Oscar Buzz — Zzzzzzz!

 

I intentionally did not watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. Apparently millions of other folks made the same decision that I did because this year’s awards show had the second lowest viewership since ratings began being tracked in 1974. Well, there was nowhere to go but up since the 2018 awards show holds the record for lowest viewership. Why the plummeting interest in what used to be a “must see” event? My answer? The awards show has turned into a “why bother?” event.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to watch movies and have since I was young. A great Saturday afternoon for me in high school was to head to the movie theater with my best friend and watch a Robert Redford movie. Yeah, sure, some of them were Westerns like “Jeremiah Johnson,” but the scenery was breathtaking. And no, I’m not referring to the mountain views; it was WHO was looking fabulous on those mountains.

Even as an adult, watching movies is an enjoyable past-time for me. I subscribe to Netflix and have Amazon Prime so I can indulge in the big screen in front of my littler screen at home. After working all week, it’s great to unwind while watching a movie and eating buttered popcorn.

Much as I like movies, I’ll confess that I have not seen ONE single movie which was nominated for Best Picture this year. And that’s saying a great deal since a whopping EIGHT films got this nod. I did want to see “Vice” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but they didn’t stay in my local theaters long enough for me to work in into my schedule. It’s hard to get motivated to watch a show for 3+ hours at night when I don’t even have a horse in the race I even care about.

But, haven’t I already seen “A Star Is Born?” Well, I saw a prior version of it–one that came out in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Even that movie was the THIRD remake of the classic movie. How many times can this star be born? Hopefully, it is not related to the feline who has nine lives….Apparently there is nothing new under the California sun and screenwriters are having to recycle (and recycle and recycle) old movies.

Honestly, I’d never heard of “Roma” prior to the list of Oscar nominations being released. I still don’t know what the movie is about, but I’m guessing it is not about a tomato. Tomatoes can be a fun basis for a movie though. In college I had a blast attending a midnight movie at the campus theater’s showing of “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes.” I suspect my fond memories of the event had more to do with the group of friends I was with than the story of the vile vegetables.

Color was a popular theme this year;  colors were used in the name of over a third of the best picture nominees. The ultimate Best Picture winner, “Green Book,” along with “Black Panther,” and BlacKkKlansman,” had a tinted title.  I’m happy that “Green Book” won, but that’s merely because green is my favorite color.

According to some, the increase in viewership this year was due to people being gaga over Lady Gaga. The singer starred in the latest version of “A Star Is Born” along with Bradley Cooper. I had no idea that the latter could sing and that the former could wear clothes that look somewhat normal. (Who could forget her infamous meat outfit she sported at one point?) The duo gave a live and steamy performance of “Shallow” during the awards show which left those in the audience spellbound. Some, although hopefully not Cooper’s real-life girlfriend, were reportedly fanning themselves from the heat between the two co-stars.

And what’s an Academy Awards show without controversy? Politics reared its ugly head as Javier Bardem and Maya Rudolph made remarks in reference to Trump’s desired border wall. Um, I’m sorry. Was there a movie about the wall in the running? Regardless of what your politics are and whether or not I agree with you, why must you use this show as a platform to air your opinions? Just because you are an actor, director, producer, etc., why should I care what you think? If you want to talk politics, go on a news show. I’ll bet more people tuned in to see what Lady Gaga wore than to determine the political leanings of members of the Academy.

Many viewers could care less about the films; they are interested in fashion. There’s live coverage of attendees showing up and walking the red carpet so everyone can gawk at what celebrities are (and sometimes aren’t) wearing. Pink, according to reports, ruled the day as the color of choice. But what took the cake was the outfit that LBGTQ activist Billy Porter wore. We’ve seen women attired in tuxedos, but Billy sported a black tuxedo jacket with a velvet ballgown skirt. Yup! A man in a dress. No word on whether the Tony and Grammy award winner from “Kinky Boots” was wearing any such footwear underneath his voluminous skirt.

One thing different about this year’s program was that there was no host. Isn’t that like sailing a ship without a captain?  For the first time in thirty years no well known figure was at the podium to entertain and keep things going. Could they find NO ONE who wanted to take this one and have his mug seen for several hours by millions? Perhaps all the well-known figures were too busy with their pre- and post-Oscar bashes to fit that duty into their schedules.

In retrospect, I have no regrets for not having watched the awards show. Time is a precious thing, and I don’t want to waste it. Did I really have three or so hours in the evening to gawk at movie stars, listen to political rants, and observe outrageous outfits? My time was better spent going to bed at a decent hour and getting a good night’s sleep. I can always read about the nonsense that occurred in the paper and online in a few minute’s time afterwards. Sorry, Oscar. Eating an Oscar Meyer wiener would win the Best Way To Spend My Time award over watching the Oscars.

Just WONDER-ing: Did you watch the Academy Awards this year? Why or why not? Do the political opinions of a movie star carry any weight with you?

 

 

 

 

In CASE You Didn’t Know…

Before Hurricane Michael, Panama City was probably best known as a site of spring break revelry. But Panama City is also the location of an incident that led to a landmark Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright. The average citizen won’t recognize the name of the case, but he will recognize what resulted from the case.

If you have ever seen a TV show or movie which involves someone being arrested for a crime, you are familiar with some often used words called the Miranda warning. These words go something like: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” Well, before the Gideon case, you were up the creek without a paddle in Florida if you couldn’t afford an attorney in a noncapital (think the death penalty) case. Thanks to Mr. Gideon, should you decide to steal from a convenience store and are indigent, you can have a lawyer appointed to represent you.

Since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case resulted, you probably think that there was something special about the circumstances of Mr. Gideon’s case. And you’d be wrong. It was an ordinary crime like numerous others committed every day. Even though the scene of the crime was Panama City, the incident did not take place on the beach or during spring break, and the suspect was nowhere close to being college age. The crime took place at a beer bar and pool room, the Bay Harbor Pool Room sometime between midnight and 8:00 a.m. on June 3, 1961. A window was broken and the jukebox and cigarette machine were smashed; $5 in change was stolen, along with a few bottles of beer and soda, and $50 from the jukebox. The suspect who was fingered? Clarence Earl Gideon, a poor drifter in his fifties with an 8th grade education and a criminal history.

Following his arrest, Gideon was charged with B & E (breaking and entering) and petty larceny. He appeared in Bay County Circuit Court to face the charges alone because he was too poor to afford an attorney. (Even if he had been guilty, the $55 from the heist would not have covered the retainer for a competent attorney….) Mr. Gideon expressly requested the appointment of an attorney, but the trial judge denied that request since Florida law only allowed appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in capital cases. Mr. Gideon was left to represent himself and do the best he could; this, of course, meant that he was convicted and sentenced to five years.

Gideon may have been poor and uneducated, but he was no dummy. He used his time in Florida State Prison to learn the law. (Yes, there are law books in prison libraries, and, unsurprisingly, those are the most popular books around.) Utilizing prison stationery and a pencil, Gideon hand wrote an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The named defendant, Wainwright, was the Secretary of Florida’s Department of Corrections. Gideon argued that the trial court’s denying him counsel violated his Sixth Amendment rights.

And what was one of the first things the U.S. Supreme Court did after accepting Gideon’s case? Why, they appointed him an attorney to represent him before the high court. This attorney was not some lowly, cheap attorney. Oh, no!  Assigned to advocate for Gideon was prominent Washington, D.C. attorney Abe Fortas, who later became a Supreme Court Justice himself.

Fortas made a compelling case for Gideon during oral argument. He pointed out that the first thing that an attorney does when facing criminal charges is to retain an attorney. The attorney does not attempt to advocate for himself. Fortas noted that famed criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow immediately retained an attorney when he was  charged with jury tampering and suborning perjury (in lay language trying to get someone to lie under oath). If the most widely respected criminal attorney in the U.S. needed a lawyer when a criminal defendant, then wouldn’t a man with absolutely no legal training need one even more?

The Supremes (the black-robed justices and not the black singers) were swayed by Fortas’ argument. They were so swayed that the decision of the high court announced March 18, 1063 (prime spring break time) was unanimous (9-0) in favor of Gideon. Would that we had such unanimity on key issues in D.C. today….but I digress.

Did this legal victory result in freedom for Gideon? Well, not immediately. His conviction was set aside, and a new trial was ordered. Gideon got another day in Bay County Circuit Court a few months after the Supreme Court decision was announced. This time he had an appointed lawyer at government expense. His defense attorney picked apart and discredited the prosecution witnesses’ testimony during trial, and Gideon was handily acquitted by the jury after a mere hour of deliberations.

The result of the Gideon opinion touched far more than just Mr. Gideon and the Bay County, Florida area. Approximately 2,000 individuals were released from custody in Florida alone in Gideon’s aftermath. The decision created a need for public defenders (commonly referred to as PD’s) for indigent representation. Post-Gideon  the State of Florida required public defenders in all of the state’s circuit courts.

Gideon is a case that should give everyone pause. Out of ordinary circumstances and from an unlikely hero came a huge change in how our judicial system is run. A man with an 8th grade education, a pencil, and some determination met a difficult situation head on and made legal history. OK, having a great lawyer like Abe Fortas before the Supremes didn’t hurt, but the circumstances of Gideon’s case cried out for an injustice to be righted. Despite the odds, Gideon tilted at a windmill and won.

So, next time you watch a crime drama and hear the Miranda warnings being given, think of Clarence Gideon. He was given legal lemons (an unfair conviction) but made legal lemonade (the Gideon decision guaranteeing indigents representation) that benefits defendants still today, almost 60 years later. Consider how ordinary events. people, and places can provide the opportunity for big changes to be made in the world around us. And heavens, please remember that Panama City is not just about spring break; it is a place that gave rise to new legal ground being broken.

Just WONDER-ing: Have you ever heard of the Gideon decision? How would you feel if you were forced to defend yourself against criminal charges without benefit of counsel? Can a defendant get a fair trial without an attorney?

 

 

 

 

Of Sausages And Statutes

Like sausage? I do. But do I want to see it being made? Uh, no. Something about raw meat being ground turns my stomach. I prefer to focus on the product and not the process. That’s what most folks do not only for the sausage on their plate but for the laws on the books. Making sausage and making laws are not for the faint-hearted or for the weak-stomached.

That the law-making process can be stomach-turning has long been recognized. Certainly you’ve heard the famous statement that “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” This comment has been attributed to Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of Germany, although it is disputed whether he actually said it. Assuming Herr von Bismarck uttered these words, we can assume he thought that lawmaking was one of the wurst processes to behold. (Sorry for the sausage humor; I couldn’t help myself.)

Back in my college days, I was a naive political science major. I studiously pored over the large and expensive textbooks purchased at the university bookstore to learn the details about how American government works. Of course, I already has a general idea about the law-making process  from watching the Schoolhouse Rock series on TV. Who could forget the catchy ditty “I’m Just A Bill” about the bill sitting on Capitol Hill hoping and praying it will one day be a law? I dutifully learned the steps for a bill to become law and marveled at the wonders of our governmental system.  Well, at least I did until I graduated.

Upon entering the big, wide adult world, I had a rude awakening about the realities of government. And what better place for that awakening to occur than under the big gold dome of the Georgia State Capitol? I was hired to work on the reapportionment staff at the beautiful capitol building in downtown Atlanta. I was thrilled that I would get to see our government in action firsthand.

To say that I was disappointed does not accurately reflect the effect seeing the actual legislative process occur had on me. I was disgusted and disillusioned. Boy did Schoolhouse Rock miss the mark. Sure there were committee meetings and floor debates on a bill, but what was going to happen to the bill in the end was decided in some closed door meeting. Government was not occurring in the sunshine. What happened in public was just for show. Legislators would say one thing to the press and something completely different off the record around staff. I was appalled at the blatant racism and wheeling and dealing taking place.

In all fairness, I must admit that some aspects of the process were fun. Lobbyists put on fabulous shindigs which we staff could attend and eat, drink, and be merry. Most of the staff were poor students (I was saving for law school which I’d be entering a few months down the road), so we weren’t going to turn our noses up at free food and drinks. And Coca-Cola (based in Atlanta) scored huge points by stocking all refrigerators in the Capitol with free Coke products. But, of course, there’s no free lunch. People or businesses who provide things for free have an agenda. They want you to like them and to like whatever bill they desire to become law.

It was with this cynical perspective that I recently traveled to Tallahassee, the seat of Florida’s state government. The group I was with in the Sunshine State capital received tutoring from a former lobbyist in the fine art of bills becoming law. An eye-pleasing flow chart set out what the process was. Visions of college textbooks and the tune to “I’m Just A Bill” came to mind. And, sure enough, my suspicions about the actual process were confirmed by the former lobbyists’ comments. A bill’s passage isn’t necessarily dependent on its merit. Who owes what to whom is a key consideration when it’s time to vote on the bill.

While my younger days at the Georgia State Capitol led to me being cynical of the legislative process, my trip to the Florida seat of government led me to being scared. What am I scared of? Well, to quote what my dearly departed father used to say, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”  Elected representatives are drafting, proposing, and pushing bills on subjects about which they have no real experience or understanding. Legislators know just enough about the issue to be dangerous. Their hearts may be in the right place (“I want to fix this problem”), but in some cases the solution may be worse than the problem.

Compounding the problem is the fact that legislators typically only hear from individuals with an agenda. These people may or may not be experts on the topic and may or may not represent what most citizens feel is the appropriate action to be taken. But, as they say, the squeaky wheel gets oiled. Legislators are elected to office, so popular opinion and the power of political contributors cause them to pay attention. When E.F. Hutton talks, people may listen, but when voters talk, legislators listen. As I strolled with my group through the Senate Office Building (fondly called “SOB”) in Tallahassee, I prayed that the legislators we targeted would listen to the information we offered and give it the weight it deserved based on our expertise in the area.

Do you contact your elected representative to voice your views particularly on subjects on which you may have some knowledge or expertise? Do you even know who your elected representatives are? If you answered “no” to either of the above questions, heaven help all of us. It is simply not enough for a citizen to vote and do nothing else. Being a responsible citizen involves keeping up on current issues, knowing who your representatives are, and communicating with said representatives on issues of concern. Sure, you can sit back in la la land and believe that the bill on whatever capitol hill it sits is going to objectively and responsibly be considered, You may be interested in some swamp land I have to sell you if that describes how politically naive you are.

Unless you are an employee of a meat company, you may not be able to participate in the sausage making process.  However, any citizen can (and should)  participate in the process of bringing laws into effect. Sorry, Herr von Bismarck; every citizen DOES need to see laws being made and act to make sure that the finished product is as satisfying and appealing as a freshly made sausage.

JUST WONDER-ing: Are you aware of any bills which will be considered by Florida legislators in their legislative session next month? What area of interest or expertise do you have which might be useful to help educate a legislator? Do you view yourself as a key part of the legislative process?

 

 

 

 

C-O-F-F-E-E Is For M-E

Coffee and I go way back. And when I say way back, I mean WAY back. As in elementary school. No, I didn’t drink coffee as a child; I merely sang about its evils. I can’t tell you much of anything that I learned in music class at Sagamore Hills Elementary School except that I vividly remember the words to a catchy tune about the beverage.

Yes, my music teacher Miss Booker introduced her students to the coffee song. I think she was simply interested in getting our attention and having us participate in class. However, whoever wrote this little ditty had an agenda. Young children had to be warned that coffee should be avoided.

This song was an epic fail for the composer’s objective. Not only have I not avoided coffee during my life, but I drink it despite being able to sing the first couple of lines without skipping a beat. “C-O-F-F-E-E, coffee is not for me. It’s a drink some people wake up with. That it makes you nervous is no myth.” This tune is one you can’t get it out of your mind.

In my earlier years, I was not a coffee drinker. I don’t think that it had anything to do with the song from Miss Booker’s music class. It probably had more to do with the fact that my parents were not big coffee drinkers. They each had a cup of coffee for breakfast each morning, but that was about the extent of it. My first recollection of tasting coffee is trying some “coffee milk.” My parents were not about to let their child get ramped up with caffeine, so when I asked to sample  coffee, they gave me some which was heavily diluted with milk. It was OK, but it was nothing to write home about.

I managed to make it through college without being a coffee drinker. If I wanted a hot beverage, I had a small hot pot in my dorm room to heat water for instant hot chocolate. Seeing miniature marshmallows come to life in my mug was much more entertaining than searching for cream and Sweet’n Low to add to coffee to make it drinkable. I’m pretty sure that I got the caffeine fix I needed from drinking Tab, so coffee wasn’t needed.

The key to my becoming a coffee drinker was cold weather. Being a GRITS (Girl Raised In The South), I was in shock (and pretty numb) to experience winter up north when my Air Force husband and I moved to Ohio. Actually, i started having coffee not to drink it, but for something to warm up my hands. I’d wrap my fingers around the cup and enjoy the warmth returning to my frozen digits. At some point, I don’t know exactly when, I actually started to drink what was in the cup I was holding. Obviously it must have tasted good because I continued drinking coffee.

After awhile, I HAD to have my coffee in the morning. I, of course, owned my own coffee maker and used it daily. The coffee maker was such a good friend that it started accompanying me on trips back home to visit my parents. Yes, they drank coffee, but it was of the instant variety. BLECH!! I couldn’t stomach that, so Mr. Coffee became a travel companion.

Well, there was that one time that we left Mr. Coffee behind. It was going to be a short visit, so we figured we could just run out to McDonald’s in the morning and buy a cup. What an ordeal that turned out to be. This trip occurred BC (Before Cellphones), so when hubby, who had not grown up in Atlanta like I had, went to purchase coffee to bring home for breakfast, he got lost and could not phone home to get directions. So, he, and the two cups of coffee he had purchased, took a scenic tour of northeast Atlanta, passing CDC and the VA. An hour or so later, he managed to make his way back with the coffee which was still hot. (And now you know why there are lawsuits filed against McDonald’s for people who spilled scalding hot coffee on themselves; that is some hot joe!)

I got adventurous at some point and decided to try making my own cappuccino at home with a cappuccino machine. Yes, I was able to do it.–maybe three or four times. The novelty wore off and I was way too busy to sit around sipping cappuccino. Years later, I still have the cappuccino machine on a shelf somewhere and am still too busy to use it.

Bearing children underscored my dependence on coffee. The OB instructed me to limit my coffee intake to one cup a day. No big deal, right? Wrong. I never dealt with morning sickness during either pregnancy, but I did deal with headaches when I first cut back to only one cup of coffee in the morning. Despite that sacrifice, my daughter grew up to be a HUGE coffee lover. I think that one coffee shop near where she previously lived in Sanford, NC was kept in business by her morning stop for coffee.

My love for coffee eventually branched out to coffee mugs. While some folks buy t-shirts wherever they go, I aim to come home with a souvenir coffee mug. OK, OK. I buy a t-shirt too, but a coffee mug is my first priority. My kitchen cabinet is filled to the brim with souvenir mugs, but that doesn’t stop me from buying more. I was crushed when the mug I purchased in Ecuador was broken on the trip home. I painstakingly glued the pieces together and have it sitting on the lazy Susan on my kitchen table; I couldn’t find ALL the pieces from the breakage, so it would be hazardous to pour hot coffee into it.

And, of course, coffee doesn’t ultimately come from a  can bought at the grocery store or a cup purchased from Starbucks,  It is grown on a coffee plantation. When I wasn’t searching for coffee mugs in Ecuador, I toured a coffee plantation and actually saw the coffee beans still on a plant in the ground. I purchased a bag of coffee at the plantation and reminisced about my travels when I  returned home and made a cup of Ecuadorean joe.

These days coffee provides a good excuse to get out or to meet with friends. I can run to a local coffee shop on my own, order a specialty coffee, and work on writing projects as I savor my purchase. The selection of drinks is seemingly endless and allows me to kill two birds with one stone. I can get a caffeine fix and satisfy a candy craving at one time. Who would have thought you could drink a candy bar? Don’t believe me? Try a Snickers latte (or two). If I want to get together with a gal pal, a coffee shop provides a great venue for eating, drinking a specialty coffee (tres leches latte, anyone?), and being merry.

And, hey, why limit coffee to a coffee mug? My latest find is coffee and cream Chobani yogurt. Mmmm! And there’s coffee ice cream, coffee candy, coffee scented candles, etc. Coffee is everywhere you are.

Hopefully Miss Booker is not disappointed that I grew up to be a coffee drinker. Knowing that I remember her, her class, and the words to the song she taught us should perk her up without her even having to drink coffee. I’m being perked up by writing this blog post in the early morning with my trusty cup of coffee in a mug purchased in Budapest by my side. Yes, C-O-F-F-E-E is definitely for M-E.

Just WONDER-ing: Are you a coffee drinker? If not, why not? If so, when did you start drinking coffee? Do you frequent coffee shops? If you don’t drink coffee, do you enjoy the aroma of coffee?