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August Osage County…Film vs. play

Sometimes theatrical plays don’t translate well onto the screen.  I suspect, based on my reading of the play (I have not seen the production), that this might be the case with Tracy Letts Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County, vs. his movie adaptation.  

In the play, the first line of the prologue is revelatory. “Life is very long…” (10) This intensely dark comedy epitomizes the term “baggage” with the unfolding of every single character within the play, and Letts uses their dysfunctional personal and interpersonal dynamics to set the tone in the storyline, which drives the plot forward.  This is certainly the case in the film as well.  The audience is told that life is long against a backdrop of miles flat Oklahoma fields and cattle.  

There is no doubt that Meryl Streep lived up to her reputation, and executed a brilliant performance as Violet the cancer-laden, vicious, pill-popping, abusive, bitter Weston family matriarch (and untamed shrew), who is at the helm of her family’s extreme dysfunction.  As good as Streep was, and even with the all-star cast in this adaptation, the film has some issues.  Let’s start with the fact that the trailer sets this film up as a comedy, but in no way is this storyline comedic, in fact, it is epitomizes that worst kind of individual and family dysfunction.  It’s brutal.

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Violet, who is suffering from mouth cancer, spews venomous words in rapid fire against every member of her family–to include her daughters, following her husbands suicide.  Violet is toxic and overbearing; she is nothing short of a monster. Roberts plays her eldest daughter Barbara, who is the acorn that didn’t fall too far from the tree, also does an amazing job, but having two characters that are this “large,” seems to take away from the intensity of the other.  

Some of the themes so present in the play are muddied when adapted over into a film.  Such as the disconnect present in a family who are aimlessly going through the motions of life, and none of them are on the same page. At times, it felt contrived.  Also, the dinner-table scene goes on and on, and is somewhat stifling. 

At the core, this story is about abuse, and generational abuse shared between all the women in this family, and the many skeletons that are in their closets.

Good news!

Recently, I posted something about WriterDuet.com, the free online screenwriting program that allows you to write collaboratively, seeing all edits as you write. Whether you’re writing with a writing partner, or as a group, or working on screenplay solo, WriterDuet is a great program; it has my endorsement.  Another wonderful perk…WriterDuet has a page for outlining, story-boarding and creating index cards. With the flick of a finger, using the command key, we can go back and forth between our notes, and insert right into the script!

With the increasing popularity of WriterDuet, there have been requests for a desktop version, which is in the works. This will be fully compatible with the free web app, and will feature offline access to your scripts while saving your files automatically to your hard drive.

A Kickstarter campaign for the desktop version has been launched, and we’d love your support, and greatly appreciate your help promoting this campaign: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1721272044/writerduet-collaborative-screenwriting-software

Please check it out! 

 

 

Unintentional eavesdropping

Unintentional Eavesdropping – A Very Short Story

She pulled up in a black Mercedes-Benz convertible.  You can visualize the type—blonde hair swaying in coastal breezes, Chanel sunglasses (the rhinestones were a bit of an overstatement), sporting flawless porcelain veneers; a perfect 10, and dressed in Ralph Lauren’s newest line of active wear.  I watched her get out of her car; walk over to the parking meter, insert some coins and proceed to walk toward the crowded coffee shop that I was sitting in.  She opened the door and made her way to the counter, placing her over-sized Coach handbag and her over-sized key ring on the counter-top.  Lifting off her shades, she proceeded to carefully place them on the top of her head.  All of thirty seconds into her wait, when the barista paid no attention to her, she loudly cleared her throat and glared at the young girl (who must have been all of 18) with an expectant, irritated look.

After ordering her soy latte, she walked toward me looking for a place to park, and chose the table right next to mine – a window seat.  She sat down and put her coffee on the table and her handbag on the chair next to her and then began to unpack everything in her purse in search for lip-gloss.  Just when her lips were moist enough, a handsome man in casual attire, also holding the keys to a Mercedes and a leather folder joined her.

At first, I continued with my own reading agenda, but it didn’t take any time at all before I was utterly distracted and unintentionally eavesdropping.  In fact, I was no longer reading, but taking notes on what I was hearing.  It wasn’t like I planned on it.  I don’t normally do such a thing, but this couple was pretty hard to ignore, and the more I heard, the more curious I became.

Their conversation did not go as one might expect.

“Here’s what you can afford and not afford”, he said as he pulled out a number of multicolored coded graphs and wheel charts out of his folder.

The woman then reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper.  She unfolded it and showed it to the gentleman saying, “I re-worked my numbers and this is what I came up with, but I’m probably underestimating where we’re actually at.”

 He grabbed the paper and carefully compared it to his notes and then articulately went over a list of things she forgot to add.

“Let’s talk about the assets lost with this last upheaval.  I know you can make this work with a little bit of ingenuity.  The boat is not going to yield a profit even if it’s sold, and some things can be trimmed back.  Like your monthly spa days, tennis club membership, and the rather high clothing budget for everyone.”

He held up the color wheel naming off the categories as related to their importance.

“But, there’s no way I can cut back the kids clothing.  With all of their sports activities, school and social events, I don’t see how they can be included in this.”

Expressionless, the man leaned backwards and forwards in his chair a couple of times.  Perhaps he was uncomfortable; perhaps he was annoyed, or perhaps his boney ass hurt (neither of them were sporting any extra body fat).  Closely, he leaned in over the table and said, “If the additional $300,000 was still available to pull from, it would make things a whole lot easier.”

Additional $300,000 dollars? My curiosity was soaring!  The suspense was all-consuming.  Who was this man?  Was he a debt consultant, an accountant, a friend?

About this time there were a continual stream of sighs coming from the woman, and a rhythmical nervous tap occurring with her right foot under the table.  Observably, she wasn’t very comfortable with the conversation.

“When is the IRA money accessible?” she said.

He ignored her question, looked down at his watch and said, “Oh, hey… I’ve got that thing.”

She responded, “Oh, right…

They both stood up at the same time, he very matter-of-factually leaned over the table and kissed her saying, “See you at home.  I’d like salmon for dinner.”

The End
Copyright2013 ©CI

21st century moms – multitasking proficients

My latest feature article published in Ventura County Reporter:

21st century M.O.M.s

Masters Of Multitasking

By Carla Iacovetti 05/09/2013

“Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.”
– Marion C. Garretty

The role of motherhood has dramatically changed over the last 100 years. During much of the 18th and 19th centuries, women did not do much outside of the home. A woman’s success was measured by her ability to care for her family and maintain order in the home. She was the center of the family, and all of her duty was fundamental to her roll as the mother.
Carol Costello Casey, grandmother to the local Curran surfing family, was a full-time working mother and loved every minute of it.
“There was nothing like watching my children grow,” she said. “Nothing is more important in life than being a mother. I’ve been fortunate to have three wonderful children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and I greatly treasure each and every one of them.”
A native of Boston, Casey left at 18 after she married a marine. The young couple lived in North Carolina and Florida, and then made their way to the San Fernando Valley, eventually ending up here in Ventura County.
Though working full-time was less common during Casey’s early years of motherhood, she managed to work and successfully raise three kids. Even with a full-time job, Casey always focused on the family and diligently strived to nurture her kids.
“I’m so proud of my kids and how they have raised their own families. It’s been humbling to watch the legacy of this family continue to develop,” Casey said.


Carol Costello Casey (right) with her daughter Debbie,
who is the mother of Timmy, Nathaniel, Joshua and Taylor Curran.

Casey admits that being grandmother to the famed surfer Timmy Curran was exciting, but it did not ever take away from her love and devotion to any of the other grandkids.
“All my grandkids are the same in my eyes. Each have unique personalities, talents and abilities, and I’m forever proud of them all,” Casey said.
It was fun to pick up a magazine and see her grandson’s face on the cover.
“What amazed me the most with Timmy is that his personality never changed,” she said. “He was this funny, happy-go-lucky, normal kid, who was making a lot of money and gaining a lot of popularity in the surf world. I credit his stability to his parents — they did a great job of raising Timmy and the three other boys. Joshua works in the television industry, Nathaniel is also a pro surfer, and Taylor, who has recently graduated from high school, is also competitively surfing.
“Timmy’s break happened when surfing was just taking root and the sport was being appreciated for the sport itself — the timing was right. It’s hard to fathom that I have a celebrity for a grandson because I don’t think of him that way. He’s my first grandson, and like all the others, he holds a special place in my heart.”
“Mothers work so hard,” she continued. “I think all of the expectations that surround motherhood makes it all the more challenging to raise a family in today’s world. I admire mothers today who can juggle the responsibilities of home life, work and all of the extra activities and do a great job of raising a family.”
Even though the dynamics today have become more intense, Casey believes that a child’s behavior and how it develops in life are very dependent on family life. “After all, family life is all you have. It’s the only thing that you have that really belongs to you.”

It’s complicated …

Because most families require two incomes, life has grown a little more complicated.
“My advice to working moms is to have quality time together around the dinner table. Turn off the television, set the cell phones aside, and spend time talking as a family together — listen to one another,” Casey said.
Even though life was busy for Casey, sharing a weekly meal together became a family routine.
“I think it’s important to establish that pattern when they’re young. With the world going at a much faster pace, there are a lot of distractions today; but if a mother will make this a priority, her kids will thank her later,” she said.
While women still share the experience of pregnancy and endure the pains of labor, the life of today’s mother is complicated. In fact, nowadays a mother needs to be a multitasking proficient.


Amanda Armitage at Disney’s California Adventure with her twin sons.

Amanda Armitage is the full-time IT director for John Muir Charter School and the president of Ventura County Mothers of Multiples (VCMOM), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers support for parents of twins or higher order multiples. The organization was originally founded in October 1952 as the Ventura Mothers of Twins Club.
Armitage’s involvement with VCMOM is interesting, particularly because she never really wanted children.
“My husband and I weren’t going to even have kids, but we enjoy life and thought it would be fun to procreate!” she said.
Amanda and her husband, Jesse, are also comedians who do competitive improv at Ventura Improv Company (VIC). The couple met at VIC, and when she was pregnant with twins, she performed in a contest at VIC and won.
There are two ways you can look at having dual births: Double trouble or a double blessing.
“Finding out I was pregnant with twins was exciting but sobering. When Jesse and I saw the ultrasound together, all my husband could do was cuss repeatedly,” Armitage said. They quickly began to realize that things would significantly change — starting with dual car seats, a different car and a new place to live. The list kept growing.
“Today, we are very much hands-on parents, and Jesse is extremely involved,” she said. “I have an awesome, rockin’ husband that helps out! Our fraternal twin boys just turned 7 on March 24th, which is also their dad’s birthday.”
Even though Armitage never felt like the motherly type and did not plan on walking down this path, she’s happy with their decision.
“I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on being a mom. It’s so crazy — the minute they were born I felt so connected. No one can possibly prepare you for this kind of bonding. You really don’t understand this until it happens. Once you see your baby for the first time, you’re a gonner! It’s instinctive!”
“I love being a mom. I work full time, and I have a husband, but my boys come first. You really don’t need a lot of ‘stuff’ to be a good mom. Just get down with them. Spend that little bit of extra time with them,” Armitage said.
At the VCMOMS, Armitage likes to encourage new moms. She believes today’s moms put too much pressure on themselves by wanting to do everything right, and it can wear a person out. “In the end, that isn’t good for yourself or for your children.”
The American Sociological Review posted a recent study about the busyness of working mothers.
“Working mothers spend significantly more time multitasking at home than working dads. And those mothers aren’t happy about it,” the report stated. According to the research, which was performed at Michigan State University, a large percentage of working mothers were on “overdrive.” Sociologist Barbara Schneider co-authored the research paper revealing that the mothers experienced a lot of stress and strain from the time they walked in the door each evening.
It is true that working mothers have numerous obstacles to face. Learning how to manage the home front, corral children and stay on top of a work schedule is no easy task. Often times, moms need support, especially if they are new mothers with unusual circumstances.
Becoming a mother has given Armitage a greater appreciation of mothers. It is the bigger reason why she has become so involved with VCMOMS. “I just want to be the voice of encouragement to other mothers — those who are blessed with multiple births — letting them know that they’re not alone.”
Being a new mom is exhausting, but even more so when you have multiple births. “It’s not just exhausting, but it can be emotionally challenging. The responsibility of making the right decisions for a mom and your newborn babies can be daunting,” Armitage said.
Armitage encourages other mothers to embrace diversity and not to be so hard on themselves. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” she said.
Life-long Ventura County resident, Tori Hall is also the mother of identical twins girls. Izzi and Nickey Hall turned 4 in March. Tori is a single mom.


Tori Hall with her twin daughters.

“There is no family history of twins in either my family or my ex-husband’s, and it is safe to say I was in total shock when I found out I was having twins. I had no idea how I would adjust to that,” Hall said.
“I’m five feet three inches and very tiny. I had a lot of complications. At 20 weeks, I was put on bed rest and could not go back to work. It was a very stressful pregnancy,” said Hall. She had a medical disorder that caused her cervix to shrink during the pregnancy, and there was a serious risk she might lose fetuses.
“I ended up going through a divorce when my girls were a little over a year old. That would be hard enough with one baby, but with two … it was nothing short of exasperating, and something needed to change,” Hall said.

It takes a village

“My ex-husband and I planned on starting a family, and we were excited about it, but you’re never quite ready for double duty. Learning to go back to work and not having a partner at home was really challenging,” Hall said. It took time for Hall to find a happy medium, but she attributes any success she’s had to her “village.”
“I’m grateful for my village, which encompasses grandmothers, family members, friends, my daycare support and my ex-husband, who has been tremendously supportive,” Hall said.
Mothers today have to be more than prepared. Juggling the balance is not easy. There is pressure from the work front.
“You know, we’re supposed to be there and focused, but when your kid is home sick with a fever, it makes it hard to give 100 percent. Being a working mom is hard. I don’t even believe that women were ever made to do all of this while raising kids. It’s not an easy task. I’ve been fortunate enough to have understanding supervisors, but that’s not always the case,” Hall said. She never takes a normal lunch break. Her lunch hour consists of running errands, going to the grocery store and taking care of family-related business.
“I can’t even describe how fortunate I feel being allowed to have these two little girls.” Motherhood enthralls Hall, and she wants to take it all in and cherish each day with them.
News of the Boston bombings has been very hard for her to watch. “I can’t really watch it. That kind of sadness and loss, especially the loss of a child, is just far too overwhelming.”
Hall focuses on the here and now, realizing the impact that it will have on her kids later.
“My kids are at formidable ages. I’m always trying to teach them ways to communicate and teach them whom they can trust — like firemen, policemen or anyone in uniform like their dad, who is a tech sergeant in the Air National Guard.”
Having identical twins holds particular challenges. She strives daily to make sure her girls realize that they are distinctive and individual, and that includes her monitoring the way they dress. Hall purposefully does not dress them identically because she wants them to develop independently of each other.
“My advice for single moms — get a village. It will make life a lot easier. Don’t think you have to do this all alone. Motherhood is hard. You need help, so embrace it,” Hall said.
The mothers of the 21st century have come a long way, and there is no doubt that the grandmothers of yesterday might find the barrage of multitasking requirements a bit challenging, if not overwhelming, but there is one thing that unites the young and the old — motherhood. It is what connects all life, even in the midst of a complicated and imperfect world. It is where the imperfect is perfectly wonderful. 

Original Article:  Ventura County Reporter

Three strikes, you’re out: Voters decide the future of stringent law of life imprisonment for repeat felons

Three strikes, you're out

Three strikes, you’re out

Voters decide the future of stringent law of life imprisonment for repeat felons

By Carla Iacovetti 08/16/2012
“The law is reason free from passion.” – Aristotle

Whether one agrees with the “three strikes” law or not, it is a reality here in California. In 1994, “three strikes” was passed by the Legislature, and signed by Gov. Pete Wilson and approved by voters as a ballot initiative. While the “three strikes” law was passed as a result of several highly publicized violent crimes, it has posed a series of harsh circumstances for those who did not commit serious and or/violent crimes.

“The law doesn’t say that the current charge has to be serious,” says Kim Gibbons, a Ventura County senior deputy district attorney. “It has to be any felony if they have two serious felony convictions.”

According to the California Penal Code, section 667 (b), the three strikes law is intended to “ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.” Yet many of those who have been sentenced have not committed violent crimes.

“The law has sentenced people to life imprisonment for relatively small crimes such as drug possession or petty theft,” said Michael Romano, co-founder and director of the Stanford Three Strikes Project.


Michael Romano, co-founder and director of the Stanford Three Strikes Project.

In addition to repeat offenders facing life in prison for nonviolent crimes, the sentences are doubled for prior offenders, and juvenile and out-of-state convictions also count as strikes.

Some have commended the law as being the definitive get-tough-on-crime measure, while others have been concerned with unfair and unnecessary imprisonment. Conceivably, a man who had two prior felonies could spend 25 years to life in prison for shoplifting.

“That is not a way to run a state or a criminal justice police. A life sentence for petty theft or drug possession is excessive,” Romano said.

As controversial as the law itself are the wide-ranging studies that show opposing statistics where the effectiveness of the law is concerned. Recently, the Los Angeles Times reviewed the findings of a study on the effectiveness of the three strikes law. Robert Parker, the director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California, Riverside, said that the three-strikes law has done nothing to deter crime but has increased the state’s prison population. In fact, because of the findings, Parker claims that the three-strikes law should be repealed.

“If this very expensive policy isn’t really impacting crime, what are we doing? Why are we spending all of this money? Why are we cutting health, welfare and education repeatedly to fund an expensive system that doesn’t deliver on what its promises were?” he asked.

In 2011, an initiative for the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 was filed and approved by the attorney general. California Proposition 36 is scheduled to appear on the November 6 ballot as an initiative state statute with the hope of seeing the original intent of California’s three-strikes law restored. This will impose life sentences for dangerous criminals like rapists, murderers and child molesters. According to Ballotpedia, if passed, Proposition 36 will result in the following:

1.    Revise the three-strikes law to impose life sentences only when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

2.    Authorize resentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike convictions were not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the resentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.

3.    Continue to impose a life sentence penalty if the third-strike conviction was for “certain non-serious, nonviolent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession.”

4.    Maintain the life sentence penalty for felons with “non-serious, nonviolent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder or child molestation.”

The issue in question seems to be related to the types of felonies committed. The way the law is now, any felony can send an offender to a long-term prison sentence. According to Gibbons, the district attorney’s office is required to file, no matter what the offense. Even so, there is a process that goes something like this: Once the DA’s office files, then the defendant is arraigned in court, or in some cases there will be a grand jury hearing, and the grand jury might issue an indictment.

“At a preliminary hearing, the DA’s office will produce evidence (police and civilian), and the judge decides if there’s enough evidence to hold a trial,” Gibbons said. “We have to produce probable cause at the preliminary trial.”

If the proposed initiative goes through, those prior felons who commit nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession will not receive a life sentence, but they will receive twice the normal sentence.

A lot of times, the defendant will plead guilty if some of the priors are stricken. In most cases, judges will strike in more than one prior. For example, suppose a criminal has committed two residential burglaries in the past, and now he’s charged with grand theft in the amount of $950 or more. If the defendant has one serious prior felony, chances are he will not be facing 25 years to life; but instead of the normal three-year sentence, he will get six years.

“The judge has a choice of giving the defendant 16 months, two years or three years,” Gibbons said.

Every prior felon sentenced in this way has a probation report prepared by a probation officer. These reports are very thorough, and judges make decisions based on the probation report and the nature of the crime or crimes. The judge will know from the report what the defendant has done and his/her history, and if the person is guilty, the judge will determine whether he/she will go to trial and what the sentence will be.

“Everyone charged with a crime has the right to choose a jury or not,” Gibbons said. “Most people charged with a crime actually plead guilty — about 90 percent of them.”
It is important to note that while three strikes can present serious consequences for a felon, in the interest of justice, a judge may dismiss a strike.

Population explosion?

Is the three-strikes law causing a population explosion within many of our state prisons? Back in June of 2010, the California state prison population included 32,479 second-strikers and 8,647 third-strikers. Since “strike” sentences can by initiated by any felony conviction, a number of prisoners are serving lengthy life sentences for various nonviolent crimes like stolen property, petty theft and possession of a controlled substance. Since the law was passed in 1994, approximately 8,800 prisoners have been sentenced to life terms in California under the three-strikes law.

According Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS), excessive incarceration in America is a problem, and California is leading the parade with locking up more people than ever, especially with additional “tough-on-crime” laws. The result? FACTS said we are experiencing a “prison-building boom and rapacious bargaining” by the prison guards union, with state penitentiaries becoming the fastest-growing major cost in the state budget. The concerns have continued with consequential cutbacks on school and university funding, and the state’s recurring budget crisis.

Prison overcrowding is another concern, with the 2011 United States Supreme Court ruling that California must reduce its imprisoned population to reinstate humane conditions. With a population of 156,000, the prison population was nearly double the system’s capacity.


Because of severe overcrowding, prisons in California have to set up bunks in the gymnasiums in order to house all of the inmates.

The Stanford Three Strikes Project claims that approximately 9,000 inmates have been incarcerated for their third-strike crimes, and more than 4,000 inmates are serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes. California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates an average cost of $47,000 a year per inmate.

In his book Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela writes, “It is said that no one really knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” Because of overcrowding, inmates have continued to file lawsuits against prisons, claiming that prison overcrowding violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Along with overcrowding, there are other conditions that the courts have focused on, such as sanitation, safety and medical care provided by the correctional facility. Each prison is governed by either the federal government or the individual state, and guided by the American Correctional Association (ACA). For more than 135 years, the ACA has been the acknowledged authority in establishing measurable standards in prison supervision and providing certification of facilities after a scrupulous audit and review of proof of practice for conformity.

In California, three prisons began the process of seeking accreditation from the ACA: The California State Prison – Sacramento, Central California Women’s Facility, and California State Prison – Solano. All three prisons met all 61 of the mandatory requirements. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) intends to pursue accreditation for all of its facilities. The audits are scheduled to begin in February 2013.

“The accreditation of all CDCR facilities will ensure we achieve our goal of modeling correctional leadership and complying with national best practices,” said CDCR Undersecretary Terri McDonald.

It’s complicated

With some of the largest correctional institutions in America, there is no doubt that we have woven a tangled web here in California, and now realignment will move tens of thousands of prisoners who are considered low risk into county jails. If an inmate is on good behavior, he or she will be given the chance to serve only half of his or her sentence as opposed to the required two-thirds.

According to FACTS, “Inmates already doing time in a state prison will stay there, but since October, anybody in California who commits a new crime that is non-serious, nonviolent and nonsexual (or “non-non-non”) has been sent to a county jail instead of prison.”

A study by the California Department of Corrections found that third-strikers jailed for non-serious, nonviolent crimes were the least dangerous inmates. According to Romano, “Giving them a way out of jail would leave more room for higher-risk inmates.”

Growing concerns

Has the three-strikes law actually discouraged crime? Based on Parker’s study, The Los Angeles Times said the law is “costly and ineffective” and further claimed that it has “done nothing to deter crime despite expanding the state’s prison population.” The former state parole chairman, Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), disagreed with the study’s findings and believes the three-strikes law has been successful.

Many of those who oppose the reformed three-strikes law are concerned with issues like violating the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, criminals being allowed to plea-bargain their first two convictions, the law interfering with the flexibility of the courts and the judges, and the law adding more criminals to an overcrowded and expensive prison system.

Those in favor of the amendment believe it will address a flawed judicial system, where too many nonviolent and non-serious offenders stay in prison. The law offers an effectual deterrent after a second conviction, and the law applies only to three convictions, not marginal cases. Usually, when the three strikes law is applied, it affects those who have actually committed more than three crimes.

In its purest form, the three-strikes law is primarily about deterrence. When this law first came into play, it was a response to several high-profile murders committed by ex-felons. The most notorious case was the kidnapping and strangling of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993. With current issues like overcrowding and the high cost of housing an inmate, it seems as though a modification is in order. Last month a Field Poll was taken in California addressing its prison-overcrowding problem. The poll confirmed that 79 percent of those surveyed believed the matter to be serious. According to the Committee for Three Strikes Reform, “Most California voters see a court order to reduce the state prison population by 30,000 inmates as a serious problem, and nearly three out of four say it’s time to revamp the state’s three-strikes law.”

Original Article: http://www.vcreporter.com/cms/story/detail/?id=10092


Violent and serious felonies according to California statutesVIOLENT FELONIES

Murder or manslaughter.

Mayhem.

Rape by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Lewd act on a child.

Any felony punishable by death or life sentence.

Any felony resulting in great bodily injury or in which a firearm was used.

Robbery of an inhabited dwelling, vessel or trailer coach in which a deadly or dangerous weapon was used.

Arson that causes great bodily injury.

Penetration by a foreign object.

Attempted murder.

Explosion with intent to commit murder.

Out-of-state kidnapping transported to California.

Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

SERIOUS FELONIES

Murder or involuntary manslaughter.

Mayhem.

Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 years.

Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life.

Any other felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person or personally uses a firearm.

Attempted murder.

Assault with intent to commit rape or robbery.

Assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer.

Assault by a life prisoner on a non-inmate.

Assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate.

Arson.

Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to injure.

Exploding a destructive device or any explosive causing great bodily injury or mayhem.

Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to murder.

Burglary of an inhabited dwelling, house or trailer coach as defined by the Vehicle Code or inhabited portion of any other building.

Robbery or bank robbery.

Kidnapping.

Holding of a hostage by a person confined in a state prison.

Attempt to commit a felony punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Any felony in which the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon selling, furnishing, administering, giving or offering to sell, furnish administer or give to a minor, heroin, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), a methamphetamine-related drug, or a precursor of methamphetamine.

Any violation of subdivision (a) of Section 289 where the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person.

Grand theft involving a firearm.

Any attempt to commit a crime listed in this subdivision other than an assault.
Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Taken from http://www.threestrikes.org/tscrimes.html.

Colorado nightmare: Does the media affect human behavior?

The news of the horrific crimes committed last night in Aurora, Colorado has sent a chill up my spine.  Watching the continual updates of this tragedy has caused me to pause and “think” about how and why these kinds of crimes continue to escalate in this nation.

With last nights tragedy, I cannot help but wonder why a 24-year-old man would commit acts of violence like this?  I cannot help but wonder if television and movie violence has played a part in the promotion of these kind of acts against humanity.

As a screenwriter (thankfully I don’t write horror or thriller stories), I am asking myself if the media is playing a part in the acceleration of evil we’ve seen over the years. Does violent entertainment feed these kinds of minds, and if so can it really be classified as entertainment? If the answer is yes, then it might be detrimental to society, and no amount of money is worth promoting things that contribute to this kind of criminal thinking.

The Academy of Pediatrics says “More than one thousand scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children, desensitizes them to violence and makes them believe that the world is a ‘meaner and scarier’ place than it is.”  If children begin to think that this type of violence is normal behavior these thoughts are often said to be difficult to change later on in life.  Hence, the child becomes an angry adult.  The American Psychological Association says there are three major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e.: video games/television) children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others.

Of course, it’s not just violence in the media.  There are other reasons children/adults commit violent acts. According to one study, “The involvement of parents in what their children watch, how the family interacts with each other, what the children are exposed to in their environment are also indicators of  how they will behave and what value system they will follow.”

As a writer, I fully understand the elements that are crucial when telling a story, especially in film.  However, perhaps we are “showing” far too much.  Unlike the visuals that are in a work of fiction, a film or television show has the capacity to visually bring the audience into the scene.  It’s not entirely about the imagination of our audiences.  We show perspective and intent visually, and that’s powerfully suggesting.  Stories about good vs. evil have been around forever, but perhaps the acts of violence that are being shown in the media are really the issue.  I don’t know… as a responsible writer, I am questioning it.

The New Media Foundation has a great article on media values, listing the 12 short-term effects of media on the public found in James Potter’s book , 11 Myths of Media.

Perhaps the film/media industry needs to reassess healthy values and truly realize the affects that certain kinds of human behavior can have on audiences.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”
– Roy Disney

For Further Reading:

http://www.thenewmediafoundation.org/media/values.php

Interesting… Fox News talked about this:

Tragedy in Aurora: Hollywood to blame?

Shaked, Stirred, or Poured: Drinking Trends in Ventura County -Ventura County Reporter – Dining Guide 2012

Ventura County Reporter – Dining Guide 2012.

My latest article on the drinking trends in Ventura County! (Go to pages 12 & 16)

Internet promiscuity breeds a new kind of sexual revolution

Sensory Overload?

Local teacher’s porn star past sparks debate about the industry, teenage sexual proclivity

By Carla Iacovetti 03/29/2012

“In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.”
—Marlene Dietrich
(German actress – 1901-1992)

America has been in a sexual revolution since the ’60s and some believe it is rapidly increasing, especially with the unlimited access to sexually graphic sites on the Internet.  While there is no doubt that through the Internet, pornography has become more accessible, it has actually been a part of society through the ages.
Erotica is not anything new. A recent article published on LiveScience.com says, “Whichever way you slice it, the diversity of pornographic materials throughout history suggests that human beings have always been interested in images of sex. Lots and lots of sex.”
Even though sexual promiscuity and pornography have been around for centuries, can we hold the Internet accountable for today’s current sexual trends? While sex is perfectly natural, some believe that pornography of any kind takes it out of the realm of being natural and can open up the door for addictive behavior. In addition, the accessibility on the Internet is creating a whirlwind of issues.
A recent situation that has gained national attention revolves around 31-year-old Stacie Halas, a seventh-grade science teacher at Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard. She was recently placed on paid leave after some students reported seeing her in X-rated video clips on the Internet, and administrators at the school shortly thereafter discovered said images. Halas went by the alias “Tiffany Six”; she pursued a career in adult entertainment six years ago in San Diego.

 

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Seventh-grade science teacher Stacie Halas was put on paid leave when students discovered her X-rated video clips on the internet from her stint in the adult film industry six years ago.

 

Should a teacher who worked as a porn star be dismissed?

This incident has created controversy here in Ventura County. There are some who believe her removal is unjust and uncalled-for. This is something she did in her private time — before she was ever a teacher — and has nothing to do with her professional teaching career or her ability to teach. In a similar situation, former gay porn-star-turned-teacher Shawn Loftis was  fired by the Miami-Dade district when administrators found his sexually explicit pictures on the Internet in August 2011. The state, however, allowed Loftis to teach again in Florida. The content of Halas’ alleged porn video, on the other hand, constituted a cause for concern for some.
“We were shocked. … I saw parts of the video. It’s hard-core pornography,” said Oxnard School District Superintendent Jeff Chancer. There is a possibility that Halas is in more than one video, too. Chancer has asked parents with children attending Haydock Intermediate School to be very observant of their children’s Internet and cell phone activities.
Whether or not Halas will actually lose her job remains to be seen. After a closed session meeting with the school board last week, the board president released this statement:
“Direction was given to legal counsel regarding the discipline of a certificated employee and no action was taken in closed session. We know that there is considerable interest in our situation at Haydock Intermediate School. However, we respect the privacy of our employees and the Board Members and staff cannot comment on this matter
other than what is reported out of closed session.”
The issue at hand is still a very delicate one, as administrators discuss Halas’ future in correlation with the California Education Code.
“In a situation like this, possible consequences could lead to job termination and eventually the loss of a teaching credential,” said Stanley Mantooth, superintendent of Ventura County Board of Education. California Education Code, sections 44932 and 44933, spell out the grounds for dismissal or suspension of a credentialed employee. These sections list things like immoral or unprofessional conduct and evidence of being unfit for service.
Halas remains on paid administrative leave while the case is under investigation. Haydock Intermediate is a part of Oxnard School District, and the district is working closely with legal counsel to decide whether to move forward with a termination. Well-known feminist attorney Gloria Allred is representing Halas and had no comment.

 

Anytime, anywhere

With porn so easily accessible, is it as addictive as, let’s say, cocaine? Are Americans now on sexual overdrive? Some say no, that many Americans have always had issues with sex.
“All these issues were present before the Internet,” said licensed marriage and family therapist/certified sex therapist Jacqueline Richard of Ventura. “Pornography has been around forever, but the difference is that the Internet makes everything, including porn, much more accessible to us.
“Watching pornography can be extremely stimulating, depending on the individual. This level of stimulation can change our neurochemistry in ways similar to other kinds of excitement or arousal, not just similar to that caused by stimulating drugs,” Richard continued. “Some people are more prone to addiction or compulsivity than others, whether it’s substances such as drugs and alcohol, or whether it’s to other processes such as gambling or pornography. For the addicted, there is an ever-increasing need to increase the level of intensity in order to achieve the same effect, much like the need for more and more addictive drugs. For others, there doesn’t appear to be this need. Not everyone who views pornography becomes addicted.”
The accessibility of the Internet has taken porn viewing to a new level. Before the Internet, viewing porn was more complicated and secretive. Times have changed, however. Authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, in their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts — a book that shows a billion worldwide web searches, revealing the way the Internet has changed things — show that the Internet is revolutionizing sexual desires.
Part of that change has to do with two things: accessibility and sexual triggers. A sexual trigger, according to Phil Brewer, Ed.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and emergency room psychologist, is a commonly used term today that refers to stimuli that can trigger behavior, aggravate or promote addictions and vulnerabilities. Brewer said that when a young boy views hard-core porn, it can cause a cognitive imprinting and arousal of prurient nature.
Whenever one engages in sexual activity, the brain releases a tidal wave of endorphins, which produce a chemical high. The authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts found that online porn has changed sexual desire; where men once did not have such easy access to triggers that promote sexual addictions, now they do. “Web porn has changed everything,” Gaddaam said.
These sexual triggers may be cause for concern when considering how a teenage boy might handle sitting in a classroom taught by a teacher whom he has seen on the Internet engaging in hard-core porn.
“Young boys with raging hormones will be titillated by this kind of thing,” Mantooth said. Chancer said he hopes that this situation sends a very strong message to parents about monitoring children’s Internet activity — via both the computer and smart phone.

 

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World-renowned porn king Ron Jeremy dislikes how the Internet has morphed the adult industry and believes that there is a dark side to it.

World-renowned porn king Ron Jeremy (with more than 2,000 porn videos under his belt) dislikes how the Internet has morphed the adult entertainment industry.
“The world of porn is changing immensely because of the Internet,” he said. “We now create our own movies and show them to the neighbors. Everybody is a porn star.” He said that he also believes that no child younger than 18 should ever be exposed to porn. Few would argue that any child should ever be exposed to porn. It’s not adults, however, who are making such decisions for their children. Instead, adolescents are choosing to check various websites behind their parents’ backs.
Ben Marshall has been serving as youth pastor at Reality Church for the past four to five years, and he has observed an increase in the number of youths who are getting hooked on porn.
“Viewing this stuff takes away kids’ innocence and creates a stronger desire to experiment sexually,” he said. “I know of boys who have contacted girls via Facebook to discuss sex. They create a time and place to experiment with each other, and then they go home and never speak to each other again. With the Internet, you don’t have to feel shame. You can speak to someone boldly without any barriers. It’s creating open experimentation for all kinds of sexual experiences. Kids are being exposed to things that they shouldn’t ever be exposed to. Once a kid starts this stuff, it opens up Pandora’s box; and once that happens, it can become a serious problem that can affect someone’s entire life.”
A 2009 CyberSentinel poll recorded that many 13- to 16-year-olds spend almost two hours a week viewing pornography, and 11 is the average age at which a child is first exposed to Internet porn. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, porn may be seen as an increasing problem in young men from all cultures: “Desperate young men from various cultures, with different levels of education, religiosity, attitudes, values, diets, marijuana use and personalities, are seeking help. They have only two things in common: heavy use of today’s Internet porn and increasing need for more extreme material.”
Many of these young men began viewing porn on the Internet in their early teens, according to those who have studied the subject, and sometimes the need for more extreme material arises. Teenage boys seem to be particularly susceptible to pornography’s seductive lure. In the book Kids Online, author Donna Rice Hughes shares the following: “The male’s hydraulic sex system and the exterior genitals keep him more aware of his sexual feelings than the typical female is. His ejaculation pattern, once begun, will continue, and his psychosocial sexual appetite tends to be fully developed within 36 months after that first ejaculation. The porn market, therefore exploits this normal development of male sexuality, with the tragic effect that addiction to pornography tends to desensitize the male, such that a bonded heterosexual relationship is not only unlikely to develop, but the genuine relationship with one exclusive person is not even desired.”
In the case of Halas, the main issue doesn’t seem to be the fact that she did porn; the issue is that students discovered her. Given the amount of testosterone running through a male adolescent’s body, will a young man have the maturity and the presence of mind not to continue looking at porn once he is exposed to it? That also raises the question, how much of the burden should a former porn star bear for the choices of his or her students?
“Moral turpitude involves conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals,” Mantooth said. “This is the kind of thing that can ruin a teacher’s credibility and titillate young middle-school-age kids who have raging hormones.”
Mantooth further stated, however, that he believes that it is ultimately up to the parents to be on top of things, instilling core values into their children. “If it’s not porn, it will be violence or bullying. In today’s world, kids need to have family values of the highest caliber fostered by their parents.”

 

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Former gay porn-star-turned-teacher Shawn Loftis was fired from Miami-Dade school district, however, the state of Florida allowed him to teach again.

“Based on my personal experience in counseling,” Marshall said, “I would say that Internet porn is the number 1 or number 2 problem with high-school-age boys today. Not everyone is going to become an addict, but most high-school-age boys are having interaction with it on a fairly regular basis.”
Some consider the Internet to be a virtual sexual playground for some adolescent boys with budding hormones and curiosity.
“Adolescent boys have historically sought out information about sex through friends, family members and pornography, hoping that this knowledge will fulfill their new-found curiosity and urges,” said Alexandra Katehakis, the founder and clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles and the author of Erotic Intelligence. “But in today’s digital world, most adolescents turn to porn for answers — and pleasure — and when porn becomes an adolescent boy’s primary mode of sexual education, it can be harmful to his brain’s development.”

Changing attitudes on porn

In a recent survey on the Internet Filter Review site, “40 million Americans visit Internet porn sites at least once a month.” In 2008, Nielson Online showed that 25 percent of employees here in the United States access porn from the workplace.
Ventura resident Ryan Gleason, who works in the Internet advertising industry, shared what he believes is a widely perceived perspective on pornography.
“Many believe porn is an infringement on a private, intimate, sacred act covenanted by a creative force — God; but that is only an opinion,” he said. “I’m not sure that it’s really a moral issue. Addiction to anything is another issue altogether, and when it comes to youth viewing it, they don’t have the capacity to process and understand what they’re watching. They shouldn’t be watching porn.”
Paul, a local man in his mid-30s, does not see Internet porn as that big an issue. “I actually don’t know one guy over 25 who is not, at some level, viewing Internet porn. It’s just the way the world’s flyin’ today. … Yup, everybody’s doin’ it — women too!”

 

Too much of anything is not a good thing

Famed author and feminist Erica Jong says, “If you have too many sweets, you feel sick. If everything is allowed, you don’t crave it anymore. Explicit sex can become boring in the end — hence the theory that people have to ratchet up the degrees of porn they watch, to find it sexy — with disturbing effects on society as a whole.”
“The Internet is exactly like nuclear energy,” Jeremy said. “Nuclear energy is clean. It can actually be good, but you can also make a bomb out of it. There are so many things that can be used for good, but they also have a real dark side. The Internet is much the same.”
While sexual revolutions may continue, and the Internet is surely not going away, the fact that we are living in an age where sexual expression may be at an all-time high should prod us all to be aware of how viewing porn affects us and its apparent addictive qualities. Perhaps now is also a good time to start talking about the effects of viewing porn with our teenagers instead of seemingly continuing to ignore the issue.
“Part of the sexual revolution is bringing rationality to sexuality — because when you don’t embrace sexuality in a normal way, you get the twisted kinds, and the kinds that destroy lives.” — Hugh Hefner, NPR interview, Sept. 6, 2003.

Original Article:

http://vcreporter.com/cms/story/detail/?id=9683

Michael Sullivan contributed to this article.

 

 

Reading good poetry …

Puts me in a type of drunken stupor.  Somebody stop me today… I am fixated on the poetry of John Keats.  ‎Keats believed that there is a “holiness to the hearts affection.”  I couldn’t agree more…

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.” – John Keats.

‘The great beauty of Poetry is, that it makes every thing every place interesting.” – John Keats to his brother George, 1819