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Ricin scare in Seattle
January 7, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Seattle area gay bars received a very strange and threatening letter yesterday. Dan Savage believes it might have been sent by a gay person. Here is Savage's first post about the letter.
posted by josher71 (124 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
And a British gay man, no less.
posted by nasreddin at 11:20 AM on January 7, 2009


Apparently a fat British gay man, according to Savage's commenters. Lord knows they can't be happy.
posted by boo_radley at 11:22 AM on January 7, 2009


Andrew Sullivan?
posted by orthogonality at 11:24 AM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


My money's on Orson Scott Card.
posted by stet at 11:26 AM on January 7, 2009 [20 favorites]


I see a lot of hat being hung on not much hook. I like the zoomy letter interface, though.
posted by DU at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


stet writes "My money's on Orson Scott Card."

No, no, it's a fat British gay man. Card's not British.
posted by orthogonality at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow, this is the weird threat. Savage is right about it being strangely lacking in reasons for the attack. The range suggests homophobia more than "disillusionment with the gay bar scene" to me, though. Then again, I am not a gay man (IANAGM?), so YMMV.
posted by aliceinreality at 11:27 AM on January 7, 2009


I have always had time on my side.

Mick?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:35 AM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


"approximately 67 grams?" That's odd phrasing for someone who didn't have any scientific training. You'd expect ounces, and if it was approximate, why not 70 grams, rather than 67?

That's also a fairly scary amount. A quick search shows that LD50 Inhaled is 3-5mg/kg, so that's roughly 200 fatal doses, assuming 65kg a person and the high end of that range, but that's perfect distribution. I've seen documents purporting LD50 doses in the microgram range, but they also claim that it's one of the most lethal substances out there, along with plutonium, which is just wrong, so I'm discounting that data as "utterly bogus."

So, yeah, if the writer in fact had that much ricin, he could make life less than fun.
posted by eriko at 11:37 AM on January 7, 2009


Irma.
posted by jonmc at 11:37 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too: he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do these days.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


Have there been any cases where a person or organization has warned about a specific attack like this, without any demands, and actually attempted to go through with it?

I have heard that terrorist groups have announced that they were going to kill a specific person on a specific day if demands were not met, and that serial killers sometimes send the police or media clues, but I can't think of anyone announcing and then doing something like this.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, it's true about British boarding schools, then?
posted by jonmc at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is "clients" for "patrons" or "customers" also a Britishism? It seemed like a very odd reference to me, especially in lieu of derogatory terms for the intended victims.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:43 AM on January 7, 2009


I'm glad we gay people have Dan Savage. Not only can he speak for us all and teach us what's right and wrong in the bedroom, but he can also solve all the Big Gay Mysteries from his editorial desk! Where would we be without you, Dan Savage??? Is there *anything* you don't know about the homo world?

*swoon*





**puke**
posted by mudpuppie at 11:44 AM on January 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


Good old Dan Savage. Sex columnist, political commentator, psychological profiler! CSI: Capitol Hill can't be far behind.
posted by proj at 11:45 AM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


First comment out of the gate on Savage's post ...

"Closeted, fat male." and "perhaps a fat gay male."

And I just got told last night, from a photographer I'm working with apropos of nothing, "You know, you could be really cute with bigger arms."

And now I don't think I'm going to go outside today. Or ever again. Thank you.
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 AM on January 7, 2009


I don't know about ricin, but the spelling and grammatical errors on this sign are awesome.
posted by cmonkey at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


Don't feel bad, whelk, one night in a bar that apparently was once owned by Al Qaeda, I was told by a very drunk woman that I needed to have my eyebrows waxed. Of course later that evening she also danced on the bar and then offered to trade me her dress for the Partridge Family t-shirt I was wearing, so she may not have been the best judge of anything.
posted by jonmc at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This could have been a round-up post. You know who else got a threat earlier this week?

Pendleton High on Lockdown After Bomb Threat

And it didn't stop there!

False bomb threat at the Duarte Wal-Mart.

Things are getting cooky, I tell ya. Even Katie Holmes is getting death threats!
posted by dios at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm with you, Mudpuppy. Dan Savage has become a tedious, unfunny know-it-all. The Dave Barry of buttseks.

...Plus, my 65 year old mom now knows what teabagging is. And wants to bring it up with me in conversation. THANKS DAN!
posted by applemeat at 12:05 PM on January 7, 2009


Man. How bored would you have to be to bother killing Katie Holmes?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:05 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, gay people blaming fat people.
posted by Damn That Television at 12:06 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think he's just sick of the music they play at gay clubs. Honestly, whatever it's faults, the music in the leather bars in Cruising was awesome. Gay bars nowadays? Just the endless drone of wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN occasionally punctuated by some abomination from some mediocre celebrity that the gay community has embraced.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is why I, as a straight man, have stopped going to gay bars, even though they offer me a brief and much needed respite from the endless and unwanted advances of heterosexual women on the prowl.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on January 7, 2009 [18 favorites]


Dan Savage is a one-man gay crime-fighting duo.
posted by Avenger at 12:10 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The police have already come and gone," said Roland, the manager at Madison Pub. "They collected the letter and that's about it."
There's your British guy, I betcha.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2009


A few years ago, some scary dudes from Detroit were threatening nuclear war against gay bars. At least against their dance floors.
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [9 favorites]


They want to put WHAT in me?
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ric
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:14 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think he's just sick of the music they play at gay clubs.

Well, to be fair, I was at the Bonham Exchange (pronounced "Bottom Exchange") for New Years Eve and they have a whole Hip/Hop floor, so instead of the WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP Madonna remix you can listen to some of the BHOOMP BHOOMP BHOOMP Shake Dat Azz remix.

And music in straight bars isn't that much better anyway.
posted by Avenger at 12:15 PM on January 7, 2009


I once put Black Sabbath on the jukebox in a gay bar. The patrons seemed to enjoy it.
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, is there a gay bar in that area that DIDN'T get threatened with random customer deaths? One that happens to be owned or managed by a Brit? One whose ownership might be concerned about declining revenues in a declining economy? Just curious, really.
posted by dersins at 12:18 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I once put Black Sabbath on the jukebox in a gay bar. The patrons seemed to enjoy it.

Was it "Fairies Wear Boots"?
posted by nasreddin at 12:19 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too

He even uses a semicolon!

"I have always had time on my side."

Dr. Who?
posted by binturong at 12:22 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I once put Black Sabbath on the jukebox in a gay bar. The patrons seemed to enjoy it.

Well it was on the bar's jukebox.
posted by applemeat at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's left-handed, one-legged, and keeps an albino armadillo named Kevin in his pantry. But the best laid plans of ricin men gang aft teh ghey.
posted by pracowity at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2009 [19 favorites]


If he really didn't like the music, wouldn't he just hang the dj?

And I'm not suggesting Morrissey is involved. He's forgiven Jesus, so everything's groovy with that Brit.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:29 PM on January 7, 2009



I think he's just sick of the music they play at gay clubs. Honestly, whatever it's faults, the music in the leather bars in Cruising was awesome. Gay bars nowadays? Just the endless drone of wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN wuhhn wuhhn wuhhn WUHHN WUUHN WUHHN occasionally punctuated by some abomination from some mediocre celebrity that the gay community has embraced.


Does the bar have a jukebox? One of the fancy new internet enabled ones? Then you do this. You order a drink, you go to the jukebox and you proceed to put in at least 10 dollars. American.

Yes I know it's more than you'll pay for your round, but atmosphere is important. Learn how to use the abuse the search functions and go. nuts. Let the Drifters and the Dresden Dolls lie down with the Ultra Lounge Collection. Rufus Wainright goes down well with Cole Porter, Nancy Sinatra and Mic Jagger can be friends! Johnny Cash and Wanda Jackson are good leads into the Ventures who are good leads to They Might Be Giants. Your audience will be greatful.

and maybe actually playing decent music will keep the bloody things in business. In my neighborhood, 4 of my favorite bars, not just gay bars, have vanished in the last year, 2 in the last month. The crowd at my local is a mostly older (sometimes much older) sort of man and I think (hope) they enjoy my All-Italian-American Crooner nights since the new bartender seems to think that blasting techno is just what the retirement crowd wants. /pettyrant
posted by The Whelk at 12:30 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The local Irish pub has a jukebox full of weird stuff, but the bartenders have the ability to switch songs whenever they like, and often do. Sometimes jukeboxes have music that no one really likes.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:31 PM on January 7, 2009



I once put Black Sabbath on the jukebox in a gay bar. The patrons seemed to enjoy it.

Everyone under 58 loves Black Sabbath. It is a law.
posted by The Whelk at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2009


Well it was on the bar's jukebox.

It was one of those online jukeboxes where you can play just about anything.
posted by jonmc at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2009


The writer quotes from this poem...
posted by joecacti at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]


You order a drink, you go to the jukebox and you proceed to put in at least 10 dollars. American.

Wait, I have a story about that. It doesn't end well. Well, I mean, it does, in that we all got to hear some Dio. But still. (Was I drunk at noon when I typed that comment, though? Wow.)
posted by uncleozzy at 12:39 PM on January 7, 2009


It is important to be a Benevolent Dictator of rock, something for everyone. If someone is determined to usurp, you must allow allow them, to do otherwise would not be noble.
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on January 7, 2009


From the stranger article: One of the bar owners notes, "But after the initial 'what?', it's like whatever."

This is a baffling attitude.
posted by boo_radley at 12:44 PM on January 7, 2009


He even uses a semicolon!

Incorrectly; though.
posted by topynate at 12:46 PM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow, good call on the Mark Doty poem, joecati. I don't know if it means anything to quote from a gay poet...but, well, it adds another layer for sure.
posted by troubles at 12:47 PM on January 7, 2009


that and the poem is fucking creepy in this new light:


forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.


It's like a Dennis Cooper novel all of a sudden.
posted by The Whelk at 12:50 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a fat embittered gay anglophile, I'd just like to say... it was me.

kidding. about the letter.
posted by kryptondog at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2009


Older ("I have always had time on my side"), male (men's gay bars), gay (Mark Doty poem), educated (punctuation, spelling, sentence structure) attention whore.

Unlike psychopaths who write after crimes to boast, prove their involvement, and attempt to elicit awe and respect, RicinMan is announcing where, when, and how (55 victims on a Saturday in January, by ricin). Surely, he realizes this will markedly decrease his ability to execute his crimes -- if he intended to commit them at all.

What might his goals be? Harming the bars' business, terrifying patrons, feeling momentarily all-powerful, receiving massive attention, avenging rejection, and being heard.

Savage might be spot-on.
posted by terranova at 1:05 PM on January 7, 2009


I like how we automatically rule out religious crazies based on erudition. Also, apparently well-written heterosexual atheists.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2009


I'm finding this story a little hard to believe. Those gay bar names are not very good (or bad) innuendos. Come on gays of Seattle! No Rawhide? No Good Friends? No Phase Two? No Jaded? The best you can do is Re-bar and The Cuff?

At least Purr and Neighbors have some hope.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:15 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Time Is on My Side" was used as a leitmotiv in the 1998 thriller Fallen.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:15 PM on January 7, 2009


I get the British(/Canadian?), I sort of get the white, but what leads people to believe he is fat?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:17 PM on January 7, 2009


boo_radley:
One of the bar owners notes, "But after the initial 'what?', it's like whatever."

This is a baffling attitude.
"...just as, presumably, they didn't care that they were living..."
posted by vsync at 1:20 PM on January 7, 2009


I don't know if it means anything to quote from a gay poet

I'm gonna shinny way out on a limb here and say yes, it does mean something.
posted by rusty at 1:20 PM on January 7, 2009


Hopefully not the last usage of the ricin' tag.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:33 PM on January 7, 2009


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too: he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do these days.

The use of "with which" also suggests somebody bending over backwards to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.
posted by jonp72 at 1:35 PM on January 7, 2009


You don't have to be edumacated to hate ending a sentance with a perposition!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2009


These letters are ridiculous but the potential to damage gay businesses is not. I will personally do my part to drink as many long islands and suck as many cocks as it takes to make sure this weekend goes smoothly!
posted by Craig at 1:40 PM on January 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


jonp72 writes "The use of 'with which' also suggests somebody bending over backwards"

Homophobe!
posted by orthogonality at 1:41 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


"approximately 67 grams?" That's odd phrasing for someone who didn't have any scientific training. You'd expect ounces, and if it was approximate

Oh but Tina loves metric. People into crystal meth are quite comfortable working with precise quantities of grams.
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The you's of 'with witch' also suggests sum buddy bending over back words

Homophonophobe!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:47 PM on January 7, 2009 [11 favorites]


I like how we automatically rule out religious crazies based on erudition. Also, apparently well-written heterosexual atheists.

This struck me as well reading the news article and Savage's posts. The religious wackos get all the press but surely there's plenty of secular homophobes out there; to presume that the author might be gay strictly because he doesn't invoke god or use slurs seems like a bit of a stretch to me.
posted by kryptondog at 1:53 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Savage] said that if the threat were designed to ruin business for gay bars, it may backfire. Staffers from The Stranger made a point of visiting gay bars Tuesday night to show their support, he said, and others may be inspired to do the same.

Can you imagine how different our foreign and domestic policy would be if our legislation responded similarly to other terrorist threats or attacks?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:55 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't have to be edumacated to hate ending a sentance with a perposition!

This man knows what he speaks of.
posted by inigo2 at 1:58 PM on January 7, 2009


Is meth a huge problem in the world of gay men, as opposed to another drug?
posted by maxwelton at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2009


You know, it just occurred to me....

DAN SAVAGE DID IT.

No, seriously, it's perfect. He gets PR, homophobia gets PR, and in the end, he's going to teach us a lesson about something. Plus, you know, 'five' and '11' prove it, since he's a writer and all.

The fat thing is just a red herring. He's a sneaky one.

Mark my words.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:02 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


*puts out APB for a fat red herring. with sour cream*
posted by jonmc at 2:05 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, reading the Doty poem...

Clearly the guy is just very sad and jealous of all the happy little gay boys. I can see how he could simultaneously get that poem and get it all wrong.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2009


You know, it just occurred to me....

DAN SAVAGE DID IT.

No, seriously, it's perfect. He gets PR, homophobia gets PR, and in the end, he's going to teach us a lesson about something. Plus, you know, 'five' and '11' prove it, since he's a writer and all.


Somewhere, Chuck Palahniuk is powering up his Macbook.
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't know why people are saying the person is obviously educated. "This is your warning for which nothing can prevent me" is not exactly stellar English. I think the letter reads like someone trying too hard to use correct spelling and grammar and falling just short. Same with the semicolon.
posted by threeturtles at 2:13 PM on January 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Somewhere, Chuck Palahniuk is powering up his Macbook.

At the Famous Indie Bookstore where I work, Palahniuk did a signing up in the rare book room for paying guests for charity. His handlers left us employees a schwag pile which included about 3 dozen cardboard bookmarks tasseled with....anal beads.
posted by jonmc at 2:15 PM on January 7, 2009


*puts out APB for a fat red herring. with sour cream*

Lutefisk? Try Ballard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:16 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Very good find on the poem. The writer is educated but not as smart as he thinks he is: the semicolon misused, the comma after "No doubt", "amount of exposure", "warning for which". That en dash should be an em dash. All the diction seems a little overwrought. Like somebody obsessed with his own idea of himself as a genius villain.

I hope it all turns out okay, and nobody gets hurt.
posted by penduluum at 2:19 PM on January 7, 2009


I like how we automatically rule out religious crazies based on erudition.

I think most of us are buying into what Savage points out - that the writer never says thing one about God or religion. I'm not saying it's a given or anything, but the religious crazies I've had to deal with over the years have pretty much always brought God into play early and often. I don't imagine the "God hates fags" crowd is that much different from the "God hates whatever it is you're doing over here because it looks like you might be enjoying yourself" crowd, but as has been said before, I'm not gay so YMMV.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is meth a huge problem in the world of gay men, as opposed to another drug?

yes, it is.
posted by nomisxid at 2:26 PM on January 7, 2009


he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do these days

And we can narrow it down even further, and rule out any writer who follows the Chicago Manual of Style, as they would have actually written both as words. (See 8.3: "Whole numbers one through ninety-nine [are spelled out in ordinary text.]")
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:32 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm glad the posters are showing an appropriate disdain for things Seattlesque. It is a big yawn, the nite club scenes are a big yawn, Savage and the vulgar "Seattle Weekly" are a big yawn. I'm getting sleepy, but may not be able to fall asleep... the whimpering and mooing is so loud.
posted by yazi at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2009


On the British thing: they tend to spell it gramme. So no luck there.

Also, his letter layout isn't at all like British standards. Schoolchildren are taught to include the sender's address in the top right corner, and sign their name at the bottom. Also, the use of 'Attn:' and the general tone of the letter is rather rude and abrupt. Here's a rewrite, with a politeness to be expected of a gentleman:

To Whom It May Concern,

Re: Homophobic killing spree, scheduled for late January.

I am sorry to inform you that your drinking establishment has come into my purview for a planned reduction in clientele. I am in possession of approximately 67 grammes of ricin with which I intend to put a surcease to the lives of at least five of your customers. They shall be chosen, shall we say, au hasard? I'm awfully sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you, either now or in the future. I also would like to apologise for any loss of revenue above and beyond that of the five people who will unfortunately no longer be able to imbibe alcohol at your public house.

I dare say that you may consider my intentions awfully unreasonable, but I found the abandon with which the oeuvre of Black Sabbath was removed from the jukebox exasperating. How difficult can it be to provide an acceptable ambience for all of your clients, no matter what their taste in music?

I hope my actions will in no way prejudice my patronage of your establishment in the future.

Yours sincerely,
S- F- Esq.

posted by Sova at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2009 [20 favorites]


I also would like to apologise for any loss of revenue above and beyond that of the five people who will unfortunately no longer be able to imbibe alcohol at your public house.

It's Canadians that apologise for everything, not the British.
posted by GuyZero at 2:50 PM on January 7, 2009


I like how Savage and his readers think it's someone British, fat and gay. Is the letter stained with pork pie drippings and KY, or are Seattle's queens all this ridiculous?

Anyway, if walking the streets of this city is any indication, there are a lot of overeducated, former mental patients out there who could have easily penned this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:53 PM on January 7, 2009


Those gay bar names are not very good (or bad) innuendos. Come on gays of Seattle! No Rawhide? No Good Friends? No Phase Two? No Jaded?

Hard to top: "The White Swallow" on Polk Street in San Francisco. Actually, "Hard to Top" isn't bad, either.
posted by msalt at 2:54 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyway, if walking the streets of this city is any indication, there are a lot of overeducated, former mental patients out there who could have easily penned this.

I did not!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:58 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is what I miss out on by not having special bars.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2009


That would be the late, lamented "White Swallow". We've still got "Endup", "Moby Dick" and "The Men's Room" though.
posted by Nelson at 3:00 PM on January 7, 2009


And yes, there's a lot of crystal meth use in the gay party scene. For instance, see Craigslist for PnP ads.
posted by Nelson at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2009


Actually, "Hard to Top" isn't bad, either.
Except no one would go to that bar.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, "Hard to Top" isn't bad, either

Bottoms Up would be better.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:28 PM on January 7, 2009


I absolutely love that I am within a 10 minute walk 10 of the 11 bars listed. Yay, gays!

This is scary, but some of those idiots commenting on The Slog are just as bad, jesus.
posted by tristeza at 3:34 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really really hope they catch whoever sent the letter if only because all the crazypants super-specific speculation about his (OR HER?!!!) identity is kind of fascinating.
posted by Neofelis at 3:36 PM on January 7, 2009


Slog commenters are often some of the vilest and most prejudiced commenters, just not in the usual direction.
posted by proj at 3:58 PM on January 7, 2009


Firefox needs and extension that eliminates all traces of comments from local news outlets. Think of the aggravation that would save! Maybe they could start with that stupidfilter thing that was in the news a while back?
posted by stet at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


How bored would you have to be to bother killing Katie Holmes?

Given what her life is like now, you might consider it euthanasia.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:40 PM on January 7, 2009


As a biochemist, I boggled at the claim of 67 g of ricin, thinking he meant the purified protein (hey, I'm a lab dork). 67 g of pure ricin toxin would be an astonishing amount to have lying around. If the guy isn't completely bluffing, he must have a very impure form. So I googled around and found an interesting article on ricin from a law enforcement perspective. It doesn't have to be very pure, or formulated in a high-tech way, to be a fairly effective bioweapon for small-scale operations. (The big boys prefer anthrax or botulinum toxin, apparently.)
posted by Quietgal at 5:13 PM on January 7, 2009


My favorite gay bar name has always been Numbers, located in Vancouver, BC, which I assume to be an allusion to the title of one of John Rechy's novels.
posted by Tube at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2009


Savage said the letters didn't contain any religious references, making him wonder whether the author was an embittered gay person.

So as I read it he's not saying the person isn't religious because of erudition, but because the person is a 'gay man'. Since when have gay men been stereotyped as not being religious? Most in my circle are pretty devout. Not holy rollers, but guys with a pretty active belief system. Which is of course an anecdotal sampling, but still...
Obviously I'm missing something? I usually am.
posted by dawson at 5:16 PM on January 7, 2009


I think you might be missing part of it, dawson. He's not saying that gay and religion are mutually exclusive. He's saying that the brand of anti-gay that involves actual threats of violence is nearly always closely tied to religious zealotry. I don't know if I entirely buy that assumption, but in this particular case, his reading of the letter makes more sense to me than anything else I can think of.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dawson: yes. It's not "he's gay, therefore not religious"; it's "he's not religious; what other demographic might write such a letter?"
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2009


"while in hospital". How much you want to bet this person is British? Isn't that where all of those are from? "I went to university" instead of "I went to the university", etc.
posted by wastelands at 6:00 PM on January 7, 2009


Oops. Scratch that. I failed to read the comments first. Forgive me, I'm coming back to MeFi after a months of frequenting other sites.
posted by wastelands at 6:01 PM on January 7, 2009


Hard to Top.

Except no one would go to that bar.

On first read, I would agree. On second read, with the emphasis on HARD maybe it'd be okay.

Needs a semi-colon?
posted by crossoverman at 6:03 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


roll truck roll/spaceman_spiff
Ahh, thanks. I guess I sorta see that now.
posted by dawson at 6:16 PM on January 7, 2009


I think he's just sick of the music they play at gay clubs.

I think these are bars, not clubs. Also, the Phoenix Bar on 13th and A (still there?) in Manhattan has the best indie rock jukebox I have ever had the pleasure of dropping money into.

Speculation-wise, I'd put my money on an HIV-infected woman. Or scorned drug dealer? How else could he/she poison people? You send a letter out like that, and people will be on the watch for some dude/woman creeping around and dropping powder into drinks ... I don't think that would work.

One good reason why you never piss off your drug dealer. Or do white-powder drugs.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:16 PM on January 7, 2009


Oops. Scratch that. I failed to read the comments first. Forgive me, I'm coming back to MeFi after a months of frequenting other sites.

What, you've been in the wastelands or something?
posted by dawson at 6:23 PM on January 7, 2009



I think these are bars, not clubs. Also, the Phoenix Bar on 13th and A (still there?) in Manhattan has the best indie rock jukebox I have ever had the pleasure of dropping money into.


Not to start a Manhattan gay bar war but (makes jerking motions).

They do have a ton of Dusty Springfield, so kudos for that
posted by The Whelk at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2009


If this were a CSI episode, the letter-writer would turn out to be a rival bar owner whose club is saved from bankruptcy after the poison-pen campaign.
posted by terranova at 6:27 PM on January 7, 2009


"Hard to Top" Needs a semi-colon?

Hard, to Top. Show Hard to Top? The bar's sign would be Hard 2 Top in any case.
posted by msalt at 7:30 PM on January 7, 2009


The other thought I have, on reading a couple of the related articles, is that if the letter writer ISN'T gay, and is in fact very homophobic, being so actively identified as gay by Mr.Savage could lead the writer to a rebuttal letter, which could lead to more clues.
posted by redsparkler at 7:49 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the best way to piss a homophobe off enough to make them lose their composure and start revealing incriminating information? Accuse them of being gay.

Nice work, Dan.
posted by Jilder at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2009


"I have in my possession approximately 67 grams of ricin with which I will indiscriminately target at least five of your clients. ... I expect them to die painfully while in hospital."

Given that Georgi Markov was killed by a pinhead-sized pellet, of whose volume a small fraction (less than half) was filled with ricin, this is rather akin to saying "I have in my possession approximately 67 thermonuclear bombs with which I will indiscriminately target at least five of your streets. ... I expect their economies to gradually falter despite efforts to carry on as normal."
posted by eritain at 8:25 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


On reflection, author does intend to spread that out over 55 victims. Even so. Well over a gram per person is like sandblasting a soda cracker.
posted by eritain at 8:29 PM on January 7, 2009


if the letter writer ISN'T gay, and is in fact very homophobic

Some of the worst homophobes are closeted gays. e.g. Roy Cohn.
posted by binturong at 9:55 PM on January 7, 2009


'm finding this story a little hard to believe. Those gay bar names are not very good (or bad) innuendos. Come on gays of Seattle! No Rawhide? No Good Friends? No Phase Two? No Jaded? The best you can do is Re-bar and The Cuff?

At least they have an Eagle, as per the The Handbook of Required Gay Bars and Establishments. Though, if it's not a leather bar, they're guilty of false advertising.
posted by desuetude at 10:06 PM on January 7, 2009


It all adds up - The traditional method of delivering lethal ricin pellets is a jab from a sharpened umbrella. I suspect... THE PENGUIN.
posted by Artw at 10:09 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the letter reads like someone trying too hard to use correct spelling and grammar and falling just short. Same with the semicolon.

Yeah, it reminded me of my MeFi comments.

And I'm not suggesting Morrissey is involved.

That would be a stretch. Why bother going through the hassle of ricin when he could just show up at the bar and bore them all to death?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:20 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too: he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do these days.

I'm an American and have no college degree, but I do what you're describing, too. Just sayin'.
posted by davejay at 10:34 PM on January 7, 2009


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too: he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do these days.

Agree. English majors of a certain dorkitude and our allies (which I mean as a self-description and, of course, with a certain pride) follow this sort of convention.

My armchair-detective take on the chiefly British "while in hospital" is this: POSEUR.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 PM on January 7, 2009


Copy of letter sent to The Stranger.

Poet Mark Doty wrote to Slog:
"This is just repellent. On the literal level, my poem ["A Display of Mackerel"] is about looking at fish on ice in the grocery store, and wondering if they could be called individuals. But I wrote in '94, in the crisis years of the epidemic, and so I was really thinking about mortality. I was trying to imagine some way to make the loss of those we love seem even temporarily bearable. So I was thinking about what it means to 'have' a self, to be a self, when selfhood is something we lose. I was trying to console myself and others, at least a little, for all we'd endured. So, it's especially ugly for these words to be used against gay men. Writers have no control over what people do with their words, but this is as far from my intention as you could get."
posted by ericb at 6:55 AM on January 8, 2009


At least they have an Eagle, as per the The Handbook of Required Gay Bars and Establishments. Though, if it's not a leather bar, they're guilty of false advertising.

Rest assured, the Eagle is everything you'd want it to be.
posted by Craig at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2009


Canadians say "in hospital" too, and spell grams without the additional "me." We also use semicolons wrong; and hate Americans. Just saying.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:37 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed in Dan for offering this totally ungrounded speculation, it says a lot more about him than about the person who wrote the letter. Though to be fair, his column is that way all the time.
posted by hermitosis at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not only is the writer probably British, but he's probably old-school educated, too: he correctly writes "11" as a numeral and "five" as a word, which basically only copywriters do ...

Agree. English majors of a certain dorkitude and our allies (which I mean as a self-description and, of course, with a certain pride) follow this sort of convention.


I think plenty of people do this just with short-lettered words, not following a "rule" - for one, two, four, five, six and ten, but not for 3, 7, 8 and 11 +. Just laziness, not copywriteritude...

Mark Doty's response is very touching, and the poem is quite beautiful, but I guess I'm surprised he's surprised that the poem could be read the way the letter-writer apparently did, that living and dying without a care could be "the price of gleaming"... And it does go with the suggestion that the writer is a bitter member of the community rather than a real outsider to make a reference like that.

If I were part of that scene I'd be watching the drug supply more than anything - scare them with a letter to the bars, and then tamper with the white powder through a dealer (or maybe he is a dealer)... not that there is necessarily anyone who will actually do anything, but if there were, i'd bet it'd come thru a drug supply rather than drink by drink.
posted by mdn at 4:14 PM on January 8, 2009


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