I’m in the New Yorker

I mentioned a while ago that someone from the New Yorker was talking to me about the whole Adam Gadahn thing. The story is the lead article in the current issue of the New Yorker, here. It’s by Raffi khatchadourian, who did a hell of a lot of research on the subject. I think he was the one reporter who “got it” more than others, with regard to the whole death metal thing. And he managed to dredge up a lot of details I never heard about, and I’ve read pretty much every article about him in the last few years. The article’s online, so check it out.

I babbled about the iPhone last entry, and that led me to get a Sidekick 3. I know the two are barely related, but I figured I’d rather get something for $200 and $30 a month that did 90% of what I wanted right now, as opposed to waiting 6-12 months for something that cost $800 plus $100 a month for something that did 70% of the things and looked neato.

This is my second sidekick – I was an early adopter of the first version, and it was pretty neat back then. It came in especially handy on my first trip to hawaii, where I was able to keep up with AIM conversations and email and web browsing without bringing a laptop. It was also nice on my jury duty stint, so I could spent my lunches outside reading the web, instead of sitting in an ancient building watching soap opera reruns on prison TVs. The new one has some plusses: it has a camera, more updated software, and it’s color. It also has a music player (worthless to this iPod owner, but still) and it uses SD memory for its junk. The big difference is that now I can get a $30 unlimited data/no voice plan instead of a $60 unlimited data/crappy voice plan, which is a noticeable savings for me, and I never use it for voice calls anyway. (I can if I need to, it just costs .20 a minute.)

Downsides to the 3 versus the 1: the keyboard has slightly glossy keys, as opposed to the slightly rubbery ones in the original. It uses a tiny trackball instead of a scroll wheel on the right side, which I don’t like as much, but I guess it’s better for games. The phone controls are more awkward, and I will probably accidentally dial more calls than I legitimately make. And the styling is not as neat as it once was. The original grey on grey looks made it more of a Star Trek device than a consumer ugliness device. Oh well.

If you’re so inclined, you can now reach me on this thing by sending email to my gmail address. If you don’t know it, it’s not hard to figure out. It’s basically the same as my rumored address. If you don’t know that, you probably stopped paying attention like ten years ago. Actually, even more than that, since it was also my username at IU since like 1989.

Still reading the Orville and Wilbur Wright bio. Good stuff. And we were out of town this weekend, but no huge stories. Just a good dinner, a night in the country, and hanging out with friends. We also shopped at Target, which is a moral imperative anything I leave this tiny island for a place with real shopping and groceries.


Meeting with Fox News

Just woke up from a post-work nap, and now I’m pretty groggy and don’t feel like doing anything, but don’t exactly feel like going back to bed, either.

I met with the Fox News people today, which was a pretty weird situation. It was a cameraman guy and a woman producer. They showed up at about noon, and I quickly shuffled them into one of our nice meeting rooms, which is a fringe benefit of working in a SoHo dotcom lair. I had two letters from Gadahn, plus a bunch of assorted fliers and artwork, and the copy of Xenocide in which his stuff appeared. The camera guy had one of those huge TV camera rigs and tripod, so he set stuff up so he could tape stuff to a black piece of posterboard sitting on the whiteboard’s marker tray, and take shots of the stuff. I don’t entirely know what he was doing, but it took a while for each shot. Maybe he was zooming in and out, I don’t know. I also don’t know the specs of the camera, but it was digital and video and obviously not just a little DV toy you pick up at Best Buy to tape your kids’ birthday parties. She said they would dump the tape to some direct satellite system that would zap it to the LA office, where the guy primarily writing the article was located.

While the cameraman did his thing, I talked to the producer, mostly just more repeating of the stories and little details. She seemed younger than me, red hair and very cute, more like the English major type than some kind of TV anchorwoman you’d see on the news. I felt really nervous about the whole thing and wished I had more to chat about, especially because I didn’t want to seem like some bizarro Satanist metal dude or whatever. After they got the paper stuff pulled in, we both sat down and she asked me a handful of questions on video, just the basic stuff like how I started the zine, how I met Adam, and so on. I had to wear a wireless mic, which was odd, and I also spent the whole thing oddly uncomfortable, knowing that I’d look like a dork on video. I also had a vague fear in the back of my mind that if my likeness ever showed up on TV, I’d end up with molotov cocktails thrown through my apartment window from nutbag jihad fundamentalists, or angry heavy metal fans. Finally, they taped a b-roll image of me sitting at the desk, shuffling through the papers, which seemed kind of silly. The whole thing took about an hour, and the people were very nice. She told me she’d get in touch when anything became of the report, but I’m also hoping the reel gets shelved away in a vault somewhere and forgotten.

I’ve been very vaguely thinking about trips west again, to see the property and maybe get some work done. I get two or three emails a year from people who have also bought land out in the San Luis Valley, and when I do, it rekindles the thoughts of getting some money together to get a well dug, maybe set up a wind-powered water pump and a shitload of garden hose and sprinklers, and plant a few dozen saplings so there are more real trees there by the time I get around to building a place. I have no idea how much getting a well drilled costs, probably thousands of dollars, and I don’t know how they will ever get a drilling rig out there, since the access road is dirt and is about as soft and fluffy as a good angelfood cake, which isn’t conducive to heavy trucks. Speaking of, I was just digging around (pun intended) ebay motors and saw an old D6 cat dozer with a busted block but still running for a grand. It would probably cost more like five grand once you got one in good shape and hauled it out to the property, but that would make one hell of a toy. I’d have a 40-acre sandbox with a really nice shovel. I could improve the hell out of that road, and then dig some kind of giant underground catacomb.

Or maybe not. Anyway, I heard about a place in Albuquerque that rents out VW campers, the newer Westfalia Vanagon ones. It would be a lot of fun to rent one out, drive up to the property, hang out there for a week, and maybe plant some trees or do some other digging around. I could also maybe buy one of those little metal sheds at the WalMart in Alamosa, drag it out there, and have a building to hide my ammunition cachegardening tools.

Man, this Indian food TV dinner I made tastes like garbage. I need to go find something else to eat.


Fun and profit when one of your zine writers joins Al-Quaeda

Okay, things have been weird here lately. Let me explain, although this story doesn’t have much of an ending.

I got home from work on Wednesday and had a message on my machine, which was from a reporter at Knight-Ridder. He wanted to ask me how I felt about “having one of my writers be a member of a known terror group”. My initial reaction to this was “what the fuck is he talking about?” Then he mentioned the name Adam Gadahn, and I hit the computer, firing up google in one browser window, CNN in the other.

John Ashcroft and crew had released a new terror warning that afternoon, and that included a list of seven people wanted or wanted for questioning, along with a group of seven headshots that were immediately glued all over the usual news sites. I didn’t recognize any of them, but the newest addition to the list was a US citizen by the name of Adam Gadahn, and I knew where the reporter’s call came from, and why I was associated with the guy. I immediately checked to see how bad the damage would be and exactly where I might have mentioned his name.

Here’s the deal: I used to run a music fanzine called Xenocide. It was a photocopied pile of pages stapled together, filled with music reviews, interviews, and other news about underground heavy metal bands, particularly Death Metal bands, which were big at that time. In addition to trading and selling these zines through the mail, I also posted ASCII copies to various heavy metal newsgroups on the internet, in hopes of meeting new people, and mostly to get more free stuff from bands are record labels.

Back in 1993, as I was preparing for the fifth issue of the zine, I started to get mail from this guy named Adam. I don’t remember much of the exchanges, and I don’t have copies of anything but two paper letters, but he did send me some record reviews for some of his favorite stuff, and I folded them into the rest of my other writing. He seemed like a cool enough guy, not overtly into the whole campy Satanism thing, not too weird, and he always sent me artwork, like little scribbled or doodled zombies or demons or whatnot.

We traded mails a few times, and I printed about six of his reviews in Xenocide 5. I also mentioned his name there, and used some of his artwork. The copy went out to usenet (but not the art), and I didn’t hear much more from him. I never did another issue of the zine, out of general lack of momentum, and two years later I graduated and moved to Seattle. I actually heard from Adam again in November of 1995 at my new job and new email address, except he was calling himself Yahiye then. (He’d always signed his artwork “yagadahn”, but I figured he had dumb hippy parents that named him “Yellowsun” or something, so he just went by Adam.) I exchanged a couple of emails with him then, mostly on the “hey, what’s been up” level, but they didn’t mention terror camps or Islam conversion.

And that’s it. He didn’t seem like a nutjob, he didn’t send me a giant diatribe on the teachings of Muhammed, and I never met him in person or talked to him. But, that issue of Xenocide lingered in Google, and when the story broke on Wednesday, I was the only search result in Google that wasn’t some Islam web resource.

So, in the last few days, I’ve heard from Time, Fox News, AP, and a couple of independent reporters. I also got a call from the FBI, following up on the whole thing. There’s not much to say about it though: we traded some mails, he wrote some reviews, but I could not vouch for his personality, explain his motives, or give any details on his whereabouts.

Normally, I’d be much more sarcastic about this, or try to twist the story a bit to get a laugh or two, but it’s hard to be anything but serious when you come home from work and you have a message from the FBI on your answering machine. Do I think Adam is a terrorist? I don’t know. Do I think that the evils of heavy metal caused him to pick up an AK-47 and praise Allah? Probably not. Most people who fall out of heavy metal when they end their teen rebellion years usually cut their hair and go back to a Christian lifestyle, so it’s weird to hear of someone who turned to Islam, especially since most headbangers are white and conservative and would probably just call Muslims towelheads or worse.

If anything, I am relieved that the FBI did call. That means at least they are checking leads and doing work and not just sitting around with their thumbs up their butts, which is what most people think they do. It shows that federal law enforcement is trying to do something to find out more about these seven, and stop them if they are involved in criminal activities.

Okay, I am at work and get out of here early today, and I will hopefull get in a weekend of no distractions, other than the DVD-related ones I create for myself…