Current Events

[TV] The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016)

Do you remember where you were the night of June 17, 1994? I remember: I had completed my first year of University, and was home in Sudbury for a visit. My family and I were all hanging out in the rec room of my Mom’s house, trying to stay cool.

Following June 12, 1994, news of Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder was fresh, and we became glued to CNN as speculation of  O.J. Simpson being a suspect transfixed the world. For me, I didn’t know much about O.J. other than from the Naked Gun films (which was one of my favourite movie franchises at the time). So when we were flipping through the channels around 9 P.M. June 17, and saw the live feed of O.J.’s white Bronco navigating the Los Angeles freeways, we made some popcorn and watched the story unfold before our eyes…which was pretty much what my husband and I did this past weekend when we watched the first two episodes of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, airing Tuesday nights at 10 P.M.on FX Canada. True Crime buffs need to get on cuing up their PVRs for this one, if they haven’t already. The show is pretty damn good.

The show begins the night of June 12, 1994, when Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found murdered on Brown Simpson’s Brentwood, California estate by a neighbour walking his dog. At the same time, O.J. Simpson is “running late” to catch his limo to LAX where he is due in Chicago. The story runs down the sequence of events as they unfolded in real life: contacting O.J about his ex-wife being murdered., his interrogation, and his wild ride down the LA freeway with his best bud Al Cowlings. All the players of the case are included, such as Kato Kaelin, Johnny Cochran and Robert Shapiro, as well as those on the periphery – Marcia Clark, Lead Prosecutor, and Mark Fuhrman, the infamous lead LAPD detective.

The cast of the People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story sort of caught me by surprise: Cuba Gooding, Jr as O.J.? Really? Yes, and it worked! Gooding played a whiny angry O.J. to a T. Then, there is John Travolta as a gaunt-faced Robert Shapiro. This was a little hard to take at first, only because – well, look at him! He looked like he spent too long baking in the tanning bed. That aside, Travolta plays a decent Shapiro. Of course, there can’t be O.J. without a Kardashian – Robert Kardashian to be exact – O.J.’s confidant, played by David Schwimmer. And, yes, we had a couple of guffaw moments watching as Ross counsels O.J. on how not to look as guilty as sin. About my only real complaint about this show is how it paraded every Kardashian family member in the first two episodes. Khloe, Kim, Kourtney, Kris…were all represented here (I swear, Grandma Kardashian was cast but ended up on the cutting-room floor somehow).

Now, I know sometimes T.V. adaptations of real crime stories can get packaged up on the “Sunday Night Movie” Cheez Cart, and true, I did PVR this show initially for the hell of it. But, I couldn’t pull myself away from this story. Be sure to check it out!

People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX
2016

I’ll Never Forget

renee-sweeney

I knew your mom before we ever met – she worked as a secretary at my elementary school. She was always so nice and friendly. I remember her telling me she had a daughter my age who attended another elementary school, but was planning to go to the same high school as me. Maybe one day our paths would cross?

And it happened. I remember the day we met – first day of grade nine math. So it went with French Immersion, we shared several classes together. Class projects and study groups…it wasn’t long before we wound up hanging out together as a group with some other classmates.

You were different from the others.  You were the hard rocker – acid-wash jeans, high-tops, spiky hair and make-up. You listened to metal – Megadeth, Skid Row, Ratt and Poison. The first I ever heard of Faster Pussycat was from you. Your taste in music was a far departure from what I was into at the time…but thanks to you, I started getting into the sounds of Metallica and GNR.

You were tall, natural and strong. You towered over me by at least 5 inches. I was always jealous of your thick dark curly hair and striking eyes. I remember you would also show off your crooked pinky fingers, that bowed inward in the shape of C’s. We had things in common, particularly to do with family life – we were both raised by single moms, had one sister, and our fathers had passed away.

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We’d do typical high school stuff – passing notes in class and the like. You were hilarious. We’d have many a good laugh. We never argued. We kept things light. You didn’t like gossip and would never talk smack about anyone.

I know in senior year in high school we sort of drifted…so it goes. We didn’t share any classes together after sharing practically every class together. We’d always talk in the halls, say hi, hang out for lunch from time to time, but it wasn’t the same connection.

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You played the trombone in high school band, and later in the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra. I was always impressed by that. Who else knows anyone who can play the trombone? I remember the night of our class grad party you said you were going to take a Bachelor’s degree in Music.

——

I screamed the night I watched the local news and learned the victim of that fatal stabbing that occurred late morning at an Adults Only Video store in Sudbury was you.

It was YOU. Oh God, NO…

January 27, 1998. You were 23. Your high school grad picture was on TV. I wished you would have been on the news because of your talent as a musician.

adults-only-video

An Adults Only Video…I asked myself why on earth were you working at an Adults Only Video?!

Then, I thought about it. You were responsible, and needed money for school. I get it: jobs in Sudbury weren’t easy to come by – I know, I tried to find work in Sudbury after graduation. It was retail…and sometimes you have to take what is available. You were also no push-over and could take care of yourself.

Except…when someone robbed your store at knifepoint that morning on January 27, and you’re in the way of the cash register… you didn’t have a prayer. All this heartache for a measley $200.

He stabbed you more than 30 times. But, as that bastard took your life – thank God – you fought him. You scratched and battled him. It wasn’t enough to save your life, but…

…Thank God…thank God you fought back…

…His DNA was under your fingernails. It’s data the police can load into a North American DNA database. They say the dead tell no tales…There are evidently no stories to tell yet as that DNA hasn’t sent back any hits, but the police keep checking. They receive tips every month.

18 years. A sketch, the murderer’s bloody jacket, some gloves and strong memories of the day are what is left.

Who was this guy and why? Was he high and desperate? Did he know you? Did you know him? Were you afraid? Was this a robbery after all, or someone out for blood because you wouldn’t reciprocate interest?

I keep thinking he cannot get away with this.

I want this guy caught.

I want this guy dead.

He deserves to be dead.

I hope he’s dead.

I wish you’d had been known for your talents as a trombonist, not as one of Canada’s cold case victims.

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Your name was Renee Sweeney. You were my high school friend. I miss you. Not a week passes that I don’t think about you.

Renee: French for reborn.

Yes, indeed. Memories reborn as this awful anniversary passes year after year without finality. Without justice. 18 years.

I’ll never forget you, Renee. I love you, Renee.

I’ll never forget.

Rest in peace, forever. ox

 

[TV] The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

jblogjinxtitle
Last week, my friend Bill over at @STCPod, brought to my attention a new TV show that has been airing on HBO Canada, stating that it would be “super up my alley”. The Jinx, a six-part docudrama was his recommendation, and he encouraged me to block time immediately to watch it.

Was The Jinx up my alley? Boy, was it ever! Being a true crime buff, not only was it up my alley, it actually resides in my alley, pushing that hobo of everything else crime related aside to make more room for the Jinx‘s time-sucking self. I binge-watched this show, and with its subject in the news just this week, everything is coming up Robert Durst. I have been reading and watching everything on this guy, including every similar late-night news exposé on Durst on competing networks. You’d think I’d be bored to death of this story by now. Not a chance.

If you are not familiar with what the Jinx is about, here’s the Coles Notes* version:

New York native, Robert Durst, heir to a fortune from his mogul father’s real estate empire, has had a sordid and suspicious history that began with the disappearance of his wife Kathie in 1982, of which he is the prime suspect (she has never been found). In 2001, he was indicted, for the murder and dismemberment of neighbour, Morris Black. Amazingly, Durst was acquitted of all charges on a self-defense plea. As of March 2015, he is up on charges of murder on the 2000 execution-style death of his best friend, Susan Berman.

At the time the Jinx was in production, Robert Durst was free as a bird. It was after he watched the drama, All Good Things, a movie based on Durst’s life that he called the director of that film, Andrew Jarecki, and offered to be interviewed+ and thus, the Jinx was born.

I am familiar with Andrew Jarecki, particularly from his other crime docs, Catfish (which I reviewed here) and Capturing the Friedmans. Robert Durst’s story, when told through Jarecki’s documentary lens, produces one heck of a yarn that gets stranger with every episode. Interviews and reenactments of the tale through acting montages, and a haunting soundtrack which includes the Eels’ “Fresh Blood,” as the title track, the Jinx is definitely a series that is both fascinating and intense. Definitely check it out!

5/5

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Dir: Andrew Jarecki
2015 HBO

* Coles Notes (also known as Cliffs Notes in the U.S.) are student guides to literature, one could buy via Coles Bookstores in Canada.

+ Yes, you read that right!! Durst actually asked to be interviewed, and might have incriminated himself in the process…can you believe the audacity of this guy?

The Cupface Phenomenon

It all started with one photo I posted; my face half covered with an extra large Tim Hortons cup (my avatar). It was a way to keep my face hidden for privacy until I felt more comfortable putting my face “out there.”

Then this past Canada Day, I posted a selfie with my maple leaf mug, just to celebrate. I wasn’t intending to create a phenomenon but, since then the tag “Cupface” has multiplied in the WP reader, growing into a challenge among my blogger friends and fellow Caught Me Gaming readers, goading each other to post pics of themselves with a cup to the face. The results have been nothing less than hilarious!

It started with Mike Ladano, then Aaron at Keeps Me Alive, Geoff at 1001 Albums and finally, Mr. 1537 jumped in. Thanks, guys, for making me laugh out loud! 🙂

I know there are others out there hoping to join in – and I encourage you to get in on the fun!

Played Hooky On My High School Reunion

I ruined my perfect attendance this past weekend. I decided earlier this year that I was not going to my high school’s 50th anniversary / reunion party. I was skipping it to do laundry and clean the fish tank and…oh, what the hell. I didn’t want to go.

It’s not that I had a terrible time in high school…It was much better than my experience in elementary school, in fact: I had friends, I wasn’t bullied, I didn’t flunk out. I had some good times…and not so good times. I got my heart broken, had some friendship fallouts and made some close friends with unlikely allies. I have no hard feelings towards anyone and generally look back at the whole experience as decent.

It’s just that in certain scenarios, sometimes you should leave and never look back. I feel like my high school reunion is one of those times.

I flew under the radar in high school: never joined any clubs except Yearbook, and was pathetically unathletic, so sports were out. I did have a decent group of friends back then…not that I really keep up with or communicate with them today. And obviously I didn’t make much of an impact on some of them because someone posted pics of me at a party from that time on Facebook and mis-tagged me as someone else. So it goes.

The friendships made in high school are thought to be long-lasting, but in my life, I knew differently. Coming from a city in Northern Ontario that had no perceived charms for youth, many of us had dreams of getting “outta dodge” and moving away, myself included. My graduating class split in all different directions geographically. I kept in touch with a few of them for a few years, but it takes effort to keep friends. If the friendship on either end is not reciprocating the effort, it becomes too much work to keep it going, and you start taking your cues from each other. For whatever reason, some friendships slowly fade into the night, until you find your long lost friend on social media fifteen years later.

Facebook has made our world smaller and less mysterious. Years after I left high school, I wondered what became of so-and-so. But, when I joined Facebook in 2007, I got my answer. There was a class reunion of sorts happening over the internet. Almost everyone from my graduating class was on Facebook. I became Facebook friends with a lot of them, and caught up briefly with them. Soon enough there isn’t much more to say except for a silent update that includes pics of your dog, and sharing that article from Cracked. This happens, as the common thread with them is High School alone. Since then, that thread has unfurled into different directions.

Eventually time passes, you’re unfriended or they’ve shut their Facebook account down. You never did get around to exchanging numbers, and maybe some fleeting polite effort was made to “hang” sometime. But you know, in all likelihood, except for a small intimate group of people, you will never see most of these people again, and that’s no sweat. We are adults now, and with every year that passes, we are moving further away from our collective high school experience. Our memories are forever epitomized in the pages of old dusty yearbooks. And to that, I say cheers and Godspeed.

 

Ban Bossy? Let’s Concentrate on Other B Words, Shall We?

Allow me to have the podium for a minute.

I write this following a YouTube that popped up in my feed of a recent campaign raised by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In case you haven’t heard, her campaign is to highlight her “Lean In” project promoting leadership in girls…and the banning of the word “bossy”.(Watch the video here.)

Photo: 3.bp.blogspot.com

I couldn’t believe my own eyes (or ears!). I had to check to make sure this wasn’t an SNL skit. Nope – it’s for real! And she has even recruited well-known public figures, Beyonce, Jennifer Gardner and Condoleezza Rice to take up the fight…all this effort to ban the word “bossy”.

Lucy being herself  (Photo: 1.bp.blogspot)

Lucy being herself
Photo: 1.bp.blogspot

Essentially, she feels that calling girls “bossy” somehow disempowers them into wallflowers. As a result, young girls will never want to lead, never want to speak for themselves, never be assertive. The message is that we need to protect girls from the word. There needs to be more girl leaders, so they’ll want to be president and CEO when they grow up. The campaign’s solution is to squelch the word “bossy” because it somehow inhibits girls from following their dreams. 

What’s so wrong with “bossy”? THAT word isn’t so bad…There are other more offensive B words I can think of that should be banned ahead of bossy, but I don’t see a campaign for those…

Why not go one letter further down the Alphabet and ban that terrible C word women get called? Seriously, to me being called bossy is low on the name-calling totem.

But, for heck of it, let’s analyze this “bossy” word as it pertains to leadership for a second.

When I was a kid in the schoolyard and some other kid was called bossy, it was usually because they were forcing other kids to do what they wanted, usually using brute force. More usual than not, it involved bullying others to do their bidding. If caught, these bossy kids got honoured with a trip to the principal’s office and a call to their parents. Bossy behaviour was discouraged. Why? You could say in childhood there is a fine line between being bossy and being a bully. By that definition, perhaps we shouldn’t be encouraging girls to be “bosses.” If there is a line to be drawn between bossy and bully, shouldn’t we instead be encouraging kids to be less of a boss and more of a leader? This is part of the Lean In campaign, sure, but I think they need to push further what it means to be a leader as opposed to what it means to be a boss. 

Maybe we should be looking at another B word – behaviour. The real world is a harsh place and some kids can’t take it. Why, instead of dropping “bossy” we discourage the behaviour it denotes and give kids the tools to cope with criticism? Mechanisms to deal with bullying and teasing? Give kids an atmosphere where different opinions are welcome without judgment? Teach children compassion and encouragement among their peers. Emphasize the importance of being bold and brave. And I say “kids”, instead of only girls, because I believe boys and girls can both benefit. I think until we get those things under control, this “Ban Bossy” campaign will go nowhere. Bubble wrapping children against a word does them no favours. 

Photo: thebeaner.net

Photo: thebeaner.net

I saw a meme over the weekend that contrasted “boss” with “leader” and it resounded with me. It depicted the type of “boss” that the world needs more of. Banning “bossy” is not the problem. Protecting kids from a word to spare feelings is not going to help them develop decent coping mechanisms in life. We can’t possibly protect them from everything construed as offensive or distasteful or even hurt feelings. Teaching them compassion, empathy, and most importantly strength of character and team-building is a good start. And in the future, if they want to lead a fortune 500 company, they’ll have a groundwork to get there.

Goodness knows the world has plenty of bosses…