Monday, August 29, 2005
Everyone Spends Millions on their Hobbies, Right?
Patricia Cornwell took out advertisements in The Independent and The Guardian over the weekend to deny reports that she was "obsessed" with the Ripper case. I'm not even going to touch that one; I mean, look at the name of my site! Anyway, it was interesting to note that the story includes the line:

In her advert, she called for further investigation into the case which she described as "far from closed".

Really? Why call the book Case Closed then?

A longer version of the item is here at The Irish Independent and requires registration.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:54 AM | 6 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Cornwell Redux
A newspaper story details Patricia Cornwell's "new" evidence supporting her Walter Sickert theory. This article calls it a new "book," but from what I've seen there is just the familiar Portrait of a Killer with addendums. Seems that Patricia Cornwell has set herself up as a victim of a largely male establishment because of the criticism of her book. Oh, please. Wrong is wrong, no matter the gender of the person perpetrating the wrongful act. She has evidently poured more money into DNA research of letters, stamps, etc. of Walter Sickert and the Ripper letters. She refuses to grasp 2 very important concepts. 1)There is no evidence that Sickert actually licked his own stamps and 2) There is no evidence that the Ripper and the letter-writer(s) were one and the same person (people). Period. End of discussion. This has nothing to do with her being a woman, but evidently she's determined to force everyone to accept her theory no matter what. Cornwell worked in medical and police capacities before becoming a novelist--you would think she knows the difference between "beyond a reasonable doubt" and her contention of "Sickert cannot be ruled out as a suspect." She won't be happy until we all cry "mea culpa" and annoint her as the person who finally solved the case. We can all abandon our pursuits and critical takes on Jack because she's closed the case for good. Don't think so. I've even said that I applaud Cornwell for the money and the time she has put into the case; this does not mean that I agree with her theory, however. Moreover, I don't have to agree with her theory because she has not proven it. Instead of coming at the case from a fresh perspective, she started with a suspect and/or decided early on who the Ripper was and, with bulldog tenacity, refuses to even entertain the notion that she may be wrong, even to the extent of refusing to see the most basic of facts (no Ripper/letter-writer connection).

The article has a brief synopsis of other suspects as well.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:12 AM | 5 comments

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
William Bury
A new book will be released in early September naming William Bury as Jack the Ripper. Bury's name has come up among diehard Jackophiles, but he remains an obscure choice. For one thing, he was married and was, in fact, executed for killing his wife. This alone does not preclude him from consideration, but think of the serial killers that have been married. Off the top of my head, Christie (killed his wife), Sutcliffe (did not), BTK (did not), Fred West (bad choice). OK, maybe there's no clearcut answer here; this just shows the diversity in criminals and puts paid to the notion that a "profile" can actually be any more than a "supposition." I believe people want to believe in profilers, as is evinced by the CSI shows and the Hannibal Lector movies, because it gives them the feeling that those who hunt the killers actually know what they're doing; thus, serial killers are just "lucky" and will be caught eventually. This is a dangerous fallacy.

Profilers can help generalize certain character types and events in a person's childhood that COULD lead one to be in danger of committing crimes. But it's no more than educated guesswork, as borne out by the completely useless FBI report of Jack the Ripper in 1988.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 4:48 PM | 5 comments

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Mat the Ripper
A man in Malaysia has unearthed a news report from 1889 that mentions a Malay cook on a ship in London who had threatened prostitutes. He disappeared, but was considered as suspect. The researcher has christened his suspect "Mat (short for Mohammed) the Ripper."

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 7:25 PM | 0 comments

Friday, August 12, 2005
Higher Education too High for Some
Now for some thoughts about higher education. I've blogged a little about this here but since we are getting close to the first day of school, more instances of the "what are you doing here" variety have occurred. First of all, college is a privilege, not a right. No matter how lax the standards for some schools are, there ARE standards. Also, just because you've been a good student in high school does NOT mean you'll be one in college; or at least, it may take more effort than you expended in high school to achieve similar grades. I for one found this out. As a friend of mine says, "We'll give you the opportunity to succeed, but we'll also give you the opportunity to fail." A lot of the current generation has learned to manipulate the system enough that they can get by with the minimum of work. Also, parents have taken more of an interest in their children's schooling (good) but set themselves up as agents and/or lawyers for their kids (bad). What I mean by this is, when kids do not do well in a subject or in school overall, parents (and I don't mean all, but there are quite a few) automatically blame the "system." Depending on where the shortcoming occurs, parents will attack that class/teacher/school before actually coming face-to-face with how much work a student has put into school. I know part of this is the "Mama bear-baby cub" complex, but that's not all of it. Somewhere along the line we've become convinced that everything is a right and if you don't get it, you scream and yell or sue to get it. You can see by the parent's involvement that you can't just look at the current students as feeling entitled. They got this attitude from somewhere.

A large part of the problem, apart from the sense of entitlement, occurs because of our woeful secondary education system. All of this is going to sound familiar, but it's true. Teachers are not paid nearly enough to teach in public education, especially as teaching gets to be more of an exercise in trying to maintain discipline and order rather than imparting any knowledge to the class as a whole. Here in Oklahoma, we lose a great amount of our education graduates to places like Texas where teachers can actually receive a living wage. But again, it's not as if they are that much more comfortably off there, either. No one goes into teaching to get rich, but one should at least be able to pay bills, buy a house and become part of the community they are teaching in and feel special about their profession-- because it is a special type of person who voluntarily chooses to become a public school teacher. It used to be because this would allow the person to give back to the community and make a difference; nowadays, it's almost a monastic calling. Monks who give up all worldly pleasures and go off to live in a monastery are induced by a faith I cannot begin to fathom. It appears that teachers in the modern era are, too.

More and more, public education is becoming just a place where you can warehouse kids for a few hours a day so the parents can go to work. The best students almost teach themselves, as they either learn the subjects on their own or are savvy enough to block out the interference of other students to pick up on what the teacher is actually trying to teach. What's sad is that this may work out for those other students and they may be able to get by with "decent" grades, but this does not mean they are ready for college. I understand schools are under increasing pressure to improve test scores and adhere to more and more performance guidelines; yet, they are given no more money and receive no substantial raises to meet these increasing demands. Teachers even get tax breaks for the supplies they buy themselves for their classes. Read that sentence again. In this country, with its massive public educational system, school boards, administrations and laws in place that 1)mandate that each child attend some form of school until 16 and 2)higher and higher educational standards for those students (and, therefore, the teachers and administrators) to live up to, teachers are out the weeks before school starts buying pens, notebooks, crayons etc. just to be able to teach their classes!

Another thing that occurs in high school are overlapping classes. By that I mean classes that "sound" like college courses but are not. Psychology, History, and the worst of all, College Algebra. How can you teach a class called "College" Algebra in high school? Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge the school for offering such a course; in fact, most of the students who take tests and do well on other parts almost always perform poorly on the Math portion. So any extra help and guidance that they can receive beforehand is welcome. Also, since most schools even stop teaching Math after the junior year of high school, this class is welcome. But students do not (or will not) understand the difference between college and high school, especially if the classes are named the same thing. "I took this in high school, I don't have to take it again, do I? Why?"

Students slip through the cracks or play the system to get a decent grade by not being a constant problem in the classroom. Then they take that above average overall grade and start college. I've talked before about children who don't seem the least bit interested in college, but are either directed or even accompanied by their parents to register for classes. I know that parents do know more than the child and that they are trying to instill in the child the importance of education--for that, I applaud them. Many a time I've kicked myself for not taking college seriously enough right out of high school. But the parent cannot take the classes for the child (although with more and more Internet classes, the specter is raised) and what would it accomplish for that child to go to college, flunk out, then go home to that parent and say, "Now what?" This is when the parent challenges the system, instead of looking at the fact that perhaps, even if it is only for a short period of time, that their child is simply not ready for college.

Assessment tests, for better or worse, are the ways students indicate their readiness for school. Some schools have residual tests where the test is equivalent (for that school only) to the ACT. It may be shorter and even be free, but the student can take this test instead of signing up for the ACT or SAT and know their scores immediately after testing. Again, this is a way where the school gives the student the opportunity to succeed, or to fail. Another way schools do this is with a waiver. If a student is over 21 years of age, some schools allow that person to sign a waiver, if their scores are not high enough, to enroll in credited classes. This "out" is important not only to returning students who, with work and family pressures, cannot or will not take the time to start with developmental classes for which they would receive no credit. But, this notion of the waiver is fraught with danger. For one thing, it gives the student the idea that the test is merely a hoop to jump through, and no matter what scores they achieve on the test, they can sign the waiver. So they merely sit and push buttons or connect the dots until the test is over. Another thing is the age requirement. Many things in this country have age stipulations on them--driver's licenses at 16, voting at 18, drinking at 21. But sometimes there are ways around such things. One can drive at 15 and a half if a person has a licensed driver in the car. Parents can buy things for the child on their behalf such as vehicles, etc. So what has happened is that those students who don't do well on the residual test hear through the grapevine about the waiver. But the circumstances of the waiver, as happens in grapevines, get muddled. They hear they can just sign a waiver, so they do what some returning students do, plow through the test without paying attention because they believe they have an out. Or they hear that "someone" has to be 21 to sign the waiver. Enter the parent. The students are shocked (yes, shocked!) to hear that their parents cannot sign the waiver for them to bypass the test. Not only are they shocked, the parents are outraged that they cannot do this for their child. (Of course I'm exaggerating; this doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen enough that each semester we have to tell more than a few students and irate parents what the policy really is).

Sometimes I believe that returning students get it right. After high school, unless you (not your parents, not your friends who have always dreamed of going to a certain school, not your girl/boyfriend who wants you to go with them) are completely sure about what degree/profession you want to pursue, take a year or so off and work. Just work. Look around, even go to the school's Career Counseling Center. Anything but put yourself in a position to fail. Even if you are saying, "Yeah, but everyone has to do basics, so I'll take Comp, History, etc. at least until I decide what I want to do," remember that these grades will follow you for the rest of your life. Many students wish those classes had never happened when they were just out of high school because of those grades. Many students go to more than one school and are shocked (yes, shocked!) that they cannot just ignore those other schools and pretend those classes never happened when going to another university. College will be there. College is big business. It will not go away. But just because people can afford to go (or go in debt to go) does not mean that they are ready to tackle something vastly different than high school.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 9:39 AM | 6 comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Other Victorian Crimes
If anyone knows of a website that has a good synopsis for the following Victorian crimes, I would be grateful. The ones I've found I've put under the "Other Victorian Crimes" header on the right. There may be better ones. Let me know. Also, if you have a website and would like to write one, I'd be happy to link to you after reading it!

The Cases I'm Interested In:
Dr. Pritchard
Madeleine Smith
Florence Maybrick
Dr. Palmer
Vidocq
The Thames Torso Murder Case
Frederick Deeming
Thomas Neill Cream
Florence Bravo
Adelaide Bartlett

and countless others.

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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 2:30 PM | 0 comments

Friday, August 05, 2005
Site Change and Marriot's Book
Hope everyone likes the changes. Thank you to Daria of Web-Divas for the time and patience in designing the new look.

I read Trevor Marriot's book, Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation yesterday. Although it's always good to get a perspective from someone with a law enforcement background, this book left me bored. Most of it is a rehash of the case and Marriot spends his time "relooking" at each victim's murder only to come up with conclusions that are generally accepted anyway. When talking about Frances Coles, Marriot writes that she told people before she died that a "gang" of men had attacked her; therefore, Marriot rules her out as a Ripper victim. Well, most people have done the same--what's new about this? Then Marriot uses eyewitness and medical testimony from the coroner's inquests to come up with a "pattern" that his suspect would fit. First, eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable even hours after the event; second, medical testimony between doctors differed so greatly at the time that it's easy to make any one doctor's opinion fit your preconceived suspect. Even when Marriot gets to his suspect at the end, there is no real "suspect." Marriot falls back on the "could have been" or "was probably" type of evidence. He even admits at the end that he has no more idea about who Jack was than anyone else. This would be find except this was supposed to be a book that named a suspect and/or proved a case against a suspect. The publisher's notes carries the obligatory "case finally solved" rhetoric on the jacket, but this never happens. This book appears to have been "spread out" to appear longer and more detailed--it's also written very tersely, subject-verb-subject-verb over and over until it's maddening.
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posted by Lavaughn Towell @ 8:18 PM | 3 comments

Thomas Neill Cream
Thomas Griffiths Wainewright
Frederick Deeming
The Bravo Case
Madeleine Smith
Constance Kent
William Palmer
My Ripper Inventory
JTRForums.com
Ripper Notes
Ripperologist
Hollywood Ripper
Jack the Ripper Forum
Archives: Jack the Ripper
The Whitechapel Society
Largest German Jack the Ripper Site
The Victorian Web
Victorian Dictionary
Victoria Research Web

The Final Solution by Walter Harmidarow
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