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Spaghetti and Positivity

Let’s just keep it going. Valentine’s Day again. Can you feel the love? Not so much? Come on! All right… on with the show. But I hope you can still feel the love!

I am going to tell you one of my weaknesses… it’s spaghetti.

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There are some things that I can avoid eating, but I find myself yielding to the temptation of spaghetti and casting aside all concerns of weight gain. And that’s where I found myself last weekend… on a spaghetti mission!

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And not just any mission. My wife and I were headed to Joe’s Inn for their spaghetti. As we walked in the door, we found several people standing and seated. All waiting for a table. The hostess/waiter walked up to us and asked “how many in your party?”. Then she said “A few tables are about to leave and it should only be a few minutes”.

I noticed that she said the same thing to a few more people that came in, right after us. No one left the restaurant. We waited a bit and no one left. All because we were greeted positively and given “hope”.

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I know I am getting carried away with the spaghetti pictures, but it was a reminder to me about the importance of attitude, even in this restaurant stop.

Years ago, attorney John Morgan in Florida told me that his most important employee at his law firm was his receptionist. What do people think when they call the firm. Just like walking in to a restaurant. The difference between waiting and walking out the door.

Yesterday, I spoke to a lawyer at our firm who told me about a case that he is working on right now. The lady had previously been represented by another local law firm on a prior injury case. Now, she has another injury, but this one is tremendously significant with high medical bills and a multi-million dollar insurance policy. That’s code for… it is a big big case.

Why did she call us? Well, she thought about going back to the firm that represented her on her first case. At the same time, she just happened to see our commercial. Couple that with the fact that she was not exactly thrilled with her last case.

Thankfully, our intake was friendly. Then, she spoke to a lawyer here that was helpful. She decided to hire us. As John Morgan said, you can always find lawyers, but it’s hard to find people who care. And that’s the importance of Team at the firm. It makes me want to say thank you every day, to those who work here at the firm. No different than… a table will be ready shortly. Instead of not caring and just saying, “there will be a 30 minute wait”.

And yes, for pic o’ day, one more pasta mention. Is it wrong to have spaghetti for breakfast? How about if it’s just a side?

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A Meeting… Plus School Pictures

I have made a personal observation about Our blog. Usually I get to Wednesday and I find myself a little behind, a little bit scrambling and then I find myself posting pictures quickly for Our Blog. And here we are on Wednesday.

I thought I would post a couple today that just made me laugh. One I saw on Instagram, and another on Facebook. By the way, I always appreciate pictures for the blog, if you want to send one to me at Joel@JoelBieber.com. (Yes…shameless picture begging!) I promise to give credit for the laughs!

What do you think of these? First, meetings make me laugh anyway. Right?

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And last, school pictures are classics anyway and this teacher took it to a new level!

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It’s going to be a great Wednesday… I feel it! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Science-Prophecy-Technology?

First, and unrelated to the blog, I know that you are wondering what I think of the Michelle Obama portrait that was unveiled yesterday at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

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Well, I think that Ben Shapiro might have captured my thoughts with his tweet.

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But I digress!

If you look at the title of the blog… it must be getting crazy! Although,  this blog mixes a little bit of conspiracy theory with a little bit of Science/technology?

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In Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift described the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. He gave their size and speeds of rotation. This was more than a hundred years before either moon was discovered! Was he “simply” a Martian? Did he just randomly guess it. Was it because he called the Psychic Network. Or is this the explanation? (Here) (Here’s a hint, maybe someone had written about moons in the 1600’s and it was just a random writing)

In Wall Street, Gordon Gecko said that “the most valuable commodity I know is information“. So here’s an article from USA Today titled “You are being tracked. Deal with it“. It is worth reading in it’s entirety, but I will give you a sampling . It’s why you might be talking about buying something from Best Buy... and then an ad pops up on your iPad with a Best Buy discount. Is your iPad really that wicked smart?

As the article indicates, your mobile phone already tracks every move you make, thanks to GPS and the location tracking feature on most apps. When you surf online on your computer, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others know which websites you went to, how long you spent there, what you clicked on, with whom you interacted with, which stores you spent money with and more.

The article goes on to discuss TV snooping that obviously includes tracking what you are watching and storing. Plus, your TV can probably hear your conversations. Just an interesting “throw-in”. I encourage you to read this reporter’s take on technology and how it affects us. What do you think is out there next?

And for pic o’ day… more information might not always be good?

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When the Jury Does Not Show Up!

Here we are… it’s Monday! Is this how you felt this morning?

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At the beginning of every jury trial, I always start by thanking each jury member for taking the time to be there. I sometimes wonder if they think that it is just my memorized introduction. They would not think that, if they saw Sunday’s edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The article (here) is titled, “Jury duty no-shows in Chesterfield are causing trial delays – now the no-shows may get fined, too”.

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But here’s what the reporter is saying.  There were 373 summoned Chesterfield residents who initially failed to appear for jury duty in 2017 and January, 2018. Ultimately, 103 showed up to explain to the judge why they failed to report for jury duty. So far, the court has entered dollar judgments against 24 people. Some of those judgments are as high as $200.

I have previously blogged about having a trial continued in Chesapeake, Virginia, because they did not have enough jurors show up for court.  In Chesterfield, the no-shows are a cause of growing concern in Chesterfield. Court personnel reports having to sometimes scramble to find enough people to seat juries. One November jury trial was canceled because of no-shows.

In the article, Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard was quoted as noting that, “It’s a huge problem. It really delays justice.” He also went on to discuss that some Chesterfield’s circuit judges have indicated they may want him to send deputies to pick up prospective jurors from their homes or workplaces, if enough don’t show up for jury duty.

The Henrico Chief Judge has indicated they they are fortunately not having the same issue. “We just have not had a problem,” said Chief Henrico Circuit Judge James Yoffy, “We do have a good system out here.” Petersburg Circuit Court recorded the third-highest number of juror absences in the region — 312.

Just a quick note on the process from our end. We set a court date that is sometimes almost a year away. Then, we make arrangements with witnesses and send out subpoenas. As to doctors who are going to testify, we subpoena them and then sometimes are also required to pay them a NON-REFUNDABLE trial testimony retainer payment.

If it is a very busy doctor in a specialized area of medicine, that retainer could be $5000-$10,000. Getting on their schedules and then paying large retainers to doctors is expected. Then… you truly hope that all scheduling will work and that everyone will show up, so the trial can go forward. Delay is normally good for the defense because it means that the defendant can put off responsibility for the harms, for a little longer.

Unfortunately, if a trial is continued, it’s not just a matter of showing up the next day. Those days are already pre-scheduled.  It’s once again trying to get back on the Court’s docket. It usually means going downstairs to the Clerk’s office and hoping to get back on a little sooner than it originally took to schedule.

But… those non-refundable retainers to the doctors are usually gone. For the next court date, it takes more non-refundable retainers.

That’s why my beginning remarks to jurors are truly from a place of thankfulness! Even though this is how some might be thinking:

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And for pic o’ day…

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Justice in the Stadium Basement

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Plus, laughter is good!

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Ok… I know! That is a mean way to start the blog… if you happen to be a Cowboys fan. But it really does tie in to Our Blog today. I promise.

And by the way, the other day I was watching highlights on the NFL Network and heard the voice of Pat Summerall. It made me feel nostalgic. Kinda made me want to go to a store and “Tell them Pat Summerall sent me”.

I am sure there are some who have no idea who Pat Summerall was. Or why I would be wanting to go to a store and say “Tell them Pat Summerall sent me”. I might as well be writing about  meeting family at the airport gate or listening to an eight track tape. And yes, there was something called yellow page advertising. That went out right around the time CDs and cassette tapes were packed in storage. But I digress.

This is really about the Philadelphia Eagles and their old football stadium… and a courthouse in the basement.

Of course, there used to be funny pictures about Eagles fans that no longer apply. The glory of winning.

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But they are still funny. So back to our story about justice at the stadium.

We travel to Philadelphia, when they played at Vet stadium. As “legend goes”, Eagles fans were already known for getting out of hand. These were the same fans who had booed Santa Claus and bombarded him with snowballs in 1968. (Here) Of course, they are also the same fans who obviously thought that being excited about winning the Super Bowl meant that it was ok to overturn cars and set fires in the middle of the street. I have never felt like celebrating like that, but maybe it’s just me.

On a Monday Night Football game against the 49ers in 1998, there were approximately 60 fistfights in the stands. Management and ownership had tried to stop the craziness by stopping beer sales in the 4th quarter and providing more security. Nothing was working. It was time to try something new.

Ownership decided to install a courtroom and jail on the premises, in the basement of the stadium. The fans, even by Philadelphia standards, were getting out of hand. On the opening day of this new “justice in the basement”, 20 fans were “processed”.

The way it worked, fans who were breaking the law at the game were taken to Eagles Court to see a judge immediately. They were usually caught in the act of some kind of drunkenness fighting, and basically forced to a guilty plea that led to a fine, somewhere between $150-$300 and/or community service.

More serious crimes would lead to serious criminal charges and court dates. Because it was considered a real court with real justice and law, those who wished to plead not guilty or request a lawyer would also be assigned a court date at the courthouse.

As the story goes, the very first person brought before the judge because of drunkenness in public, went through the process of a hearing/trial. After the judge heard the evidence of the conduct, he asked the man if he had anything to say before he would render his finding and possible sentencing.

The man was clearly drunk and reportedly rocking back and forth. There was even a question about whether he would remember this hearing the next day.

But, he obviously heard the judge. He paused momentarily before answering. The judge asked again, “Sir? Is there anything you would like me to consider or something you want to say?”. The man leaned forward and all of a sudden blurted out, “Troy Aikman is a fa**ot“”. Of course, he said it without stars!

And that started “justice” at the stadium. No word on whether a judge, who was probably an Eagles fan, was influenced by the verbal attack on the Cowboys quarterback.

And finally, for pic o’ day, I am staying with the football theme. This was posted Zach Schwartz. He noticed that a Red Robin cake somehow looks like the coach, Rob Ryan:

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Punishment Punishment??

I could write about Ed… with cherries on his head. What? There are just some things that are difficult to explain. For instance, in 2016, Americans spent a reported $5.3 million dollars buying U.S. flags… that were made in China. Things that make you go hmmmm!

This blog is about punishment legislation in Virginia. Legislator thinking is the confusing part. And I will present some thoughts, but I cannot promise that I can explain it. Of course, you have to remember what they say about the value of free… and that includes free blogging.

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So here we go. FIGHT THROUGH IT WITH ME!

The headline says, “SB 895 Punitive damages; raises cap from $350,000 to $500,000“. In Virginia, this legislative session had a Senate bill that was introduced to increase punitive damages from $350K to $600K. Then, it was amended to an increase to $500K instead.

It “sailed” through the Virginia Senate committee by a vote 24-15. The question is, “why would someone vote yes or no for an increase in punitive damages?”. Here’s how the voting of the senators was registered.

YEAS–Barker, Chafin, Chase, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Obenshain, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Stanley, Stuart, Surovell, Vogel, Wexton–24.

NAYS–Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Wagner–15

It it now headed to the Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee vote, before heading to the full floor. But again, why would someone be against punishment damages.

Just a couple of thoughts. The punitive damage amount has not been increased in Virginia in 30 years. Insurance is required to cover the punitive damage verdict, if such is awarded by a jury and there is enough insurance to cover it. Also, there is a very high legal standard to meet, to get punitive damages to a jury. Otherwise, a judge will strike it from the case.

So again… what makes a legislator vote against or for it.

I think that those against the punitive damage increase, view it as an issue that is related to being pro-business. If you vote against it you must be helping Virginia in bringing more new businesses to the Commonwealth. Also, you are keeping insurance rates down, because you are helping to keep verdicts down. Verdicts that insurance would otherwise have to pay. Does that sound like good logic?

I think you probably know where I am leaning, but I will say that I am all for bringing new businesses to Virginia; and I do want insurance rates to be lower. In the coming days, I will have some follow-up on the insurance rate issue. Believe me! I want lower rates!

Now here is what we know. When you are starting a business in Virginia or you are thinking about coming to Virginia to do business, you are not asking anyone, “Do you know how much I will have to pay in punitive damages?”. Why? Because no one believes that they will do such acts that are so egregious, that they will be responsible for punishment damages. No one asks “I wonder what will happen when I drive drunk the next 13 nights“.

Punishment damages also serve to protect Virginia citizens. We do not want companies coming to Virginia and intentionally hurting its citizens with their conduct or their products. Remember, it’s not about doing something that causes injury with a mistake or accident… it’s about causing harms with reckless disregard. The legal term includes “willful and wanton” which basically means a conscious or intentional act. That’s why a legislator should be protecting Virginia citizens.

I look at those legislators who have voted “no” and I think, “why don’t they care about their constituents?“. Do they also want to protect drunk drivers?

Now that probably seems a bit harsh. But, I am guessing they do not even realize why they are voting against an increase, for something that has been in effect for 30 years. These same legislators are probably not telling Dominion Power to roll back rates to 1980.

A business who does such bad intentional acts should not be able to get away with it, by simply being responsible for $350K. That is nothing to many businesses. Otherwise, and they can just factor bad behavior into their budget.

As to the insurance increase; if a policy is on an individual, they only have to cover the amount of coverage that is written. In Virginia, a minimum policy is $25K. If it is a business, then typically there are assets to cover a verdict. In the instance when there is coverage… they have already charged significant premiums to cover these insurance amounts. So there should be no increase.

Have I convinced you either way? Well, let’s just all hope that we do not deal with people or businesses that commit such acts that are even worthy of consideration for a punishment damage verdict. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what the House thinks about this issue and whether the increase will ultimately become law.

On a different note for pic o’ day… this can be explained!

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Anniversary of Justice

I feel like I need to at least mention the Super Bowl. For some reason, it always seems to give me an excuse to eat things that I normally would not eat.

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All across America, people refused to step on the scale this morning.

I saw that a listing of searches on google during the Super Bowl included a lot of “Who is Justin Timberlake?” Or maybe that was just the “Selfie Kid”!  That made me laugh.

That game was truly crazy exciting. The streets of Philadelphia were filled with celebration! Now to our blog topic.

This is about the trial of Brian De La Beckwith. It’s important because on this day in 1994, he was convicted of killing Medgar Wiley Evers. (History.com) The story that includes the two prior trials will make you shake your head at justice then, in Mississippi.

Medgar Evers (Wikipedia) was a civil rights activist in Mississippi and became that state’s field secretary for the NAACP. (the first NAACP field secretary in the south) He was a World War II veteran who had participated in the Normandy invasion.

After the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the opinion of Brown v. Board of Education that held that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers challenged the segregation of the University of Mississippi by applying to their law school. Despite the Supreme Court decision, he was still denied admission because of his race.

Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision and in response to the opinion, local whites founded the White Citizens’ Council in Mississippi. It was their goal to resist the integration of schools and facilities.

In 1962, Evers helped James Meredith become the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi. Evers was becoming more known for his efforts to combat segregation, and he received numerous threats, with several attempts being made on his life.

By the summer of 1963, he had spent nearly nine years organizing voter registration drives and leading boycotts of segregated Mississippi businesses. On June 11, President John F. Kennedy had delivered an address from the oval office, calling for Congress to take action in the area of civil rights. Following that speech, Evers was at an organizational meeting at a local church. He returned home sometime after midnight, less than four hours after the Kennedy speech.

Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Mississippi home on June 12, 1963, while his wife and the couple’s three small children were inside the house. He had emerged from his car, carrying NAACP t-shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go

Evers was struck in the back. The bullet ripped through his heart. Initially thrown to the ground by the impact of the shot, Evers rose and staggered 30 feet before collapsing. His wife found him outside their front door.

He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was initially refused entry, because of his race. His family explained who he was and he was admitted; he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. Evers was the first African American to be admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi. Over 5000 mourners attended his funeral.

Just two weeks after the assassination, Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the local White Citizen’s Council, was arrested for Evers’ murder. Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and Ku Klux Klan member, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However, two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict him. That second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The follow-up prosecution was not pursued, after it appeared that a conviction would be impossible.

De La Beckwith had reportedly repeatedly bragged about being responsible for the murder, and even unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor of Mississippi.

Beckwith remained free until the 1990s. Then, because of new evidence gathered by Medgar Evers wife (Myrlie Evers-Williams) and others, the case was reopened. Some of the new evidence submitted for retrial included that the juries in the original two trials had been improperly screened. At the time, most blacks were kept from registering to vote by Mississippi’s constitution. This meant that they were also excluded from juries because jurors were drawn from the pool of registered voters.

On February 5, 1994, De La Beckwith was finally convicted, this time by a racially mixed jury. At the third trial, the prosecution produced a rifle-scope from the murder weapon that had Beckwith’s fingerprints. New witnesses also testified that Beckwith had bragged about committing the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Beckwith died in prison in 2001, at the age of 90. The decades-long effort to bring De La Beckwith to justice was dramatized in the 1996 film “Ghosts of Mississippi“.

At the Arlington National Cemetery tribute to Evers on the 50th Anniversary of his death, his widow read the following:

Medgar was a man who never wanted adoration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people.”

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Now after that history, let’s change it up. For pic o’ day, how about this strategy?

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Rod Tidwell’s Brain Injury

First, a bit of work strategy to get us started!

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The movie Jerry Maguire is filled with classic moments. Like the kid (character: Ray Boyd) who randomly asks Jerry Maguire, “Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?”. Or when Jerry Maguire asks Rod Tidwell, “Do you want this jacket? I don’t need it. I’m cloaked in failure.” because he had lost representation of the number one pick, the night before the NFL draft.

And anyone that has seen the movie or ever heard anything about it probably remembers the two quotes that became classics. “Show me the money” and “You had me at ‘hello’“.

But the real lesson from this movie is the mindset about brain injury, and thankfully how much awareness has changed since that movie. So let me summarize to make the point.

Near the end of the movie, Cuba Gooding Jr’s character (Rob Tidwell) suffers a horrible injury at the end of the “big game”. Gooding is unconscious for several minutes, while his  distraught wife watches in horror.

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Then miraculously, he wakes up and celebrates. No longer a worry that he died in the endzone. Instead, he is breakdancing in the end zone. I am not a doctor, but that just seems like the worst possible move, after an apparent serious head-and-neck injury, just mere seconds earlier.

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The point of that is how far we have come. In the early 2000’s, I was in the middle of a brain injury jury trial in Greenville County. The defense expert testified that my client’s concussion was merely like having “your bell rung on the football field”. I believe that doctor knew better than to minimize the concussion suffered by my client.

Now thankfully, we all have been more educated on how serious a concussion and brain injury really is. Not even Hollywood would have Rod Tidwell breakdancing off a stretcher.

 

And finally, this pic o’ day cracks me up!

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Politics and the Puppies?

Where should we start? Because this blog is a little bit about dogs at the racetrack. And there may even be a little gambling mentioned. So where should we start? How about this as a starter? (Or maybe I just wanted to post this just because it’s Potamus)

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This really is a blog about politics and the puppies. Hence the title! Although, I just saw a highlight of Tom Brady with his hair strangely darkened, and I wish I could write about that. Just sayin’!

I will never forget the time that I went to watch the greyhounds race in Florida. I did not know what to expect. I just kept hearing that I needed to “go watch the puppies run”.

When I arrived, I noticed many retired grisly old men with their racing sheets. They had their cigars and drinks and were planning their bets.

I asked a table of men how they knew which dog they were betting. One said that, “I go down to the track to look at the dogs. If I see one of the trainers with a garden hose, filling the dog’s mouth with water, I know that is not a dog that is supposed to win that day”. 

In 2014, 17 greyhound dogs tested positively for cocaine. At least 383 racing dogs have at Florida racetracks since 2013.(Miami Herald)

According to the article, one farmer who told authorities that in 2002, Florida greyhound trainers were paying him $10 a head to “dispose” of aging, slow or gimpy dogs? The old farmer estimated killing between 2,000 and 3,000 greyhounds over the years, shooting them in the head with a .22-caliber rifle and then tossing their remains into a ditch.

You might be disturbed by this because you are a dog lover, but I write about this for an even greater theme.

You might wonder why there is still dog racing in Florida. It’s true, there is a large movement to do away with it. But the rationale is that it creates jobs. Yes… JOBS.

I have learned that there are a lot of societal ills that can be explained, if they create jobs. Pipelines through oceans and forests create jobs. Natural gas drilling creates jobs. Removal of regulations on businesses creates jobs.

At some point, legislators need to look at the big picture. Cleaning up an oil spill does create jobs, but is that really something that should cause pride?

And that’s my brief foray into politics.

And finally… My friend, Mike Thomas, posted this on Facebook and I had to put it in the blog!

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Sometimes I Just Want to Laugh!

I just wanted to start the blog with some pictures to make me laugh. Because Mondays give some creative license, right? And then I promise that I will have a real topic today. The fake of it is actually the reality. You’ll See! Or should it really be SeA? But first…

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Because just seeing “someone” laugh makes me laugh:

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And these “guys” are funny anyway:

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Which is worth more laughter to me!

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And because I did promise a real blog, here goes. It all started when I was looking at another law firm’s website. At their client comment section, they had several credited comments. One was from “Alan Smithee“. Do you know the story of Alan Smithee? Well, just in case, here’s the wikipedia description that I now borrow.

Alan Smithee is an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project. Coined in 1968 and used until it was formally discontinued in 2000“. Here’s where it started.

The Smithee pseudonym was created for use on the film Death of a Gunfighter, released in 1969. During its filming, lead actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten and arranged to have him replaced by Don Siegel. Siegel later estimated that Totten had spent 25 days filming, while he himself had spent 9–10 days. Each had roughly an equal amount of footage in Siegel’s final edit. But Siegel made it clear that Widmark had effectively been in charge the entire time rather than either director. When the film was finished, Siegel did not want to take the credit for it and Totten refused to take credit in his place. The DGA panel hearing the dispute agreed that the film did not represent either director’s creative vision“.

So the story goes, they allowed to originally credit director “Al Smith“. But, that was considered too common a name and it was already being used “for real” in the film industry. So, the last name was first changed to “Smithe” and then “Smithee. Then it became Alan

The film turned out to be critically praised including the famed critic Roger Ebert, who said, “Director Allen Smithee, a name I’m not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally.” 

The wikipedia attachment has all the movies listed where Alan Smithee was credited. But, I still wonder who is playing a joke on the law firm with their comment from Alan Smithee. Or are they just being funny. And that’s worth a good laugh too!

It’s going to be a great Monday… I just feel it! And finally, I guess it’s a reminder that things will always work out:

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