It's Monday morning, so perhaps your perspective on the world might not be at its most positive right now, but the AP ran a two part story [1, 2] over the weekend about Bryon Widner, a former skinhead who turned his life around and chose to painfully remove his facial tattoos as part of the process.
For 16 years, Widner was a glowering, strutting, menacing vessel of hate - an "enforcer" for some of America's most notorious and violent racist skinhead groups.
Hellbent on destruction, he was living to die, though even during the bloodiest beat-downs he knew he was unlikely to lose his life as a warrior in the glorious race war promoted by the white power movement.
"It was more likely to be a bullet through the head," he says, grimly.
By the time he was 30, Widner had spent a total of four years in jail, accused of murder and other charges, though he was never convicted of a major crime. Victim intimidation, he says, took care of that.
And then he met Julie Larsen.
Like Widner, Larsen's arms and legs were covered with neo-Nazi symbols - iron crosses, a Totenkopf skull, axes crossed into a swastika, the Nazi salute "sieg heil." She posted regularly on the Internet forum, Stormfront. Its motto: "White Pride, World Wide."
...But by her 30s, the single mother of four was questioning her racist beliefs. She grew tired of telling her children they couldn't watch certain Walt Disney movies because Hollywood was controlled by Jews, or listen to rap music, or eat Chinese or Mexican food. After struggling to put an abusive marriage to a skinhead behind her, she yearned for something simpler.
"I just wanted a normal family life," she said.
And to his great surprise, Widner discovered that was what he wanted, too.
But leaving a life of hate would not be easy when it was all that he had known. And when his past was tattooed all over his face.
I'm a big fan of the Pima County Fair, not just because I enjoy carnival rides, incarnations of 70's rock bands, hypnotists, and fried food items, but also for the competition side. I'm generally frightened by animals, so I skip out on the 4H style stuff, but every year, I head over to the Home and Fine Arts competition area and see what's happening in the worlds of pickling, table decorating, and woodworking. It's just a fun time for the entire family, and since someone clearly put a lot of time into these products, I feel like I could take a few minutes to check their wares out.
However, this year, I've decided to watch from the sidelines no longer. This year, I'm going to take on these feats of creativity, cookery and design myself. However, I don't want to just participate. I want to dominate.
Another edition of the Political Roundtable, available online for your convenient viewing, as the Weekly's Jim Nintzel hosts a thirty minute discussion of what's happening in Tucson and Arizona politics.
The 16th Annual Tucson Firefighter's Chili Cook Off seemed to go off very well again this year. El Presidio was packed with revelers and chili fans of a very wide swath of age groups. Here's a link to a break-dancing 5-year-old.
I have maybe eight cups of chili. I have no idea who won, but my vote goes to the guys at Lucky Thirteen. Although, that was after I arrived and many of the booths had already run out of their own stuff.
Here are some photos from Friday night. Enjoy.
Headed out tonight to check out the 16th Annual Tucson Firefighter's Chili Cook-Off in Downtown Tucson not really knowing what to expect.
The chili was ok for the most part. The guys over at the Lucky Thirteen booth, I think, had the best. But my favorite booth was the Zombie one - of course.
HOWEVER, pictured is little Jericho Santoro, 5, a breakdancing-tumbling-cartwheeling little scene stealer.
With a Metacritic score of 91, Showtime's Homeland is by far the critical darling of the fall television season. In fact, it ranks as one of the biggest critical hits since the advent of Metacritic, good enough for 8th place all-time, putting it ahead of Louie's second season and Breaking Bad's third season, in my opinion two of the most impressive feats in the history of television.
We'll see if that holds, and if the tension-packed initial narrative can eventually draw to a satisfying close. To be sure, Homeland is intriguing, nuanced and more promising than anything Showtime has done before. But I'll be honest, I'm not getting it.
The second part of our weekly tribute to jams selected by our music writers, this time including tracks by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Mr. Gnome and Toad the Wet Sprocket.
In case you weren't near a TV last night and also forgot to set some sort of recording device, MTV has graciously provided the internet with the ability to stream the premiere of the reanimated Beavis & Butt-head, complete with shots at LMFAO and Jersey Shore.
Critics seem generally positive on the show's return, with Grantland's Jon Dolan particularly enjoying last night episode:
As '90s reunions go, the return of B&B was great-to-excellent — certainly up there with Superchunk, though maybe not quite as fine as Pavement. Now, they watch reality TV along with their video intake, and since videos aren't actually on MTV anymore they have much weirder, Internet-geared video fare to spit vivisecting aphorisms at (just describing Skrillex's "First of the Year (Equinox)" is comedy gold). But if the old joke proves ageless, history itself keeps on moving, and keeps on sucking. When the dastardly duo arrived in 1993 they sent PMRC-type scolds into a tizzy by being the reductio ad absurdum of post-Axl Rose metal-boy id. Now, they return as avenging angels of morality: Unlike the dreamless, humorless, chinless human-shaped Jell-O blobs that ooze their way across an episode of 16 and Pregnant or Addicted to Porn, Beavis and Butt-Head always understood how miserable they are ("How come we were born as us? It's not fair," Beavis asks while watching a partied-up LMFAO video). But they never stopped scouring the swamp lives they've been dealt for ripples of trickle-down awesomeness — who else but these guys could have the unsinkable optimism to still be looking for something cool on MTV in 2011. Hail to thee, blithe spirits.