Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: May 16-May 25, 2004
Thursday, May 20, 2004:
So I broke down and watched the Nick Berg decapitation video. It's not that I have any prurient interest in seeing a man die violently, of course; I would never watch Faces of Death or anything else that presents brutal, real violence as entertainment. I cried on the way home from work because I saw a deer that was dead by the side of the road, to give you some idea of my aversion to violence. However, over the past week, I've heard quite a few suggestions that the video is, if not an outright hoax, at least full of details that throw its authenticity into question. Thus, I decided to watch it for myself before I formed an opinion, and there really are a number of inconsistencies in the video that might individually be easy to overlook, but which do seem a little fishy when taken together. The audio is dubbed in an incredibly unconvincing way, for one thing: Berg doesn't even open his mouth when his oft-mention shrieks are heard (and it's long before he's pushed to the ground); one of the terrorists visibly loses track of his place in the speech he's reading, but there is no corresponding halt in his voice; etc. There's very little visible blood during the decapitation. The camera's time stamp skips around frequently.
This article is a good summary of the many curious details that surround both the video and the whole story of Berg's arrest and death. Much of it is speculation, and as pointed out by the copious reader comments posted beneath the article (which are also very helpful in providing conflicting viewpoints), the attribution of many of these details to a vast conspiracy- while possible- still fails the Occam's Razor principle that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. (I learned that from Lisa Simpson.) Also, I have no knowledge of forensics, linguistics, Middle Eastern culture, or video equipment, so I'm in no position to speak with authority regarding questions on those topics. However, the tape, taken in conjunction with the article above, was enough to convince me that there's more to the story than is being reported. Even if I hadn't read the article, I suspect I would still have seen the tape as questionable.
I don't want to come across as a batshit loonball here or anything. I'll admit that I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, but to paraphrase Wayne Coyne, I recognize that looking for conspiracies is like looking for UFOs: if you think you're going to see something, you're going to see something. And that's obvious with a number of allegations regarding the Berg video. (La Voz de Aztlan, for instance, claims that "a person with a US military cap temporarily pokes about a quarter of his left head [sic] into the video." The frame captures that the site offers as "damning evidence" claim to show the man's left ear and neck, but it's clearly just someone's pinky finger.) And as much as I hate the Bush administration, I don't need to accuse our government of faking the murder of an American civilian to have ample evidence of Bush's corruption and evil to make a case against him and his campaign in Iraq. I've read suggestions that Bush faked the video to justify withholding more evidence of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib under the guise of "National Security," but not only were more photos made public today, but The New Yorker has already reported the alleged contents of unreleased photos and videos, so that theory doesn't fly.
Plus, as I said to Jon earlier, the best evidence I've heard to suggest that the tape is authentic is the sheer number of flaws. Surely, if someone were going to fake an event with such huge international ramifications, he'd be a lot more careful in covering his tracks. If the video is in any way fraudulent, then those who are commiting the deception are about as competent as someone trying to make fake crop circles by riding through a field on a Big Wheel that's towing a piece of plywood. The Blair Witch Project looks more real. If the United States was to fake an act of terror like this and blame it on Al-Qaeda, they surely would've at least taken pains to cast "terrorists" that actually look like they're of Arabic descent; the terrorists in the video are whiter than Berg!
Regardless, the fact that the media are taking the video at face value and reporting its contents as incontrovertible fact is irresponsible when there are so many unanswered questions. The most plausible explanation I've heard for the video's time jumps, obviously fake audio, and lack of either blood or movement from Berg (that doesn't suggest that the whole thing was a hoax) is that the terrorists may have somehow failed to get the beheading on film when it actually happened, so they restaged it and then punched the sound up in post. Some have suggested that Berg was drugged between the time he identifies himself and the time he's shown sitting on the floor in front of his captors, but I don't know how well that jibes with his screams. The video is of extremely poor quality, so some of these mysteries may be unsolvable. However, given the outcry over the release of the video and the anger it has stirred up within the United States, I do think the mainstream media needs to address these topics lest the story be seen as more black-and-white than it is.
If you're so inclined and you feel you can stomach it, you can download the full clip at http://www.consumptionjunction.com/downloads/cj_34947.wmv (it's a Windows Media file). I didn't link it directly because I don't want anyone to click on it accidentally, as it's a really unsettling video even if it's fake. I had to stop it several times to collect myself before it even got to its gruesome finale. You can make up your own mind there. And I don't want to seem callous about Berg's death; it's a terrible shame and it sickened me to hear about. But in a time when we're obviously being lied to in some degree nearly every day (such as a U.S. government spokesman's refusal to confirm that the Army's battlefield interrogation facility even exists despite the fact that it's now the focus of a prisoner abuse probe), I'm really sick of being asked to believe anything less than the whole truth.
CURRENT MUSIC: Kakusei by DJ Krush.
CURRENT MOOD: Dana Scully-esque. Or John Doggett-esque, after Scully became a believer.
PREACHY REMINDER: If you haven't registered to vote, you need to do so now so you can help to get rid of Bush in November. Thanks.
TIME: 11:09 PM.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004:
Last night, I went through a bunch of my old elementary school assignments and stories I'd written for fun before I started attending school. Here are some of the more entertaining ones, with my comments in brackets where appropriate:
ASSIGNMENT: Write a story about the Valentine Snowman.
WILLIE'S STORY [typed, presumably by a teacher- her grammatical errors are included]: It was a very snowy night. Very, very snowy. It was 2 1/2 feet deep. It had gained another 7 inches by morning. "WOW!" said the kids in the Muzurkle family. That afternoon they built a snowman, but Joey, who was 3 years old, ate the carrot. Unfortunately, that was the last one. But, they still had celery, so they used that. So the snowman was built. Later, "there" said Paul, "all finished." "Urp!" went Joey. When nobody was looking, Joey also ate the celery. So then they used coal for a nose. Then Joey lost his first tooth. Then, at night, the snowman made some valentines out of ice. One said, "you're a nice friend." Then, someone threw a snowball at him. The snowman hit him on the head with an ice valentine. Then he noticed it was getting light. "Yow!" he thought, "I'd better get to the backyard!" As he was running back, he lost one of his eyes. He felt a snowball, thinking it was the lost eye, he put it in it's place. He knew something was wrong, but he couldn't figure out what. And he couldn't see too good. He thought he needed glasses, which is pretty silly. That day was warm, so he melted, and the kids even built a grave out of ice for him.
ASSIGNMENT: I guess I had to write a story about a troll.
WILLIE'S STORY: "The Decpecable Troll." It was a dark and stormy night, I was listening to my radio. My name is Chris. I'm a secret agent. I had just finished listening to "Private eye" [I'm guessing this refers to the Hall & Oates song.] when I heard: "There is a troll somewhere in this subduvison." Then I knew I should be out there. I opened up my door. Confetti started spilling. I got away just in time. I saw it. The trooll that is, troll. I ran to it and it got cornord. I'm not saying what happend, but we had troll stew for dinner.
This is one of the aforementioned stories that I wrote before I entered the
public school system and had my youthful innocence violated and crushed:
MY TRIP TO: FOLLOW THAT BIRD AUTOR CHRIS.
THE S TEN BLAZER TURNED THE CORNER. AND A SIGN SIAD TIKETS "OHHHH I GRONED "COME ON MAMA I SAID "LETS GET SOME" "POPCORN" INTURUPTID TIMOTHY "YOU GOT IT BUKO.
I SAID THE NEXT THING I KNEW I WAS IN THE SHOWROM.
LATER "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA" JUST THEN GRONS CAME: "OOHHHHHHHH.HH" YOU MAY HAVE GEZZED MRS. FINCH YUP HERE SHE IS
CLICK: WENT THE T.V. BERT HAD A: HAT-HAMBURGER-HOUSE-HORN-HAMSTER IN THE TELOVITION.
And here's another of those stories, entitled "MY TRIP TO THE MUSHEM":
it WAS A QWiET SPRING DAY UNTILL I SIAD HEY GUYS! LEt'S GO tO tHE MUZEM AND TT [T-Bone's nickname for himself was "T.T."] SIAD DONT YOU MAEN MUSHEM AND i SAiD NO I DON'T SO WE ALL GOT INTO THE CAR AND DROVE TO tHE DUM MUMMY MUZEM AND SO WE GOT OUT OF THE YOU KNOW WAHT AND INTO tHE MUZEM BUT tiMOTHY WAS NERVES WHAT if THARE WAER A BABY'S ROOM THAT: SAID NO T-I-M-O-T-H-Y'S ALLOWED AND HE WAS RIGT SO WE WENT IN THE MUZEM SO WE WENT TO THE BABY ROOM BUT WE SAW tHE SiGN AND tIMOTHY HAD A PLAN! AND SIAD MY NAME IS TOMMY AND tHE MAN SIAD OH! THE END
ASSIGNMENT: Write a list of things that an apple can be.
WILLIE'S LIST: 1. yyyyummy! 2. for the techer 3. for a juggling act 4. apple butter 5. intornashanl spy
Finally, written on the back of a series of Chevrolet Service Supremacy Contact
Reports, my own peculiar brand of Curious George fanfic:
1 DAY THE MAN WITH THE YELLOW HAT SAID "GORGE IM GOING IN. YOU CAN SWE... STAY OUTSIDE BUT DONT GET INTO TROUBLE".
GEORGE LOOKED AT THE BROOM AS THE MAN SAID "SWE.........." UH-OH! THE BROOM WAS FALLING! BOOM!
GEORGE TOLD THE MAN ABOUT THE BROOM.
THEN HE REALIZED HIS MISTAKE!
THE MEN PUT IT BACK
CURRENT MUSIC: Furnace Room Lullaby by Neko Case.
CURRENT MOOD: Irritated that AOL has informed me that I've "reached the open-window limit," when the only window open is that "Welcome!" window that you can't close.
BEST TITLE OF A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT I DID NOT INCLUDE ABOVE: "Mr. Rush and Mr. Bounce Kiss."
TIME: 6:47 PM.
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Monday, May 17, 2004:
I talked to Quinn this afternoon, and she offered to send nice letters to the other Disclaimers to ask them to please change their name. She told me that, although I have no legal rights to the name (unless I want to file for a federal trademark, which is pricey enough that I'd rather just reserve that option as a last resort), those other guys might not want to continue using a name under which I've already released an album, been indexed in the AMG, etc. I'm hoping they see it that way; confusion over the name would do no one any good. Although it might be a little funny if we all wound up with some variant of the name, like with the many Ray's Pizza establishments in New York City. One of us could be "Original Disclaimer," one of us could be "Famous Original Disclaimer," one could be "Original Famous Disclaimer"...
CURRENT MUSIC: Soul Journey by Gillian Welch.
CURRENT MOOD: Self-obsessed and sexxee.
WORDS CURRENTLY WRITTEN ON MY HAND IN BALLPOINT PEN: "INSIDER FOUND." It's probably more interesting if I don't give you an explanation.
TIME: 8:51 PM.
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Sunday, May 16, 2004:
Yesterday afternoon, I went to The Music Box to get my acoustic guitar restrung, and Dan Runey- a guy I knew in high school- was working behind the counter. Back in the day, I never had much of a chance to get to know Dan, but he was friends with both Jen and T-Bone, so I knew him to be a nice guy from the few times we'd chatted. My guitar needed a lot of work, since I've had it for about seven years and it hadn't yet been restrung, let alone recalibrated in the many ways that I guess it should've been, or, for that matter, even dusted, so Dan and I talked for awhile as he tuned it up.
Dan and a few other guys I knew from high school are now in a band called Only People, and I picked up a copy of their album Those Aren't Even Words, which was for sale at the counter. As I looked it over, I asked, "Is the title of the album a Simpsons reference?"
Dan immediately put down the wrench he was using and shook my hand, saying, "You're the first one who's ever gotten that!"
I felt proud.
I haven't had a chance to listen to the album yet, but Dan told me that the band will be doing an exhibition (or something; I forget the term he used) for a major label this Wednesday. I probably shouldn't say which; I'm not sure about the legality of talking about those things. At any rate, it's really cool for him, so just file the name of the band in the back of your mind for now, and wait and see if they start popping up in magazines and record stores and iTunes commercials in a few months. They're nice people and my guitar works better than ever- it now plays Steve Vai solos of its own accord- so they deserve your support.
As for me, I just discovered that there are two other bands operating under the name Disclaimer (Disclaimer New Jersey and Disclaimer Ontario), so life in the music biz ain't all gum and root beer; I can tell you that much.
CURRENT MUSIC: The Creek Drank the Cradle by Iron &
CURRENT MOOD: Wan.
INEXPLICABLE SIMILE I SPOUTED WHILE TALKING TO BEV LAST NIGHT: "Shaved legs are like being the first person to dip the knife into a fresh jar of peanut butter."
TIME: 10:40 AM.
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