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That Dragon-Wearing, Fire-Playing, Hornet-Kicking Grrrlll

May 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



The cover of Sunday’s New York Times Book Review
is devoted to the third book in Stieg Larsson’s staggeringly popular Swedish thriller trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

Good call, NYT.

For those of you who have not (yet) succumbed and are aghast that your normally sensible friends have been so relentlessly effusive about a freakishly best-selling series—(or even worse, couldn’t stand the wait for book 3 so persuaded somebody in Europe to send it to them ahead of the American pub date)— reviewer David Kamp explains everything.

Here’s the short form:

All three books are centered on two ­principal characters: a fearless middle-aged journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, who publishes an Expo-like magazine called Millennium, and a slight, sullen, socially maladjusted, tech-savvy young goth named Lisbeth Salander, the “girl” of the books’ titles, who, in addition to her dragon tattoo, possesses extraordinary hacking abilities and a twisted, complicated past. Together, Blomkvist and Salander use their wiles and skills to take on corporate corruptos, government sleazes and sex criminals, not to mention these miscreants’ attendant hired goons.

This all might sound rather Euro-cheesy, a bit Jean-Claude Van Damme, but it’s not. Larsson was a cerebral, high-minded activist and self-proclaimed feminist who happened to have a God-given gift for pulse-racing narrative. It’s this offbeat combination of attributes — imagine if John Grisham had prefaced his writing career not by practicing law in Mississippi but by heading up the Stockholm office of Amnesty International — that has made the series such a sui generis smash.

Exactly—especially the Grisham/Amnesty International part.

Don’t misunderstand. The books do not belong in the realm of belles lettres. Larsson is occasionally a bit pedantic with his exposition and his prose sometimes veers toward the ham handed. But none of that matters because, at the center of the series’ appeal is Lisbeth Salander, one of the most irresistible literary creations in recent memory.

We’re only halfway through the holiday weekend, meaning there’s still much reading time left before Tuesday. So what, really, are you waiting for???

Start with book one and enjoy. (Resistance is futile.)

Heck, I envy those of you who still have the whole three-book experience ahead of you.


PS: Once you’ve read the trilogy, go to last week’s NY Times Magazine and read about the ridiculously complicated real life drama that’s been occurring over the rights to Larrson’s literary estate.

Posted in Social Justice Shorts, writers and writing | 4 Comments »

Happy Memorial Day….and Welcome to Another Topanga Days

May 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Memorial Day weekend is our national day of remembrance.

It is also the weekend that the only-in-California yearly event known as Topanga Days is held.

For the uninitiated, Topanga Days is a 3-day semi-post-hippie country fair/music festival held every year in the chaparral-covered, coyote and rattlesnake-haunted hills of Topanga Canyon.

Among those playing are Ziggy Marley, Maria McKee, Canned Heat and Venice. But more than the music, it’s a one of a kind, wild and fabulous event.

I’ve written about it in the past here and here.

In any case, come’on down.

Monday is the Topanga Days Parade, a not to be missed event where anything can be a “float,” even one’s self. Here are two past rollerblading participants. (Years ago, when my kid was in elementary school, another mother and I used to rollerblade the parade in fairy wings and tiaras. When it no longer embarrassed our kids, we quit. Fortunately others—like the women pictured below—have taken up the rollerblading torch, so to speak.)

Posted in Life in general | 3 Comments »

NBC’s The Filter: School Strippers, A Controversial Scholarship, & More

May 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


I was on NBC’s The Filter on Wednesday night.
As usual, we talked very speedily about a list of interesting issues:

1. The first and the silliest had to do with a giant kerfuffle involving a couple of seniors at Paramount High School, both of them guys, who, when they were onstage for a school event, suddenly decided to doff their clothes and dance about in their undies, or what turned out to be Speedos, to the delight of fellow students. When the video of said dance turned up on YouTube and got a zillion hits (it’s since been taken down), then the school board freaked out and began disciplining the stripping boys and the adults who were present but did not intervene. Three students were suspended for a couple of days. One school administrator was put on administrative leave. A teacher resigned and there is an ongoing “investigation” about the incident. An overreaction? Y’think?

2. The second topic was also school related. Santa Ana College will dedicate a scholarship for undocumented immigrant students in memory of 27-year-old immigration activist named Tam Ngoc Tran who was killed in a car crash. Tran was an outstanding young woman by anybody’s standards. She graduated from UCLA and was headed to Brown to get her doctorate, was an activist for the Dream Act (she testified before Congress). But she was in the US illegally. The child of Vietnamese parents, she was brought to this country at age six.

I thought the scholarship was a fine idea for reasons that I articulate on camera. As you will see, however, my co-commenter, Megan Barth, who works and blogs at RedCounty.com, was not in the least enthusiastic.

3. Topic three was expungement. The Filter producers liked Wednesday’s post on WLA so decided that it merited further discussion. And so discuss it we did.

But then came a perfectly appalling moment in the show.

It seems that, on Wednesday, MSNBC ran a list of questions that would be new Americans are asked on their citizenship exams. Wouldn’t it be fun……Fred Roggin and the show’s producers thought….if we asked Megan and Celeste a few of those questions.

So they did. With no advance warning. On live television.

Now please understand that while I have as wide a base of knowledge in certain areas as the next person, maybe even wider than the next person in some areas, I am not the person you want on your team for trivial pursuit. Really. I would be your last draft choice.

Charades are fairly okay with me, as long as the answers involve only movies and books (and as long as said charades are not on, you know, live television).

But, back me into a corner on something that requires a quick one-word factual answer, and my brain is likely to lock all the doors, pull every blind, arm the burglar alarm and decline to come out, no matter how much I plead with it.

I also hate games.

“It’ll be fun!” said Fred.

(Whenever anybody says, “it’ll be fun,” you know for sure that it’ll be anything but.)

In any case, here’s the video of our “fun” Citizenship game.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Education, immigration, The Filter | 4 Comments »

80 to Life: Sentencing Tedi Snyder – UPDATED

May 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

UPDATE:


Tedi Snyder will be sentenced today, Friday, in division 120 on the 13th floor
of the criminal courts building, Judge Sam Ohta presiding.

He is expected to receive 80 to life. That means he will be 95 when his first possible parole date rolls around.

The Youth Justice Coalition will hold a press conference outside the court building to protest the long sentences like Tedi’s that are being handed out to juveniles with increasing abandon.

(Much of the information I have on the case came from Kim McGill, YJC’s remarkable founder.)


UPDATE: The judge had a personal emergency on Friday morning so the sentencing hearing has been postponed until August.

However also on Friday, Lily Burk’s kidnapper and killer, Charlie Samuel, pleaded guilty to the crime in order to avoid a possible death sentence. He was accordingly sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

This means that Tedi Snyder—convicted of a non-lethal gang-related shooting that occurred before he was old enough to be eligible to get a driver’s license, —is likely to get a sentence that is only slightly less severe than that given to a 50-year-old parolee with a previous violent conviction, who has admitted to kidnapping, beating and murdering a 17-year-old high school girl, whom he abducted in order to rob.

Okay, now back to our story.


Tedi Snyder was 15-years old when he was involved in the gang shooting for which he will be sentenced today in adult court. Thankfully no one was killed as a result of the shooting.

But they could have been.

Prior to the shooting, Tedi ran afoul of the law once. He stole something. The judge felt that he was an otherwise good kid, so gave him probation and required that he stay in school. Tedi did stay in school. But he also became involved with a local gang.

Much of his growing involvement had to the do with the fact that, when he was thirteen, he saw a close friend shot dead right in front of him in a gang-related incident. The next year, when Tedi was fourteen, another close friend was shot and killed in the gang mess that seemed to be everpresent in Tedi’s LA neighborhood.

A year after that, Tedi himself was shot in the head. It was unclear for a while if he would live. But he did live. A few months later, the trauma-ridden disaffected boy was shot one more time, this time in the hand.

The very next day he participated in a shooting of his own. I don’t know alll of the circumstances. I also don’t know for sure if Tedi was the shooter. I presume he was. But perhaps he just participated. Either role could get him this sentence. I do know that, whoever held the gun was, fortunately, not a good shot. One of the intended victims, members of a rival gang, was shot in the foot. Or maybe it was the ankle.

It took four years for Tedi’s case to make it’s way through the court system. (So much for a speedy trial.) When the verdict was handed down, he was nearly 20 years old.

The jury found Tedi guilty of attempted murder. Then the prosecutor piled on whatever “enhancements” he could, which lengthened the sentence—as is usual with LA gang cases.

Of course, since the recent Supreme Court ruling that juveniles who don’t kill anybody can’t be given life without parole, prosecutors can get nearly the same result with a sentence of, say, 80 years.


No one is arguing that the Tedi Snyders of the world must be held accountable for their actions
. After all, with just a little bit of bad luck, some other kid might have died the day of the shooting in question. We could have tried him as a juvenile and thrown the book at him, keeping him locked until he’s 25.

But do we really want to put Tedi Snyder in prison for what amounts to the rest of his life for what he did as a traumatized, disaffected, angry fool of a 15-year-old?

Or should would we be wise to find a way to see his crime in a context of emotional distress, PTSD and the stupidity of youth?

The worst thing about this upcoming sentencing, among a number of “worst things” is that Tedi Snyder’s case is by no means unusual. It is simply the one I happened to hear about this week.

Below you’ll find the letter that Tedi’s father has written to Judge Ohta. It is obviously a letter from a grieving parent, and therefore I make no pretense of its objectivity, nor do I know anything about the family, or where the dad was when all these years of shooting was going on. But the parent’s heartbreak the letter portrays is undeniable—-and worth your time.


Before we get to the dad’s letter, however, one small detour: I must admit it feels like an unhappy irony that the couple who killed USC student Adrianna Bachan last year in a hit and run case were also sentenced this week. If you remember, the woman driver blew through a red light, hit Adrianna and also hit her friend, Marcus Garfinkle, who was struck with such force his body lodged halfway inside the car’s windshield. The couple together yanked Garfinkle out of the windshield, injuring him further and pushed his body to the street, then took off.

The driver and the passenger were sentenced to 8 and 7 years respectively.


Okay, here’s the letter from Ted Sr.

Honorable Sam Ohta
Judge, L.A. County Superior Court
210 West Temple Street
13th Floor, Division 120
Los Angeles, CA
90012

Re: Theodore Snyder, Jr.

Dear Judge Ohta:

I am urging the court, the office of the District Attorney and all of Los Angeles to consider the case of my son, Theodore Snyder, who will be sentenced today to 80 years to Life in a case where no one was killed. He was 15 years old when he was arrested, and has spent the last four, long years in juvenile hall and County jail going back and forth to court. This experience has taught me a lot about the myths of justice in America – including the myths of a speedy trial, a jury of your peers and “innocent until proven guilty.”

During my adult life, all I ever wanted was to have a son. It took me 47 years to get Tedi, and I can’t bear to think that he will have only 15 years with me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in juvenile justice | 10 Comments »

Arizona’s Immigration Law and It’s Affect On Policing

May 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



On Wednesday, LAPD’s Chief Charlie Beck, and Chiefs of Police from Houston
and Philadelphia met with Attorney General Eric Holder about Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070. The three chiefs said what has needed saying for a long while about this law, and that is the fact that it makes law enforcement harder.

The Washington Post has the report:

Arizona’s new crackdown on illegal immigration will increase crime in U.S. cities, not reduce it, by driving a wedge between police and immigrant communities, police chiefs from several of the state’s and the nation’s largest cities said Wednesday.

Arizona’s law will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes, chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia said before meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to discuss the measure. Counterparts from Phoenix, Tucson, San Jose and Montgomery County, among others, joined them.

“This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”

This is precisely why Los Angeles passed Special Order 40 in 1979-–and why it was embraced by conservative LAPD Chief Daryl Gates and every chief who has come after.

(Special Order 40 “precludes officers from asking a person about his or her alien status and from notifying the INS about a person’s undocumented status unless the person has been arrested.” If there is an arrest, officers are required to notify higher-ups of his or her immigration standing.)

The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police are not down with the law either, however many of the elected sheriffs in the state are for it, as are the majority of Americans, most of them fed up with the lack of border enforcement.


AND ABOUT THAT BORDER ENFORCEMENT

As you likely know, President Obama has just sent 1200 national guard troops to the Arizona border to beef up security.

In an editorial Thursday, the LA Times points out why such a move was needed.

Here are some clips:

The troops will be stationed in Arizona and other border states, where they’ll help local law enforcement intercept drug traffickers. It is an overdue step. For political reasons, including the delicate relationship with Mexico, Obama has tried to resist giving the appearance of militarizing the border. But the lack of security, particularly in areas a stone’s throw from Mexico’s drug war, undermines public confidence in the ability of the federal government to regulate immigration. And if any meaningful immigration reform is to be passed, it will require that confidence.

Over the years, presidents have tended to view immigration through an economic lens, paying heed to issues of bilateral trade and facilitating the flow of low-skilled labor. But addressing the broken immigration system, including making it easier for employers to hire foreign workers legally and bringing forward the 11 million undocumented people living in the shadows of American society, will only be achieved when the public sees that Washington can successfully secure the border.

Yep. I can’t stand the Arizona law either. But it is unwise and unfair to ignore some of the legitimate concerns that drove it (as opposed to the nativist hysteria that also drove it). Addressing those concerns is the only way we are ever to get real immigration reform that the nation desperately needs.

Posted in immigration, law enforcement | 44 Comments »

Support WLA’s Investigative Reporting—For Free

May 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



As most of you know, WitnessLA has embarked on a partnership with Spot.Us.com
called the LA Justice Report. The partnership was formed to do some much needed investigative reporting into social justice issues affecting Los Angeles.

Each of the reports will be “community funded”—in other words, paid for by small donations from regular people.

However, for the next few days, you can support the joint WitnessLA and Spot.Us investigation into how the City of LA is spending its $25 million in gang prevention and intervention money. And you can help with that support at exactly zero cost to….well…you.

But we get five bucks for each one of you who takes 2 minutes to participate in answering four short questions anonymously for Spot.Us.

This is the second such chance at these “sponsored credits” that Spot.Us has offered
through a system they are calling “community centered advertising.” (Poynter reports on the concept here.)

Here’s the deal:

In less than 2 minutes and 4 clicks you can get a free $5 credit that you can apply to the LA Justice Report. (Just follow the instructions in the box below).


We think our first project—which has working title of FOLLOW THE GANG MONEY—is particularly important to complete ASAP.

Just to remind you, Los Angeles is spending $25 million to lower gang violence (several million more if you count the city’s federal funds). But no one seems to be able to give a straight answer when asked what the city is actually getting for that money. What services are provided for all that cash? How many people are helped? Exactly how are they helped? Is that help doing any good?

(By the way, out of that $25 millionprecisely zero dollars goes to Homeboy Industries, even though everyone at city hall knows that Homeboy is fighting for its life.)

Neither the LA Times or the Daily News has looked into the question of how the city uses its gang money. But LA Justice Report investigative reporter, Matt Fleischer is already hard at work on the project.

However we need your support.


Okay here are the instructions:

1. Go to Spot.Us and hit “register,” which you’ll find in the top left hand corner. (If you’ve previously registered, skip this step.)

2. After registering, click the large green button that says “Earn Credits”

3. Answer the quick questionnaire. (It’s four questions and painless. I just now did it.)

4. Your account now has $5 in credits and you’ll automatically be directed to a page that lists current Spot.Us projects. Click “Apply Credits” to The LA Justice Report.

And—like magic—we get $5 closer to our fundraising goal.

NOTE: If the software tries to talk you into giving an extra $20, just hit “remove.” (Unless, of course, you want to give us the $20.)

Okay, I’m done hectoring. Please just do it.

Posted in Gangs, THE LA JUSTICE REPORT | No Comments »

Desperate for Expungement: When a Record Keeps You From Work

May 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



Even before the economic downturn, 60 percent of all employers
surveyed on the topic said that they wouldn’t hire someone with a criminal record. Now with a glut of educated and skilled people out of work, employers can afford to be even more selective. So those with even very minor criminal convictions are often completely out of luck.

There is one way to get rid of certain kinds convictions on one’s record, however. It’s called expungement.

Sandra Hernandez has a story in the Daily Journal about the expungement issue. She writes that joblessness and job insecurty—the worry about being laid off—has meant an increase in the number of people seeking expungements. But for lower income people looking there are few places to get the necessary legal help at a price they can afford,

My friend Elie Miller, a former alternate public defender who is now the staff attorney for Homeboy industries, is one of the few lawyers in LA who does expungement work at no cost—-and she is overloaded with people who need her help in navigating the legal system. (And her services are among those that are vanishing from Homeboy if they don’t find the money they need.)

Elie features prominently in Hernandez’ article, as you’ll see below. Since the Daily Journal is hidden behind a paywall, Sandra has kindly allowed me to post the full article here at WLA.

It provides an interesting look at a problem that many otherwise hard-working Californians have to deal with—even more so as high unemployment rates continue.

PETITIONS FOR EXPUNGEMENT SOAR IN DOWN ECONOMY

By Sandra Hernandez
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES – Dolly Robles has spent much of the last two years struggling to find work.

Her past, including convictions for misdemeanor assault in 2003 and felony burglary in 2004, has made her unemployable.

Desperate, Robles – a mother of three who grew up in Los Angeles’ foster care system - went to court last year and asked a judge to expunge her criminal record.

“I realized that if I didn’t do something different, they were going to take my kids and put them in the system,” said Robles, 26, who lives in the San Bernardino County town of Upland. “I said ‘Heck no, I don’t want that for my little babies.’”

With the state unemployment rate hovering at 12.6 percent, Robles is among a growing number of Californians who are asking judges to dismiss past convictions.

The Los Angeles criminal court saw a 53 percent jump in such petitions filed in April, compared to the same period the previous year, according to court officials.

“I think employers in a tough job market can be more selective about who they hire so people are doing what they need to do,” said Superior Court Judge Peter P. Espinoza, who presides over Los Angeles County’s criminal courts.

In California, anyone who was convicted of a crime but served no prison time and has remained out of trouble can expunge his or her record for a $125 fee.

Attorneys said it’s not just the unemployed who are asking for a second chance – but also those trying to hold on to jobs.

“I recently had a woman come see me who had worked for the city for 15 years and had a misdemeanor conviction for disturbing the peace,” said Elie Miller, an attorney with Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that is helping Robles clean up her record.

“This woman was terrified that as layoffs come up this would put her at greater risk of losing her job, but she didn’t know what to do,” Miller said.

The petitions could continue to grow: studies suggest one in 10 California residents has a criminal conviction.

The uptick, however, comes at a time when courts are becoming less and less equipped to handle them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Gangs | 4 Comments »

Dear Meg Whitman: Please Check Your Math

May 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



In the competition between Republican gubernatorial candidates
to win the who’s-going-to-sound-the-hardest-core-on-the-immigration-issue, the Sacramento Bee reports that former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman, made the following statement.

Stopping illegal immigration “is absolutely essential because the costs are enormous,” Whitman said. “I don’t know if you know this, but 30 percent of the state prisoners are probably illegal immigrants. We don’t get reimbursed for those monies. And it’s putting a burden on every element of the state budget.”

Well, no, Meg, undocumented (or illegal or whatever word you want to use) immigrants aren’t 30 percent of California’s prison population. They are 11 percent of our state prisoners. And, yes, that’s still significant. But Whitman overstated the significance by…um…around 200 percent.

Oh, and she’s also dead wrong about the reimbursement thingy. The state doesn’t get enough federal reimbursement for incarcerating immigrants, but had she bothered to ask someone, Whitman would have known California definitely gets fed money to help cut our expenses.

In any case, we would humbly suggest that before the Megster starts making pronouncements, that she checks her facts.

The errors may seem trivial. But when we are choosing someone to lead us through California’s budget morass, it would be nice if that person was at least marginally accurate with their figures rather than treating them as clay to be molded this way and that for political gain.


Posted in Social Justice Shorts | 22 Comments »

The Morality of “24″

May 25th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


After 8 seasons, Monday night was the last night of the series, “24.”

Most times, no matter its popularity, a TV series is just a TV series. But in the case of this TV show, when the series’ main character, Jack Bauer, was referenced more than once on the floor of Congress, and Bauer’s actions were trotted out as an exhibit A in the middle of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, by none other than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and then in 2007, the Dean of West Point, Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, along with some FBI interrogators and representatives of Human Rights First, traveled to LA to ask the show’s creative team to tone down the torture scenes because of the impact they were having both on troops in the field and America’s reputation abroad. ….I think we can safely say that we’re in some other kind of realm that transcends the “it’s only a TV show” trope.

The series showrunner and exec-producer, Howard Gordon, was on Fresh Air on Monday and had his own answer to the controversy:

“To say that we’ve been some … mouthpiece for some political point of view — it’s not only specious — but I promise you, it is insane. Any fly on the wall and anyone who’s been there would tell you the same. So unfortunately, look — the show is a show for one thing. It’s a thriller in the vein of Bourne Identity or Rambo or Dirty Harry. And the hero finds the bad guy and shakes out of him where the bomb is. And again, the real-time scenario lent itself really well to that. Frankly, for the first five years, I don’t think you could find a single article or op-ed piece that used the word ‘torture’ or described that this was somehow morally repugnant or corrosive or anything. I think what happened was, when Abu Ghraib happened and Guantanamo happened — the show certainly benefited from some kind of post-9/11 wish fulfillment; you had a guy who cut to the chase, who did whatever was necessary, and again there was some wish fulfillment involved — I do think the show experienced some of the blowback. We did understand that the climate had changed, because of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it had changed. … [A]nd it put us into a conundrum. Honestly, at the end of Season 6 — where Jack had been acting a certain way — we had a choice: Either we renounce the series and admit we’re a bunch of torture-mongering, morally corrosive torture pornographers or we find a way of confronting this issue and this changed world that we’re in. And, in a strange way, it gave us fodder for the seventh season.”

Yes, well…

As a die-hard “24″ fan I have long been ambivalent about some of the show’s script choices, but have hung in faithfully because the delights of the series seemed always to outweigh its unsettling downsides.

(That is with the exception of 2007′s notorious Season 6, which went completely and creepily off the rails, both in terms of its over embrace of brutality, and frankly, in terms of the quality of the writing in general. But then, as Gordon said, it recovered in Season 7 where it articulated some of the moral issues around torture, plus had some very nifty plot twists, so all was forgiven.

Or sort of forgiven. It was somewhat vexing that both Fox and Friends and Glenn Beck—whose moral compasses, such as they ever were, seem to have long ago rusted—became so ooozily enamored of the show in Season 7, that they failed to perceive its ambiguities and still managed to use it as ajustification for torture not a caution against it.)

And, nearly any pronouncement from former “24″ producer, and co-creator, Joel Surnow, was enough to make some of us wonder if we were, oh, I don’t know, risking the health of our immortal souls by watching the show at all. But Surnow is thankfully long gone.

Now the last few hours of Season 8 have taken us into what is, in many ways, the darkest place of all.

In hour 20, we had to watch as Jack coldly executed the latest CTU insider traitor, Dana Walsh. (“24″ has pioneered a whole new class of evil broads—13 female villains in total. They have ranged from the queen of them all, Nina Myers, through the very, very bad first lady, Sherry Palmer, to this season’s Dana Walsh, who managed to project a sort of sloe-eyed, sexy spawn of Satan look that became its own kind of special effect.)

In hour 21, there was the matter of Jack disemboweling the Russian sniper/assassin who killed FBI agent and Bauer paramour, Renee Walker—AKA Jack’s Last Chance for Happiness. Now most of us might honestly have wanted to disembowel the guy too, but most of us also, I trust, would have stopped short of it (even if there was the vague justification of getting the guy’s recently swallowed cell phone sim card).

Hour 22 featured Jack clad in an Imperial storm troopers-like outfit as he prepared to kidnap the divinely Nixonian ex-President Charles Logan who, after seeing the scarily helmeted Bauer approach in the distance, screams in high hysteria to his secret service agent “That’s Jack Bauer, he’s coming to get me!” (A great “24″ moment, as were nearly all of actor Gregory Itzin’s scenes this season.)

Finally, there was the very last two hours—which I am reluctant to give away here if you haven’t yet watched the finale. I can tell you that the poet Rumi was quoted well in a crucial moment of foreshadowing—and that, in the end, everything came down to Jack and Chloe O’Brien—Mary Lynn Rajskub’s sour-faced and fabulously courageous character creation.—which was exactly as it should be.

I can also tell you that, for me anyway, the finale was a worthy two hours with which to cap the best of the eight seasons—complicated, multi-shaded, possessed of the courage of its convictions, and fraught with the knowledge that cleaving to what is just and right and true is the only worthwhile path, no matter the cost (and that there will be a cost), but when the cleaving grows too single-minded and brittle, it has its own soul corroding moral dangers.

So what, in the end did it all mean? Was it only a TV show as its producers say? Was it a pop cultural reflection of our desire for good and evil to be clearly demarcated with bright, shining lines in a manner that real life rarely provides? Or did it start to actually affect in troubling ways the culture it purported to merely reflect in fantastical broad strokes (with no meal times or bathroom breaks)?

Or was it all of the above—and, on occasions, like Monday night, satisfyingly more.

I’ll go with the latter.

What do you think?

Posted in art and culture, arts, Civil Liberties, torture, US Government, writers and writing | 30 Comments »

Homeboy Review Opening Party, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

May 24th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

A very cool reading and party starring a group of talented Homeboy poets and featuring a short talk from Father Greg Boyle.

I’m going. You should too if you’d like to experience a moving, intriguing and one-of-a-kind literary event.

If you show up, please find me and say “hi,” (or whatever else you’re moved to say).

WHEN: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Time: 7 pm
Where: Homeboy Industries
130 West Bruno Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

WHAT: This reading is free and open to the public. However, please help us in our current time of need. You give us $5 bucks we give you five chances to win our amazing raffle including signed copies of Tattoos on the Heart, G-Dog and The Homeboys, Homeboy Review’s debut issue, a Homeboy T-shirt, coffee mug and lunch for two at the Homegirl Café.

Posted in Gangs, Homeboy Industries, writers and writing | 2 Comments »

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