Begging The Question

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Name is Luka. I Live on the Second Floor.
I got an odd note from my upstairs neighbor the other day. A little background. A guy and a girl about my age live in the apartment above mine. These are the only two apartments in the building. I've had, I think, two conversations totaling about ten minutes with the couple. We have different schedules, so I never even see them coming in or out of the building. They're both, I gather, kind of artsy types, although I think the girl has a "normal," 9-to-5 job. I hear them walking around sometimes, but it's never bothered me. I once thought I heard, conjugating up there, but it turned out to be my icemaker.

Anyway, this note shows up in my mailbox. It's a torn-off sheet from a mini legal pad. In the note, the girl apologizes for the noise they've been making lately, and tells me they've been going through a "rough spot." That was pretty much it, just some apologies for the noise, and an assurance that this isn't how they usually are. It was signed with her name only.

I'm confused by the note and not sure what to do about it. I think if it had been a joint effort, it would have been signed in both their names, or at least been, say, taped to my door, I would think the guy knew about it. But since just her name was on it, and it was dropped in my mailbox, where he couldn't have seen it, I have to wonder if he knows about her apology. I think I have to proceed under the assumption that he doesn't.

Another weird aspect of this is that I truly hadn't noticed anything different, and certainly nothing rising to the level of a "ruckus." Part of that may just be the layouts of our apartments; I don't spend a lot of time actually underneath them. Part of it may be that I'm just oblivious. Part of it may be they really haven't been louder. And part of it may be that the walls and floors here are thicker than I thought. Anyway, the note was the first inkling I had of anything being amiss. And I'll admit that my curiosity has been piqued, and not that I've been pressing my ear to the ceiling, but I haven't heard any noise since the note arrived.

So I'm not sure how to deal with this. As I said, I don't see them that often, and the only times I have, they've been together. So I really don't foresee having a chance to get her alone and say that I got her note but that she didn't have anything to worry about. And I really don't want to say something in front of him. At a minimum, it would be awkward if he didn't know about it. At most, I can't discount the possibility that she confided in me because she's afraid of him.

It's that possibility that makes me reluctant to do nothing. I would like to at least get word to her that she can contact me if she thinks she's in danger. I don't really think that's the case, in part because I think she could take him in a fight, but I don't want to rule it out. (I mentioned all this to a friend, and he suggested she may have sent me the note because she's interested in me. I did rule out this possibility, not least because it would be a very strange way to make a pass at someone. And it would be exceedingly awkward if she moved downstairs in the same building.)

Here's the best idea I've come up with so far. I thought I could leave a note on their door saying that I wanted them to have my contact information in case of an emergency or a lock-out or something. We've been neighbors a brief enough time that I think it wouldn't seem too odd to "finally" be getting around to this. I could include my phone numbers and email on the note. That way, she could have the info and contact me without him knowing, if she wanted. This seems like the most innocuous way to get a message to her. I would have to hope that, coming so soon after her note, she would take it as a "message received."

A contact info note from me might also prompt them to send me a similar note. If that note had her email address on it, then I guess I would have to decide if I should go a step further and send her an email in response to her mailbox note. Of course, I wouldn't want that to seem creepy, or like I'm saying "Sorry for invading your privacy, but I was worried your boyfriend is abusive." I should reiterate that there's nothing overt along those lines in her note, and I have no independent evidence for that theory.

I think, for now, I'm just going to wait, and only act if I actually hear them fighting. If it's loud enough for me to hear, it would have to be louder than their "ruckus," and that would concern me. And who knows -- maybe I'll run into her alone one day and obviate the need for any subterfuge. But if anyone else has a better idea, I'm open to suggestion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

ALL-REQUEST: Hodgepodge
I'm going to take care of a few of this week's requests (keep 'em coming!) that I don't have a full post's worth of material for. I'll continue to work on the rest throughout the week.

First, PG requests my thoughts on upperclassmen making fun of 1L's, referencing a post from Wings & Vodka poking fun at a 1L gunner. I'm ok with this. Many 1L's need to be taken down a peg, and sometimes humble pie needs to be force-fed. The only thing worse than an arrogant 1L is the one who thinks you're making fun of him because you like him.

PG goes to ask for advice on "the best way to tell your mother not to visit you without hurting her feelings." I always blame it on having too much work to do. That way, she's mad at my boss and not me. I guess you could also ask if she's willing to sleep on the couch so you and your boyfriend can share the bed, but with some mothers, that might make them more likely to visit.

Mike of C&F asks, "If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about the judicial system, what would that change be?" I answered a similar question some months ago in our old "Friday Spies" series with this: "I would amend Article III of the Constitution to provide that 'the judicial power of the United States shall be vested' in me." I'll stick with that answer.

Obsessive Law Student seeks my thoughts on Nicole Richie's new book. Surprising even myself, I have some! Via The Superficial, I see this excerpt of Richie's opus, The Truth About Diamonds. It's kind of what you would expect. It's about a party girl making the club scene in Los Angeles. It's kind of like Almost Famous meets 54 or something. Well, maybe if those stories were written by someone who had never been in a nightclub. I mean, seriously -- "sneak[ing] into The Viper Room under the noses of the bouncers when we were thirteen"?! How, by stepping over River Phoenix? Richie makes these clubs sound like clubhouses for the Little Rascals, when every picture I ever see of her and her club-hopping ilk make it appear as though these clubs are soul-sucking black holes of iniquity. What I really wonder about is the book's title. My guess is that the "truth" Richie will tell us is that diamonds aren't really the hardest substance known to's her party girl's indomitable spirit!

Cheech wonders about "[t]hings you're willing, or not willing, to offer as inducements for Fitz to come back." Well, the settlement agreement prevents me from going into detail, but let's just say my "inducements" might have been the reason he left in the first place.

Finally, McPan requests that I "[k]ill an animal, preferably a snake." I wish I could comply, but at the same time I kind of hope I never have to. I guess I'd better stay away from those R.O.U.S.'s. I suppose the biggest thing I've ever killed was a fish. But unlike Fitz the wimp, at least I ate my kill.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

ALL-REQUEST: Bad Christmas Songs
Seb has this request: [M]y company is letting employees suggest 2-3 songs each to be played at the holiday party this year. Since I'm likely not going, what are some of the worst songs I could suggest?"

This is easy. There are plenty of cheesy-bad Christmas songs like the Chipmunks' Christmas song. But it's supposed to be goofy, and it's so endearingly sickly sweet that some people actually like it. So you can't pick a song like that one if your aim is to drop the bad song bomb on your co-workers.

So what you need to find is songs that are actually intended to be earnest songs of love and joy, but instead turned out saccharin and insipid and annoying. My nominees are Elton John's "Step Into Christmas," Paul McCartney's "(Simply Having) A Wonderful Christmas Time," and John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," which has the added benefit of making it seem like you're anti-war. Any of these should be the Christmas equivalent of the "Afternoon Delight" scene in PCU.

By the way, if you're looking for obscure-but-good Christmas tunes, try "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses, and "Father Christmas" by the Kinks. Have fun skipping the party!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

All-Request Week
Alright, clearly I'm having trouble coming up with post ideas these days. So if you want to see new content here, pitch in and help out. I'm declaring this an ALL-REQUEST WEEK. Try not to make 'em too hard; I'm the only one spinning the plates around here. Thanks a lot.

Random Thoughts
Here are a few items I've noted might be post-worthy, but ultimately never got around to expanding on. Anyway, I thought I would clear them off my ledger and offer some brief thoughts.

1. Maybe Hugo Chavez should run for office in Dover, PA. After last week's election in York County resulted in the ouster of pro-Intelligent Design school board members, evangelist Pat Robertson said that Dover citizens shouldn't look to God if there's a disaster there, because they've "rejected" God. Here's a nice local response. I guess I'm confused because I thought ID wasn't supposed to be, necessarily, about God. You know, if I were writing a movie about a situation like this, the evangelist character would eventually snap and do something like take out the dam above the town, so he could "prove" that God had foresaken the people. I'm not saying Robertson would do something like that, but he spends a lot of time predicting disasters. So much time that one might think that his credibility would eventually hinge on him being correct. I'm just saying.

2. Perhaps I don't have the credibility to say this after snarking at Pat Robertson above, and I really don't want to start a fuss over it, but let me just say that I think it's possible -- just theoretically possible -- to say the phrase "Happy Holidays" and not necessarily mean "I hate Jesus." And that's all I'll say about it.

3. This may be the weirdest story I've seen in a while. The title is "The Hustler, the Heiress, and the Soft Porn King," and if that doesn't lure you in, no headline ever will. As the author notes, it's like Six Degrees of Separation meets "Girls Gone Wild."

4. Here's an interesting essay in "The Weekly Standard" about how the Republican Party can reach out to lower- and middle-class voters. There are some good ideas in here, but I don't think the GOP will adopt many of them. But it's nice to see conservatives recognize that having so many uninsured Americans is a real problem.

5. Here's one from Judge Posner in "The New Republic" about how the federal government, by its nature, may be incapable of dealing with catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina. (It has a lot to do with not being able to take the long view and do cost-benefit analysis.) I've been doing some reading about this issue, and I may have more to say later.

6. Last week the Freakonomics bloggers asked "Why Vote?" and noting that economists almost universally consider voting to be a worthless act, because there's essentially no chance your particular vote will be the one that matters (and even if it were the single vote that mattered, it's not as if the candidates would know that in time to make it worth casting your vote for one of them). I can understand these arguments, but I still vote (most of the time). For one thing, as some of the commenters there posited, voting is a social act, and people want to think of themselves as someone who participates in the system and fulfills a civic duty. That has value to them. Also, the best analogy I've ever heard for voting is that it's like cheering at a sporting event. It's almost impossible that your individual cheer will make any difference in the outcome. But you still do it because it's an expressive act, you feel good doing it whether it matters or not, and perhaps because of a sense that the game/election is better if more people participate -- an election where a lot of people vote is like a game where the crowd gets really into it. So anyway, that's why I vote: it's like cheering for Team America!

8. Speaking of voting, here's a funny story from the Sacramento Bee "Insider" blog. Last week, when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went to vote in the state's ballot measures, it turned out that he was listed as having already voted. Problem was, he hadn't. "Schwarzenegger" seems like a hard name to make a mistake with. The Gov. wasn't trying to stuff the ballot boxes. It seems that poll workers had used his name to test the voting machines, and then had forgotten to erase their test. So even though all the ballot measures Schwarzenegger backed were defeated, at least his vote was counted (but only once).

9. Speaking of Schwarzenegger, he's about to face another difficult political test. As noted in sveral stories linked at How Appealing, Crips gang founder and death row inmate Stan "Tookie" Williams has petitioned Gov. Schwarzenegger for executive clemency. The execution is scheduled for December 13. I've been following this case since way back here, and I will be interested to see what Schwarzenegger does.

10. Lots of good stuff lately at Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer blog, the Fanopticon (and see my review of RJYH here). I'm sure Warren's down after the Tide's loss yesterday, so I thought I'd send some traffic his way. It's worth a visit just for the pictures he has up now.

11. I've recently discovered the web comic Questionable Content. It's probably semi-work-safe at best. But it's funny and insightful. It's the adventures of a "frustrated 20-something music nerd" and his friends. I've been working my way through the archives, and there's a lot of good material there.

12. On a personal note, I feel like I've been suffering from a brain cloud lately. Maybe it's seasonal. Maybe I'm just missing Fitz. Maybe...never mind. Anyway, I'm not going to do anything drastic, but I feel like I need to shake things up a little. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: 7. As Dylan helpfully pointed out, I misnumbered and forgot #7. So, here's a bonus item, Mike Tyson and Bobby Brown singing "The Monster Mash" on Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween show. I'm not saying Dylan reminded me of those guy, though.

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