Tom Cruise and Andrea Yates

The Andrea Yates trial has started.  

I hope the jury finds her not guilty of murdering her children by reason of insanity.

Of course, Tom Cruise doesn’t believe in post-partum depression or medication.  He probably could have “cured” her with Scientology.  Hopefully, neither his wife nor new-born child will suffer from any afflictions serious enough to need medical attention.


Truth In Lending, Plastic Surgery

  Photo By Blackbird111 (flickr)  I was thinking….(there’s the first problem) Does a person who has had plastic surgery such as breast augmentation, a nose job, fixing ears that stick out to here, or any number of procedures that radically change the way a person looks, have an obligation to tell the future parent of their future children that their kid may not come out looking quite like the now beautiful plastic surgery enhanced person they are now?  Think about it.  You have a nose with nine hooks in it.  You get it “fixed” and it’s now a thing of beauty.  You get married, (or not, as the case may be) and have children.  Would the other parent think, “Hey, wait a minute!  This is not my kid.  I don’t have a hook nose, or dumbo ears or fill in the blank here, so how did I get this kid?  Maybe the mail carrier or the 7-11 guy is screwing my wife!” Never mind.  I’m just letting my superficial self get in the way of my truely enlightened self.  


I met my friend, Maria, about five years ago, through my best friend, Maureen.  Maria is Maureen's sister-in-law.  They belong to a big Italian family and they've taken me in as their own.  Maria is a fun-loving person and I've enjoyed her friendship as well as the many outings we've gone on. 

Maria's health was never the best.  Many years ago she lost a kidney to cancer, and some years after that, she lost a breast to cancer.  About two years ago a large birthmark above her temple, in her hairline, started to change.  She went to the doctor and it was removed because it was cancerous.  She was treated and it seemed she was getting better.  Not too much later she was told it had spread to her lymph nodes.  She was put on a course of interferon.  It made her very sick, but she stuck with it for over nine months.  It was a trying time for Maria and her family.  It appeared that she had lost the will to live.  She kept on but I missed the old Maria. 

Each time the doctors told her more bad news she proclaimed that this was the last; no more treatments.  But eventually she would comply and a few months ago the doctors opened her up and removed lymph nodes going down the side of her face.  It left a big scar, but she is still beautiful.  She suffered mini-strokes, but she is a still beautiful person. She lost her hair, but she is still beautiful.  Her hair grew back and she was happy.  Hair is so important to women. 

We went back to going out to dinner and to see the latest movies.  She is a movie bug.  Things Maureen didn't want to see, me and Maria saw.  Things that were too violent or creepy, me and Maria saw.  All the while, the cancer kept creeping back.  Insidious.  Her brother, Mike, Maureen's husband, brought Maria to her doctor appointments.  Their sister-in-law is a renowned oncologist and consulted with Maria's oncologist about her treatments.  Her two daughters helped as they could.  Mike is retired so he has more time.  Gina has a small son and works, as does her  daughter, Elizabeth. 

The other night I invited them to my house for dinner.  Maria didn't come.  I thought it odd because she loves my rice and beans, but Maureen said she had gone for some tests and was tired.  I packed her up a plate and sent it home with Mike and Maureen.  (They live in a two-family house.)  I thought it odd that I didn't hear from her as I had whenever I sent her food, but pushed the bad thoughts out of my mind.  Maybe she was still tired.  Maybe she didn't get a chance to eat them yet….When I picked Maureen up today she said that Maria enjoyed the food.  I was happy about that but told Maureen that I let my imagination run away with me thinking maybe Maria had gotten bad news.  Maureen told me that the tests Maria took on Monday were actually a PET scan.  "Oh", I said, and we talked a little about what the tests would reveal.  Hopefully, nothing. 

This afternoon Maureen came to my desk.  She was upset.  I asked her what was wrong and she said she didn't know.  That worried me.  Maureen is a worrier, but she keeps it to herself.  So when she said she was worried, I knew that I should be worried, too.  Elizabeth, Maria's eldest daughter, had called looking for her mother.  When she couldn't locate Maria, she called Maureen.  Maria had not told the girls of the latest tests, to spare them worry so Maureen just said she was sure Maria would show up soon, that maybe she was with Uncle Mike.  But I didn't know any of this yet.  We took a walk outside and she told me that she called her husband's cell phone and Maureen said that she knew by the tone of Mike's voice that something was not right.  We talked about the possibly of the test not turning out with a good result, but I said that maybe she was just reading into things (because she is a worrier). But Maureen is very sensitive and picks up things intuitively about the people she cares about.  We went back into work and finished out the day.  Maureen said she would call me if anything was wrong.

After I dropped her off at home, I went to CVS to pick up my BP prescription.  When I got home there was no reassuring message on my answering machine, so I waited for the call I didn't want to get and that Maureen didn't want to place.

Maureen called at about 6 PM.  Andrew, Gina's husband, was bringing the girls over.  Maria has to tell her daughters that there is no hope.  They will be devastated.  Mike and Maureen are devastated.  I am devasted.  Maria, I will pray every day for you.  And your family.  If I feel like I was hit with a ton of bricks, how could they possibly feel?  I wish I could just drive over there and hug them all and make it better. 

But I can't.  So I'll just scream this silent scream that is in my head.   

The Daughter of God vs The Da Vinci Code

The July issue of Vanity Fair has an excellent article about the controversy regarding author Lewis Perdue's allegations and court battle against Dan Brown, author of "The Da Vinci Code" and his publisher, Doubleday/Random House.  The magazine's contributing editor Seth Mnookin takes us on Perdue's journey through the trials and tribulations of fighting Brown, the publisher, and the court system in an article titled "DaVinci Clone?". What I found interesting in the article were the additional allegations of two more instances of possible plagiarism in Brown's past.

I have not read "The Daughter of God", but I plan to,  just to compare for myself what common material the two books contain.  I was not impressed with the "DaVinci Code" when I read it about three years ago.  I thought it was hack-writer material but the ideas expressed in Brown's book were facinating. 

Also interesting in the Vanity Fair article was that two textual analysis experts also believe Brown borrowed the plot for his book from Perdue's "Daughter of God."  The two experts say they are convinced Brown borrowed heavily from Perdue's book, despite Brown's recent victory in court. John Olsson, the director of Britain's Forensic Linguistics Institute, said, "This is the most blatant example of in-your-face plagiarism I've ever seen. It just goes on and on. There are literally hundreds of parallels."  The article also states that Perdue found, using plagerism-detecting software, that the judge, practically verbatim, used Brown's attorney's arguments against plagerism in it's findings, a not unusual occurance, but it bolstered his, (the judge's) opinion that the books were not similar.  It IS unusual to utilize the opposing attoney's arguments as the deciding factors in a case like this, I think.  

Dan Brown and Doubleday/Random House did not comment for the article.

Mnookin also cites an incident in which Brown copied an exact passage from the paper "Leonardo's Lost Robot," written by robotics expert Mark Rosheim in "DaVinci".  Brown and/or Brown's  publisher said the passage was covered under fair-use practice.  "Fair Use", as defined by a Stanford University "Fair Use" overview is "a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. For example, if you wish to criticize a novelist, you should have the freedom to quote a portion of the novelist's work without asking permission. Absent this freedom, copyright owners could stifle any negative comments about their work.  Unfortunately, if the copyright owner disagrees with your fair use interpretation, the dispute will have to be resolved by courts or arbitration. If it's not a fair use, then you are infringing upon the rights of the copyright owner and may be liable for damages.  The only guidance is provided by a set of fair use factors outlined in the copyright law. These factors are weighed in each case to determine whether a use qualifies as a fair use. For example, one important factor is whether your use will deprive the copyright owner of income. Unfortunately, weighing the fair use factors is often quite subjective. For this reason, the fair use road map is often tricky to navigate.  In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose such as to comment upon, criticize or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. Another way of putting this is that fair use is a defense against infringement. If your use qualifies under the definition above, then your use would not be considered an illegal infringement.  So what is a "transformative" use? If this definition seems ambiguous or vague, be aware that millions of dollars in legal fees have been spent attempting to define what qualifies as a fair use. There are no hard-and-fast rules, only general rules and varying court decisions. That's because the judges and lawmakers who created the fair use exception did not want to limit the definition of fair use. They wanted it–like free speech–to have an expansive meaning that could be open to interpretation.  Most fair use analysis falls into two categories: commentary and criticism; or parody.

1. Comment and CriticismIf you are commenting upon or critiquing a copyrighted work–for instance, writing a book review — fair use principles allow you to reproduce some of the work to achieve your purposes. Some examples of commentary and criticism include:

  • quoting a few lines from a Bob Dylan song in a music review
  • summarizing and quoting from a medical article on prostate cancer in a news report
  • copying a few paragraphs from a news article for use by a teacher or student in a lesson, or
  • copying a portion of a Sports Illustrated magazine article for use in a related court case.

The underlying rationale of this rule is that the public benefits from your review, which is enhanced by including some of the copyrighted material. 

2. Parody

A parody is a work that ridicules another, usually well-known work, by imitating it in a comic way. Judges understand that by its nature, parody demands some taking from the original work being parodied. Unlike other forms of fair use, a fairly extensive use of the original work is permitted in a parody in order to "conjure up" the original. " 

Neither of these definitions seems to fit Brown's use of what Rosheim wrote.  Rosheim says, "Every now and then I'll be giving a talk and someone will come in with The Da Vinci Code and ask me to sign a copy. Either that or they'll accuse me of copying him."

The Vanity Fair article details Perdue's legal case. Perdue first contacted Mnookin 2003 and Mnookin wrote about the dispute for Newsweek in June, 2003 and now, in the Vanity Fair article he delves more deeply into the battle being waged by Perdue.  It will interesting to see how this plays out in the courts.  Good Luck, Mr. Perdue, in your battle with the big guys.  To read more:

Ann Coulter

I don't know much about the woman.  There was quite a stir up with the release of her book. It seemed sort of mean-spirited.  I went to her web site, Ann Coulter dot com and she has quite a photo gallery of pictures of herself.  Speaking of stirrups; it's odd, I thought, she has a horsey look about her.

Finding a New Bodega or How I Get Information Out of My Mother

A few weeks ago I told my mother about a bodega near my job.  I said we'd try it out so today, after we went to the Attias Flea Market so she could buy my Grandfather a pocket watch for Father's day, we went went there and picked up some lunch.  You can't eat there so we brought it back to my house. 

On the way home I asked her why Aunt Felice went to live with her cousins, Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy.  We always called our older cousins "Aunt and Uncle".  She said that at first, after her mother was murdered, they all lived with Uncle Cayo and Aunt Carmen in their large apartment in Brooklyn.  In the same building, I guess, where they lived when her mother was murdered by her boyfriend, the father of Aunt Felice and Uncle Jr. 

Uncle Jr. was a wild child.  He wet the bed and was unruly.  In those days they didn't know about ADHD or even that the trauma of their mother being murdered could cause a child to act out.  Aunt Carmen would make him wash his own sheets and generally punish him-all to no avail.  He was probably about five years old at the time. 

Uncle Albert, who shared a father with my mother was also wild.  He would stick his fingers in electric sockets and he burned my mother with an iron. 

My mother probably acted as the mother of the other three kids. She was fourteen.  Uncle Albert was eleven.  Uncle Jr. about six or seven, and Aunt Felice was three or four years old.  

Uncle Louie, my mother's older brother was in the Army.  When he got out he went to live with Cayo and Carmen also.  He didn't like it that my mother would go out with her friend, Elsie once a week, and somehow they all were sent to the country, out on Long Island. My mother lived with Uncle Augie and Aunt Marcel in Smithtown.  Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy took Felice to live with them in Farmingville.  Uncle Albert went to Saint Charles and Uncle Jr. went to Maryhaven or a place like it.       

I asked my mother why Cando and Lucy took Aunt Felice and my mother said probably so he could molest her.  Many years later, Aunt Felice had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed as a schizophrenic.  She said  Cando had molested her for years.  At the time we didn't know whether to believe her or not because she had never said anything and because she was crazy.  My mother and Aunt Angie debated it for years.  I didn't know if it was true or not but wondered why she would lie about something like that.  But then again, she did have a vivid imagination.  When she lived with us, my sister and I would hear her talking to people who weren't there while she played music and danced in her room, which ajoined ours. 

My mother said that Aunt Felice's friend, Peggy, told the story of how Cando and Lucy took in a foster daughter and how she complained that Cando was touching her and she was removed from the home.  They also took in my "cousin", David.  He and Felice stuck together.  David doesn't talk to Cando anymore, but I don't know what happened.  He and Felice have remained close through all her travails with mental illness.    

My mother wondered why Felice never told anyone and she and Peggy wondered why Felice continued to live at Cando and Lucy's until she was in her early twenties.  Who knows?  Maybe she felt like she couldn't get away.  

I asked my mother why Aunt Felice didn't come to live with her and Daddy?  She said that they tried to get Felice to live with them when my mother was pregnant with my sister, Carmen.  We were stationed in MA. at that time.  My mother says Cando asked how my father could be trusted around a young girl and he wouldn't let her go.  Even though I came to believe Felice's story a few years after her hospitalization, this, in itself, was proof enough, I told my mother.  Then I told her how I knew Cando had molested Felice all those years ago.

After Aunt Lucy died Cando sold the house in Farmingville and moved to a smaller place in the same town.  The house sat atop one of the highest places on Long Island, off Blue Point Road.  It was pretty secluded up there.  One day as I was passing through I decided to stop and see Cando.  I pulled in the driveway.  I honked my horn but got no response.  I walked up the two steps to the front door, leaned over to look in the window to see if anyone was home and Cando was laying on the couch.  He was being given a blow job by his fourteen-year-old great nephew, Peter.  Peter's mother, Hilda, who was slightly mentally retarded, had died of a heroin overdose a few years before and Peter stayed with Cando occasionally.  Peter has been in and out of jail.  The legacy continues.