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November 16, 2006

An Author-Turned-Murderer and Sorrow About the Banjo

by Dibs!


What could be doofier than awaiting the publication of your next book — it’s due out next summer — and then messing up everything by murdering your spouse? Andrew Pakhomov, a 45-year-old University of Alabama-Huntsville physics professor and the founder of the First International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion, was arrested on campus this week, booked on murder charges and accused of killing his wife during a canoe trip and dumping her body into the Tennessee River after she caught him in his office with another woman, according to the Decatur Daily. Forensic evidence was discovered in his SUV. Fishermen found 42-year-old Yelena Zakin’s naked corpse in June, partially submerged with a bag of rocks attached to it. The braided brown leather belt around Zakin’s neck was similar to the one Pakhamov was wearing upon his arrest, according to a Decatur police sergeant. (See photograph!) Domestic violence peppered the couple’s history. Shortly before her disappearance, Zakin had been arrested herself on charges of misdemeanor domestic violence assault and criminal mischief after assaulting her husband “and staff assistant Melissa DeHollander when she discovered them together in Pakhomov's office at the university's optics building,” according to the Daily. DeHollander was herself arrested in September for lying to investigators about the relationship and about her knowledge of circumstances surrounding Zakin’s death. Meanwhile the professor’s book, Principles of Laser Propulsion, is being published next August! “The author includes in-depth discussions of the physics phenomena behind laser propulsion,” reads the book’s Amazon listing, “such as plasma dynamics, ablative laser propulsion, propagation and reception of light, and more. At the cutting edge of this new technology, this text combines reviews of current research papers and projections for the future.” As a technical reference book, it’s priced at $129. Irony is so cruel.

Is there no end to the damage, the destruction, the tragedies we wreak daily in our careless, thoughtless clamor toward a dubious future? Is there nothing we will not crush under our rushing heels and destroy? Carol Wade wants to tell us about yet another crisis of our own making in her new book, due out next month from what a press release calls “a subsidiary of a Random House Ventures Partner” and potently titled The Death Throes and Demise of the Banjo. That’s what it’s really about. The irritating duplicity of contemporary banjo players who play old standards rather than new music while yakking on and on about themselves and the now-dead oldtimers who allegedly taught them. “The death of the banjo did not happen suddenly, but its failing began in the early '70s in Chicago,” this press release declares, adding that when Wade used to visit a club “on the North Side of the city ... performers from wealthy elitist multi-millionaire families living on Lake Shore Drive pretended that they hailed from poor areas of the Deep South.” The nerve!! “Astonishingly, their audiences believed all their lies.” Wade’s book will make us feel our loss deeply, evoking the sometimes-jolly, sometimes-sinister plinking of the five-stringed all-American instrument which most of us now chiefly associate with a creepy sequence in Deliverance and with the background noises for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The press release explains that Wade, a Southern California writer, is a former cerebral palsy telethon coordinator who “has overseen the production of two Chinese documentary films in China.” Despite all her efforts, the press release mourns, “Nothing saved the banjo.”

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