Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Genetics Studies ID Indo European Homeland, Route into Europe

Map of Yamnaya culture, geneticists now posit this was the origin location for the Indo European language group.

  Two new studies published in the Science journal this week have identified the long sough, much argued about homeland of the Indo European peoples, a group that includes all the languages of Europe (Basque, Hungarian and Finnish excepted), Hindi and Farsi.

(NYTIMES Article)

  Basically, two separate studies looked at different genetic materials and came to the same conclusion, that the "modern" genetic composition of Europe is directly traceable to the emigration of people from the steppes of southern Ukraine to northern Europe.

  According to the write up from Science journal itself, the critical migration happened between 2900 BC and 2000 BC.  In that period, the genes of people living in Europe came to resemble those of people from the Yamanaya heartland. (SCIENCE journal)

  The same studies also provide a reasonable hypothesis for the division of Eastern Indo European languages- the "Indo-Iranian" branch and all others, having discovered a cluster of Yamanaya type genes in the Altai mountains focused on the time between 2900 BC and 2500 BC.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Should I go with the Public Defender for my Criminal Case?

Should I go with the Public Defender for m y Criminal Case?

    As a criminal defense lawyer, I hear this a lot. In the state of California (not everywhere) there is a Public Defender system in place in each county.  In all counties, anyone charged with a felony gets appointed a public defender at the arraignment UNLESS they have an attorney to represent them.  In some counties, the same is true for misdemeanors, but in others you don't get a public defender until your second hearing.   I've personally witnessed people in jail not getting a public defender for misdemeanors in Orange County, Imperial County and San Bernardino in the last six months.

  Every public defender is different, as is every private attorney, so it makes no sense to make those kind of statements.  There are amazing public defenders and shitty private criminal defense attorneys.  That said, all the California public defenders are organized by seniority.  So, for example, you know that you are going to get an attorney at the "class" of your crime.  If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your attorney will have between one and five years of experience, and then for felonies it will be more than that.

  Public defenders typically have a much higher case load than comparably experienced private lawyers.  A private criminal defense lawyer may have one or two cases a day, a public defender will have 10 in the same time frame. Private criminal defense attorneys typically have at least a receptionist who can take calls, public defenders do not.   Which is all to say that all other factors being equal, a private criminal defense lawyer will have more time to handle your particular case than a comparably experienced public defender.

 Most people who use a public defender do so because they either can't afford a private criminal defense lawyer, because they think they can't afford a private criminal defense attorney or because they can afford a private lawyer but they think it's a "waste of money."
 The first two reasons are best addressed together.  You can find a (not necessarily a good) private criminal defense lawyer who will do a misdemeanor for 500 dollars, and there are some that will take felonies for little more.  Many criminal defense  attorneys today will take credit cards or work with clients on payment plans.  Felonies are likely to be more expensive, but again, many lawyers will work with clients on payments and will take credit cards.

 People are often reticent to reach out to their support network for help with a criminal case, but I can honestly say that having a criminal case is a prime reason to reach out for help. You should consider the "cost" of having to go to court yourself (on a misdemeanor) and the value of avoiding stress beyond what is reasonable under the circumstances.

   So, if you absolutely can't come up with any money, you will get a public defender, eventually.  If you are in that third group (have the money but don't think it's "worth" it), I think the common mistake here is equating the value of a criminal defense attorney to "beat" the case or "get the case dismissed."  This is what I call "magical thinking."   Like doctors, criminal defense attorneys can't guarantee results, so if that what you want, and you find one who will say that, you've by definition managed to hire a shitty attorney.

  The value is in the time a private criminal defense lawyer will spend with you explaining the time line, the game plan, the twist and turns of your particular case.   Most private defense criminal defense lawyers will literally take all the time you need to feel confident and comfortable, most public defenders will not, simply because they do not have the time in their busy schedules.

 Do you have questions about a specific situation?  Feel free to give me a call.

 Here is a recent post I wrote about how to hire a reputable criminal defense lawyer.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Show Review: Make Music Pasadena 2015

Hundred Waters singer Nicole Miglis

Show Review:
 Make Music Pasadena 2015
Hundred Waters
Sir Sly
Nick Waterhouse

   I'm in the middle of a little love affair with Pasadena.  It isn't so far from my LA digs in Echo Park.  It has an Arclight movie theater that is just as far away as the Hollywood Arclight movie theater and about a million times less annoying and "sceney."   The downtown strip is a pleasant meander and there are lots of proximate bargain retail chains like Ross and Marshalls for that kind of shopping (Echo Park does not have a Ross.)  Make Music Pasadena has been on my radar for several years, probably since Best Coast played it.  I've always said, "I'd like to go to Make Music Pasadena some time."  WELL THIS PAST WEEKEND WAS THAT TIME.

   There is no specialized parking for the festival.  Basically I recommend that you look for on street parking at the far end of the festival, far away from where they have blocked off the streets.  We were able to find non-metered, on street parking at Colorado and Lake, then walked to the SESAC second stage in time to watch Hundred Waters.  Hundred Waters has certifiable buzz, a record out on Skrillex's OWLSA record label, and an active manager who believes in putting in "tons of money up front."  I'd heard all that prior to the show, so I was intrigued, even after reading the "Struggles with...comparisons to Dirty Projectors and Braids" language from their most recent Pitchfork album review.  I made it through...three songs?  That is no slam on the band, who do, indeed, play a brand of music that can best be described as "digital jazz folk."  They undeniably know how to play their instruments, and Miglis has the kind of high, quavering voice that sets scribes pens alight in the indie world.  But... it isn't really a band you want to watch at a festival standing in the parking lot of a theater at 4:30 PM.

  Sir Sly played a legitimate headlining set to an adoring crowd that seemed heavily weighted with all ages ladies.  They have been working on a new record and played a cut from it that sounded like it had genuine top 40 type potential- like cross over between alt rock and active rock.  Generally speaking they seemed to have gone with a "harder" edge (within the world of dancey rock) and have moved away from the more Foster the People type sound of their past.  I was genuinely impressed, and if the one new song they played is any indication, Interscope could have a break out artist on their hands with the next record.

  Nick Waterhouse played in a cool, old timey band shell at the north side of the festival.  It was a cool spot, and it was need to see all the soul fans all dressed up in their goin' out clothes, but I'm not much of a fan of his soul-revival stylings.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Heart of the Matter (1948) by Graham Greene

Freetown, Sierra Leone, is the location of Graham Green's excellent 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter.

Book Review
The Heart of the Matter (1948)
 by Graham Greene

Graham Greene Book Reviews - 1001 Books 2006 Edition
England Made Me (1935)
Brighton Rock (1938) *
The Power and the Glory (1940) *
The Heart of the Matter (1948)
The Third Man (1949)
The End of the Affair (1951) *
The Quiet American (1955) *
Honorary Counsel (1973) *
* =  core title in 1001 Books list

  Sad John Scobie is a colonial police officer waiting out World War II in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  He's got all the accouterments that one would expect a mid 20th century colonial officer to have in a novel:   Dead child, sad wife, surly help, a shifty Lebanese merchant who is willing to help him but at what cost.   Greene's status as a Catholic novelist and- considering that every book he writes deals with Catholic characters grappling with questions surrounding their faith in the modern world- the sobriquet seems justified- means that his characters neatly avoid the existentialist dilemmas of less faith concerned protagonists in 20th century literature.

  Graham Greene is a bridge between the white male/England heavy past of literature and the multi-religious, multi-ethnic present.  He was also hugely popular, and The Heart of the Matter was hugely popular, selling more than 300,000 copies in hard back.  The Heart of the Matter almost has a formulaic quality- and I say this as a compliment- the same way that one might call a successful Hollywood film "formulaic" but acknowledge that the film demonstrates mastery of that formula.

  The formula I'm talking about is something different than the formula for the "colonial novel" of the type written by Joseph Conrad and George Orwell.   Those novels put the place first.  Here, Greene uses Africa as a minor character, with the emphasis fully on the relatable John Scobie and his moral dilemma.  His narrative also includes a twist ending and a dollop of racy sex type activity.  Which is all to say that The Heart of the Matter is both literary and entertaining, fun to read and thought-provoking.  A template for modern literature.  One thing Graham Greene isn't is cool.  His books aren't kept alive by a counter-cultural readership or read in literature class.  I would argue this makes his works ripe for repurposing, except for the fact that they are still under copyright and regrettably not in the public domain.

Cannery Row (1945) by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row, as it appears today.  Cannery Row today is a legitimate tourist attraction, even including an enormous statue installation and dozens of restaurants, hotels and shops.

Book Review
Cannery Row (1945)
by John Steinbeck

     I'm a native San Franciscan, and I frequently went on vacation with my family to the Monterey Dunes, which are several miles north of Monterey proper.   I've been to the modern Cannery Row many times, most recently this winter, when I was there for the California Death Penalty Conference.  On that occasion, we scored (my girlfriend found it) a choice Airbnb that was actually a cottage that John Steinbeck stayed in during one of his many sojourns in the area.  The cottage was in Pacific Grove, just above Cannery Row, which itself, I feel, should be in Pacific Grove, not Monterey if you are to go by the geography of the area, but I would walk down the hill and down the recreation trail depicted above on my way to the Monterey convention center.
Doc Rickett's lab was the real-life inspiration for the lab in Cannery Row.

   Cannery Row as it is today is an iconic locale, but it bears little or no resemblance to the working, Depression era Cannery Row of John Steinbeck's novel.   Today, it is a mid table American tourist attraction, then it was a gritty sardine fishing colony with mild, year-round weather and a healthy coterie of depression era hobos.  The main focus of Cannery Row is the relationship between a local scientist jack-of-all-trades who goes by the name of Doc and a group of said depression era hobos, all of whom have a healthy affinity for alcohol.

  Steinbeck was not exactly a local.  He was raised inland, in Salinas.  However, no one goes to Salinas on vacation, so the Steinbeck/Monterey affinity functions as a hometown-by-proxy relationship.  The major California based novelists of the first part of the 20th century:  Jack London, John Steinbeck and Frank Norris; were instrumental in creating the image of California as a place, but it is significant that none of them wrote convincingly of Southern California.   In fact, the California milieu of Cannery Row seems like more of a proxy for a larger "Pacific Northwest" environment than anything specific to California.

  It's hard to make the case that Cannery Row is the "best" anything- except perhaps "novel about Monterey" but the enduring success of the image Steinbeck created for the Cannery Row location is impossible to dismiss.   Cannery Row is a kind of depression era idyll, for hobos and norms alike.  Cannery Row is like a premonition of the beat era, and the hippie culture which would come to define Northern California two decades later.

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