Homeboy by Malcolm X

Homeboy—Malcolm X

I read Homeboy by Malcolm X and though I recognize this essay as part of his autobiography, it is a very compelling essay that stands on its own quite well. There are several aspects of this essay that gave it significance as both a commentary on the writer’s own frame of mind at this time and the community he was immersed in.

The first thing that struck me about the essay was the structure of the descriptions and the way the author superimposes his views on the situation in hindsight. This would be an entirely different essay if he had tried to be detached about the experiences. For instance, when he is describing his first conk, we see first how excited he was and the pride he felt at the time despite the painful procedure, “Going to lay on that first conk? The drugstore man asked me. I proudly told him, grinning, Right!” (p.189) Following this excited description, however, Malcolm reflects on how “ridiculous” and stupid he was and goes on to explain the rational behind the procedure as he saw it at the time of the writing. There is a very powerful juxtaposition between his description of buying the ingredients proudly and his final opinion on the conk, that it was his “first really big step towards self-degradation”. (p.191)

From his description of Boston from a country boy’s point of view, we get a compelling picture of his place in the world at that time. He shows the inner conflicts between the alluring and what might have been considered the proper place according to his aunt. The end of the essay brings his actions together with the shame he feels and by doing so creates a significant and powerful self reflection.

Voltaire’s Candide–2003

                                                                                                      Candide’s Travels to the New World



Voltaire’s view of America as expressed in Candide is a pessimistic one, but also one that shows a lot of potential.  The Americas are corrupted at this point by the European powers and their exploitative nature.  Despite this fact, America is shown as a place where there is great opportunity for both good and evil acts.  The descriptions of the various European inhabitants of America are derisive and show how a greedy and self righteous person could profit greatly from exploiting the land and the people who live on it.  The story of what happened to Candide in El Dorado is a comment not only on what the Americas were like before colonialism but what could be accomplished by a society regulated by enlightened thought.  Voltaire’s utopia is not a place that could exist but is the idea that great things could be done with America both for the inhabitants and new settlers if the right approach were made.  El Dorado could also be seen as an endorsement of the merchant system but is actually support for a simple egalitarian system. The other view Voltaire presents on the Americas is concerned with religion and the impact of the Jesuits in particular.  The Jesuits are seen in a terrible light throughout the book and their presence in the Americas is no exception.  He also tries to express the natives might have felt with the scene where the natives are clearly very excited to eat a Jesuit.(Voltaire p.74)  It is clear that the Catholics have done very well in America with regards to conversion and control, something Voltaire is extremely critical of.

            The first person we encounter in Buenos Aires is the pompous Dom Fernando d’Ibarra y Figueora etc. and seems to be an apt representative of the ruling class in the Americas.  His noble distain is even more pronounced than his European counterparts mainly due to his having so many names and is a jab at the nobles who inflate importance by the attachment of titles.  Although the lord is quite a buffoon, he seems to wield some power and is even described by the old woman as the “greatest lord in South America”.(Voltaire p. 66)  This view is the first glimpse of the Americas for Candide and the characteristics of the rulers is consistent with Voltaire’s view of Europeans in power.  This shows the kind of opportunity that any European of noble descent can have in America and the results are not looked upon favorably by Voltaire.

            An important theme in Candide is the general wisdom and loyalty of Cacambo because this is a common position of a “quarter-breed” in the Americas.  In other words, the kinds of opportunities presented to someone of even partial native heritage are very different than those presented to Europeans.  The natives are shown in greater detail later, but with the exception of the people of El Dorado, they are naïve and exploited.

            The power and authority wielded by the Jesuits is massive in America and show the kind of society than can be created by people motivated by conversion and control.  The padres are mocked throughout the book but only in America do they have temporal authority to match their religious authority.  Cacambo’s initial description of the priests in his native lands is somewhat contradictory because while praising them, he acknowledges that “the Padres have everything, the people nothing”. (Voltaire p. 68)  The praise for the catholic missionaries could be construed as extremely sarcastic, however, and their hypocrisy is exposed as well.  Cacambo comments that the priests kill people but send them to heaven so as not to feel bad about it.  The Jesuits take full advantage of every opportunity and their success is great, though a kind of success that Voltaire does not admire.  Voltaire expands on this distain by emphasizing the differences between the social standing of the priesthood and the standing of the native peoples. For example Candide is served from gold vessels while the natives eat “corn out of wooden bowls”. (Voltaire p. 69)  Catholicism is certainly very important and successful both in conversion and power maintained by war, but given Voltaire’s opinion of the Catholics, he is highly critical of those taking advantage of an opportunity to spread their religion.

            As Candide and his valet escape into the American wilderness, they encounter a land that is pure and seemingly untouched by civilized hands, a clean slate to be written on for good or ill.  The natives have some strange customs but are not ill willed unless they encounter a Jesuit.  Voltaire goes even further when Candide remarks that the situation among the natives is the “pure state of nature”. The largest problem these native have is simply that they are a “people who have not been educated”. (Voltaire p. 73)  Since the natives have already been exposed to education by the Jesuits, it follows that the kind of education Voltaire is referring to is an enlightened one.  The priests have had an opportunity to educate and convert these natives but given the response, “lets eat Jesuit”, it is clear that a different kind of instruction is necessary.  It is not directly implied that Voltaire thought the revelations of the enlightenment would be suited to the minds of Native Americans, but the idea of an uneducated people would be very appealing to someone trying to spread their philosophy.  This is also supported by the fact that both Voltaire and the natives are not on the best terms with the Catholic Church.

            The journey to El Dorado is a testament to the diversity of the American landscape and the city itself is an exaggerated version of Voltaire’s utopian vision. What we first encounter in El Dorado is the capitalist utopia because everything is catered to facilitate trade.  There is no mention of what the currency in El Dorado might be, but free food and lodging to help trade and gold being as common as flies would make any merchant salivate.  Points are also made to support the idea of corruption by Europe when the king states that the Incas who tried to fight the Spanish all died and that El Dorado was a city “safe from the greed of European nations”. (Voltaire p. 79)  The Native Americans are clearly in different states of development but worse off than they were before the Europeans came to make money and converts.

             Most of the ideals the people of El Dorado live by are very much in tune with the ideals of the enlightenment.  It could be interpreted that the kingdom of El Dorado is a constitutional monarchy but the word consent could also mean that the king is just honoring the pact between monarch and the subjects, a reciprocal relationship supported by the enlightenment.  This is supported by the fact that Voltaire was a supporter of “enlightened absolutism” (Gordan p.7) as supposed to democracy.  The government of El Dorado is an example, albeit exaggerated for effect, of a society that is free of the conventional European oppression and is ruled according to principles that Voltaire agreed with.  This enlightened society is the only place in the world where everyone is happy all the time, and this is reflective of what could be done if enlightened thinkers took the opportunity the new world presented.  It is really the religion of El Dorado that most impresses Candide and is also the most significantly enlightened.  The idea that everyone is a priest and religion is actually participated in by all is an idea in stark contrast to the religious institutions found in the rest of the book.  This is most clearly seen in the astonished question by Candide, “you have no monks who lecture, debate, govern, conspire, and burn people who don’t believe in them?”, the king replying, “we would be crazy if we did”( Voltaire p. 79).  In this way the possibility of a society free from religious tyranny and hypocrisy is created.

            Throughout the book, we see the role of Europeans in America as exploitative while it is also shown that there are also great possibilities to do good in the new world.  Europeans used the opportunity presented to them by an uncivilized world to increase their own wealth and sense of self righteousness at the expense of the people living there as well as slaves brought for work.  Fortunately for America, there are still parts of the new world that are not corrupted by Europeans and could become influenced by revolutionary thought.  Voltaire presents the new world as a place where opportunities for advancement in most things are possible but up until this point has only been used with selfish motives.

















Works cited

Gordon, Danial ed. Candide by Voltaire. Bedford/ST. Martin’s. Boston, MA. 1999


                                      Hurl My Soul From Heaven



Heaven and Hell, along with words that represent one or both of them are used frequently throughout the play and have significance  because of their connection to the state of mind of the person who uses them.  Some important instances come from both Othello and Iago.  Iago uses contrasts like heaven and hell to push for his goals while Othello uses them to describe his own state of confusion.  Iago makes convincing arguments to several different people all to the ultimate end that is the destruction of Othello.  Othello himself often feels torn and confused by the suspicion planted by Iago and as his conflict grows, so does the way he expresses it.

 References to light and dark as representations of heaven and hell come up when a dark act is happening presently or has just passed.  Iago uses the light and dark, the base and noble to incite the greatest possible misery and to further his plans. The lines where he is telling Brabantio about his daughter and Othello again show his skill in pulling people’s emotions in the ways he wishes (p.13).  These lines are very carefully crafted to incite the greatest possible anger in Brabantio. The contrast between black and white gives Brabantio the struggle between heaven and hell and Iago also tells him that his daughter is in the process of losing the battle to the dark side.  Referring to Othello and Desdemona as animals expose the vulgarity and baseness of what they are doing, two things that would make any father angry if his daughter were involved.  This is not to say that all fathers are angry at the thought of their married daughters having sex, but the way Iago tells it, “An old Black ram is tupping your white ewe” brings a vulgarity that would not be there had Iago not wanted the phrase to have a shock value for Brabantio.[1] The lines are also meant to make Brabantio angry because they are insulting to his daughter as well as making her a victim.  Even though she is “white” and thus somewhat good, she is still referred to as a common dirty animal.  Judgment of Desdemona is implied in these lines and it is a hard judgment of someone who would copulate with an “old Black ram”.  Iago paints a picture of Desdemona that any father would be ashamed of, but since these acts are happening right now, he also gives Brabantio hope that he can stop his daughter.[2]

          Heaven and hell as metaphors are closely connected with the concept of baseness, which Iago also uses to aid his plans. Iago exemplifies this technique as he tries to break up Othello’s Marriage. p.127, act 3 sc 3 Ln. 150 Although he appears to be attempting to dismiss Othello’s inquiries, Iago’s language reveals he is actually trying to further Othello’s curiosity.[3]  Iago is warning Othello about the danger that may come if he does express his “vile and false”  thoughts. Ln.159. Calling the place where these thoughts don’t go a “palace” seems to be an effort to convince Othello not to listen.  He does not imply that such a “Palace” exists, but contends that not talking about such matters would be more pleasant.[4]  Iago compares the torment Othello would have to sitting in court where the “vile thoughts” of Iago would continuously run though his head.  However, Iago is actually making sure that Othello will hear him and be interested because with each assertion of the ideas’ foulness, Othello will only want to hear them more.

           For much of the play, Heaven and hell are invoked to push someone towards one or the other, but as Othello becomes more and more distraught about his suspicions, he brings the two extremes together to show the growing conflict in his mind. P.149.”All my fond love thus do I blow to heavan”Ln.505  Othello’s anger here is extreme as he shows the change in his heart from love to blind violent rage and puts this change on a much larger scale by giving up his old love to heaven and finding his new emotions in hell. He relinquishes his love to heaven and follows only with “Tis gone”. The statement is powerful because it stands alone in the stanza as a two word line in the middle of more regular ones[5] and also because it is such a simple statement and thus has a strong sense of finality to it.[6]  Othello then commands “Black Vengeance to take over his heart and rule it with “tyrannous rage”.  He commands these things to come out of “hollow hell” and because he has given up his heavenly love, this shows an about face from the light to the dark.  In the end Othello reveals that the plague has become a real poison overloading his “bosom” and heart. This contrasts with what he has been doing in the rest of the passage, where he has been almost actively trying to get his love out and the poison in.  This shows that he still wishes to be allied with heaven as supposed to hell, but is unable to do so because of the circumstances.  Othello’s change of heart is dramatic and although he has an active role in the change, he is still confused by the battle between his former heavenly love and the poison that is destroying it.

          Iago uses these two extremes very effectively to accomplish his goals while Othello’s references seem only to further confuse him.  Iago succeeds in getting Brabantio to rush furiously at Othello and also turns Othello on his own wife with the use of heaven and hell as tools for making an argument.  Othello talks about heaven and hell at first to describe his conflicting emotions about his wife’s suspected infidelity, but is still confused even after he has killed Desdemona. Looking at her dead body “this look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven”p.259, Othello is still unsure about his place in the cosmos as a result of the act he has just committed.  He is even further conflicted as his grief overflows with “O Desdemon! Dead, Desdemon! Dead! O, O!”p.259.  In the end, Othello’s descriptions of oscillating between the good end and the bad end reflect his madness very well because who could be sane moving from one extreme to another? 


[1] Catherine Brewster

[2] Catherine Brewster

[3] Ethna Riley

[4] Catherine Brewster

[5] Catherine Brewster

[6] Catherine Brewster

Freedom in Faith–1996

                                      Freedom in Faith


The version of freedom given by the Bhagavad Gita is based on the idea that true freedom can only come with hard work, sacrifice and prayer.  Learning to be disciplined is one of the most important steps in freeing oneself from the bonds of attachment.  To be disciplined, one must choose understanding over action, for “pitiful are the men drawn by fruits of action”.   “Disciplined by understanding”, one can attain the freedom that is escaping from the cycle of rebirth and “reaching a place beyond decay”.  Understanding as supposed to action is only one of the things that will lead to eternal freedom and must be combined with other ways of acting.

          To make one’s thoughts sure, they must get rid of desire and become indifferent to the urges that everyone else is controlled by.  When someone has given up attraction to pleasure, they can become “a sage whose thought is sure”.  The reason destroying cravings and attachment is so important is because “brooding about sensuous objects makes attachment to them grow; from attachment desire arises, from desire anger is born”.  Therefore, relinquishing attachment not only frees the mind from its worldly bond but also prevent anger and the loss of understanding that comes with it.  An important exercise in freeing oneself from desire is to deprive oneself of food. Approaching the world without desire and with discipline leads to serenity and eventually inner peace, something that seems akin to complete freedom of the mind.

          To become a man of discipline involves self-deprivation and perhaps even more importantly, meditation and devotion to Krishna.  “Perfect joy comes to the man of discipline” because he sees and loves his self and has his mind free of attachment and full of devotion to Krishna.  People are not free because the self is not free and is still attached to objects in the world.  Fortunately there is a method outlined in the Gita that can free the self from the bonds of worldly attachment that cause so much misery and false understanding.

          Jesus chooses man’s complete freedom over his eternal happiness because he values faith over blind obedience.  The Inquisitor, however, believes that men are “like sheep” and has “vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy”.  The inquisitor makes the argument that the church is giving men what they want and need, something that Jesus denied them when Satan tempted him. Jesus is offered miracle, mystery, and authority by which to command the faith of man but he refuses all three in order to maintain freedom of faith.  Jesus could have fed all the people in the world but then they would have followed him only for the sake of food. He could have shown himself to be the Son of God by falling from a cliff and surviving, but then man would have followed him with blind faith based on a miracle.  He could have also ruled all the kingdoms of earth but would have had to bow to Satan.

          The inquisitor contests that Jesus is only offering salvation to the few and the multitude of weak people will never find salvation in heaven. He claims that people do not understand the freedom being given them and would be much better off with bread or being unified under a leader.  The inquisitor intends to take that which the devil offered Jesus and make the church rule the world and feed the people.  He is doing this because “nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and human society than freedom”.  The inquisitor states that man, in his freedom, is not happy and still desires bread, something to worship, and a ruler.  The church aims to give man all three in return for the worship and power given to the church.

          Jesus and the Gita are similar in that both attachment great importance to the freedom of faith.  The Gita telling one to abstain from food in order to become disciplined is akin to Jesus refusing to feed all the people of the earth in order to make them stronger and free. The inquisitor, on the other hand, is more concerned with the happiness of man on earth, because only a handful will actually gain access to heaven.


“Devil in the White City” treatment and promotion

This nonfiction work by Erik Larson has strong potential to be a successful three part series on HBO or Showtime. Each part would fill an hour and a half time slot and would premier on Columbus Day due to the fact that the fair itself was a celebration of Columbus’s arrival in America and also inspired the national holiday.  The first part of the series would focus on the events leading up to the fair, the second part would show the events occurring during the fair, and the third part would focus on the events after the fair centering on the investigation of the serial killer.


Plot Summery

Although the book goes into excruciating detail about the designs and trials of the architects, it would be best to avoid this plot line as it will most likely only be interesting to people with a subscription to architectural digest.  The fair and its novel architecture would be mainly a visually exciting background to the main story of a charming, methodical psychopath, “Dr.” Holmes.

            The first part of the series would show the killer as he establishes himself in Chicago by defrauding creditors and construction workers.  There would be great contrast value in showing his construction of a “gloomy castle” complete with sound proof vaults, gas chambers, and a crematorium and the construction of the grand Romanesque buildings for the fair.  The killer also had several relationships during this period, all of which ended with the disappearance of the women involved.  One possible subplot that could be explored is the union struggles associated with the construction and the rise of Mayor Harrison, who would be killed by an altogether different kind of lunatic at the beginning of part three.

            The second part of the series would show Holmes as his hotel filled up with victims.  He appears to have done the majority of his killing during the fair because of an abundance of visitors to the city. We also see him romancing his victims by taking them to the fair and enjoying the exhibits before taking them home and killing them.  Holmes also has creditors piling up and letters from his victim’s families coming in as well.  One darkly humorous part of the story is the fact that Holmes sold his victim’s skeletons to medical schools as a way to dispose of the bodies.  Again there is a great contrast between Holmes canvassing the fair for victims and historically famous people visiting at the same time such as Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley as well as visiting dignitaries.

            The third part of the series would show primarily the detective work that led to the arrest and execution of Holmes.  The final part would begin with the murder of the mayor at the hands of a disturbed lunatic and the deterioration of both the economy and the once majestic white city. This would set the tone for the more disturbing elements uncovered during the investigation of Dr. Holmes.  The investigation itself would be compelling because of the techniques used in those days compared to the criminal justice system we are used to seeing on TV or film.  There is no forensics, profiling or even fingerprints so the detective simply went to an enormous number of hotels in many cities, asking questions and showing low quality black and white photographs.  One novel aspect of criminal investigations was the unrestricted access the press had to crime scenes.  This would be effective in showing the progress of the investigation in conjunction with colorful headlines.



The author has had great success with his previous book “Isaac’s Storm”, a non fiction national best seller about the Galveston hurricane in 1900.  Reviews of “The Devil in the White City” often compliment the author’s ability to take historical events and show them in an accessible and interesting way.



The serial killer Genre has been very successful with films like “Seven” and “Taking Lives”, among other films.  Particularly successful have been the ones where the killer is outwardly charming and inwardly disturbed and homicidal.  This series would not be as graphic as the average serial killer film mainly because the killer used gas and suffocation with explicit violence and gore occurring rarely.  This would make it more acceptable for the mainstream audience.



Dr. Holmes—Vince Vaughn (has played a serial killer in two films), Jeremy Irons

            –Both actors can be very charming as well as very disturbing and dangerous

Mayor Harrison—John Goodman

Burnham (inspired Architect)—Television actor fitting description

Olmstead (oversaw fair) — Donald Sutherland



The first major promotional possibility would be with Westinghouse INC, whose founder George Westinghouse introduced large scale electric power at the fair, outbid Tomas Edison for the concession and also pioneered the alternating currant system.  Because Westinghouse is now a large corporation, it would be a significant product placement.


Another product placement strategy would be to tie in the consumer products first presented to the public at the fair.  Aunt Jemima’s Pancake mix, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, Juicy Fruit Gum, Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, and Pabst Blue Ribbon were all pioneered at the fair.  The fact that these products have been in popular use since 1893 gives the product placements added power.


Advertising for the series could be placed across all media platforms.  As HBO is part of Time Warner, the possibilities for cross promotion are huge.  Ads could also be placed in the monthly cable bills of HBO subscribers.


Like it did with “Rome”, HBO could make several short ‘making of’ specials.  These could include a virtual tour of the 1893 exhibition, an examination of the working conditions and labor problems leading up to the great depression.  HBO could also include interviews with cast members and historians.  These specials would also be available online and on demand. They would serve to create buzz and give the viewer more context that will not be shown in the series itself.


The book is a #1 national bestseller and a finalist in the national book award and as such, an audience for the series already exists.  A new edition with the movie cover and perhaps a short promotional DVD with extras and previews would insure readers’ interest in seeing the series.  All this could be co-financed with the publishers as the series would in turn provide increased book sales.


The potential for DVD extras is also significant because there is an abundance of material that could personalize the fair for viewers.  A copy of the original fair maps, an admission ticket, or a replica of the Ferris wheel could all aid in creating a unique package fans of the series would want.  There could also be expanded documentary extras in this area.



Darwin’s Good Book

Darwin’s Good Book          


A good way to begin a book report on one such as On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin would be a synthesis of his major points and then a summary of the remaining chapters. The reason for this organization is that the author in this case tends to be exhausting in his descriptions.  This is not to say that he is a windbag, just that he needed to compensate for the rightly anticipated reactions of his fellow nineteenth century naturalists, not to mention the Christians.

            Darwin begins the book by drawing attention to artificial selection by way of breeding domestic animals.  This is a good way to introduce the subject of evolution by way of natural selection.  The average person at the time the book was written and even scientists at the time were skeptical of the idea, so he seems to ease the reader into the idea by showing examples of genetically influenced breeding the average person can readily see.  Selecting and breeding domestic animals is a time tested practice with more or less predictable results.  It effectively makes a well known point about heritability and applies it to the entire world and all living things in it.  He also mentions that many of the desirable or undesirable traits are a result of location as well as the human selection of mates.  There is an ambiguity about the concept of species because Darwin is comparing his definition of the words to many other different definitions.

            One of the most important concepts that is introduced early on is the idea that all organisms would produce offspring at a geometric rate if they all survived to maturity.  If 100% of any one species offspring survived long enough to reproduce, they would overrun the world very rapidly.  This leads us to conclude that only a small percentage of organisms born survive long enough to procreate.  The question this raises is why some survive where others die.  The answer is that some are better equipped to survive, hence the often misused notion of survival of the fittest. Two other observations must be taken into account before delving into natural selection. The first is that the overall population of a given species is relatively static within its natural confined borders. This observation must exclude human involvement because if a land animal is brought from one continent to another by boat, it has gone beyond the natural borders through no fault of its own. The second observation is that resources are also relatively static and limited and so, put simply, there are more animals than there is food to feed them all. Luck has nothing to do with it

            This survival of the fittest idea can be narrowed down into the theory of natural selection.  The competition for resources is what keeps the populations static and non-increasing. They die because something else got to the food first or because something else killed it and ate it.  There are 4 kinds of competition, competition within a species for the same resources, competition between similar species for the same resources, competition between predator and prey for survival, and competition between males for the opportunity to procreate with the most desirable female.  The first three kinds of competition are challenges as to who will live long enough to procreate and the fourth is a challenge to pass on genetic material.  Darwin goes into detail concerning the competition for a mate as a way of natural selection.  The kind of competition that involved a physical or violent confrontation is a way of ensuring the strongest survive. The kind of competition like birds often engage in results in characteristics that often have no other purpose than to attract a mate.

            Every organism is slightly different from all others in the species and these small differences can often be transmitted to the next generation. The ram with the slightly harder head that got the lady ram to have his baby rams will pass on some of that hardheadedness to the kids.  The slightly faster squirrel that got to the food before his brother will live and have other squirrels, while his brother will starve to death.  The winners get to pass their genes on. 

            This inheritable variation happens very slowly and we can infer from this that luck has nothing to do with the morphological characteristics of a species.  The reason is that favorable characteristics have to accumulate in a gene pool before they become significant as an advantage or guaranteed as an inheritable characteristic.  When these traits do become significant, the portion of the species that has the characteristic will dominate the species and the earlier version will often die out.  People wonder what happened to the Neanderthals but I’m pretty sure we killed them.

            Darwin emphasizes several times that because we are largely ignorant of how organisms exist relative to each other and the surroundings, we can not dismiss any characteristic as useless or solely decorative.  He makes the assumption that all variations are or were at some point useful.  Natural selection also leads to variation within a species that can lead to a new species instead of the extinction of the earlier version.  For this reason Darwin proposes that current living organisms all descended from a common ancestor and makes an analogy to a tree where some buds branch off and form new limbs while others die and grow no further.  It is interesting to see Darwin articulate this concept of heredity because currently it can be easily proven using DNA while Darwin relies on several hundred examples to prove his point.  It can be confusing though because the idea of heredity is presented to be at odds with variation.  He has the notion that heredity might act to correct the variations.  It is easy to understand how this might have been a point of conflict because he was only able to observe a limited number of generations. When variations are not soon apparent in successive generations one could draw the conclusion that there is a force acting against inheritable variation.

            This is the general theory of evolution and much of the remaining pages are devoted to explanations of various natural processes that might support or run contrary to the theory. Examples of these include the problem of hybridization which makes the male-male competition of natural selection inapplicable.  He also devotes a good deal of time to an examination of the geological record.  In this discussion he points to the fossil record that supports demonstrable variations on species he believes to be ancestors of modern organisms.  He demonstrates the difficulty and unlikelihood of producing very convincing evidence because of the imperfect fossil record.  This discussion is used in part to explain the similarities found around species on different continents, the reason being a common ancestor living at a time when the continents were connected.

            Once the theory is understood, the most import point to remember is that “natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by short and slow steps.” (p.471)

Dr. Death by Jonathan Kellerman–Treatment and selected scenes

Dr. Death could be made into a feature length film but the story and the number of characters make the book more suitable for a crime drama episode.               The main characters are Alex the narrator and his friend and colleague on the homicide squad, Milo. Alex is a physiologist who does consulting work with the LAPD.  A “doctor” Mate resembling Jack Kevorkian has been brutally murdered and cut to pieces and Milo has caught the case.  There are three main suspects in the crime: Richard Doss, a prominent businessman whose wife was killed by Mate. A serial killer called Michael Burke whose existence is introduced by an FBI agent Fusco. Mate’s son Donny, who is a homeless criminal type. The killer is Michael burke, who “discovered” the body of Dr. Mate. He is killed by agent Fusco before being arrested. The story begins with Alex and Milo examining the scene where Mate was murdered, a parking lot on a deserted road. They spend a good deal of time examining the scene where they talk about the mind and motivations of the killer. The scene is chaotic, with CSI type people running around.  They also interview the people who found the body, one of whom turns out to be the killer.  This is a brief interview because the “witness” is not a suspect until near the end.We see the other side of Alex’s professional life after this as he talks to an old patient Richard Doss who needs counseling for his daughter.  Richard Doss is immediately a suspect in the story because Mate killed his wife and he was extremely angry.  Doss is bossy and obnoxious and very happy to hear Mate has been killed.            Since the story revolves around the search for Mate’s killer, it would be effective to have a montage of the research Alex does on Mate.  We discover that Mate was an attention seeker and might have killed for personal satisfaction rather than for moral reasons.There is a growing tension between Alex and Milo concerning Doss because Alex wants to keep his patients confidentiality and Milo thinks he is a prime suspect.The second suspect is introduced by a visit to Mate’s house where the landlady reports a bum sneaking in.  Mate’s previously unknown wife is near the house and tells Alex and Milo about her son with Mate, who might be hostile towards his father. The son Donny is now a suspect and his whereabouts are unknown.An FBI agent Fusco contacts Alex and Milo and says he has something that could help their investigation.  They all meet at a coffee shop where the agent gives the pair a large folder on a Michael Burke.  The FBI man acts strangely and we don’t know why at this point.  According to Fusco, the killer is probably Burke, who has been a serial killer for a long time and many of his victims were similar to the patients of Dr. Mate. Both Doss and Donny Mate become more suspicious as the story progresses. Doss becomes a more suspicious character because of the therapy Alex has with his daughter, who reveals how unbalanced her father is. Donny becomes more suspicious when they find a gruesome painting done by him at his father’s house.During a therapy session with Doss’s daughter, Doss is arrested for hiring someone to kill Mate.  A former employee made a deal with the police and told them that Doss hired him to kill Mate.  The former employee did not go through with it but the detective thinks he may have tried again.Finally looking through the file agent Fusco gave him, Alex finds a clue that makes it seem very likely that Michael Burke is the killer. Alex sees a hypodermic needle in an old crime scene photo that matches one found at the scene of Mate’s murder.Alex has a meeting with Doss, who claims that he did hire someone to kill mate but that when that didn’t happen, he didn’t attempt it a second time. We don’t know if he is lying at this point.Mate’s son appears, beaten up and taken to an LA hospital. The man is mentally unstable and a drug addict but an intense questioning session with Alex reveals that he probably did not kill his father.  He wanted to but he didn’t get the chance.While searching for the elusive lawyer of Mate, Alex stumbles upon the dead bodies of the lawyer and a friend of Mate. They are tied to a tree and are carved up just like Dr. Mate and the victims of Michael Burke.  At this point it is pretty clear that the person from Fusco’s files is the person who killed Mate.  Milo believes that Burke was a covert assistant to Dr. Mate, which would explain why he killed the lawyer also.  There is a problem with agent Fusco because when Alex calls the FBI to talk to the agent, two other FBI agents tell him that agent Fusco has gone AWOL and is under investigation.  It appears that Fusco believes Michael Burke killed his daughter and has taken the case too personally.With this new information in mind, Alex and Milo take another look as Fusco’s file to find a fresh lead.  Through discussions about the motivations of the killer, Alex notices a similarity in the descriptions and statements of the people who found many of the victims.  One statement in particular catches his attention and we get a flashback to the witness at the scene of mate’s murder.  Alex has solved the case but the killer is still out there. Alex and Milo can’t find anything on the killer so they go searching for a lead on the girls he was with. They manage to locate the girl’s sister who tells them how creepy her sister’s boyfriend is and a few places they might be able to locate her.Milo and Alex go on the search immediately because they believe that Michael Burke is planning to kill the girl.  Eventually they trace her car to a remote cabin in the woods and they approach the place with caution.They sneak up and spy on the cabin where they see the killer and the girl.  It appears that the killer is planning another murder and just as Milo is about to jump out and arrest Burke, he is killed by a sniper rifle.  The killer of Burke is assumed to be the renegade FBI man Fusco.

The case has been solved and Alex and Milo return to write their reports on the serial killer Michael Burke. Richard Doss goes to jail for the attempt to hire someone to kill mate and the other suspects are released.  Special agent Fusco has taken revenge and is not captured or proven to be the shooter.


Scene I






MILO is sitting on hood of orange car and ALEX pulls into parking lot in own car.






Big guy.

Going cowboy?



My Georgia O’Keeffe period.


Milo laughs and turns to look at van



No attempt to conceal.


Milo shrugs and walks to the van



We know where the van came from.

The rental sticker traces back to an avis in Tarzana,

Mate rented it last Friday, got the weekend rate.



Preparing for another mercy mission?



That’s what he uses vans for, but so far

no one has come forth claiming mate stood

him up.



I’m surprised the companies still rent to him.



They probably don’t. The paperwork was done

by an Alice Zoghbie, a right to die activist who

is out of the country as of Saturday.



She rented the van and split the next day?



Apparently. I called her and the machine said she

Will be back in a week. She’s on my to do list.

(taps notepad)



I wonder why Mate never bought a van.



From what I’ve seen so far he was cheap.

He’s got a budget car and a barren apartment,

He used to use cheap motels.


ALEX (nodding)

He liked to leave the bodies on the bed for

The maids to find. I saw him on TV defending

 himself, saying the setting doesn’t matter.


MILO (suspiciously)

You’ve been following Mate’s career?



Didn’t have to, he wasn’t exactly media shy.

Any tracks of other cars nearby?


Milo shakes his head



So you’re wondering if the killer drove

Up with Mate.



Or parked farther down the road, or

Left no tracks, or forensics missed something,

I mean no one even noticed the damned

Van and its been sitting here for hours.



What about shoe prints?



Just the people who found the van.



What’s the time of death estimate?


MILO (looking at watch)

Between one and four am, Mate

was found just after sunrise.



The paper said the people who

found him were hikers, they sure were

up early.



Couple of yuppies walking the dog,

 they were headed up the dirt road when they

noticed the van.



Any other people come by? There is a large housing

development nearby.



High-priced development. Guess the rich

get to sleep in.



There might be someone else we missed.



Its possible but how many cars have you seen

on this road?


Alex turns and looks at deserted road



And even if someone saw the van there

is no reason to stop and look inside, it just doesn’t stand out



It stood out to the yuppies.



Their dog wouldn’t stop barking at it

so they went and looked and I think its

 safe to say they won’t be taking this path




That bad?



Dr. Mate was hooked up to his own machine.



The Humanitron.



Yeah I figured the machine would be high tech but

it looks like a failed grade school science project.



It worked.



It worked fine fifty times and that’s what I

have to go on, fifty potentially angry families.

I have a long list.



Maybe Mate hooked himself up to

the machine



The machine was just for show, the

killer carved him like a turkey and Mate

probably bled to death during the cutting.






He was castrated and there were eight other cuts

using a scalpel or scissors, Squares, like the killer

was playing around.



Proud of himself. He preformed surgery

and it sounds like a mess. Are you sure

there’s no blood outside the van? (looking around)



Not one speck, this guy was extremely careful.



The killer wanted the body to be found, he

left everything in the open, like he is saying look at what I did.

What was the body position?


Laying on his back head near the front seat.



Mate prepares the van, the killer uses it.

What a power trip.


MILO (after thinking for a minute)

There’s something that needs to be kept quiet,

the killer left a note nailed to Mate’s sternum

“Happy traveling, you sick bastard.”


Scene II




ERIC and Alex are sitting in chairs facing each other.  Eric looks at boards games



 Hey lets play candyland, see who gets to the

 top of the mountain first.



Nothing wrong with having a sweet life.


ERIC (emotional)

Everything’s a punch line with you, making

your fucking point. Well thanks for the

fuckin insight doc!


The intercom buzzes and the receptionist comes on.



Sorry for interrupting you but we have a problem out here.




RICHARD and STACY are standing next to two cops, KORN and DEMETRI as Alex and Eric enter.



These two gentlemen are waiting to take me to the police station



Hey doc, nice place.



You know him!



What’s going on?



Like Mr. Doss said, we’re taking him in.



For what?






In regards to?



This is not your business. We interrupted you

so Eric can take his sister home.





Richard looks away and doesn’t answer.



First I’m calling my lawyer.


KORN (sighing)




This is Richard Doss, please get max on the line…

Whats that? When?… ok its really important  that

I talk to him…No no I can’t get into it right now,

 just call him in aspen…I’ll be at the west LA police




Let’s get going.


Scene III




ALEX and MILO are standing next to the car looking up the driveway.



No sense announcing ourselves, lets

 see if we can get a view of the cabin.




Alex and Milo crouch behind some bushes with a view of the cars and the front door of the cabin.





                        Separate cars…



Maybe she is going to work early.




                        He might have evidence here so I can’t

 mess up the search warrant.  Maybe we

should back off for now.



                        She might be in danger.


PAUL ULRICH comes out of the door with coffee in hand. He walks over to the car and pops the trunk, pulling out a black bag.



                        Not good.




Two more shots and Paul is down on the ground. Milo jumps out of the bushes with gun drawn and looks around franticly.


                                                ALEX (whispers)