Disco Inferno

Earlier this week, a celebrity chef complained there was such a thing as the “Top 50 Women Chefs” and a friend of mine solicited comments on the topic. His question was whether there is room for outrage about continuing a special designation for women or if women didn’t have sufficient respect in the “serious” culinary community and it was a necessary thing.

The underlying question is whether women and men ought to compete at the same level in some fields but not in others. It is an interesting problem. Women, for instance, were banned by prejudice from major symphony orchestras until fairly recently. They could play girl instruments—the piano, the violin, or the flute—but not men instruments, brass and the larger woodwinds, I guess. They didn’t start making the cut until orchestras started having blind auditions. Instrumentallists would play behind screens and, when the judges couldn’t tell their gender, women started getting jobs playing men instruments.

But, I do not expect to see a woman playing center in the NFL in my lifetime.

There are some vocations to which women are not called, or called in such few numbers as to be statistically insignificant.Take serial arson; women indulge in serial arson so rarely, it could be said they never do. Arson is one of what I call the “broken” crimes. You can commit murder in a fit of anger. You could feel as if you’ve been wronged and plan revenge and execute it, then feel remorse at the loss of life and repent. A person doesn’t have to be broken to commit a murder, only shortsighted.

But serial violence (murder or rape), arson, and pedophilia are “broken” crimes. They come from incurable compulsions. When these people are caught and convicted there is no reason to undergo the pretense of rehabilitation. Criminals of this stripe are about destruction and desecration. Not only don’t they consent to the human norms that prohibit this behavior, they don’t understand that they are norms. Violence is, for them, not an attitude but a taboo like any other; a cultural construct not radically different from covering your mouth when you cough.

So while there can be some debate about whether “women chef” is a useful distinction, “woman serial arsonist” is a critical one. It is like “woman center” in the NFL.

And this week, not far from here, was arrested a woman suspected (and likely guilty) of serial arson. Some backwoods woman on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, under (possibly) the influence of a comically backwoods man, burned nearly 80 abandoned buildings to the ground over the course of sixish months.

It’s a movie waiting to happen, “Monster” with an even larger collection of even lower class hooligans. Boyfriend and co-accused, Charles Robert Smith III, goes by the pseudonym “Charlie Applegate.” It could only be better if they had a common law marriage.

Add to that the Keystone cop image the Accomack County Sheriff’s Department has cultivated over the past few years –

In case you’re not from here or have a short term memory issue, this is a video from the last time Accomack County was in the news:

– and I will be very disappointed if the theatrical release is longer than two months after the sentencing hearing.

Television has, of course, made a disaster of the process so far. In its written report on the event, WBOC wrote the accused, Tonya S. Bundick, “told the judge she will be needing an attorney.” This is her direct quote, this is how the author portrayed the hearing. Someone whose job it is to write an accounting chose those words. It bothers me that TV news assumes everyone who watches TV news is a mongoloid. But given they write as if their readers are illiterate, maybe they’re not dumbing things down for the masses. Maybe they are just too dumb to notice the difference.

The Daily Times had a much better account, which contained a fantastic line about Charlie Applegate, pulled from one of his many court appearances:

“A magistrate wrote at the bottom of one document in the case, ‘I hope he can get help for his drug habit.'”

Drug habit? I hope? So, seriously, how old and white do you thing that magistrate probably was? That sentence alone tells us everything we need to know about Charlie Applegate. He’s a repeat offender with a drug “habit.” A central casting white trash miscreant.

Which only makes Tonya’s story more appealing.

The key question for me is, at what point did they decide to burn down a tenth building? The mystery reader in me says it’s one of those instances where they wanted to get away with one real fire so the made a bunch of other ones. At some point (in my mind movie) there was a transition. It became about the burning rather than about anything else; that’s herein lies the fascination.
There’s plenty more on this week’s Todcast, including ToddManOut man on the street interview with this week’s guest Big Al Reno, and a State of the Beer in the back room of the brewery. Take a listen below or subscribe here.