Sun Ra - Column for 10/28

In Print, Cheaply

Well, it's Monday night and I'm running low on time to get this Cant in before I'd have to do it retroactively. (Never say Die!) My wife and I just watched the excellent late eighties horror film Warlock, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in the sort of witches that those folks in Salem were actually worried about. Good stuff.

However, it pretty much ate all the time I was going to use to write about boogers. Yes, you can consider yourself saved, or at least given a reprieve. Instead, I'm going to toot my own horn a bit, and mention that I just had a letter printed in the Economist. As you may recall, we here in the D.C. area have been recently terrorized by some unknown person murdering random innocents of all varieties. The Economist ran a good article on the matter, and this is the letter I wrote to them, which they published in the October 26th issue.

The following is the entire letter; the Economist, for space considerations, edited the letter to fit their print edition. This is the unedited text.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your article dispassionately assessing the risks of the sniper murders taking place in and around Washington D.C.. As always, people's perception of risk and the actual risk being undergone are substantially at variance from each other.

However, I regret to inform you that your article did little to reassure my mother (in California) of the safety of myself and my wife. We moved to the Washington area last year; my wife works two blocks from the White House, and her first day of work was September 10, 2001.

The week after that, a tornado touched down a mile from our house, killing two.

I had hoped, upon starting your article, that it would present a sober assessment of the rather slim risk of being shot by the sniper. Although this it did, it was hardly an article to reassure my mother. You see, we live in Prince George's county, which as stated in your article accounts for three-quarters of the area's "ordinary" murders.

Your numbers, although valid and informative, overlook a very important feature of geography in the Washington D.C. area: Washington D.C. itself. The District has long contended for the lead in the national murder rate, and Prince George's county is adjacent to the most impoverished and dangerous part of the District itself.

According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice statistics for 2000, the nation as a whole had a murder rate of 5.7 per 100,000 population. The District of Columbia's rate was 46.4, of which the bulk is accounted for by the central and the southeastern portion of the district, which Prince George's county neighbors (DCPD study, 2001).

I merely wish to observe that, although for the sake of analysis one must place one's geographical boundaries somewhere, it would be more appropriate to observe that the southeastern portion of the District and the portion of Prince George's county immediately adjacent (PG police district III) are the statistical outliers with exceptionally high murder rates, rather than the whole of PG county, or even D.C. itself.

If only for my mother's sake.

- Karl Bilawski
University Park, MD

P.S. DCPD homicide study:
Prince George's county PD statistics:

So that's the letter I wrote. Happily, they have caught the sniper(s), so the letter was already out of date when it was printed, but that's about the thinnest black lining on a silver cloud I've ever heard of. And it's gonna serve as the bulk of my Cant column this week.

I admit, it's sort of cheesy to 'double-dip' and use it as a 'get out of Cant free' card, but that's just the sort of literary blackguard I am. Alternately, you could have had the column on boogers, or an attempt to squeeze humor out of the fact that 'Popery' and 'Poupourri' are homonyms.

Yes, I thought you'd like that last one. My wife actually noticed it. We were watching the film (Warlock... you know, from the start of the column?) and I was attempting to put words in the mouth of one of the Puritan Inquisitor types. (who, by the way, sentence the warlock to being hung, then burned over a basket of live cats. No shit. I dunno who thought that one up, or figured that it would tickle God's fancy.)

"Heresy! Heresy and foul Popery!" say I.

"Yes, anyone who makes a lavender sachet that smells like frog deserves to burn," agrees my wife.

It was kind of a zany evening.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra