Shoot to Thrill
Sometimes a New Times piece is so engaging and provocative that it continues to grow in notoriety long after its initial publication. Even if the story is not exactly true. Or at all true. Or completely ridiculous.
Such is the case with our April Fool's "Arm the Homeless" spoof (easy, people, the tee shirts are forthcoming), which is gaining new fans and provoking new outrage online, where reality and fantasy are pretty much already intimately entwined.
Case in point: E-mail to www.armthehomeless.com continues to pour in from around the world even though we came clean about our little hoax weeks ago.
"Up here in Canada we are not allowed to own as much personal arms as you folks are," writes one reader. "What I want to see happen is an increase in weaponry available to each and every Canadian." (Hey, don't we all?)
Another netizen, this one from Illinois, wants to bring a little Phoenix-style wealth distribution to his hometown.
"I would gladly accept your sponsorship toward chartering an Illinois chapter of your program," he writes.
Not all of the fanfare is from readers. Exclusive! magazine in Casper, Wyoming, requested an interview with purported Arm the Homeless founder Pete Whippit (sorry, 60 Minutes II has exclusive rights), and the literary webzine Salon did a write-up on our stunt and Web site, saying the story is good "for a few quick chuckles."
In its scant few weeks of existence, www.armthehomeless.com has also won "Cruel Site of the Day" and "Wurst of the Web" awards. Not bad for a site whose original design we rejected for being "way too stylish and professional looking."
The mostly graying eminences in Symphony Hall's plush seats endured collective acid flashbacks on April 13 as Jeff Beck, looking remarkably trim and hip at 54, unleashed his new fusion/electronica guitar machinations. Sure, Beck is a dinosaur. However, unlike other icons of his era, he's not content to regurgitate his old stuff.
Actually, his "era" is now. His first record of new material in nine years (the slick CD is called Who Else) is as fresh as anything on the scene. Freed up musically by the guitar/techno wizardry of Jennifer Batten--herself fresh from a tour with pop smear Michael Jackson--Beck, et al., cooked.
Beck's stuff still sounds potent enough to tax the power grid, still causes fibrillations in the sternum, still makes the head bob, the toe tap, the knee jerk, the ears numb and the nipples hard. He's still Wired.
But nothing emitted by the high-voltage Guitar God prepared the Flash for the surreal netherworld outside the friendly confines of Symphony Hall. The Beck show, you see, broke up just as America West Arena was disgorging the patrons of the sold-out 'N Sync show. In case you didn't know, 'N Sync is one of those a cappella harmony/hormone groups that was literally conceived in a Disney boardroom.
'N Sync's following is deep into the pubescent girl demographic (and, of course, their accessories: licensed drivers). Some of that very market niche congregated at the intersection of Central and Jefferson to serenade motorists with their own lusty renditions from their heartthrobs' just-concluded gig. The waft of Clearasil was in the air.
Even the panhandlers fled.
But now allow the Flash to rewind a bit and tell you that the reason he brings any of this up is to introduce you to Paul Thorn, the musician who opened for Beck. How Beck's people got hooked up with Thorn's people (assuming he has any people) would be an interesting yarn in itself.
Thorn is an original. The singer/songwriter/storyteller stood on the stage with an acoustic guitar and his Tupelo, Mississippi, twang, and quickly and absolutely converted the metalhead intelligentsia gathered to see Beck.
Part Lyle Lovett, part Warren Zevon and part Loudon Wainwright III (whose rising-star son Rufus, coincidentally, played elsewhere in the Valley that very night), Thorn should stake his claim to the title of White Trash Troubadour. His lyrics are lousy with hookers, televangelists, daytime talk-show hosts and other deviants. He sang of a Jehovah's Witness stripper.
What's more, he used to be a professional boxer who once was knocked out in the seventh round by the legendary Roberto Duran. He sang about that, too.
Before Beck took the stage, Thorn repaired to the lobby to sign copies of his latest CD Ain't Love Strange, released by the aptly named Perpetual Obscurity Records. (Up close, he does, indeed, bear the scars of a former pugilist.) The disc is simply priceless. How can America not embrace the author of the following immortal verse?
I borrowed some money & sold my car.
I put an Air Stream trailer up on blocks.
That satellite dish was my first mistake.
She started watchin' Oprah Winfrey & Ricki Lake.
She cut me down to once a week.
At supper time there was nothin' to eat.
I was paranoid and scared to death.
She came home with Aqua Velva on her breath.
Burn down the trailer park.
Shoot the pink flamingoes out in the yard.
I can't live here since you broke my heart.
I'm gonna burn down the trailer park.
Another Bad Guy
For several years, deputies have told the Flash that Sheriff Joke Arpaio has a favorite way of dealing with deputies he suspects of talking to the press and other law enforcement agencies about the disaster that is the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
He shuts them up by wrecking their careers.
Patrol deputies with 15-year records of exemplary employment suddenly find themselves in a bare office on a graveyard shift, answering a telephone that never rings. Some have found themselves checking in boxes at a basement evidence room in the wee hours of the morning, their careers screeching to an ignominious halt. Several, devastated by the treatment, have ended their careers early, applying for medical pensions that leave taxpayers on the hook for hefty annuities.
When such deputies have complained publicly, Arpaio has shrugged them off as "disgruntled employees" whom he has made into nonpersons and erased from his consciousness like so many Soviet dissidents.
Steve Barnes appears to be the latest victim of an Arpaio purge.
Barnes, a 16-year veteran, leads an upstart deputies association, the Deputies Law Enforcement Association, which represents about 300 of Arpaio's patrolmen. Barnes and his organization have been outspoken critics of Arpaio, his chief aide David Hendershott, and Arpaio's gestapolike treatment of his employees.
Recently, Barnes revealed that some of his members have been talking to the FBI about Arpaio's use of deputies to surveil his political enemies. Such spying could be grounds for Arpaio's removal from office. (If, that is, some Arizona politician shows some backbone and actually stands up to the Jokester, which hasn't happened yet despite plenty of evidence of Arpaio's duplicity and malfeasance.)
Barnes predicted that he would pay a price for saying publicly that his deputies were feeding the FBI.
Last week, Barnes learned that his prediction was correct. Barnes serves in an eight-man unit that provides security to the Superior Court. But he's been told that he'll be transferred next week to a unit that transports inmates to jail.
It's a position that's about as low as a deputy can hold, one that is typically reserved for new employees. Barnes himself served a stint on the detail 15 years ago when he was a new deputy. He points out that none of the men in his court security detail were asked to volunteer for the position, and that he has neither the least nor most experience in the squad. "I really don't fit any of the criteria you would normally pick," he says.
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It's the first time in his 16-year career that he's been given a new assignment without his first volunteering for it or being asked for his consent.
Barnes says his supervisor suggested to higher-ups that the transfer might appear to be payback for Barnes' activities as the head of DLEA. Hours later, three more deputies were transferred from the court security squad to inmate transfer. Barnes thinks it was an attempt by Arpaio to fend off criticism that Barnes had been singled out.
"It's upsetting," he says, and admits that what makes the move tougher is his suspicion that the other deputies who were transferred have suffered so that Arpaio can camouflage the punishing of Barnes.
"I'm depressed about it, to tell you the truth," he says.