DON’T INSULT THE IRON SHEIK, BUBBA
If you know anything about professional wrestling, you know who the Iron Sheik is. The legendary heel started his WWF career back in the early 80s, when he was part of an anti-American tag team with Nikolai Volkoff. Hulk Hogan beat the Sheik to earn his first title, and the Iranian-born star—his real name is Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri—was a major character during pro wrestling’s golden era. In “real” life, Hossein was a talented Greco-Roman wrestler who served in the Iranian Army and worked as a bodyguard to the Shah before emigrating to the US in the late 60s and achieving the American Dream many times over.
Today, nearly 40 years after the Sheik adopted his trademark shaved head and mustache and stepped into the ring, he’s more famous than ever before, thanks to frequent appearances on The Howard Stern Show and his Twitter account, a hilarious, profane, stream-of-consciousness rant about everything from celebrities to the Sheik’s former rivals to days of the week.
Costa Rican Drug Addicts Are Killing Turtles and Conservationists
At the end of last month, Costa Rica witnessed its first turtle conservationist murder. On the evening of the May 30, Jairo Mora Sandoval and four other conservationists were abducted while carrying out their checks on Moin beach near Limon, a city on the east coast of the country. While the four others were tied up and left in a house, Sandoval was beaten to death. His body was found in the early hours, allegedly with sand stuffed in his mouth—a clear message to conservationists that they should keep their mouths shut.
For years, volunteers in Costa Rica have battled against poachers to protect the endangered leatherback, green, and hawksbill turtle species as they move onto the country’s beaches to lay their eggs. And despite beatings, robberies, and threats at gunpoint, the conservationists protecting the dwindling turtle population have struggled on.
Jairo had been working as a beach monitor for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST). In the immediate aftermath of his death, WIDECAST suspended projects on the stretch of coast where he was killed. However, in other parts of the country the work carries on undisturbed, with many redoubling their efforts and continuing the work that Jairo gave his life to.
The Ocean Is Melting Antarctica
Some 60% of the planet’s fresh water stores are locked away in Antarctica’s barren tundra. That’s a lot of water. For the obvious reasons, we’d all rather keep that water frozen away in the icy interior of the world’s southernmost continent than loose it into our already fast-rising oceans.
Unfortunately, new research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows that we may be closer to unleashing an Antarctic flood than previously thought. The study shows that much more of Antarctica’s total mass loss is due to warm ocean water than to iceberg calving—which is what scientists previously thought drove shrinkage in the great white south.
So the question is, does that mean Antarctica’s ice stores are now more vulnerable to global warming than we thought?
Eric Rignot, a senior scientist at JPL, told me in an email that “the short answer is yes.” That’s because “existing ice sheet models do not include a warming ocean and realistic ice ocean interactions,” he says.
A Teacher and Her Student
Marilynne Robinson was my fourth and final workshop instructor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is an intimidating intellectual presence—she once told us that to improve characterization, we should read Descartes. When I asked her to sign my copy of Gilead, she admitted she had recently become fascinated by ancient cuneiform script. But she is also generous and quick to laugh—when she offered to have us to her house for dinner, and I asked if we ought to bring food, she replied, “Or perhaps I will make some loaves and fishes appear!” Then she burst into giggles.
After receiving my MFA this May, I left Iowa believing that there’s no good way to be taught how to write, to tell a story. But there is also no denying that Marilynne has made me a better writer. Her demands are deceptively simple: to be true to human consciousness and to honor the complexities of the mind and its memory. Marilynne has said in other interviews that she doesn’t read much contemporary fiction because it would take too much of her time, but I suspect it’s also because she spends a fair amount of her mental resources on her students.
Our interview was held on one of the last days of the spring semester. The final traces of the bitter winter had disappeared, and light filled the classroom, which now felt empty with just the two of us. My two years at Iowa were over, and I selfishly wanted to stretch the interview for as long as possible.
The Totally Unnecessary DJs of E3
I understand and appreciate the rise of EDM and DJ culture. I see how it brings people together, allows for personal expression, and gives you a great excuse to do tons of molly and “accidentally” rub up against women in a club. I get it. And yet, I do not accept that DJs belong everywhere. DJs should not be at mundane events like baby showers, Christmas-tree lightings, sentencing hearings, art-gallery openings, dog shows, rollerblading competitons, political rallies, traffic accidents, Chinese New Year, or the Super Bowl. Not everything needs to have dancing. Actually, most public gatherings are awkward, especially when the event is one in which the host is trying to sell you something.
I went to the E3 video-game trade show this past week, and like every other convention or industry gathering in our modern era, DJs were shoehorned into the proceedings. I don’t need the “bass to drop” while I’m waiting in line to see the new XBox or to use the bathroom, thank you very much.
I decided to take a stroll around and see if anyone was actually getting down to the music the many, many E3 DJs were playing.
Medical Weed Growers in Canada Are Ready for a Fight
If you haven’t heard of marijuana activist and grower Mik Mann, he’s the articulate hippie and Frank Zappa look-alike we interviewed for our documentary BC Bud. He lives out in Port Alberni, a pretty remote town on Vancouver Island where he grows medicinal weed from the comfort of his basement garden.
For the last decade, Mik has enjoyed the benefits of a legal marijuana-growing license under Canada’s now-defunct federal Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR). He’s been floating on a healthy dose of seven grams of marijuana a day, which he cultivates from 35 plants with a doctor’s prescription for various debilitating conditions like spinal arthritis and degenerative disc disease. All that is officially set to change under the newly implemented and conservative-devised Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which, among other things, makes it illegal for users to personally grow their own pot. Instead, medical users like Mik, who predominantly make less than $30,000 a year and suffer from various diseases, will be forced to purchase corporate dope: only for-profit companies can afford the extensive requirement for licenses to grow in the new system.
Right now, patients pay an average of $1.80 a gram for marijuana. That will rise to $8.80 a gram when the MMPR takes effect in 2014. Estimates slap those same patients with an additional $166 million a year for the next ten years. In other words, the 28,115 Canadians using marijuana to ease chronic pain will be forced to rely on pricier government-sanctioned companies instead of personally growing it themselves for basically nothing.
There’s No Sex in Prison Showers
Let’s talk about turning gay in prison. I feel like I’ve written about this before, but let me repeat myself, ’cause the gay/rape question is frequently brought up when discussing jail. Basically, everyone I know thinks I did some gay shit in jail, or got raped or something. It makes me chuckle, ‘cause I never saw rape and rarely even heard rumors about gay hookups. Maybe there are a lot of rapes in the big, scary, maximum-security federal pens where they put the real insane hardened criminals. I don’t know about any of that though.
The average guy in jail is so scared of homosexuals or people thinking that he might be gay that we all wear our underwear in the shower. It’s pretty funny—we’ve all seen the jail shows and heard the endless “don’t drop the soap” jokes, but in all the years I was locked up, I was NEVER NAKED except when getting strip-searched by the cops or during my time in Shock boot camp, where they make you get naked on some psychological belittling bullshit. It was so nice to get out the slammajamma and just be naked. In fact, I’m naked right now, letting my ass and nuts marinate on the couch. I’m naked whenever I can be to make up for all that time I spent clothed in jail.
Stop SWAT Raids
How many dead and injured cops and civilians will it take for police to reevaluate how SWAT raids are conducted? There are almost 150 such raids a day, mostly over drugs, and many take place in the wee hours and include potentially lethal flash-bang grenades, military-like tactics, and plenty of chances for violence to escalate. Unless it’s a true hostage situation, using SWAT teams, especially against people in their homes, means you’re either scaring the hell out of a nonviolent person or making a violent one believe he’s being attacked. Bloodshed can occur in either case.
When these raids go wrong, lives are destroyed. One example is Matthew David Stewart, who committed suicide in his jail cell last month, apparently to avoid potentially facing the death sentence over his killing one officer and injuring five more in a 2012 Utah marijuana raid (he said that he opened fire on police because he thought he was being robbed). In the last decade, other cops have died at the hands of other targets of similar operations like Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick, both of whom plausibly claimed that they didn’t know who was busting down their doors.
The Battle for the Heart of Istanbul Rages On
Early on Saturday night, the protest village of tents and flags that had been set up in Istanbul’s Gezi Park was razed, and its inhabitants emphatically tear-gassed and cleared, at the behest of Turkey’s combative Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In response, anti-government protesters (mostly, but not exclusively, made up from Turkey’s young urban middle class) took to the country’s streets all weekend, building barricades and clashing with riot police, with crowds of several thousands blocking major highways and bridges in an effort to join them.
On Sunday—after a morning of tear-gassing in Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities—Erdogan delivered a set-piece speech to a huge pro-government rally on the outskirts of Istanbul. Designed to be a show of national unity under his Justice and Development Party (AKP), his speech was defiant and paranoid. He derided protesters as “marginal” and blamed the international press—CNN and BBC, in particular—for being “provocateurs.”