Friday, July 24, 2009

Twittering Fantasy Fiction

A funny thing just happened in the world of Twitter. Reality and fantasy crossed over. I was watching the tweets of new twitterer BeatriceBitcher, whose profile says she's a lawyer. I thought her name was a little odd, but that was about it. She had a lively banter going on with her tweets. Her avatar looked like a cartoon rendition of her photo. So I followed her. I follow a variety of people, including authors, writers, freelancers, agents and lots of animal rights people (yup, I love animals, keep up with the issues and try to help in any way I can). And I also follow some attorneys.

Beatrice got into a legal discussion with Victoria Pynchon (@vpynchon on Twitter), an attorney mediator-arbitrator. They were short discussion topics, of course, because the tweets are only allowed a maximum length of 140 characters. I looked to see who was followed by this Beatrice Bitcher person (notice I used the word "person"). One was Richard Prickman, listed as Beatrice's law partner at Prickman & Bitcher.

OK, it has to be a hoax, I thought to myself. But what was it, really? I went to what I thought was the Web site for the law firm Prickman & Bitcher and this is what I read, in part "Bitcher & Prickman is a weekly law comic strip. These female and male partners are from the dark side of law. They rag on associates about billing and make plans to buy city commissioners." Now, it seems, they'd jumped off the cartoon page and into Twitterland, where they were--and still are--being taken seriously some of the time. I'd been snookered, at least for a tweet or two. I tweeted something to the pair about being "comic characters." Beatrice responded with, "Ha. I'd expect a crime writer to come down on the side of truth and justice. You have exposed Beatrice's denial. Caution." I responded, ""It's the skeptic in me -- and the reporter." Beatrice added, "And I thought women stuck together." My answer? "We do. Do fictional cartoon characters stick together too? (Or are you based on a true character?)"

And so, Beatrice Bitcher was outed and exposed on Twitter for the cartoon character she is. A little while later, I wrote a post that said, "Meet & enjoy comic characters @BeatriceBitcher, her law partner @RichardPrickman & their creator @LawComix."

When Victoria Pynchon also realized Beatrice wasn't real, this is what Vickie posted on Twitter: "I'm tweeting 2 a cartoon character - someone slap a 72 hour hold on me!" Beatrice responded with this: "Sometimes, dear Victoria, fantasy is more real. 24-hour hold...DENIED."

It's a novel idea, taking a comic strip to Twitter and passing off the characters as real-life lawyers. And it's no doubt a first for Twitter. Clearly, Charles Fincher, Esq., the person behind Beatrice and Richard (or "Dick," as Beatrice fondly refers to him), is enjoying himself. He not only pulled it off; he's gaining a wide readership for his already-popular LawComix cartoons, bringing his characters to life on the pages of Twitter. In this case, Beatrice is right; fantasy sometimes does seem more real.

Cartoons of Beatrice Bitcher and Richard Prickman by LawComix.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

What Really Killed Michael Jackson?

What killed Michael Jackson? That’s the $500 million question. Somewhere in between news reports, statements by Michael Jackson’s cardiologist and witness accounts lies the truth of what caused the singer’s sudden cardiac arrest inside his rented Bel Air estate more than a week ago. If 50-year-old Jackson had taken the powerful anesthetic Diprivan, which was found in his home, then someone had to have given it to him. It’s a drip drug, typically administered intravenously in a hospital setting and closely monitored by anesthesiologists. When dripping, the patient immediately goes into unconsciousness. When it’s not dripping, the patient wakes up. But because it doesn’t take much to put a patient to sleep and to prevent overdoses, someone has to be there to monitor heart rate, oxygen intake, that sort of thing. Pay close attention to the statements made by both Dr. Conrad Murray, who was with Jackson in his mansion at the time of his death, and Murray’s attorney, Edward Chernoff. First, Murray denied injecting or prescribing Jackson with the powerful painkiller Demerol, a sedative reported as being at Jackson’s home at the time of his death. “Dr. Murray has never prescribed nor administered Demerol to Michael Jackson," Chernoff told The Associated Press. "Not ever. Not that day. ... Not Oxycontin [either] for that matter." He didn't say anything about Diprivan. Chernoff said that 20 to 25 minutes had elapsed before Murray, a live-in cardiologist for Jackson, ran downstairs to notify staff to call 911. On June 29, the Los Angeles Police Department released this statement to ET about their interview with Dr. Murray: But Rev. Jesse Jackson has said publicly that it was more like 50 minutes. "Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was with Michael Jackson at the time of his collapse, voluntarily contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. Detectives assigned to Robbery-Homicide Division met with Dr. Murray and conducted an extensive interview. Dr. Murray was cooperative and provided information which will aid the investigation." Something killed Jackson, who was shown on videotape 48 hours before his death singing, dancing, and looking strong. And while the coroner’s office has yet to determine the cause of death, the evidence now known appears to point to an overdose. Diprivan was found in Jackson’s home and removed by investigators as evidence. "Numerous bottles" of Diprivan without labels were found at the mansion, the Los Angeles Times reported. The narcotic is widely used in operating rooms to induce unconsciousness. Is that what also happened this time with Jackson? The American Society of Anesthesiologists said in a statement, after Jackson’s death, that Diprivan "should never be used outside of a controlled and monitored medical setting," Also, the statement said, the drug is “meant only for use in a medical setting by professionals trained in the provision of general anesthesia.” Jackson was last seen at a rehearsal the night before at 12:30 a.m. Sometime between then and 12:30 p.m. the next day--over a 12-hour period--something happened. Jesse Jackson, who spent time at the Jackson family home in Encino, Calif., made another good point, telling reporters, "There is a concern about what happened the last 12 hours of Michael's life.” Three months earlier, as relayed to the media by registered nurse Cherilyn Lee, said that Jackson, who suffered from insomnia, asked her in a phone conversation how he could get the drug and who he could get to administer it. She told Jackson it was dangerous and could kill him. He told her no, that he’d had it before and it was safe. It was the only thing, he told her, that worked for him. In fact, Jackson suffered from such a severe case of insomnia that in the mid-1990s, during the pop icon’s HIStory tour, Jackson traveled with private anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ratner, who regularly helped “take down” Jackson and “bring him back up” during the pop icon's HIStory tour, CNN reported. As previously reported and by his own admission, the then-personal doctor for Jackson intraveneously gave Jackson an anesthetic. The doctor reportedly said, “I’d take him down at night and bring him out of it in the morning.” Four days before Jackson's death, Lee received what she described to The Associated Press as a “frantic” phone call from a member of Jackson's staff. "He called and was very frantic and said, 'Michael needs to see you right away,' " Lee told the AP. "I said, 'What's wrong?' And I could hear Michael in the background [saying], 'One side of my body is hot, it's hot, and one side of my body is cold, it's very cold.'” "At that point, I knew that somebody had given him something that hit the central nervous system," she continued. "He was in trouble Sunday and he was crying out." The 911 emergency call made while Murray, who had a practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, prior to taking on Jackson as his sole patient, was performing CPR contradicts what Michael Jackson’s doctor said on TV and in print. First, the doctor's attorney said CPR was administred while Jackson was lying on his bed. In a taped conversation released to the public, the 911 operator told a security guard at the house to get Jackson on the floor after the guard told the operator that Jackson was being administered CPR on a bed and that it wasn't working. Later, however, Murray’s attorney, speaking on behalf of the doctor, changed what he’d said earlier and instead said Dr. Murray had adminsitered CPR while Jackson was on the floor. Dr. Murray’s car, a silver BMW registered in Murray’s sister’s name, was towed from outside Jackson's Los Angeles home. "The car was impounded," Amanda Betat, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, told ABC News. "One reason it was impounded was because it may contain medication or evidence that could assist the coroner in determining the cause of death." Law enforcement sources also told ABC that Jackson was addicted to Oxycontin and received it and Demerol in daily doses. The cause of death might not be known for a few weeks, pending additional toxicology, neuropathology and pulmonary tests ordered by the Los Angeles medical examiner, who performed the first autopsy, with an outside examiner performing a second autopsy for the Jackson family. Now that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is involved in the investigation, we should all know soon enough what caused Jackson's sudden death on June 25 and if anyone will be held accountable. In the meantime, law enforcement officials continue to comb through medical records to learn who supplied and administered the anesthesia Probofol and other drugs to Michael Jackson. Photos, by AFP, of Michael Jackson's Hollywood Star on Sunset Boulevard and Craig Harvey, Chief Investigator from the Department of the Coroner for Los Angeles County, as he arrives at the Holmby Hills home of music legend Michael Jackson. Photo of ambulance an exclusive by TMZ staff.