Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm gonna sue you! (New Chapter for New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway)

This is a new chapter from my book: New York City Sucks but You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

The book is written in the voice of Suzy, an immigrant to New York City who has become changed by the city to the point where she sees many negative things where others see positive things. So the tone of the book is quite sarcastic and cynical.

The book can be purchased here for a small sum.

If you want a free copy of the latest version of the book, please drop me a line through email and I'll send you a pdf copy. I think Suzy's view of New York City is quite important to encounter.

Before you read the reading passage, please go through these vocabulary words to see whether you understand them. There is a fill-in-the-blank test after the reading passage. Please remember, it is Suzy talking from now on. :)

Definitions of important words in the chapter:

gonna – gonna is a contraction for ‘going to’ and you can only use it with a form of ‘to be’: I’m gonna, you’re gonna, he’s gonna, she’s gonna, we’re gonna, they’re gonna.  wanna is a contraction of want to. Its use is totally different. For instance, you can say “I wanna go there.” Or “You wanna go there.” But you cannot say: “He wanna go there…”  After he/she and it you need an ‘s’ – He wants to go there. You can’t use ‘wanna’ with he/she or it. We wanna and they wanna is OK. Please don’t say “he wanna” or “she wanna” – it sounds bad, really bad.

to sue – this means to take legal action against someone to try to get money from that person. You hire a lawyer, pay the lawyer a lot of money that he/she does not deserve because he or she is probably a dishonest bastard or bitch and then the lawyer helps you try to harm another human being in a courtroom with a judge or jury, usually by lying about the person or making the person seem like someone he/she is not. If you sue you are trying to get the judge or jury to give you lots of money. So if you sue a person you cannot throw that person in jail – you can just get money from him or her.

should (say) – remember that ‘should’ is a recommendation; 'have to' means you have no choice

whether – ‘if’ is used for conditional statements; whether is used when you are making a choice. I don’t know whether to drink vodka or whiskey.

guy – In this case, guy means person. I get asked whether ‘guys’ can be used with women. If it’s a mixed group of men and women you can get away with using ‘guys’. Hey guys, are you ready to leave?  If it’s an all-female group you might want to use ‘gals’ – are you gals ready to leave?

a buck – a dollar. Sometimes ‘a buck’ can mean money in general.  He lives to make a buck. He’ll do anything for a buck. 5 dollars is 5 bucks. 100 dollars is 100 bucks.

scruples – morality, morals, ethics. Morality means a sense of doing the right thing, not something wrong. If you have scruples, you are a good person.

a weapon – not a literal weapon, but a symbolic of figurative weapon. When I say justice is a weapon I mean justice is not always justice in NY City or the USA, it’s often a way to hurt people or make money.

rotten – if you leave an apple lying around for too long, it will become rotten and you will not want to eat it. So instead of calling NY City the Big Apple, I called it the rotten apple since it seems as if it is not a very pure or honest place. People often describe how they feel using the word ‘rotten’. If you are not feeling good, you feel rotten.

to be screwed up – to be messed up, to be ruined, not working properly, to be very very wrong; if something is screwed up, it doesn’t work as it should.  Hey my smartphone seems to be screwed up, the time is all wrong. Things can be morally screwed up too. He should not have been punished – that was screwed up!

to threaten s/o – to tell someone you are going to hurt them

a law suit – this is the paperwork that goes along with suing a person. So the lawyer types up the argument and submits it to a court and a trial is set.

shady – not honest, dishonest, not trustworthy; you hear this word a lot – Nixon was a shady politician.

a whistle blower – someone who sees something wrong and who complains about it; like someone who sees something and blows a whistle to make a loud noise to alert other people to what’s wrong.

evidence – there is a difference between evidence and proof. Evidence seems to indicate that something wrong happened. Proof shows that there is no doubt that something bad happened.

to run a story – when a newspaper runs a story they print a story

a scandal – a story that causes someone a huge amount of embarrassment

to tell – to tell can sometimes mean to determine. Is he alive? I don’t know, I can’t tell.

verifiable – provable, if you can prove something you can verify it

to retract s/t – to take a statement back; to remove a statement you made earlier

to prove- this means you have demonstrated something to have happened or to be true

in violation of the law – if you break the law, or do something against the law, you are in violation of the law; in violation of means you did not do something you were supposed to do

to matter – if something doesn’t matter, it is not important

didn’t make sense – you hear this a lot in English; if something doesn’t make sense it is illogical or nonsensical, it doesn’t sound right and might even be impossible

to file a complaint – we use the verb ‘to file’ with a complaint; if you think something is wrong and want to write to the city or government about it, you will be filing a complaint about something that is wrong

scum – scum is a type of dirt mixed with germs; technically it is the layer of dirt that you sometimes see floating on a small body of water. If you think someone is disgusting because of a lack of ethics or morals, he/she is ‘scum’ or dirt.

a politician – someone who makes money by getting elected to office and then pretending to care about the people while he/she makes a lot of money for him/herself. The USA is run by politicians who are supported by people with lots of money. They like calling this system: democracy.

got left alone – he got left aloe is an example of a way many Americans might express a situation like this. A more formal way might be: and he was finally left alone. Get = become

to complain about s/t – to express your opinion that something was wrong or unfair

guilty – not innocent; you are guilty of something if you have done something wrong

prestigious – important, being considered exceptional and great

to shut the guy up – to stop someone from saying something you don’t want him to say

the bastard – if you are angry at a guy, you might call him a bastard

how dare he! – this is an ironic statement; of course it’s wrong to attack someone innocent, but lawyers in the USA don’t seem to care about guilt or innocence. Anyone who pays a lawyer is innocent and the person not paying is guilty.

this shit place – shit can be used as a type of adjective here

to be asking for trouble – often if someone corrupt or evil attacks an innocent person, they will say the person was ‘asking’ for trouble meaning that the person deserved to get hurt

cockroaches – these are disgusting little insects that are all over New York City. They are brown and creepy  and crawl around kitchens and bathrooms, but they are not half as creepy as your common, everyday lawyer.

to get away with s/t – to do something wrong and not get punished for it

a judge – this person’s job is to sit in a courtroom and determine whether people are guilty or innocent. If the person on trial wants a jury, then the judge basically runs the trial and the jury the tries to decide whether the person is guilty or innocent. We need the jury system because our judges suck so badly. They are losers who couldn’t succeed as lawyers and went begging politicians for jobs

to fail at s/t – to not succeed at something; to set a goal and not reach it

to distinguish yourself at s/t – to do especially well at something; to do much better at something than anyone else

zillions – lots and lots and lots

the world is your oyster – this is an expression from a line by Shakespeare which means that you are in a position to succeed tremendously. If the world is your oyster, you will be very successful.

to suck – if something sucks it is very bad. It is a simple intransitive verb which many students misuse. For instance, you can’t say, “It is sucks.” You have to say, “It sucks.” “Bill sucks.”  “This food sucks.” “K-pop sucks.”

a bum – like a homeless person

dough re me – dough is a slang term for money. Do re me fa so la ti do represents the musical scale of notes. So sometimes instead of just saying ‘dough’ for money, a person will say “do re me”.

favors – if you do a favor for someone, you do something nice for that person

elections – a election is when people vote to allow corrupt people to run their government

to kiss s/o’s ass – you are very very friendly to a person because you want something from him; to do things for a person so that the person will do things for you

to sponsor s/o – to support someone, to help someone to do something

president, congressman, mayor – usually people go to vote for ‘important’ offices and then see that there seems to be a bunch of unimportant things to vote about. Most people just choose randomly or do what their politicians want them to do. The president leads the country, a congressman makes laws in Washington D.C. and a mayor leads a city.

a ballot – this is the piece of paper on which people indicate for whom they want to vote

who the hell – if you want to show emotion or emphasis, instead of just saying “Who did that?” you can say, “Who the hell did that?” This is informal and kind of aggressive.

a polling station – a place where people go to vote in the USA

quid pro quo – this for that; if I do this for you, you have to do this for me…it’s a Latin term

immoral – not moral, unethical, not doing what is right

greedy – obsessed with money, someone who lives for money

incompetent – not capable of doing your job well, not able to do a job properly

assholes – not very nice people

jail/money – there are two types of court systems in the USA, the criminal and the civil. If a person is arrested by the police and goes to trial, this will be a criminal trial; if a person is sued, this will be a civil trial

some scumbag – scumbag is a negative term for a person; scum is dirt mixed with germs – you usually see scum at the bottom of a river, it is very nasty and smelly

to drag s/o into s/p – to force someone to do something or to go somewhere

compromised – to compromise your morals means to do something you really don’t think is right, but you do it anyway to benefit yourself. To compromise usually means that you and a person disagree and so both of you give in a little bit and meet in the middle.

remotely -  he ever remotely had means that he never really cared about morals or rules or ethics but might have weakly believed in some things – so morality was remote or far away from him

inspiring – motivating; I’m being sarcastic here

elegant – very lovely, beautiful

a cleaners – a place that cleans clothing; usually you take formal, expensive clothing to a cleaners and they do a good job of cleaning and pressing the clothing

a patch – a piece of cloth used to cover  a hole or a tear in clothing

to go ballistic – to become very angry; a ballistic missile is a missile that explodes and causes a lot of damage

cases – a court case is an individual situation that is to be judged and determined

security deposit – when you move into an apartment in NY City, you are usually asked for a security deposit. This is an amount of money you give to the person who is renting the apartment and he/she will give it back when you leave if nothing has been damaged in the apartment.

small claims – if you are seeking a relatively small amount of money, you go to small claims court – you are making a small claim

to file a case – we use the term ‘file’ to mean to begin a case; when you submit the paperwork to begin the case, you have filed a case

fishy – if something seems fishy, it doesn’t seem right or legitimate; a fish smells so if something smells it is not something you want to be a part of

corrupt – dishonest, not morally reliable, predisposed to (likely to) do wrong, unethical things

respectable – if people admire you or feel you can be trusted you are respectable

to convey s/t to s/b - to communicate something to somebody

on behalf of – to do something for someone else

a janitor – the person who cleans the floors and the toilets

to be dumbfounded – to be so shocked that you can’t say anything

livid – very very very angry

a continuance – to continue a situation later

outrageous - shocking

absurd – it doesn’t make any sense, ridiculous

NY Post – this is a newspaper in New York City that features the most gossip and lurid (shocking) stories

evidence – this is not proof…evidence just suggests that someone may have done something wrong

to settle this – to resolve this matter

big time – this is a way to emphasize something: I hate him big time! He screwed up big time!  So big time means ‘a lot’.

pissed - angry

what the hell – this is used to emphasize how you feel. So instead of saying, “What is wrong with him?” You can say, “What the hell is wrong with him!?” “What the hell are you doing!?” This is not very polite, but shows that you are upset.

a nut – a crazy person.  To be nuts is to be crazy.

to be hit with punitive damages - to be hit with something means something bad has happened to you.  He was hit with a parking ticket by the police. Punitive damages means money the judge gives you to punish the bad guy. So if you are suing for $120 but the judge gets angry at the other guy, you might get punitive damages of up to $5,000.

resolved – fixed, taken care of

weird – strange, unusual

dim sum – this is a type of Chinese restaurant in which there are many choices of food and as waitresses roll carts around on the floor you choose what you want from the carts

to beat s/o – to do better than someone or to win in a competition against someone

I’m gonna sue you!

If you become angry with someone in America, the first thing you should say is: “I’m gonna sue you!” It doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong, because even if you are wrong, you can easily find a lawyer who will help you sue some innocent guy if you are willing to pay him enough.  Basically lawyers will do anything for a buck in New York City and America. They don’t seem to have any scruples.  Justice is a weapon like everything else in the Big Rotten Apple.

You might say, “Wait a minute, that’s really screwed up. How can you get away with suing an innocent guy?” Well, it happens all the time, my friend. Actually, it happens some of the time. Many times if a lawyer just threatens to sue an innocent guy it can be effective and it can stop the innocent guy from doing something that will harm someone evil. So if you complain about someone evil or some evil company, expect to get threatened with a law suit. Lawyers do it all the time. They don’t care about anything except making a buck.

For instance, my language exchange partner Bob used to work for a shady company. He thought there was stuff that was wrong with the shady company and he became what is known as a whistle-blower. He contacted a newspaper, handed his evidence over to them and they ran a story about this shady company. It became a big scandal. Based on what I could tell, everything he had said was true and verifiable. Yet, the first thing this company did was hire lawyers who contacted him and told him they were going to sue Bob for $100,000,000 if he did not write back to the newspaper and retract his story.

But Bob looked at the story and everything he said was true to the best of his knowledge and so he couldn’t retract anything. In fact, everything was basically proved to be true in the story and one of the guys from the shady company even admitted to the newspaper reporter that the company had done something in violation of the law. That didn’t seem to matter – there were lawyers waiting to jump in there to threaten and possibly sue an innocent guy anyway. The lawyers obviously knew Bob was innocent, but were willing to try to destroy his life for a few extra bucks. In the crazy letter they sent to Bob, they seemed to even want him to retract the statement the guy from the company made about the illegal activity. It didn’t make sense, so Bob threatened them and filed complaints all over the place to the government and then they finally left him alone. Frankly Bob should have sued them but I don’t think he wanted to waste his time on scum.

Actually, the law firm threatening Bob had connections to some shady politicians (from what a journalist told Bob) and so Bob wrote to these shady politicians and threatened to go to the newspapers about them supporting a shady company. Then Bob finally got left alone. So basically, if you come to New York City and find anything wrong and complain about it, the evil and guilty people will sue YOU and try to make you look evil and guilty. There are lawyers who specialize in this type of law at the greatest and most prestigious universities in the country. They teach this in law school.

Student: “Professor, what if a company wants me to sue an innocent guy to try to shut the guy up about something which is wrong?”

Professor: “Sue the bastard! Who the hell does he think he is? This is New York City! If you are innocent here, you are as guilty as hell! How dare he be an honest person in this shit place!! He’s just asking for trouble! He deserves it!”

Welcome to America – the land of justice. There are more lawyers than cockroaches in New York City and the lawyers are often dirtier, smellier, and less moral than these insects. At least cockroaches don’t threaten to sue innocent guys.

So how can these lower-than-cockroach lawyers get away with this nonsense? Judges let them (you can see a judge pictured above on this post). You see, judges in America used to be lawyers. In fact, it looks as if you only become a judge in America if you fail at being a lawyer. In South Korea, for example, you only become a judge if you distinguish yourself academically and prove you are 100% honest. In America, it’s exactly the opposite. If you become a successful lawyer you can make zillions of dollars and acquire enough power to threaten lots of innocent guys all over the place. The world becomes your oyster. If you suck as a lawyer, your mom and dad have paid zillions of dollars to a law school or you owe lots of money in student loans and now you are nothing but some stupid bum who can’t get a job. Your only hope at this point is to get a job as a judge.  So what do you do? How do you do this?

Well, you go to your neighborhood shady politician. You give him an envelope filled with dough rey me or you do favors for him. Lots of favors. You do free legal work, threaten innocent guys, help the shady politician win elections, kiss the politician’s ass in ten zillion ways etc. Finally, after you have kissed the politician’s ass enough, he’ll sponsor you for a position as a judge.   How does this work?

Well, judges have to be elected in the USA. So you go to vote for president or congressman or mayor and you see a list of names for open positions for judges. You don’t know who any of these people are. You’ll see about 25 names and the ballot will say: please choose ten of these losers. But you don’t know who the hell any of these losers are. But that’s OK, because your local shady politician has already given you a list on your way to the polling station. The list says, “Your shady neighborhood politician recommends the following ten losers. Please vote for them and if you ever have any problems we’ll help you too.” All of this is called ‘quid pro quo.’ So being a good American, you do what your shady politician wants you to do and now there are ten more stupid, immoral, shady, ignorant, greedy, incompetent assholes deciding whether people are going to go to jail or lose money. So some scumbag lawyer drags an innocent guy into court and it looks perfectly fine to the loser judge who compromised every principle he ever remotely had to get his position.

So that brings me to my story. Yes another inspiring Suzy story of how wonderful life is in the Big Apple.

I had a female friend from China named Ruby. She had bought a beautiful dress online at a discount for $120. It was an elegant black dress with sheer sleeves. After she had worn it to a party she took it to a cleaners to be professionally washed and dried. When she went to pick up the dress, she saw that one of the sleeves had been torn. The guy who owned the cleaners told her, however, that he would fix the sleeve. When she went back in a week, the guy had merely put a black patch on the sleeve. So one sleeve was completely sheer and the other had a big, ugly black patch on it. She went ballistic.

Ruby demanded $120 from the guy, but the bastard only offered her $8. He said she had paid $8 for the cleaning and since she wasn’t satisfied with the cleaning he would refund her money. When I met her for coffee a couple days later she was so angry she was crying. So I said, “Ruby….let’s sue the bastard!” She suddenly became very happy again.

You see, in the USA there are special courtrooms for cases where someone is demanding under $5,000.  This type of court is called ‘small claims’ court or ‘pro se’ court. Pro se, in Latin, means ‘Do it yourself – DIY’.  You don’t need a shady lawyer for this court – you can show up by yourself and sue a person. Also, it only costs $15 to file a case.  So Ruby and I went down to Chinatown in Manhattan where the pro se court is and we filed a lawsuit against the bastard who tore her nice dress. They gave us a court date and Ruby and I practiced answering legal questions about the dress.

So the court date arrived and we showed up. We went to our little court room and kept looking around for the shady cleaners guy and we couldn’t see him. However, among the other people in the courtroom was a shady looking guy who kind of looked like a lawyer. He had a really, really nice looking Armani suit on, but the strange thing was that he was wearing sneakers (athletic shoes). He had on an Armani suit but also sneakers. Ruby kept saying, “That must be his lawyer – he keeps looking at the board where our case is listed and he has a really nice suit.” But I thought something looked fishy. It didn’t make sense to me that he would be wearing sneakers. Lawyers don’t mix Armani suits and sneakers. The key to being really corrupt and shady is looking as if you are 100% respectable and mixing sneakers with an amazing suit doesn’t convey this impression.

So the clerk called our case and we went up to his table. He said, “Who is Ruby Ma?” Ruby introduced herself. He then said, “Where is Mr. K?” So the guy in the Armani suit spoke up and said, “I’m here on behalf of Mr. K” So the clerk asked, “Are you Mr. K’s attorney?” Whereupon the guy in the Armani suit said, “Well….technically…….actually, I’m Mr. K’s janitor.”  The clerk was dumbfounded. “Mr. K sent his janitor here to represent him?” “Yes sir.” The clerk just stared at the janitor in the Armani suit. I think the clerk, Ruby and I were all thinking the same thing: “Is that really your suit? Or are you wearing some other guy’s suit which was brought to K’s to be cleaned? Who does that Armani suit really belong to buddy!?”

But the clerk said, “Wait a minute, you can’t represent K here. You’re a janitor. You were not there when this happened, you were cleaning the toilets or whatever. They are probably going to win this case. The judge is not going to like this.” So K’s janitor said, “But Mr. K is busy. He doesn’t have time for this.”  I was livid. I said, “K doesn’t have time for this? Well, we win. Where’s the judge? K didn’t show up, so we win.” But the clerk said, “Wait, I think the janitor may be able to ask for a continuance on K’s behalf.” Now, Ruby was scheduled to go back to China in one month, so we knew that if they got a continuance she wouldn’t even be able to come to court. So I made a big deal and kept demanding to see a judge. I kept saying things like, “This is outrageous! K has no respect for this court proceeding! I can’t wait to email the mayor! This is absurd! The guy doesn’t show up, he sends his janitor, and the court clerk helps the guy! The mayor is going to hear about this! I’m writing to the NY Post!”

So finally, because we kept demanding to see the judge, some lawyer who worked for the judge came out of his office. It turns out the judge in a pro se court is typically a lazy bastard who doesn’t even show up until about 1pm. We didn’t know this until we were actually leaving the courtroom and finally saw a judge show up. The bars in New York City don’t open until 11am, so I guess they need to make a quick trip there for alcohol first. Apparently they try to get the clerks to resolve as much as possible before the lazy bastard judge shows up.

So the assistant to the judge looked at Ruby’s evidence and told the janitor that he needed to call K and K needed to settle this with her right now. He told the janitor that he knew the judge, he worked for the judge and that K was going to lose this case big time if a continuance was granted and we all came back. He was kind of pissed. He said his time was being wasted and K needed to settle. His time was being wasted? What the hell was he doing in his little back room anyway? But I was happy to hear him make the janitor call K. So the janitor walked away, talked to K and came back and said, “Mr. K would like to offer zero dollars and zero cents. He will not pay anything to her.” I thought the lawyer was going to explode. He started yelling, “What the hell is wrong with this nut!?  He’s going to lose! I’m going to tell the judge K’s a nut and K’s going to lose! K can be hit with punitive damages for this! What the hell kind of nut is this guy!?”

So the janitor said, “Wait, OK, listen, K gave me $60 to come here and represent him. I’ll give her my $60 if she’ll drop the case.” Ruby, however, demanded $80 plus the ability to keep the dress. The janitor didn’t have $80, though. So the lawyer yelled, “Get your ass to an ATM machine then because I want this fucking case resolved!  Get that goddamn $20 and then tell that fucking nut K to give you another $20 plus the 60 you’ll be paying!”  So the janitor ran out and got an extra $20 and we signed some papers and left.

Ruby was pretty happy. She didn’t get $120 but we got something and we had to take it because there was no way she could appear in court again. Getting $80 was probably the best we were ever going to do, especially since many people who lose cases in small claims court simply refuse to pay the winner, and there is very little the winner can do to get his/her money. I felt kind of bad that we got the money from the janitor, but, what the hell, we got the money and she still had the dress and was going to try to replace the sleeves herself.

So here’s the weird Suzy ending you’ve been waiting for – Ruby was so happy that she took me to a dim sum restaurant around the corner from the court house and we ate $75 worth of food. Ruby treated me because she said I had done an excellent job as her lawyer. I kind of wish she had kept the $75, but that food was really good and it was nice to celebrate some kind of victory for a change, even though we beat the guy’s janitor and not the guy himself.

Grammar stuff:

How to use ‘appreciate’ properly.

Many students will say or write: I very very appreciate you did this.

Oooops, sorry. Just use ‘really’ and you’ll be OK.  I really, really appreciate that you helped me.

Very modifies adjectives – He is very fat. She is very smart. He is very corrupt.  Use ‘really’ with a verb.  He really eats a lot. I really like her.

I really appreciate how kind you are; thank you!

Please don’t use ‘here’ as a noun

I wish I had a dollar for each time I heard this: Here is nice.

Sorry. “Here” is not a noun and can’t be used as a subject.  It is nice here.  So just throw ‘here’ to the back of the sentence.  They don’t like it here.

Fill in the blanks

scruples, rotten, shady, evidence, verifiable, to retract, to tell, to sue, livid, incompetent, outrageous, corrupt, elegant, inspiring, compromised

The MTA subway system is so bad. It is crowded and expensive and unreliable. I wake up in the morning feeling pretty good, but after riding the subway I feel _____________.

It is hard to find political leaders who are so honest and so kind and have such a great vision that they are _______________. Instead, I often feel depressed looking at the leaders around me.

The journalist was sure what he had written was true, but then he learned he was wrong and he had to _____________ his article.

I wanted to use our savings for several great vacations. My wife wanted to buy a house. So we ________________ and decided to put some money down for the house and to save some for travel.

I didn’t have much money but I really needed at least one ____________ dress that I could wear to art gallery openings and formal parties.

I may not be handsome, I may not have money, but nobody can honestly say that I don’t have ______________: I really care about doing the right thing and acting with morality.

Which street is this?  I didn’t wear my glasses today and I can’t __________ where we are.

Joe was in a terrible car accident. It was the other guy’s fault and so Joe decided to ____________ him. He won $50,000 in court.

Although this politician has a very good reputation, in reality she is very _____________. The newspapers will not write the truth about her, for some reason.

Initially he seemed like a very honest businessman, but as his accountant I began to see that he was doing many illegal things and I realized how ____________ he was.

The _____________ seemed to indicate that Bill had killed his roommate’s dog because the stupid thing wouldn’t stop barking. There was no real proof, however.

When Debbie learned that Bruce was cheating on her, she became ______________ and demanded that they break up.

Most people who work for the State of New York are ______________. They don’t know what they are doing and can’t do their jobs but get these jobs for political favors they have done for shady politicians.

When I went to get my driver’s license, the conditions at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) were _______________. The employees were lazy and stupid and I had to wait 7 hours.

I felt that his theory was really good but I didn’t think it was _______________; therefore we may never know the truth.

rotten, inspiring, retract, compromised, elegant,  scruples, tell, sue, corrupt or shady,  shady or corrupt, evidence, livid, incompetent, outrageous, verifiable,


cockroaches, to suck, an election, quid pro quo, a scumbag, prestigious, absurd, remote, ballistic, fishy, sponsor, moral

Joe told me about a plan he had to make a lot of money for both of us, but the plan seemed _____________ to me and I rejected it.

Mary had a dilemma: she could go to a pretty good school on a full scholarship or a ____________ school but only by taking out a lot of loans.

I tend to avoid going to see Hollywood films and I go to see films from around the world. Yes, Hollywood films are generally bad so I would say that they ___________.

One of the first problems you might experience in a New York City apartment is ________________. These ugly and annoying bugs seem to be everywhere.

There are many talented foreigners who come to the USA who hope to find permanent jobs here. They need to find employers who will ________________ them for green cards, however, and not many companies want to support immigrant workers  to this expensive level.

When Bill told his father that he had crashed his dad’s car into a tree, Bill expected his father to go _________________. Instead, his dad began crying.

Roger was a very handsome guy and women were always flirting with him. He was very ______________ however, and felt it would be wrong to cheat on his wife.

I expected this lawyer to help me, but he turned out to be a _________________. He was  totally unethical and was charging me for work he never did and then he threatened to sue me when I complained!

Many Americans look forward to the next presidential ______________ which will be held in 2016. They are hoping for fresh ideas and new vision.

After 15 years in New York City I really began to hate this place. I started to think of living in a ____________ area far from any cities.

Life seems dominated by _________________ relationships. People are always offering to help you so that you will have to help them later. Or they will help you only if you promise to help them later.

Matt seemed kind of nuts. He claimed to be a police officer and a spy, but I found his stories to be ________________.


fishy, prestigious, suck, cockroaches, sponsor, ballistic, moral, scumbag, election,  remote, quid pro quo, absurd


Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Symbolism of the Execution Gurney - We Worship the God of Deterrence

{{{A typical US execution gurney - poison is injected into the prisoner as he/she is strapped to this.}}}

(For non-native English speakers, vocabulary is defined below the passage)
When Lenny Bruce quipped: “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses,” he did not seem to realize that the cross had existed as a symbol for many ancient peoples, generations before it was appropriated as the symbol of the Catholic Church. To ancient peoples, in fact, a cruciform image had been a type of ideogram representing the tree.
The horizontal line in the cross was the earth, the lower bar the roots which receive nutrients from the ground and the upper bar the trunk and canopy that stretch into the sky. The tree was considered a bridge between the earth and the sky, the lower and the higher, the animal and the spiritual. Other mythical folks had dangled or died on trees (Odin for example) and all of this could not have been missed by early Christians in their appropriation of the traditional cross symbol for their own religious movement. Therefore, if Jesus had been executed in some other form, who knows what would be dangling from the necks of little Catholic kids now.
So what was going through the heads of some design firm when they chose, basically, a cruciform structure for the common American execution gurney? Was this a tip of the hat to Lenny Bruce? If we execute any messiahs in the near future we are back on track symbolically and will not have to worry about dangling non-symbolically-laden methods of execution around our necks?
Well, frankly, I think Catholic school kids should start wearing this around their necks, and I think that, essentially, everyone in contemporary America should wear this around his/her neck. This is, indeed, our God, The God of Deterrence; whether He is effective or not, He is the God we turn to the most in our daily lives and social operations.
The only legitimate rationale or justification for punishment is that it is supposed to act as a deterrent to prevent future acts of harm. Without possible punishments hanging over every one of our heads, it is felt that folks would feel that they have license to commit any crime or act of harm that might come to mind. 
Punishment as an act of deterrence is probably the most used and least investigated response in our society. Even severely mentally ill people, people who suffer from schizophrenia, are routinely punished in our legal system as if they are ‘responsible’ for their actions, because of the basic fear that if we allow someone to get away with a crime this will give license to others to do the same thing. To revisit a story Foucault told, it did not matter to the French that Roger Damiens was severely mentally ill; he had tried to kill the king, so he had to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Of course only a mentally ill person would want to kill a king, since a mentally sound person would realize that another king just as stupid and corrupt would come along, but that did not matter. Damiens had to be tortured to death as a form of deterrence to anyone who might consider this in the future, even though only mentally unbalanced people immune to deterrence might consider future assassinations.
Therefore we see that retribution or punishment as a form of deterrence is like a fixed action pattern in humanity. The male red-bellied stickleback fish will attack anything red during mating season whether it makes sense to attack it or not (sometimes they attack red-colored stones), and any time there is an act of harm, we attack someone, anyone, because nature blindly stuck this fixed action pattern into us for some basic survival value, regardless of how wasteful and inaccurate it might be in truly eliminating harmful behavior. 
Do we take action to help children who live in violent and economically deprived neighborhoods so that they will not be molded into future criminals? No. Why should we, our God of Deterrence is unquestioned. New York City just unveiled plans to build a $50 million “police bunker” in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Bronx. Do not build businesses where people can work in that neighborhood, do not fund creative social programs to eliminate poverty, build a bunker where cops have recreational and training facilities to fight people who are socially engineered into lives of crime.
For one day (of rest) each week, we worship a Son of God who was a radical pacifist and advocated love in response to those who harm us; but, the six other days we shield ourselves behind a corrupt and inhumane legal system through which 1% of our entire population is now incarcerated and through which numerous companies profit while crime flourishes.  The execution gurney is definitely the symbol that little kids in America should be wearing around their necks.
symbolism - when an object represents a concept
execution - when the government kills a person after a legal process

to worship - to pray to, to honor as a God
a gurney - a stretcher or cot usually with wheels on it to transport people who are ill; in this case a hospital gurney was transformed into a device on which someone can be tied down so that he/she can be executed with poison 
deterrence - the belief that if you punish a person for doing something wrong, other people will be too afraid to do the same thing
to be strapped to - to be tied down to; a strap is a long piece of leather that can be used to tie or hold a person from moving or escaping
to quip - to make a short,humorous statement
Lenny Bruce - he was an amazing American comedian (1960s) who was frequently arrested in the United States because his jokes were considered too dirty or vulgar and many people claimed to be offended (emotionally hurt) by his statements. In this quote Bruce makes fun of the symbol that Christians use in their religion - he basically asks, "How can you accept the method of your God's execution as a symbol you might wear around your neck? What if Jesus had been killed in the electric chair - would you wear an electric chair around your neck?"

to be appropriated - to be borrowed from, to be taken from
cruciform - something is cruciform if it is in the shape of a cross
an ideogram - a type of written character that represents a thing or idea
a horizontal line is a straight line from side to side  _________________
the canopy of the tree is the part with the leaves that extends up from the trunk
mythical - only existing in mythology or religious stories
to dangle - to hang
a design firm - design company; I tried to discover who had invented the execution gurney, but could not find anyone. I am assuming some company was hired by some US state and they designed this thing.
a tip of the hat to - if you tip your hat to someone you are honoring that person, or pointing out that you admire that person
a messiah - Christians believe that Jesus was the messiah (a leader to save the Jews), but Jewish folks say Christians are badly mistaken and Jesus was just a teacher and trouble-maker
to be back on track - to be doing the right thing again
symbolically laden - to be filled with symbolism 
a legitimate rationale - a rationale is a reason or justification; a legitimate rationale would be a reason that makes sense or a reason most people would feel to be right
a justification - this is an excuse that is made so that people do not criticize something
to have license - to have permission
schizophrenia is a severe mental illness in which a person no longer can tell the difference between what is real and what is not
deterrent- adjective form of deterrence
hanged, drawn and quartered - a horrible form of execution in which a person is hanged by the neck a little, then his arms and legs are cut where they connect to his body and then horses pull the person apart (into five pieces - two arms,two legs and a torso)
mentally sound - not mentally ill, mentally or psychologically ok 
mentally unbalanced - mentally ill
immune to something - if someone is immune to something, he/she can't be affected by it
an assassination - when a political leader is killed
retribution - revenge
a fixed action pattern - like an instinct, something a person does without thinking
mating season - the period of time when male and female fish get together to procreate in order to have offspring 
economically deprived - lacking or not having basic economic opportunities
molded -made into
unveiled - revealed, released, provided
a bunker is like a military structure
recreational - leisure, enjoyment
socially engineered - made into something by social and economic processes
radical - extreme
pacifist - someone who favors peace and not violence
advocated - encouraged
to shield ourselves - hide ourselves or protect ourselves
corrupt - not honest
incarcerated - to be in jail
flourishes - does well, increases