Honestly, I wasn’t going to write about this. I was going to write a post about the obvious fix that is needed to make the JFK Airtrain functional. But it’s insane now to write a post about first-world-problems — getting to and from the airport — while vigilantes are murdering homeless people on the trains.
So short and simple and with some links:
I challenge anyone reading eyewitness reports of what happened on the train and looking at the photo of the chokehold to say that Neely wasn’t murdered. I’m not saying it was first degree murder, but the chokehold was wreckless, and any REASONABLE PERSON would know that. I say this as someone who is now often frightened on mass transit. The mass shooting in Brooklyn, and the more recent shooting of a single passenger — a man on his way to meet his brother for brunch — are terrifying. Deaths caused by people pushed onto trains are terrifying. But you don’t react to fear by pouncing on an emotionally disturbed person with no gun, no knife, making no threat because he throws down a jacket, and then putting him a CHOKEHOLD which a reasonable person would know is deadly force. In photos it’s clear the marine was bigger than him and could have subdued him — not his job — without deadly force. Whatever his intent was, he was wreckless, and of course he should be charged.
Updating to add: Just found this, a statement by the alleged murderer’s lawyer: “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death,” the law firm of Raiser and Kenniff, P.C. said in a statement. “We hope that out of this awful tragedy will come a new commitment by our elected officials to address the mental health crisis on our streets and subways.”
Again, Man A puts man in a chokehold. Man B in chokehold passes out. Man A continues to choke him. A reasonable person would have foreseen the victim’s “untimely death.” And yes, NYC prosecutors if you don’t overcharge, you will find a jury willing to convict on the evidence, and convicting a murderer is your job. Doing your job won’t cost you the election.
Updated to add: Caught a NYTimes article contrasting the lives of the victim and his assailant. The mental health system (and other systems) failed Jordan Neely before his murder, but some of the failure wasn’t due to money or a need for “stronger” involuntary commitment laws. Some of the failure was simply the failure to track humans within the mental health and law enforcement system. There was a warrant for his arrest because he had left a program that he’d agreed to in court because of charges against him. He could have and should have been arrested and sent back to that program instead of simply being thrown out of the subway by cops — who didn’t check for warrants — weeks before. Why didn’t the police check for warrants?
That failure will be exploited by his killer’s defense team (if he’s ever charged) — as it should be because that is the defense team’s job. Ultimately, that failure didn’t cause Neely’s death, but it is an example of one of many things that could have prevented the encounter from ever happening.
While I don’t think it is the job of NYPD to be psychiatrists or mental health workers, it is certainly their job when called in by mental health workers to CHECK FOR OUTSTANDING WARRANTS.
This morning, I broke a mug. I had rearranged some spices on a shelf above the sink. They were precariously balanced. Some bottles fell into the sink, smashing the mug.
I thought, “We can’t just keep buying more mugs.” I have some mugs I had made to promote Blood Diva, a near-porn, vampire, novel I self-published years ago, which didn’t exactly become the next big thing. Those mugs are just sitting around.
My husband is off on an adventure, so I imagined explaining to him when he gets back, “Since we’re not using those mugs for anything, we might as well just replace broken ones with them!” He would say, “Oh honey!” in that way he does, which basically means, “You’re not a failure to me.” And it’s awesome I have that.
But then I asked myself: What on earth (aside from the MFA from Sarah Lawrence) made me think I could just hall off and publish my novel without a team of editors to tell me to change it? The arrogance!
And then I thought about how novels used to be written in olden times, and how it was probably easier to get published on account of not everyone in the world thought he or she could write a novel, and how a lot of the classics were serialized in newspapers. Besides the classics, there are probably a ton of long forgotten serials. I wonder how many were canceled and never completed because readers lost interest?
Was it like with network shows where if the ratings weren’t at a certain level pretty damn quick the editor would pull the plug? Did writers beg? Did they suddenly decide to kill someone off or have a heroine get kidnapped to add some spice?
Some of the classics were written as complete novels and broken up, but many (Count of Monte Cristo to name one) were actually written serially, with authors scrambling to get chapters in on time for the next publication. If a series was popular, the author was encouraged to keep it going and stretch it out, which is why some of these classics are very, very, long.
What did this mean for the stories? For one thing it meant that if the author killed off a character, and the audience got angry about it, there wasn’t much that could be done — unless of course the character had perished in a shipwreck or something and the body hadn’t been found. That may be why we find so many cases of “is he or isn’t he dead” in so many old novels. The writers were hedging their bets.
Working with these deadlines, I doubt authors — especially established ones — got too much interference from newspaper editors and publishers, who were probably relieved when an installment was in time, and didn’t get too involved in content.
It’s not like the process (these days) where, by the time a novel gets to publication, decisions have been made that may be very different from what the writer originally envisioned. Do the people pushing a writer for changes always know best? And best for whom? Maybe yes, maybe no.
Lisa Geneva, the author of Still Alice, initially self-published her bestseller about a professor with early onset Alzheimer’s. When it was picked up by an established publisher, she was forced to change the ending. She’s quoted as saying the new ending was the better one, but I wonder if there are good or even great novels that didn’t get published because authors were sure they knew best. And sometimes a change might not be because it’s “better” but simply because someone feels it will sell better.
In any case, serialization meant that novels used to be more like the present day television series, which have become less episodic and more concerned with seasonal or series-long story “arcs”. The creators of the shows may know in advance where they want to go, but unforeseen factors along the way, including how well a story line plays, become important. Take the Jesse Pinkman character on Breaking Bad. He was supposed to be killed off during the first season, but Aaron Paul’s performance was so charismatic that they kept Jesse around and he became the moral center of the show. That character, and the audience’s reaction to him, changed how the show got to its endpoint. The show, however, retained that original elevator pitch, its creator’s vision of “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.”
In the case of modern genre novels that are written as a series, you still have room for the audience/reader reaction to influence what comes next, but for a single “literary” novel, you don’t. The editors and others who help the author “craft” the book serve that purpose, not popular opinion.
And that got me thinking more about the differences between novels and television shows and how in addition to the decisions made by the writers, such as “Hey, let’s kill off the wife!” television shows are subject to events beyond the control of the writers and producers. What happens when an actor dies? Or refuses to come back? Or has to be fired like Kevin Spacey on House of Cards? Changes can be forced upon a series, which change everything.
Like NYPD Blue for example. The first season of the series starred David Caruso as John Kelly. Caruso, despite the name was a very Irish-looking ginger, and that ethnicity — Irish-Catholic — was a big part of his character’s backstory.
The series became very popular and Caruso wanted a big fat raise, which he didn’t get, and so he was written out, making his last appearance in the fourth episode of the second season. The writers brought in Jimmy Smits, an actor who was already popular with television audiences from the show LA Law, and the show ran successfully for many more years, Supporting actor, Dennis Franz, who played partner to both Caruso’s John Kelly, and Smits’s Bobby Simone, stayed with the series throughout its run and through two more partners.
Franz probably got the job in the first place because of a memorable small role on Hill Street Blues, in which he played Norman Buntz, an ethically-challenged but somehow lovable cop. Buntz proved popular enough to get a spin-off series, but not popular enough for that series to last a season. Andy Sipowicz, his character on NYPD Blue, was more of a “by the book”, stand up guy, then Buntz, but there was a resemblance.
So I asked myself, “Whatever happened to Dennis Franz? Is he dead?” I was pretty sure he was dead because I couldn’t remember seeing him in anything for years. But I looked him up. He’s still alive, just enjoying retirement.
(If the porny-vampire novel with opera, is too much for you, the rest of Marion’s oeuve may be more to your taste. You can check them all out here.)
(This was originally posted in 2010. I’m reposting for the 4th of July 2018.)
It’s time for me to come clean and admit how much I scam and rip off the government. Yes, it’s people like me that keep your taxes high (not as high as all the other industrial nations, but still, it’s your money).
First, I should tell you, I’m a third generation grifter. My grandparents arrived on these shores via Ellis Island. They were even given an alias. You think Stein is our real name?
They immediately benefited from soft immigration policies, “give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.“Yeah, baby! They couldn’t wait to come in and start working that system. Soon they were having anchor babies and sending them to public schools on the taxpayers’ dime.They also enjoyed all those freedoms — religion, expression, press.They even got involved in trade unions and collective bargaining!
Then came the Great Depression. That could have set things right, invisible hand of the market and all that, but noooo! They used their vote to get that disabled guy and his commie cronies in and before you could say WPA, tons of people were grifting the government, building roads and dams, even making art — all kinds of nonsense that the feds had no business going near.
The feeling of unity was downright socialistic! Despite the Depression, both my parents got college educations without paying a dime in tuition! They didn’t even have to fake transcripts or forge checks. The local government made it easy, only requiring they do well enough in high school to get a spot in its city university system. Back then the powerful actually believed that educating the masses would help make life better for everyone and prevent political extremism. The naivety is astounding!
Then World War II came and all that touchy-feely propaganda actually helped strengthen the country. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.
My father, always the schemer, joined the army.What did he get out of it?A little something called the GI Bill.That’s right, folks for a couple of years of service, (more like a paid vacation to the exotic Philippines) my father came back to find graduate school paid for AND a rent subsidy.Talk about living high on the hog!
He was then able to grow a business because he hardly paid any rent! Not only did New York come up with a sweet scam called “Rent Control,” but they also had housing projects, which before they were allowed to fall into decay and dangerousness, provided housing to plenty of opportunistic ex-army guys and their baby mommas.
As for my mother, she put her “education” to good use getting herself a cushy job as a “teacher” in one of those public schools. Union benefits! Set up for life. Sweet.
With that government tit to feed us, my father continued to build his business. He didn’t even complain about the “tribute” his Uncle Sam wanted every April 15th. Figured it was his duty or something. Guess he was getting soft.
And even into old age, both my parents kept up their ripping off the government ways, benefiting from those major giveaways — social security andMedicare. They didn’t lose all the money they’d saved when they got old and sick. My mother cleaned up in the end, selling the house, cashing out, and spending her golden years in a swanky assisted living facility. Give me dignity or give me death, baby!
With this kind of background, of course I was heading toward a life of stealing from hard working American taxpayers!
Not only did I attend public universities, I also didn’t have to shell out much for cars because here in New York, we’ve got a little thing called mass transit. There aren’t as many opportunities to feed at the trough as there used to be, but thanks to the “education” I was able to acquire, I found some creative ways to beat the system. There are little things that I hardly even notice most of the time like the fact that I have “protection” in the form of police, fire fighters and even sanitation workers who work for “the public”. Yup, that’s me! Jane Q Public, enjoying those services! Hey, unlike most of “the little people” in those poor countries, I even get safe drinking water and a system that keeps people from selling spoiled and unsafe food. It’s like having a personal food taster or something!
So given that it’s a beautiful Memorial Day, I think I’ll go out and enjoy myself.Maybe head over to a nearby locally supported park like that big one in the middle of Manhattan, or the state park they built over the sewer treatment plant a mile or so north. Sewer treatment! That’s something. My government even cleans my shit! What a country!
Or perhaps I’ll just head a couple of blocks west, pay my respects at the national park which happens to be a government supported mausoleum for some old President who was himself a welfare king who never made a dime at his failed business attempts, but managed to graduate from a publicly supported military academy and went into politics — that last refuge of the scoundrel — after his army stint.
The topic was how Trump wrapped up America as a very nice present for Putin. What a clever metaphor. How did he ever come up with it at Christmas time? He brings up some VERY IMPORTANT points.
Did you know that Trump lies about everything? Have you heard that he’s eroding our institutions and that Republicans are absolutely going along for the ride, or that the Republican tax scam is guaranteed not to make America great again or ever? Are you aware he’s destroying our trust in government agencies, gutting the State Department, disparaging the FBI etc?
Friedman manages to tell us more about how we’re heading down the wrong track in case we’ve been comatose since November 2016.
Like did you realize how screwed the blue states will be when they lose state tax deductions? Bet you haven’t been mulling that one over for weeks as you’ve been camped out playing scribbage in Susan Collins’ office?
But does Friedman blame Putin for all this? Or Trump for that matter? The word collusion doesn’t seem to be in his vocabulary. He does call what Putin did a “hack” but says it was done on the cheap. Some ads on Facebook, a few gazillion fake-twitter accounts. The word kompromat isn’t mentioned, nor are any of the recently or soon to be indicted. In Friedmanlandia, Putin just made a lucky “investment.” and never could have imagined his good fortune, kind of like marrying into money maybe. It’s not like he was a master spy working for the KGB for a hundred years and actually planned any of this!
But Friedman does blame someone for the wrong track we’ve taken. There is someone at fault, someone who was even more important to Trump’s victory than Putin, someone who is to blame for all that followed. Who would that be? Could it be Steve Bannon? Or soon-to-be-fall guy and fired-from-the-family Jared Kushner? Of course not, silly! It’s Hillary Clinton.
Hillary, he tells us early on is way “more responsible” for Trump’s victory than small-time investor Vladimir Putin!
Gee, if only she had warned us that Trump was Putin’s puppet. If only she had won three million more votes than Trump. If only the New York Times hadn’t equated her emails with Trump’s lies, lack of experience, bankruptcies, general sliminess, and oh yeah those connections to Russia they barely mentioned. Let’s hope that after this Mueller fiasco ends (on Friday) they appoint a new special prosecutor to examine her role in Trump’s victory, and then they should lock her up!
I’m sitting around on a bleak Sunday afternoon. The sky is white and it’s unusually cold for Labor Day Weekend. The better-half is away on one of his work-related do-gooding trips to a developing country.
Usually, I use his away time to get shit done, by which I mean household crafty stuff like redoing the kitchen floor in green paper,
or hacking an IKEA table by gluing pages from an iconic 70’s veggie cookbook on it and “marblizing” it with more green paper,
or creating a faux-slate floor on the terrace using (wait for it) leftover package paper!
Sometimes I write snarky blog posts that people actually pay me a pittance for, or fiction that people can buy on the cheap. It’s not that the better-half’s presence keeps me from writing. He’s at work most of the time anyway. But being alone, not feeling a need to plan dinner with someone, or do the dishes, or anticipate conversations about my day, helps me focus on the writing. Plus there is some feeling that because he is out in the world “doing” something, and being his best self, I should at least make an effort to do that thing I used to think I was put on this earth to do.
But yesterday I “did” nothing. And today? Not very much. Am I depressed or worried? Well, I’m ALWAYS depressed and worried. The things I should be doing to alleviate those “feelings” or conditions seem impossible at the moment. But I’m not not contemplating ways to end my life. My mind has not been taken over by thoughts of some horrific looming catastrophic – although given the current political situation, such thoughts, while not helpful, might not be unrealistic.
But I’m not out womanning the baricades, nor is my lack of social life an issue. People are harder than math! What keeps me from brooding that my solitude is NOT healthy, that my disconnectedness is hardly an achievement, that I can and should be an active participant, if not the major character in my own life story?
It’s the cats. They love me. I know this not only because a Facebook quiz tells me so. I know this because the little bastards constantly show me and tell me how much they love me. The one we still refer to as the feral – though that’s probably not his real backstory – insists on nuzzling next to my chest even as sit typing these words. His purr is as loud as a fancy Italian milk steaming machine.
The others are nearby, sleeping, but liable to stir if I move. The old one comes to me less, but if I’m out of his sight for too long, he’ll look for me, and harangue me until I follow him. His love requires work. He wants to be brushed, to be fed, to be told repeatedly what a good boy he is while his tummy is rubbed. (And yes, some cats are totally into that. But do NOT try it on the feral. He’d tear you to shreds.)
The middle-child cat is the one who most loves to share the bed with the humans. Do not let anyone tell you that cats don’t know their names. He runs to me when I call him. He’ll allow the others on the bed if I’m watching, but he won’t let them get too close. They’ll stay by my feet.
The husband and I are those people – the couple without children who’ve replaced human larvae with pets, but they are more than surrogate kids to me. They are best friends, companions, and more. I now make sure a dining chair is pulled out to make it easier for the senior cat to climb down to the floor from his favorite spot on the kitchen table. I cook his special chronic renal deficiency diet because the commercially available prescriptions just aren’t good enough. With all the eldercare I give him, he has become a parental replacement.
Their care regulates me. Keeps me grounded. Jump out the window and end it all? Who’d feed them? And besides unless I stood on the ledge and shut the window before I jumped, which doesn’t seem possible, they might follow me and I wouldn’t want that to happen. Besides the husband has made it clear that if anything were to happen to me, he wouldn’t cook for them.
They are entertainment when I’m bored with traveling the world wide web, and reading is tiresome. They are even something I can share with my virtual friends and followers on social media. The feral likes to go out and see his fans in the neighborhood. Yes, he is that cat on the leash, which you either think is totally something you’d like to do or just weird depending on whether or not you live with a cat. He forces me to go outside where I must answer – always sweetly – the same questions again and again:
“No, I didn’t train him to do this.” “Yes, I do think he likes going outside. You can’t make a cat do anything they don’t want to do.” “Just an alley cat. I found him out here. No special breed.”
People say dogs give unconditional love and cats are in it for the food. That’s not it. Both animals love us because we are kind to them, because we take care of them. Both would give us up if we turned on them. Cats maybe sooner than dogs. But here’s the thing: Humans don’t love other humans because they are kind. We don’t love other humans because they take care of us.
Humans are ungrateful savages. Dogs and cats are better than this. Even the least pedigreed has had love bred into them. And while that love may involve a contract of sorts – feed me, change my litter box, allow me to experience the warmth of sleeping next to your belly – it is not a love that judges.
My cats don’t really give a shit about my salary. They don’t care if my last novel was “agented” or self-published. They don’t care how many followers I have on twitter or which celebrities are among them. It doesn’t matter to them if my family disowned me, if my lovers leave, if my body odor offends most of my own species. My weight is meaningless to them, unless I drop dead and they have to scavenge my fat.
The need to connect is part of being human. It’s why artists of all kinds do what they do. But we don’t necessarily need to connect with other humans. That’s why AI has inspired so much science fiction. In the future, the perfect companion may not be human at all. And we won’t just have robotic spouses or children. Think of a future where you could be the friends with the coolest people who ever lived, or at least facsimiles thereof. Well, until that comes along, a warm furry wannabe vermin catcher will have to do.
If I didn’t have my cats to give me a feeling of love and connection, would I go back to writing because creating something, telling myself a story, is one of the best ways I’ve found to both harness the chaos in my mind, and give me that sense of connection to others (even if those others consist of an audience which is almost entirely imaginary)? Would I be attempting to make plans with friends, even if picking up the phone or texting makes me feel horribly self-conscious, and I’m certain people sense my desperation? Would I get done the many things in the house that I need to get done despite the anxiety and second guessing that comes from “doing” almost anything?
Would I be more functional or less functional without my animal companions?