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Book Notes

January 2, 2014

Grisham makes civil law dramatic in new book

(Continued)

Naturally, when the kids, who are now adults, get wind of the will and the millions at stake they hire high-priced lawyers to contest the whole thing. Not only do they want the money but they (along with everyone else) wonder why their father would leave all the money to a poor African American woman. It’s hard to have sympathy for the kids since they are basically scumbags who have been estranged from their father for several years.

The black housekeeper appears to be an honest, upstanding citizen, but she is also shrouded in a bit of mystery and has a bunch of leeches for a family. Her husband is a drunk and philanderer with more vices than a Klingon. However, she appears just as puzzled as to why the father would leave his savings to her.

Most of the lawyers who appear in the novel reflect the stereotype of their profession. They are basically sharks that only care about winning and will apply any means to achieving that goal. Even though it appears the father was of sound mind and body when he wrote his new will the sharks will try to prove otherwise. Trashing the credibility and reputation of the cleaning lady is part of the process.

The education we readers receive is seeing how the judicial system works in these types of cases, at least in Mississippi. We’re talking about a civil trial here and not a criminal one. There is no quick fix unless the two sides settle and that would take away the suspense of the novel.

First, the lawyers must go through the process of discovery and taking depositions. These are often quite dull, lengthy affairs and even the lawyers sometimes fall asleep.

Following that is the selection of the jury. It sounds straightforward but is anything but. Rich law firms hire professional jury consultants who analyze every juror who might be selected. These specialists have reduced jury selection to an art form and are well compensated for what they do. It’s bizarre, unseemly, and perfectly legal. But it’s also no guarantee to work either.

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  • Despite good reviews some movies disappoint Sometimes a popular movie can be difficult to evaluate. It may be a hit at the box office, receive great reviews, and earn multiple Oscar nominations. But what if it didn't really do it for you? How do you rip a film that clearly appeals to the masses? I faced that dilemma with one of the top grossing releases of 2013. I guess I learned that everyone has different tastes.

    August 14, 2014

  • Comparing HOF, Coop, now and then The Baseball Hall of Fame is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and it's amazing how much the Hall has grown since it first opened in 1939. An estimated 48,000 fans journeyed to Cooperstown to watch the induction ceremonies two weeks ago. The annual Hall of Fame weekend has become a major tourist attraction as floods of Hall of Famers and ex-big leaguers descend on the village to celebrate, reminisce, and sign autographs (for a fee). It's all quite a change from its humble beginnings in 1939.

    August 7, 2014

  • Biography of Neil Armstrong shines light on space program We just celebrated the 45th anniversary of the first lunar landing. We all remember Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, uttering those famous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.â€� It was an exciting time for our country and the world. There was talk of a mission to Mars by 1980. Instead, we haven’t been to the moon since 1972 and manned space exploration has become an afterthought. What happened?

    July 31, 2014

  • Early 'blahs' sometimes hide a gem There are often films that sound rather "blah" when you first notice them and have no interest in seeing. It's usually due to the preview either being really stupid or the producers wanting to avoid giving away too much of the plot. If it's the latter category you must be careful. Sometimes there's a gem of a movie hidden behind the facade.

    July 24, 2014

  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

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    June 12, 2014