What happened to comments selection at the New York Times?

The comments sections for pieces in the New York Times are always divided into three sections: All, Reader’s Picks, and NYT Picks. I often just read the NYT Picks because who has time to read all the comments and the Times usually selects the most articulate and informative comments from all sides of an issue.

Yesterday I watched the video they posted of Patricia Krenwinkel titled, My Life After Manson. My take: it felt like a performance. But I’m not saying she is insincere, necessarily. I’ve noticed over the years that people expect a certain script from criminals. If they don’t express the right amount of remorse, and the right amount of horror over what they’ve done, and in the right way, using the right words, people don’t accept that they’ve changed and that the person truly understands what they’ve done is wrong.

This felt like what comes of a person who has spent over four decades in prison. She is thoroughly schooled in the script. Which is not to say that it doesn’t represent what she feels. I believe she feels what she says she feels, along with many, many, many other things. Feelings are complicated, and not so neat and packaged as they are presented in this film. I believe she expressed herself in the way that she has learned to.

Some of the people who commented on the video said she doesn’t talk enough about the victims, and that they are not named. I think she does talk about the victims, and I believe she doesn’t name them because that would only enrage the victim’s families and friends. If I were a family member I absolutely would not want to hear their murderer talking about them personally in any way shape or form. I would not want to hear my relative’s name pass their lips.

The bottom line: she is never going to be able to express herself in a way that will satisfy everyone, and some people will never be satisfied no matter what she says.

I was alive at the time of the crimes, but I didn’t really understand the full horror of what happened until I read the book Helter Skelter. I think Patricia Krenwinkel was a seriously fucked up person in 1969, honestly I can’t fathom it, except drugs were involved and from my study of murder, I found that drugs and/or alcohol do seem to enable people to do horrible things, and in some cases, people who would never have done them otherwise.

I think she probably always will be damaged, but if she is eligible for parole, the questions are, is she a threat to society? Has she been rehabilitated? I know for some there is also the question of has she been adequately punished for her crimes? For those who believe the punishment must equal the crimes the answer to that question will always be no.

I also read the comments section, and came back this morning to see which the New York Times selected. There were only five, and they were all on the side of never letting her out of prison. They were also not of the calibre the Times usually selects. I guess it’s difficult to avoid emotion, but they seemed to either be about hating Krenwinkel, or hating the commentators the writer disagreed with. Although I liked one suggestion that came out of the commentator-hater, to contribute to the Innocence Project. The point made accompanying that suggestion was a good one.

Where are the comments from the other side, from people who present reasons for letting her out? Maybe I just checked too early and the Times hasn’t finished making their selection?

Update: I was too early. I went back later and there was an array of comments of the quality I’ve come to expect from their selections.

Yesterday I also had the pleasure of visiting the Surrogates Courthouse, formerly The Hall of Records, and home to one of my favorite places in New York City, the Municipal Archives, where I took this shot.

Surrogates Courthouse, Municipal Archives, New York City

Veets Theme

Next to the 2nd movement in my score of the Brahms Requiem I’ve written, “Veets Theme.” We started rehearsing it not long after my cat Veets died, and for me the 2nd movement was and still is the most evocative of loss. Although Veets died on New Year’s Eve, 1999, even now it pains me to sing it. He was the first pet I lost as an adult. You’d think losing a pet would be harder when you’re young, but actually it’s worse when you’re older. I think because you understand death more as an adult.

To this day, I still want Veets to be not dead. I feel so bad for him that he had to go, that he doesn’t get to be alive anymore. Poor little guy.

We sang the Brahms Requiem at a sing last night sponsored by the West Village Chorale. John Maclay, the director of my choir, The Choral Society of Grace Church, conducted. My sadness aside, it was lovely and I miss singing terribly. Hurry up and get here September.

West Village Chorale Sing, Judson Church, New York City

New York City Lap Swim Contest Update

Quick Backstory: I’m entered in the summer lap swim contest sponsored by NYC Parks & Recreation. I have to swim at least 25 miles by August 29th. People who swim the 25 miles get a tshirt proclaiming their accomplishment. There’s also a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize for the man and the woman who swim the most miles in their division at their pool by August 8th. Those people also get a trophy.

I’m in the Night Owl division at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, so only the laps I swim there at night count. Last year I came in 3rd place.

This week is the last week for the people going for the most miles swum (swum just doesn’t sound right, is it??). I am currently in 2nd place!! As of last Friday I’ve swum 35 miles (+ 35 laps). 35-freaking-miles!! And I still have another week to add miles. Except I can’t swim tonight, I’m going to a summer sing that’s being conducted by the director of the Choral Society I belong to.

I have to repeat, though: 35 miles. I know for a serious athlete that’s nothing but for me it’s … 35-freaking-miles for the love of God!!

The pool I swim in. I took this yesterday afternoon, when only one person was swimming.

Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, New York City

Things that Made My Days

Who doesn’t love nice surprises out of the blue? First, I got an unexpected mention in a friend’s review in the New Yorker of The Strain and The Leftovers. All my life everyone around me has always revered The New Yorker. Any mention in their pages is such an honor. I screamed. I blushed (even though I was alone). I’d been reading Emily Nussbaum’s views about television for years, so it didn’t surprise me in the least when she ended up as the tv critic for The New Yorker, the best job in the universe that doesn’t involve saving lives.

Then, composer and conductor Jed Scott tweeted a picture of Jerry Blackstone, a Grammy award winning conductor and the Director of Choirs and Chair of the Conducting Department at the University of Michigan, reading from my book at the 2014 conference of the Michigan School Vocal Music Association.

Basically, this week I died of pride twice. Thank you Emily, Jed and Jerry.

Since it didn’t involve petting or feeding him, Bleeck is not impressed.