Archive for the ‘Taking Umbrage’ category

Burn this!

August 16, 2010

I’m not a huge fan of holidays. (Well, except for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. But that goes without saying.)

Burn a Confederate Flag Day, however, sounds like a celebration I could get behind.

After all, racist whackos have been burning things — like, say, crosses — for decades. Turnabout is fair play.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should go so far as to burn racist whackos. That would be taking things a little far. Then again, if you wanted to throw a photo of your favorite racist whacko (there are so many to choose from these days — Limbaugh? Beck? Dr. Laura? Mad Mel Gibson? — you many need multiples) on the pyre as you’re toasting your rebel banner on September 12, that would be all right with me.

Just be sure to clean up the mess afterward. Don’t forget, Talk Like a Pirate Day is only a week later. You don’t want random ashes lying around on the big day.

While my guitar gently weeps

February 16, 2010

This explains the police helicopter overhead the other night.

I’d read over the weekend about the murder of local artisan Taku Sakashta, an internationally renowned creator of hand-crafted guitars. Early Monday morning, Rohnert Park police chased down and eventually captured a suspect in the slaying — Joshua “Crash” Begley, a recently released felon with a list of priors stretching back more than a decade — just a block or two from our house.

At the moment, it’s unclear why Begley might have killed Sakashta — although, given Begley’s history of drug-related offenses, money for dope looks like a decent bet from here. Sakashta’s body was discovered last Thursday evening near his car, a Nissan 350Z, so there’s some thought that he might have surprised Begley attempting to steal the vehicle.

Sakashta’s custom guitars sold for upward of $30,000 each. He’s described by friends — including Ken Tominaga, owner of our little burg’s best sushi restaurant, Hana — as a sweet, gentle man who routinely worked late hours in his shop without locking the front door. He leaves behind a wife and many friends.

As for the suspect, he was in custody last Monday on drug charges when he briefly escaped using a handcuff key he’d secreted in his mouth. He was recaptured, then released on bail on Tuesday.

Less than three days later, Taku Sakashta was dead.

Nice going, Sonoma County law enforcement.

What’s Up With That? #84: Grave robbers

December 3, 2009

If ever there was an argument for the return of public flogging, this just might be it.

Last weekend, a family of four from nearby Sonoma — John and Susan Maloney and their two young children, an 8-year old son and 5-year-old daughter — were killed in a horrific automobile accident, when a 19-year-old NASCAR wannabe blazed through a red light at a speed in the neighborhood of 90 MPH and smashed into the family’s minivan.

The Maloneys were returning home from a Thanksgiving vacation in Hawaii.

Nothing much can be done about the offending driver, who also died shortly after the crash. But… check this out.

A couple of twentysomethings from down on the Peninsula heard the tragic news I’ve just described — the story was ubiquitous in the local media — and said to themselves, “Hey… since those people are dead, they won’t be using their stuff any more, right?”

They seized the opportunity. After making the 70-mile trek up to Sonoma, they emptied the Maloneys’ house of valuables, including the family’s second car, a 2006 Nissan 350Z.

As it happened, the female partner in this nefarious duo got busted in a routine traffic stop in San Mateo the day after the robbery. When the police discovered that Ms. Lowlife was driving on a suspended license, they searched her car, where they discovered one of Susan Maloney’s credit cards, as well as a Blu-Ray DVD player and other items stolen from the Maloney home.

The Maloneys’ purloined vehicle was later found parked in front of the criminal mastermind’s home, with her ex-con boyfriend at the wheel. Most, if not all, of the Maloneys’ property was recovered.

In the words of Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett, “This certainly was a new low for me and, I think, for everybody else investigating this case.”

Bonnie and Clyde are now cooling their felonious heels in the Sonoma County Jail.

I’m not a violent or vindictive guy. But if authorities decided it would be a good idea to paddle these two troglodytes’ backsides in the town square at high noon…

…they’d get no argument from me.

What’s Up With That? #83: Cap’n Jack bests Cap’n Swan… again

November 18, 2009

For the umpteenth consecutive year, the editorial staff of People Magazine has seen fit to deny me my rightful title of Sexiest Man Alive.

Instead, they picked Johnny Depp again.

This seems a rather pointless exercise. Most of the women I know already think Johnny Depp is, if not the Sexiest Man Alive, at least somewhere in the top ten. The same goes for George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who are the other two gents who’ve double-dipped People‘s loftiest honor.

Why not tell the world something they don’t yet know, People?

After all, I too can talk like a pirate.

Sigh. Maybe next year.

What’s Up With That? #82: Busted bridge

October 28, 2009

I’m not a structural engineer, but…

If the recently repaired chunk of the Bay Bridge can be taken out by a stiff wind, why should we have confidence that it could withstand a major earthquake — which is the reason they’re doing all of this work on the Bay Bridge in the first place?

Seems a mite iffy to me.

Side note: Don’t you just hate it when someone begins a critique with the disclaimer, “I’m not a [insert professional specialty here], but…”? Would you have you have mistaken me for a structural engineer if I hadn’t started this post by assuring you that I wasn’t?

Somehow, I think not.

From the Get Over It Department, Supermodel Division

September 7, 2009

Here’s a little celebrity news item from the Sydney Daily Telegraph:

Supermodel Elle Macpherson has revealed she fears that she looks old compared to her young TV co-stars as she has not had plastic surgery.

The supermodel is anxious about appearing on the new CW show The Beautiful Life because she hasn’t had plastic surgery.

The 46-year-old added that she is shocked at how she looks compared to her younger co-stars, including Mischa Barton and Sara Paxton.

Macpherson said: “Sometimes I really see that I’m the one that hasn’t done anything because I think people must think, ‘Oh my God, she looks old’.”

Let me see if I understand this correctly…

Elle Macpherson is worried that she looks old compared to Mischa Barton and Sara Paxton.

Mischa Barton is 23 years old. Sara Paxton is 21. Elle Macpherson is 46 — twice Ms. Barton’s age.

Here’s a breakthrough thought, Elle: If you’re chronologically qualified to be someone’s mother, it’s okay if you look older than that person. For a 46-year-old woman — which you are — you look just fine. Quit worrying, already.

This illustrates the stupidity of Western culture’s perceptions of beauty. A 46-year-old woman should not think she should look like a 23-year-old. Or a 21-year-old. Or anything other than a 46-year-old. Because it should be okay for each of us to be what we are, and not what someone¬† half our age is, or what we ourselves used to be two decades ago.

This also illustrates one reason why plastic surgeons and pharmaceutical companies are rich, and half the people in Hollywood look like circus freaks.

Embrace the real, people.

When I’m Elle Macpherson’s age, I hope I look as good as she does.

Hmm? I’m what?

Never mind.

Sick thoughts

September 3, 2009

If you were on Facebook today, you probably had at least a few friends — and I’m using that word in the broad, accommodative way that Facebook does — who posted the following item on their home pages:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

I didn’t throw this up on my Facebook wall — mostly because, as you already know if you know me, I’m just not much of a follower.

I, however, do agree with the sentiment.

In fact, I’ll go a step further: If you don’t agree with both halves of that first sentence, there’s something seriously kapakahi with your thinking muscle.

We might debate how to accomplish these goals. We might differ on whose responsibility, and whose program, and whose nickel, and all that sort of folderol. But if you think either of these concepts is simply wrong, I don’t have any problem in telling you that there’s something wrong with you.

Because your Uncle Swan is just blunt like that.

Oh, and before you decide to pick an argument with me over this, you should know a couple of things.

One: My wife is permanently disabled with incurable, metastatic breast cancer.

Two: I worked in the healthcare industry for a dozen years, and in the seven years since, I’ve maintained several clients in that field for whom I work on a regular basis.

I know all of the arguments. From all sides. Up close. Personal.

Here’s the good news, though.

Even if you’re wrong…

…you can still be my friend.

At least on Facebook.

Things that make me say, “Huh?”

August 29, 2009

“Huh?” Inducer #1: Andy Lee, the punter for the San Francisco 49ers, hit the scoreboard at the new Cowboy Stadium in Dallas with a punted football in warmups prior to tonight’s game between the Niners and the Cowboys. Apparently, a similar feat was achieved by the punter for the University of Tennessee in a game last week.

Let me get this straight: The Cowboys spent $1.2 billion on a stadium, and nobody thought to check whether the scoreboard was high enough?

“Huh?” Inducer #2: Cinematic schlockmeister Rob Zombie is remaking the 1958 horror classic The Blob. However, says Zombie:

My intention is not to have a big red blobby thing. That’s the first thing I want to change. That gigantic Jello-looking thing might have been scary to audiences in the 1950s, but people would laugh now.

Let me get this straight: Zombie’s going to remake The Blobwithout the Blob? (Memo to RZ: Someone already beat you to thisover a decade ago. How about, you know, an original idea for a change?)

“Huh?” Inducer #3: My cell phone service provider frequently leaves recorded messages on my office voice mail to alert me to special offers on wireless minutes, hardware upgrades, and such like. This week, they left me a recorded message to tell me that after September 1, new FCC regulations will prohibit their leaving me any future recorded messages.

Let me get this straight: WHAT?

Up from the rabbit hole

August 27, 2009

Eighteen years ago, 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped near her home in South Lake Tahoe by an unknown man and woman.

Yesterday, the woman who had been Jaycee Dugard turned up alive, in reasonably good health, using the name Allissa Garrido — the 29-year-old mother of two daughters apparently fathered by her male kidnapper. She has lived for most of the past two decades in a warren of tents and shelters in the East Bay backyard of Philip and Nancy Garrido, the husband-and-wife team who snatched her in 1991. The vehicle in which she was abducted remains on the property.

I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapping occurred during a rash of similar — and for the most part, unrelated — crimes against children in northern California during the late 1980s and early 1990s. If you were living here then, and especially if you were a parent, you remember the names: Steven Collins, Ilene Misheloff, Amber Swartz-Garcia, Michaela Garecht, and yes, Jaycee Dugard.

Even the most glass-half-full person on the planet could not have supposed that one of these children would resurface intact — physically, at any rate — nearly 20 years later.

By all accounts, Phillip Garrido is a strange creature — a convicted felon who espouses cultish religious practices on his website, and claims that he speaks to angels and possesses psychic powers. What resulted in his capture, and Jaycee’s resurfacing, is the combination of these elements: Garrido, accompanied by his and Jaycee’s two young daughters, was handing out literature on the UC Berkeley campus without a permit. When campus police discovered that he was a registered sex offender in the company of children, they turned him in to the parole board. An interview with corrections officials — attended by Jaycee and her daughters — quickly revealed the unbelievable situation.

I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come, we’ll learn more about what happened to Jaycee Dugard over the course of her absence — especially how her kidnappers conducted their lives in plain sight, Jaycee and her children living openly with them, and no one ever deduced the circumstances behind the scenes. I’ll be particularly interested to hear how Jaycee lived during the late 1990s while Phillip Garrido was in prison. How did her kidnapping remain hidden even then?

There will, I’m equally sure, be much conversation about the fact that though Jaycee lived an odd and somewhat secluded life — she apparently did not attend school after her capture — she also lived without apparent restraint. She was well-known, at least by sight, by others in the community where the Garridos lived and conducted business. Yet she did not at any point contact the family from whom she was taken, a family whom — according to police interviews — she remembers perfectly well. We’ll hear quite a bit about Stockholm syndrome and related mental phenomena, wherein people who have been kidnapped or taken hostage attach themselves to and identify with their captors.

Amid all of the discussion, we’ll never know the answer to the question of how one human being could do to another what Phillip and Nancy Garrido did to Jaycee Dugard, her mother and stepfather (since divorced — her stepfather, who reported having witnessed Jaycee’s abduction, was long considered a suspect by investigators), and by extension, her children.

We may never know what happened to the other children who never came home.

Conflict of interest

August 25, 2009

Because we just can’t get enough of bizarre crime stories around these parts…

Today, two suspects were arrested in relation to a string of four armored car robberies that have occurred here in the North Bay during the past two years.

The ringleader is former Santa Rosa and Sonoma State University police officer Robert Starling.

Among the charges pending against Starling is filing a false report of an emergency. He allegedly placed the call last March that resulted in the evacuation of my (and my daughter KM’s) high school alma mater, in order to distract police during a planned robbery that — for unknown reasons — was called off at the last minute.

Years ago, MAD Magazine published an article designed to explain terms commonly heard on the evening news, using analogies that kids would understand. One of MAD‘s definitions went like this:

Conflict of interest: You’re appointed as hall monitor to keep people from stealing stuff out of lockers, but you’re the main one who’s stealing stuff out of lockers.

I believe Officer Starling just became the poster boy for conflict of interest.

Associated note: Starling’s cousin, an FBI agent named Clarice, was unavailable for comment. She was reportedly seen dining on liver, fava beans, and a nice Sonoma County Chianti.