Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"I have no room in my heart for vengeance"

Currently listening to: A Dying Sailor to his Shipmates - Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys

In the mornings, after my bike ride to school, I have a big breakfast in the student lounge, a smallish room with a TV. Usually I read the NY Times but this morning it hadn’t yet arrived, so I turned on the TV. This was around 8:00am. I didn’t leave till well after 9:30.

The reason for this was Link TVs broadcast of Deadline, a documentary about wrongly-convicted defendants on death row throughout the United States and, particularly, in Illinois. It paid particular attention to Governor’s Ryan’s blanket commutation of 167 death sentences, culminating in a final scene that left me in tears.

I wish I’d had my notebook with me for the viewing; there were many, many, many gems I’d have liked to have written down. Many names, many projects, foundations, and thoughts. Absolutely everything struck a chord.

Of interest was the group Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, an organization of those whose “members has lost a loved one to murder -- through homicide or execution -- and every one opposes the death penalty.” The documentary filmed these members standing at a podium, each reciting the horror committed upon their family, and then stating, “and I oppose the death penalty.” It was extraordinarily moving.

Also: Governor Ryan, before all the families, reporters, everyone, quoting Abraham Lincoln: “'I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice' . . . And if the exercise of my power [here] becomes a burden, then I will bear it.”

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Separated at Birth?

(with apologies to my Dad, and anyone else who - well . . . )

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Dune's Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Dennis Hastert?

Photo of the Morning . . .

click to enlarge

Morning at Huguenot Memorial Park

Friday, October 27, 2006

Le sigh . . . Friday night thoughts

At this stage in the game, I still don’t really understand bond. I mean, judges have been passing out $50,003 bond for simple crack possession, $75,003 for possession of a firearm. Is this normal? I’ve not been able to talk to any attorneys about it yet, but the other interviewers have been seeing it so much it’s normal to them. What is the purpose of these super-high numbers? Mr Transient is not going to find $7,500 . . .

Most people I interview have tattoos, and they spend a lot of time absent-mindedly inspecting them. Especially forearm tattoos. I know it’s kind of just something to do with the eyes and hands, but it is very interesting all the same. I kind of mark time by it.

I hear a lot about guys failing to update their addresses. As sex offenders, no one will lease to them, and so they stay with some friends while saving up for a house down-payment. I can understand where they're coming from; who wants your friend’s information in a sex offender database, when they’re just helping you out for a month? And when you do buy a house, what if a day care opens up three houses down? Do you have to move? No one has ever explained any of this.

An unfortunate aspect of interviewing is the typical logical fallacy. For example, an inmate will say, “Why would I touch a gun?!?! I’m a convicted felon!! There’s no way I would pick up a gun!! I know what that would cost me!!” To him, that sort of argument makes total sense, and should be included not only in the text of his narrative, but also in his formal defense. But the fact is, the world doesn’t work this way. The argument is dead the second it sees the light.

I worry that people have a hard time admitting to me they’ve done something unlawful. If they’re hesitant at first, I can sometimes draw it out of them, but not always. I wonder how to make myself more approachable in this respect. I’m horribly curious and maybe they find this offensive? I try to be very professional about it, though. Hrmmm.

I’ve had some people lie to me lately. Personally, that’s okay, because really, what do I care. But I do care about their defense. And, starting next week, if I feel I’m being lied to, I’m going to say something about it. I owe it to their defense to at least make the overture, say, “Listen, I don’t think you’re being completely honest with me. That’s okay, but be aware that I’m writing down what you’re telling me, and it’s all your attorney will have to go on. When he talks with the State Attorney, when he defends you in front of the judge, it’s all going to rely on this story. Be sure this is the one you want to be telling me.” Or something similar. Does anyone have any ideas on what to say? I don’t want to say the wrong thing.

A guy today leaned in close and said to me, “Have you ever seen a kid shit in the corner? I mean really, shit in the corner? And then his sister comes and cleans it up with sheets?? Ain’t nobody every teach them to use the bathroom? What kinda life is that? When you’re six years old and shittin’ in the corner? They like little animals! Animals!”

I still remember my first interview with a tremendous amount of fear. My little room didn’t face a bubble-mirror, so I had no idea when the guy was going to come in. And I didn’t yet know the groans of the sliding glass doors, or the clicks of the interior doors leading to the elevators, so every time I heard a sound, which was a lot, I thought it might be him. I was scared to death. Not of the inmate – though my eyes had not missed his stats: 6’4”, 290 lbs. – but I was scared of doing poorly. Scared of offending him with my very presence, scared he’d think I was judging him. Think, “What the hell is this tall white girl doing, coming in here and asking me about my business?” But I think, interview-wise, I did okay. And on a personal level, the guy got choked up, we talked for a while, it was very difficult for him. It’s difficult for everyone, as you’d imagine, but some are more open with it than others. It’s something I’ll never forget.

I caught our Supervisor reading one of my client’s narratives, and wave away someone trying to ask her something. This really makes me happy; I try to make them like a story, so they read like a story, keep the reader’s interest. I have the inmate tell me their whole story first, then I go back and we write it down, detail by detail. At this point I’ve got a good idea of its timing, and how I need to format it structure. And then we go. Some are more difficult than others.

Apparently the pickles at lunch are really, really, really good.

The first black guy I interviewed did not want to be in the same room with me. So I tried to be very very nice, probably was too nice. He was reticent, trailed off all his sentences, kept his head down, rubbing his forearms, and just made it clear I wasn’t going to get anything out of him without dragging it out. This didn’t upset me personally, I just wanted him to be happy, feel comfortable with me – this was part of his defense, after all. So I got all his information, the interview was over, and just as soon as I said “Thank you,” I mean just as soon as I said Thank you, he changed 180 degrees. He smiled, gave a laugh, shook my hand, and said, “You’re all right, you just keep doin’ a good job. I know you have to pay your bills, so just keep on smiling. That’s what I try to do. Have a good day,” shook my hand again, and about flounced out of the room. Laughing like he’d just had the best time. I broke out into a smile, after I picked my jaw up off the floor. It was extraordinary.

I don’t know why some cops throw away the arrested’s keys. I’ve heard of this 4 times, overheard it really, from inmates who’ve just been released, standing outside the jail. They’re on the phone with someone, trying to figure out how to get in their house. Either the cops purposely threw their keys in a ditch, or in a field, or left the keys on the road where they dropped. And now the guys can’t get in their own house.

Or feed their dogs. 7 puppies, newly weaned, in the house of a guy who got arrested 2 weeks ago. The cop wouldn’t let him put out food for them. He can’t get in touch with anyone to check on them. He cried for about 30 minutes. And all I could do was listen, and write it down. Write it down. Write it all down.

I don’t dare think about that one too much. Told my supervisor. What else can I do.

And then there’s the one who tried to stare me down. That’s okay too. It was interesting, because I’d write what he said, then look up at him to go on, and he’d just stare at me, aggressive, but not overly, trying to see what I’d do or say. It was a stare with a question on the end. And you know, under other circumstances, I’d have looked away very, very fast. I’d have forfeited without a second thought and gone on with life. But here, I just kept his stare. It was kind of an experiment with myself. I’ve never been able to do that before. And I wasn’t staring him down, I was staring his question down. In my mind, I was saying, “I’m here to take your side of the story. You don’t make me nervous, because despite your brawn and what you did, I care more about getting your side of the story. That’s what I’m here for. So give it to me. And if you have to get something out of your system and stare me down for a few seconds, that’s okay too. Because I’m still going to be here, and I’m still going to get your story. That’s what I’m here to do.”

I interviewed 14 people today. !!!!

Trying to teach myself to get used to the smells. Body, mouth, hair, shoes, etc. I mean, it’s not like they’re dangerous - smells are just indicators, as in, “This man smells of wee, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to swap spit with him.” But the smell itself is not dangerous. It won’t give you a cold, or the flu, or HIV. It just is. Socialization drills into us what is “good” and what is “bad”, why some smells seem offensive, and why others do not. But other than that, the smells don’t mean anything. Not in the jail, anyway. No one’s allowed deodorant (apparently), and most people sleep all day and have sleepy-breath. A lot of them smell like mildew. Why is this bad? I mean, aside from preconceived notions? It’s not going to hurt me, so why be afraid or grossed out?

The interview has ended, and the inmate walks from our room to the sliding glass door, presses the buzzer. “Doe,” he says, letting the cop know who was returning. “John Doe to West 68.”
There’s a long pause. “Who?” the cop says finally.
This guy is already really embarrassed. He shuffles his feet. “John Doe to West 68,” he repeats.
The cop’s mike switches on and catches the end of a laugh. “WHO?”
“John Doe, D-O-E, West 6-“
The door screeches open. “Ha ha ha, oh yeah, come on in, John Doe,what are you shouting for . . .”

Monday, October 23, 2006

aaaiiieeeee! I lost a post!!! Now I found it!

Has this ever happened to you?? It was here last night! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Found it! Thank you J.B., I owe you lunch -

(Originally written last weekend, about my first Thurs and Fri interviewing)

I wake up at 4:45am (boooooo), shower, try to eat, get to the bus stop at 6:10 to catch the 6:20 bus downtown. I’m thinking the bus ride will take an hour, per usual, and the walk from stop to PDO (Public Defender’s Office) about 15-20 minutes. However, due to the early morning hour, the bus takes twenty minutes. Surprise! So I have a nice little stroll around downtown, surprisingly busy already; I look in windows, poke around lit alleys, listen to the really really frightening screams of birds that live under the monorail, look at my watch. Ten minutes has passed. Surprise! It’s only 7:00. Not supposed to be at PDO till 8:00. Well! So I wander around the river, give myself a hearty, mind-of-its-own 'fro, and sit on a bench. Stare at the sky.

So Day One started off rather relaxing, but the jail was to prove a bit more stressful. Not because of the inmates, or the surroundings, but because the PD’s office assigned B to train me. I know B from school; we used to hang out some before he graduated. He is wonderful in many ways. But he hates his job. He chainsmokes like I have never seen. And he will stretch lunch from one hour to two without a second thought. Frankly, he’d just rather not work. So, he’s happy to hang out with me and talk about stuff, but we are on two totally different pages.

One of the Investigators gets me my paperwork and pass, explains the interviewing sheet, and gives me 4 interviews to get the day started. On Thursdays, I work from 8-2. It’s already 9:30. So B grabs me and we head out the back of the building, whereupon B lets me in on his little ritual. Now, I love B, but this boy smokes two cigarettes before we leave, we walk down to the jail, and then he smokes two more. This ritual does not budge.

We can’t take anything into the jail other than our metal binder (containing forms, paper, and pen), although I managed to sneak some Dr. Pepper lip gloss and a mint into B’s front pocket. I can already figure that B, bless him, is not going to be very helpful in explaining why we do certain things, so I’m hyper-aware at this point, trying to figure it all out.

We give our IDs to the CO (Correctional Officer) at the desk just inside the front entrance, who assigns us Special Visitor tags. We pin them to our blazers, walk to the left, through the metal detector, and a CO opens a bulletproof glass door, which opens out to a glass hallway. COs watch us in a sort of production booth, again shielded with bulletproof glass, the overhead lights in their booth dimmed and all sorts of little knobs, buttons, and screens softly lit up around them. I didn’t see it at the time (much to the COs later amusement), but B flashes the peace sign at them, indicating he wants Floor Two, and elevators opposite the production booth open to admit us, with the “2” button already lit up.

The elevators rise and open to a similar layout as the first floor: production booth behind bulletproof glass, holding usually three to four COs. We slide our Interview Roster through a slot and the receiving CO points to a door on our right, where we will see the “East” wing prisoners. B and the CO chat for a second while I look all around – gray-painted cinderblock walls, gray floor – then the CO suddenly pipes the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” through the speakers, all the COs and B get up and do a little dance, then a buzzer sounds, the East wing door unlocks, and B pushes us through. Kinda surreal.

The door opens to a longish gray hall of 5 glassed interview rooms. It deadends in a wall, and the other end is a sliding glass door through which the prisoners, once called, will enter. Apparently – and I’m still not too sure on this – the CO looks at the roster and calls the inmate’s name over the PA system, telling him or her that the PD’s office is here to see them. The inmates appear or do not – it’s up to them. Which is why we don’t interview from 11:30-12:30 of 4:30-5:30, when they’re eating; stealing food is the largest cause of fights, and no inmate will leave his food, even to talk with his attorney.

So we are to wait no more than ten minutes for the inmate to appear. Sometimes it’s the inmate’s fault, sometimes it the COs (on Friday I had one forget about me). But this time, this first interview, where I was to watch B demonstrate proper skills and procedure (hmm), the inmate was quite prompt. The interview room contained three metal stools, bolted down, and a table, bolted down. I leaned against the wall and B sat at the table. The inmate arrived, and people, let me tell you, he was the Baddie from Highlander’s younger brother:

It was so amazing. He spoke to B almost exclusively (I didn’t ask any questions), but would occasionally glance up at me when making a joke, or sheepishly when talking about what he was doing with his girl the night he was arrested. He had a certain way of moving and definite accent to him, but he seemed quite mature and I initially thought he was at least 8 years older than the Arrest Report stated.

He also had a very interesting tic: occasionally, absent-mindedly, he would suck back his spit. I wonder why he did this. It sounded like he was cold, and was breathing in too sharply because of it, but I knew this wasn’t the case. Did he have too much saliva at some point in his life for some reason, long enough to establish this as a habit? It was quite fascinating.

It occurred to me, then, that I was experiencing something I’d always wanted but never thought possible: this man, with his tattoos and near-shaved head, with all his pretenses, was the kind of someone I have always wanted to examine up close, but never could. I mean really, I am not going to visit the guy’s house, pull him aside, and tell him to go about his business, don’t mind me I’m just watching, while I look him over from head to toe, ears to shoes, watch his movements, note his speech patterns, whether he cleaned his nails or not. Whether he keeps his head up or down, sits with a slouch or straight back. Now, though, I finally get to see it.

What’s more; if I were to see him out in his hood, it would be with (as he put it) his shoes, car, and clothes, all of which were specifically designed to match. I’d be seeing this Guy+More, with all his headdresses and plumage, be seeing him as he wished to be seen.

But in this jail, I get to see him as he actually is.

No props. No distractions. Just a man, slouched over on a stool too small, arms folded across his chest, looking down.

He was a human being. He might have done something unlawful a few days ago, but he wasn’t a bad person. He wasn’t evil incarnate. He was just a man. Who shook my hand when he left.

Later, B will tell me that he didn’t take note of the guy’s height as he walked in, but definitely noticed it when he walked out. Taking a drag of his obligatory second cigarette outside the jail, he will say, “I thought he was a lot taller . . . He seemed taller.” And I don’t get the chance to interview anyone myself that day, or even see another interview in action, due to running around with B, but as I sit in my Thursday afternoon Happy Class (with fave philosophical Professor), I think to myself that the day really couldn’t have been any better.

Well okay, maybe less smoke. But that’s it.

And less hot sun.

Oh, and a shorter lunch. I’m really determined to not appear like I’m taking advantage of all this given-freedom (and we investigators have a ton of freedom – I’m not at all used to it). I really want to distinguish myself as someone who works hard, no questions asked.

Ce la!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Life as a PD?

I think there's something about the mechanics and nature of being a PD - some existing commonality - that all PDs seem to recognize, accept, and love. This is very interesting to me. Reading through the PD blogs, I'm reminded of certain soldier blogs, writings from people who share similarly difficult experiences, but who would never do anything different. Who love what they do. Who constantly get put through the wringer but, because they feel they work for a higher purpose, a greater good, see the hardship as simply part of the landscape. (well, at least upon reflection, anyway.)

For instance, when I asked "What would you do differently?" I received three responses that I think are pretty indicative of PDs in general (if not, please let me know!).

acs said, “I don't think I'd do anything over”; ruth said, “How would I do it differently? I wouldn't, really. I love what I do, but nothing really trains you for it.” And audacity simply says, “I would not have given my clients my direct line. Bad idea.”

And when I asked, “What do you wish you knew when you started?” acs answered, “Hmm, after pondering for quite sometime, I don't think that there's anything I wished that I had known.” Ruth said similarly: “See above!” And audacity, of course, answers with “[T]he entire Georgia Code and all the caselaw that went with it. That’s really the only things that would have made my life easier at the beginning.”

Now, reading what I have of the blogs out there, this seems to be common sentiment. As someone who’s struggled with many different jobs in many different fields before a) deciding on law school and then b) deciding on being a public defender when I graduate, I find this commonality extraordinary. I mean, ask any number of office drones these questions, and you’ll get the same number of different, desperate answers. Ask any number of attorneys and the difference might be lower, but it will still be the norm.

I like to think that all this points to public defense as being kindof like a “craft,” or a very selective trade. It has its own nature, and it’s one you’re going to have to figure out on your own: as ruth says, “nothing really trains you for it.” Not everyone can abide by it. It’s going to make you walk through certain common fires - every single one transforming you, tempering you. And, looking back, there’s nothing you would change.

Acs: “I wouldn't do my job if I didn't love it”
Ruth: “I love what I do”
Audacity: “As much as I sometimes complain about my job, I really do love it.”

This is so incredibly, extraordinarily, and wonderfully rare. When I graduate and (fingers crossed) begin work as a PD, I’m certain I will have reason to express myself similarly.

Thank you for sharing it with me. :)

Photo of the Morning

click to enlarge

It may be 80 degrees outside, but at least some of the backyard trees know it's Autumn.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Teen Wolf: Symbols Through the Ages

For some reason today, I felt like writing a treatise on Teen Wolf and brushing up on my Bluebook skills. La!

Symbolic Characters in Teen Wolf, and in the World:

The Hero: Scott, aka Teen Wolf Usually a male, of average intelligence and mediocre athleticism. Sweet, kind, but aching for something more. Surprisingly brave and strong in some situations - a hint to the heroic nature hiding beneath. Is different from others, but only in a vague, promising sort of way.

The Sidekick: Stiles Comfortable in his own skin, “cool”, brave, doesn’t really care what others think of him, apart from the crowd and likes it, which gives The Hero (his best friend) some vicarious cred. The Sidekick represents a mature reality, in a way, but is also an anomaly, in that The Hero can never be like him. It takes a special kind of weird, flouncy person to carry it off. See Back to the Future (Universal Pictures 1985); Better Off Dead (A&M Films 1985). Is able to wear waffle sunglasses and funky t-shirts without a second thought.

The Hero’s Long-Suffering Soul Mate: Boof The Hero’s best female friend. Always accepting of him, no matter what he does, even if she gets impatient sometimes. The Hero has no idea they are perfect for each other. Usually the Soul Mate has grown up with the Hero, the better for her to know every aspect of him, and love him. Sweet, kind, almost always a brunette. See One Crazy Summer (A&M Films 1986); see also Just One of the Guys (Columbia Pictures 1985); cf. Sky High (Walt Disney Pictures 1985) ("Soul Mate" has red hair).

The Goddess, aka The Prom Queen: Pamela Almost always a blonde. She moves from Alpha male to Alpha male upon evidence of strength and popularity. She is seen as physically perfect, unattainable, responding only to Alpha-esque questions and behaviors. Doesn’t usually understand kindness, or sensitivity; she is merely a beautiful body, a trophy - yet, despite her near-total lack of redeeming qualities, a desperately desired one. See Better Off Dead; Just One of the Guys; One Crazy Summer; cf. Sky High ("Goddess" is a brunette); contra. Can't Buy Me Love (Touchstone Pictures 1987) ("Goddess", blonde, undergoes personality transformation and becomes "Soul Mate").

The Foils: Chubby, et al. The Hero must rise from the depths of somewhere, and, in 80’s high school movies, it’s usually from the depths of geekdom. The Hero’s Foils consist of his geeky/socially inept/Beta friends, who are alternately accepting and disapproving of the Hero once he begins to ascend. They hope some of the magic will rub off on them, but also scorn the Hero – out of jealousy, and also out of the knowledge that such heights can never be maintained. The Hero is, afterall, a natural geek. Foils take many shapes: overweight kids, skinny kids, kids who wear thick glasses, kids who wear bow-ties, Star Trek fans, math whizzes, etc. See Better Off Dead; Just One of the Guys; One Crazy Summer; Can’t Buy Me Love; see also Back to the Future (family - particularly Father - as source of "Foils", rather than actual fellow high school students); cf. The Karate Kid (only available "Foil" being Daniel Laruso’s mom, who, while enjoyably personifying New Jersey’s assertive voice, brunette hair, and self-confidence, comes across as polarizingly brash and unrefined in rich, blonde California).

The Alpha Male, aka The Prom King: Mick Always mean and undeserving of his popularity, yet able to effortlessly maintain it. Is always sleeping with the Goddess. Very athletic, a strong physical specimen. Intimidates the pack and wins at everything he attempts (if not always by ethical means). See All 1980's high school movies.

The Law: Vice Principal Thorne A strict authority figure who always assumes – for no discernable reason - that the Hero is up to no good. Pursues the Hero at every chance. Usually turns a blind eye to the Alpha Male, deepening the unfairness of the Hero’s lot. Symbolic of the unfair restrictions placed on Betas. Usually has had some sort of run-in with the Hero’s dad when younger. See Back to the Future.

Story Synopsis:

We first see the Hero in his very unheroic state. He knows, though, that something is wrong. His Best Friend / Soul Mate loves the Hero as he is, but he’s having none of that – certainly there must be something more!! The Hero’s desperation is highlighted by various showings of poor athletic ability, dismissals by the Goddess, commiserations from his geeky Foils – all in opposition to the Alpha Male, the relative popularity/comfort of the Sidekick, and the Law. The Hero, who is as sexually frustrated as any high school geek, sucks so much that when locked in the closet with his Soul Mate, he can’t even kiss her properly because . . . isn’t there something more?

Well, the Hero gets his something more later that night. He undergoes an involuntary physical transformation, becoming who – and what – he really is: a non-moon-abiding werewolf:

Teen Wolf!!

The Hero’s father takes him aside and informs him that, because he is naturally a werewolf, he will soon have great power. This is a common American theme, in the tradition of Manifest Destiny and Spider Man, where the Hero doesn’t actually have to do anything to be heroic – he just is heroic - naturally (X-Men), or because of a transfer of power (Spiderman). No need to struggle under a harsh Master in the mountains for this Hero, or paint fences and houses and wax cars, or perfectly scoop up little teacups of water without missing a drop while hanging upside down. No, this Hero doesn’t need to learn any of that – he just needs to blow dry his fur, turn up his collar, and go play some b-ball!!!

But the Hero is initially ashamed of his new (uncontrollable) appearance and identity, because he is afraid he will be ostracized. This causes him great stress and provides ample opportunity for the Hero to get into conflict-ridden, comedic situations with the Law, the Alpha Male, and the Goddess. The Soul Mate tries to get The Hero to open up and tell her what’s going on, but he won’t. The Goddess suddenly notices him and says with a little encouraging smile, “You look different" (right after the Sidekick opens his locker and unceremoniously collapses to the ground as its contents spill out atop him: a paddle, books, paper, a balloon, ribbons, rags, flags, shoes, cards, an umbrella, and googly-eyeball glasses). Speaking of the Sidekick, he, of course, thinks the Hero’s appearance is “beautiful . . . You know, with the right angles, we can turn this into something – haha – monstrous!” and immediately accepts him and gets on with life (especially after Teen Wolf helps him sniff out a bag of marijuana in the garage. I had hoped this illegal substance was to be a smoking gun, somehow later affecting the plot; but alas, sometimes weed is just weed).

Of course, the Hero can only hide his supernatural powers for so long. The Hero, busy displaying what he thinks is his natural nerdiness in a sweaty, athletic event, is suddenly tackled by opposing-basketball team Alphas. His id then realizes – without or without the ego’s help – that he is a Hero and changes him into what he is, Teen Wolf, without consent. Of course this change is physical as well as mental, the better to indicate to the masses his transformation.

And the masses are indeed shocked. They stare at him in his full Teen Wolf fur-galia while he lazily begins dribbling the ball. His id, still in control, tells him to drive it home, so the Hero sprints down the court and makes a spectacularly hairy spread-eagled slam dunk. Well, now! After witnessing the Hero’s sudden athletic prowess, his sudden uncharacteristic lack of concern about what the masses think, they accept him. As a Hero. And he earns it more and more, every day, by winning at basketball and . . . well, that seems to be it, pretty much.

We next see the masses’ newfound adoration for the Hero through a common, carefully-edited movie sequence, see Can't Buy Me Love; Sky High. The Hero, now clad in sunglasses and fashionable clothing, strides through the hall of lockers at highschool, greeting every single adoring person he passes, giving a handshake there, a cheek cup there, sometimes a little spin or turn to demonstrate his grace.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Screen capture by Chris Stangl

To remind us of why the Hero is, indeed, so suddenly awesome, someone passes him a basketball, which he tosses masterfully over his shoulder. Next, we see him mentioned in the school newspaper, emblazoned on t-shirts, breakdancing in the hall – courting the coveted “naturally cool” black crowd – laughing at his geek friend who doesn’t understand such coolness, challenging the Law – the school principal – and succeeding. Then the Hero is shown winning at basketball, stealing the ball from the Foils because, frankly, he is the only who’s any good, the crowds and previously-sexually-unavailable cheerleaders going wild, and then he is signing autographs for children. Making As on his tests. The government and CNN haven’t come knocking yet, but no matter.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Screen capture by Chris Stangl

The Goddess has started seriously approaching the Hero now. She sees he is naturally a Hero, and so deigns to crown him as her lover. She is, of course, still technically tied to the Alpha Male – she won’t let the Hero win her that easily! The Hero, being a nice guy underneath it all, doesn’t understand and is hurt – but hell, when a girl like that takes off all her clothes for you, how can any Hero say no?

His father’s words now come back to haunt him: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Soul Mate begins to feel dumped by the wayside; the Sidekick is off unashamedly reaping the spoils of the Hero’s popularity; the Law is now for some reason approving; the Goddess – while deigning to sleep with him – is unfathomably cold, unavailable, and mean to the Hero’s old posse; the Foils feel jealous and unnecessary. (It is interesting to note the selection of basketball as the Hero’s athletic vehicle – a sport much more susceptible to an individual stealing the spotlight – with the result that the Hero must pay for it eventually - as opposed to the group-oriented sport of football, where an individual’s only true effect is to make or break the team) The Alpha Male, who before was worried he would be usurped via his mate, the Goddess, now senses all is not well with his rival, and teases him accordingly: “You don’t scare me, freak. Underneath all that hair, you’re still a dork, Scott.”

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

No matter. There may be truth to the Alpha’s words, but the Hero still thinks he is invincible. He uses his power indiscriminately, surfing and dancing on top of vans and blowing off his job.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

But when he returns home, he’s chastised by his wiser father. “You’ve dug your own hole,” his father informs him, then tells him that he once became a werewolf out of anger. This, we gather from the father’s expression, is bad. “You’ve got to get a hold of it, son.” Ominous words.

Anyway, time for The Spring Ball! and, because the Goddess is attending with the Alpha Male, the Hero figures he ought to ask out the Soul Mate. The Soul Mate, loving him for he who he is, demands he come as a human. The Hero interprets this as demanding he come as a geek – and he’s spent too much time fighting off that bad image. No dice. So he blow-dries his were-fur, puts on his best clothing and travels to the requisite high-school auditorium, its teeming horde of masses, who immediately recognize him as godly and part so he may pass. The Goddess gives him an approving glance – but he’s looking for the Soul Mate (though why I can’t figure out, except to fulfill the story's obligation). She is put off by the masses’ adoring chanting of “Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!” but decides to dance with him anyway.

They monster mash to 80’s music for a while. The Alpha Male and Goddess look irritated – the Alpha because the crowds aren’t busy adoring him, the Goddess for the same reason. The Soul Mate then somehow drags the Hero to the locker hall (their budding relationship is not approached very convincingly, even though the relat was always meant to be – alas), and, apparently upon the taste of love on her lips, the the Hero immediately, uncontrollably, morphs from Teen Wolf to Human Scott. Ah, so his real self is truly Scott! Interesting.

Upon returning to the dance, the Alpha Male takes out his aggression on the now-human Hero and the Soul Mate, calling her a “tramp” – and lo, the Hero transforms into the werewolf out of anger. Did his father not warn him of this? The Goddess calls him an animal, everyone looks at him askance, and Teen Wolf, sensing he has worn out his, er, welcome, leaves. (Oh, and his dad gets to settle his score with the Law.)

Now everything starts falling apart. The Hero is unsure of himself – who is he? Is he Teen Wolf? Is he Scott? This is a common theme as well (Am I Peter Parker or am I Spidey? etc). “They want the Wolf – but I can’t give it to them . . . You saw what happened . . .” Because almost getting into a fight with a jerk over his calling your girl a tramp is indicative of outright, black magic-tinged, murderous rages. Flee! Flee for your lives!!!

So the Hero must make a decision. And, at the championship basketball game, he makes it. He attends, despite being forbidden by the Law as punishment for lashing out at the Alpha. And he attends as Scott. “I want to play. I want to be myself! I think we can take these guys. I think we can win this! We got to pull this off by ourselves. We don’t need the Wolf!” Whether he says this out of true conviction, or in the hopes it will convince him, is unclear, but that’s unimportant, as it’s now time for some championship basketball!! woohooo!!

Of course, the Alpha Male is on the opposing team, and makes snide remarks about the Foils, the Hero’s teammates. But he is up against an unstoppable truism – when the Hero wins, everybody wins. Including Chubby. Who knocks the Alpha on the ground. Rock on, Chubs!!!!!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course the Hero wins. If he didn’t, the world would implode. But it’s not easy – he must inspire himself and the others to recognize their true selves, their true talents – and it is this that makes the Hero truly heroic. As the music says, “I won’t fight behind a mask – what you see is what you get from me.” The score is 50 to 52 (pretty lousy score, actually), and the Hero gets knocked down by the Alpha, setting him up for the dramatic final foul throw. The Alpha Male always causes his own downfall, for no one else is strong enough to open that door. The Hero takes the ball in his human hands and lands an easy, irrelevant point to bring the score 51 to 52. And then - and then! - in a minute of slow-mo, sweat-soaked, heart-stopping glory, the human Hero makes the final toss. And it’s good.

The Alpha Male’s eyes close. He is defeated.

The crowds go wild! Everyone is screaming, shouting, waving hands in the air, spilling out onto the court! The Hero is lifted up onto the shoulders of his comrades and escorted indirectly towards the Goddess, who waits to crown him again as the Master – deservedly, this time. But the Hero ignores her. He knows her worth now. She can’t rightfully crown him. He slides off the shoulders of his celebrating friends, pushes past the Goddess – who has now become just a scheming Whore – to find – who else? - his Soul Mate, who he knows, now, is meant to be his. Her worth crowns him. They kiss, and ride off into the auditorium’s sunset, to live out the rest of their happy lives.

But it is not only the Hero who undergoes a transcendental experience. The Goddess – now the Whore – recognizes what she’s become. She sees the Alpha Male for who he really is. He grabs her arm to leave, and she wrenches away in physical and mental anguish, growls at him to “Drop dead.” Not quite as satisfactory as I would've liked, but whatevs.

Ah well. It is true, as Teen Wolf demonstrates, that with great power comes great responsibility. And it is even more true that we like to think we can shirk that responsibility; that, if only the situation was just right, we wouldn’t have to worry about others, or even, truly, ourselves. This cannot be. “You’ve got to get a hold of it, son,” the Hero’s father reminds him. Reminds us all.

For another account of Teen Wolf, via Chris Stangl, see Jeeze Louise!: Notes on TEEN WOLF (1985) and Wolf Buddy: A Celebration of Stiles

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm dead.

It's true. That's why I didn't call you, [insert name of crazy cousin, neighbor, classmate, uncle], the second I got home from the jail. It's a good thing you checked up on me, who would feed the cats afterall. Geez louise, peoples!!! :P

Okay so I'm not dead, but I am dead tired, exhausted, and really grimy from walking back and forth from the PD's to the jail in the FREAKING HOT SUN WHY GOD WHY IT IS FREAKING OCTOBER FOR PETUNIA'S SAKE!!!

But I (tiredly) digress. This interviewing-inmates-experience has been overwhelming, life-changing, I laughed, I cried, it was so much better than Cats, I want to see it again and again. (sorry, old SNL gag) And I go back tomorrow. My mind is filled to the brim with newness and curiosities and a strange, heart-pounding peacefulness. Everyone at the office has assured me it will wear off soon enough - all the more reason to savor it right now.

I have so much to tell. Oooooooh and I'll have even more after tomorrow!!!! And then on Tuesday I get to shadow!! MAN life is good

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Le Sigh

It is a very early bedtime for me, I have to be up at 4:45am so I can catch the bus downtown with enough time to walk to the PD's office. Eep!

Thank you so much to who responded to my questions. I will formulate a more proper response in due time, because so much of what they had to say was so wise, and helped me to feel even more that I am on the right path. Thank you again!!

And now for something . . . well, I don't know what to call it. But with the news of late it's been kindof bugging me.

The summer of 2005 I came across a very interesting blog via another blog. It wasn't as interesting as it was about to be, but I printed it out and read it over and basically had a few "epiphanies" or break-throughs (about the world and state of things) or whatever you want to call them. At this time, I knew little to nothing of the criminal legal world, of its procedure, or the peoples involved (I don't think I'd even started law school yet). So this post, in particular, really startled me, Little Miss Sheltered:

The term "sex offender" is an interesting choice of words. In the past the term "ex-convict" was used to describe offenders who were released from prison. The "ex" obviously implying that the mistake was in the past. But States have unanimously and officially dropped the term "ex-convict" and replaced it with "offender" - a present tense term that implies the person was, and still is, offensive.

The term "ex-convict" was suiting, since it did not indicate that a person was bad, or even guilty. It just meant that at some time in the past the person was convicted of a crime . . .

I really learned a lot from this blog, not the least of which was how "other" worlds exist outside of the middle-class happy-go-lucky experience. It was a tremedous eye-opener, regardless of whether the posts were fiction or non, the rants of a crazy fiend or of a person who was lucid and okay at one point. I've accepted that it's just going to be weird. And that I can't talk about it to many people, because many misunderstand where I'm coming from, they think I'm sympathizing and then everything gets even more weird. I mean, a couple of people even stopped talking to me completely because I wanted to discuss and explore some points made in this blog - rather than do the usual lambast, "burn n die sucka! If you aren't with us, you're with him!" Truthfully, I'm tired of feeling guilty about it, and I think I will just have to get used to this sort of ostracism.

This is because the blogger from whom I "learned" so much, the blogger who helped open my eyes to a whole other world that existed outside of Main Street, USA, was Joseph Duncan.

Knowledge doesn't always come packaged exactly how we would like it, and we don't always receive needed gifts from the most pure of people.

Such is life.

I'm going to bed. Good night!!!!

p.s. tomorrow I start interviewing inmates, yippeeeeee!!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Things that are great this week : Voyeurtastic!

Tiffany stayed silent.

"She told me all about it," said Miss Level. "Miss Tick never mentioned the hat . . . You know, sometimes it helps to talk about these things."

More silence from Tiffany.

"Actually, that's not true," Miss Level added. "But as a witch I am incredibly inquisitive and would love to know more."

From A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett, my favorite author of all time, has come out with Wintersmith, the third book in The Continuing Adventures of Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men. I admit I’ve sneaked a few chapters already and it is, of course, wonderful. They are all classified as “Teen” reading, but never have I read novels as resonating, self-deprecating, as beautifully cheery and sorrowful, and laugh-out-loud funny as this series. Every time I read (and re-read) them, different passages leap out at me, keeping time with my life.

For instance (from A Hat Full of Sky):

”Respect is meat and drink to a witch. Without respect, you ain’t got a thing. She doesn’t get much respect, our Miss Level.”

That was true. People didn’t respect Miss Level. They liked her, in an unthinking sort of way, and that was it. Mistress Weatherwax was right, and Tiffany wished she wasn’t.

“Why did you and Miss Tick send me to her, then?”

“Because she likes people,” said the witch, striding ahead. “She cares about ‘em. Even the stupid, mean, drooling ones, the mothers with the runny babies and no sense, the feckless and the silly and the fools who treat her like some kind of a servant. Now that’s what I call magic – seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up at night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way . . . and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the widow strip the bed and wash the sheets – which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted – and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again . . . We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand to my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!”

Echoes came back from the trees in the sudden silence. Even the grasshoppers by the side of the track had stopped sizzling.

“And Mrs. Earwig,” said Mistress Weatherwax, her voice sinking to a growl, “Mrs. Earwig tells her girls it’s about cosmic balances and stars and circles and colors and wands and . . . and toys, nothing but toys!” She sniffed. “Oh, I daresay they’re all very well as decoration, somethin’ nice to look at while you’re workin’, somethin’ for show, but the start and finish, the start and finish, is helpin’ people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like. Stars is easy, people is hard.”

Next on the list is Jean-Leon Gerome. This weekend I cleared out a lot of computer files and came across files of his paintings, each of which is like a story. The composition, subject matter, and posture are so out of place with the typical paintings of the day – it’s a wonder he isn’t more well known. The ARC’s Gerome collection is like a photojournalist’s account of mid-19th century Egypt and Persia, and I get goosebumps every time I realize they are largely from real life. For example:

All the rest can be found here at The ARC, “the internet’s largest online museum.”

And lastly – but certainly not leastly - I start interviewing inmates on Thursday. I cannot wait! My parents own a pre-employment screening business, and what I have always loved about it – what I have only loved about it, besides the free printer paper – was the absolute deluge of criminal records pouring forth from the fax. I would do summer work for them, and I always seated myself right next to the fax. I never judged the people to whom the records applied, because I knew that a Lewd and Lascivious charge could just as easily be due to a girl flashing her chest while drunk at a bar (or at least used to be), as it could be something more. But I just find it so incredibly interesting, so undeniably enthralling, and to think that I will also be helping the inmates' struggle through this system, helping the PDs, and at the very least providing an un-judgmental ear – well, it just doesn’t get any better.

Ah, well. Life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Questions for the PD community!

As a 2L, I of course have little practical public defense experience (tho I'm working hard to change that). I've read so many wonderful blogs over the last few months, and am so thankful for all their wisdom.

So here are some general questions I've been mulling for the PD Community. Thank you in advance if you should answer.

If you could do it all over again, how would you do it differently?

What do you know now that you wished you had known when you started out?

How has being a PD changed your minute-to-minute life?

I have tons others but I'll leave them for later. Thank you again!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

hello world

Thanks to Skelly and PD Stuff for linking! I've wiled away a good few couch-n-tea weekends on their blogs; if you haven't already (and why haven't you!), go there now!!

OMG especially if you're in Florida OMG

And thank you for reading!

Picture of the Day (Night)!

click for full size

poison puffball mushroom
at Florida Caverns State Park

they begged me to smoosh them. I didn't, of course, but man oh man, they were like bubblewrap, calling my name . . .

Friday, October 13, 2006

OMG so fun

Argghh why are some prosecutors so annoying? I've nothing against strongly-opinionated people, but when one of those opinions is "I'm on the right side" - well, I automatically bristle. That sentiment comes a lot from evangelists and prosecutors alike (are they very different!), and yesterday I had the opportunity to witness those two careers bundled up in one person - an Assistant State Attorney.

Our school held a Crim Law Panel during lunch - ye olde cross-wearing "God bless you" Prosecutor, a PD, and a private defense attorney. I ended up taking a lot of notes because some of the things being said (verbally and non-verbally) was just . . . wow.

Miss Prossy must've applied her face with a trowel, and smiled - constantly, insincerely - with her eyes half closed. She kept touching the PD's shoulder in a manner that to some must have seemed encouraging, but to me it was very controlling. She touched him every time she expected him to pipe up with a retort, and lo and behold yon PD stayed silent. He's had to deal with a lot of irritating stuff in his career, though, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, she quickly "took control" of the panel, smiling at her little pets sprinkled throughout the crowd, mentioning their names and their current pro bono or CLI positions every chance she could get, calling them "my young lawyers", going on about how she is "den mother for the police office".

The whole thing reminded me of Prom. And two of her "boys", "Dusty" and "Rabe" (changed a bit), truly lounged in their chairs, in their spotlight, smiling and making little jokes amongst themselves, Miss Prossy giving them permissions here and there to enjoy and laugh. As a female, I was totally grossed out. As a future PD, I was enraged. How totally grody!!

But I won me my shadowing opportunity, yay! With the PD, bien sur. When they called out my name (it had been a raffle), I couldn't help but yelp in happiness. Miss Prossy looked at me and said, "You want to be a PD?" and, of course, being in the moment, I simply cried, "You bet!!!!" and whooped it up. But now I've had time to think about it, what did she mean by that?!?! I mean, she specifically was surprised. I wonder why. And I'm hesitant to flatter or degrade myself. Oh well whatever I am so so excited!!!!!!

oh ps I just had the best sandiwch in the entire world - avocado and sauerkraut. It sounds beyond disgusting but is actually h e a v e n, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . .

fur-en peoples

Right now on Court TV, a French (I think) prosecutor is cross-examining an expert. His accent is quite luscious. Like almost all Americans, accents send little shivers of excitement through me body. But I have to wonder at the effect of these accents in situations other than, say, al fresco dining in the city on a cool summer night.

For instance, as the prosecutor continued his questions, I found myself simply listening to his accent. A couple of seconds later, I realized I had no idea what he'd asked. And then, as I tried to listen harder, I couldn't really understand what he was saying. The witness found this troubling, too. You could see it on his face.

Knowing nothing about jury considerations, what is the usual benefit/risk of employing an accented prosecutor? Does the jury automatically attach authority and credibility to their position? Or does it run a risk of confusing them?

A gentleman in many of my classes is from France. His accent is still quite thick, but I have noticed it clearing. He is also incredibly un-self-conscious (like most Europeans); unfortunately for him, this means he does not seem to care that he hunches over almost double when sitting/standing/walking, that his general facial expression is one of mental slowness, and that all in all his demeanor is . . . well, I don't know, actually. I hasten to say that I mean none of this as derogatory towards him, but I notice it all the same. I guess one of the things I'm trying to say is that I don't think he would make a good trial attorney. Like I'd know, right? But the jury listens to a lot more than just testimony.

In contrast, I also have many classes with a Jamaican girl. She always stands up very straight, looks at you clearly/directly, and this makes her accent (which is gorgeous and I mean gorgeous) drive a stake right through you, communicate directly to your brain, you can't help but pay attention to every single beautiful word she says. I think she would kick total ass in court.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Aboot Me

I'm not a Public Defender - yet. But I will be soon. Almost wrote "fates willing", but, let me be honest, the fates will have nothing to do with it - just determination and work. And want and need. I'm a 2L and next Thursday I start interviewing inmates at zee jail. Some people think I should be more serious and respectful, seeing as how its inmates and all, but frankly all I've been thinking all freaking day long is


I'm so excited I've almost peed in my pants, like, twice.


One of my professors gels his hair. It actually looks really nice, but in a sort of complicated way. He lifts it up on his forehead, where it sort of forms a large curl, and then he smoothes back the side. Looks like something from the 40s.

Anyway, he kept fiddling with it last class. Making sure it was brushed back. Flipping it. Now to be fair he only did it a few times, but even once sends alarms ringing in mah head. It meant that he was scared it didn't look right. He was worried. Enough to mess with it during lecture, in full view of 50 students. So he was worried he would look - not stupid or ugly, because I don't think men think like that - but . . . less than how he wanted, which also means that natural is less than how he wants. Whatever, I'm confusing even myself.

So I started looking at him, and it's true - if he didn't style his hair all up in some gel, it would hang down in his face like a bowl cut or something. I wonder if he would be hesitant to go swimming with friends, or at picnic-thingies, or if he would ride in a convertible with the top down. What about it when it rains? What would he do? I'm tempted to think he'd care, else why fiddle faddle with your high-maintenance hair?

I just find it so interesting when people openly display their self-consciousness.