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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: New York

A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Museum

Nickie Phillips

John Kelvin Jones starts in A Christmas Carol at the Merchants Museum (photo:

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast correspondent

In a time of economic inequality, the plight of the Cratchit family seems particularly poignant in New York City.

For some, the holiday season is about parties; for others, it is about the seasonal performances. Given that I would not have made a clever criminal, I will admit to having been known to enjoy both.  That said, this particular year, I have been performance focused, since my new knee, only two months old after total knee replacement, has not been deemed suitable for partying. (Actually, I quipped to a friend that my knee was probably suited to such occasions, but I had the sort of concern about brushes with others walking while drinking that I usually reserve to New Year's Eve drivers-- no judgment, just a healthy fear of testing the fall-abilities of the “knew knee,” I say self-deprecatingly.)

A unique opportunity presents at the Merchant’s House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street (between Bowery and Lafayette), 212-777-1089, in association with Summoners Ensemble Theatre.  John Kevin Jones offers a tour de force one man performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The Director’s Note, by Dr. Rhonda Dodd, explains that Jones was in the midst of developing a five actor version of the Dickens work during 2011,  when he decided to try this version, motivated by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots (about which I have previously written about for Crimcast).  So it was that Jones took what Dickens did in 1843 and sought to create an abbreviated version of the play that would match Dickens’ comment on social and economic inequality.

Jones succeeds in this effort tremendously. First, he physically inhabits each character as he represents them, going from full ghostly wingspan to (pun admittedly intended) tiny Tiny Tim.  He voices Scrooge’s trembling fear, joyous rediscovery of life, and likewise gives full voice and physicality to Dickens’ female characters, as well.

Second, the play itself is designed for one hour, with 15-minute segments that a lawyer dealing with billable hours would appreciate (roughly Spirit One/Christmas Past, Spirit Two/Christmas Present, Spirit Three/Christmas Future, with background and conclusion getting equal shares of the remaining quarter).  Several lawyers in the audience commented on this as I (also a lawyer) chimed in as to how remarkable it was.

Third, the selection of the Merchant’s House Museum as the location is quite simply inspired. All that the edifice needed (and now has) was a bit of holiday décor (PS on the ground floor, there is a case of vintage stockings and the like, not to be missed on the way in or out).  It is a lovely museum and the front and back rooms provide a perfect setting opportunity (in which folding chairs, which Jones quips are “vintage golden chairs,” as he introduces the performance), are set among the furniture and space of hardware merchant Seabury Treadwell, who purchased the building in 1835, just one year after Dickens authored A Christmas Carol.

cratchit

An additional – and terrific – feature is that Jones himself mingles and chats with audience members as they are leaving the museum.  He told several of us that according to legend (and perhaps even fact), during the writing of the original version (and Jones adapted this version from Dickens’ original touring version, while reintroducing a scene from the original novella), Dickens would wander the streets of London weeping over piece as he planned and re-edited it.  This humanizing authorial angst, combined with activism on behalf of the laboring poor, especially children (which he saw first hand, after his family lost its money and debtors prison resulted for his father, mother and youngest siblings), makes the plight of the Cratchit family even more accessible.

Jones has chiseled and set a jewel of a play at a jewel of a museum.

Crimcast correspondent Demetra Pappas was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College, for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her recent book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (Greenwood Press, 2012)  is a 100-year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) and was recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the British Society of Criminology 2013 Criminology Book Prize.  In addition to her work on end-of-life issues, she writes about anti-stalking mechanisms, pedagogical methodology, visual sociology and pens work on travel (including what has become known as CSI Demetra travel pieces), theater and the arts, dining and culinary books, and historical/cultural sights.

Crimes Against Flounder and the "End of Fish"

Nickie Phillips

Staci Strobl, Crimcast co-founder

photo: Brian Switek

Last night I enjoyed a delicious meal of local flounder at B. Smith's in midtown Manhattan.  Unfortunately, due to illegal over-fishing, this flounder may have been in-bred in its small sub-population off the southern coast of Long Island and more of an endangered species than I had thought.

Overfishing happens when fish are caught faster than they can reproduce, often the result of the market demand for seafood, poor management of fisheries and destructive fishing techniques. If unaddressed, it can threaten marine ecosystems and imperil the availability of fish for people whose diet depends on it.  Once populations of fish get too small, they in-breed and are susceptible to diseases which can wipe out the population for good.  According to the Save Our Seas Foundation, one in five people in the world depend on fish as their main source of protein.

Under federal regulations, New York fishers can only bring in 7.6% of the total haul of flounder in a given season and each fisher has a particular individual quota per season based on the most recent data of the strength of the fish population.

As a result of the limitations, the number of licensed fishing operations in the state are down approximately 20% over the last decade.  And, many New York fishers are landing their catch in other nearby states where the quotas are higher-- even as the fish almost all end up consumed in the same place-- New York City.  Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer has called for reform of the fishing quotas which he believes are hurting New York fishermen and women.  Indeed, the declining economic viability of fishing in Long Island appears to motivate over-fishers, suggesting that important economic incentives are needed to control this harmful activity.

flounder (talkfish.org)

A recent federal prosecution shows that Long Island commercial fishers are falsifying records in order to over-fish for greater profit.  At least one of them has been held accountable.  Charles Wertz, head of C&C Ocean Fisheries, under-reported approxim

ately 80,000 pounds of fluke (summer flounder) that he over-fished between 2009 and 2011, earning an extra $200,000.  In an agreement with prosecutors, the

fisherman will lose his fishing licenses and pay over $500,000 in fines.

This enforcement activity is good news for scientists who warn we may be facing the apocalyptic "end of fish."  A 2006 study projected that fish and seafood populations will collapse by 2048.  Lead scientist on the study Boris Worm explained:

At this point, 29 percent of fish and seafood species [worldwide] have collapsed -- that is their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating... The good news is that it is not too late to turn things around.. [With areas of marine protection we] see that diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability.

Protecting fish populations through specifically regulated ocean spaces is a key part of the equation of preventing the fish apocalypse, also known as the aquacalypse, as well as working with the fishing industry to make under-fishing profitable.   For criminal justice policy makers, however, the most helpful role to play is to demand the enforcement of federal and state over-fishing laws and to make sure national laws support the United Nations' Fisheries & Aquaculture Department Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Crimes against fish are crimes against a humanity who needs fish protein.  But for those who don't require anthropocentric rationales, it is a matter of co-existing with other life forms on an increasingly environmentally-threatened planet.  Humans wiping out an entire form of life, consisting of multiple species who have done nothing but swim gracefully in our vast ocean waters, seems morally indefensible to me as well.