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Book Review : Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill

Some books you read because you need to.

Ronan Farrow’s Catch And Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators was for me, one of those books you just need to read. It is a very adult book with lots of foul words and graphic language wrapped around disturbing material. Farrow includes a warning that it might trigger some people who have been hurt. The warning is justified. I have never been sexually abused or harassed yet there were times I had to put it down and walk away for a day or two.

I’d like to address the book in two different aspects rather than one of my more usual formats (good, bad, and ugly or what I liked and what I didn’t like). The first aspect I’d like to take is the topic at hand. The second is the book as a written endeavor.

As to the topic, Catch And Kill is an important work because it highlights the criminal activities of powerful people who use their wealth and power to intimidate or silence their victims. What I found particularly disturbing was the complicit nature of law enforcement, particularly prosecutors. I was not aware the law was that bendable — that money and attorneys could essentially shut down a viable investigation into rape or assault by simply lawyering up or using the media to start a smear campaign, victim shaming, job insecurity, and various other power trips including blackmail. It is disgusting.

Farrow’s book also teaches us an important lesson: Power is not political. If you think only Republicans are guilty of sexual crimes or only Democrats cover things up, then you fail to realize the extent of the issue. This is not a political issue, this is an abuse issue. Farrow makes certain that we know Harvey Weinstein, the central figure for most of this book, was a huge supporter of Democratic causes and especially of the Clintons and he spells out how Weinstein used his leverage with Hillary Clinton to try to silence him. But he also reminds us the same media group that helped Weinstein cover-up stories and buy people off did the same work for Donald Trump. And Republican governors and Democratic media personalities all used the same processes.

This is true in the media, as Farrow points out, and in politics.

It is also true in your hometown.

It may be true in your family, as it was for Farrow.

It might also be true in your church, as many of us have seen first hand.

It could be true in your school.

It also happens in many workplaces.

Until we refuse to be silent about it any longer it will continue. Today as I write this blog post, Epstein and Prince Andrew are in the news. Epstein’s death feels very suspicious to me (after reading Farrow’s book, it makes you think anything might have happened) and Prince Andrew is demonstrating typical behavior of these kinds of abusers. And next week there will be more, and that is a tragedy because for every famous situation we hear about, there are untold numbers of victims forced into silent submission by those who have leverage and power.

This issue has always been near to me because of all the women whom I love that have been hurt, abused, raped, molested, and harassed by men who have never been brought to justice. I will not mention their names nor attempt to tell their stories. Their stories belong to them.

It is also personal to me because of the situation I found myself in, which I wrote about in the epilogue to my first novel, when a trusted colleague in ministry was arrested and clearly guilty of one of the most vile things I can possibly fathom. It is so vile I don’t even want to discuss it here.

So this issue is personal, and because of that I am thankful for this book for any attention it might call our collective society to give no tolerance to abusers or those who protect them.

So that is the first thing I wanted to talk about — the topic.

The second part of this is about the book. It is uneven in its narrative. Farrow seems to jump around quite a bit, which perhaps would be okay but then he throws in a large number of names that were hard for me to remember. At times I wished he’d had a Dramatis Personae at the beginning for quick reference. I’m certain these people are all clear in his mind, but to me it at times turned into a book in which the characters were Weinstein, Farrow, Lawyer in this chapter, NBC executive in this chapter, inept private investigator in this chapter, and someone dancing in the ballet studio across from his apartment.

What he did a good job on was highlighting the victims, both the famous ones we’ve all heard of like Rose McGowan and those we’ve never heard about like Brooke Nevils. There is a part of me that wishes the book would have been more a canvasing of the victims and their own individual stories. However, that is not the book we got. What we got instead was a book about Ronan Farrow. Make no mistake, he is the star of the book. At times he portrays himself as a hard working investigative journalist. Other times, the victim of such dangerous espionage he has to move into a safe house. Then he is also the martyr for the cause, the little guy going up against the machine. He also wants us to feel sorry for his beleaguered bi-coastal love life AND the physical toll it took on his body.

But its hard to read his words and not think of him at times as a whiney snob who can’t believe the bad guys didn’t just roll over and give up. Just when you begin to think of him as a work-a-day guy like the rest of us he so casually tells us he’s getting advice from Tom Brokaw, hanging out with Gwen Stefani, or was singing songs with Rose McGowan and talking about music. And then BOOM! he tells us about the time Rachel Maddow made him cry.

It’s kinda of surreal and I think Farrow believes this helps the book, particularly his own pain. It is impossible to untangle the story of Weinstein, Lauer, and other perps without an awareness of Woody Allen and Farrow’s sister Dylan. In the outside chance you wanted to, Farrow won’t let you. He keeps dragging himself back to the center of the narrative. For me this is not helpful, and this is not to minimize his own pain or Dylans — heavens no — and I hope there is justice and healing there someday for them all. It is that in this book, as a work on its own, it was a distraction.

In the book there are winners and losers. Farrow is a winner, and he is the hero. So too is The New Yorker Magazine and David Remnick, who published the original and subsequent articles. Oddly, the spies are winners too, because they ‘came to their senses’ and turned it around.

The losers are easy to spot–Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw, and NBC News in general. I mean, the big loser seems to be NBC. What a horrible, horrible culture.

If there is a hope in the book, it is the truth eventually comes out. We can certainly pray that way.

 

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This Is Not Okay — Thoughts On The World Series

I was able to catch Game 6 of the World Series. It was the only post-season baseball game I watched this year. My life is just too busy and, the truth be known, the games last too long and go too far into the night. I turn into a pumpkin at 9:30, so a game that lasts until after 11PM is really out of the question. [Hot take: baseball needs a pitch clock like the minor leagues.]

But I did watch Game 6. My sleep patterns haven’t recovered yet. I checked this morning to learn the Washington Nationals won Game 7 last night, and congrats to them. They are a fantastic baseball team and I am happy for them and their fan base. It is also a historical oddity all the games were won by the visiting team. Weird.

But that is not my main thought today. During Game 6 a controversial call was made involving a baserunner. The call went against the Washington Nationals, and the manager for the Nationals, David Martinez, lost his mind. Seriously.

Lost.

His.

Mind.

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He had to be restrained by other coaches from attacking an umpire.

 

I know sports culture is unique, but this is not okay. You can’t act this way AT WORK! We need to keep in mind this is a work place for the manager, the players, and the umpires. I can’t think of very many workplaces where this type of behavior by one employee to another would be tolerated. Imagine if a coworker came at you, restrained by his subordinates on the managerial chart, like Martinez does here at the umpire over say, a bad sales call you made or because the data in your spreadsheet was disproportionate. Or you made a judgment call that was part of your job description to do.

He was ejected, that is good. But he needs help, or he needs to find another career option. If someone came at me like this in my workplace, I think I might call 911, I don’t care how good they were at their job.

Major League Baseball should suspend him for multiple games or a season, and he should be forced to complete anger management classes/counseling before returning to work, at the very least.

Our nation is filled with rage and violence, and people are constantly ready to explode over the littlest of things. It is nurtured by our politicians and fueld by social media. We have a gigantic anger problem. Perhaps, in the past we could wink and nod at the showmanship and entertainment value at the antics of Billy Martins or Lou Pinellas but this kind of behavior needs to be swept away into the dust bin of history. We must become better than this.

This anger, focused at a human being who is just doing his job, is unacceptable, and ejecting him, the equivalence of saying ‘clock out and go home and take the rest of the day of’ is not enough.

Our kids are watching.

Do better, baseball. Do better.

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Burger Talk

A hamburger is always a good idea, but what do you do if you are avoiding meat? Do you skip the hamburger altogether?

A rise in the number of vegetarians, vegans, and people (like me) who are cutting back on meat has prompted the marketplace to develop meatless burgers. Recently I mentioned the outstanding offering at the Hard Rock Cafe in an unrelated blog post. About two weeks ago I tried a local burger joint’s vegetarian burger and it was awful. Just awful. It had the texture of Playdough and the flavor of boiled turnips. It fell apart into crumbling bits I scooped up with fried pickles. In short, I hated it.

My youngest sprout, who is a vegetarian (I am not–instead I follow a diet where I avoid meat on Monday and consciously skip it when there are other viable options) wanted me to try the Impossible Whopper from Burger King.

Well, today is Monday, so that means I’m meatless. After reading to kindergartner children I dropped by BK on my way back to my study. The verdict: from the first bite onward it seemed like just another hamburger to me. In other words, it was good. I don’t think I could have identified it as being plant based at all, and if I were alternating bites with a regular Whopper they would seem indistinguishable. Well done Burger King, well done.

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If you’re wanting to make burgers at home (which is always better) I highly recommend MorningStar Farms Grillers Veggie burger. However, be careful, as there is another veggie burger they make in almost identical packaging that is gag inducing vomit worthy.

I leave you with these five tips for the perfect hamburger experience — whether your burger is vegan or beef.

  1. Thick sliced sharp cheddar, placed on the patty when it is either on the grill/pan is best.
  2. Put the bottom of the bun on the meat patty when it has about a minute left. Flip it over with your spatula on the plate to build the burger.
  3. Serve the burger with a thin layer of mustard on the bun and a drizzle of ketchup over the meat. Remember, mustard is for the bread, the ketchup is for the meat. The picture above almost gets it right, but it has mayonnaise on the top rather than mustard.
  4. More mustard and ketchup instructions: serve a generous amount of both on the side for dipping the hamburger that you have cut into quarters.
  5. Drink a cherry Coke with your burger. It will make the burger perfect.
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A Quick Poll: Tank or Pond

I grew up in East Texas where we call small bodies of water a pond, which I believe is common for most of the English speaking world. However, in West Texas they tend to call them tanks, as they are used primarily for watering livestock. Some people will get passionate about the differences between the two words, but my experience is people tend to use them synonymously.

Here is my situation: Where I live now, in Central Texas, I hear both tank and pond used. It all depends on the origin of the speaker. I am working on a novel set in Central Texas, and I need to use either the word pond or tank. Tank gives the setting some ambiance, but not all readers might understand the usage. I can see pros and cons for both words.

Help me decide! VOTE NOW! Remember to click the vote button to record your choice.