john peel r.i.p.

John Peel, R.I.P. Truly one of the great figures of rock music.
And he got his start in Dallas, on WRR (back before it was classical). “WRR had a late night program that all the kids used to listen to called ‘Kat’s Karavan’ which was a rhythm ‘n’ blues program and played almost entirely black music. But the audience was almost entirely white in one of those kinda strange things that goes on in American culture, and the kids who listened loved the music but if any of the musicians had turned up on their front door they would have called the police, because it was quite a racist society at the time. But I had some records which were only available in Europe — some in this country, some in the Netherlands — and I took them to the radio station and they asked me to go on the program and talk about these records, which I thought they’d done because of my extraordinary knowledge of the music, but I think they probably did because they thought I had such an amusing accent — which by Texas standards I certainly did.”
Read the link for his own brief brush with Lee Harvey Oswald.

pitcairn sex trials end

Speaking of faraway places I’ve been: the sex trial on Pitcairn Island has ended in convictions.
Some background: Pitcairn Island is, depending on your definitions, perhaps the most remote inhabited place on earth. It’s a tiny inaccessible speck in the South Pacific, home to 47 people. Those people have a history: They’re the descendants of Fletcher Christian and the other sailors who led the famous mutiny on the Bounty. (If you watch late-night cable, you’ve no doubt stumbled upon one of the five movie versions of the mutiny, in which Fletcher has been played by such actors as Marlon Brando, Mel Gibson, Errol Flynn, and Clark Gable.)
In 1999, through a series of happy accidents I won’t bother you with, I became the first American reporter in more than a decade to visit Pitcairn. (I think the first since 1986, if memory serves.) I wrote a series of articles about the island and its impending demise for my old newspaper. (Here they are: the main story; a sidebar on the mutiny; a sidebar on getting to Pitcairn; and a sidebar on their language. Some of my photos are here and here.)
Anyway, shortly after I left the island, a child sex scandal erupted. It seems that, for decades, the men of Pitcairn have been having sex with the island’s girls, some as young as 10. After an investigation dragged on for years, 12 men were charged with a variety of sex crimes — six island men and six ex-Pitcairners who now lived elsewhere.
Now the trials of the first six have concluded, and they’re guilty. It’s strange to look down a list of men convicted for child rape and see quite a few I know. The alleged “kingpin,” Steve Christian? I stayed at his house for a week. Dennis Christian? I have a wooden model Bounty he carved in my closet. Dave Brown? I have some honey he gathered in a jar in my kitchen.
This process has been screwed up from the very start. First of all, it’s taken five long years for the charges to be tried. Second, some of the charges are based on incidents 40 years old. I’m not sure what’s gained by trying a four-decades-old sex crime case.
At first, the Pitcairn men argued that they’re Polynesian islanders, and that you can’t judge them with traditional British sexual mores. (Pitcairn is still a British colony, and they were tried under British law.) But we’re not just talking about underage consensual sex here — we’re talking about rape.
On the other hand, the sexual lives of Pitcairn men appear to have been established for centuries — it’s not as if these guys were doing anything their fathers and grandfathers hadn’t done before them. It’s what they were taught from a young age. Dozens of Pitcairn women (past and present residents) stood up to defend their men, saying the island’s sexual habits were just the way things were — they’d had sex at an early age and survived just fine, thank you very much. When something is so clearly ingrained in a culture, the question of individual blame becomes dicey.
But the worst thing the trials have brought, from an island-wide perspective, is division. This is an island with 47 people. They’re all related. And a lot of them hate each other already. (Lots of petty, decades-old disputes.) Now you’ve got many of the women accusing the men of rape, apparently rightly so. The island was near death when I visited five years ago — I can’t imagine how it can proceed with that sort of divide hanging over it. Not to mention the fact that if the men actually end up going to jail, the island simply may not be able to operate. (There are very few able-bodied adults left to do the island’s work.)
I feel worst of all for the girls I met on Pitcairn. There were a handful of young teenagers on the island when I visited. All sweet girls. One younger girl, maybe 8 years old, was so cute and darling and sweet I wanted to cram her into my bag, take her back to the States and adopt her. Her dad was an ass, and it was clear there wasn’t much of a future for her on Pitcairn. I hate to think what she’s been put through in the name of island tradition.

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zambia independence day

Happy Zambian Independence Day! Forty years ago yesterday, the British government transferred power to a group of freedom fighters led by Kenneth Kaunda. It’s not too late to send a greeting card to the Zambians you love!
For those unfamiliar with my interest in Zambia, I spent six weeks there last year as a Pew Fellow. Here’s the blog I kept while there.
I had a chance to meet with Kaunda while I was there. He’s a great (if imperfect) man. I’m glad the current administration in Zambia finally admitted a few days ago that Kaunda was not involved in the 1997 coup attempt, for which he’d been arrested. (Kaunda lost reelection in 1991 and was replaced with the deeply unimpressive Chiluba regime. Chiluba, growing increasingly unpopular and fearing a Kaunda return to power, trumped up the coup charges.)
Speaking of Zambia, Sunday Times readers may have seen this travel piece by Jill Abramson, the Times’ managing editor. It’s all about her stay at the Royal Livingstone, next to Victoria Falls on the Zam/Zimbabwe border. If it sounds like an appealing place to stay, don’t get too excited until you get to the end and see the price tag: rooms starting at $539 a night.
When I was in Livingstone, I saw the Royal Livingstone on a couple occasions. Seemed like a nice place. I stayed, however, at Gecko’s Guesthouse, a perfectly acceptable place that cost $12 a night. While I (unlike Jill) didn’t have a personal butler, I’m still convinced I made the right choice.

bush v. kerry = subway v. subway

The branding of the president. Consumer research uncovers which brand names supporters of Bush and Kerry associate with the two candidates. For instance, Bush supporters think of Kerry as a snooty Starbucks guy. Kerry supporters think of Bush as a tasteless Bud Light.
The key finding, however, is in the fast-food category. Bush supporters think of their man as a Subway guy and Kerry as McDonald’s. (Perhaps a Clinton image hangover there.)
But Kerry supporters also think of their man as a Subway guy and view Bush as McDonald’s. In other words, both sides view Subway as a symbol of their guy and McDonald’s as the boo-hiss symbol of their enemy.
Clearly, Jared’s endorsement will prove pivotal.

pixies photo

This is photographic proof that my illness subsided sufficiently for me to see the Pixies last night. Damn it, if I pay $50 for tickets, I can will sickness away! Maybe that’s the solution for Third World illnesses. Force every cholera victim in Bolivia to buy $50 Pixies tickets, then tell them they’ll go to waste unless they feel better. Bingo: No more cholera.
Dude, doesn’t Frank Black look great in that photo? And I love the look on Kim Deal’s face.

random sick links

Random, disjointed, Nyquil-addled thoughts:
– I am sick. Sick as a dog. A dog who hasn’t gotten its shots. And hasn’t been eating his Science Diet at proper intervals. Fever got up to 103.5 last night, and I last slept on Friday night. Bone-shaking chills alternating with sixth-circle-of-hell sweats. Body aches, sandpaper throat, a throbbing head. All around fun times.
Sure sounds flu-ish, but I suspect the assortment of fried objects at the State Fair on Saturday played a role.
On the plus side, I’m feeling significantly better now, thanks. Fever’s down to about 100, and the headache is mostly gone.
– The act of seeking medical attention today was made more difficult by the fact my poodle-loving doctor has shut down his practice. Declared bankruptcy. I hope his poodle will be okay.
– For the record: fried S’mores > fried Snickers > fried marshmallows.
– Got a new cell phone, so you can ignore that note from a couple days ago. Number is the same as before.
– Wonkette has got plenty of links to the Jon Stewart/Tucker Carlson smackdown.
– My fantasy football team, the Bum Phillippi, continues to excel. This week’s matchup was a clash of the nerd-sports-fan titans, as the B.P. took on the only other undefeated team in the league, Orlando Cabrera.
Only one man’s misguided projection of his masculinity would be left standing! Only one man would still be able to vicariously live his high school fantasies of athletic success through the large, well-paid gentlemen of the NFL!
That one man is, natch, me, as the B.P. made mincemeat out of that mouse. The Phillippi now stand alone atop the league at 6-0. I suspect the ’72 Dolphins are getting nervous.