Sunday, August 01, 2004

What Brian did on his Summer Vacation

My nephew was laid off from Ford Motor Company a couple of weeks ago. He decided to take a road trip by visiting his New England-based aunties. He stopped here first, and we took him into New York City to see some of the sites. Then he headed to Natick, which is near Boston, just in time to encounter the Democratic Convention.

It was fun while he was here. We couldn't take much time off to do stuff with him (a day's notice is not enough to reschedule everything), which I was sorry for. We sent him off to Sherwood Island in Westport, where he got a dandy sunburn (at 19, he doesn't care about sunburn. Until afterward). He tried to go to Mystic Seaport, but got caught into one of those mysterious mid-day traffic jams the are seemingly caused by nothing and was forced to turn back (the Seaport battens down the hatches at 5:00, even during the height of the summer tourist season). They joys of I-95. So he turned back, and got a cracked windshield for his trouble (he got it replaced on Thursday). We took him to see I Robot (an awful movie -- a dishonor to Isaac Asimov) and Kill Bill Vol 2 (Tarrantino had two movies in him. This was not one of them.)

But we did manage to get into Manhattan last Saturday. Caught the train to Grand Central, where he got a small taste of what people mean by "As busy as Grand Central Station." We were impressed by the lower level -- lots of shops and a nice waiting area, sort of. We grabbed the shuttle to Times Square, then caught the #1 to South Ferry. Destination: Ellis Island.

To get to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, one takes the Circle Line Ferry. It's not a bad trip. However, we're there on a Saturday in July, and for some witless reason, visitors have to go through metal detectors to board the boats. The security is run by Wackenhut inSecurity (conspiracy theorists: have a field day ...) and a bigger joke we've never seen. It's one of those deals where very low-powered magnetrons are set up in a tent on the dock and they herd people through. The xray screens reveal nothing. They didn't even pick up the keys in Stanley's wallet or render anything visible in my backpack (keys, scissors, pocketknife, camera, etc.) All the screening did was waste time.

The trip out was uneventful, though pleasant. We circled Liberty Island but didn't get off there since it's not yet open again (not until August 3.) It was Brian's first close-up view of Lady Liberty though.


Ellis Island was the next stop on our 15-minute cruise. Stanley took this shot. Too bad it was such a gloomy day, though I was happy the sun wasn't out so I didn't turn into a neon glow.


This was our first trip to Ellis Island, ever. I'd been meaning to go there for years. I know my paternal grandfather came through Ellis Island because I found him in the archived manifests (and got a reproduction of it to give to my Dad for father's day a couple of years ago). I think my paternal grandmother came through as well, but I've not yet been able to find her.

I don't know what I expected. Some of the sense of history I got from visiting other places with lots of history, such as the battlefields of Gettysburg and Manassas, the Capitol, Fort Wayne in Detroit, the old cemeteries around here ... But I was hugely disappointed with Ellis Island. It is soulless. There is no sense of history here. Brian thinks, and I agree with him, that part of the problem is all the modern additions they added when "restoring" the place -- the light fixtures, the stairwells, the arcades.

Another problem is the exhibits themselves. Some were interesting -- the ones showing photos of what the place looked like before the "restoration," particularly since the objects in the photos were displayed in the same room. Stanley like the photos of the restoration itself. There were cases and cases of objects, such as clothing, household goods, toys -- but they weren't organized in any way and were badly lit so that you couldn't really see them properly. There were walls of documents, but they were impossible to read.

Then there were pictures of the immigrants themselves, and the places they came from. These are so large that any sense of intimacy is destroyed. They looked more like photos of Big Brother in the 1984 sense than anything meant to draw you into feeling any kind of a connection with a long-ago immigrant.

Everybody who's never been to Ellis Island thinks there's a wall there with each immigrant's name listed. If there is, I sure didn't see it.

I think the main problem with the exhibits is they weren't categorized in any way that would let you grab hold of a narrative thread. I wanted to see my grandparents' trail from Scotland to New York City, the ship my grandfather sailed on. I'm sure other visitors would want to see the paths originating in other parts of Europe. There was no path to trace, nor a timeline. It is a jumbled mess.

They should have left the place the way it was when it was abandoned in 1924, and maybe set up a visitors' center in another building. Such a shame -- a tremendous piece of our history "restored" to death.

Brian_ESB_shrine072404.jpgAfter we managed to get back to shore, we took the subway up to 33rd Street to go to the Empire State Building. I've been up to the top a couple of times, but neither Brian nor Stanley had even done that particular tourist thing. I love the building, the lettering, the marble so polished it's almost alight.

It was very busy. We got to the escalator that you take down to get tickets to go up, and the line mover guy said there was a 90-minute wait just to get a ticket. By this time, it was after 7:00 and we were all very, very hungry. We let Brian decide, and he said it probably isn't worth waiting 90 minutes to pay $12 each to spend ten minutes looking at the view. I think he was pretty tired at that point, and I know he had a headache.

So we decided to head over to Grand Central.

Walking up Fifth Avenue was fun, and we showed him the New York Public Library, watched the people, looked for a likely place to eat dinner. Which of course we didn't find.

brian_empirestatebuilding07.jpgIt's weird seeing all those Jersey barriers surrounding Grand Central. I guess it's plausible that a vehicle laden with whatever could plow into it -- I assume they're placed there to prevent this. It's also very yuck to see soldiers patrolling a train station, besides the 50 or so visible cops. It didn't leave me feeling any more secure than I did after going through the toy security setup to get to the Statue of Liberty.

We looked around a bit, but there wasn't much to see at 8ish on a Saturday at Grand Central. I really wanted to go to the Oyster Bar for dinner -- I love the food there and I just think it's a cool place. Fortunately, Stanley loves seafood (and I think he was pretty hungry). We had a good gasp at the prices, but decided we would count this as one of our long-delayed celebrations and, hey, what the hell. Neither of us drinks, and Brian isn't old enough to, so we knew the bill wouldn't break us. The food was great. It felt good to sit there and enjoy the place and I'd forgotten how much I like New York City water. We had a nice waiter, who filled us in on the labor situation there (they got a decent contract).

Then, time to go home. While we were disappointed with Ellis Island, and didn't make it to the top of the Empire State Building, it was an interesting day and I enjoyed it a lot. We had to wait more than an hour for our train, but I read the Sunday Newsday. The air conditioning was broken on our car, so it was a hotter than hell trip home, but I was just so exhausted I couldn't bring myself to move until we got to the train station.

Ginger, of course, thought we'd totally dropped off the face of the earth and that she'd never ever see us again, so she was deliriously happy for longer than she usually is when we come home. The demented cat yowled for a while -- I guess that's his way of yelling at us for leaving him with only the dog to keep him company.

Brian headed off to Massachusetts the next day, and the dog moped for days afterward. We'll see Brian once more before he heads back to Michigan -- he's going to be in Bridgeport to see the WWF, spend the night here, and then head home.
posted by lee on 08/01/04 at 01:12 AM
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Monday, August 02, 2004

missing crayons

Today I stumbled upon gapingvoid: how to be creative. I think via FURL. Read it and then spent quite a bit of time wandering about

"So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for" Hugh MacLeod over the years.

I particularly like his discussion of the Sex and Cash Theory: "The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

And his cartoons.

Off to pay some bills.
posted by lee on 08/02/04 at 07:42 PM
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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

wicked funny animation faces the copyright sharks

Go to JibJab and watch / listen to Our Land while you still can. Then read about the threatened lawsuit over the film in the Wired article written by Rachel Metz. Then, take a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundations's notes and letter to Ludlow Music about the suit (EFF took up JibJab's cause).

Ludlow claims JibJab took too much of the original, and that it isn't a parody of the song itself and so therefore JibJab infringed the copyright they hold on Woody Guthrie's song written in the 1930s. EFF says the song is transformative, that the original was lifted from a Carter Family song, and that it is too a parody and completely protected.

It's all pretty interesting. Guthrie would probably be howling with laughter over the whole thing since he allegedly encouraged people to steal the song.

It looks like Ludlow wants to cash in on JibJab's fifteen minutes of fame ... I don't think Ludlow has any inkling of the economics of the whole thing: no money tree to shake here. Face time on Fox doesn't necessarily translate to kaching at the register.
posted by lee on 08/03/04 at 02:41 PM
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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

edwards’s tactical expertise

Reading the article below got me to thinking about John Edwards's somewhat disappointing speech at the Democratic Convention last week. It wasn't a bad speech, by any means, but not the one I expected from a winning trial lawyer. But it's been slowly dawning on me why, and the article linked below pretty much clinched it for me. I think Edwards toned down because he didn't want to clearly outclass John Kerry (in the speech making realm, I mean) at the convention. And it makes sense. But read it for yourself ... it's on which, I believe, is free.

A Rise Fueled by Risk and Rewards
John Edwards' unorthodox tactics -- in law and politics

Tom Schoenberg, Legal Times. 8-4-2004

John Edwards' first witness was one of the defendants -- a registered nurse who was in the delivery room when a brain-damaged child was born.

Calling the defendant to the stand as a witness for the plaintiff was a huge risk. If Edwards was unable to get the woman to recount the series of errors alleged in his opening statement, he essentially would be doing the defense team's work for them.

The gamble worked: The nurse confirmed nearly all the mistakes alleged against the hospital staff in the case. Three weeks later, Edwards and the defendants negotiated a confidential settlement before the jury returned a verdict.
posted by lee on 08/04/04 at 02:34 PM
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Thursday, August 05, 2004

i do not want espn, the golf channel, or yes

Stanley and I have a high-end subscription to our local cable monopoly, Cablevision. We pay the bucks so we can get Showtime and HBO and well as IFC, Sundance, and Flix. Movies are our escape, and there are certain shows we love that are only found on premium channels free of the FCC bullshit that's dumbing down the airwaves.

But we don't watch sports. None of them. The closest would be the Eukenuba Dog Shows on Animal Planet. We're not Yankee fans, yet we have to pay and extra buck a month for Yes. We don't give a rat's ass for golf, yet we have to pay for the Golf Channel. ESPN: as far as we're concerned, is a ripoff for us.

And I'm sure the sports freak who doesn't watch movies much feels the same way about having to pay for movie channels she doesn't watch.

We could probably cut our cable bill in half if we could pick and choose the channels beyond the broadcast channels that we want and are willing to pay for. We would keep SciFi, but dump MTV. Discovery stays, Fox News: gone.

The cable industry says it would be too expensive. Congress will show it's usual lack of spine and probably not do anything about this any time soon. All kinds of alarmist warnings are strewn about. So it was kind of interesting to read an article that says giving consumer a choice really isn't that expensive, that some cable companies really would like to offer a la carte service, and that the biggie cable company in Canada is already offering this service:

Technology Review: Watching Channel Zero

The cable and media companies cited tens of billions of dollars in estimated costs to equip their digital cable boxes with the necessary "traps" to block individual channels. But that figure may be questionable. I spoke with Jean-Paul Galerneau, communications manager for Videotron, a Canadian cable company that has offered a la carte cable selection for over two years. He claims that his company didn't have to change anything at the infrastructure level to offer a la carte. Videotron customers can change their channel selection every month by calling a customer service representative or simply by visiting the Videotron website. He professes puzzlement as to why the U.S. cable industry insists that a la carte selection would entail an expensive transformation. "It can be done very easily," he says.

A quick call to Scientific Atlanta -- the manufacturer of the cable boxes used by Videotron and a leading supplier in the United States -- confirmed that offering a la carte channel selection wouldn't require any changes to the box. "From a tech point of view, there wouldn't be a problem," says Peggy Ballard, vice president of strategic communications at Scientific Atlanta.

Granted, switching to an a la carte model would incur some costs, such as training, upgrading the billing infrastructure, and marketing. But the $17 billion to $34 billion figures cited in a cable-funded study seem wildly off the mark. Whats more, not all cable companies are opposed to offering a la carte. The demarcation occurs around the issue of media ownership. Some smaller cable companies with no media interests are willing to offer a la carte, while large conglomerates oppose it.

Read the rest -- it's interesting (and I think it's one of the free articles in Tech Review).
posted by lee on 08/05/04 at 03:40 PM
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Sunday, August 08, 2004

now these are movies

These days, after I slap down my nine bucks for a ticket, all I ask of a movie is that I feel like I've been to the movies. I don't expect high art or deep meanings or even anything profound. I do hope for a couple of hours of escape without being jarred out of my absorption by thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, this is just totally stupid."

We went to see I, Robot not too long ago. What a waste product. What a waste of Will Smith, having him reprise his Independence Day role. Then we went to see Kill Bill 2. I didn't like Kill Bill 1 much, but once I've seen the first half, unless it totally smells, I'll go see the second or sequel or prequel or whatever the hell they're calling it these days. KB 1 & 2 weren't worth the three bucks we paid to see it at the Community Theater.

mcpicture.jpegSo, last week, we decided to go see The Manchurian Candidate. I didn't have high expectations for it. But I was amazed -- I loved it! Not perfect, to be sure, but I felt like I'd actually been out to the movies for a change. Meryl Streep was evil! The acting was pretty good, and the story was definitely believable. Nice bit of PhotoShopping there at the end, hey? Did I believe the technology in the movie? Nope. Didn't matter. I believed the premise. Who owns that idiot in the White House, hmm? The only thing that bothered me is that, as least when I was a teacher there, New York City public schools were closed on Election Day. Maybe they're not anymore. But overall the movie was exciting.

Tonight, we went to see another of "those mf'ers messed with my mind" movies, The Bourne Supremacy. It was a great summer movie. Fairly intelligent, for a change, great car chase. I was sorry they killed off Franka Potente's character since I picture.jpgloved her in Bourne Identity and was sorry she wasn't in more of Supremacy. Again, here, it was by no means perfect. I find it kinda hard to believe the CIA would buy that fingerprint on the bomb thing. Oh, wait a minute, we're talking the CIA -- maybe they would ...

And I wish our airport screening was as good as the one in Italy -- imagine flashing an alert in CIA headquarters when someone on some watch list was transmitted to all the airline gates all over the world. Sure. Actually, now that I think about it, there were a lot of weak plot points in the movie. Wouldn't the masterminds of the CIA figure something was up when Bourne used his real passport to go through customs in Naples? So unsubtle even I got it instantly. But it was rollicking good fun. I like Matt Damon, even when he looks a little Frankensteinish because he never smiles. Even when he's on the beach in India with Marie (Franka), not one grin even.

I figured out the Bad Guy early on. And I figured out exactly how it would go down. Not because I read the book -- I did, a LONG time ago. But because it was blatant. But it was still put together well enough to make me not regret the $18 I plunked down for our tickets.

PS: I really liked the typography and the design of the closing credits.
posted by lee on 08/08/04 at 05:34 AM
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Monday, August 09, 2004

i don’t know about that ...

Saw this today: Life | Poll finds Americans don't mind jury duty
by Gina Holland

Aug. 8, 2004 | People want to serve on juries and would prefer to have jury trials if ever in court, according to a poll that surprised some leaders of the nation's largest lawyers' organization.

Three-quarters of the people surveyed for the American Bar Association disagreed with the notion that jury service is a hardship to be dodged.

I just wonder about the demos of the people tapped for this poll. I think maybe the 60% number might be okay if polling, say, retired folks or the unemployed. Maybe even people stuck in brain-deadening jobs.

I just received my notice for jury duty. For the first time ever, amazingly enough, considering I've been eligible for about 30 years.

While I'm mildly curious about the process, I do NOT want to go.

And I was very GLAD we didn't have a jury in a case we had that went to trial last February (though I wish we would've had a judge with at least an IQ of 100 -- but noooo, we had some early Alzheimer political appointee stashed on the bench to secure him a pension plan. I kid you not. We won the case, but just barely.) Jury trials take more time and money and unless it's for a criminal case, I highly recommend avoiding them if you're paying the legal bills. I doubt the poll question distinguished between civil and criminal trials.

I don't want to go because every day I have to spend in Stamford Superior Court will cost me money. I'm not paid by anyone if I don't work -- one of the not-so-great aspects of being a freelancer. They won't compensate me for expenses because I'm considered self-employed. If I'm unfortunate enough to be called for a trial, if it goes into day six, then I'll get paid a whopping $55 per day. The only reason I'm even going to show up is I really do consider it my duty as a citizen to participate in this process.

But I hope I don't have to. All it will mean for me is very little sleep for the duration since I can't afford not to work. I don't want to have to head out the door at 7:00 am to drive the stupid ten miles to Stamford in order to be there by 8:30 am. Why can't jury selection begin at noon, after traffic has become sane?

I don't want to have to deal with making sure I can hear everything since the courts really don't accomodate people with handicaps: during our trial, the judge's way of compensating for my deafness was having me sit in the jury box near the front -- and even that was barely adequate (not to mention a real pain when I couldn't consult with my attorney.) I'm still angry about that. In retrospect, I should have demanded full accomodation, but I just so wanted to get it over with that I let it go.

If so many people allegedly want to serve on juries, then make it a voluntary process. Solicit volunteers, pay them better, treat jurors like the linchpins of our criminal justice system that they are supposed to be.

I REALLY hope they don't select me for any trial.
posted by lee on 08/09/04 at 04:18 PM
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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

how to lose a customer forever

A friend was exploring the world of web hosting. He says he knows nothing about it, and it's true. One of his colleagues recommended a company, and that he gave them a call. So he did, and had a long chat with a rep, who assured Stu that he would talk to the software engineers about offering a software service to do something that can't be done via a website. But, no matter, right? If you're a lowly sales rep, get the account and forget about the promises you know are BS.

Stu isn't an idiot, so asked the guy if, before he commits his credit card to AplusNet for eternity, he could get some more answers by having someone who knows a bit more about web hosting give them a call and get some answers. Namely, me. The Rep agreed, and set up an inactive account without requiring a credit card. So far, so good.

An aside: This place doesn't offer anything Stu can't get elsewhere, whether it's any one of a thousand webhosting companies or through us ( Hosting isn't our main business, but we do offer it and it's a pretty good deal. But I would call AplusNet on the off-chance that there was something more to their service that would easily solve a problem for Stu ... you know, standard customer service stuff. Besides which, he's been a good friend for 20 years and I just want to make sure he's getting the best value for his money, whether we host his site or some other company does.

Then, I get a message from Stu. He's royally pissed off at AplusNet:

First up, a standard "Welcome to Acme Hosting" message.
From: "AplusNet Web Hosting" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Stu Jones" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:59 PM
Subject: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

Dear Stu Jones,
Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting!

Please save this email as it contains important information regarding your account.

Here is your administrative information:

Registration Number: XXX459967549
Username: xxxtnt

Your personal Aplus.Net Web Control Panel provides you with powerful multi-plan administration utilities to maintain and update your account. It is located at

To find more resources on how to start using your hosting account, please refer to our detailed guide available at Shared_Hosting/ Getting_Started%2002.htm

Our online Knowledge Base is available to you at
It contains the answers to questions asked by customers like you. The knowledge base is updated by our engineers on a daily basis.

You can also contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with questions related to your account. Phone support is available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 888-301-2516. If you have billing-related questions, please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

To add more services to your account, please call our Sales Department at 877-APLUS-NET (877-275-8763).

Thank you for choosing Aplus.Net!

Younes Aatif
Customer Care Manager

Reasonable, right? However:
From: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "AplusNet Web Hosting" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

The name is:

Stu Johnston

Please either correct your records, or cease communication immediately and permanently.

Thank you.

Simple enough, right? Correct his name and move on -- would take maybe five minutes, demostrate how quickly you can correct a screw-up. Read on ...

From: "Support" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 5:28 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

I'm sorry but I cannot make any changes or divulge any information unless you can verify that you are the account holder by providing the account password or last 4 digits of the credit card on file. You can view or update any of your account information (billing statement,email address, credit card number, billing address, etc...) at Log in using your registration number and account password and then click on the "my account" tab at the top of the page.

Thank you,
John Salome
Aplus.Net Tech Support
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

To assist us in tracking your problem, please include all previous correspondence in your emails.

Hmmm, they can't fix one field on an account that hasn't even been activated yet? Password? Is there a password even? Doesn't seem like a lot to ask in order to make someone willing to send you $35 a month for years happy, does it? You know, that little thing called customer service.

Stu's response:
From: "Stu Johnston" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: "Support" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Cc: ; "Lee Fleming" .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 11:47 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting

Well, ''support''....

This is very unfortunate.

I spoke just this day with one of your people, Dan Beauchamp (apols for any misspelling). He will confirm this statement; indeed, he provided his direct phone, specifically, 858 320 6639, in aid of my acquiring further information about your company's services. Very helpful chap, very enjoyable conversation.

The account, inactive at present, has the id 'xxxtnt'; a password was not assigned Because I require more information than Mr. Beauchamp was able to provide immediately, we agreed that the account would be activated in some 30-60-90 day timeframe, hence, no credit card # was preferred.

Please understand this, right now -- I don't deal with bureaucrats or morons, save under threat of penalty at law. If you, sir or madam, are too bloody stupid to A) check with your fellow employee and ascertain the accuracy of this message AND the previous one, B) acquire sufficient information as to be able to understand what transpired in our discussion, particularly regarding my acquiring further information, and C) have the simple common courtesy to spell my name correctly after a direct request to do so (never mind the level of incompetence demonstrated by NOT having the name spelled correctly AFTER I expressly spelled it for Mr. Beauchamp), then you're too dumb to breathe unaided, and you may go merrily to hell.

Your next communication with me WILL contain an apology for your being a general ass and dumbshit, else there will be no further communication between us under any circumstance, and, in such case. you are hereby assured on the very best of authority that not only will I not become a client of your company, but I shall spread this communication thread far and wide. This is not a threat; this is a guarantee.

In any event, I daresay your services can be had elsewhere, but it's a VERY strange company indeed that would toss out a (presumable) long-term client by simply and arrogantly refusing to spell his name correctly. I trust you've at least the wit to understand this small point.

If your response to my previous request is your firm's concept of ''support'', I rather suspect you'd be better off manufacturing brassieres for 6-year-old girls.

Johnston out.

Now, I won't even get into how vacant a sales rep has to be to screw up the last name so badly -- this wasn't transposing two letters. But the response to the request for a change was so totally stupid it stuns me. Gone, at least one customer. Gone, probably a lot of potential customers -- Stu does not make idle promises. It would've taken up maybe $20 of employee time to secure at least $420 for a year's worth of hosting -- not to mention all the add-ons for an ecommerce site. So much for the C|Net seal of approval -- now I know how much that is worth to a customer.

Was Stu's response over the top? Maybe. (At least it was witty!) But just think about all those other nervous newbie netrepreneurs out there who just go away after going through the trouble of contacting your business, all because you screwed something up during the initial contact. Or made it impossible to correct a mistake you made. You'll never know about them, or how well your business could be doing with just a little more training in customer support. But maybe is just so big they don't care.
posted by lee on 08/10/04 at 06:28 PM
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Thursday, August 12, 2004

Ohio v. Ducic: injustice files

I watched In the Jury Room over the last couple of evenings. After viewing it, it makes me realize more strongly than ever that Stanley is dead-on when he says "half of all people fall on the left side of the bell curve."

The State of Ohio says that when Mark Ducic's girlfriend threatened to go to the police about his drug dealing, he gave the woman a lethal drug cocktail, which made her death look like an accidental overdose. Concerned that a friend was going to reveal his secret to the police, Ducic allegedly concocted a similar drug mixture to keep his friend quiet. Defense attorneys John Luskin and Mark Spadaro contend that their client is innocent of the crimes. If the jury finds Ducic guilty of double murder, they will then be asked to decide whether he should be sentenced to death by lethal injection.

The verdict was guilty on both counts of murder, but the jury could not agree on a sentence, leaving it up to the judge. If a jury doesn't find for death, in Ohio, the judge cannot impose the death sentence. So she sentened him to two consecutive life terms.

The most appalling part of watching this was seeing the knee-jerk responses of some of the jurors. The hair salon lady, Cheryl, I guess her name was, had the guy dead by lethal injection before she even heard all of the evidence, such as it was (it was damned poor evidence -- the word of a rich druggie boy against a poor druggie boy, with rich druggie boy taping their druggie conversations like they meant something).

One juror, Carmella, a restaurant owner, tried like hell to hold out. She didn't think Ducic killed his girlfriend. Her assessment of the case was that Ducic is a blowhard, talking drugged-out big talk, which means nothing. And the medical examiner initially ruled that both deaths were garden-variety overdoses, until the DA got a bug up his ass and, for whatever reason, decided to transform this case into a double homicide by playing the ME some bits of the recordings the rich druggie boy made.

Carmella caved, eventually. The judge wouldn't let her leave the case, and the other jurors were relentless. Kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies. Carmella regrets signing the guilty verdict. In her shoes, I can't say that I wouldn't have caved, but I was disappointed that she did and hope that I wouldn't.

Then there was the student who thinks she knows everything. What an obnoxious, stupid twit. And the lady going "Lawdy me" while playing sheep. And the "nice lady" who wanted everybody to like her. The jury forman, Chuck Whitehill, was an arrogant jerk who thought he was smarter than everyone else in the jury room -- and that attitude came through loud and clear. Maybe he was smarter than the rest, but I didn't see any evidence of it.

The jurors, except for the jury foreman, did not seem to be playing for the camera. You could tell the foreman was because of his labored, patronizing sentence constructions. The judge, however, was another story altogether. She interrupted Ducic, threw the book at him, hectored and lectured him, and went way beyond the bounds of court decorum. Are judgeships in Ohio elective offices? Because it sure seemed as if she was running for re-election. She didn't sound smart enough to be a judge -- she just sounded nasty.

The jury in this case was disgusting. This was no "Twelve Angry Men," where a lone voice holds out for justice. This was an abomination, more so because these people had the ability to take away a person's life. Carmella was the only saving grace, and she wasn't enough.

I'll watch the next couple of cases, and hope to see something that doesn't further justify my disgust with the so-called justice system in this country. I know that I wouldn't want these twelve people deciding my fate. And if Ducic can be convicted for murder based on nothing more than drugged-out big talk, there are a lot more people who will be going to jail for nothing. I guess prosecutor Dan Kasaris doesn't have enough real crime to deal with -- aren't there any real murderers in Ohio? I guess they would be too tough for him to handle.
posted by lee on 08/12/04 at 06:50 PM
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Friday, August 13, 2004

southwest of canada

I grew in the downriver burbs of Detroit, and went to college in northwest Detroit, living at that place on the corner of Wyoming and McNichols (Six Mile) and spending a lot of time in and around the Wayne State U area (known then as the Cass Corridor -- is it still?) and a lot of time downtown and in Bricktown (as it was called in the early 80s). Quite a bit of time BEFORE the RenCen was built (I watched it rising from my office window in, I think, the First National Bldg. where I worked as a lowly clerk for the Sand Products Company). Strohs was a thriving brewery still, and I watched the Tigers at Tiger Stadium. I watched Nixon resign on the telly at the Checker Bar and splurged once a week on the amazing sandwiches of Ham Heaven. My father grew up on Vaughan Street and my grandmother lived there until she died in the late eighties. So I'd say I'd spent a considerable amount of my life there until I was 22 or there abouts.

After I graduated from college, I followed my then love to Boston, then went to grad school in New York City, lived in Arizona for a few years, then here to Connecticut. I somehow never really made it back to Detroit for anything more than a six-month stint working for the UAW magazine on West Jefferson and once-in-a-while drive throughs or a play at the Fisher.

All this is a long-winded way to say I miss Detroit still -- there's just something about the place that still draws me. If circumstances ever arose that meant a move to Motown for us, I'd be fine with that. I think.

Anyway, I love poking through websites devoted to Detroit. Tonight I came across, somehow via Stupid Evil Bastard (six degrees of link separation or something like that).

The owner of idiotblog is the most amazing photographer. He/she (no bio info, alas, at least not that I could find), let's call the person Idiot since that is what he/she uses, has an eye for ruins and humor and the details that often get lost in mess. On this page, look in particular at the shots of the old Grand River church and then, below that, at the closeups of this amazing mural. If this kind of stuff interests you, be prepared to spend quite a while looking through the archives. I just wish Idiot would post more information about the sites themselves -- some of the ruins, for example, are hauntingly familiar and I wonder if it's because I saw them in their pre-decay days.

When you're ready to move on from idiotblog, take a look at Detroit Yes. I've been visiting this site for years and it's amazing how much stuff is there. I think it used to be called "The Ruins of Detroit," but maybe that's another site. I always get lost here and find things again purely by chance, but the photography is superb. Most of it is sad -- I remember when pollution and grime and the noise of the factories meant job security, health benefits, pensions, either college or a well-paying job after high school for the kids, and maybe a summer cabin Up North. No more.

Tomorrow we have to go spend $350 $500 on new tires to replace the OEM crap tires that have less than 40,000 miles on them and no tread left. We took it in to Monro for a tune-up and check-up and whatever-up the car needed in preparation for our trek to Michigan (the 22nd -- I need a change of scenery so badly I can just spit. Plus I want to see my folks big time.) The verdict was the front brake pads and rotors needed replacing immediately lest we end up parking in the Sound. The rotors looked like records -- you know, those grooved vinyl discs from the last century. Which Stanley says is a very bad thing. I find it hard to believe the pads had to be replaced yet again (it's only the third or fourth time) but even more so that we had to spend this much money on a repair before it even hits 40K miles. The fuel filter was also replaced so we'll see if the currently pathetic mileage goes back up to what it should be. The mileage started crapping downward after Ford replaced the defective fuel pump during one of the eleventy-seven recalls we've had on this car.

Don't even think about buying a Ford Focus, new or used. Consumer Reports blew it big time on this model.
posted by lee on 08/13/04 at 05:11 AM
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