Linkdump for September 23rd through October 1st

Sometime between September 23rd and October 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Well, this is a good way to keep me from visiting New Zealand:: "New Zealand's Customs and Excise Act 2018 went into effect today. That means travelers who refuse to give their phone or laptop password to customs officials will be fined NZ$5000. In addition, their devices will be confiscated and forensically searched." Not that I had plans to visit New Zealand, but this sure puts a damper on any interest.
  • The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle: “Last year, across the globe, more than 100 billion servings of instant noodles were eaten. That’s more than 13 servings for every person on the planet.”
  • Science Says Toxic Masculinity — More Than Alcohol — Leads To Sexual Assault: "Every drink is downed amid cultural expectations and societally mediated attitudes about women and power. Those things — and how young men absorb them — have a stronger causal influence than the alcohol alone. When a man feels entitled to assault someone, he may get drunk before he does it, but the decision to act was ultimately his alone."
  • iOS 12 Siri shortcut for traffic stops: Pauses music, dims the screen, turns on Do Not Disturb, and activates video recording on the front-facing camera. When done, sends the video to a trusted contact or uploads the file to Dropbox. Clever.
  • Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong: “For decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives. It’s time for a new paradigm.”

Law and Order and the Lakewood Shootings

I’m finding myself quite intrigued by my reactions as I watched last night’s Law and Order, “Four Cops Shot,” which was based loosely on the Lakewood police shootings of last fall. When I saw last week’s promos for this episode, I had wondered about the possibility of it being a fictionalized take on the Lakewood shootings, but it was soon quite obvious that this was the case (and would have been even if KING5 hadn’t run a special “viewer advisory” banner over the first few minutes of the show).

Law and Order, like many of the modern crime shows, does occasionally supplement its totally fictional shows with shows “loosely based on” real events. There have been times in the past when we’ve enjoyed realizing that, hey, they’re doing this story, or that one. Of course, between the realities of compressing events that often take months into a single hour, and the particular demands of the format, these events are rarely, if ever, presented exactly as they happened, and sometimes, part of the fun is catching where the show is true to the source material, and where it veers away for the sake of television drama.

However, that game becomes a little less fun when the subject of the show in question is one that I’m actually familiar with. Suddenly, those moments when events change for the sake of the show — the “loose” parts of “loosely based upon” — seem more jarring, more unsettling.

(NOTE: From here on out, there will be spoilers for this episode.)

For the majority of the episode, they did a fairly good job of mirroring the events as they transpired last November. From the initial shooting of four off-duty officers (but no-one else in the eatery), to the city-wide manhunt for a wounded suspect, to the suspect’s getting assistance from friends and family, to the political fallout for a high-level politician who had earlier pardoned the suspect, everything moved along more or less as it had in the actual case. The first major change was the capture of the suspect, rather than his being shot and killed by an officer on the street, but this had been expected, as a live suspect is fairly necessary for the courtroom drama of the “Order” half of the show.

However, as the investigation proceeded and moved into the trial, some relatively major changes were made to the background of the suspect and the motivations for his actions — changes that, given how recently this happened, how well-known the four Lakewood officers were in their community, and how tender a subject this still is for many people, had both Prairie and me thinking that a number of locals are likely to be quite upset by how the story was presented.

I mentioned this on Twitter last night…

djwudi: “Wow. This Law & Order was staying fairly close with the broad strokes, but just took a sharp turn and gave the shooter a sympathetic motive.”

djwudi: “I’ve got the feeling a lot of locals are going to be upset about how Law & Order decided to fictionalize the Lakewood shootings.”

…and not long afterwards, found this:

politicallogic: “NBC Law & Order Outrage! Dramatizing Lakewood Police murders. Make Cops bad guys & portray murderer as a victim. Disgusting!”

So what did they do? In the real world, shooter Maurice Clemmons was bad news. Here’s the Wikipedia summary:

Prior to his alleged involvement in the shooting, Clemmons had at least five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington.2 His first incarceration began in 1989, at age 17. Facing sentences totaling 108 years in prison, the burglary sentences were reduced in 2000 by Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee to 47 years, which made him immediately eligible for parole. He was released in 2000.

Clemmons was subsequently arrested on other charges and was jailed several times. In the months prior to the Lakewood shooting, he was in jail on charges of assaulting a police officer and raping a child.

In the days before the attack, Clemmons talked about his plan to shoot police officers:

On November 26, 2008, less than one week after Clemmons posted his bail bond, during a Thanksgiving gathering at the home of Clemmons’ aunt, Clemmons told several people he was angry about his Pierce County legal problems and that he planned to use a gun to murder police officers and others, including school children. He showed a gun to the people in the room and told them he had two others in his car and home. Clemmons said he planned to activate an alarm by removing a court-ordered ankle monitor, then he would shoot the police officers who responded to his house. In describing the planned murder, Clemmons said, “Knock, knock, knock, boom!” Darcus Allen, a convicted murderer who previously served in a Arkansas prison with Clemmons, was allegedly present for the conversation. On November 28, Clemmons showed two handguns to friends Eddie and Douglas Davis and told them he planned to shoot police officers with them; the exchange was witnessed by Clemmons’ half-brother Rickey Hinton, with whom he shared a house.

However, in the Law and Order episode, Kelvin Stokes is presented as a young man, who, though troubled and with a dangerous past, had been working with police as an informant in an attempt to make up for his previous crimes. In a much larger departure from actual events, it comes out that two of the officers killed by Stokes had been the pair working with him, and they had overstepped their authority, pressuring him through threats against himself and his mother to get him to turn in higher-profile targets. Stokes, in turn, who had been getting paid by the officers for his work as an informant, was asking for more money — which eventually became the trigger for the shooting.

So: in the real world, a violent criminal with a grudge against the police who intentionally targets four random officers. In the fictional world, a former thug trying to make good, pushed over the edge into violence by the pressure of two cops who, if not dirty, were certainly overstepping ethical lines.

Of course, the reality is that for Law and Order, the actual events wouldn’t have provided the drama necessary for the courtroom scenes. Had Stokes been shot on the street as Clemmons was, there would have been no courtroom scenes; had the cops been innocent, random victims with no ties to their killer, there wouldn’t have been the “will-they-or-won’t-they-convict” drama in the courtroom.

It seems quite clear to me that the changes made were made for the sake of the story and for the one-hour crime drama format, and I must admit that I don’t feel the “outrage” or “disgust” that politicallogic does on his Twitter account (though from the looks of it, we have extremely different political ideologies, so other differences of opinion aren’t entirely surprising). In the end, this is a fictional entertainment show, and it would be silly to expect it to slavishly follow the events as they actually happened.

I did, however, find my own surprise and initial discomfort with the changes quite interesting to consider, and I’m sure there are many who were more closely affiliated with the Lakewood officers and their families who would be far more discomfited by this episode — and now I can’t help but think a little more about all those other episodes “loosely based on” real events, wonder how close they came to the real story, and how the changes made for those stories affected the people who had to deal with the real events.

Photographing the Police

…is perfectly legal. Not that this should be a big surprise, but after the City of Seattle [settled a lawsuit with a photographer][1] last year to the tune of $8,000, the Seattle Police Department is [clarifying its policies][2].

[1]: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004002210_webphotographer08m.html “Seattle Times: Man arrested for photographing police activity receives settlement”
[2]: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/365706_police04.html “Seattle PI: Seattle police to issue new policy on bystanders”

> The Seattle Police Department this week plans to issue a new policy clarifying when bystanders are within their rights to observe and document officer conduct and when they’re interfering with officers’ law enforcement duties, a department official told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee during a briefing Tuesday.
>
> The new policy clearly reminds officers that bystanders have a right to watch or film officers making an arrest, as long as they don’t interfere or threaten their safety….
>
> It also emphasizes that police can’t simply seize someone’s camera for video evidence without cause or court order and suggests alternative means of negotiating with the witness.

(via _[Seattlest][3]_)

[3]: http://seattlest.com/2008/06/04/spd_reminds_off.php “Seattlest: SPD Reminds Officers Of Bystanders’ Rights To Film”

Best of times, worst of times

I’ve been thinking about the weddings I’ve been at or involved in lately — [James and Stacey’s][1] last month, Casey’s tomorrow, and possibly two scheduled for next summer. It got me thinking back to one of my favorite weddings that I’ve been part of — which, unfortunately, led to more problems than I ever wanted to have to deal with.

[1]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2002/06/im_back_really_.html “Eclecticism: I’m back! Really! I’m here!”

It was all about Travis and Lana…

This all happened quite a few years ago. Let’s see…I was DJ’ing at the Lost Abbey, and living in a condo behind East High School in Anchorage that I’d rented with my girlfriend Becca (though she had left me to live with someone she’d had an affair with at this point), which would put it around ’95 or so. I’d known both Travis and Lana for quite a while, Travis from the clubs and around town, and Lana — well, Lana I first met when she was dating my little brother. While I wouldn’t have put either of them in my ‘close friend’ category, I thought I knew them fairly well, and that we were decent friends. Little did I know….

Anyway, Travis and Lana met, dated, and after a while, decided to get married. Being a couple of club kids, though, they were determined to make their marriage something (ahem) ‘special’. That they did — and, even given the problems that followed, I still have very fond memories of that particular wedding.

The wedding was held at the Lost Abby, on a Saturday night, right at midnight. This was back before the Abby started on its self-destructive spiral downwards, so we were getting a lot of people in there every weekend — and midnight on a Saturday night was _not_ exactly a sparse hour for the club. I think part of the motivation was to get as many people there as possible, whether or not they knew them — but I think they also knew that when dealing with a lot of kids ranging from 14 to their mid-20’s, many of which were carless, this was the best possible way for them to have all their friends at their wedding.

Their ceremony was a thing of beauty — in a twisted, dark, pesudo-gothic sort of way. They got their friend Ben to perform the vows, and just before midnight, I finished the song that was playing and asked everyone on the dance floor to open up a space in the middle, and then explained to them what I’d been told the ceremony was going to be. Travis, Lana, and Ben took their spots in a triangle in the cleared space in the middle of the dance floor, and when they were ready I started playing Ministry’s “[Jesus Built My Hotrod][2]”, an eight minute-long high-speed industrial noisefest. As they recited their vows, the entire assembled masses moshed in a circle around them for the length of the song. Once the song and their vows were over, they’d given me free reign to follow up with a song of my choosing — so, given both my sense of humor and the spirit of the event, I chose “[Love American Style][3]” by X-Calibur, featuring the lyrics, “Being in love really sucks / being in love really sucks / a kiss and a hug and a couple of fucks / being in love really sucks / babies cost a lot of money / please don’t make me fuck you honey.” What can I say? They loved it!

[2]: http://www.last.fm/music/Ministry/_/Jesus+Built+My+Hotrod “Last.fm: Ministry: Jesus Built My Hotrod”
[3]: http://www.last.fm/music/X+Calibur/_/Love+American+Style “Last.fm: X-Calibur: Love American Style”

So that was the wedding — one that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. One of the most bizarre I’ve ever been around, but a lot of fun, and greatly enjoyed by all involved, even those that showed up at the club with no prior knowledge of a wedding that night! Cool stuff.

But, of course, all good things must come to an end.

Not too long after the wedding, Travis and Lana came knocking at the door to my condo. They were struggling a bit, and needed a place to stay for a week or so while they found their own place. Sure, no problem — I’m always willing to do what I can to help out my friends, and have a tendency to be trusting (sometimes possibly to the point of being naïve, something dad and I have talked about in the past as being a trait we share), so the two of them moved into my living room for a week or so.

A few weeks after that, they were still looking. I’d gotten a bit tired of having them in the living room, so I let Travis and Lana set up shop in the second bedroom. Things were fine that way for a while. Then…well, you never seem to see things heading downhill when you first start treading that slippery slope, do you? As I said, I like helping people out when I can…and suddenly, there were all these people that Travis knew, or met at the club, who needed a place to crash for a night here, a night there, a couple days every so often. The first wasn’t a problem…the second wasn’t a problem…but they just kept coming. The road to hell being paved with good intentions, it all seemed okay at the time.

Even I can only pull the wool over my own eyes for so long. After a while, it was a little too obvious that in addition to the number of people going through my house, there were a lot of other things working their way through. What amazes me today is that it took me so long to hit my breaking point. The drug trafficking I could cope with most of the time — usually, it was restricted to what at the time were the ‘big three’ drugs of the Alaska counterculture scene: pot, acid, and ‘shrooms. I did find it necessary to mention to Travis that I was less than thrilled when I caught word of a little cocaine having passed through at one point, though to my knowledge, that was a one-time thing. Turning a blind eye to the car stereos that would occasionally appear and disappear was probably not the best thing for me to do, though those are so easy to move that there most likely wasn’t much I could do about them.

I did throw a minor fit, however, when one day I sat down on the couch and felt something hard poking me. I reached down between the cushions, figuring there was probably a remote or something shoved down there — and pulled out a rifle, holding it by its muzzle. Even better — the fool thing was loaded. Had that trigger caught on anything…well, seeing as how I’d just sat on the ‘business’ end of the rifle, I don’t want to think about exactly what portions of my anatomy had just been endangered. Even then, however, that wasn’t enough for me to put my foot down…saying ‘no’ is something I’ve since worked on, but at the time, didn’t happen nearly enough.

The last straw, when it finally happened, was a doozy, though. It happened on a Sunday morning — I’d spun at the Abby that Saturday night, and we had the usual (at that point) post-club bodies littering the condo. I don’t know what time it was — probably not as early as it felt, but I’ve never functioned very well in the mornings, and when you’re up ’til 4am DJ’ing, “morning” is a very relative term. In any case, I was woken up by the sound of repeated pounding on the front door. It went on long enough to convince me that it was probably something important, so I worked my way out of bed and made my way downstairs. As I scanned the living room, I realized that I could probably only come up with names for about 5 of the 10 or so people scattered across the floor.

As I opened the front door, it became all too apparent just why the pounding hadn’t stopped, as I was greeted by the none-too-friendly faces of two Anchorage Police Department officers flanking Mike — a friend of Travis’s that had had a falling out with Travis a week or two earlier. They asked if they could come in and as I didn’t know of anything illegal on the premises (at that particular point in time), I said sure. They were somewhat surprised by the number of people gathered in the living room, and had me go through and wake up those that hadn’t already been awakened by this point so that they could do an ID check of everyone on the premises. I still wasn’t too sure what all this was about, but Mike cleared that up rather quickly when he went to the back sliding door, opened it and took the officers to the carport stall where Travis had parked a VW Minibus earlier that weekend.

As it turns out, that Minibus was actually Mike’s. Travis claimed that he had bought it for Mike, but that as Mike had not repayed Travis the money for the van (a staggering $50, if I remember correctly), he had taken it upon himself to ‘repossess’ the vehicle. In essence, I found myself in the unenviable position of harboring a stolen vehicle in my carport — and as the sole leaseholder on the condo, it was my legal responsibility. I, of course, wanted nothing to do with it — I had my own car already, and had no need for a stolen VW Minibus (that, incidentally, Travis had apparently spent much of the previous day attempting to disguise by spray-painting the bus a different color — a fact not lost on either Mike or the police officers, which didn’t do much to bolster Travis’s claim that the van was actually his). I turned the van over to Mike, and the officers discovered that in addition to the current brouhaha, there was an outstanding warrant for Travis’s arrest for unpaid traffic tickets.

I decided at this point that I’d had more than I could take, and while Travis was sitting next to me, handcuffed and waiting for the officers to take him downtown after they finished the ID checks on the rest of the assembled riffraff, I called my landlords and gave them my one month notice of intent to leave.

The next month turned into a very interesting one. Travis ended up being bailed out the next day, and within the next week came through the house while I was at work and cleaned out all of his and Lana’s possessions — along with a fair amount of mine, some of which I discovered immediately, some that I didn’t realize I was missing until long afterward, almost none of which was ever recovered. Once I went in to clean out the room that Travis and Lana had been inhabiting, I found that they had done a fair amount of damage, from (apparently forcibly) removing the blinds from the windows to staining the walls with soot from cheap candles and incense. There were knife marks in the banister from where Travis had decided to practice his knife throwing, and down in the kitchen, much of the molding had been broken off of the counter top when Travis had climbed up onto the counters to place things on top of the kitchen cabinets. All in all, far more damage than my security deposit was going to cover.

So, I did what I could to clean up, salvaged everything I could, and left. It was definitely a learning experience — and was a major motivating force in my finally learning that no matter how much I like to help people out, there does come a time when I have to think of myself and my welfare first and say “no” to a request for help. I’m also much better at determining when a given situation is starting to progress beyond the bonds of where I’m comfortable, and actually saying something about it, rather than just continuing to plod along, hoping that things will change. It’s a shame that it took this severe of a kick in the ass to get me to realize that, but, at the same time — I could have learned this particular lesson much later, or never at all.

A silver lining to every cloud, eh?

In any case, that’s the long and sordid tale of myself, Travis, and Lana — one of the coolest weddings I’ve ever witnessed, and one of the most bizarre (and, looking back on it, quite possibly dangerous) instances of my trust being abused that I’ve ever gone through. I’ve not heard much of either Travis or Lana over the years since then — the occasional random rumor floats through the rumor mill, but not much more than that. I’m fairly sure that they ended up getting divorced a couple years after all this happened, and I’ve heard various rumors connected with Travis. What the truth is, I’ll probably never know — and, to be quite honest, I think I’m happier that way.

Ah, well — ya live, ya learn, so it goes, c’est la vie, que sera sera, and innumerable other cliches.

I’m still here, and in my world — that’s what counts.