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

21 September 2023

A Strange Sort of Mourning


By now, most of you know that I volunteered at the Sioux Falls prison for 12 years (Alternatives to Violence Project and the Lifer's Group), and then for the last year have been working from home in a kind of advisory capacity for the Lifer's Group.  I still hear most of what goes on from those who are still going into the prison, both news and gossip, so I don't feel too isolated from it, and I'm glad of that.

I've gotten to know a lot of inmates very well over the years.  I know a lot about their families as well as their crimes. I've gone to hospital when they've had surgery.  I'll never forget showing up at one inmate's hospital room (with my bona fides to let me in), and the surprise on the guard's face.  Inmates just don't get many visitors. Some inmates have stayed in touch after they've gotten out either on parole, or flatting (slang for doing all their time).  And I've written letters in support of some inmates' applications for parole.  

But there's a lot of sadness.  

The 18 year old kid, coming down off meth, who's still trying to think straight (and not succeeding), and trying to grapple with a 40 year sentence for the manslaughter he committed while tweaking, and he really doesn't remember much of any of it, because he was tweaking so hard and then he crashed so fast, and when he came to he was being arrested, and...  he doesn't know what the hell he's going to do.  

The 56 year old guy who used to be one of those 18 year old meth-heads who got federal time because he used a gun and had too much meth in his possession, and is at the pen because the feds are moving him - again - from one facility to another because that's what they do, and he's lost track of his family so many years and prisons ago, and there's no sense in making friends in prison because they just keep busting everybody up and moving them, and he's just there at AVP because it's something to do, but his eyes are freaking dead.  

The 75 year old guy who's been in for 45 years and ain't never getting out, because this whole "compassionate release" thing doesn't happen, not really, unless you have family who will take you in OR you are so close to dying they can just send you to hospice, and he's not there yet, so he's still working because you lose points and privileges if you refuse work, and he takes care of people in the hospice area of the pen, and so he knows exactly where he's going to end up and how it's going to be.  (He was the model for Papa Bell in my story, "Cool Papa Bell" in Josh Pachter's anthology, Paranoia Blues.)

The years pass slowly / quickly in a penitentiary.  Twentysomethings change into Fortysomethings into Sixtysomethings, and all that time they've been in a cement and metal world with 40 minutes outside rec once a day except in winter.  South Dakota winters are long.  And in those years, everything's changed, from technology to cultural norms to dress codes to their health, and after enough decades, they're seriously frightened of getting out.  

The Vietnam Vet in his 70s who was fixing to flat (finish his time) and talked to me that last AVP weekend about his PTSD, never treated, and how certain sounds still made him want to curl up in a ball and hide under his bunk, but he never dared do that in prison because someone would kill him sure or worse.  And when he finally was released, he asked to be taken to a nondescript motel which rented rooms by the week or the month, and there he is, holed up with his small remittance - enough for the rent and his fast food - and his TV, and plans to never see anyone ever again.  

Did I mention health problems.  Enough years on prison food and just about everyone has hypertension and diabetes, because it's heavy on carbs, low on protein, and very low on fresh fruit and vegetables.  The stud muffin of 18 is now 50 pounds overweight, and worried about a having a heart attack.  There's HIV and hepatitis everywhere, from prison tattoos (the tattoo artists brag about using new needles, but there's no guarantee) or blood-to-blood contact (gang fights, gang rape, gay sex).  And there's cancer.

Recently I found out that an inmate had died in a local hospital. I wasn't surprised.  He'd been part of Lifer's Group since it was restarted in 2017, and he'd had cancer then. Aggressive cancer.  He looked like a bone thin Alun Armstrong (Brian in New Tricks) in a wheelchair, with a strong speech impediment and a bad temper.  We watched him get thinner and weaker, but still showing up - wheeled in by one of the other guys - and trying desperately to communicate (it was throat cancer).  He could be a pain in the ass - when he got on a rant, he stayed on it - but he could also make valuable contributions.  God knows he knew what the prison hospital and hospice (ideally) should have been.  

Because of all of this, I've thought a lot over the years about how horrible it would be to grow old, get sick, to battle loneliness, guilt, mental illness, addiction, heart disease, cancer in prison.  And to die of it, ANY of it, in prison.  

Prison Alun was a felon, guilty of a terrible crime - but he paid for it.  He paid a lot, and it was more than just time.  







07 September 2023

Dunning-Kruger Should Be A Last Name


We've all sat in on those meetings. Someone sent by administration to explain things to us. Motivate us. Well-dressed. Well-groomed. A whiff (or a wave) of cologne. A voice that never stops. When interrupted, a look of pained disappointment (I learned to call it the LPD) and on with the monologue. No content, just bullet points (All of the following taken from meetings I somehow survived.):

  • Try test phases.
  • Make your mistakes small.
  • Small projects equal small mistakes.
  • Always manage the managers.
  • Build rapport.
  • We must create change through awareness on a variety of issues.
  • Community, community, community.
  • Work towards core competencies.
  • Train people in listening skills. (And he certainly was training us.)
  • Innovation is mandatory in order to thrive.
  • Manage (or was it massage?) the managers.
  • New ideas refresh old roots. 
  • A willow cannot grow beyond what the stump can bear.
  • What is developed can be proprietary in a way that adaptations cannot.
  • Always ask, what will it look like if we do this?  

All about as informative, substantive, and practical as fog.  And then come the word salads:

This is all really simple, people.  Mutually verifiable evidence is critical when trying to settle disagreements.  Gravity can be mutually verified. We can define what we mean by it. We can design tests to prove it exists. Others can do the same tests and get the same results without the need to "believe" in it first. Or water. Water is H2O. We can narrowly define water so that only H2O is water. We can design experiments to tests for water. We can design tests to show that water is made up two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. We can verify something is water by doing experiments that produce the same results. Anyone who doubts that water is H2O can do the experiments and if they find something different can present their findings for scrutiny. If they can show that they did the exact same test and got contradictory results, we could then say that the assertion that water is H2O is not mutually verifiable. So mutually verifiable evidence is the only way to solve problems or disagreements.  (By now we were all doodling away.)

And the one that nearly started a riot: 

It's not that complicated.  You women must have more conversations with men to educate them. You must have the courage to speak out, speak often, but always gently, lovingly, to change the men around you. Men can't hear what women don't say. Women who don't complain are part of the problem. Not complaining sends mixed messages to men. Complaining lets men know a woman's barriers and how to relate to her. But always gently, lovingly, respectfully. 

Finally, the meeting is over.  And everyone bitches about it for a few days. And then the memo comes from on high, "We expect a draft of your department's long-range plan to implement the proposals given in the meeting." To which we all answer, mentally, "WHAT PROPOSALS?  IT WAS ALL BULLS***T!"

"The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe they are smarter and more capable than they are. Essentially, low-ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence. The combination of poor self-awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their capabilities." (LINK)

In other words, they know they know everything, and will impart their "knowledge" to you at any opportunity, even if they have to create it, and no evidence will ever convince them that they're wrong.  A lot of extremely wealthy people are like this because of the basic theory 

wealth = expertise and knowledge.  

HA! 

I'll never stop laughing over that one.

But they're at every level and walk of life, especially any profession which gives them a podium and a mike, or puts them in charge of anything.  Which is why Douglas Adams had the Golgafrinchans divest themselves of a useless third of their population (beginning with middle management) by sending them out in Ark Fleet Ship B, and God knows we've all thought about it...


Douglas Adams, we still miss you!
https://www.flickr.com/people/79664273@N00

Also, all dictators, from Qin Shihuangdi to Mao Zedong, Lenin to Putin, Robespierre to Rousseau were and are absolutely convinced that they know everything about how things work.  (My favorite is still Rousseau writing the first hugely popular book on child education - Emile - despite having put everyone of his children in an orphanage.  Write what you know...)

And, of course, all conspiracy theorists and cult members - or did I just repeat myself?

Did I mention politicians? 

Meanwhile, the same people who are IMPOSSIBLE in meetings, family dinners, and daily life can be hilarious (or not) in books and on film:

Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers, Pink Panther franchise) - we all know Inspector Clouseau, egotistical, incompetent, clumsy, who somehow always manages to evade assassins and find the culprit. He drives everyone around him crazy, sometimes literally so (I empathize with Herbert Lom's Chief Inspector).  But it's funny...

Foggy Dewhurst (Brian Wilde, Last of the Summer Wine, the longest running sit-com in history) - Foggy is a former soldier who liked to boast of his military exploits in the WW2 jungles of Burma, even though he'd been a corporal sign-writer who was stationed in Wales. He's an expert on everything (he thinks he's mended a toaster and decides that means he can mend anything) and is determined to meddle in every problem he sees. He loves to give his occupation as "trained killer" and is shocked when he's occasionally arrested for it. I find him hilarious.

Florence Foster Jenkins (Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep) - Now there's a woman who in real life was tone deaf and no one ever had the guts to tell her...

Michael Scott (Steve Carrell, The Office) - One of the reasons I never watched more than a couple of episodes. I didn't find him funny at all, because I've been too many meetings.

The Manager in Dilbert - 'Nuff said.

Owl in Winnie the Pooh - kind of cute in a children's book.

Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew (C. S. Lewis) - who really gets in over his head, and it's such fun to watch.

Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory - his genius in physics makes him think he's a genius in everything. He's not.

Paul in Midnight in Paris - Pseudo-intellectual who dazzles (some) women with his knowledge of French art and culture, despite being wrong most of the time.

Hap Shaughnessy on The Red Green Show - lay-about at the Lodge who claims to have known everyone, done everything, been everywhere, including guitarist for the Rolling Stones.  

Walter Sobchak (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski) - oh, my dears, I have known so many Walters, angry, obsessed, self-centered, who will not shut up, who knows he is always right...  I still think the Coen Brothers should have made his day job some kind of warped management retreat leader.  

So who's your favorite Dunning-Kruger act-alike?  

24 August 2023

It's August, so it Must Be Sturgis


And so it was.


First, STATISTICS!!!!!  

Total attendees were 458,161, the lowest in a long time.
In total, 1,479 citations were issued this year, up from 2022′s 1,430.
Drug arrests saw the biggest jump, with 155 felony drug arrests made compared to 103 in 2022. Misdemeanor drug arrests also rose to 246 compared to 148 in 2022.
The number of DUI arrests totaled 120, down from last year’s 148. The number of citations issued also went down to 4,296 from 5,288 in 2022.
There were a total of 127 accidents this year, 64 were injury accidents and five were fatal. Last year’s rally saw a total of 98 accidents with three total fatalities. (Link)

A few notes on the statistics:
Everyone knows that you have to be particularly obnoxious / dangerous to get a DUI at Sturgis.  All those folks at the Buffalo Chip, drunk and stoned out of their gourds, aren't going to get DUIs, because they're not going anywhere - they're going to pass out where they are.  

The death total is for those actually at the Rally, not on the drive there or the drive home or driving around the Black Hills.  Official reports are 12 people dying in motorcycle crashes.  Many of them were older, such as the 66-year-old woman and her 78 year old husband, riding on a Harley trike that for some reason left the road, went into a ditch, and went airborne. She was thrown from the trike, he was not.  Neither were wearing helmets. Both died. They were not included in the Rally toll.  

NOTE to future Rally attendees:  After a certain age, if you go flying off a motorcycle, you will find that you no longer bounce, and you might no longer breathe.  Please, WEAR A HELMET!!!

Also, five South Dakota men were arrested for sex trafficking at 2023's Sturgis rally. (LINK)

But as Tom Lawrence said, "So several bikers don’t make it home alive. So some kids are exploited by weirdos looking for kinky kicks. So the hospitals and other health-care centers are jammed with the casualties of the 'Best Party Anywhere."  The important thing is that Sturgis brings in $45 million in state and local tax revenue.  (LINK)  

Meanwhile, our Governor wrote an... interesting op-ed on "I didn’t think I’d find so much Jesus at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. He’s everywhere all the time, but I didn’t expect to feel his presence at a pancake breakfast at the Buffalo Chip. He was clearly there when the Sons of Light Ministry graciously hosted hundreds of guests, including myself and Lawrence Jones from Fox and Friends. The Sons of Light witnessed by serving a free breakfast to all who came, sharing songs of praise, and just joining in fellowship." (LINK)  

Sarcastic hilarity was the general response.  STURGIS?  Family friendly revival STURGIS?  No.  No.  No.  People don't go to Sturgis for that.  They go for the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll and/or kicking country music.  And some great scenery to enjoy while nursing the hangover.  The same reason my generation went to three day music concerts out in the desert, mountains, wherever.  

So if you believed the governor's hype, don't worry. In fact, Harley-Davison's own insurance division says Sturgis is not really a family event:

Sturgis isn’t kid-friendly, but it can be if you want it to be.
For a family-friendly version of the Rally, you’ll want to avoid nighttime activities when things tend to get wild. You’ll also want to avoid hotels that host many attendees because rally-goers frequently like to party late into the night. Even a campground with many motorcycles can keep you and your kids up if there’s revving late into the night [Harley-Davidson Insurance, “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2023 Guide,” 2023.05.22].

Sturgis is, and has always been, the motorcycle version of Vegas in the old days, when "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  

Our temporary denizens are clad in skull caps, sunglasses, boots, sleeveless shirts, and black leather. Tattoos are required; piercings are optional. Body paint, thongs, and pasties will do for women. For men, cleanliness is not a virtue; grimy grubbiness is fine and chest hair encouraged. Don’t come to Sturgis looking for metrosexuals—you won’t find any.

The streets are teeming with beautiful, scantily dressed women, but the real beauties are the motorcycles, their chrome sparkling in the sun as though they had just left the showroom floor. Few things you will ever see are as impressive as thousands of custom-painted Harley Davidsons parked four rows deep and lined up for blocks, many of them true works of art. Few things you will encounter can compare to the noise made by an undulating river of 700-pound motorcycles. Hunter S. Thompson described it as “a burst of dirty thunder.” (LINK)

And then there are the t-shirts, like “I’m here to drink and f—, and I’m about done drinking” that people wear proudly.  
Or the Snake Lady, who wears nothing but snakes.  Seriously.
Also, overheard at the rally by someone (not me, I never go):

Sturgis Biker One: “Dude! Welcome back! I heard ya got married.”
Sturgis Biker Two: “Yeah, man, it was like something to do.”
Sturgis Biker One: “How’s the sex, man?”
Sturgis Biker Two: “Not so good, but at least I don’t gonna stand in line.”

(Link - read the comments)

But then again, none of that might not bother some people.  Give the kids the full experience and all that.  For example, the fans of WEE 1 Tactical, which has just put out the JR-15 assault rifle for CHILDREN, 'just like dad's gun'.  The JR-15 is modeled on the AR-15 assault rifle, but is 20% smaller and weighs just 2.3lbs, with a lighter trigger, and real ammunition. (LINK)  For those with a strong stomach, you can listen to WEE 1 Tactical's owner Eric Schmid praise the JR-15 here.  Start 'em at 3, folks:


It takes all kinds, but I'd like fewer of some of them.  



10 August 2023

Great Mistakes in Criminal History / Mystery


Some days you run across things that just make you go, wait a minute, that's not right.  And I'm not talking about Florida Man or South Dakota Man.  I'm talking about people who have actually planned crimes, meticulously, and made some of the stupidest mistakes you can imagine.

For example, a married Colorado dentist who fell in love with another woman started looking up things on the internet like, “is arsenic detectable in an autopsy?” and “how to make murder look like a heart attack." (Yes, I know we at SleuthSayers have all probably done something like that, but at least we had the excuse that we're crime writers, right?)  But this guy not only left a suspicious internet trail a mile long, but he actually ordered a rush shipment of potassium cyanide that he told the supplier was needed for a surgery. To his office.  Where, of course, an employee opened it and went, "Wait, what does a dentist need with cyanide?" And that wasn't the only poison he ordered delivered. Sadly, all of this did not come out early enough to save his wife's life.  (AP News

But from it we can learn three things:  

  • Never use your own computer; 
  • Always delete the cookies and the history on the browser; 
  • Never have poison, etc., delivered to your office or home.  

Another example is researching Amber Alerts, watching a movie about a woman’s abduction, and writing and delivering to 911 a pretty believable script about finding a white toddler all alone on the side of the road and then vanishing, leaving the car open and running and her cell phone, and having law enforcement searching for her and the toddler, and two days later showing up, claiming to be kidnapped and held hostage but escaping - for nothing?  Ten days later, her attorney shows up and recites a flat statement that it was all a hoax. ??? (AP News)  Honey, if you need a couple of days off, just take off!  

And then there's other things that people have obviously written meticulously, carefully, and made a bestselling novel or movie out of it and... there's a major flaw.

I've talked about the 1998 movie A Simple Plan before.  Very good, understandable, greed and stupidity win over planning.  BUT, when an FBI Agent named Baxter arrives in this small town, Sheriff Carl Jenkins asks the "heroes" to work with him without ever having checked Baxter's credentials.  This does not happen in the real world.  No rural county sheriff would ever just say, "Nice to meet you, what can I do for you?" to someone claiming to be an FBI and wanting to investigate something.  Sadly, if Sheriff Carl was that dumb, he deserved what he got. 

(BTW: The fact that Sarah the librarian does and figures out who Baxter really is makes perfect sense to me but then I know that librarians can find out anything in the world, given enough time.)

This fact that rural, state, and national law enforcement do not always work smoothly together - indeed are often loath to listen to each other - explains a lot about some of the disastrous decisions made in recent years.  The latest is the video from Circleville, Ohio, where State Highway Police had Jadarrius Rose surrendered, hands up, while a Circleville City Policeman arrived on the scene with a German Shepherd K-9 and totally ignored the state trooper yelling three times, "Do not release the dog with his hands up!" and released the dog, which promptly mauled Mr. Rose. (Link)  I believe the city policeman figured he didn't have to listen to some state trooper.  

But a while back I figured the most egregious example of mistake that ruins the whole plot (for me) is in Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile.  Heiress Linnet Doyle is murdered at night in her cabin.  Everyone is a suspect.  Linnet's maid, Louise, is the second victim.  And that right there is a major flaw, because (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Louise knows who Linnet's murderer is, and has already pried money out of the murderer.  But murdering her right then and there makes no sense at all. You're the goose that lays the golden eggs, and she's a maid. She'll keep her mouth shut until everyone gets off the boat, because she wants more money. She'll follow you anywhere and keep your alibi, because she wants your money!  You don't kill the goose that has the golden alibi.  Instead, you pay her off for the next year or so, and then, away from Hercule Poirot, you kill her and make it look like an accident. 

Finally, though, my favorite is from The Big Bang Theory, in "The Raiders Minimization" Amy Fowler shatters Sheldon's favorite movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark by pointing out the major plot flaw:


I still like the movie, but she's right.

29 June 2023

South Dakota Man


I'm starting to think we here in South Dakota can catch up to Florida.  (And, in the interests of keeping it clean - this time - I've left off all the cases but one of sex crimes.)

Sioux Falls police arrest man who threatened officers with a gun - the officers were standing on the sidewalk, talking to someone who had probably just committed a hit-and-run, when South Dakota Guy came out of his house, told them to get the hell off his property (hey, bright eyes, sidewalks are public property!), and when the police didn't, went inside and came back outside holding a rifle with a weapon-mounted light that made it obvious he was pointing at them, yelled at them some more, and then started running, dropping the gun only when he tried to climb a fence.  Officers subdued him, arrested him, and charged him with three counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement, three counts of attempting to commit a felony with a firearm and possession of a loaded firearm while intoxicated.  (What, you thought he was sober?)  (ARGUS)


Sioux Falls man arrested for backing into police car - the suspect was in a stolen vehicle, two detectives were able to approach the vehicle in their own detective vehicle and activated their overhead lights, at which point the driver put the stolen vehicle into reverse and backed into the detectives’ vehicle - twice - before taking off. (BTW, this is a sure way to get the full attention of the police department.) The suspect was later arrested on two counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement and possession of a stolen vehicle.  Also possession of a firearm which may or may not have been stolen.  (Hard to say - most people up here don't report if their gun was stolen from their car. Too embarrassing?)  (ARGUS)


Sioux City man arrested for throwing knives at Sioux Falls police - 4:21 PM, after threatening people with a knife, the suspect took of on his bicycle. the police quickly intercepted him, and he started pulling knives out of his pocket and throwing them at them. The suspect was arrested for three counts of Aggravated Assault on Law Enforcement, Obstructing Police Officers, Fleeing Police, and was placed on an emergency mental hold. (Dakota News Now)  

Man stabbed, arrested for aggravated assault after attacking man with stick - Two men were smoking meth at a campsite and one accused the other of stealing from him and started hitting the victim with a large stick.  The victim has a pocket knife and stabbed the suspect, then they rolled around on the ground, and the suspect bit the victim in the face, Petersen said. Eventually, the victim told the suspect that he had stabbed him and to get up so he could call the ambulance. (Must have been really tweaked out to not know he'd been stabbed..)  (Argus)


Sioux Falls Man Arrested at Disney World for Slapping Woman's Butt
 - The woman was a security guard at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, who did not take it as the compliment that Sioux Falls Man (who was stumbling drunk) apparently thought she should.  He was arrested for two misdemeanors.  The world's happiest place is not going to put up with that s***.  (Hot 104.7)


Sioux Falls man arrested after fatally shooting dog - Police say many people in a house on the 3300 block of South Westbrooke lane were "drinking and messing around with guns." Sioux Falls Man loaded one of the guns and accidentally shot and killed a dog, and was arrested for cruelty to animals. (Otherwise, everything was fine, and the evening went as planned.)  (KELO)


Sioux Falls man arrested for following victim, Lyft driver & pulling gun - A Sioux Falls man has been arrested for following a 29-year-old woman and her Lyft driver and pulling a gun on them Saturday night in southeast Sioux Falls. The suspect stated his reason for following the victim downtown and back and pulling a gun was because he believed the victim was connected to knocking he heard on his door earlier, which alarmed him. KNOCKING????? This easily alarmed snowflake was arrested for 2 counts of Aggravated Assault.  (Dakota News Now)


South Dakota State Representative Calls Mt. Rushmore Demonic Portal - “What the Lord has revealed to me is that Mount Rushmore has a direct ley line to Washington, DC.,” Republican South Dakota (R) Joe Donnell said in the podcast clip that was tweeted. “In order to understand the spiritual realm of what we’re facing, we have to realize that in order for the enemy to do anything, it needs the agreement of human beings. In order to be empowered to do more damage he needs the agreement of human beings and oftentimes that comes in the form of an altar that acts as a portal for other demonic things. What we’re really dealing with in that portal is communism. That witchcraft, altar, those things that are happening in the Black Hills, what we’re dealing with is communism. It’s the ideology and all the demonic entities and spirits behind that.”  We're all still waiting for Governor Kristi Noem to comment on THAT one.  Also, many of us want to know where that witchcraft altar actually IS, because that could turn into a whole 'nother tourist attraction. (KELO)


Random South Dakota man strolls into Kentucky store, buys cigarettes, shoots the ceiling and demands the police be called - "When police arrived, the owner says the man was on the ground by his truck, with a gun pointed to his head. After about an hour, police were eventually able to resolve the situation peacefully without the man hurting himself.  They say South Dakota Man intentionally committed a robbery in order to trigger a law enforcement response and attempt “suicide by cop.” (LINK)


And my favorite:

3 Arrested for Stealing Velociraptor in Sioux Falls - This one I can understand - after all who wouldn't think that a velociraptor statue wouldn't be a handy accessory to any home?  But it must have been made out of fiberglass, don't you think? Anyway, the security cameras taped the whole thing, and the Washington Pavilion got it back, but they're trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again. I don't know... The hunger for dinosaurs knows no bounds...  (ARGUS)  


And one that isn't South Dakota Man, but really, shouldn't it be?

Cow Manure Ponzi Scheme puts California Man in Prison - (LINK)  At least Dark Ally and my idea of Urban Buffalo would have actually provided the manure...  https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2023/05/little-shrimp-on-prairie-return.html 


Well, it could be worse.  Check out this wedding party from 1268:


I think that Doolin' Dalton, Rob Lopresti and I should work together on a "Medieval Man..." piece.  What do you think, guys?





15 June 2023

Medical Genetics Redux: Yes, Virginia,
There are More than Two Genders...


In July of 2012, I wrote my first and only article on working at Medical Genetics at Emory University (back in the early 80's), and considering the trans-hysteria of late, boy does it need an upgrade. 

My job at Emory wasn't especially technical.  It was the lab technicians would take the samples (from amniocentesis or, more often, a buccal smear of the cheek) and distill them down to one little drop that went under the electron microscope.  The next day I’d be handed a blurry 8 1/2 by 11 photograph, full of chromosomes no naked eye could ever, would ever see, transformed into inch-long fuzzy banded crosslets, tumbled and curled and overlaying one another like sleeping puppies. I was the grunt labor, and my job was to cut them out with a a pair of scissors, sort them, and line them up and tape them down to make a karyotype.  

I got to know those chromosomes really well.  Me and my trusty scissors untangled 9s from 4s, 18s from 21s, and set them in neat ordered pairs for the first time in their existence.  At first, like every Other, they all looked alike to me, but time and use and my own fancy gave them personalities.  The first five sets were large and strong and unmistakable -- any flaw in them and there would have been no being to be tested.  6 through 12 were like the dancing men of Sherlock Holmes:  jaunty, poised, often with one foot kicked up in dance or play.  16 through 20 were smaller but just as playful, children learning at their parents’ knees.  13 through 15 were Hopi women, with their looped hair risen above long blankets, or nuns in banded shawls; an elemental female image.  And then the mysterious, smaller shrouded shes, 21 and 22, solid, dark, impenetrable, unpitying, even when you winced with pain, even when you cried as you found a third come to join their pair, or one so damaged that nothing good could come...

The search for sex was a lot more fun.  I found the male in microcosm elusive, mainly because the Y chromosome looks nothing like a Y.  Half the time I thought it was a scrap of something else.  I started a lot of panics until I got it through my head that what looked to me like a tiny, flat-topped, spread-legged 21 was not a trisomic sister of doom, but a Y, a HE.  My only comfort, as I sat with my scissors and a worried look, was that over in the hospital, with the baby right there in front of them, they couldn’t tell either.  Parents panicking, doctors shrugging, nurses whispering, and all waiting for me (!) to find that other damn chromosome and tell them whether it was a girl or a boy.  

BTW, it's been determined that 1 out of every 1,000 babies are born with "indeterminate genitalia." 

1 out of every 5,000 female babies are born without a uterus.  

And sex chromosome aberrations are the most common of all chromosomal aberrations, because they are almost never lethal.  

Here are a few of the more common ones:

Klinefelter syndrome - males inherit one or more extra X chromosomes--their genotype is XXY or more rarely XXXY or XY/XXY mosaic. In severe cases, they have relatively high-pitched voices, asexual to feminine body contours as well as breast enlargement, and comparatively little facial and body hair. 1 in 500 and 1 in 1000 male births. (This makes it one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities.) 

XYY syndrome, a/k/a Jacobs Syndrome - males inherit an extra Y chromosome--their genotype is XYY. As adults, these "super-males" are usually tall (above 6 feet) and generally appear and act normal. However, they produce high levels of testosterone. During adolescence, they often are slender, have severe facial acne, and are poorly coordinated. Legend has it that this can cause strong criminal propensities. 

Triple-X syndrome - Also common:  occurs in women who inherit three X chromosomes--their genotype is XXX or more rarely XXXX or XXXXX. As adults, these "super-females" or "metafemales" as they are sometimes known, generally are an inch or so taller than average with unusually long legs and slender torsos but otherwise appear normal. There is a tendency towards ovarian abnormalities that can lead to premature ovarian failure (early menopause, infertility). 1 in 1,000 female infants are born with this, and it occurs more commonly when the mother is older.

Turner syndrome - occurs when females inherit only one X chromosome--their genotype is X0 (i.e., monosomy X). If they survive to birth, these girls have abnormal growth patterns. And they are born post-menopausal. 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 5,000 female infants are born with this.

45,X/46,XY mosaicism, also known as X0/XY mosaicism and mixed gonadal dysgenesis - can appear male OR female, and a significant number of individuals show genital abnormalities or intersex characteristics.  (This is probably what most of the old literature was referencing when they used the term "hermaphrodite.")  Rare: 1 in 15,000 live births.

46,XX/46,XY - is a chimeric genetic condition in which one human being has two distinct cell and sex lines. This is caused by two fraternal zygotes being absorbed in utero in one fetus. What will emerge in puberty is anyone's guess.  "The rate of incidence is difficult to determine as the majority of diagnoses go unreported in the literature."

XX gonadal dysgenesis - the baby is born without ovaries. Because of this, it's not diagnosed until puberty fails to develop, and it's unknown how many are born with it.  

XX male syndrome, also known as de la Chapelle syndromea rare syndrome where the baby is male, but has two X chromosomes, generally with one of them containing genetic material from the Y chromosome; this gene causes them to develop a male phenotype despite having chromosomes more typical of females.  Rare: occurs in approximately 1 in 20,000 newborn males.

(LINKS ARE HERE & HERE

Which brings up the Guevedoces (which literally means "penis at 12"):  

"In a small community in the Dominican Republic, some males are born looking like girls and only grow penises at puberty." Raised as girls - and generally hating it, they become male around 12. How did that happen? A 1970 study showed the following:

"When you are conceived you normally have a pair of X chromosomes if you are to become a girl and a set of XY chromosomes if you are destined to be male. For the first weeks of life in womb you are neither, though in both sexes nipples start to grow.  Then, around eight weeks after conception, the sex hormones kick in. If you're genetically male the Y chromosome instructs your gonads to become testicles and sends testosterone to a structure called the tubercle, where it is converted into a more potent hormone called dihydro-testosterone This in turn transforms the tubercle into a penis. If you're female and you don't make dihydro-testosterone then your tubercle becomes a clitoris.  

When Imperato-McGinley investigated the Guevedoces she discovered the reason they don't have male genitalia when they are born is because they are deficient in an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which normally converts testosterone into dihydro-testosterone... So the boys, despite having an XY chromosome, appear female when they are born. At puberty, like other boys, they get a second surge of testosterone. This time the body does respond and they sprout muscles, testes and a penis."   (LINK)

The condition of 5-alpha-reductase type 2 deficiency (5-ARD) is an inherited disorder and is limited to male genetic. The affected males are usually identified as female in childhood but undergo striking virilization at puberty. While overall incidence for various countries are not established, increased incidence is reported in the Dominican Republic, some highland tribes in New Guinea (where they're 
called kwolu-aatmwol, literally 'a female thing changing into a male thing') Lebanon and Turkey. (LINK)

Now you may wonder what all this has to do with crime. Well, think about it - you're obviously born a girl, raised as a girl, and then you hit puberty and voila! you're male! If that wouldn't call for a charge of witchcraft in medieval times (are we done with those yet?), I don't know what does.

Or someone with 46.XX/46.YY commits a crime - but the DNA tests show a male did it and the DNA sample of the person shows a female? Or vice versa?

Or someone finds out - after marriage - that they're infertile due to genetics and that leads to... fill in the blank yourself. 

I'm sure we can all think of some more.

Meanwhile, Nature is not always "right" (and if you think it is, you've never seen a two-headed calf or a child with cancer or photograph of Joseph Merrick). 

Nature is not always limited to two genders (fish, gastropods, worms...). 

Nature mixes it up a lot (male seahorses carry and give birth to the young; rabbit does can absorb their litters before birth if there's a shortage of food).  

And, whether 1 in 1,000 or 1 in 5,000 or even 1 in 20,000 - with a population of  332 million, that means that an awful lot of Americans are / were born with some sort of sex chromosome disorder.  Personally, I am all for genetic testing of every baby, but that's not going to happen, because of freedom...  Meanwhile, often the only way to treat many of these conditions is genetic testing followed by gender affirming hormone treatments and sometimes surgery.  All of which are currently banned in 20 states and counting...  

And - since it is all too easy to screw up the visual determination of sex at birth (Guevedoces!), and in some cases even a genetic test can't determine it, can we just leave the whole #$%*%&@ bathroom issue alone and let people pee when and where they need to?  

Thanks.

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 https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/pachter-paranoia-blues/

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.