Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

01 June 2023

Rumors of the Lost Ark

History is a mystery, and I think that's why there's a number of us - Rob Lopresti, Doolin' Dalton, myself, and others - who are fascinated with history, archaeology, and all that old, old stuff.

Rob Lopresti wrote a great blog post a couple of weeks ago about hypnogagia, literal patterns that your eyes see just before you sleep (or when you shut your eyes extremely tight:  mine are black patterns on a yellow background), and their relationship to the symbols at Newgrange burial chamber in Ireland. (HERE) I've had hypnogagia all my life - in fact, last night I was awakened by a rattling, like of bones in a cup; twice.  

And Rob's piece yesterday was on archaeologists' interpretations of what they find, which (especially in the olden days) sprang more from their own ideas of what they should find and not what was already there.  And this post is sort of along the same lines - stick with me on it.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post on Paleolithic Languages (Older Than You Think), where paleolinguists have determined that there are 23 ultra-conserved words, "proto-words," that don't just still exist in almost all current language families, including Inuit-Yupik, but still sound remarkably alike. They go back at least 15,000 years, and are a window into a time of hunter-gatherers painting in Lascaux and trying to survive the end of the Younger Dryas (the next-to-the last mini-Ice Age):

thou, I, we, ye, who, what, this, that, not,
man/male, mother, hand, old, black,
give, hear, pull, flow, spit,
bark, fire, ashes, worm

BTW, I've always wondered what worm they meant– a snake (like in the Newgrange / Knowth sculptures)? A garden worm? The dog's worms?  The worm you put in uisce beatha (whiskey) to make it stronger?

So, a very long time ago, almost everyone in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe spoke the same language.  Or at least the same trading language.  The exceptions might be Australia (which had been cut off from the rest of the world back around 50,000 BCE) and the Americas, about whose isolation from the rest of the world is undergoing more and more under debate.

NOTE: Everyone talks about the Bering Land (really Ice) Bridge being the way that people got from Asia to Alaska to drifting down the Americas to Tierra del Fuego, BUT – there's more and more evidence that people settled across the Americas earlier than is allowed by that theory.  (Latest evidence is 23,000 year old footprints at White Sands, New Mexico.)  Plus they'd have been freezing all the way.  

Much more likely is by boat.  Our modern world is obsessed with land travel because (unless you cruise a lot) that's what we do.  Planes, trains, and automobiles. But before the combustion engine, most major hauling and travel was done by boat, barge, canoe, ship, skiff, etc.  And Thor Heyerdahl, for all his quirks, proved you could sail from South America to the Polynesian islands.  

And I say, why not from / to China?  For one thing, while Africa and Europe see a human in the Moon, Chinese, Aztec, and much Native American lore sees a Rabbit in the Moon.  

But the real mystery isn't how a tiny core of hominids communicated with each other via a common language.  The real mystery is why, once the Last Glacial Period (c 115,000-11,700 years ago) ended, all across the globe - husbandry and agriculture begin? By 9,000 BCE, From the Fertile Crescent to Papua New Guinea to the Yangtze Basin, people we have hard-core evidence of humans growing crops.  Raising domesticated animals for food.  And that's probably not the true date of the beginning the "revolution", because pottery for storage and processing (including the fermenting of certain grains, i.e., alcohol! Something to drink, people!) dating back 20,000 years ago has been found in China and Japan.  We don't know the half of it.  

So:  how did everyone know what to do, in such widely disparate places, once the weather let up?  We don't know.  One Hundred Thousand Years of Ice is going to grind up a lot of evidence that we will simply never find.  But we have the oral traditions...

Well, my old friend and frequent thinking / drinking buddy John Franklin and I have discussed this many a long hour, and we both believe that 

(1) Humans (of any species / subspecies) have been in touch with each other for a very long time.  

(2) Before the Last Glacial Period (c 115,000-11,700 years ago), there were technologically advanced hominid civilizations.  For all I know, advanced enough that they caused a nuclear winter, because that is apparently what civilizations do: we grow and grow and grow and then one day we grow ourselves right out of our habitats.  As Jared Diamond once wondered, what was the man who cut down the last tree on Easter Island thinking?  Probably about the [equivalent of] money he was about to make selling it.  

(3) Anyway, over 100,000 years ago, something happened, and what followed was 100,000 years of Ice.  

But we have the stories of what came before:  stones walking themselves to their sites (Egypt and Easter Island)! People flying through the air on magic carpets! Rings / stones (Solomon's Seal) that allowed people communicate with the animals and around the world!  Stones that talk!  And the myths / fairytales!*  Those are memories, passed down for so long they became myth, of technology that used to exist. Just as in 10,000 or 100,000 years people (should the human race survive) will remember planes, cell phones, Zoom meetings, etc., as stones, rings, rooms, etc. 

John Franklin says the civilization(s) undoubtedly knew what was coming.  So, you're facing extinction by massive climate change, and it's a crapshoot as to how long it will last and who's going to survive it.  What do you do?  Give up? Or try to out ways to condense important information to something that will be understandable for literally millennia, and training people how to pass it along?**  (Of course, there's always denial...  If you don't think about it, Maybe it will go away.)

And we've discussed what powered these ancient civilizations.  Most of technological history has been humans trying to replace muscle power with anything else that will work.  Windmills, waterwheels, levers & fulcrums, railroads, cars, computers, etc.  But to run these things you have to have some kind of fuel.  So what did they use 100 millennia ago?

Franklin says that the best way to figure out what fueled pre-Last Glacial Period technologies is to look at what's considered rare but valuable today. He plumps for gold.  Gold is an excellent conductor and holder of electricity.  I remember reading once that the Ark of the Covenant could well be a description of how to build a battery:

“First let them make a Chest using acacia wood: make it three and three-quarters feet long and two and one-quarter feet wide and deep. Cover it with a veneer of pure gold inside and out and make a molding of gold all around it. Cast four gold rings and attach them to its four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Make poles from acacia wood and cover them with a veneer of gold and insert them into the rings on the sides of the Chest for carrying the Chest. The poles are to stay in the rings; they must not be removed.  Place The Testimony that I give you in the Chest. Now make a lid of pure gold for the Chest, an Atonement-Cover, three and three-quarters feet long and two and one-quarter feet wide.  Sculpt two winged angels out of hammered gold for either end of the Atonement-Cover, one angel at one end, one angel at the other. Make them of one piece with the Atonement-Cover. Make the angels with their wings spread, hovering over the Atonement-Cover, facing one another but looking down on it... I will meet you there at set times and speak with you from above the Atonement-Cover and from between the angel-figures that are on it, speaking the commands that I have for the Israelites.  (Exodus 25:10-22, The Message Bible)   

I pointed out to Franklin that the Ark is empty, except for "the Testimony," and usually a battery has more technical stuff in it (look it up yourself) than a scroll.  

His reply:  "Who says 'the Testimony' was a scroll? That could be a code word for some practical knowledge. And those aren't angels: they're cherubim.  Fairly frightening creatures - four faces, two wings, definitely nonhuman. Transmitters? Receivers? Perhaps. Consider that no one's supposed to touch the Ark, except the specially trained Levites, and even they're only supposed to carry it using poles overlaid with gold.  No hands on.  Uzzah, the one man we know of who reached out and touched it dropped dead. Sounds like electrocution to me."  

I've heard worse theories.  

So say he's right, and before the Last Glacial Period, their technology was fueled by gold. It would explain why the racial memory of gold as the source of power and wealth.  Granted, it's beautiful, but it's not especially useful... Anymore. And yet, since ancient times, alchemists have tried to transmute lead into gold (Zosiumus of Panopolis, c. 300 CE provides the earliest record to survive) via the philosopher's stone, which is / was ...????  Who knows? 

It would also explain why gold today is generally hard to find, in low concentrations, and expensive to process - the Old Old Ones*** used most of it up.  

Franklin:  "So, imagine a world, ten thousand, fifty thousand years from now, where there are whispers of a powerful energy source, that gave immense wealth and power to those who could control it. A dark energy, a black energy, dark oil, night coal, that harnessed the dark forces of the universe and gave unimaginable power. And there are still remnants of it:  the Tears of Saturn and the Blood of the Moon, the Night Gifts are horded by Kings. The nobility and wealthy wear it, in their hair, on their faces. Priests sacrifice it to the gods, kings are embalmed in it, buried in caskets with it. A vial of it is immensely precious. A necklace of jet or obsidian is like diamonds today. And no one has any idea that these once fueled an entire civilization. They just know it's valuable. Powerful."   

"Okay," I said. "So they revere oil and coal. But what are they using for fuel?"

"Something we've never thought of, of course." Franklin said. "Depends on what survives the Pyrocene."

Global map of average annual area burned (percentage of cell burned) 
for 1960 to 2000; data from Mouillot and Field (2005). LINK

* And all the old myths.  And some new ones.  There's a Great Flood in every oral tradition, along with a blind king, a Cinderella, and the oldest are of a blacksmith cheating the devil.  

** BTW, Gregory Benford's non-fiction Deep Time:  How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia (1995) is worth a read. I recommend the first part (Ten Thousand Years of Solitude), about a government project he was involved in, trying to figure out how to communicate the danger of buried radioactive material to people far in the future. The last part (Stewards of the Earth) is about what future peoples (say, 100,000 years from now) will think of what we leave behind. 

*** With apologies to Cthulhu…

Now for some BSP:

Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues is one of the five finalists for the Anthony award in the Best Anthology category, and Ed Aymar's "Still Crazy After All These Years," from it is a finalist in the Best Short Story category! And I am honored to have "Cool Papa Bell" in it!

Available at

And on Amazon HERE

18 May 2023

Little Shrimp on the Prairie - the Return!

Stop the presses and start mixing up the cocktail sauce! 

Or maybe not yet.  

Once again, aquaculture company Tru Shrimp has announced that they're sadly going to have to put off groundbreaking for the Madison Bay Harbor until 2024. 

What could possibly have happened?  After all, this facility will be "modeled exactly on what is here in Balaton. That facility will be capable of producing about 1.8 million pounds of shrimp, over 4,700 kg of chitosan, and about 600,000 pounds of pet food ingredient.”  

What is chitosan?  I'm so glad you asked.  It's "a sugar that comes from the outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It's used as medicine and in drug manufacturing." However, there is no good scientific evidence for its use for most purposes. In fact, the words used throughout the WebMD article are "might be used for", and "possibly safe". Unless, of course, you're allergic to shellfish. (Reminds me of Barb Goffman's Bug Appetit, which was nominated for multiple awards.)

And I would love a definition of "pet food ingredient."   

Now back in 2019 I wrote a blogpost about Tru Shrimp (Little Shrimp on the Prairie) where I related how me and my compadre Dark Ally went to Balaton, MN, in search of the Great Cultivated Shrimp.  We found an old elementary school with 6 shrimp bobbing around in a home-sized aquarium in the lobby.  There was a new construction with no windows out back, in the former school playground (?) and the lobby obviously had cameras, because a person in charge came out to try and find out who we were and what we wanted.  We told him the truth:  we were a couple of old snoops who wanted to know what was going on.  And, after pointing out the shrimp in the aquarium, he encouraged us to leave. 

Back then Tru Shrimp had already received $11 million in "incentives" (i.e., grants and loans, and nobody's talking about how much private investors have put into it).  But so far all they have - still - is a lot of money and they haven't spent a penny yet, except on advertising and fundraising as far as anyone can tell.  Oh, and research.  Endless research. 

And they don't even own the land yet:  Brooke Rollag, the executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, said that the LAIC has "engaged in a land option with Tru Shrimp Madison" with Lake View Industrial Park land the LAIC owns.  (SDPB)  WHAT????

BTW, the Lake Area Improvement District (LAID for short, and Oh, the things I could riff about that, but this is a semi-family publication) in Madison also invested money in the company. "That money holds a convertible note that becomes stock in Tru Shrimp when the company breaks ground."  (SDPB) Leading to the obvious question:  STOCK IN WHAT????  

Also, back in 2019, Tru Shrimp promised the potential for 120 jobs and tens of millions of dollars of economic impact. Now? 60 jobs. (Dakota Free Press)

Back in 2019, I wrote, when someone asked me if I thought there was any "there" there, and I replied that I think there's just enough "there" there to cover taking millions in South Dakota money. Especially if we just give it to them. Which South Dakota did.  And there's still nothing to show for it, except a sign:  "Future Home of Tru Shrimp Bay Harbor"  

Purely informational: The dictionary definition of Ponzi scheme is "a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a nonexistent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors."

South Dakota really needs to take to heart the immortal words of Paul Newman:

If you're playing a poker game and you look around the table and and can't tell who the sucker is, it's you. 

Meanwhile, Dark Ally and I have been discussing how we can get in on the game.  Not Tru Shrimp, but the amazing game of launching a new company without assets or (as far as anyone can tell) product.  I mean, Jared Kushner got $2 billion or so from the Saudis for an investment firm with no assets or experience, so how hard can it be?  Anyway we've come up with a new idea:  Urban Buffalo. 

Basically, the idea is to take a newly, probably permanently emptied urban office building and repurpose it for industrial, indoor buffalo ranching.  They'd have to have feed, which perhaps we could source from Tru Shrimp, but they're probably angry with me by now, and I'd want a definition of "pet food ingredient" first.  Better yet, it could be a new way for South Dakota farmers to make revenue.  Raise the feed, and ship it to Gotham for the buffalo.  

And the buffalo would supply so many needs, from the meat (incredibly healthy and nourishing) to the hides (incredibly warm).  But perhaps its most important product would be the buffalo chips.  Used as fuel on the prairies from the earliest days of Native Americans to mountain men to the pioneers, buffalo chips were and still are ideal.  They burn like coals, with an intense heat that is odorless (no pollution!), almost smokeless (again, no pollution!), and almost ashless (easy waste disposal!).  

And, working on an industrial scale, we may have the solution to the entire problem urban heating / cooking costs.  The potential is massive.  The research is invaluable.  The investment is obvious.  

My only question is, what should we call it?  Is "True S***" too subtle?  

Now for some BSP:

Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues is one of the five finalists for the Anthony award in the Best Anthology category, and Ed Aymar's "Still Crazy After All These Years," from it is a finalist in the Best Short Story category! And I am honored to have "Cool Papa Bell" in it!

04 May 2023

Who Killed Judas?

Laskin, South Dakota, is both a church-going and hard-drinking town, and sees no dichotomy with that. But it surprised Sheriff Bob Hanson to see Professor John Franklin (who rarely spoke of religion at all)  come to Good Friday services with John Davison, elder of Laskin's most notorious criminal family.  What wasn't surprising was to join up with them afterwards at the Norseman's Bar. They all sat down at a table and Hanson and Davison exchanged local news, gossip, old grievances, tall tales of hunting and fishing - but throughout it all, Franklin stayed mum and glum.  

"All right," Hanson finally said. "Was it the service? Or something else? What's going on in that head of yours?" 

Franklin looked up.  "Huh?  Oh, I was trying to figure out who killed Judas."  

"Judas?" Hanson asked.  Franklin had a Masters in History of Mythology and a Doctorate in Philosophy, and gave lectures on "Landscape and Myth", "The Personification of Death as Imaged in Serial Killers", and "Cross-cultural Cross-chronological Exchanges in Fairytales," and Hanson had learned to expect just about anything to come out of Franklin's mouth, but this sounded a little over the top even for him.  

John Davison, on the other hand, sat up straight and ordered everyone another beer.

"Judas Iscariot," Franklin replied.  "It obviously wasn't suicide."

"Huh?" Davison said.

"There are two different causes of death," Franklin replied. "If he really had committed suicide, there would only be one. It says in Matthew that he hung himself, but in Acts, it says that Peter says he bought a field that was used to bury strangers in, and fell over, all his bowels bursting out."

"I never thought of you as much as a Bible reader," Hanson commented.

"I read all the ancient texts I can," Franklin assured him.

"No, it's real simple," John Davison said. "His body just fell off the tree he hung himself on, and his guts went everywhere." 

"Why would his body fall off the tree?" Franklin asked.

"Bad branch?" Davison asked.

"And why would he 'burst asunder in the midst'?" Franklin asked.  "That sounds like someone stabbed him in the abdomen, killing him, and then hung him up from a tree to make it look like suicide."  The beers arrived, and everyone took a nice deep drink. "Now, who do we know who had a sword on him that night? And had already used it once?"  

"Peter," Hanson replied.  

Franklin nodded.  "And who was at Caiaphas' palace that night?"

"Peter and John," Hanson said. 

"And Judas," Franklin added.  "Because Judas saw Jesus being led away, bound, to Pontius Pilate.  And Judas knew what was coming next, that Jesus had been condemned by the Sanhedrin and next would be condemned by Pilate, and would be executed. And that's when Judas repented and went to the Sanhedrin -"

Davison interrupted, "And tried to give the money back, like that's gonna work.  I've sinned and all that crap.  They told him it was his problem, and he ran off and killed himself." 

"Or perhaps he ran off and was killed by someone else," Franklin offered.  "Someone who was also there as Jesus was being led away. Who was both furious and broken-hearted. Who had betrayed Jesus as well, by denying him. Who couldn't live with the shame, but only the anger. Who had a sword. Who saw someone to take it all out on. Someone who didn't deserve to live, especially if Jesus was going to die. Peter." 

"Well, it's not like Judas didn't have it coming," Davison pointed out. "Why worry about it now?"

Franklin continued, "Peter runs into Judas. I don't know if they have an argument or Peter just was out for blood, but they run into each other. And Peter had the sword, and Judas - who knows? Maybe he let himself be killed."

"Nah," Davison replied. "Snitches always beg for their life."

"We don't need any of your war stories," Hanson said sternly.

"I'm just telling you the way it is," Davison said.

"Anyway," Franklin said firmly, "Peter stabs him in the stomach.  And I would wager that John was there, a witness to it. The story shows neither man around during the Pilate sequence, which makes perfect sense. No Jew in their right mind would have gone to Pilate's courtyard unless they were forced to. So I'm assuming John went with Peter, they run into Judas, and what happens, happens." 

"Like I said, good riddance," Davison said.

"So John has just seen Peter kill Judas," Franklin continued. "He comes across as a sensitive type, but even sensitive types can feel that someone deserves what they get.  That letting Peter be arrested for killing Judas would be even worse.  And either the two of them by themselves - or maybe they rope in John's brother James -" 

"Why would James help with that?" Hanson asked.

"Because, that's what brothers do," Davison said. "You help each other out. No matter what."

"I said," Hanson growled, "that I don't want to hear any of your war stories." Then he turned back to Franklin. "Don't you think that's an awful lot of running around, isn't it? Hauling a body to some potter's field out in the country, in the dead of night, on foot?"

"No. Not as bad as it sounds. Back then," Franklin explained, "Jerusalem was a small place. The city itself was barely a quarter of a mile across. The whole city fit into a quarter-section. Laskin's at least four times as big. And it was right before Passover, so there would have been a waxing moon, very close to full. Say two miles to a field with a good strong tree in it. And these were brawny fishermen. They could carry a deadweight that far."  

"Hell yeah," Davison said. "Especially if you wrap the body up right, and carry it like it's a sling gurney."

"I do not even want to know how you know that," Hanson said.

"And you never will," Davison assured him.

Franklin continued, "It would also explain why John says the disciples were locked up in the  Upper Room 'afraid of the Jews'.  The Sanhedrin wouldn't have been coming after them after Jesus' execution. Kill the head and the rest will scatter and all that. And Pilate sounds like he'd had enough of the whole mess. But if they were afraid that someone had seen Peter killing Judas, or John and Peter lugging a dead body around - well that would have been another matter.  It might also explain why at one point, according to Luke, that Simon, i.e., Peter, is off alone by himself, and Jesus appears to him, apart from the other disciples. A private chat."  

There was a long pause as they mulled it over.

"That's a hell of a story,"  John Davison said.  

"Well, if it's true, it's easy to see why it never made it into the Gospels," Hanson replied.

"Well," John Davison said. "Whatever. Doesn't change a damn thing what happened, does it?  And like I said, good riddance. Who wants another beer?"

20 April 2023

The Legend of Jack Ruby

 by Eve Fisher

Actually, this story is primarily by Gary Cartwright, and was published Texas Monthly in November, 1975.  I think it's an appropriate column for the week, give or take a month, that he was born back in 1911.  

Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald's assassin, who in turn, assassinated John F. Kennedy, was born Jacob Leon Rubenstein on or around March 25 and April 25, 1911, in Chicago. From then on... it's legendary, mythic, and damned uncertain what happened and why. But one thing is certain, he played his part:

"If there is a tear left, shed it for Jack Ruby. He didn’t make history; he only stepped in front of it. When he emerged from obscurity into that inextricable freeze-frame that joins all of our minds to Dallas, Jack Ruby, a bald-headed little man who wanted above all else to make it big, had his back to the camera.

I can tell you about Jack Ruby, and about Dallas, and if necessary remind you that human life is sweetly fragile and the holy litany of ambition and success takes as many people to hell as it does to heaven. But someone else will have to tell you about Oswald, and what he was doing in Dallas that November, when Jack Ruby took the play away from Oswald, and from all of us.

Dallas, Oswald, Ruby, Watts, Whitman, Manson, Ray, Sirhan, Bremer, Viet Nam, Nixon, Watergate, FBI, CIA, Squeaky Fromme, Sara Moore—the list goes on and on. Who the hell wrote this script, and where will it end? A dozen years of violence, shock, treachery, and paranoia, and I date it all back to that insane weekend in Dallas and Jack Ruby—the one essential link in the chain, the man who changed an isolated act into a trend."

Personal note:  I still remember watching this on the news, and even at 9 years old, I knew there was something fishy about it: I turned to my parents and said, "But they stood back and let him shoot him!"  


"Twelve years ago, when the first announcement that the President had been shot was broadcast over the PA system at Richardson Junior High School, Gertrude Hutter, an eighth-grade teacher, began crying. Bob Dudney, who is now a reporter for the Times Herald, recalled the moment. She turned her back long enough to compose herself, then addressed her class with these prophetic words:

“Children, we are entering into an age of violence. There is nothing we can do about it, but all of us must stay calm, and above all, civilized.”"

Read it all here:  Texas Monthly

Gertrude Hutter was a prophet.  But I doubt even she could have foreseen the seemingly endless death and destruction we have unleashed upon ourselves.  

1963 seems quaintly peaceful:  one assassination, and a nation horror-struck, but pulling together in mourning.  

Even 1975 - Watergate, the last year of the Vietnam War, Squeaky Fromme, a bomb at LaGuardia killing 11 people,  - seems like an era of safety for most, if not all.

But today...  

06 April 2023

A Hospital is No Place for Sick People

My husband was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago for a few days - and while it was very scary, he is back home now, and doing better than he has for a long time.  I spent most of the time there with him (which is why I didn't comment on everyone's posts, my apologies), because God knows everyone in a hospital needs an advocate to listen to what everyone's saying and to write it down.  When you're undergoing treatments and changes in medications and constant barrage of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, it's easy to lose track of what's going on unless someone will take notes.  That's me!

But there were quiet times, like when he was asleep and there weren't any nurses around, and my mystery mind went into high gear with a few ideas, such as what crimes can be committed in a hospital with witnesses able to come in at any moment? Not to mention cameras and all this machinery that beeps and bings if you so much as look at it? And medication that is carefully rationed and doled out? 

As a visitor / family member, I came to the conclusion that it's hard.  Oh, there are some things that are possible. For example, a hospital is not a "fine and private place", and family, visitors, and God knows who are always wandering the halls.  So who knows what they could pick up in other rooms under the guise of "recognizing" someone and popping in to say hello?  Especially in a rural area, where everyone knows everyone else, and it would be natural to see how old Mrs. Warmbly is doing.  The staff (who are rarely local) doesn't necessarily know that Mrs. Warmbly is the most hated woman in town.  That opens up a whole vista of plot twists, doesn't it?  

Now if you're medical personnel, a lot is possible.  Most nurses, orderlies, etc., are the greatest people on earth, and doctors are not only mostly fantastic (if unintelligible because they will use long medical terms for everything and expect you to understand it) but simply don't have the time to do much evil, even if they were so inclined.  

And yet it does happen.  There's a certain amount of drug addiction in the medical profession, because there's a lot of access.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak...  There have been cases of abuse, usually when the patient is mentally and physically incapacitated.  

And there are some cases where you wonder why it isn't done more often.  There was a man across the hall from my husband's room who spent most of his time screaming at the nurses and staff.  He wasn't going to take those meds.  He wasn't going to drink that stuff - "If I do that I'll piss all over the bed!" And when the nurse suggested a Depends, he went into a web of profanity that could have sopped up a quart of anything.  He didn't like the food, he didn't want to go for a walk, he wasn't going to do therapy, he wanted, he didn't, he wouldn't....  I learned just about everything about this man except why he thought being a complete jerk would get him what he wanted.  And how the medical staff kept from killing him...

And, of course, there's a lot of mysteries and thrillers set in hospitals.  The first one I ever read was Robin Cook's Coma, which still scares the hell out of me.  It was also made into a movie, starring Genevieve Bujold, and directed by Michael Crichton, who wrote (among other things) The Andromeda Strain.  Oh, and I really wouldn't recommend checking into a hospital after watching Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital.

Or even 1971's The Hospital, written by Paddy Chayefsky and starring George C. Scott, Diana Rigg, and a cast-against-type Barnard Hughes.  Razor sharp script, gallows-humor farce, and yes, it's over the top, but what else would you expect from the author of Network and Altered States?  

BTW, I love all three of those movies.  Peter Finch was unforgettable in Network, and Altered States was the debut of William Hurt and Drew Barrymore.  BTW, Paddy Chayefsky hated the way Ken Russell filmed his complex dialog, having the actors say their lines while making coffee, eating, walking from room to room - but I loved it.  It was one of the first times that I saw "real people" talking in the movies.

Also, when it comes to movies, you can say what you like, but whenever you want something that will drown you in words, music, and delirium without drugs, watch a Ken Russell movie.  Over the top?  Hell yes.  Fantastic?  Very often, yes:  Altered States, Women in Love, The Devils, The Music Lovers (which outed Richard Chamberlain long before he ever outed himself), Tommy...  

And, speaking of over the top, let's not forget Robert Altman's M.A.S.H., the ultimate black comedy anti-war movie - that undoubtedly couldn't be made in this day and age for all kinds of reasons - which ended up being one of the most beloved TV shows in history (11 seasons, and the finale is still the most highly rated show EVER).  BTW, Altman despised the TV series, calling it "the antithesis of what we were trying to do" with the movie.  (Wikipedia)

Besides being one hell of a comedy, M.A.S.H. was a groundbreaker.  From the loudspeaker announcements (which often broke through the 4th wall), to the theme song Suicide is Painless (read the lyrics some time), and vignettes that verge on the blasphemous (the Last Supper for Painless' suicide) - it's quite a ride.  If you haven't seen it for a while, take it out for a spin.  It's good.  And it's 1970 summed up in one movie.

BTW - M.A.S.H., Network, and The Hospital all won Oscars for Best Screenplay.

23 March 2023

Associations of a TV / Movie Addict

An upstate friend of mine and I were talking, and she said, "Do you feel like we're living in a black and white 50s horror movie?  The Winter That Would Not Die?"  Oh, hell yes. This winter is like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction - just when you think you've drowned it, it comes back, with a knife in its hand.  And it's turning us all into pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, wandering around with vacant eyes and devoid of human emotion except an intense hatred of the weather forecasts.  

Movies & TV. You can't help but use them as analogies for almost everything. And the lessons we've learned from them!  

First of all, thanks to Stephen Leather for posting this GREAT list:

And I'd like to add a few more observations:

No matter how long someone is held tied up in a chair, room, or cellar, they never soil themselves and, when rescued, never mention that they need to go pee.  

When an assassin / spy / amnesiac and the woman who's helping him have sex, they do it standing up in a bathroom or hallway.  (see Maximum Risk.)

The star of the movie can always find a parking place, even in Manhattan.  (Referred to by Jerry Seinfeld as "the Jack Lemmon parking place".) 

After a month on a deserted island, men will have an advanced beard, but women will have neatly shaved armpits. - Judy Mudrick Colbert in comments section  

A car chase will always knock over a fruit stand, but if there's two car chases that knock over two fruit stands - and a comedian is not involved - it's a stinker of a movie.  (see Maximum Risk.)

A woman going to bed with full make-up on will wake up with same full make-up on, and there will be nary a trace of mascara or lipstick anywhere on the pillow, when in fact it should look like it was used for "Bloodfeast." 

Women can run for miles in high heels with no trouble - unless, of course, it's mandatory for the villain to catch them.  Also, from comments on the internet, "If necessary, a woman can break off her stilettos and have a perfectly comfortable pair of flats."  

A pair of horn-rimmed glasses is a perfect disguise for everyone from Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep) to Clark Kent.  No one will recognize you.

No matter how drunk a woman gets, when her lover calls, she will be instantly sober and ready to go out on the town with him. (Female on the Beach

It's easy to gun a car to ramming speed and jump out of it without anyone seeing you (and hide) before it actually goes over the cliff and explodes - unless you're Thelma and Louise.  

That leads straight to Soapland, which has its own set of amazing things:

You thought Glenn Close's character was never going to die? Well, NOBODY ever dies forever on a soap (unless they completely pissed off the producer / money people). It doesn't matter how many people saw them fall off a cliff, explode in a car, get shot, laid out on a slab or attended their funeral complete with open casket:  Sooner or later, they're going to come back from the dead.  

Also, plastic surgery.  And I'm not talking about the Botox school of acting (nothing moves above the eyebrows) which is ubiquitous.  I'm talking about villains who get plastic surgery to look EXACTLY like somebody else, and the surgeon can do it without leaving any scars anywhere.  And - this is the really amazing bit - somehow they ALSO now have the same voice as the other person!  Not to mention body scent and mannerisms!  No one can tell the difference!     

Whenever two people discuss something incredibly intimate or secret in a public place, they are always overheard by either their worst enemy or the snitch who goes straight to their worst enemy. 

Even at home, all women wear full make-up, designer clothes and high heels all the time.  What I'd give to just once see the heroine come home from work, reach under her top, and strip off her bra the way the rest of us do...  And go off and come back in a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt while she pours that glass of red wine.  

Slow learners all:  Nobody is EVER over their ex, no matter what kind of lying, cheating, etc., they were.  Indeed, they generally remarry their exes - multiple times.  

Oh, and those of us who have read pulp fiction, etc., know that all of these apply the detective and spy and thriller stories and novels as well.  

Meanwhile, exploding houses and an update from an old case here in South Dakota!

We've had a hell of a winter (remember land sharks?), and to cap it all off, two houses exploded in the Lake County area.  I always thought there were only two reasons why houses [unmaliciously] explode up here, (1) meth labs and (2) smoking while making ammunition in the basement (more common than you might think). 

But there's a third! Buried gas meters! "Officials are urging homeowners to check to see if their gas meters are free of snow. The City of Madison Fire Department says that in both home explosions, there was 10 plus feet or more of snow on the gas meter."  (KELO)  SO GO CHECK YOUR GAS METER, RIGHT NOW!!!!  And from henceforth and forever more!

And, remember Joel Koskan, former Republican candidate for the South Dakota Senate, who thankfully was not elected?  Now last year it emerged that he'd been arrested for "exposing a minor to sexual grooming behaviors," a class four felony. And it turned out that the minor was his adopted daughter, and that he'd groomed and then molested her for years.  Somehow, he got a plea deal (do not EVEN get me started on the old boy network), in which he agreed to "accept some responsibility for his actions, but ultimately would deny any sexual intercourse had occurred throughout the alleged abuse" and would not have to serve any time or register as a sex offender, or be separated from his other 4 children (who are still living with him).  (All the Cockroaches Coming Out)

Well, huzzah!  The circuit judge rejected his plea deal.  With any luck, there'll be a trial, and Mr. Koskan might actually have to face some REAL consequences for his actions.  (Argus)  

That's all for now.  More later, when hopefully I can find my lawn again.  At least I found my gas meter.

09 March 2023

Truth in What?

We've had some crazy times up here in the South Dakota Legislature.  (I know, so what else is new?) 

We had "Boobgate" – where a Senator and her husband decided to discuss breast feeding and how to get your spouse to help you (with hand gestures) to a young female staffer in the staffer's office.  You really can't make this stuff up.  (LINK

We have had seemingly endless anti-trans, anti-drag, anti- bills.  The anti-trans / anti-gender affirming care passed.  BTW, no one seemed to note that this bill denied parental rights in medical care for their child, i.e., if the parents agreed that their minor needed gender affirming care.... it was still illegal.  And how about this bit from HB 1080?

Section 2: Except as provided in section 3 of this Act, a healthcare professional may not, for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of, or to validate a minor's perception of, the minor’s sex, if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor's sex, knowingly:
(6) Remove any healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue.

And the only exceptions in Section 3 are for a "medically verifiable disorder of sex development, including external biological sex characteristics that are irresolvably ambiguous; A minor diagnosed with a disorder of sexual development... or A minor needing treatment for an infection, injury, disease, or disorder.

Sounds like that outlaws circumcision, doesn't it?  I see lawsuits coming up. 

The anti-drag show bills did not pass, perhaps partially because "Tootsie: The Musical" was playing at the Washington Pavilion during the legislature, and enough legislators realized that they'd occasionally enjoyed a good comedy that depended on one of the male characters being dressed as a woman and wanted to continue to be able to have a good laugh.  (As I've said before, you can have my copy of "Some Like It Hot" when you tear it from my cold, dead hands.)  

The legislature declined to help local counties build new jails with funding, ignoring "the drastic increase in crime" that was the reason they passed at least one of Governor Noem's pet projects, two new prisons, one in Rapid City, and one outside of Sioux Falls.  

And they went into a real tear about inmates serving their time.  There was a "Truth in Sentencing" bill which would require that inmates convicted of violent crimes serve 80% of their sentence before being considered eligible for parole.  Well, I wrote a lot of people about that one.  Because here's the deal:  sentencing comes after a conviction, which comes after a trial, which comes after being charged by the state's attorney, and what the state's attorney charges someone with can... vary.  

True story, no names given:  When I was teaching at SDSU, I had a white student who was arrested, tried and convicted of killing his father.  He was charged with Second Degree Manslaughter and got 20 years.  Meanwhile, a Native American was arrested, tried and convicted of killing someone in a bar brawl that got taken out into the parking lot.  He was charged with First Degree Manslaughter and got life without parole.  So killing your father gets less time than killing someone in a drunken brawl?  What's fair about that?  

True story, all names given:  Former AG Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a man while driving late at night.  The sheriff drove him home, and no alcohol test was made until the next day; Ravnsborg swore he thought it was a deer, even though the man's eyeglasses were in the front seat of his car, proving the man went through windshield; etc., etc., etc. Prosecutors chose not to charge Ravnsborg with vehicular homicide or second-degree manslaughter. (Yes, I know guys who are doing time in the pen for such behavior.) Instead, he was charged with careless driving (which was dismissed), driving out of his lane, and operating a car while using a cellphone.  He had to pay $1,000 and court costs, and that was it.  In that case just about everyone agreed with me that this was special treatment, and the uproar eventually resulted in his impeachment:  but he never spent a day in jail.  He was never even fingerprinted.  


Except we know it won't happen.

Then there's a recent case where a Native American got out on parole and got arrested for his 8th DUI.  So that launched a new set of demands for mandatory prison sentencing for multiple DUIs, etc., which will only apply to "certain people". I know this because, back when I worked for the UJS, I saw a man whose family was very influential / wealthy / powerful in a certain county, who was constantly being stopped for DUI, often in possession of drugs, often escorted home, and was never arrested.  I used that guy as the prototype for Vic Adger in my story, "The Closing of the Lodge" (AHMM, Nov/Dec 2022), except that Vic was far more of a gentleman.  Look, I'm not saying that alcoholics with multiple DUIs aren't dangerous - but some treatment would help, and they're not going to get that in prison.  

Once more, for the cheap seats:  Incarceration does not "fix" addiction.  

And now for something completely different!  Hirsutism!  

Did you know that humans still carry the genes for a full coat of body hair?  (WaPo)  Turns out we're kind of like elephants, which historically speaking, began as woolly mammoths.  Which instantly made me think of werewolves:  Hypertrichosis, a/k/a werewolf syndrome, is "an abnormal amount of hair growth over the body."  But now it seems like it's less of an infection and more of a throwback. 

Anyway, meet Petrus Gonsalvus, 1537-1618, "the man of the woods", and his wife Lady Catherine.  Their marriage is considered to be a partial source of the "Beauty and the Beast" legend.  Four of his seven children suffered from the same syndrome:

Gonsalvus served in the courts of Henry II of France, and successive rulers of Parma. "Despite living and acting as a nobleman, Gonsalvus and his hairy children were not considered fully human in the eyes of their contemporaries."  

Well, they said the same thing about Larry Talbot (a/k/a Lon Cheney).  Whose makeup appears to have been modeled on poor Petrus: 

"Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."

For those who don't know, wolfsbane is one name for a member of the aconitum family. Like Monkshood (Below):

Aconitine is a potent neurotoxin and cardiotoxin. "Marked symptoms may appear almost immediately, usually not later than one hour, and "with large doses death is almost instantaneous". Death usually occurs within two to six hours in fatal poisoning (20 to 40 mL of tincture may prove fatal).[25] The initial signs are gastrointestinal, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen.[3] In severe poisonings, pronounced motor weakness occurs and cutaneous sensations of tingling and numbness spread to the limbs. Cardiovascular features include hypotension, and ventricular arrhythmias. Other features may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, headache, and confusion. The main causes of death are ventricular arrhythmias and asystole, or paralysis of the heart or respiratory center.[25][26] The only post mortem signs are those of asphyxia."  (Wikipedia)  (My emphasis added.)

I'd say there's more to worry about than wolves or werewolves when the wolfsbane blooms.  In fact, aconite sounds like a handy plant to have in the garden... in a cloud-cuckoo land sort of way, of course. We "do but jest, poison in jest, no offense i'th' world."

And now for some BSP:

My story, "Cool Papa Bell", is in Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues;

Just because you're in prison doesn't mean there's no more crime...
And on Amazon HERE

My noir novella, Cruel as the Grave is in Crimeucopia:  We'll Be Right Back

There's nothing like toxic friendships, murder and a South Dakota winter to make everybody crazy...

Available on Amazon HERE.

You can keep a secret for a long time in a small town, but eventually it will come out...  And always at the wrong time...

On Amazon HERE.

23 February 2023

Where's Sancho?

A fellow AVP facilitator said she'd learned a new word at the last workshop:  Sancho.  They were doing role plays about going home from prison, which gives inmates a chance to work out some of their fears and hopes in a controlled setting.  It's one of the most popular exercises.  Anyway, various people asked, before and during the role play, "So where's Sancho?" and "What are you gonna do about Sancho?"

  • Sancho:  The generic term for the man (or woman) who moves in with your girlfriend / wife while you're in prison.  
SDSP, photo by Alexius Horatius, Wikipedia

There's a lot of slang in prison.

  • Fish: Brand new inmates.
  • Fishtank: Where the new inmates are kept.
  • House: Cell.
  • Cellie:  Cellmate.
  • Going on Vacation:  Going to the SHU, which is:
  • SHU (or the Hole):  Solitary Confinement
  • Duck: A guard / staff member / volunteer who's being groomed to get an inmate something the inmate wants.  From the phrase "Downing a Duck", which in turn describes how inmates manipulate non-inmates without the latter realizing it.  Flattery and attention can get you surprising things in prison.  Watch this and learn: (SEE HERE)
    • BTW, It works better than you might think, otherwise COs and staff wouldn't get fired from prisons for providing drugs, cell phones, or other contraband, or for having sex with inmates, or for helping them escape...  See my 2015 post "What We Do For Love". Sigh…
  • Shot Caller:  Leader of a gang.  Often not the person you think it is.  They don't necessarily want an outsider to know who's really in charge. And it's generally not the loud mouth who's telling you "I run everything 'round here."  Yeah, right.
  • Punk:  An inmate who is considered weak and can be used, including sexually.  Sometimes especially sexually. If used as an insult to the wrong person, there will be a fight. See also "Bitch".  
  • Prison Wolf:  Gay to the gate.  Lot more of that around than anyone ever admits. 
  • High Class:  Hepatitis C. 
  • The Monster:  HIV.
  • Chomo: Child molester.  Very dangerous term to use about someone. It could get them - or you - killed.
  • Apple:  VERY insulting term for Native Americans (Red on the outside, white on the inside).  There's gonna be a fight. 
  • Drive By:  You walk by an inmate's cell and fart.  Less lethal than a
  • Lock in a Sock: Just what it sounds like, a combination lock in a sock. A very common weapon to cold-cock someone.  
  • Back Door Parole: to die in prison.  
  • Soups:  Ramen, available through commissary, one of the common currencies of the cells. 
  • Burrito:  Feast food of the cells, which uses no tortillas and rarely beans.  It's made of ramen noodles, Doritos, and whatever processed meat and flavoring is on hand.  Mix together in a specific order in a garbage bag, pour boiling water over it, shape it as preferred, and after 10+ minutes it's ready to be cut up and served.  
  • Kite: A note passed between inmates; also the term for a genuine request sent by inmates to any staff member. 
  • Flat: "I'm going to flat next month", i.e., I will have served my sentence and get out without needing parole.  
  • Ninja Turtles:  COs in riot gear.
  • Road Dog:  Inmates who are friends, especially those who were friends BEFORE prison.
  • Catch:  "So what did you catch?" "I caught a case" or "I caught ten years" - I got sentenced.
  • Toochie:  One term for synthetic marijuana, K-2, etc.  The truth is, the slang for drugs changes every time you turn around, especially as new drugs come out, so… this may be old by now.  "Paper" is also used, because a lot of drugs come in as paper that's been soaked in liquid K-2, etc.  Anyway, I used the term in Cool Papa Bell, where one of the softball teams calls themselves "The Toochie Tucks".
  • Tucks:  A term for hiding contraband or a weapon up one's ass. Keister, is or was another term for it, and I've rarely heard that one used.

Other teams in "Cool Papa Bell" are:

  • "CTQs" (Confined To Quarters), i.e., on cell restriction;
  • "Spider Monkeys", i.e., doing hard time;
  • "5150s" mental health cases;
  • "Soup Skippies", i.e, eating a lot of Ramen and wearing the state-issued tennis shoes, i.e., broke. 

Well, that's a start to understanding what you might overhear when inmates talk among themselves.

And now for some BSP:

My story, "Cool Papa Bell", is in Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues;

Just because you're in prison doesn't mean there's no more crime.  Or opportunities to commit it. 

And on Amazon HERE

My noir novella, Cruel as the Grave is in Crimeucopia:  We'll Be Right Back

There's nothing like toxic friendships, murder, an unidentifiable body, and a South Dakota winter to make everybody crazy.

Available on Amazon HERE.

And "The Abandoned Bride" (with a wise-cracking Linda Thompson telling more of Laskin's family secrets) is in Black Cat Mystery Magazine #13:

You can keep a secret for a long time in a small town, but eventually it will come out… And always at the wrong time...

On Amazon HERE.

09 February 2023

Land Sharks

In case no one knows, December and January were pretty much winter hell up here in South Dakota.  After the last blizzard, this is what I had in my front yard:

That little dark landshark in the middle is the tip of the handrail to a set of stairs that leads from the street up to the landing before the steps that lead to our front porch.  And I could only take this after the blizzard was over, which lasted about 3 days.  And it took another 24-36 hours (I don't know any more, it's been a long winter and time is getting away from me) to get shoveled out.  

I also had this across the street:

That is our block's fire hydrant, totally snowed in.  I discovered, as the days passed without anyone shoveling it out, that while there is an ordinance requiring all sidewalks to be cleared within 48 hours, there is no ordinance requiring fire hydrants to be shoveled out at all.  And I've been pitching a fit about that ever since.  

At least I got caught up on my streaming.  And some of my reading.

Negative review first:  I'm not a fan of The Banshees of Inisherin.  I agree with the reviewer who called it "the feel-bad movie of the year", so if that's what you want, go for it.  But besides being depressing, I also found it just another compendium of every negative stereotype of rural Ireland, or any other rural place.  Deliverance in the Isles:  a bunch of feckless, idle, drunken men; bitterly gossiping women; a father-son pervert duo; etc., etc., etc.  One of the most unbelievable scenes was when (for some reason) they showed Padraic and Siobhan sleeping in the same bedroom, thankfully in separate beds.  I've spent a lot of time in rural Ireland, visiting my husband's relatives, and seen a lot of old cottages, and I can assure you that even the smallest cottage had a separate bedroom for the parents, another one for the girls, and if there wasn't a third room for the boys, they slept in the main room.  And I didn't buy the whole Irish Civil War as metaphor at all.  But that's just me.

On the other hand, I loved Stonehouse.  Based on a true story, it stars Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse, former MP and Postmaster under Harold Wilson, who pulled an early Reginald Perrin and disappeared from a beach in Miami, trying to avoid charges of espionage, fraud, and theft.  He was, as one person says, "The worst spy ever":  he would be fired from Slough House.  Favorite line:  When he's being "recruited" due to a blackmailing film, he pauses, then asks, "Will I be paid?"  Second favorite scene: When he's finally spotted, they assume he's Lord Lucan.  (Here)  Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.  I really enjoyed it, and my only complaint is that they really rushed through the last episode.  Still...  it's fun. 

Meanwhile, I'm still reeling from reading Sarah Moss' Ghost Wall (2018).  I read it because a review said it was about a group of re-enactors (amateurs, professor, and students) in pursuit of the Iron Age.  Now, I love watching good re-enactors.  I've watched all the Ruth Goodman / Peter Ginn etc. re-enactments - Secrets of the CastleTudor Monastery Farm, Victorian Farm, etc. (all available on Prime Video) and learned a lot.  It's much different watching someone do something you've only read about before.  (Hence John Ruskin's negative reaction on his wedding night.)  

But those were innocuous. Ghost Wall is anything but. The narrator is a girl, almost a young woman, who, we eventually learn, is living with constant domestic abuse.  It builds slowly, so that when it comes, it's like a slap in the face, and then two slaps, and then a blow, and then...  until...  which is exactly how landsharks (male and female) operate. 

It is a masterpiece, but it should come with trigger warnings.  You have been warned.  

Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.

This would be a good time to recommend Netflix's The Elephant Whisperers. Bomman and Belli, two Tamil, live and work in Mudumalai National Park, which is in the heart of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book territory. They're entrusted with orphaned baby elephants. And it's a wonder. I'll never forget seeing Belli walking down a jungle trail with one of the elephants following her like a lamb. Or where one elephant ages out of living with them, and is moved, and the remaining baby elephant Raghu, is almost inconsolable.  Bomman and Belli's floral wedding, with elephants.  Maybe I'll watch it again tonight.  I'll sleep a lot better than last night...

And now for some BSP:

My story, "Cool Papa Bell", is in Josh Pachter's Paranoia Blues;

Just because you're in prison doesn't mean there's no more crime...
And on Amazon HERE

My noir novella, Cruel as the Grave is in Crimeucopia:  We'll Be Right Back

There's nothing like toxic friendships, murder and a South Dakota winter to make everybody crazy...

Available on Amazon HERE.

You can keep a secret for a long time in a small town, but eventually it will come out...  And always at the wrong time...

On Amazon HERE.

26 January 2023

How the Law Really Works

I'm getting pretty tired of memes and op-eds that are shocked, shocked, shocked! about searches and arrests and even convictions, so I thought I'd discuss how things happen in the real world of criminal justice. And I'm going to use plain, simple language, because there too many people running around who have bought a whole lot of legal BS. 

For one thing, there is the idea that "presumption of innocence" means you can't arrest or prosecute someone without absolute proof that they're guilty.  And, if they deny having done it, and proclaim their innocence - well, why would they lie?  WRONG.

Here's the deal:  Law enforcement can decide to arrest anyone based on probable cause - and there are a lot of reasons for probable cause.  Sometimes the case is so serious (or "sensitive") that it's taken to a grand jury to decide if there's probable cause. Either way, law enforcement is going to assume that you are guilty, based on probable cause, arrest you, and take you to jail, where your jailors are going to assume you're guilty, too.  Sorry, Charlie.  

And of course, every trial begins with the prosecution's argument that you are guilty.  That's the way trials work.  Presumption of innocence means that you are to be presumed innocent by everyone in the courtroom EXCEPT the prosecution.  It's the defense's job to prove that you are innocent. Sometimes, of course, the defense manages to get you off even if you are guilty.  It helps if you (1) have money; (2) connections; (3) a sympathetic press; (4) a winning smile and personality; (5) etc.  We can all think of cases where that happened, can't we? 

Another one is the pesky question of what constitutes a crime, especially if you were lousy at committing it. Incompetence is not a defense. Let's sum this up:

(1) If you try to buy illegal drugs, and the cops bust you, you're still guilty even though you didn't get anything. 

(2) If you try to sell illegal drugs, and the cops bust you, you're still guilty even if what you brought to sell was actually lawn clippings in a baggie. 

(3) If you try to hire a 13 year old for sex, even if "she" turns out to be a 46 year old portly male detective, you are still guilty of trying to buy a minor for sex. 

(4) If you try to sell a 13 year old for sex, even if you have no 13 year old in the stable, and were just trying to scam the purchaser, you are still guilty of pimping, as well as scamming. 

(5) If you offer to kill someone for hire, and then pocket the money but don't do it, you're still going to be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. 

(6) If you're conspiring with people to kidnap / murder someone or some group of people (such as the ones who conspired to kidnap and execute Michigan Governor Whitmer, or the group in Kansas (HERE) that was going to blow up a Somali community), and an informer has infiltrated your group, and the FBI (or other law enforcement) arrest you before you actually commit the crime - well, there's a reason conspiracy is a crime, and you're gonna find out the hard way.  

Etc., etc., etc....

Basically, it doesn't matter if you didn't get or didn't give what was offered - what matters is that you intended to get or give what was offered.

And Dorf on Law recently gave the best example I've ever seen of refuting the argument of "But I didn't commit the crime so why should I go to jail?"

Cathy the Catburglar comes to Paul's Pawnshop in New York City with a diamond ring valued at $10,000. "Wow, that's a beautiful ring," Paul says to Cathy. "Where'd you get it?"
"Duh. I stole it. I'm a cat burglar. It's right in my name."
"Right," says Paul. "But where did you steal it from?"
"I'd rather not say," Cathy replies, "but don't worry. I didn't steal it around here. Let's just say that an heiress in California will find that her hand feels a little lighter than it used to."
"Gotcha," Paul replies. "I'll give you six grand for the ring." They haggle and eventually settle on a price of $7500.
Paul has committed a federal crime of receiving goods valued at over $5,000 that he knows to be stolen and that crossed state lines. He has also committed third-degree possession of stolen property under New York law. The fact that Paul didn't steal the ring himself or play a role in Cathy's crime does not shield Paul in any way.  (DORF)

Another one is the "hearsay doesn't count" defense:

(1) Pretty much every single Mafia and other crime boss who's been indicted, tried, and convicted has been put there by the witness of other criminals - usually their [former] employees. Except for those who got caught cheating on their taxes.  Sometimes them, too. 

(2) After the Tate-LaBianca murders, Charlie Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, even though he did not participate in the mass slaughter. Words count.

Meanwhile, I have noticed that everyone who comes up with a reason why they or someone they know / like / admire / follow / worship should never, ever be locked up AT THE SAME TIME believe that "certain people" should be locked up forever, no matter what.  

This leads to some interesting proposals.  For example: our newly recycled AG Marty Jackley has just proposed a bill increasing the penalty for the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer from 25 years in prison to 50 years in prison. The bill is in response to "multiple incidents since 2021 when police shot and either injured or killed people while on duty" which, when you think about it, makes no sense as a response to police officers shooting civilians while on duty. (ARGUS)  After all, it never addresses the question of why these people were shot, injured, killed.  (Some were fairly obviously mentally ill.  And in at least one case, the cop couldn't get his taser to work, so he switched to his gun.)  Think things through.  Please. 

And there's the eternal banging of the capital punishment drum. Repeated studies have been done that show that the death penalty has no deterrent effect on violent crime, but people don't believe it. They don't want to believe it. And they especially don't want to believe it about anyone they know or like or follow or worship.  But the truth is: 

"People commit murders largely in the heat of passion, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or because they are mentally ill, giving little or no thought to the possible consequences of their acts. The few murderers who plan their crimes beforehand -- for example, professional executioners -- intend and expect to avoid punishment altogether by not getting caught. Some self-destructive individuals may even hope they will be caught and executed."  (ACLU

Or, as someone said recently on Facebook in one of the greatest memes I've ever seen, which said simply, "We already know what caused the shootings:  Hate/Fear/Rage"   

But executions are always a popular idea. A commenter on Facebook wrote me that the best way to stop crime and lower prison populations is to execute all violent criminals and drug dealers and - well, it was a long list. I instantly thought of Larry Niven's short story, "The Jigsaw Man" (in the original Dangerous Visions anthology that I've referred to a few times).

Synopsis from Wikipedia, "In the future, criminals convicted of capital offenses are forced to donate all of their organs to medicine, so that their body parts can be used to save lives and thus repay society for their crimes. However, high demand for organs has inspired lawmakers to lower the bar for execution further and further over time.

The protagonist of the story, certain that he will be convicted of a capital crime, but feeling that the punishment is unfair, escapes from prison and decides to do something really worth dying for. He vandalizes the organ harvesting facility, destroying a large amount of equipment and harvested organs, but when he is recaptured and brought to trial, this crime does not even appear on the charge sheet, as the prosecution is already confident of securing a conviction on his original offense: repeated traffic violations."

So be careful what you advocate for.  I've seen how you drive.