Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parker Werewolf Murderers Sentenced

On this blog, I have been following the story of the brutal beating death of a Florida teenager by his erstwhile girlfriend's adult male friends, a story of human viciousness that is as insipid as it is abhorrent. The girlfriend, Stephanie Pistey, told her three adult male friends (one of whom appears to have been her lover) that the victim, who was her boyfriend, had raped her. She then lured him to a house, where some very little children were being supervised by another woman. Once there, he was set upon by her friends and severely beaten. He tried to run away, but they followed him onto the lawn and continued beating him until he died. They then hid the remains in a storm drain, where they were discovered a month later. This disgusting tale is of interest to me because of Pistey's claim, in a prison interview and on her facebook page (where she rather unwisely bragged about getting away with the murder), that she was "part vampire and part werewolf," and claimed to have drunk the blood of her lover.

If you are one (or the other) of the regular readers of this blog you know that in my spare time (ha!) I am collecting information about historical "werewolf trials," legal proceedings in which the defendant claims to be a werewolf. I am interested in the way these proceedings generated a kind of "diminished capacity" legal defense which usually resulted in a reduced sentence. I had imagined that these trials were exclusively of the distant past (the medieval and early modern periods), but just through idle mouse-clicking I discovered some eight cases in the US just in 2011. These were mostly in the realm of the banal but more or less harmless - from a fellow who hid in portapotties to ambush tennis players in a public park to a couple of lassies who lured a man across country and then held him against his will and played violent sex games with him.

This case was different. If, as the medieval witch-sniffers had it, becoming a werewolf is a willful abdication of the moral strictures that govern human life, the Pistey case is a keen, if horrifying, example. But the outcome was eerily similar to those medieval events - Pistey has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial, while one of her accomplices plead no contest to second degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years. Interestingly, another of her accomplices hoped to be also found incompetent to stand trial, but his gambit failed, and he is facing further charges.

Read more, if you can stomach it, here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lessing's Birthday

image by Jackie Mishol
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
How to begin to describe such a person?

Schiller credited him with showing the world how to use the theatre as the instructional podium of the enlightenment, "a public mirror of human life."

Goethe said of him "there are many men as clever and as cultivated, but where is such character?" and "Lessing would not allow himself the lofty title of genius, but his permanent influence bears witness against him."

Shaw called him "the most eminent of dramatic critics" who was reproached for "not only cutting off his victim's heads but holding them up afterwards to show that there were no brains in them."
Stanislavski listed him among the greatest influences in Western drama. Bertolt Brecht borrowed from him heavily. Brian Johnston credits him with a revolution in theatre that made Ibsen's work possible. Hannah Arendt, in 1955, remarked that one component of his greatness “was the fact that he never allowed supposed objectivity to cause him to lose sight of the real relationship to the world and the real status in the world of the things or men he attacked or praised."

Lessing took the best of whatever was available in the written or spoken word and combined it all to make something better. His impact is felt strongly in the theatre - we in the modern world still struggle constantly, and all over the world, to live up to his expectations. He was the first dramaturg, as we know the job today. He was a powerful force in the Enlightenment, a powerful voice in the liberation of the Jews in Germany, a crusader for human rights, compassion and understanding. His work played a significant role in the establishment of the United States' much-treasured freedom of religion.

After the publication of his plays Die Juden and Nathan der Weise, a number of German Jews adopted the surname Lessing in his honor, out of gratitude. One of these was the grandfather of Theodor Lessing, who would become an outspoken firebrand who opposed the rise of Nazism, and lost his life for it.

Lessing's 283rd Birthday would be January 22. To mark this day, dramaturgy collectives all over North America will be holding fundraisers in his name to support early career dramaturgs who wish to travel to the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas conference, as they have done for many years. I doubt that any other memorial would make him as proud - certainly not this ham-fisted eulogy I have just written.

If you are a reader of this blog who is not able to purchase some baked goods from our team on Friday, January 27, in the lobby of Purnell, then please contact Julie Felise Dubiner <jfdubiner@yahoo.com> at LMDA to donate directly or to set up your own Lessing Day Bakesale.