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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: September 20-October 1, 2004

Thursday, September 30, 2004:

Bev sent me another great piece of paper she found inside a book. She writes, "Here's another of my more interesting finds. It isn't as spectacular as the missionary letter, but few things are. It is both amusing and disturbing. I found it in an old book (copyright 1921) that Mom (or Aud?) picked up somewhere (yard sale?) and left in a stack of books (at Dad's house, in the 'new' room). (The 'new' room is at least 15 years old by now.)"

Anyway, it's a yellowed piece of paper, on which the following is written, on a charming old typewriter whose ink has bled ever-so-slightly over the past eighty-odd years:


One pound of love, two lips well pressed, four hands
clasped, one shady tree, one narrow bench.  Stir up
and serve after dark.


Take one armful of pretty girls, one lovely face, two
laughing eyes, two rosy cheeks, two lips like straw-
berries.  Mix well together and press lips, the re-
sult will be astonishing.


For frosting take a piece of dark piazza, a little
moonlight with one large or small hand so as not to
attract attention, dissolve one half dozen glances
into two ounces of yeilding [sic], flavor with a slight
scream and set aside to cool.

Presidential debate tonight. The drinking begins now.

CURRENT MUSIC: Hex Enduction Hour by The Fall.
Stoked for the Camper Van Beethoven show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Oct. 22. Nearly a month's worth of stokedness!
TWO GREAT MOMENTS FROM THE OF MONTREAL SHOW LAST SUNDAY: (1) I got to shake Kevin Barnes's hand and give him a copy of The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss. He was very gracious, and his speaking voice sounds just like his singing voice, you'll be pleased to know. (2) During the set of opening act I, The Magician (a useless post-rock band that suggested Godspeed You! Black Emperor fronted by a less on-key version of Live's Ed Kowalczyk), their pianist was totally hammering out an ostensibly "delicate" melody, when Tim said to me, "You know, the instrument is called a 'pianoforte' because it possesses a full range of dynamics."
4:37 PM.

Doot? | |

Friday, September 24, 2004:

I can't remember the last time I've given up on a movie halfway through, but I just had to shut off Whale Rider after about an hour, because it was boring me to shreds. Keisha Castle-Hughes is a great little actress, but I so didn't care, and it was easy enough to see where it was headed. (With help of grandma and Rebellious Smoking Boy, Pai continues to diligently learn, practice, and spread the ways of the Maori, earns her grandfather's respect, and defeats the snobby rich kids from Camp Kikaki during a montage set to an OMC song.) I dunno. Maybe I simply wasn't in the mood.

Or maybe Rich's dad was right and it needed more whale explosions.

Either way, congratulations, Whale Rider, you have defeated me.

CURRENT MUSIC: My Spanish Heart by Chick Corea. (The "El Bozo" suite is one of the most brilliantly stupid-sounding synth-bloopy things I've ever heard. So much fun!)
A Gaiam Balance Ball Chair!
11:10 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, September 20, 2004:

Bev's coming to visit one month from today. I've gotta work double-time with the ol' Ab Roller, I think, since I'm currently what Douglas Coupland called "a skinny fat person." And speaking of Bev, more Mail Fun: she sent me a menu from an ice cream shop by her parents' house because it contains many creative spellings ("Waffel Cones," "Stir Fryed Chicken," "Bananna Split," "Curley French Fries"), but also, the clip art in the upper right-hand corner contains a picture of a burger, some fries, a hot dog... and a can of soda with the bafflingly random words "SPIC LITE" on its label. It's so innocent.

I recently watched Errol Morris's documentary Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. and I've been thinking about it for days now. I was disturbed by Capturing the Friedmans, but this honestly may have hit me harder, just because I think its message is more terrifying. The titular fellow, Leuchter, was a designer and maintainer of execution equipment in the 1980s for certain backward regions of the United States that continue to use the death penalty. However, at one point in the late '80s, his "expertise" was sought by a writer who was on trial in Canada for publishing literature designed to spread racial intolerance and hatred (the writer, Ernst Zuendel, had written a book saying that the Holocaust never happened). Specifically, Zuendel's legal team asked Leuchter to travel to Auschwitz to determine if, in fact, any gas chambers had existed at the famous death camp. So Leuchter went to Auschwitz, decided that there were never any gas chambers there, and published his findings as The Leuchter Report, which I gather is now pretty much regarded as the bible of the Holocaust denial movement.

So, naturally, ol' Fred is a pretty big moron.

In fact, he had a cameraman document his illegal excursion to Auschwitz, and some of the footage is included in Mr. Death. Leuchter is no more a forensics expert than he is a Greek Adonis (he looks a lot like Billy Bob Thornton in A Simple Plan), and when you see his "scientific" data collection techniques unfolding before your eyes, only the horror of knowing the enormity of the movement this expedition would galvanize will keep you from bursting into fits of laughter. At one point, he announces that he's going to get a sample of the floor of "the alleged gas chamber" to analyze for traces of Zyklon-B... so he reaches into a puddle of water beneath a gaping hole in the roof, scrapes up a handful of sediment, and plunks it into a Ziploc bag that he then puts back in his pocket.

From information collected in such a fashion, Leuchter concluded that the gas chambers never existed and the Holocaust never happened. And an entire movement of pinheaded "revisionists" saw this report as vindication for their nutjob beliefs. (For those interested, nizkor.org hosts a very interesting database that debunks The Leuchter Report point-by-point. The site seems to have been taken down in the past week, but the relevant material is mirrored here.)

Morris's portrayal of Leuchter is ultimately secondary to the point of the film. Leuchter is a pitiful little man and that's all; there's no reason to attempt to psychoanalyze him or any such biographical fooferaw. There's really not even any challenge to discrediting him, which Morris does in about ten minutes, by interviewing both an actual historian and the man who analyzed Leuchter's samples without knowing what they were. What makes Mr. Death so horrifying is that it illustrates how outright malice isn't even a necessary ingredient for evil to thrive when you've got stupidity and arrogance on your side. In the film, Leuchter doesn't appear anti-Semitic or possessed of especially wicked motives. He doesn't seem to hold any disdain for Holocaust victims whatsoever, but rather, he is operating from what appears to be a pure belief that he is capable of finding the truth; his tragic flaw is that he is too full of hubris to realize that basing an investigation on common sense doesn't work if you have none.

I know Morris probably didn't intend for the film to be a thinly-veiled polemic about the political situation in the USA today (he saved that for the masterful The Fog of War), but ever since watching it, I've found myself going back to the same thought: Who else do we know right now who's both utterly clueless and so arrogant that he has an unshakable belief that every move he makes is a right one?

And that, my friends, is what scares me shitless.

CURRENT MOOD: Frightened.
The head of a decapitated plunger.
11:02 PM.

Doot? | |

PAST JOURNAL ENTRIES: May 3, 2003-May 9, 2003. May 10, 2003-May 16, 2003. May 17-May 24, 2003. May 25-May 31, 2003. June 1-June 7, 2003. June 8-June 13, 2003. June 14-June 21, 2003. June 22-July 1, 2003. July 2-July 13, 2003. July 14-July 20, 2003. July 21-July 26, 2003. July 27-August 4, 2003. August 5-August 9, 2003. August 10-August 16, 2003. August 17-August 23, 2003. August 24-August 30, 2003. August 31-September 6, 2003. September 7-September 13, 2003. September 14-September 20, 2003. September 21-September 29, 2003. September 30-October 4, 2003. October 5-October 11, 2003. October 12-October 19, 2003. October 20-October 26, 2003. October 27-November 1, 2003. November 2-November 16, 2003. November 17-December 3, 2003. December 4-December 12, 2003. December 13-December 20, 2003. December 21-December 27, 2003. December 28, 2003-January 3, 2004. January 4-January 11, 2004. January 12-January 17, 2004. January 18-January 24, 2004. January 25-January 31, 2004. February 1-February 8, 2004. February 9-February 14, 2004. February 15-February 24, 2004. February 25-February 29, 2004. March 1-March 7, 2004. March 8-March 25, 2004. March 26-April 7, 2004. April 8-April 17, 2004. April 18-April 24, 2004. April 25-May 3, 2004. May 4-May 10, 2004. May 11-May 15, 2004. May 16-May 25, 2004. May 26-June 7, 2004. June 8-June 12, 2004. June 13-June 19, 2004. June 20-June 26, 2004. June 27-July 7, 2004. July 8-July 20, 2004. July 21-July 31, 2004. August 1-August 6, 2004. August 7-August 28, 2004. August 29-September 6, 2004. September 7-September 19, 2004.