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Matt [userpic]
June/July: New Book!
by Matt (innocent_man)
at June 30th, 2010 (09:02 am)

OK, so, obviously not a lot of chatter here lately. No questions from Jon on the priest-sex book (anybody read that besides me? I have some thoughts), and now we need question from Andrea on The World Inside, which I have not read yet because I've been in a car for a lot of June, but I'll read next week.

I'm going to go ahead and choose our July book, though:

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins.

I love this book and I've been wanting to re-read it, so we'll do that here and then next month (August) we'll draw lots again to see who picks (assuming I get multiple people volunteering and not just one person). :)

hot493 [userpic]
June's book
by hot493 (hot493)
at June 6th, 2010 (10:31 pm)

So even though I have not been involved in this group much lately I still get to pick June's book, so without further ado June's book will be...

The World Inside by Robert Silverberg

Matt [userpic]
Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes
by Matt (innocent_man)
at June 2nd, 2010 (12:16 pm)

Hey, jonsan. It's now June. Time to hit us up with some conversation starters.

Also, anyone who wants to pick the June book, post a comment. I'll give it until Friday.

Amy [userpic]
Bowing Out
by Amy (outlawcoon)
at April 30th, 2010 (07:53 pm)
calm

current mood: calm
current song: some Diego game

It's kind of funny that this realization came today, as I actually spent some downtime today writing notes about my Imprisoned Guest and Dragon Tattoo thoughts for posting tonight. However, it turns out that it's time for me to bow out of the club, so I'm just going to shelf them. Imprisoned Guest isn't even in the communal headspace anymore anyway.

A number of our last few books, both fiction and non-fiction, have included themes of rape, sexual abuse and violence. I'm just not in a resilient enough headspace to enjoy the kinds of books that other people are suggesting. It's not a problem that /you/ guys want to, but I'm going to stop reading along.

Besides, work has eaten me so hard that I've done little more than read the books and other peoples' commentary. The rest of you will hardly notice that I'm gone. :)

See you around, I'm sure.

Matt [userpic]
May Book Selection
by Matt (innocent_man)
at April 30th, 2010 (01:08 pm)

Courtesy of jonsan, our May book: Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse by Thomas Doyle, Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall.

More discussion on Picking Cotton and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo welcome in the meanwhile, of course.

Becky [userpic]
Answering the questions to Picking Cotton!
by Becky (chrisondra)
at April 29th, 2010 (10:43 pm)
thoughtful

current mood: thoughtful

My turn:

1. What did you think of the format where the two switched off writing their own sections and then had the one combining the two? Did you find it effective?

I found it very effective, especially to read it from Jennifer's point of view first and then to rewind and see the same scenario from Ronald's eyes. To then combine it and have them switch off was pretty cool too. It made it so just when you were getting settled into one side of the story, you got yanked to the other side, balancing it out nicely.

2. After reading Jennifer's section of the book, did you find yourself feeling even a little biased against Ronald even if you knew exactly what the book was about and that he was innocent?

No, but then you would have ran me out of the house if I had! In all seriousness, again, no, I didn't. I just felt more sorry for Jennifer than anything that I knew what she was thinking the whole time and that she was going to be hit hard in the future with the fact that she got the wrong man. I felt sorry for Ronald too, of course, but during Jennifer's section, it was easier to feel sorry for her and what she went through.


3. Conversely, after reading Ronald's part of the book, did you feel any resentment or other negative emotion toward Jennifer?

Again, no. In fact, the only part of the book that made me go "Wow" at Jennifer was when she hoped that Ronald would get raped in prison, which came from one of her sections of the book. I wouldn't have expected that, but there it was.


4. Jennifer's family was less than supportive during her ordeal, while Ronald's was supportive and believed in his innocence. What sort of impact, if any, do you think these had on the two over the years before Ronald was found innocent?

I think Jennifer's family lack of support kept her paranoid longer than she might have been otherwise. Also, I think it made her shift a little of the blame to herself, though that at least didn't seem to take too much root in her, which is good. I think it did make it harder for her to get on with her life. She had no one to go to.

Ronald, on the other hand, knew he had people who believed in him. They visited him, and that had to give him amazing support that helped him make it through as well as he did. The cat was pretty damn awesome too.

5. Do you believe that race played a part in the equation at all? Why or why not? And if so, how much so?

Absolutely, especially since Ronald had been, oh no, dating a white woman. As it is, I think it would be harder for Jennifer to pick the right black man anyway, even if her memory had been clearer. It's hard to differentiate, especially when you can't get close, and they couldn't risk that. When you're scared, the people you're scared of tend to look bigger as it is. The cops should have known better with the height discrepency, but again, I think race played a huge part of it. Since the assault had been done by a black man, they needed a black man taken to court really fast. As it was, it was evident that Ronald was already on the bad side of a lot of people due to his girlfriend, so that made it all the easier.

6. What were your feelings about Jennifer after she saw Bobby Poole in the courtroom and yet still insisted that Ronald was her rapist?

I didn't feel any different towards her. Once you set your mind to believing someone's your guy, your mind is going to make it out to be. Like she said, in her dreams, it *was* Ronald. Her dreams weren't trying to tell her it was someone else. She had completely convinced herself that it had been Ronald. For her not to recognize the actual rapist after that, well, I can't blame her too much. As it was, despite all the attentiont she tried to pay to detail, she still couldn't pick the right person out definitively and immediately. She had to look to narrow things down, and not quickly. That alone shed some light on the problems with the methods the detectives and police were going through.

7. Jennifer went to great lengths to memorize what her attacker looked like, and still she chose the wrong man. What does this tell you about eyewitness testimony and its reliability? What impact do you think that investigators had with the identification of Ronald Cotton as the rapist?

Well, this segues nicely from the end of my last answer. Obviously, it poses a difficult problem with eyewitness testimony. When we're trying to help, we want to give the right answer, and our minds will often try to forge that right answer. We'll remember things wrong. I know I've remembered little details incorrectly before that I was sure I was right about. I'm sure everyone has done that. It's the little details that led Jennifer astray. The cops wanting someone to punish, lead her down a path (some unwittingly), and she, wanting to be right and get justice, followed down that path until she was sure it *was* Ronald.

8. There have been about 252 people exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989. 17 of those exonerated have been on death row. How do these facts, along with the reading of this book, change your opinions and beliefs about people in prison, if at all?

Honestly, it doesn't change my opinions and beliefs about them at all, really. I've known for a long time that there are a lot of innocent people in prison, and this is the primary reason I'm against the death penalty. While I believe there are crimes worth dying for, I don't think the death of even one innocent person is worth the death of those who are guilty. I think it also makes it very hard to justify taking away basic rights from people who go to prison, like the right to vote.


9. Ronald Cotton took no time at all to forgive Jennifer when she apologized to him. What do you think that this says about him?

That he's an amazing person? And that he had a lot of time to reflect on everything, which he did. It makes him no less amazing. Jennifer's really lucky, in the end, that, since she picked wrong, she picked someone like Cotton. I also think the support of his family had a great deal to do with it as well.

Awesome read! I picked it up and couldn't put it down, except for work, until I finished it.

Matt [userpic]
Picking Cotton Questions
by Matt (innocent_man)
at April 29th, 2010 (12:05 pm)

1. What did you think of the format where the two switched off writing their own sections and then had the one combining the two? Did you find it effective?

Sure. I thought it was pretty seamlessly edited together, and their voices are distinct enough that it made for an easy read.

2. After reading Jennifer's section of the book, did you find yourself feeling even a little biased against Ronald even if you knew exactly what the book was about and that he was innocent?

Nope. There was a mention of Ronald having some kind of record, and I was curious about that, but I also know how easy it is for something that you did by mistake (or something that someone misinterpreted) to follow you forever.

3. Conversely, after reading Ronald's part of the book, did you feel any resentment or other negative emotion toward Jennifer?

Not really. I understand how memory works, and the research is also pretty clear that we don't see people of different races the same way we do people of our own (cultural biases aside). Jennifer was put through a traumatic experience, and then asked to help find who did it, but not given the tools to do that. I believe that if Poole had been in that initial lineup, he'd have been the one she picked, but the police screwed that up.

4. Jennifer's family was less than supportive during her ordeal, while Ronald's was supportive and believed in his innocence. What sort of impact, if any, do you think these had on the two over the years before Ronald was found innocent?

Holy cow. I wanted to smack her family, and especially her fiancee. How amazingly insensitive can you be?

As for Ronald's family, it was made pretty clear that they were the only reasons that he didn't knife Poole in prison. And as much as Poole would have deserved a good knifing, that would have justifiably put Ronald away forever, and probably never given Jennifer (or the rest of the world). It's a shame that Jennifer didn't have that kind of support.

5. Do you believe that race played a part in the equation at all? Why or why not? And if so, how much so?

Oh, absolutely. I think that if Jennifer had been black, or if she had been raped by a white man, the result would have been much different. In what way? Hard to know. It seemed like the police who pursued the case initially did so with good intention, but would their own biases have gotten in the way if they'd been looking for a white guy? Would they have been more inclined to believe Ronald about getting dates mixed up? Impossible to say.

6. What were your feelings about Jennifer after she saw Bobby Poole in the courtroom and yet still insisted that Ronald was her rapist?

I think that more relevant is the fact that once she knew the truth, she was eventually able to become friends with Ronald. In fairness, she only saw Poole once, under extremely traumatic conditions, and after that everything she was hearing from everyone who wanted justice for her said that Ronald was the guy. How do you argue with that?

7. Jennifer went to great lengths to memorize what her attacker looked like, and still she chose the wrong man. What does this tell you about eyewitness testimony and its reliability? What impact do you think that investigators had with the identification of Ronald Cotton as the rapist?

Exactly what the book said - eyewitness testimony is only reliable when you get it the right way. And, as Leonard Shelby tells us (and goes on to illustrate), memory is unreliable in general and irrelevant if you have the facts. I think that the investigators steered Jennifer toward an identification, and didn't take enough pains to make sure they weren't guiding her. That's human nature; we think we can remain neutral and objective, and we can't, which is why scientists have things like double-blind studies and peer review and so on. Investigation is a scientific process, and benefits from the same kind of care.


8. There have been about 252 people exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989. 17 of those exonerated have been on death row. How do these facts, along with the reading of this book, change your opinions and beliefs about people in prison, if at all?

I remember Justin Achilli getting out of jury duty by saying that innocent people don't get arrested. It's patently false, obviously. And it's not just that innocent people get arrested, sometimes people get fucked by the system and wind up doing an exorbitant amount of time for something that shouldn't be illegal in the first place.

The idea is that you're innocent until proven guilty, but I've been on a jury (was the foreman, in fact). And it's very, very difficult to prove anything. Besides which, the emphasis isn't on what's true, it's on what's admissible. The guy we tried was also under indictment for going back and shooting up the house in which he'd been discovered passed out with a knock-off AK-47, but the jury couldn't hear about that. The judge in Cotton's case disallowed testimony from a memory expert that might well have been useful. I think that most people in prison deserve to be there, just because it's not exactly easy to convict someone without some evidence. But I think that, as a culture, we need to examine our methods and our priorities.

9. Ronald Cotton took no time at all to forgive Jennifer when she apologized to him. What do you think that this says about him?

I think that it says he's a good and honest man. I also think that his time in prison taught him that nothing's easy and everyone looks our for themselves. I think he understood why Jennifer did what she did, and if you understand her motives, it's easier to forgive (I think that also may be why his wife wasn't so quick to forgive - she didn't have the perspective that Cotton did).

Matt [userpic]
May Approach-eth
by Matt (innocent_man)
at April 28th, 2010 (02:13 pm)

I'll do a post about my answers to the Picking Cotton question later, but for now I just wanted to invite anyone who wants to pick our May book to post here, so I know who to put into the pool.

Harriet of Fire [userpic]
Finished! - Girl w/ the Dragon Tatoo
by Harriet of Fire (uutyper)
at April 26th, 2010 (03:07 pm)

Finally, all are free to post spoilers as they will.  sorry for making you wait. 

wow, what a great, complex story. 

I haven't gone back to look at my questions - but here are the answers to the ones I remember:

the flowers - early on I thought these were probably being sent by Harriet still, but I did get swept away by the suspicions of the characters in the story that Harriet was probably killed in some brutal way.  So I guess they weren't a metaphor.  I kind of wish they had been mentioned a few more times in the story. 

the poly relationship - I liked how this was done.  It's a fairly familiar attitude for me.  What I don't like is the ending and the way Lisbeth was made to feel excluded.  then again, she wasn't exactly forthcoming with her intentions in the first place, and at least knowing (much better communicating) what one's needs/desires are is pretty important to a multi-partner relationship. 

Then again, the disappointing ending that doesn't feel like a good ending is really only at the first third of the story.

At the very end, Mikael mentions Aspbergers.  anyone else think this is the case?  Or is Lisbeth just a sullen girl who has gotten a bunch of crap thrown at her all her life?

discuss!

Gayle [userpic]
by Gayle (aerdran)
at April 25th, 2010 (10:59 pm)
sore

current mood: sore

It's time for the monthly questions on the current book, "Picking Cotton," and therefore I shall put some up. Before them will be a link to something relevant to the subject matter that Matt and I think is a valuable read. So we'll start with that.

http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2010/04/imagine-if-tea-party-was-black-tim-wise.html

Comment on the link if you like, but here are the pertinent questions (with a little help from the questions in the back of my book):

1. What did you think of the format where the two switched off writing their own sections and then had the one combining the two? Did you find it effective?

I thought it was very effective and I liked it a lot. Having her tell her story in her own words followed by his in his own did a lot to really illustrate the situation, in my opinion. I also think it was crucial to have her story told first so that the reader could better see where she was coming from.

2. After reading Jennifer's section of the book, did you find yourself feeling even a little biased against Ronald even if you knew exactly what the book was about and that he was innocent?

I didn't feel at all biased, but a lot of that might have to do with the fact that I'd heard about this case before I ever read the book and learned quite a bit about it by listening to parts of an interview with Ronald Cotton. I also know several people who have been in prison and know that things aren't as black and white, no pun intended, as they might seem.

3. Conversely, after reading Ronald's part of the book, did you feel any resentment or other negative emotion toward Jennifer?

It's hard to say, really. I think most of my resentment in that area was toward her family and her fiance, who I found totally lacking in compassion. I liked Jennifer quite a bit, but I suppose part of me was wondering how she could possibly be so blind to the facts. I know that she went through a great trauma, however, so honestly, I can't feel harshly toward her.

4. Jennifer's family was less than supportive during her ordeal, while Ronald's was supportive and believed in his innocence. What sort of impact, if any, do you think these had on the two over the years before Ronald was found innocent?

It had to have quite an emotional impact on Jennifer to have a family that was mostly content to distance themselves from the situation. She needed support, and she got little of that. Her fiance and her mother in particularly made me want to slap them, but I'm very glad to see that she found someone to love her and treat her right.

As for Ronald, I'd say that's probably how he got through his ordeal in prison. Knowing that you have family out there that loves you and completely believes in your innocence has to have a strong impact on you and help to keep you strong. That, along with the inner strength of Ronald himself, is very inspiring.

5. Do you believe that race played a part in the equation at all? Why or why not? And if so, how much so?

I do, yes. Just the fact that Ronald dating white women was an issue shows that. So much emphasis was placed on that by some that I don't think it would be possible for it not to have coloured the opinions of many. There comes a lot of resentment and disgust from people who shouldn't let themselves be swayed by such things when a black man has raped a white woman that it seems all they want to do is convict any black man, especially one who's had the "audacity" to want to touch women outside his own race. This feeling is more prevalent in the South, making it all the more difficult for a black man to convince people that he's innocent of such a crime.

6. What were your feelings about Jennifer after she saw Bobby Poole in the courtroom and yet still insisted that Ronald was her rapist?

I felt, really, that she'd convinced herself so deeply that Ronald was the guilty party that her mind actually saw him committing the crime. I briefly wanted to slap her, though. I feel bad saying that since she went through so much, but it was hard to refrain from that feeling knowing that she could have saved Ronald so much more pain and misery just by clearing her mind and letting all her preconceived notions go.

7. Jennifer went to great lengths to memorize what her attacker looked like, and still she chose the wrong man. What does this tell you about eyewitness testimony and its reliability? What impact do you think that investigators had with the identification of Ronald Cotton as the rapist?

The brain is a strange organ, I think. When one goes through a traumatic experience, the mind will often do its best to soften the blow by making things less clear. Even though it might seem that one is remembering things very strongly, it's very often not the case. I think that Jennifer's mind, as is the case with the minds of many victims of violent crime, picked out the most obvious physical trait, skin colour in this case, and focused on that. The fact that Ronald was inches taller than Bobby Poole didn't seem to have any impact in Jennifer's mind, just the fact that he was black. And since there was a strong resemblance before the two men, seeing Ronald's picture struck her hard.

Note, however, that when she said she "I think this is the guy," Sully reinforced the need in her mind to be right by emphasizing the word "think," making her feel as if she had to identify Ronald positively or all would be for naught. Choosing just six pictures of men instead of a larger pool also helped to set in Jennifer's mind that it had to be one of those six, even though she was told that suspect "may or may not be included." Add to that the fact that, after she identified Ronald in the lineup, she was told that they thought he was the one since she identified him from the photo, which only reinforced the idea in her mind that she was right, thus condemning Ronald to eleven years in prison and helping to make Jennifer so sure that even when she saw Bobby Poole, she wouldn't recognize him as her rapist.

I do want to note that I heard that after Ronald and others were found innocent by DNA evidence, the way that identifications are done has changed in a large number of places so that any possible prejudice or belief of a police officer who is working on a case has less impact. Computers are often used to avoid the reading of tonal intonations that might indicate preference, and investigators who are not actively working the case are often brought in to help with lineups and the like for the same reason.

8. There have been about 252 people exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989. 17 of those exonerated have been on death row. How do these facts, along with the reading of this book, change your opinions and beliefs about people in prison, if at all?

My opinions were changed more by the experience of knowing people who have been through the prison system and befriending people who are actively involved in the justice system than by the book. The book does reinforce those ideas, however. I certainly was more inclined to be in favour of the death penalty before learning as much as I have, and now I tend to try and be more unbiased when hearing about someone who has been convicted of a crime. I do what I can to keep an open mind, and I have become all the more interested in seeing the prison system cleaned up and things made safer for those who are incarcerated. The fact that rape and so many other dangers exist for inmates not only from other inmates but from guards as well needs to be changed. No one deserves to be treated that way. And who knows how many of those "hardened criminals" are innocent of their crimes? Many will never be exonerated, and some will be put to death who are innocent of the crimes that put them on death row. There's a whole lot wrong with that.

9. Ronald Cotton took no time at all to forgive Jennifer when she apologized to him. What do you think that this says about him?

I think it says a great deal about him, and all of that good. He's a good man with a strong heart, and he has great foresight to know that holding on to any ill will about it would only eat him up inside. I'd have to say that he's a man with a great deal of compassion, because he obviously knew that Jennifer was deeply traumatized by what had happened to her and had no desire to make it worse on her. I admire him quite a lot, and think that with that and all that he (and Jennifer as well) have done to open people's eyes and get us to understand that all is not always as it seems makes him (and her, for that matter) pretty damn heroic.

I hope that everyone liked the book and found reading it a valuable experience. I know I did.

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