Loeb & Leopold

The “Crime of the Century” occurred in 1924. Two 19 year old law students coming from two wealthy families in Chicago murdered a 14 year old boy – Bobby Franks. The reason?  They wanted to have the experience of killing someone.  And they intended to commit the “perfect crime.”   The two were caught thanks to the unique hinge on a pair of eyeglasses found near the body.  And a match between the typewritten ransom notes and some class notes of one of the young men.  

Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold were arrested and grilled by police.  After being confronted with the evidence, they confessed.  And the public clamored for them to hang.  In a dramatic “end run” to avoid a poisoned jury, their lawyer Clarence Darrow pleaded them guilty to murder and kidnapping.  And placed the decision of life – or death – in the hands of the court — Judge John L. Caverly.  Following a month-long hearing on aggravation and mitigation, States Attorney Robert Crowe argued for five hours demanding that the two be hung by the neck until dead.  Clarence Darrow argued for eleven hours.  Pleading for mercy.  Pleading for life.  It is said that when Darrow finished his closing argument, there was not a dry eye in the courtroom — except for the dour States Attorney.  Two weeks later, Judge Caverly delivered the verdict.  His decision?   “Life” in the penitentiary.

For the last twelve years, I have been performing in a one act play – “Pleading for the Future.”  Early on, the production ran for four nights in a northside Chicago theater.  Today, the play provides continuing legal education for law schools, bar associations and law firms.  It is a real life account of the murder and the closing arguments – complete with slides and music.  Famed reporter and author Ben Hecht (played by lawyer and former U.S. Army Stars & Stripes reporter Bill Hannay) provides the introduction and prologue.  Todd Parkhurst (a veteran actor, lawyer and LifeLine pilot) has the role of Clarence Darrow.   And I (former States Attorney) am States Attorney Bob Crowe. We continue to perform gratis for various groups and organizations.  The play has taken on a life of its own.  Now if only we could get Steven Spielberg, Disney or Warner Bros. to pick it up — keeping the original cast of course . . . .      

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Typing

I had some good courses in college.  But the most useful was a year long course on advanced first aid which ended with me getting a Civil Defense medical responder card (remember – this was 1966).  I thought – I’m an Eagle Scout – this’ll be a snap.  It was not.  But the knowledge gleaned from this course has come in very handy over the years.   

Of all the subjects I endured in high school — far and away the best course I ever took was typing.  It was called “touch typing” – a skill developed by Frank Edward McGurrin (a Salt Lake City court stenographer) in 1888.  Thank you, Mr. McGurrin!  I use this skill every day.  In abundance. . . . . 

I am able to type the way one was meant to type. Accurately. Fast.  Fingers flying (whooosh!).  None of this two finger business.  I often type my own letters, lengthy reports and loquacious emails at a speed of perhaps 60 words a minute with minimal error.  Rarely looking at the keyboard.  Typing.  What a value-added learning tool for a young person today.  But do schools teach typing the way they did?  I dunno but if not, it belongs on the menu. 

By the way – do you know the longest word in the English language that you can write using the letters on the top row of a typewriter or keyboard?  “Typewriter.”  Yep . . . .

The Road to Character

[A summer repeat from October 1, 2015]
In my post of January 26, 2012, I offered a few classic quotations on character.  When I was tutoring, each week I would put a “character” quotation on a 3″ x 5″ card for my student(s).   To me, the reading, writing and arithmetic are all important.  But developing character is just as important.  Perhaps more.  For students, friends, family and politicians. 

I just finished David Brooks wonderful work The Road to Character.  Brooks opens with reference to the end of World War II — a victory of epic proportion.  He observes that our parents and grandparents did not go around telling each other how great they were.  The collective impulse was to warn themselves against pride.  And self-glorification.  But Brooks observes that there has been a shift in ensuing generations.  From a culture of humility to a culture of I am the center of the universe.  Brooks calls it “The Big Me.”  Fame and fortune used to rank low as life’s core ambitions.  Today, those goals have skyrocketed to the top.  Yet the Left pushes to censor the teaching of virtue, character and integrity in schools.

The word “sin” was always a moral tug that helped remind us that life is a moral affair.  But as Brooks comments “When modern culture tries to replace ‘sin’ with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like ‘virtue’ ‘character’ ‘evil’ and ‘vice’, it doesn’t make life any less moral.  It just means that we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language . . . and we become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life.”

Gratitude

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

It is interesting that many folks who have “everything” – are unhappy.  Yet those who have little or nothing can often be very happy.  Why?   

Part of the reason is that people who feel a sense of gratitude in their lives – are more apt to be happy.  In the past, I’ve referenced TED Talks.  And I’ve posted on a few of my favorites that I watch while having lunch at my desk.  Well. . . . fasten your seat belts.  Here’s one that made my eyes misty.  This 9 minute program is on the subject of gratitude.  http://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_nature_beauty_gratitude?referrer=playlist-give_thanks#t-2392    

We all have reason – to be grateful.  Yet how often do we ponder this sentiment?  The talk ends with a powerful narrative by Brother David Steindl-Rast – a Benedictine monk – who expounds on the why gratitude is such an important emotion.  Among his comments – “Think of this day as the first day and the last day of your life.”  He asks — would you do anything different?  And “Each day is a giftLet your gratitude for this day flow through you and be a blessing to others.”  Strong, compelling words.  Inspiration to give.  Reason to be grateful.      

Feherty

[After a day of golf, I thought – what better than a repeat from October 2, 2016

Anyone who follows professional golf knows the name “Feherty.”  David Feherty was born in 1958 in Northern Ireland.  He grew up playing golf and in 1976 turned pro — spending  most of his career playing in European tournaments.  He was good enough to make Europe’s 1991 Ryder Cup team.  He retired from the Tour in 1997 and joined CBS Sports as a golf analyst and commentator.  He is now with the Golf Channel and NBC Sports.

In 2006, Feherty went public about his long history of depression and alcoholism.  When Tom Cruise – actor and Scientologist – opined that only exercise can cure depression (and that drugs and therapy don’t help), Feherty responded that “actually, some sort of exercise would have helped me.  If I had kicked the #%&X out of Tom Cruise, I’d feel a lot better about myself.”  Gotta love it. . . . .

Feherty is known for hysterical one liners.

That ball is so far left, Lassie couldn’t find it if it was wrapped in bacon.”

Watching Phil Mickelson play golf is like watching a drunk chase a balloon near the edge of a cliff.”

If the green was where his ball landed, that would’ve been a great shot.”

[Jim Furyk’s swing] “Looks like a one armed man trying to wrestle a snake in a phone booth.”

[On Tiger Woods]  “I just stood there watching him walk past and thinking – ‘I don’t know what it is but I know there weren’t two of them on Noah’s Ark.'”   And there are so many more. . . .

In 2010, Feherty became a naturalized American citizen.  He lives with his family in Dallas.  And continues with the memorable one-liners. . . .

Daisy

[A sad remembrance from August 24, 2011]

My wife and I have a 10 pound gray miniature poodle named “Daisy.”  To say Daisy is smart would be an understatement.  Daisy is smarter than some lawyers I know and most politicians I know of.  And probably brighter than me on some occasions.  When you talk to her, she looks you right square in the eye as if she’s trying to figure out “just what language is he speaking?” 

Daisy is a certified therapy dog – with the Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago ( http://www.caninetherapycorps.org  ).   Canine Therapy Corps has nearly 75 dogs who work in 15 area hospitals.  It is a wonderful program that provides animal-assisted therapy often in collaboration with physicians and attending staff. 

Daisy went to school for nearly two years to get certified in this wonderful program.  Daisy and Donna work on Wednesday afternoons at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  Since Daisy responds to voice and motion commands (both of which Donna says I have trouble with), Daisy works with stroke and spinal cord injury patients who may need help with speech and movement.  To watch Daisy “on the job” is a treat.  Daisy dances, twirls, sits, stays, barks, marches, and does level 1 calculus all while working with the patients.  When working with children, sometimes a little boy or girl will just want to hold Daisy.  And that’s just fine too.  

When Daisy gets home, she takes off her blue vest and kicks back – knocking down a few liver treats and taking a walk.  Then – exhausted from the day – Daisy heads upstairs to bed to dream of table scraps and fire hydrants. . . .      

On July 19, 2018, Daisy left us.  She was a wonderful dog – who will be greatly missed.   It’s very hard to say “goodbye”. . . . .

Dark Side of the Moon

One of the most poignant song lyrics comes from Pink Floyd’s classic album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”  Pink Floyd’s “Time” offers the quintessential lament over the irretrievable passage of time:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. . . . .
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.                            No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”  See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJQnzmH6jgc  

The subtle message.  What will I accomplish today?  Will it be of value?  Time wasted?  Have I missed the starting gun?  We all share similar questions about life.   And its unstoppable passing.  We are on this earth for a reason.  We want to have a positive impact.  Live up to our potential.  Provide value.  Make a contribution.  Yet every day, the sun goes down.  The past is prologue.  And the new dawn begins the first day of the rest of your – and my – life.  And so it is.     

Goethe’s challenges us in a couplet from Faust’s “Prelude at the Theatre” (which has hung for years in my office):   “Whatever you can do, or dream you can. . . . . begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”