Should the Man who Shot John Lennon Go Free?

July 30, 2018 – Next month, the man who gunned down John Lennon in New York City on December 8, 1980, will be eligible for parole for the 10th time.

Mark David Chapman, originally sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, served 38 years so far. At his parole hearing a few years back, Chapman said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer.”

Here part of the transcript handed down by the three-panel parole board that denied him once again:

“Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime,” board member Sally Thompson wrote. Board members Joseph Crangle and Marc Coppola agreed.

“The panel notes your good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation, remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered,” Thompson wrote. “However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone.”

I’m not advocating softer crime penalties or defending Chapman’s actions, but maybe, just maybe it is time to grant him parole.

The average sentence for second-degree murder in New York is 15 to 25 years, while a life sentence is typically thought to represent 25 years. For violent crimes, most states require criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentenced time. Additionally, in the United States, on average, a person convicted of second-degree murder serves 21.6 years in prison.

Chapman served several years longer than the average already and what is considered a life sentence. Could this be due to killing a much-loved musical icon and not just your average Joe?

Perhaps one could argue that Chapman did plan the murder, and therefore, could have been convicted of first-degree murder, which does not typically allow for parole. That is not the case, however; he was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries lighter penalties.

If Chapman isn’t ready for release, or is considered a threat to society, I would be the first to demand that he remain behind bars. But his record in prison and the fact that he did not have a history of crime prior to the shooting should be taken into consideration. And if he’s not ready now, will he ever be?

I remember reading an article right after George Harrison died, that reported he visited the attacker who stabbed and almost killed him several years before. Harrison wanted to meet with him and tell him he was forgiven.

Somehow, I think Lennon would feel the same. Perhaps he’d want to give peace a chance by letting this man live on the outside again.

We’ll see what happens when Chapman goes before the parole board on August 20.

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No Fountain of Youth in the Real World

July 23, 2018 – Not too long ago I ran into someone I used to baby sit. Talk about feeling old. It was a huge slap into reality when she told me she had turned 47.

For the most part I don’t mind growing older, but sometimes it takes me by surprise. Still, I would never want to relive my teenage years, or even my 20s or 30s. I wouldn’t mind staying my present age for the next 10 years or so just to catch my breath. Too bad it’s only cartoon characters that get that privilege.

What if our favorite cartoon characters did age? How would that look?

• As the only female in the Smurf Village, Smurfette first appeared on the scene in 1966. Like all the other Smurfs, she was one hundred years old back then, so maybe she’s not the best example. But if she aged she’d be 152 today. Have to admit she looks mighty fine for an old broad.

• The world met Popeye the Sailor Man in 1938 when he was 34 years old. Popeye would have been collecting social security for years now had he aged, and would be a feisty 114. Something tells me he would have been content with that. After all, he was fond of saying, “I ams what I ams.”

• A teenaged Archie and his pals burst onto the scene when he was 17 in 1941. Today, Archie would be 94, and probably telling boring stories to his grandchildren about how he had to walk up hill both ways in the snow to school everyday.

• Since the Stone Age lacked accurate records, we have to estimate that Fred Flintstone was about 30 in 1960. At 89 today, he probably suffers from a similar fate like Archie, and exhausts his grandchildren with stories of his days working in the quarry.

• Loveable loser Charlie Brown was first introduced in comic strips in 1950 when he was 10 years old. Today, Brown would be 78 and probably practicing psychiatry, a profession he chose so he could deal with his depression. Hopefully, he found some happiness outside of learning the true meaning of Christmas and married that little redheaded girl.

• In 1969, when Shaggy and the rest of the Scooby Doo gang were busy solving mysteries, he was a mere teenager of 17. That would make him 66 today. Most likely he still spends a lot of time in the back of that smoke-filled Mystery Machine van munching on some of those Scooby snacks.

• The most misunderstood of the Simpson clan, Bart Simpson, would be 41 today, and yet remains at the perpetual age of 10. Simpson has a good heart even though he is a rabble-rouser, so he probably did his fair share of community service around Springfield for the trouble he caused. Most likely he became the school janitor when Groundskeeper Willie retired.

Eric Cartman was born in 1989, which would make him 29 today. Cartman probably still lives in South Park (if he’s not in jail), and most definitely spent some time in juvy during his teenage years. Chances are great that Cartman still lives at home where he waits for his mother to serve him another round of cheesy poufs and chicken potpie.

December Comes Soon Enough

July 16, 2018 – I know that some people always want what they don’t have, but Christmas in July? I never understood the fascination. Are people so starved to celebrate a holiday after July 4th that they can’t wait until Labor Day? And how can anyone, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, think about Christmas during summer heat?

This strange tradition dates back to July 1933, when girls at a summer camp in North Carolina celebrated with a Christmas tree, gifts and a visit by Santa. Wonder who came up with that idea? Two years later, the National Recreation Association’s journal featured a story about the girls’ celebration and it took off.

Now its reached even the most common places. Turn on QVC, a guilty pleasure for me, and you’ll be given opportunities to buy trees, wreaths, other Christmas decorations and gifts. No thank you! And Hallmark Channel is running nonstop Christmas movies, which I can’t even consider this time of year.

But the biggest push to embrace Christmas in July comes from retailers who use it as a way to promote summer sales. So if you’re doing a little shopping while humming “Deck the Halls” don’t worry if some people look at you strangely. At least you’re helping the economy.

The Magic of Art

July 9, 2018 – A while back, I received a post card from a friend that completely brightened my day. She was visiting Santa Fe, N.M., more specifically the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year. It’s one of my favorite places on earth, the post card brought back a lot of pleasant memories.

I remember visiting the museum several years back in the early days, when it first opened. It’s nothing like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, my local museum, which is incredible in its own right, but on a much grander scale. Rather, it resembles an adobe style home in the middle of a residential neighborhood, giving it a straightforward appeal.

While there I took in two of my favorite paintings, Red Poppy and Black and Purple Petunias, prints of which hang in my dining room. It was incredible to see the actual work and brush strokes on the canvas.

 georgia-okeeffe-black-and-purple-petunia-1925

A few years later, in 2000, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC offered an O’Keeffe exhibit, and when I read that my painting would be displayed, the three-hour ride seemed minimal. Ladder to the Moon is a simple painting, but it makes me feel full of possibilities when I look at it.

The technical aspect of art is lost on me; I’ve never taken a fine arts class and don’t know how to correctly interpret the paintings I admire. And that’s OK. I much prefer the way a painting makes me feel, anyway. The magic of art is like that sometimes.