

Average guy: His heart skips a beat, and he feels a jolt of adrenalin. Thinks, shit, I wish I'd brought my pepper spray. It occurs to him that he has some measure of safety because he knows he can outrun his two friends. Yells at it loudly.

Sociopath: As the bear looks at them, he puts his finger to his mouth and says in a tone of exaggerated innocence, "Oh I didn't eat your porridge." Then he laughs at his own joke. Wishes he had his rifle with him because it would have been so gratifying to see its brains splattered all over. Later on his two buddies marvel at his nerves of steel. He makes fun of the nice guy's squeak, imitating it for them, as well as for many others later on. Finds this a source of never-ending mirth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

College websites

My daughter is in the process of applying to colleges. I've seen a few of the essay questions that she's had to respond to. They are often thinly disguised, self-congratulatory advertisements for the colleges themselves. For example:

"Bowdoin students and alumni often cite world class faculty and opportunities for intellectual engagement. The college's commitment to the Common Good, and the special quality of life on the coast of Maine as important aspects of the Bowdoin experience. Reflecting on your own interests and experiences, please comment on one of the following:
1. Intellectual engagement
2. The Common Good
3. Connection to place"

(Why is "Common Good" capitalized? Is it a proper name? Does that world class faculty not know how to spell? Or are they just Incredibly Pretentious?)

Many colleges require a supplemental essay explaining why you want to go there. (I suggested my daughter respond, "I'm only applying here because I needed a safety.")

One wonders how much pleasure the admissions officers take in reading those responses. Do they actually allow themselves to believe the applicants mean what they say?

Seeing the questions spurred me to look at various other college websites, and what I saw reinforced my feeling about higher education: it's all about brainwashing, rather than learning how to think clearly.

Many colleges feature a Latin motto stating something like "Honesty, curiosity, truth." (Why is English not good enough for academics?) A more accurate motto might be the Latin for, "Getting shit-faced every Friday and Saturday night." Nah -- that would actually show too much honesty and truthfulness.

Many colleges claim to foster "leadership." No college admits to producing "followers," although by definition any student who swallows the pretentious pap most colleges spew has to be a mindless acolyte.

And how exactly do most colleges teach charisma, that elusive quality needed for real leadership? (Silly me -- I always thought that was a quality that couldn't be taught, least of all by some scruffy charm-free prof.)

All of the colleges seem to value diversity. Not diversity of thought, of course -- just of ethnicity.

They all claim to seek students of high integrity. (I'd love to see what would happen to overall college enrollment if every student who had his parent help him with his essays were expelled.)

They all seem to advertise themselves as "highly selective." (I'll die happy if I see just one which bills itself as "not particularly selective.")

The Colby website -- which is fairly typical -- states that their school is "challenging and uplifting, enlightening and provocative, dynamic and focused." It evidently "fosters intellectual and personal growth, with graduates emerging as conscientious, committed leaders ready to make a profound impact on their world. A Colby education is distinctly inspired."

(Warning: do not go to a college website after just having eaten.)

I found myself a little confused by their last sentence: how can an education be inspired? An education is basically inanimate -- it can't be made to laugh, or brought to tears, any more than it can be inspired. Now a student might be inspired by a school, or by his courses, or by his professors. But his education simply cannot be thusly moved. And what exactly does it mean to be distinctly inspired, as opposed to, say, vaguely inspired? I don't get it. Then again, that's how academics write: unclearly, in ways that don't quite make sense.

Oh, and by the way -- the above paragraph hopes it amused you.

At Brown University, "the Brown community creates a dynamic living and learning environment on a picturesque urban campus in historic Providence, Rhode Island.....Visit us to find out why Brown students are said to be among the happiest in America."

Wow! Welcome to Eden! Who wouldn't want to go to a college where you're practically guaranteed happiness?!

But as wonderful as they all sounded, I couldn't help but feel a little dismayed that all these august institutions felt obliged to advertise themselves this way. It seemed just a trifle..... undignified.

I hoped that at least Harvard, of all places, wouldn't advertise itself the same way. After all, its very name is synonymous with prestige! They don't need to boast! But this is what they said on their admissions page:

"There has never been a more exciting time to be at Harvard. Founded in 1636, America's first college has been transformed in recent years by new initiatives that have greatly enhanced the undergraduate experience. Today's students come from all over the nation and the world to attend an extraordinary institution that combines many aspects of a small residential college with the resources of an unparalleled research university."

Oh well. 

Another common theme is that practically every college feels obliged to point out how its students come from all over the map. I thought, well, at least state schools must be immune from this. This is what the University of Maryland said:

"It's time to think outside the shell. March to your own drum. And grab hold of your destiny. It's time to discover the University of Maryland."

At first I was confused -- the second and third sentences are cliches, so why not say "think outside the box" and make it three for three? Then I got it -- think outside the shell -- the Maryland athletic teams are the Terrapins! The website's breathless tone sounds a bit more appropriate for an advertisement for a vacation getaway -- it's time you discovered the wonders of Chesapeake Bay! But at least they didn't feel obliged to point out that their students come from all over the world.

They did, however, feature the following photograph on their admissions page: 

Note the white girl, Chinese boy, and black boy all climbing together. This was another frequent feature of the college website photographs: many look as if they could have been used for a United Colors of Benetton ad.

It's a little unrealistic. When I was in college, there was a black table in the main dining hall at which white students never sat. I've been told that students still practice such self-segregation at virtually every college. Heck, even our own First Lady said that in her four years at Princeton she never made a single white friend. But to look at those college ads you'd think we're all just one big happy family.

Not one college has the honesty to show a photograph of its dining halls, with most of the black students sitting at one table and all of the whites sitting at others. How droll it would be to have such a photograph juxtaposed with some platitude about the value of diversity.

I thought there must be at least one college which doesn't advertise itself as a bastion of diversity. How about one of those historically black universities, where white students are too scared to go?

But the very first paragraph of North Carolina Central's admissions page reads, "North Carolina Central University is committed to equality of educational opportunity and does not discriminate against applicants, students, or employees based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or handicap. Moreover, NCCU is open to people of all races and actively seeks to promote racial integration by recruiting and enrolling a culturally and racially diverse student population."

Doth those gentlemen protest too loudly? Repeating something does not make it so.

Many of the pictures you see on the college websites are reminiscent of the photographs on the society page of the Sunday NY Times: an intimate group of people look as if they have just shared a particularly good joke, and are all simply delighted to be at that gathering, at which they're having the time of their lives.

I didn't see a picture of one student who looked bleary-eyed after an Adderall-fueled all-nighter. Not one who looked hungover. Not even one student who looked mildly depressed after perhaps having suffered romantic rejection. They just all looked blissful, as if being at their wonderful school were an unmitigated 24/7 delight.

We've all heard of Stepford Wives; I found myself wondering if there weren't such a thing as Stepford Students.

I also noticed that no college advertised itself as "a great place to spend four years getting drunk on your father's dime." So I checked out a few places with reputations as party schools, to see if there was any hint of that.

The University of California at San Diego features a picture of a big computer with the caption, "SDSC welcomes 'Gordon' computer as research powerhouse." But nothing about keggers or toga night or how you can skip class to spend the day at the beach.

The front page of the University of Alabama website features ways in which Alabama students "touch lives." But no mention of those great tailgate wingdings at the Georgia game.

The home page of the University of Indiana shows a revolving montage of photographs: the Indiana Chief Justice addressing winter commencement, the school's involvement with a supercollider, and their great faculty. Not a word about the legendarily luscious Bloomington coeds.

Disappointing. I guess there are no schools that are actually fun anymore.

Either that, or honesty in academia is dead.

Judging from these websites, I'd have to say the latter. (But I think we already knew that.)