Fri, 23 December 2016
[ORIGINS OF XMAS]
December 25 is coming up, and everybody is getting geared up for their Baby Jesus celebration. However, Christmas is not the only wintry celebration to come in the month of December.
Due to the winter solstice, December has always been host to a number of pagan festivals, and some believe the date of Christmas was chosen to offset the many, many pagan rituals of the time period, including Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti. Similarly, if you’ve ever heard of the Yuletide, then you’ve at least passively acknowledged a Norse tradition.
The reason for the season, historically, outside of the Christian religion, has to do with the re-birth of the sun gods and the celebration of the returning of light to the world. The winter solstice represents the shortest day of the year, and getting the sun back is definitely a reason to celebrate.
But today’s episode isn’t about Christmas, not really. It’s about a half-goat, half-demon who punishes all the bad little children of the world, so if you were naughty this year, perhaps you should put off listening until the dawn has lit upon a post-Christmas day. Yes, I’ll be talking about Krampus.
Krampus is a “half-goat, half-demon” with long horns and killer beard whose name comes from the German ‘Krampen’ for claw. He is the dark yin to Santa Claus’s yang. While Saint Nick brings joy and happiness to the good children of the world, Krampus punishes the bad children in some pretty deviant ways.
He is a myth figure in middle and eastern Europe, including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Northern Italy. Basically, anywhere in the Alpine Region, you’re bound to run into the horned goat creature. If you travel over to Iceland, you’ll find a whole host of these Santa figures, known as the Jolasveinar. There’s the ‘Door Slammer’, ‘The Window Peeper,’ ‘The Sausage Snatcher,’ and ‘The Doorway Sniffer.’
December 5 is considered Krampusnacht, which I assume translates to Krampus Night. On this night, he travels from house-to-house, like Old Saint Nick, and leaves bundles of sticks for bad children. Doesn’t sound that bad, huh? Like coal in a stocking. However, if Krampus deems the child to be bad enough, he might bag up the offending child and toss her in a river or take her straight on down to Hell and save himself the trouble of trying to redeem the little bastard.
He is sometimes depicted as having one cloven goat foot and one human foot, perhaps to bridge the gap of his half-human, half-devil form. The chain he carries may be a vestigial holdover having to do with binding the devil and whatnot, but today it just makes for one hell of a terrifying legend.
The next day, after Krampus has whipped or damned all the evil kids, is Nikolastaugh, or St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch name, Sinterklass, eventually became our modern Santa Claus. It was his job to bring presents to all the good little boys and girls who missed the wrath of Krampus.
Nicholas himself became popular in Germany in the 11th Century, and though it is unclear when, exactly, Krampus came to popularity, it goes back as far as pre-Christian times. He is believed to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology, but whether that is exactly true is anybody’s guess. Either way, he is totally a pagan symbol.
By the 17th century, Krampus had been incorporated into Christian celebrations. Over the course of a few hundred years, he melded together with the Santa Claus myth to become something of a dark, violent companion to the fat old gift-giver.
And just as the legend grew, so did the list of punishments bad ole Krampus would mete out. This next part comes from a site called The Robot’s Voice:
According to a series of very popular 1800s postcards, Krampus enjoyed: ripping pigtails out, leading children off a cliff, sadistic ear-pulling, putting pre-teens in shackles, forcing children to beg for mercy, and throwing youngsters on an Express Train to The Lake of Fire (making no local stops). And then there’s my favorite: drowning children to death in ink and fishing out the corpse with a pitchfork.
In fact, today people can participate in the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run) in which young men dress up and participate. Other festivals include people dressing up as the goat-devil and attacking poor, unsuspecting party-goers, usually chasing them down and beating them about the legs with the birch sticks Krampus is known to carry.
I’m not sure if this is still true, but some homes in the Alpine region were known to leave the bag of birch sticks hanging on the wall all year as a reminder to be good, lest Krampus make his visit the next Krampusnacht.
Fri, 23 December 2016
December 24, 2008. All over the nation, parents are dressing up as Santa Claus, donning the red suit to amaze their children with the prospect of a wonderful Christmas morning. When I was a kid, family members would call and pretend to be Saint Nick to get me excited for the next day. Still happens, I suppose, all across the country, and even the Federal Aviation Administration even gets in on the action, posting a Santa Watch every year for captive youngsters.
The same thing happens in a suburb of Los Angeles called Covina, California, only with very deadly consequences. This is a true crime story of violence so personal and so without conscience, discretion is heavily advised.
At 11:30 PM local time, a man walks into the home of his in-laws dressed as Santa Claus. That man is 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, and he is visiting his family for Christmas. Only, instead of unloading a bag of presents for everyone, Pardo unveils a gift-wrapped, homemade flamethrower. He draws a semi-automatic 9mm pistol -- he also has three others on his person -- and fires into the face of his ex-wife's eight-year-old niece as she runs to greet him at the door.
As the first rounds echo through the house, the group of 25 people flee, but many of them are not lucky enough to get out. Pardo fires into the group and (authorities think) kills as many of them, execution-style, as he can. When Pardo is done firing into the group of partygoers, he uses the homemade flamethrower to soak the home in racing fuel before setting the home ablaze.
Nine of the 25 people in the house would perish from either gunfire or the resulting flames. Three others would be wounded. A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old broke her ankle leaping from a second story window.
The eight-year-old, as fate would have it, survives. It is both a horrific curse and a perverse blessing that she lives. While she has the rest of her life ahead of her, she is going to be confronted with the reality of being shot in the face by the symbol of the season every December 25 from now on.
Once Pardo finishes his rampage, he shucks the Santa suit and leaves the residence in his street clothes. He drives his rented car thirty miles away, to neighboring Sylmar, California, where Pardo's brother lives.
There is some confusion at this point about what, exactly, Pardo's plan turned out to be. It is believed he contemplated fleeing to Canada. Police find $17,000 cling-wrapped to his legs and a plane ticket in his name. However, despite flying with Air Canada, the itinerary stated he would be traveling to Illinois, where a high school friend he had visited in October of that year lived.
The complicating factor are the burns Pardo sustained while setting the resident site of the massacre ablaze. He purportedly suffers third degree burns on his arms, and it is rumored that some of the Santa suit melted onto hi flesh, which would make a flight just about anywhere an unlikely, painful scenario.
None of these details about Pardo's intentions can be known, because Pardo decides to take his own life in the wake of this tragedy. Using a gun from the attacks, he places the barrel against his temple and pulls the trigger.
The horror doesn't end there. In his home, police find the following: five empty boxes for semiautomatic handguns, two shotguns, and a container for high-octane fuel. According to reports, they also found "a virtual bomb factory," and one can only wonder what sort of carnage he might have been capable of inflicting had he taken all of that with him.
Back at the in-laws' home, the fire rages on. It takes 80 firefighters nearly 90 minutes to put out the fire. The bodies inside the Ortega home -- Ortega was Sylvia Pardo's maiden name -- are so badly burned, they must be identified using dental or medical records. As if to punctuate the horrible affair, the day after, a pipe bomb explodes in the car rented by Bruce Pardo outside the home where he had committed suicide. He had rigged a Santa suit to explode if taken from the car's backseat.
The final death toll related to Pardo's rampage is nine, including Pardo's ex-wife, both of her parents, two of her brothers, their wives, and one of the nephews.
It's the sort of event that can devastate not just a family but the surrounding community. Every day is sacred, if you value life, but the holidays stand for something, even if you're not religious. If you're like me, and church is but a distant memory of childhood, the Christmas season represents a kind of renewal of your faith in humanity, a time to reflect on your successes and failures so that you can attempt to change and influence the world in some positive way. To be more forgiving of others and hope they might, too, forgive you.
To do something so vile during this season begs the question: why in the hell someone would perpetrate such a barbaric, inhuman act like this? Well, the answer is probably one you've been able to ferret out by now. Bruce Pardo and his wife had been going through some trying times in their marriage, and Pardo's divorce with his wife, Sylvia, was finalized on December 18, roughly one week before the attack. Reasons get even more specific, though, in the ensuing investigation. The problem, as it turns out, night not have been scorned love, after all, but money. Pardo had made the comment that Sylvia was "taking him to the cleaners" in the wake of their divorce, and so it might have been his wrath over the financial repercussions of their divorce that drove him to commit this heinous crime, rather than his passion for their lives together.
Is it better? No. Does it cast a reflection upon most people's feelings over the season? Hell yes. Most people I know find Christmas to be a season driven by money, rather than giving, family, community, or the like. So, yeah, it might seem that this is a horribly sardonic end to an even more unsettling crime.
Here is a news report from the wake of the shooting:
Bruce Pardo Kills 8 in Covina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z7u0T8sRDA
This is not new to true crime. A simple Google search reveals this happening days and weeks and months ago, so these incidents are not isolated. But on Christmas? It is unspeakable, though not rare, and so it is with this heaviness on my mind that I come away from this hoping that you all have a wonderful holiday, that you think not just of the people you love and admire this holiday season, but those you might disagree with. Those you might have hoped to forget about for the weeks leading up to 2016's end. Now is the time to make the rest of this year what you can, and what you will.
Check out other true crime at the site, tblakebraddy.com
Sun, 18 December 2016
In honor of hitting a quarter-thousand episodes, I decided to reflect upon the lessons I had learned about podcasting and provide the audience with a how-to guide for some easily-avoided pitfalls and problems associated with hosting a successful podcast. I was lucky enough to score Jeremy of Lopez Radio for this, especially since he worked in terrestrial radio for several years before starting his own podcast.
Below, we came up with a list of tips for how to jumpstart your success in podcasting. We also cheated a bit and came up with TEN lessons instead of five, so just consider it a bonus, just from us. The tips are broken up into two sections, Technical and Philosophical. We hope this guide is clear enough! Thanks for listening.
Tue, 6 December 2016
Saturday, July 4, 2009. A relatively quiet Independence Day for the US. The Statue of Liberty crown reopened after being closed for 8 years due to the attacks on the World Trade Center. North Korea tested ballistic missiles of their own to rattle the saber of their military at the United States, but nothing extraordinary. Seemed like it would be just another quiet celebration of America's Independence.
At 1:35 p.m., a man named Robert Gaddy called 911 and reported finding two bodies in a residence at 105 Lea Avenue near downtown Nashville, TN. A 300-plus pound lineman for the Nashville Kats Arena Football Team, Gaddy was known around town as "Big Daddy Gaddy." He is perhaps most well-known for being a friend and teammate to NFL legend and local hero, Steve McNair.
The first officer appeared just four minutes later, at 1:39 p.m, and found that one of the victims was the former football star. The other appeared to be a woman, whose dead body lay at his feet on the floor of the living room. The man turned out to be Steve McNair and the woman his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi.
McNair sat on his couch, Kazemi on the ground at his feet. The officers found two bullets in the walls almost immediately; one was attributed to McNair, the other to his girlfriend. The 9mm used in the murder-suicide was then found underneath Kazemi's head during the investigation.
Here is a brief synopsis of what the officers found upon entering McNair's place:
Due to a lack of any defensive wounds or defensive posturing from McNair, police believe McNair was asleep on his couch when he was shot and killed early in the hours of July 4th, 2009. According to the case summary, McNair's Blood Alcohol Level was 0.15%, nearly twice the legal limit at the time, which may have contributed to his drowsiness.
A few more details on what police believed happened the night of McNair's death (from the case summary):
The Life of Steve McNair
This isn't a sports blog, so I won't spend a whole lot of time writing about Steve McNair's career, but here are the highlights: he won the Walter Payton Award in 1994 and was drafted by the Houston Oilers the next year. He didn't really become a superstar player in the NFL until the Oilers migrated to Nashville and became the Tennessee Titans.
He participated in the Titans' lone Super Bowl, losing that game by about a foot-and-a-half. (Sorry if this is triggering you, the long-suffering Titans fan.) He took the Titans to a few more playoff appearances before being traded to the Ravens in 2005. He played a few more seasons and then retired in 2007.
I remember intensely respecting his on-the-field heroics. He was tougher than most quarterbacks, and he put a nice touch on his passes. Being a Falcons fan, though, I never followed 'Air' McNair's career with the fervor that I would now.
His personal life plays much more of a role in his ultimate death than his football career. First of all, he was married, and many of his friends were surprised to know he was involved in a secret relationship with the waitress, Kazemi, before his death. He had two sons with his wife, Mechelle McNair and two sons by two other women.
The Fourth of July Timeline
A few key events lead up to Steve McNair's death. On July 1, an African-American male (who was not Steve McNair or Adrian Gilliam) showed up at the Opry Mills Dave & Buster's where Sahel Kazemi worked and hung out without eating or drinking. Kazemi spent an hour talking to him on her shift, disappeared for two hours during her 30-minute break and was sent home after that.
Also, the Thursday before his death, July 2, McNair was out with Kazemi and chef Vent Gordon when Kazemi, driving an Escalade registered to the couple, was pulled over.
According to a Hollywood Gossip timeline, the traffic stop occurred between 1-1:30 a.m. early Thursday morning. She was arrested for DUI but not before McNair and Gordon left the scene via taxi. Kazemi apparently asked McNair to talk to the arresting officer, but McNair, perhaps fearing a public controversy over the matter, refused. McNair then went to Free at Last Bonding and arranged to bail her out. According to Fowzi Ali, a cab driver, McNair went to Loser's Bar in Midtown Nashville for 15-20 minutes before requesting to be taken back to the residence on Lea.
Later that evening, Kazemi, having been bailed out by McNair, ventured to meet a convicted murderer named Adrian Gilliam to purchase a semi-automatic 9mm pistol. (More on that later.) This would prove to be the gun used in the murder-suicide.
That Friday, Kazemi went into work at the Dave & Busters at the Opry Mills Mall, just outside of Nashville, and sent a series of texts throughout her shift and beyond. Judging solely on the content of the texts, she merely appeared to be in love with the former quarterback, not veering toward some form of psychotic break.
However, according to an article in ESPN, there are some signs that she was not quite herself in the hours leading up to her death:
It's extremely possible to come to the conclusion that Steve McNair AND Sahel "Jenni" Kazemi would still be alive today, had she only been able to go out with someone else -- anyone else -- that Friday night.
Later testing concluded that Kazemi was the sole shooter. There was powder residue on Kazemi's left hand, indicating she had fired using both hands, and none on either of McNair's.
Remember Robert "Big Daddy" Gaddy? Turns out, even though he made the initial 911 call, he was not the person who discovered the bodies. That distinction goes to one Carless Wayne Neeley, a friend of McNair's who co-rented the property at 105 Lea Avenue with the former football star.
July 4th, at approximately 12:40 p.m., Neeley dropped by the residence and saw McNair's cars parked outside. He had been talking to McNair about speaking at a local Little League game and figured he would drop in to ask about it. He unlocked the doors and went inside. He saw the both of them in the living room but thought they were asleep and walked right past them into the kitchen. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and returned to the living room.
Upon seeing blood and shell casings in the condo, he fled the residence. He said he didn't recognize the victim on the couch as McNair and tried multiple times to call the former football player. When he couldn't get ahold of McNair, he did the next best thing: He called McNair's best friend, Gaddy, who showed up 15 minutes later.
Gaddy and Neeley went inside and identified McNair's body, but here's the weird thing: they didn't go outside and immediately call the police. First, they called General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland. Moreland, of course, told them that they should call the authorities and admit to everything they knew.
The 9mm Pistol
A thirty-three-year-old convicted murderer named Adrian Gilliam sold Sahel Kazemi the loaded 9mm pistol she would later use to murder Steve McNair and kill herself. He purportedly wanted a romantic relationship with Kazemi and exchanged 49 texts and phone calls in the days leading up to the murder.
He later stated he sold her the gun because she'd told him she was worried about prowlers in the area. However, it was also speculated that she was angry over the possibility that McNair was engaged in other extramarital affairs, in addition to the one he was having with her. Despite that, she was also purportedly seeing other men at the time, including one of McNair's former teammates on the Tennessee Titans and a Vanderbilt University football player.
Timeline Leading to Steve McNair's and Sahel Kazemi's Deaths
Thursday, July 2, 2009: Two Days Before McNair's Death
Kazemi is pulled over for DUI in Nashville while driving a Cadillac Escalade registered to both McNair and Kazemi. McNair and Vent Gordon, the chef at one of McNair's restaurants, are in the car at this time. McNair refuses to get out and talk to the police, but he still bails Kazemi out of jail. Weird irony: the officer who arrests Kazemi for DUI is the same one who, six years earlier, arrested McNair for the same charge.
Later that evening, Sahel Kazemi purchases a 9mm pistol from a convicted murderer she met while trying to find a buyer for her Kia. (Wikipedia) There is also speculation that Kazemi was with her ex-boyfriend, Keith Norfleet, in the hours following being bailed out of jail for DUI.
Friday, July 3, 2009: The Day Before McNair's Death
10:05 AM -- Kazemi texts McNair. "Baby I might have a break down im so stressed." She also states she needs to pay "the cell phone bills n the hospital."
04:00 PM -- McNair tells Kazemi that $2,000 is being transferred to her account. She later texts that she "can hardly breath [sic]" and "I just want the pain in my chest to go away." McNair texts back, asking if she would like for him to see about her.
04:04 PM -- Kazemi texts McNair: "Baby I have to be w u 2nite. I dnt care where."
08:34 PM -- Kazemi again texts McNair: "baby where u gonna be at when I get off."
11:00 PM -- McNair puts his children to bed.
Saturday, July 4, 2009: The Day of McNair's Death
12:38 AM -- McNair texts Kazemi: "On my way." [Presumably, this is the condo where the two of them met up.]
01:14 AM -- Kazemi tells McNair the door is open.
02:23 AM -- There is one more text sent to McNair's phone at 2:23 AM. "im going to the store." It was sent approximately 23 minutes after the Metro Nashville Police Department believes Kazemi killed Steve McNair and then herself. According to Sammy Saltman in a 2009 article, "T-Mobile Subpoena Compliance Specialist Melanie Cadwell told Nasvhille authorities that it is possible this message, which was received by McNair's Blackberry at that time, was delayed in transit, and was actually sent earlier.
The Lingering Questions in Steve McNair's Death
Although the official investigation into Steve McNair's death seems pretty conclusive, a few lingering questions remain. Former police officer Vincent Hill believes Kazemi did not, in fact, murder McNair and turn the pistol on herself. His main evidence comes from the fact that McNair, who very often carried thousands of dollars rolled up in a rubber band, only had $6 in in his wallet when his body was found.
A more minor but nevertheless credible point relates to Adrian Gilliam's uneven testimony. Gilliam claims that he avoided the truth in his initial interviews because his fiancee was present, and he didn't want her to know about his amorous intentions with Sahel Kazemi. We can't really cast aspersions on Gilliam purely for his past, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he had something to hide about the whole murder/suicide.
The last point Vincent Hill brings up is that Kazemi purportedly hated guns. I mean, honestly, that doesn't really matter, since plenty of violent ends have come at the hands of people who abhorred violence, but it is definitely an avenue worth exploring. Kazemi's family has requested the investigation be re-opened, and though I doubt that will ever happen, it doesn't hurt to think about all of the angles in this case.
The more I've read about Steve McNair's death, the more tragic the whole thing seems to become. I've got to admit, I first thought the whole case had to do with a jealous lover and revenge. Now that I've paid some actual attention to it, I have to admit it just appears to be a horrible, random, absolutely senseless crime. Steve McNair was no worse than any other professional athlete, and he appeared to have a really quite generous streak that set him apart. From what I've read, he was a good man, an absolute legend, one who embraced Nashville with the whole of his life.
Sahel Kazemi didn't have a chance to establish herself, so the legacy she leaves behind is tied almost exclusively to her tumultuous relationship with Steve McNair. However, the horrors associated with the events of July 4, 2009 can't erase the joy she brought to friends and family. She very obviously suffered a psychotic break, which may explain what eventually happened in the wee hours of her final night.
Thu, 1 December 2016
'The Killing Season' on A&E is one of the most engrossing true crime documentary series I have ever watched, and I was lucky enough to interview the series creators, Rachel Mills and Josh Zeman.
We discussed their experiences investigating the Long Island Serial Killer, the Daytona Beach Serial Killer, and the Chillicothe, Ohio murders. In making 'The Killing Season,' Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills encountered The Outlaws motorcycle gang, pimps, sex workers, and vigilante websleuths seeking justice.
This podcast episode is not an in-depth discussion of the various theories of what went on in each of these serial killer cases, but what both of the show's producers came to feel about what they were documenting. The world of serial killers and true crime can be scary, soul-draining work, and Zeman and Mills worked like investigative journalists embedded with soldiers in a war-torn country.
First, they started with the bizarre murders in Long Island, starting with the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert, which may not be tied to the LISK case but may actually have led to the discovery of 10-11 victims over the course of the months following her discovery. (PS: If you want to read the DEFINITIVE book on the Long Island Serial Killer [AKA The Craigslist Killer], then check out Robert Kolker's Lost Girls.])
Their investigation then drew them south to Atlantic City and later to Daytona, where a series of serial murders seemed to follow a bizarrely familiar pattern. It's something that became increasingly unsettling as I watched The Killing Season, but I had no idea there could be any real, literal connections until I saw what Mills and Zeman had managed to uncover.
This episode is a great introduction to the cases and also a kind of behind-the-scenes discussion of a fantastic piece of art about the modern world of crime. It's horrifying, scary, and totally compelling to watch.
Theme: "Ten" by DJ Sun
You can find my books on Amazon, as well. Here are the links to the first two works in the Rolson McKane tetralogy:
Here are the other links to find both the podcast(s) and my own thoughts and ramblings:
The Principled Uncertainty Podcast