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Saturday, August 27, 2011

If justice is blind, witnesses aren't... but perhaps it would be better if they were

The prosecuting attorney asked the key witness, a 60-year-old nun, to identify the man she saw murder the victim.

That man!" she demonstrably told the judge, jury and world. She pointed her saintly finger and repeated, with emphasis, "THAT MAN, the accused, right there." The trial was as good as over before the jury returned its guilty verdict.

Other trials saw witnesses putting it differently: "There is absolutely no question in my mind..." "I'm 120 percent sure...." "That is a face I shall never forget..." Guilty, guilty, guilty.

In this digital age of Photoshop and technically skilled users, courts will no longer accept photos as incontrovertible evidence... but an eyewitness... that's a different story.

There are 75,000 eyewitness accounts per year, according to the New York Times, and up to a third of those are, regrettably, wrong! We are human, after all. When DNA could offer absolute proof of a person's involvement or innocence in a crime, the first 250 DNA exonerations showed that 190 eyewitness accounts were wrong!

Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny

Anyone who has watched My Cousin Vinny (and if you haven't, you should) with Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, and Ralph Macchio knows that. And how about that Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito... an Oscar, no less, for stuff like this:

Vinny Gambini: Your Honor, may I have permission to treat Ms. Vito as a hostile witness?
Mona Lisa Vito: You think I'm hostile now, wait 'til you see me tonight.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Do you two know each other?
Vinny Gambini: Yeah, she's my fiancée.
Judge Chamberlain Haller: Well, that would certainly explain the hostility.

At one time, I knew flamboyant attorney F. Lee Bailey well enough to ask if it is difficult for him to defend a client that he knows is guilty. Bailey, whose famous clients included the innocent O. J. Simpson, told me that if a person is actually innocent or guilty has no bearing on the trial. Every trial, he said, starts as a clean slate and what happens there is the de-facto ruling of guilt or innocence, right or wrong... and the flamboyant egotist loved the game.

Sadly, O.J. was, perhaps mistakenly convicted--you know how juries are-- for another 'situation' and is now serving time in jail instead of exhausting every waking moment searching the world for the real killer of his wife and her boy friend. Boy... talk about a rotten break.

Isn't justice scary put that way? One of my childhood nightmares: I was wrongly convicted of a murder and got the electric chair... really! Then, as I grew up, I realized how silly that was. Then, as I grew 'more up,' I thought, happens all the time.

I guess it then makes even more sense that criminals try anything and everything to avoid being caught and sent to trial... much like the Washington state guy who, while allegedly (the key word the media uses to keep from getting sued) drunk, backed his car into a building structure and brought it down. As police arrived at the scene, he ducked into a portable toilet and doused himself with a bucket of human excrement. "He thought," said the unlucky office who had to drag him to the ground and 'cuff' him, "that the dogs were coming and he was trying to throw them off the scent."

Well, nice try. He now needs F. Lee Bailey to tell the impartial jury, "If the excrement don't fit, you must acquit."

Friday, August 19, 2011

FACT: Life is sexually transmitted

So admit it, love makes the world go round.

For as long as there has been life on earth, we have been trying to quantify love. It's an emotion we have all experienced times in our lives... and lucky ones seem to have it constantly on their shoulders. One would think that with such a familiar concept, researchers would agree on what constitutes love and how to measure it. That has not been the case... at least, not until now.

With a little research (Google), a few older recollections, scientific advances of quantum knowledge and wonderful personal experiences, I think I've got it! Just take a look at the song lyrics written way back in 1932, just as America was emerging from the disasterous Great Depression. Songwriter Irving Berlin (who also wrote White Christmas, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Easter Parade, God Bless America, There's No Business Like Show Business and other older classics) realized the only thing most of the country had left to give was love... and this song caught the spirit of that emotion.


How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?

And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

That sentiment has been played forward by Billie Holliday, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Lianah, Diana Krall and many others. It has molded into a jazz standard and made more than a few people cry. So how do we measure something so seemingly intangible? We don't... but we're humans so we still try to quantify.

  • So, how deep is the ocean? (Almost seven miles deep in the Pacific's Marian Trench near Guam.)
  • How high is the sky? (Latest guess, 156 billion light years across... with a scientific belief that there is more... much more.) 
  • How far is the journey from here to a star? (Closest star is our sun, a mere 140 million miles more or less, but we're talking love here... so let's hit it out of the solar system and travel to Proxima Centauri,  4.22 light years from Earth--or about 26 trillion miles.)
  • And if I ever lost you, how much would I cry? (A Pacific Ocean-full... or about 1/3 of all the water on the planet. Better hydrate.)
So that's love. See how simple it is to express the most profound feeling we humans know? What it means is that emotion knows no bounds. But in every lifetime, it seems to rise and fall like the stock market... which is good, right? For how would we appreciate the highs if we didn't have something less to compare them with?

That's today's lesson. Don't try to make sense of it. Just do it because, as another song says, love makes the world go round. And we sure could use more of that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My "novel" genius idea

Enjoyed author Michael Parker's  promo appearance at our local book store (one of the three that still exist) for his new book, The Watery Part of the World. The setting for his historical fiction tale is the early 1800s and the main character is Aaron Burr's daughter, Theodosia, who is taken by pirates off the coast of North Carolina.

Anyhow, he talked about writing 'real pirate dialog' instead of the usual "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" stuff featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies..." not that there is anything wrong with that. Well, they made a bundle of pirate gold in a dead man's chest, for sure. What I didn't know, however, is that the movie idea came from the attraction of the same name at Disney World and Disneyland. Wow! That revelation brings with it, a plethora* of ideas.

*Thanks to The Three Amigos for the best use of plethora in a sentence:
Jefe: We have many beautiful piñatas for your birthday celebration, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many piñatas?
Jefe: Many piñatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me? (FYI: A plethora is two or more pleths.)

But, if you think about it, look at other Disney book/movie tie-ins: Space Mountain, Snow White, Peter Pan, Monster's Inc., Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, The Haunted Mansion, Dumbo, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, etc... all, big money makers.

So I thought... what rides haven't been both a book/movie AND an attraction? All of a sudden, I had two best sellers: A mystery novel--The Spinning Teacups of Arsenic and Lace and a 'can't miss' musical-- It's a Small, Small World of Trouble and Woe starring all the cutest little kids in the world.

Now how does that song go again?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Absolute proof... there is a God

In South Carolina, one couple saw the face of Jesus on their Walmart receipt. Oh, they didn't see it right away or they would have been whooping it up, but after returning from church. They noticed the receipt had become discolored and bore the image of a man with a beard that was... well, I'll let them tell it so I don't mess up on the technical details: "It was like it was looking at me. Then the more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus, and it was just shocking, breathtaking."

Add this to God on toast and grilled cheese sandwiches (popular favorites of Jesus when he was a child), God in clouds, Jesus-shaped potatoes, etc... and we're not even talking Blessed Virgin Mary here. Privately, I often wondered how toast knew what God looked like, but I guess if you are God, you have your ways.

Y'know, I often just breeze right by those who prophesy the rapture or the apocalypse.. but when word comes directly from the world's largest retailer, it stops me cold. Walmart even matches prices now... another sign?

This has me thinking about Hell. Purgatory was the safety net (you know... you just suffer a little--maybe with crazy acne and nothing to eat but chocolate or suffer allergies and ragweed is always in season-- until you have done penance for all your sins... maybe for one trillion-billion years, but since eternity has no time constraints, that might just seem like a few minutes, THEN you get 'invited up'). But since The Pope has officially eliminated Purgatory, that has a lot of us worried.

Worse yet, there is new proof of how hot Hell (which is deep in the core of the earth, right?) really is. A Japanese study suggests that radioactive decay added to primordial heat, which has been building for 4.5 billion years, generates 44 trillion watts of power. (Remember what it did to Godzilla?)

You talk about hot! In profound conclusion, Woe is us!