Saturday, July 30, 2005

God Hates The Scouts

When those four scout masters from Alaska got electrocuted early last week at the quadrennial Boy Scouts Jamboree, I thought it was a tragic, freak accident. Then, on Wednesday, as a collection of scouts waited for President Bush to give a speech, the temperature shot up. Three hundred scouts had to be treated for heat-related illness. As they continued to wait, violent thunderstorms unleashed dangerous lightning and torrential rains. Bush canceled the speech. I've heard unofficial reports that a plague of locusts ate out the eyes of a troop from Peoria on Thursday.

I think its official. God hates the Scouts. And with good reason. The leadership is stomach-turningly homophobic. The merit badges are earned for doing useless, dumb stuff like making cabins out of matchsticks or mastering cribbage. They don't teach real skills that you may need to master to survive if you are out in the wild. Like how to wrestle bears or how to speak elk.

Their time has gone, and unless they disperse and burn their polyester short pants and cravats, so to will they, smited by brimstone, blood rain and falling frogs. I am on God's side on this one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Waiting For Chelsea

According to a recent news report, a Kenyan man is still waiting to hear from Bill Clinton about a proposal the man had for Chelsea's hand in marriage. According to news account, "Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor wrote Clinton asking for Chelsea's hand in 2000 when Clinton visited Kenya, Chepkurgor told the East African Standard newspaper. Chepkurgor, 36, vowed to remain single until he gets an answer to his proposal to marry Chelsea, 25."

In addition to asking for Chelsea's hand in marriage, Mr. Chepkurgor also offered praise for potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: "Chepkurgor said his letter praised Clinton's leadership and commended his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, for standing by her husband 'like an African woman' in the face of the Monica Lewinsky scandal." Few people know that Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" was actually a cover of a traditional Kikuyu folk song.

The man had been waiting for five years on a proposal. He deserves an answer for Christ's sake. He has offered 40 goats and 20 cows as a dowry. I think we all agree that this is a very -- perhaps overly (10 cows, maybe, but 20?!?) -- generous offer. Bill: call them man with your answer (not that you are asking my opinion, but like I said that is a good amount of livestock).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Accident Photos

Some pictures of my car outside the body shop after the accident (it has since been totaled, and I picked up the new car last Saturday). My six year mechanical companion is gone. Sigh. As you can see, the impact was on the driver (Jospeh K) side. Sorry for the crappy layout, I'm still figuring out the Blogger photo option. I am tech challenged.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Decisive Moment

The photograph above has been, as Hank Stram would say, matriculating around the web lately. I post it here not to mock the woman depicted; not to use PhotoShop to insert it into other photographs and create amusing juxtapositions. Those things have been done elsewhere on the internet, to great and hilarious effect. I post it to praise the photographer. And I'm not even being ironic: This is a seriously good photograph.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the photojournalist's god, believed that the task of the photographer is to capture the "decisive moment." He believed that decisive moments surround us. One of his photos in particular is often cited as the paradigmatic decisive moment:

A second earlier, and it would have been a boring shot of some guy running. A second later, and we would see a splash, not a terrific, still expanse of water. Either result might have been aesthetically pleasing, perhaps, but neither would convey tension. The decisive moment is about capturing tension at its breaking point -- not a moment sooner or later. Every photographer wants it; few ever get it.

Which takes me back to the first picture. That, my friends, is a decisive moment. The expressions on the faces of the woman and the man directly behind her have been captured in a shared moment that must have dissipated as quickly as it formed. The woman's pose is straining the limits of her body (and her pants). The viewer asks: What the hell is going on here? And what the hell is going to happen next? Seriously. Don't you wonder? Is she about to injure some people seriously? It doesn't appear that she just started on her rampage. An open area has formed around her, and a circle of onlookers has convened. Their jaws are slack, like an unimaginable terror is unfolding before them. This woman has been flipping out for several moments before the decisive one. But what about the people on the left? They seem immune to her horrific power.

This photographer, though using what must have been a cheap on-camera flash (based on the red-eye effect and the poor wide angle coverage), stumbled into photographic greatness. The possibility of stumbling into greatness is in the back of every photographer's mind. When I go out with my camera, half the time I'm snapping away just hoping I'll blunder my way into a great shot. A few weeks ago, I spent half a baseball game trying to get the moment of bat-on-ball. I got some cool shots, but never that decisive, bat-on-ball moment.

This shooter got his moment. He was probably too drunk to realize it though.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bad Karma

For the last few days, I have walked out of my garage using great caution, fearing an attack by a large flock of angry birds. On Monday morning, I walked out of my garage to pick up the paper and found the corpses of five baby birds. I looked up, and could see no discernible nest on my house. Then again, my roof is 30 feet off the ground. No nest in the tree adjacent to my driveway either.

It was a complete mystery as to how and why those birds ended up in my driveway. I know lions and other predator type mammals will kill the offspring of another male when they take over a pride. Do male bluebirds share similarly agressive instincts?

I am relatively certain that the birds are going to figure out their chicks died outside my house, and then put 2 and 2 together and come back for vengence. As they rip me to shreds with their sharp, little beaks, I will vainly be trying to rationalize with them.

Bad accident. Dead birds. Apparently, I have pissed off a wide swath of gods of multiple faiths, who have decided to consign me to period of bad luck.

Take today's ride home on the metro for example. Some older man in bicycling gear felt like the six feet of space adjacent to me was not enough for him and the passengers to get off the train. The 1.5 feet of space I was occupying was crucial to him getting off 0.05 seconds quicker. As he passed me, he started poking me and mumbling something about, "You need to step off the train and give us more room."

What do you do at a moment like that. The hypermasculine part of me wants to snap his wrist. Of defeat him in more extended combat, take over his pride and kill his offspring. Like lions and apparently bluebirds. But that would probably end with me in jail. So, instead, I decided to humiliate him.

"First, you smell [he did]. You need to bathe. You are irrational. And stop touching me."

"You need to --"

"Sir, get yourself under control and stop touching me."

"But, you need to --"

"Get it together and stop touching me."

He walked off the train, and I turned back to look at the train. It seemed like everyone was looking at me like I had been talking to myself. Eventually, I learned that several had seen his behavior and found him troubling.

It was over just like that. I exhaled and thought 'out of sight, out of mind.' Then, as the train doors closed, a wrinkle arm reached through the door at me. As the door was closing into it, the arm retreated.

Probably 100,000 people ride the metro every day. On average, I would guess that there are no more than a 100 similar incidents. Just my luck. Perhaps I need to make some sort of sacrifical offering to appease the gods. Too bad I just threw away those dead baby birds.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

We're Full Of It

So, I have been reading Bill Bryson's "Short History Of Nearly Everything,"and he actually has a comprehensible description of Einstein's principle theories, including the general theory of relativity. That theory basically posits that energy and matter are related. As Bryson puts it "Energy is liberated matter; matter is energy waiting to happen." Hence, the E=mc squared formulation (i.e., energy equals mass times the speed of light squared)

How does that apply to us as humans? Bryson answers the question. Next time you complain that you are "tired," consider this: the matter that makes up the average human body contains 70,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules of potential energy. How much is that? According to Bryson, that potential energy is equivalent to the force of 30 hydrogen bombs. If this doesn't stop a prankster physicist from lighting his farts near particle accelerators, I don't know what would.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Toes and Fingers

A couple more weeks of silence, coupled with intense preoccupation with baseball, have generated this Great Thought: Wouldn't the world be strange if, instead of settling upon a decimal numbering system, we had settled on a hexadecimal system (because, perhaps, we had 16 fingers instead of 10)? *

For instance, today, Rafael Palmeiro would be one hit away from bb8. Or, more likely, a couple seasons ago we all would have waited with bated breath for him to get his aaa'th hit (or 2730th, to our decimal-trained minds). A .300 hitter would be a .12c hitter. In hexadecimal land, we might have begun idolizing .150 hitters (who would really be .336 hitters). The 500-homer plateau would instead be marked with the player's 1f4'th home run. Given that linguistic weirdness, I suspect the mark of home run greatness would be 300 homers (or 512 to those among us still obsessed with 10).

Unanswered above is how the game of baseball would be different if we had 16 fingers, instead of 10. Pitchers would certainly have a wider variety of pitches to throw. Strange spins could be imparted by the 6th, 7th, and 8th fingers. Without a corresponding benefit to batters, averages would likely decrease. And I can't think of a particular benefit to batters of additional fingers. To the contrary, they would face another detriment: Fielders would have large gloves and additional fielding dexterity. Hot ground balls would be successfully fielded more often; low throws dug out more effectively.

If we had 16 fingers, we'd probably have 16 toes too. That might benefit hitters a little. They would probably be more stable. However, so would fielders and pitchers pushing off their back feet. Would players be faster? I don't know. Do people who lose toes become slower?

Based on these difficulties, I'd be surprised if many hexadecimal-land hitters batted better than 10c.

Just to show I'm not totally consumed by baseball, let’s think in non-baseball terms. In April, I turned 21. Cool! Of course, I would have been getting snot-drunk since the age of 15. The next major milestone would occur when I turn 41 and become eligible for social security. A store that never closes would be open 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 16d days a year. Speaking of years, what year is it? Why, it's the year of our Lord, 7d3, of course.

There may be a smartass out there who will make the following observation: If we really lived in hexadecimal land, numerals would not run from 0 to 10 and then be followed by letters. Instead, we would have 6 additional numerals. Thus, all the examples above are incorrect, because they depend on a force-fitting of a hexadecimal nomenclature into a decimal world. To that smartass, I say: There, I've made the point for you. Just realize this: You're annoying. Almost as annoying as someone who would spend an hour of a perfectly good day running meaningless crap through a stupid numerical conversion calculator he found on the internet.

* Don't ask me how this fits in with the scary story you've heard from Joseph K. I can't compete with that, and I can't post anything that might be deemed an attempt to compete with that. So instead I'm posting something that is totally, utterly, and absurdly different.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Accident, The Aftermath

I am not sure how I am. My shoulder was sore the day of the accident. It is ok now. I realized the next day, there was a sore spot on the side of my head. It is ok today. My neck was fine the day of the accident. Now, it has some soreness. I'll give it a couple of days. After that, I go so the people I avoid at all costs: doctors. Have them guess at whether I'm broken or fixable.

My car may be dead. The insurance company is figuring that out now. At their own pace. Even if my car is fixed, it's unsellable. The frame was clearly fucked. No one should ever buy a car with a fucked frame. Who knows what else is wrong with her. She's been my car for six years. Never a problem. And here I am hoping she's dead. Because if she is, she's scrap, I get a check and a new car. Not a refurbished car that is shade of her old self, destined to be run into the ground. I am shallow.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to the Sixth District D.C. police station to get the traffic accident report.

When I arrived, there were two people in front of me. One woman was being assisted by the desk officer. They were paging through paper desk logs looking for a lost property incident number.

"When did you say the loss happened?" the desk officer asked.

"June 7." the woman said.

"Nothing here for June 7."

"Maybe it was September 23," the woman replied.

This went on for ten minutes. With changing dates. Finally, the desk officer asked the man in front of me what he wanted.

"Hey, baby, I'm Ken Bell. I am here for the files."

She handed him some files on the desk. He went through them for some time tsking detailed notes.

"What do you want?" the desk officer asked me.

"An accident report from yesterday."

"Go have a seat. You need to wait." The desk officer went back to searching in vain for the woman's loss report number.

"Maybe Decmber 12?" the woman said. They searched. I waited. For a while.

I sat for some time. Then I got up and paced. Finally, an officer from sitting in a bullpen behind the main desk came up.

"Can I help you, sir?" he asked.

"Yeah. I just need a copy of an accident report. Here's the number."

He went to the same files the Ken Bell had been looking at. He made copies of a report and handed it to me. Time elapsed: three minutes.

When I got home that night, I had many messages. One had a familiar voice.

"Hello, Mr. K. I am Ken Bell. A, uh, accident investigator from D.C. You may be hurt from the accident you were involved in. I know people who can help you. You may be wondering about your options. I know lawyers who can help you. Mr. K, you are not alone. I can help you."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Accident, Part 2

I was waiting for about ten minutes when my friend T drove up. I'd asked her to come by and give me a ride home eventually.

"So, how long before the tow truck comes?" she asked.

"I dunno. Maybe a couple of hours."

"Are you serious?!?"

"Apparently not," I said. A tow truck was coming our way. I flagged him down.

He opened the door and loud music exploded out of the tow truck. The tow truck guy leaned out, snarled at me and said, "Yeah." He was in his late twenties, covered in all kinds of not so creative tatoos, and clad in a LeBron James jersey.

"So, are you from AAA?" I asked.



So, tow truck guy hooks up the front of my car and starts lifting it up.

"Wait," I said. "The back tire is basically shredded."

"Shit, why didn't you say that in the first place. We have to hook it up front the rear. Shit, man, you should have said something. Goddam."

Once he finished his conniption, I turned what was left of my car around and backed it up.

"Rear wheel drive?" tow truck guy spat.

"No, all wheel drive."

He looked confused. "Ok. Well, I guess we...uh, put it in neutral and leave the engine running, I guess."

He guesses?

So, he hooked up the car. "Where is it going?"

"______ on ___________ in __________."

"I'm not sure where that is. I'll follow you."

"Ok, you know how to get to _______________?"

"Yeah," tow truck guy said.

"Ok, I am not sure how to get there, but I can guide you from there. So we'll follow you until that point, and then you follow us."

"Whatever. Anyway, you know there is a $65 charge and its $3 a mile."

"What? No, I spoke to AAA, there is no $65 fee. Just the $3 a mile, with the first three miles free."

"You want me to leave your shit here?"

"Look dude, you saw the car. I almost died today for Christ's sake --"

"That's not my problem."

"Go ahead. Let's go."

And we were off. The first thing I did was call his office from my cell.

"Hello ____ Towing."

"Hi, I am Joseph K. Your driver responded to my AAA request."

"Yes sir. Did he find you?"

"Yes, but he said there is a $65 administrative fee."

"No, not at all you are AAA. He knows better."

"Could you -- what's going on?!?"

"What?" the tow truck company employee asked.

"Hold on one second please. T, what the fuck?!?"

We were flying down 295 at about 90 miles per hour, trying to keep up with the tow truck guy. My car, apparently loosely secured, was swaying back and forth.

"We're losing him!" I exclaimed.

"My car cannot go any faster," T exclaimed. It's true. Her car is a piece of shit.

I was like Kirk yelling at Scotty to get more power to the Enterprise's engines. "Come on, gun it! Gun it!"

"Sir," the tow truck employee said.

"Yes, sorry. We're trying to keep up with your driver who is doing 90 with my car attached."

"What can I do for you sir?"

"Tell him to slow down and that we are not charged a $65 administrative fee. And I think we've lost him. The address is ________"


We lost my car. Temporarily. He managed to find the autobody shop.

"Alright, that's 13 miles. Three are free. So that's $30 plus $65, so $95."

"No, I talked to your office. They confirmed that I don't pay the $65 administrative fee."

"That's wrong. It's $95."

"Let's call together, shall we." My voice was loud and I was in his face. He was big, tatooed and strong. And maybe a an ex-con. The autobody shop was off on a deserted street.

"Ok," he said. He seemed less sure of himself. Already long story short, the tow truck employee confirmed I was right.

"So," I said to the driver,"It's $30. You got change for $40."

"Not at all."

"Well, I have a $20 and six ones. I am sure my friend T has change. Hold on one sec -- "

"Why don't you give it to me as a tip?" Yes, he was serious.

"Fine. Leave the car over there."

He lowered the car into place and then said, "alright, brother, you have a good day."

I looked at him long and hard and said, "Fuck off." He was driving away at the time.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Accident, Part 1

I had planned on blogging about the road trip I had taken this weekend. In search of the most delicious circle of hot ground beef on the East Coast. I found it, and there is a good story to tell there. But, circumstances intervened.


"What?!?" I responded. The guy on the other line was the insurance company estimator. The issue is whether my car is a total loss in insurance speak. If the cost of repairing my car is more than 73% of its current value, it is considered a total loss and I get a check for the current value of my car. It won't be repaired. It'll be sold for scrap. My car is basically dead in insurance speak. Maybe. I find out tomorrow.

From the police report: "D-2 [Joseph K] was traveking southbound in the 500 block of 34th St, NE making a lefthand turn into a parking lot when D-1 [other driver] was also traveling southbound behind D-2. As D-2 was turning left, D-1's right front passenger side hit D-2 in the rear passenger door causing the listed damage. D-1 was [issued several citations]."

That's it. That's the narrative in the report. It's missing a lot.

Such as, I had been playing golf at a course not more than 10 blocks away and had scored a 101, which for me was a phenomenal round. It's also missing the fact that the impact, had it been 3 feet to the left would have caused me some devastating injuries. If not death. Didn't happen though, and the report memorialized the known facts.

Behind the bland copspeak of the report there are the stories of two people, connected only by near death and shredded metal.

I picked up the police report this afternoon. The curiousity got the best of me. I needed to know more about the thing than my memory yielded.

I was driving down 34th street in NE D.C. I was turning left into a parking lot to turn around and go back the way I came. I turned on my turn signal and began my turn. As I turned left, a woman named Cristy who was driving behind me -- for some reason still unclear to me -- ran into the driver side of my car. Clearly speeding, but none of that in the report. Three feet. Three feet to the left of the principal impact, and I might be taking my future meals through a straw.

Cristy and I are more similar than one might think if you look at the superficial identifiers. She is only seven days older than me. But, she also has three kids (who were in the car), the oldest of whom is 13. She had him when she was 17. When I was 17, I was fucking around at some so-called good college, intellectually masturbating about the ways of the world. Our lives were radically different, far more so than the difference in our ages.

The kids were ok.

She didn't say sorry. I blame her for that the most. The impact of the collison spun my car 90 degrees. I remember seeing her face fleetingly as my car spun around. She didn't look particularly moved. She kept driving. In fact, I had to chase her to stop her to make sure she didn't leave the scene. No easy feat since my door wouldn't open, and I had some achiness from slamming into the side of my car on impact. I had to leap over to the passenger side, open the door and run down the street.

She cried a lot once the police came. The police officers were on bikes. It was a hot day, but they were pretty dry. They got the facts. They didn't empathize that much. With me. The guy driving the German car. My cell phone didn't work, but I had to practically beg for a cell phone from them.

The cops took the info down and prepared a report. Cristy was allowed to drive off with her busted car. I was left waiting for my tow truck that was going to come in any where from 15 minutes to three hours.

"Be safe," one office said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, this is a really bad neighborhood. In fact, if you can move your car, move it closer to Benning Road (main road 100 feet from accident.). Normally, we'd stay, but we have to continue our patrol."

"I understand, but my cell phone doesn't work. So, if it is as bad as you say, I hope you guys will be close in case something happens."

"Ha ha. Right, sir," one of the officers said.

"I'm being serious," I said.

"Hey man," some random dude who appeared on the scene said. "You need a tow?"

"No, man," I replied. "I got it covered."

"Ok." he left. Sort of. He was lingering.

"I can't believe it," one cop said,"It's illegal to solicit tow services at an accident scene unless called by us or the driver. These shady guys will hook your car and steal it or charge you insane rates. Well, like I said, be safe."

Then, they were gone. And, I was left there waiting for the tow truck.

Joseph K Cheats Death

So I almost died yesterday. Or almost became an invalid. If you saw what remained of my car, you'd think I was starring in the sequel to "Unbreakable." It's a long story that I'll tell in my next post.

There were actually -- to me -- some funny parts to the story. But, what's been happening this morning takes the proverbial cake. Since about 7:30 this morning I have gotten 5 telephone calls from shady law firms trying to cash in on what happened (apparently they came across information about the accident on some sort of database). I have to say they are very creative. They basically traffic in vagueness. One smooth guy claimed to be "an investigator from D.C." Another woman botched her schpiel by asking for "Ms. K." After about three questions (unfortunately for them, I am a lawyer and more work involves investigations), they all eventually revealed that they were representatives from bottomfeeder law firms trying to get in on the action arising out of the accident that nearly ended my life.

Nevertheless, it's been giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I mean these firms have called 5 times. My parents have only called twice since it happened. Clearly, my extended law firm family loves me more.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Personal London Bombing Story AKA "Bad Brother"

Phone conversation with Mom K this afternoon.

Joseph K: Joseph K.

Mom K: Hi Joseph.

Joseph K: Mom K. How are you and Dad K doing?

Mom K: Well. We're doing really well.

Joseph K: Good.

Mom K: How are you?

Joseph K (playing solitaire): Busy. Real busy, but doing good.

Mom K: Great. Well, I just wanted to let you know that L ("Sister K") is doing fine. She called us this morning to let us know she's ok.

Joseph K: Um, ok. Er, thanks?

Mom K: You know L is in London this week, right?

Joseph K: L is in London?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Redefining Normalcy

The notion of normalcy has taken its hits over the recent years, mostly at the hands of phamaceutical companies. Blood pressue 120/80? That's no longer normal, but high normal. May need a beta blocker. Sad more than twice last month? You may be depressed and should ask your doctors about the plethora of anti-depression medicine available on the market. In short, we are no longer ok or normal, but rather diseased, depressed miserable beings. The minute you are born, you are in a slow state of decay and dying; these motherfuckers are intent on making us fully aware of it.

But, there are some on the other end of the spectrum that are trying to define abberations as normal. This post was prompted by an article I read on Slate (you have to scroll down a bit) about a study about penis size. Normally, Banality Fair does not explore such salacious topics, but this study merits a mention and some comment. According to the study, patients who came in for treatment for being underendowed were told that an erect member of 7 centimeters or more is considered "normal." Providing this information was enough to convince men who consulted physicians about being underendowed from not experimenting with undertested lengthening techniques.

For those of you who are not deft at converting the metric system to inches, 7 centimeters is about 2 and 3/4 inches. That is considered on the low end of "normal."

Joseph K's analysis: Come on.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Another Animal Injustice Rectified

As some of you may know, I am a strong advocate against the wrongful imprisonment of animals. I was a strong voice calling for the release of Pacho, a Colombian burro who was wrongfully imprisoned for causing an accident with motorcyclist; what made the situation particularly egregious is that the motorcyclist was drunk, but Pacho still got blamed.

I am pleased to announce that...well, it has no name I know if...a Nigerian cow was freed after it had been imprisoned on murder charges. The cow had gored and trampled a bus driver who had pulled over to take a piss in a field.

Can you really blame the cow for being...well, pissed? That field is probably where the cow eats. And this bus driver has the nerve to just piss on its food. Imagine if a cow came into your dining room and pissed on your souffle. You'd be ready to headbutt the creep.

The owner was charged with negilgence and "a dangerous act" for letting the cow roam so freely. I guess this story is a warning to all that cows are not toys or playthings. If you have kids, you probably should keep any cows you have locked up in a safe.