Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adventures in Fictional Litigation

"Jaws" is one of my favorite films, but I always wondered what happened to Chief Brody and Matt Hooper once they returned to town (and I don't mean "Jaws 2, 3D, or Revenge"). If the story happened today, the litigious nature of society would certainly result in the following:





This suit alleges the negligence on the part of the defendants resulting in the loss of human life of the plantiffs’ father, Mr. Quint and the loss of property, the fishing boat Orca off the shore of Amity Island in the summer of 1975 and seeks compensation in the amount of $15 million.

Having witnessed Quint’s erratic behavior, beginning with an incident in a special meeting of the Amity council in which he claimed to be able to catch a shark for $10,000, the defendants did not investigate Quint’s professional, medical and psychological history. 

Had they done so, they would have learned that Quint suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome resulting from an incident aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis.  His condition created an unstable obsession with killing sharks, although there is no evidence Quint ever had experience doing so.

Since no investigation was made, the defendants chartered Quint’s vessel, and in so doing placed a very sick man in a life-threatening situation.  The defendants repeatedly ignored Mr. Quint’s erratic behavior, nonsensical exclamations and impromptu explosions of public domain singing. 

The defendants contributed to Mr. Quint’s delusions of grandeur by serving as crew aboard the Orca, obeying his every command – even when Mr. Quint’s psychoses were evident.

The defendants exacerbated Mr. Quint’s history of alcohol abuse by engaging in an all-night drinking party aboard the ill-fated Orca.  

Mr. Brody, a law enforcement professional hailing from New York should have had more than enough experience identifying psychotic behavior, but chose not to bring Mr. Quint’s behavior to the attention of a mental health professional.

Mr. Hooper, an experienced marine biologist with knowledge of basic seamanship failed to identify Mr. Quint’s unsafe seamanship and bring it to the attention of coastal authorities.  Mr. Hooper also goaded and teased the unstable Mr. Quint by making faces and flaunting a vast array of high-tech and ultimately worthless shark hunting equipment.  This behavior, by a city-raised youth more intent on studying the shark pursued, than on the safety of his very ill captain was certainly a contributory cause of the loss of the valuable antique vessel, the Orca.

This suit alleges negligence in the preservation of life and property resulting from the defendants personal needs to kill one abnormally large shark.  As if the negligence in this case were not evident enough, the city of Amity never paid the $10,000 owed Mr. Quint to his estate, nor have they returned the two yellow barrels salvaged from the boat by Messrs. Hooper and Brody.

This flagrant disregard for real property and human life cannot go unnoticed or unpunished.  The plaintiffs in this case are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $15 million.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Personal Entertainment - The 1970's Way

I found myself on a bus to New Jersey the other day.  The walk through the Port Authority Bus Terminal reminded me of the first times I found myself there.

My family had moved to suburban New Jersey when I was five years old.  Every now and then, we would return to New York to visit family.  Usually, my Dad drove in one of the large tank-like sedans that everyone drove in the very early 1970's, but on occasion, we would take the Lakeland Bus to Manhattan. My paternal grandmother, who worked for Macy's for an incredibly long time, would meet us and I would get to enjoy a quick trip to the Playland arcade for some Skee-Ball, before we continued on to the World's Largest Department Store to indulge in Nana's employee discount for my back-to-school clothes.

I don't remember much about the Port Authority back then - aside from the fact that I used to call it the Port of Authority, but I do recall the cutting-edge entertainment available to travelers awaiting their busses.  Three words: Coin Operated Television.  It was so exciting to me back then, but as I walked through the terminal in 2012 with a messenger bag containing several devices with more computing power than Apollo spacecraft, it seems incredibly quaint.  Imagine a row of waiting room chairs, with small black and white televisions mounted in front of each seat.  A quarter would buy about 15 minutes of television viewing...  Black and white television viewing...  Black and white broadcast television viewing… Static-laden, black and white, broadcast television viewing, which at that time meant, WABC, WCBS, WNBC, WNEW, WOR, WPIX and WNET (Public Television).  That's right, youngsters, there were seven glorious channels to choose from.  It seems incredibly quaint by today's personal entertainment standards, but to a seven or eight year-old child, there was nothing more cool than watching television anywhere outside your home.  I LOVED watching those Port Authority TV sets, so when we had to wait for a bus, my parents (or grandparent) would indulge me with a quarter to feed the TV - that was a lot of money back in the time when you didn't pay for television.

I don't remember what I watched, but it was probably Batman or Star Trek, or WPIX's Vice President and General Manager Richard Hughes delivering his editorial (New Yorkers will remember the solemn fellow speaking with the channel 11 logo over his shoulder; "What's your opinion?  We'd like to know.")  Whatever it was, and however much static there was, and even if I wouldn't watch it at home, watching it in the Port Authority made it cooler.

So, the next time you watch a TV show on your iPad at the airport, train station or bus depot, remember us previous century pioneers of personal entertainment.