Buy "All Tore Up: Texas Hot Rod Portraits" by George Brainard

George Brainard is a professional photographer here in Austin, TX. He’s also led some really cool bands over the years. And he’s a true Texas original, whose mama raised him right.

George’s new book, All Tore Up: Texas Hot Rod Portraits, published by UT Press, just came out. Last year I got to see some of its portraits of hot rod-lovin’ guys and gals, and they are just stunning. And the book is beautifully put together, as befitting George’s fine work.

And what a bargain! Only $33.50 if you buy online for UT Press

Highly, highly recommended. And such a great gift it would make!

Jon Ronson takes on Internet shaming

Sacco’s original tweet. 

The Valleywag blog post that opened the gates of hate.

British writer/journalist Jon Ronson (The Psychopath Test, The Men Who Stare at Goats) specializes in human foibles. Many of his subjects have already been judged and found to be zeroes by society’s binary assessment machine (1=good, 0=0). One of Ronson’s interests is what happens to those zeroes after society moves on to assess someone else. Justine Sacco is one such person, and Ronson interviewed her in yesterday’s New York Time’s Magazine. (UPDATE: Ronson’s article is actually an excerpt from his forthcoming book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, to be released March 31. Want.)

Sacco sent the infamous tweet above while waiting for an 11 hour flight to South Africa to see her family. She meant the tweet as a sarcastic satire of white privilege. I could’ve told Sacco that underlying sarcasm and satire are often invisible online, leaving the words they are meant to upend to be taken literally.

At the time she sent the tweet, Sacco had fewer than 200 followers on Twitter. But someone who saw it forwarded it as a tip to the editor of the Silicon Valley gossip blog Valleywag. Valleywag editor Sam Biddle embedded Sacco’s tweet in a blog post and slapped a snarky headline on it, as seen underneath Sacco’s tweet, above. Of course, Biddle’s sarcasm was understood correctly. And then it was Katie bar the door.

You probably know how the story played out online. While Sacco was in-flight, the twitterverse rose up in indignation at her perceived racism. By the time Sacco landed—and completely oblivious to her—she’d been fired from her job and, for a day at least, become the most hated person on the Internet.

Like many people, I was initially amused by Sacco’s plight. But quickly, it started to seem like crowd-sourced cyber bullying. Why would thousands of people go out of their way to pile on this gleeful, retributive bandwagon? How could people who’d never heard of Sacco before decide that her life deserved to be derailed because of one viral tweet? And, what interested me most, how does someone survive such a coordinated and vengeful vendetta of public vilification? Did no one who took delight in skewering Sacco stop to think, “Whoa, one misplaced word here or there, and that could’ve been me?”

Because that’s what I thought. And I questioned how I could ever possibly live through such a public humiliation and shaming. In his article, Ronson talks to Sacco and others who have inadvertently become the momentary target of the Internet’s ire. They’ve lost jobs, relationships, friends. And many of us—myself included, at times—cheered at their shaming. Not our finest hours.

 

How to contact Ploom customer service about your Pax (hint: don't call me)

In the past couple of days I’ve received two phone calls from complete strangers seeking to contact Ploom, the company that makes the wonderful Pax vaporizer. Dudes, wrong number.

Ploom has FANTASTIC CUSTOMER SERVICE, but, like a lot of other online businesses, they do not offer a direct number for phone support. The two people who called me looked in vain on Ploom.com for a number to reach them. Failing to find one, they checked their search results and found my site, which up until this morning listed my phone number. I don’t exactly understand why they thought calling me would help them get in touch with Ploom, but I nevertheless had pleasant conversations with both callers, and assured them that if they got in touch with Ploom through the channels the company provides, they’d get a prompt response.

You can talk to a member of the “Ploominati” on the phone, but you have to arrange for them to call you by submitting a customer service request and setting an appointment.

But I’ve had wonderful luck getting help from them through both their online service request form and their online chat function. I recommend you do the same. 

But first, visit the Pax Vapor Tips & Getting Started page.
 

It will probably help you solve your problem without needing to contact Ploom. If not, you will find the “Start a Chat” link in the lower left hand corner. Chat services are available 11am-4pm Pacific time. If chat is not available, use the link below to submit an email requesting help. 

Ploom Online Service Request Form

Get bowled over by Serial, a gripping new non-fiction podcast

 

Adnan Syed is serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, while both of them were teenagers in high school, in 1999. Syed has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the very beginning. He was convicted largely on the testimony of an acquaintance who claimed that he helped Syed dispose of the body. Did Syed really do it? Will a thorough reexamination of the evidence exonerate him or validate his conviction? That is the premise of Serial, a new weekly podcast from the makers of This American Life.

Serial is already the number one podcast in the country. It is insanely compelling. Producer and host Sarah Koenig says that each season of Serial will cover one non-fiction story, with as many weekly episodes as needed to cover it. And that’s part of what is so compelling about it. Not only do listeners not know where the story will end, neither does Koenig. The whole thing could end up as much of an ambiguous muddle as it was when the Serial team’s investigation started.

You can listen to episode 1 right here. Visit the Serial site to subscribe. And enjoy it while it’s free, because I have a very strong feeling Season 1 is our l’il taste. Serial is so good, I would pay to get more of it, and I suspect Season 2 will be offered under some kind of paid model.

 

 

Netflix vs. Amazon: whose streams start faster?

Netflix’s streaming on demand service pretty much made me a TV watcher again. I haven’t had cable since the 90s, and hardly watch any broadcast TV. But with Netflix, having a pretty good variety of stuff that I can watch on my own schedule got me in front of the tube again.

Then, a couple of years ago, we signed up for Amazon Prime, mostly for the 2-day shipping it offers on most Amazon purchases. At the time, Amazon was mentioning access to their streaming video library almost as a toss-in for signing up with Prime. Now, of course, Amazon is pushing streaming video more aggressively to compete head-to-head with Netflix, acquiring lots of new programming and producing new shows as well.

Cable companies, of course, hate Netflix, because they are one of the leading reasons more and more people are cutting their cable subscriptions and just relying on cable providers for internet bandwidth. The industry calls Netflix an “over-the-top” service, because they are charging money to deliver service over the Internet provider’s bandwidth. Cable companies hate that.

And Netflix has been so successful, it now accounts for over a third of all downstream bandwidth usage during prime time. Cable companies REALLY hate that.

Over the past year or so, I have noticed that it seems to take much, much longer for Netflix’s shows to load than it used to. And when they do load, it is often at a crappy resolution. Since there is a lot of overlap between Netflix’s offerings and Amazon Prime’s offerings, when a Netflix show is taking forever to load, I will often check to see if Amazon Prime has the program. If it does, it always seems to load much, much faster than the same show on Netflix.

I’ve been meaning to document this for a while now. This morning, I did, as seen in the video above.

Bear in mind that this happened at 9am. At 9pm, the difference is much, much more pronounced.

Assuming viewers consume bandwidth to watch Amazon at a level comparable to Netflix, can we expect the cable companies to target Amazon’s streams for throttling? Maybe, but maybe not. Unlike Netflix, Amazon controls lots of internet infrastructure that may have value to the cable companies.

Facebook posts from "Oversharing Tuesday"

#OST, y’all!

Until the age of 34 I believed vampires were real.

The inside of my left eyelid itches when I smell pancakes.

To save money, I sometimes steal my tips back when the bartender isn’t looking.

I’m letting the hair on my ears grow out.

Sometimes when I burp it makes me nostalgic, because it smells like the Frito pie served by my high school cafeteria.

I often feel like my life is a prequel to a movie I hated.

I’m one of those people who think President Obama was born in a foreign country, but unlike most, I think that country is New Mexico.

Sometimes I sit on the toilet to combat feelings of loneliness.

Writing this is one of those times.

 

My surefire earworm cure: Tommy Roe's "Sweet Pea"

 

According to this really old article on WebMD, almost everyone experiences earworms. This is the sensation of persistently hearing a song in your head that isn’t actually playing. It’s like the song is “stuck.” It can be a song you recently heard on the radio; often it’s a song that you find unbearably catchy, even though subjectively you may hate it. Earworms were a big factor in driving me out of my spin class (along with laziness).

I almost ALWAYS have some kind of song playing in my head. Some of these are songs I heard no more than once or twice when I was a little kid. You might say that my musical memory is uncanny, as long as it’s understood that “uncanny” is a synonym for “not something you can make money from.”

Yesterday, I found myself repeatedly whistling a phrase from a song and when I stopped to think about what it was, I realized it was by the band Chicago, which I loathe. I feel like I’ve subjected myself to enough Chicago for any human lifetime. One of my rules for happy living is to avoid hearing any Chicago music whenever and wherever possible. So I was pretty horrified to find myself earwormed by one of their radio hits, a song I probably haven’t heard in over 20 years! Aaargh!

One tried-and-true way of getting rid of an earworm—in fact, maybe the only way—is to think of another catchy song that you can tolerate having stuck in your head.

So I turned to good ol’ Tommy Roe, and he did the trick. For some reason, singing or whistling Sweet Pea can drive earworms out of my brain without lodging itself in there instead. Or if it does lodge itself, at least it doesn’t bug me. Which is funny, because I could totally see this being the kind of song that might earworm someone else to insanity. Oh, well.  

If you can’t handle Sweet Pea, I encourage you to figure out your own earworm killer and keep it at the ready. And now, heeeeere’s Tommy!

 

 

Check out the Fantastic Fiction of Robert Freeman Wexler

Wexler and daughter Merida (with the French version of The Painting and the City)

I met Robert Wexler when we were both in college. I was in an oh-so-cerebral punk band and he was a writer with the college paper who wrote a nice story about us. We kept in touch for a while, but then Robert moved away to become a “real writer.”

And, wow, did he ever. Robert reconnected with me a few years ago, and recently he’s been kind enough to share his work (two novels and a novella—a third novel is on the way). I’ve still yet to read his first novel, Circus of the Grand Design, but I was knocked out both by the novella, In Springdale Town, and his most recent novel, The Painting and the City.

What do I mean by “knocked out?” I mean that shortly after starting both of these works I had “Holy, shit! This guy can really write!” moments. His massive talent is so evident that professional jealousy would be ridiculous. Yes, I’m a writer, but I’m nowhere near Robert Freeman Wexler’s league. His storytelling is wildly imaginative and his prose is beautiful, smart and eminently readable.

I guess you could call both In Springdale Town and The Painting and the City psychological suspense with tinges of sci-fi (parallel-universe-style sci-fi, not little-green-men-style sci-fi). If I’m honest, I’ll admit that these aren’t the kinds of books that normally leap off the shelves at me. But maybe it’s time to rethink that. Or at least get some reading recommendations from Wexler.

It’s always dicey assessing a friend’s creative work, especially literary fiction. I might approach it worrying, What if I hate it? Or, What if I can’t even get through it? Or, What if it’s a pretentious piece of crap? What I don’t usually think is, What if it’s so good my mouth is hanging open in astonishment by page 3? But Wexler’s done that to me with both of the works I’ve read so far. Circus of the Grand Design is next on my reading list.

Like so many writers, Wexler is struggling to bring a wider audience to his work. Sometimes a talented writer in this position is damned with faint praise as a “writer’s writer.” But I’d call Robert Freeman Wexler a reader’s writer.

If you love to read, do yourself a solid and check out Robert’s work on on Amazon.

 

 

Countdown to Kickstarter: Things I've Learned on My Way to Launch

A preview of my Kickstarter preview page

Next Tuesday, May 20, barring any unforeseen obstacles, I will launch my first Kickstarter campaign. The intent is to try to raise funds to duplicate and promote the CD for my second ManChildATX album, My Mouse Finger Is Insured for $10M. If you are reading this, there is a very excellent chance you will also hear about the launch of my campaign next week. 

Kickstarter, for those of you living on Mars, is the wildly successful crowd-funding site that I wish I had invented. The way it works is you get an idea; you need money to realize the idea; you create a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money; you offer rewards to your contributors related to the realization of the idea; you have a set period of time to convince people to help out; and if you make your fundraising goal, you get the money (minus a cut for Kickstarter and Amazon Payments—like I said, I really wish I had invented it). If you don’t make your fundraising goal, you don’t get the money, and none of your contributors pay a thing.

Theoretically, it could take someone a couple of hours end-to-end to create a Kickstarter campaign. But I’ve been working on mine, off and on, for months. I’ve remade my campaign video a couple of times, and rewritten my entire Kickstarter page over and over again, with literally hundreds of incremental changes in between.

Part of the reason it has taken me so long to launch my campaign is fear and anxiety. Once I launch the thing, there’s no turning back. If I fail to make my goal, well, I can picture that being a pretty big blow to my always-sensitive ego. And if I do make my goal, of course there’s built-in anxiety anytime you put your creative work out in the world for others to judge. Boo hoo for me.

Fear might slow me down, but I won’t let it stop me. Really, the main reason it has taken me so long to launch is that the more I’ve messed around in the Kickstarter world, the more I’ve learned that there are right ways and wrongs ways to go about it. It’s my nature to want to get something done and put it out there, and I was all ready to do that with my Kickstarter campaign in the fall of last year. But the more I looked at what I’d done to put together my Kickstarter page, the more dissatisfied I felt, and convinced I could do better. That’s when I discovered that there is a virtual cottage industry of Kickstarter advice.

First, of course, there’s Kickstarter itself. They want people to create successful campaigns that will make their goals. The more successful campaigns, the more success for them. Toward that end they offer a Kickstarter School page, to help newbies like me create appealing campaigns. The most useful info I got from Kickstarter’s primer was the importance of creating a lot of appealing campaign rewards, especially at the lower contribution levels. In light of this, I slashed the contribution levels for all of my reward categories, and added a bunch of reward categories to the few I started with originally.

This was hard for me, since my “act,” ManChildATX, is essentially unknown, which is a big reason I’m going the Kickstarter route to begin with—I’m hoping it helps create some buzz as well as raise some money. There are a lot of music acts on Kickstarter who already have significant followings, and many of them offer rewards that only diehard fans would want, like autographed items, personal house concerts, the chance to sniff their underwear, or what have you. (I don’t even want to sniff my own underwear.)

It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone will care enough to up their contribution enough to get an autographed ManChildATX CD or a glossy photo, or a trucker hat. But over and over again during this process I’ve had to tell myself, You don’t know what works and what doesn’t, so listen to the people who do. So, I’ll have many more rewards than I originally intended.

The second thing that’s had the most influence on my Kickstarter strategy has been this study by Georgia Tech researchers on “Kickstarter phrases that pay.” Basically, these geeks loaded a whole bunch of Kickstarter campaigns into their computer and had it spit out common phrases used in successful campaigns and phrases used in unsuccessful campaigns.The top entries (out of bajillions). I didn’t take this list literally, but did let it inform my overall tone.

OK, I skimmed but did not read the entire study. And I didn’t literally seed my campaign with any of their successful phrases. I also didn’t comb through my copy for the unsuccessful ones either. But I did let the study convince me that my tone and turns of phrase mattered more than I was admitting in my initial rush to launch my campaign and be done with it.

The first page I wrote was too earnest and there wasn’t enough me in it. Reading between the lines, it read like it was written by someone who was afraid he wasn’t going to make his fundraising goal—because it was. So my first rewrite was just an attempt to insert more of a sense of inevitable success into the narrative, and also inject it with more of my personality and off-the-wall absurdist humor.

My subsequent rewrites have largely been an attempt to tone down my personality and off-the-wall absurdist humor. Because another thing I’ve learned about Kickstarter is that it helps to have people with a critical eye look at your campaign before you launch. Again, this is advice you get from Kickstarter itself, and they have a preview function built into their interface that makes it easy to send your campaign page to folks, and easy for them to respond with feedback.

And the people I asked for feedback from really stepped up. Which sucked. Because they pointed out a lot of things I could be doing better. That meant I had to swallow my pride, admit they were right, and then get back to work.

Which I did. I pretty much addressed each feedback item individually, and incorporated almost all of them—even some I disagreed with. For one thing, asking for feedback is a tacit admission that it’s impossible to truly be objective in judging our own work. For another, I wanted to show the people I asked that I value their opinions and that I heard them. And maybe as a bonus that will inspire one or two of them to be social media cheerleaders for me. At any rate, I feel much better about the quality of my Kickstarter campaign page since making changes based on their feedback.

The final thing I’ll share was that even though I had originally planned to launch my Kickstarter campaign last October, I learned that it’s OK that I didn’t. In fact, it’s much better that I didn’t. Just yesterday I came across “Kickstarter Lesson #68: You Don’t Need to Launch Today,” on a site called Stonemaier Games, a company that has launched multiple successful Kickstarter projects. The post lists all of the wrong reasons for launching a Kickstarter too early, and I saw myself reflected back in every one of them. So I’m glad I waited and continued working.

But the wait is just about over. At a certain point, there’s a time to fish or cut bait. My Kickstarter campaign may not be perfect—in fact I’m sure it’s not—but it’s much better than it would have been had I launched last fall, and it’s much truer to me as a person than it was.

So, next Tuesday, May 20th, at 10am I will launch. Why Tuesday? Oh, because one more thing I learned is that Tuesday seems to be a good day to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Thanks for reading, and please consider helping me out when my campaign launches. I’ll need it, and it will be much appreciated. You can keep up with how my campaign is going and other ManChildATX goings on at the ManChildATX Facebook page

 

Forget the Humor Code, here's why things are funny

For this they wrote a book?!

You’ve probably heard about The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, a new book by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner. The book is the source of news stories you may have read about the 10 funniest cities in America.

I’ve always thought that analyzing humor is a silly pursuit, both literally and figuratively. If McGraw and Warner really wanted to know what makes things funny, I could’ve saved them the trouble of writing a book and making all that money. There aren’t that many things that make things funny. In fact, here’s the entire list:

Expulsions of air, (any) body orifice from

Balls, appearance of, descriptions of, getting racked in

Old Jewish women, visits to the gynecologist of

Priests, rabbis and ministers, walking into a bar of

“The other,” otherness of

Intense sexual desire, desperate, ill-considered attempts to fulfill

Stereotypes, stereotyped behavior of

Farmers, daughters of

Donkeys, dicks of

“It’s the parrot.”

 

Netflix sleeper: Let the Fire Burn, a doc about the 1985 MOVE debacle

It’s interesting to watch a documentary about an event I remember reading about in the news. Invariably my perceptions of the event are revealed as superficial and colored by my own biases. So it was with “Let the Fire Burn,” a 2013 documentary produced and directed by Jason Osder and now available on Netflix I.V. The film covers the city of Philadelphia’s action to evict the group MOVE, a kind of back-to-nature urban charismatic cult, from a neighborhood row house, which resulted in the deaths of everyone in the house, including innocent children, and a raging fire that destroyed over 60 neighborhood homes. Comprised entirely of found footage, Let the Fire Burn doesn’t seem to want to foist conclusions on the viewer, aside from the obvious one that bombing a home and letting it burn while you know there are children inside is a craven, immoral law enforcement tactic. This film, along with Waco: The Rules of Engagement should be compulsory viewing for anyone in government tasked with confronting a messianic cult. Rule #1: when a group is predicated on the belief that the rest of the world is against them, don’t fuel their paranoia and sense of persecution. MOVE was far from blameless, but it’s easy to believe they became much more radicalized in response to violent, heavy-handed treatment as directed by the city government and police than they would have had they been left alone. 

NYT map shows boundaries of baseball loyalties

Austin: on the wrong side of the Nolan Ryan line

Using Facebook data, the New York Times built this interactive map of baseball team affiliation. They give the boundaries between regional rivals cute names, like the Munson-Nixon line between Yankeeville and Red Sox Nation. The line separating my Astros from the Texas Rangers is called, predictably, the Nolan Ryan line. If things keep going the way they have been, the Rangers may just annex Astro-land and claim it as one of their minor league territories. 

When a Heisman Trophy candidate is accused of rape

The New York Times goes long and multimedia about the rape case that implicated Heisman Trophy candidate and eventual winner Jameis Winston, of Florida State University. To say that the Tallahassee police botched the investigation is to imply that they made a serious effort at pursuing it at all, and the article is persuasive that they didn’t, despite a plethora of strong leads. But it’s not like no one was punished: Winston’s roommate was censured by FSU for filming the encounter on his cellphone. And the victim, who obviously suffered physical and emotional trauma from the incident itself, was hatefully vilified in the campus community when her accusations were finally made public a month before the Heisman was to be awarded, which was 11 months after she’d reported the incident. If you want to read something that’ll make your blood boil, this is a good bet.

“Charlie Victor Romeo” a timely dramatization of cockpit crises

 

Screen shot from http://charlievictorromeo.com“Charlie Victor Romeo” is the radio call sign for cockpit voice recorder, or CVR. In 1999 an ingenious stage drama of the same name debuted, written by Bob Berger and Patrick Daniels. The play is basically a series of blackout scenes wherein actors in a barebones cockpit set dramatize the final moments of six major airline emergencies by faithfully recreating the dialog of their crews, as recorded on recovered CVRs.

In 2012, Berger and Daniels raised money on Kickstarter to fund a film version of the play. The film debuted at festivals last year, to generally very positive reviews.

I first heard about the play from my sister. A healthcare worker, she and her hospital colleagues were assigned to attend a daytime staging as a sort of mini-seminar in crisis management. As I recall, she said that some of the scenes depict cockpit crews whom are hopelessly oblivious, but some depict cockpit crews whose calm under crisis prevents bad situations from becoming much worse. She said it was one of the most gripping things she’d ever seen in her life.

I’ve got a morbid fascination with this stuff. Of course, we may never know what happened, exactly, with Malaysia Air flight 370, but that real life slow motion drama reminded me that I need to see this film. Trailer follows.

 

 

Review: Bem HL2022B Bluetooth Mobile Speaker

 

Quarter not included. Shown for size comparison only. Get a job.“I love that little thing.”

No, that wasn’t Dr./Mrs. Olbogatory discussing my manly endowment. It was her comment on the Bem (pronounced “beam”) HL2022B Bluetooth Mobile Speaker that I bought at Costco a few weeks back.

Dr./Mrs. Oblogatory tends to be ambivalent, at best, about new home technology, so her endorsement says a lot. It says that the combination of form and function in this little device meets her high standards. It’s small and it’s not ugly, both of which rank high on her list. It works great and sounds amazing for its size, which are high on my list.

I paid about $40 for it. It’s not in my nearest Costco anymore, nor is it on Costco.com, but it is on Amazon. It’s listing for $50.42 as I write this, but the price fluctuates often, and it qualifies for 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime.

I listen to a lot of voice programming (NPR, baseball, podcasts, etc.) when I’m in the kitchen, and the iPhone’s speaker, while amazing for its size, isn’t loud enough. Playing this kind of audio through our home stereo didn’t cut it either, because the dynamic range of the podcast-type programming I listen to isn’t a strength of our full-size speakers. I don’t like wearing headphones for very long, and I didn’t want some big, expensive dock-type device. In short, I needed a little something-something to amplify audio from my phone. For 40 bucks, I took a chance on the little Bem.

It works great. It comes with a little patch cord, so you can connect it to the iPhone’s headphone jack, or you can connect via Bluetooth. I do both. The patch cable connection sounds a little better, but Bluetooth gives you more mobility with your phone. Another plus about the patch cable is that I can use it with my iRig iPhone guitar interface and use the Bem like a mini practice amp.

How does it sound? Great for a little tiny speaker. It’s especially ideal for the talk programming I use it for most.

Are you going to get room-filling sound out of this little guy? No, but you’ll get ample smartphone sound reinforcement and good clarity in a small, wireless package.

Boston Globe profile of the Tsarnaev Bros is an incredible read

Josie Jammet, Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporters Sally Jacobs, David Filipov and Patricia Wen spent five months researching the lives of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev, the two brothers accused of setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon.

Their epic profile, The Fall of The House of Tsarnaev, has very little information about the planning and carrying out of the attacks. What information exists about that is undoubtedly tightly held by the government.

But the article is long on details of the brothers’ lives up until then, and it’s a sad story of a dysfunctional family ill-equipped to handle life in the U.S. Among other things, we learn:

  • Tamerlan, the older brother, complained of hearing voices that told him to do things; his parents refused to seek treatment for him
  • The only thing Tamerlan showed any promise at was boxing, but his successful amateur career was derailed by a Golden Gloves rule change banning foreign-born fighters from competing for the national GG title; with no back-up plan, his life went more and more adrift from there
  • Jahar, the youngest Tsarnaev child, seemed to be an afterthought to his parents; though they bragged to others about his intelligence and studiousness, they were largely absent from his school life; though he was the captain of his high school wrestling team, neither parent ever attended any of his matches or awards ceremonies
  • Jahar used his time at college to party and sell weed; academically, he was a miserable failure
  • Both sisters in the troubled Tsarnaev family have also run afoul of the law; since the bombings, one of them has been arrested for dealing marijuana

The authors make no claims about what ultimately drove the brothers to their wanton killing spree. But if one wanted to connect the dots from the article, one might surmise that they deflected personal responsibility for their failed lives onto to their adoptive country, with radical Islamic websites as a catalyst. And, contrary to earlier theories that cast older brother Tamerlan as the domineering leader of the plot, the inspiration to act may have come from the more reckless and thrill-seeking Jahar. The bombing occurred just a few months after Jahar flunked out of college and moved back to the family apartment to live with Tamerlan and his American wife (both parents had already given up on the US and left the country—and their four young adult children—behind). By then, both brothers had a lot of time on their hands, and very little constructive ambition.

Mesmerizing and very, very frightening.