Friday, August 9, 2019

Jury Duty



Jean Fritz was a wife and mother living in Des Plaines.  When she showed up for jury duty in 1969 she had no idea of her upcoming attachment to history.   How could anyone?  Jean ended up on the sequestered jury that produced the verdict for the "Conspiracy Seven." And, because of her determination and bravery, she played a big role in the fate of the accused.

Eight jurors wanted blood.  They bought everything that Hoover, Mitchell and Nixon were selling.  Four jurors saw through what the government was doing.  Both sides held firm.  When Judge Hoffman refused to let the jury see transcripts, and when he threatened to keep them sequestered indefinitely, the four decided they had to agree to a compromise:  innocent of conspiracy but convicted of a lesser charge.

Eventually, Jean and one of the other jurors agreed to an interview which revealed the "inside story" to the public.  The jurors were called back to a special hearing.  While the others retreated to faulty memory, Jean and one other juror told the real story.  The criminal charges were overturned.

I heard this compelling story (in harrowing detail) on the Ben Joravsky podcast for Tuesday, August 6.  Jean's daughter, Marjorie Fritz-Birch runs the Edgewater Historical Society and she is displaying her mother's papers at an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the trial.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

To Stare or Not


I was having coffee at Dunkin Donuts with my friend David.  A woman came in with two children, probably about 3 or 4.   They ran around the place screaming.  I waited a little while and then finally put my finger to my lips indicating the shhh signal and gave the woman a stare.

She said: "What do you think this is?  A Michelin five star restaurant?  It's only Dunkin Donuts!"  I thought: "Now that's an interesting concept.  Civilized behavior is only expected now for the 1%?"

I was reminded of the incident a few years back when the owner of Taste of Heaven on Clark Street received national attention for asking women with boisterous toddlers to leave.  He got a lot of flack but I think there's still a little sign in his window describing his stance.

Bill and Marguerite quickly caught on how to behave in restaurants.  Here's a belated but heart felt pat on their back.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

He Didn't Fit In


At a time when many of us are being asked to imagine how it feels to be an "outsider" and the deadly consequences of being in that position, the Al Franken case is worth thinking about.  No, it's not life or death.  It is instructive.

Like one of his genius sketches on Saturday Night Live,  Al actually becoming a United States Senator is a dive into the absurd.  If Minnesota wasn't such a "clean" state, I'm sure his razor thin vote margin would not have held. Shortly before his fall, he wrote a book about it.  Six long years of keeping an almost invisible profile while he worked on convincing his fellow lawmakers that he could be useful.  And with his trademark chuckle, he tried to explain to the clueless when "it's a joke" applied.

Sorry Al.  It was hubris.  From the beginning, the Gods knew the joke was on you.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bad for the Game



Dear Nick Krygios:

Please don't ruin what's left of my tennis watching years.  Yes.  You have amazing shots and a killer serve.  Just the kind of firepower that makes tennis so compelling.  Yes.  Tennis is the game where you are out there all alone with every tic on display.  That would, and has, unnerved the best. Yes. I'm trying to reach you.

I've made peace with the inevitable departure of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and both Williams. When time decides their fate, I'm ready to welcome the next crop of winners. But when you aimed your 100+mph forehand straight at Nadal's chest, the crowd and I screamed in horror.  Is this what time has brought us?  No!

Nadal stayed nimble and classy.  He was able to contain his fury enough to win.
Where talent lands is a mystery.  It is always a seed.  Only a seed.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Prince 0f Fairness


Michael Lewis, in his terrific podcast, "Against the Rules," interviews Ken Feinberg.  Name sound familiar?  He's the guy who distributed money to the families after 9/11.  Ken had made a name for himself after being able to settle the Agent Orange dispute. Since 9/11, he's been called in time after time to bring resolution to the toughest cases. To decide what's "fair."

Maybe this is why:  Feinberg was contemplating the "worth" of a stockbroker and a janitor.  Both died in the twin towers. The normal model was to calculate "future earnings."  Feinberg didn't see it that way.  He was able to look at "money" and "worth" in a much deeper way which brought the compensation a lot closer.

So far, people are satisfied.  And right now, the Catholic Church has asked him to look into things.

P.S.  I love Michael Lewis' mind.  He goes as deep into philosophical discussions of the "big questions" as any professors and theologians.  The Ken Feinberg story is only part of his series on fairness.  Definitely worth your time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

On Stage


Marianne Williamson collected enough support to appear at the Democratic debate.  TV pundits and some of my friends considered her appearance as "flaky" and dismissed her as a waste of time.  I am not as biased against the "L" word (love) in politics.  If there's a better force against war and power grabs, I'd like to know.

Andrew Yang also earned his moment.  He was met with more respect.  If we are going to "make it about the future," he is the one with the most pragmatic idea: guaranteed income. It's been a few years since I read the book "The Rise of the Robots," and became convinced that AI will eventually eliminate most jobs.

The fate of the earth was barely mentioned.  That strikes me as being pretty "flaky."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Blue Nails




I asked Natalie how she felt about wearing makeup (she doesn't).  She's not against it, but said it "felt funny" the few times she's tried.  "How about hair dye?," I asked.  "I see all kinds of color on the bus and downtown."  "The Woodstock girls are into that," she replied.  She said it like tiny Woodstock was "big city" stuff.  "They consider it an expression of personal creativity.  Wearable art."

My friend Lail is adamantly against wearing makeup.  Not for political reasons.  We were both aware of that phase when "feminism" first arrived in our young adulthood.  She says: "I never felt I looked any better with it, so why bother."

I don't remember ever seeing my mother without makeup, and I rarely see myself with an "au natural" face. That just how it should be.  Thanks, Mom.

The girl who takes the money at the McDonald's window displays nails of every color.  She inspired me to get blue polish last week.  It still feels a little "freaky" but in a good way.