Thursday, June 23, 2005

Napoleon Beazley, RIP

More than three months after the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be executed, Texas Gov. Rick Perry today commuted 28 death sentences to life in prison for inmates who were under 18 when they committed capital murder.

The Supreme Court forced the commutations with its March ruling that executing juveniles violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Texas was one of 18 states that allowed the practice.

Perry's order starts the process of moving the inmates off death row.

"While these individuals were convicted by juries of brutal murders and sentenced to die for their heinous crimes, I have no choice but to commute these sentences to life in prison as a result of the Supreme Court ruling," Perry said.

Well, this move comes three years too late for Napoleon Beazley. He was sentenced to death for the April 19, 1994 murder of Mr. John Luttig in Tyler, Texas. At the time of the offense, he was 17 years old. The state of Texas executed him on May 28, 2002. Here are his last words: "There are a lot of men like me on death row - good men - who fell to the same misguided emotions, but may not have recovered as I have. Give those men a chance to do what's right. Give them a chance to undo their wrongs. A lot of them want to fix the mess they stated, but don't know how. The problem is not in that people aren't willing to help them find out, but in the system telling them it won't matter anyway. No one wins tonight. No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious."

The U.S. Supreme Court knew this execution was wrong three years ago, but they waited to make an example out of another case (Roper v. Simmons) to overturn their 1988 ruling that executing convicted murderers over the age of 16 was constitutional. When Beazley's case was appealed to the Supreme Court, even the presiding judge in the case, Cynthia Kent, wrote a brief asking for commutation to life in prison rather than execution. However, the Supreme Court's decision ended in a rare 3-3 deadlock because three justices (Clarence Thomas, David Souter, and Antonin Scalia) had to excuse themselves since they knew the victim's son (Michael Luttig, a federal judge and rumored to be on the short-list for a supreme court appointment).

In the deciding opinion that banned juvenile executions this March, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest.”

Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.

“It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime,” he wrote.

Three years too late for Napoleon Beazley.


Q: What would a group of Germans refer to as "a violation of basic constitutional rights"?

A: (Reuters UK)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The world's finest sunblock

Originally uploaded by mattbucher.
May I introduce to you the world's finest sunblock: the sombrero.

The other day, when New York City felt like the inside of a toaster oven, I saw a older fellow walking down the street in a sombrero. Not in an ironic fashion, but in a sincere, blocking-the-sun fashion. This made me want to wish for a return of the Urban Sombrero.

Books on the nightstand

Pretty much all of my books are in boxes right now, but I still have library books.

The Book of Lazarus by Richard Grossman
Evidently this is part of a trilogy (although the only other volume I see is "The Alphabet Man"), but I picked it up because 1) it was published by FC2, 2) it's blurbed by William Vollmann and Denis Cooper, and 3) it had pictures in it. The book has elements of that collage-as-novel thing that's been done to death in House of Leaves or I guess Max Ernst, but the really interesting part is the story of Emma Goldman O'Banion and what happened to her father. It's not great literature here, but definitely a page-turner.

Early Bird by Rodney Rothman
"What happens when an able-bodied 28-year-old decides to 'retire' in a Florida senior community?" Not much, actually, but it sure is funny. I loved Rothman's stuff in McSweeney's (his story about a rollercoaster ride consisted of about 10 pages of the word WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) and in the New Yorker (the one where he worked at a dot com company, despite not being on the payroll), and so I was very eager to see what he would write about in book-length. It's a fast and easy read, but sometimes we all need that, right?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Book Meme

Ken tagged me with this one, so here goes:

Total number of books I own/owned:
Around 3000. This includes the books Jordan owned when we got married and merged our book collections (hey, we both work in publishing--free books are pretty much the only perk). However, I've never been able to fully unleash all of my books onto shelves due to a lack of space in NYC apartments. Hopefully our upcoming move to Austin will solve that dilemma.

Five books that had a big influence on me:

1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
What more can I say? This is the most rewarding and challenging and enjoyable thing I have ever read.

2. U and I by Nicholson Baker
I picked this up the summer after my junior year of high school (mainly because I'd just read Vox) and it was so compelling that I wanted to read the guys he talked about: John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov.

3. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Everytime I think that I am having a hard time or struggling in my day-to-day life, I try to think of this book and the way it truly defines what survival means. One of the happier moments in the book is when Levi has been transported to a concentration camp in Denmark (maybe Finland?) and it's bitter cold, he's wearing only rags and wooden shoes that don't fit and he and another prisoner discover some raw potatoes behind the shed where they're working and he's sincerely excited. This is not your life, friend.

4. Hitchcock's Films Revisited by Robin Wood
This is the first book that I ever worked on professionally and truly loved. Wood is the world's preeminent Hitchcock scholar--mainly because he does not try to distance himself from his critical and personal reactions to the films. He talks about his political beliefs in the same breath as his experiences as a gay man and somehow this all makes Hitchcock's films seem more alive and vital.

5. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein
I had trouble deciding on a fifth book, but I'm going with Wittgenstein because so much of this book helped form the way I think about the relationship between language, problems, and logical arguments. Sein und Zeit is probably more fun to debate, but I ultimately don't believe that Heidegger's ideas are as fruitful or nuanced as Wittgenstein's (or maybe Heidegger is too nuanced and Wittgenstein is more straightforward, depending on your perspective).

Last book I bought:

Mapquest Road Atlas 2006
Like I said, we're moving to Austin, TX, in three weeks and I'm driving the truck down there myself. Since we don't have a car in NYC, I needed one of these.

Last book I read for the first time:
Vanishing Point by Richard J. Tofel
Great story about a NY State Supreme Court Justice who vanished in 1930. I love histories of New York and I learned a lot about Tammany Hall from this one. It's due back at the library tomorrow.

Five others to tag:

I don't even know five people. Don't feel obligated to respond but I'd be interested in hearing what Brian Kiteley and Stephen Schenkenberg had to say.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The winningest franchise in sports history

Tonight I'm heading up to that cathedral in the Bronx, the Vatican of Baseball, to welcome home the Yanks from a brutal road trip. Last Friday night must be the low point of the season for them: they played awful and heartless, practically conceding to the Cardinals before the first pitch of the game. It will be interesting to see what moves the Yankees make before the trading deadline (or even before the All-star break). Most now think that Tony Womack should go (although his speed will be missed) since he has been replaced by the cheaper and younger Robinson Cano at second base. Hopefully Jaret Wright will be back soon, although I wouldn't put it past Steinbrenner to go after another starter. I do think Yankees fans will be up in arms if they try to trade Cano or Chien-Ming Wang.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

spam and chainsaws

Even though I have Gmail now and love it, I have kept up a Hotmail account out of habit. Mostly all I get there is spam, but one thing that has bothered me about the type of spam I've received in the past year or two is that it is almost always addressed to (or includes in the subject line) someone named "Roderick Dowden." I'm sure this is just some schmuck chosen at random by a spammer to be the requisite name in the To: field, but I'm really surprised at how long "Dowden" has retained his role as the primary subject of what are certainly millions, if not billions or trillions of spam emails. "Roderick Dowden" appears to be a dentist in Indianapolis, but there is also a Roderick Dowden serving in Iraq. Not sure how either of these guys became the forged To: header on millions of spammed emails (I could see a dentist being the subject of tons of junk USPS mail because they usually subscribe to dozens of magazines and magazine subscriptions are one of the primary places direct mail data services use to re-sell demographic information, but I don't think this would automatically make him, as a dentist, more susceptible to junk email), but they are part of my world now.

This story is so scary that it just cracks me up. I mean, LOOK at that guy! A bloody chainsaw? If you looked up psychopath in the dictionary, his picture would take up the whole page.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gift Shop

Gifts for me and you from the National Swine Registry:

Friday, June 03, 2005


Evidently, I am mainly using this blog to keep track of my celebrity sightings. Fine. However, this past weekend NYC hosted Book Expo America, and since I didn't really need to be around our booth too much on Saturday, I went trolling the floor, looking for even more celebrity/"author" sightings.

Thursday evening, on our way to the BookForum party at Opus 22, we saw Malcolm Gladwell and his hair eating outside at Pastis. It's pretty much the same table where last year we saw Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal having brunch with their parents.

Friday, at the NY Historical Society, Suzanne Vega, Joe Queenan, Philip Lopate, and other geezers were in the house to celebrate the publication of this book.

Saturday, at the Javits Center, I saw Mike Wallace leaving with his publicist, looking waaay too tan for 80 years old. Also: Dana Reeve being interviewed about her husband, Major Owens by himself and lost, Andrew Vachss signing autographs with his eyepatch on, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Wolfe in a stained white suit, Nick Hornby being mistaken for Michael Cunningham, Larry Kirshbaum and Jonathan Karp walking the aisles, Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, Raj from The Apprentice sipping a martini for a photo-op, and Peter Bogdanovich in full costume.

Saturday night, at the PGW party, it was all about the John Spencer Blues Explosion.

The New York Times stoops to actually discussing the books at the show here.

If you scroll through the spam, there are some author photos here.

I saw one booth that had a book titled "Why Men Love Bitches" right next to one titled "Pregnancy Sucks".

2000 booths, 30,000 attendees, hundreds of parties: the whole experience was pretty overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

More celebs

Sunday night, Helena Christensen, walking down Greenwich Street with her husband (an actor) and daughter. She had a hood on and was speaking to her husband in Danish. She's all over the neighborhood now that she's opened a new boutique on Hudson Street (Butik).

This morning, on the way to work, former Senator Bob Kerrey. I walk right by a lot of New School buildings and he's President of The New School, but hey, I'm counting it.