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Weekly Rochester Events #644 Starting Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton Discuss Their Book "Picking Cotton"
by Jason Olshefsky at 5:30 pm (add a comment)

A few months ago I attended a film screening sponsored by Restorative Rochester. Since then I signed up on their Yahoo! Group and have been lurking for a while. The group's goals revolve around "restorative justice" which — as I understand it — involves bringing victim and perpetrator together to find a sense of closure. The U.S. legal system is a correctional and punitive system that seeks to find a way to punish a perpetrator in a manner proportional to their crime — yet it ignores the wishes of victims in its rigidity.

Last week I decided to introduce myself to the group. I mentioned that I wanted to refrain from contributing in conversation as I want to try and give my legal-system thinking time to adapt to the possibilities of something else. In other words, I'd probably ask the same questions as anyone, starting with, "if you offer an alternative to punishment, won't that give criminals free reign?"

Anyway, lurking lasted all of a half a day. Kit Miller sent out an message that they were looking for additional people to join the group for a dinner with Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, and Ronald Cotton, co-authors of Picking Cotton at The Asbury First United Methodist Church (1050 East Ave.) I had intended to go to the lecture and discussion anyway, so I immediately agreed.

Ronald and Jennifer have the most awkward answer to "so how did you two meet?" In 1984 Jennifer was raped in her apartment. She had the presence of mind to study her attacker and memorized his face. Through the course of the investigation, the closest match was Ronald Cotton, and she confidently believed he was her attacker. He went to prison for 11 years until he was granted permission to have the DNA evidence tested and, as he had claimed all along, he was not the man who raped her. Eventually Jennifer sought to meet Ronald to resolve her fear that he was steeped in resentment toward her. As it turned out, she was mistaken, and they became friends as both were victims of the actual perpetrator who was later convicted of Jennifer's rape and six others after hers.

The first time I heard their story, I thought, "that's wonderful" (albeit in a heavily qualified way). A more common reaction is to be incredulous that there can be any healing and forgiveness. But what alternative to forgiveness is there? And in this case, it was neither Jennifer's nor Ronald's fault, so it seems obvious to me. I don't mean that I'm holier-than-thou, but even when I'm angry at a transgression against me, I cool very quickly and generally conclude that staying angry — or generally believing in the winner/loser model — offers less value than forgiveness and resolution. That said, I'm less amenable when the other party stays remorseless and confrontational. Thankfully that's usually not the case, especially when I can genuinely offer a solution through forgiveness.

The things that resonated most with me were about the ways our justice system failed. Racism and prejudice aside (not from Jennifer or Ronald, by the way), I was once again jarred by the unreliability of eye-witness evidence, I reinforced my opposition to the death penalty, and I am saddened that people justify the bad things they do by believing that they have some kind of credit for being a "good person".

On prejudice, I'll just note that the police, after hearing Jennifer's description and seeing her composite sketch, probably swayed the whole case by presenting Jennifer a 3-year-old photo of Ronald that better matched her description.

Having watched things like The Selective Attention Test, I'm amazed at how bad my perception really is. Like everyone, I live every day with the persistent, tenacious illusion that what I perceive is a perfect reflection of reality. Yet when I'm presented with something like that video, I'm always astonished. I keep that knowledge close at hand, however, and even if I fully believe in my perception, I deliberately apply uncertainty to the way I express my perception to others. Yet nobody teaches us that fact — that our perception is lackluster — so our justice system is still rooted in an ancient belief that an eye-witness is proof-positive. Thankfully, I think this is changing (even lawyers who claim this is true are not considered as deceitful as they once were).

Relatedly, would this not be the kind of case that warranted the death penalty? What if the real rapist had gone on to kill his other victims — and Jennifer was the only one who survived? It is far too big a risk to potentially kill an innocent person. In addition, they had mentioned in the talk that the DNA evidence from the case was slated to be destroyed 3 days before Ronald requested the test, so had the justice system acted at its normal geologically-scaled rate, Ronald would still be in prison, and all the good that happened wouldn't have.

And finally, my favorite topic: religion bashing.

Ok, actually it's only tangentially related. The fundamental problem is believing in the possibility that a person can be good or bad. It's as illogical as claiming a glass of water is happy or sad: it is not the kind of assessment that makes sense. Only individual actions, taken in isolation, can be considered good or bad. And even then, the moral judgement is largely based on the observer.

The trouble in this misattribution is that belief in morality within a person dilutes the perception of morality in their actions. And I'm talking about belief in the self: if I believe I'm a good person, then any action I do must necessarily be good (or at least better than a bad person who does the same thing). Likewise, if I think I'm a bad person, then it's in my nature to do something bad.

So how does this relate to religion bashing? Well Jennifer mentioned that when she doubted herself — when she doubted her actions were the most right thing to do — she remembered her religious upbringing and reinforced her belief in her inherent goodness, ergo the goodness of her actions. I think that the failing of religions is teaching "you are a good person". As I said, the nature of that statement is in error.

A better teaching would be that your past does not dictate your behavior — that there is not inherent good or bad in people, but that whatever you do or don't will benefit some and harm others. I get stuck at this point because no guideline is adequate. Everyone desires to do good (that is, for ones actions to have beneficial consequences): it's at the heart of what lets us as individuals and us as a society survive. Any attempt to codify that dilutes what it is to be human.

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    Today from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Highland Branch Library (971 South Ave.) is a discussion of Falcons in the City. [source: City Hall press release] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick Tonight at 6 p.m. at The Little (240 East Ave.) is a special screening of Chinatown as part of the RIT Faculty Speaker Film Series with an introduction and discussion by Johannes Bockwoldt. [source: Little Theatre calendar]

    JayceLand Pick Photographer Louie Palu will discuss his photography at tonight's Wish You Were Here at 6 p.m. in the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) [source: Eastman House calendar] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick This evening at 6:30 p.m. at The Flying Squirrel Community Space (285 Clarissa St., formerly the Flower City Elks Lodge) is the Rochester Anarchism Discussion and Debate Series discussing Anarchism and Revolutionary Workers Movements. [source: Flying Squirrel Community Space website]

    This evening at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at The Henrietta Public Library (455 Calkins Rd., Henrietta), Glen Cone will be on hand to discuss Generation Preservation — My Story In Trusted Hands. [source: Rochester Public Library calendar] [all ages]

    The Bertrand Russell Society meets tonight at 7 p.m. at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) [source: Writers and Books calendar] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick Tonight at The Little (240 East Ave.) starting at 7:30 p.m. is a screening of Wretches & Jabberers in which "two men with autism embark on a global quest to change prevailing attitudes about disability and intelligence" as part of The Reel Mind Theatre and Film Series [source: Little Theatre calendar]

    The Greater Rochester Repertory Companies (GRRC) presents Love Letters tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at The Multi-Use Community Cultural Center (MuCCC) (142 Atlantic Ave.) [source: MuCCC e-mail]

    JayceLand Pick The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Jezebel starting at 8 p.m. According to the Eastman House calendar, "spoiled, willful Julie (Bette Davis) scandalizes New Orleans and embarrasses her fiancé, Preston (Henry Fonda), at the Olympus Ball. One year later, a chastened Julie awaits Preston's return, only to discover that he loves another." [source: Dryden Theater calendar] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick Over at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) starting around 8:30 p.m. is The Baby SharkMySpace link, The Zen Lunatics, and Loaded GoatMySpace link. [source: Bug Jar calendar]


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    JayceLand Pick Good, crowd-pleasing reggae band Thunder BodyMySpace link performs today at The Lilac Festival starting at 4 p.m. [source: Facebook] [all ages]

    Updated: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Bush Mango Drum & Dance (34 Elton St.) is a performance of Alive. [source: Bush Mango e-mail]

    JayceLand Pick The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Bill Cunningham New York starting at 8 p.m. and again on Sunday at 7 p.m. — a documentary about the New York Times' fashion photographer. Note that this documentary was the Audience Winner for Best Documentary at The 360|365 Film Festival (formerly the Rochester High Falls International Film Festival) this year. [source: Dryden Theater calendar] [all ages]

    The Salt City Ramblers will be at Abilene Bar and Lounge (153 Liberty Pole Wy., formerly Tara) tonight around 6 p.m. for Happy Hour followed by The Dirty Bourbon Blues BandMySpace link starting around 9:30 p.m. [source: Abilene website]

    Big Eyed Phish, Teagan and the TweedsMySpace link, and a great stage show and excellent surf-based rock from The IsotopesMySpace link will be at Water Street Music Hall (204 N. Water St.) starting around 9 p.m. [source: Water Street calendar] [16+]

    JayceLand Pick Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (99 Court St.) will be hosting great, fun 1960's-styled rock band The Hi-RisersMySpace link starting around 10 p.m. [source: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que calendar]

    JayceLand Pick Tonight at Monty's KrownMySpace link (875 Monroe Ave.) is Bible of the DevilMySpace link, High SpiritsMySpace link, and good hard rock from J. G. BlizaroMySpace link starting around 10:30 p.m. [source: the proverbial grapevine] [21+]


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    Today at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) is the Historic Plant Sale starting at 10 a.m. (9 a.m. for Eastman House members). [source: Eastman House calendar] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick This morning starting around 9 a.m. is an Estate Auction at 359 Mildahn Road, Macedon run by The Reynolds Auction Company and featuring a big selection of tools and beer memorabilia. [source: Reynold's Auction website]

    The Lilac Parade is today starting at 10:30 a.m. from Science Parkway to The Lilac Festival. [source: Freetime] [all ages]

    Anderson Alley Artists (250 Goodman St. N.) will be having another open house this and every second Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. [source: the proverbial grapevine]

    JayceLand Pick The Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) will be showing Wet Hot American Summer starting at 8 p.m. — a cult satire of 1980's summer-camp comedies. [source: Dryden Theater calendar] [all ages]

    Over at Abilene Bar and Lounge (153 Liberty Pole Wy., formerly Tara) starting around 9 p.m. is The Steam Donkeys. [source: Abilene website]

    JayceLand Pick Mosaic FoundationMySpace link, the nicely harmonius rock band WalriMySpace link, White Woods, and The Prickers will be at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) starting around 10 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]


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    Fly the flag today.Peace Officers Memorial Day (half-staff)

    The New York Museum of Transportation and Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad Museum (6393 East River Rd., West Henrietta) is hosting a Dinosaur Train Day today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (I have no idea what that means either. [source: Freetime]

    JayceLand Pick Today at The Lilac Festival, excellent ska-driven rock from The BeaumontsMySpace link will perform at 11:30 a.m., then later at 5:30 p.m. the solidly good bar-rock band with a country twang Blue JimmyGarageBand linkMySpace link takes the stage. [source: Freetime] [all ages]

    The Silver Tones Flute Choir will perform today's Musicale at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. [source: Eastman House calendar] [all ages]

    JayceLand Pick Tonight at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) is The Screaming JeansMySpace link, Fire RedMySpace link, and Jellyroot starting around 8:30 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]


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    The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) will be hosting Velvet Elvis, Sounding, and INN starting around 8:30 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]


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    This morning at 7:30 a.m. in the cafeteria overlooking the arboretum in Bausch and Lomb (140 Stone St.) is the Artists Breakfast Group meeting ... anyone interested in art or creativity is invited.

    JayceLand Pick Tonight starting around 9 p.m. at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) is a Pre-Blip-Fest by Rochester Chip featuring Danimal Cannon, Balto, and Revengineers. [source: Bug Jar calendar]


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    JayceLand Pick Today from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at The Rochester Emergency Communications Office (321 W. Main St.) is the 25th Anniversary of Monroe County 9-1-1. [source: City Hall press release]

    JayceLand Pick Today at Writers and Books (740 University Ave.) is another Story Slam hosted by Carol Roberts starting at 7 p.m. with the "featured" theme of Bad Jobs or Bad/Good Birthdays (or anything one pleases.) [source: Carol Roberts' e-mail] [all ages]

    Billy Wallace and the Virginia BluesMySpace link, DriftwoodMySpace link, and The Wisdom KidsMySpace link will be at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) starting around 9 p.m. [source: Bug Jar calendar]

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    This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do. Music events are usually original bands with occasional cover bands and DJ's with musical styles including punk, emo, ska, swing, rock, rock-and-roll, alternative, metal, jazz, blues, noise band, experimental music, folk, acoustic, and "world-beat." Events listed take place during the day, in the evenings, or as part of the city's nightlife as listed. Although I'm reluctant to admit it, it is a Rochester blog and I'm essentially blogging about Rochester events. I also tend to express opinions, review past events, make reviews, speak of philosophy or of a philosophical nature, discuss humanity and creativity. Oh, and it's spelled JayceLand with no space and a capital L, not Jayce Land, Jaycee Land, Jace Land, Jase Land, Joyce Land, Jayce World, Jayceeland, Jaceland, Jaseland, Joyceland, Jayceworld, Jayceeworld, Jaceworld, Jaseworld, nor Joyceworld. (Now if you misspell it in some search engine, you at least get a shot at finding it.) It's also not to be confused with Jake's World or JakesWorld which is a site of a Rochester animator. While I'm on the topic of keywords for search engines, this update includes information for Thursday, May 12, 2011 (Thu, May 12, 2011, 5/12/2011, or 5/12/11) Friday, May 13, 2011 (Fri, May 13, 2011, 5/13/2011, or 5/13/11) Saturday, May 14, 2011 (Sat, May 14, 2011, 5/14/2011, or 5/14/11) Sunday, May 15, 2011 (Sun, May 15, 2011, 5/15/2011, or 5/15/11) Monday, May 16, 2011 (Mon, May 16, 2011, 5/16/2011, or 5/16/11) Tuesday, May 17, 2011 (Tue, May 17, 2011, 5/17/2011, or 5/17/11) and Wednesday, May 18, 2011 (Wed, May 18, 2011, 5/18/2011, or 5/18/11).


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