HBM120: Own Worst Interest

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In the fall of 1989, in Vancouver, Washington, a short, 29 year-old man named Westley Allan Dodd raped and murdered three young boys. The boys were brothers Cole and William Neer, ages 10 and 11, and four year old Lee Iseli.

Content Note:
Sexual violence, suicide and capital punishment

A few weeks later, police arrested Westley at movie theater after he tried and failed to abduct another boy. He quickly confessed to the three murders. The prosecution sought the death penalty, and Dodd pled guilty.

Death penalty cases take a long time due to all the appeals built into the process. These appeals are designed to make sure the state hasn’t made any mistakes in the death sentence. They check for things like juror misconduct, incompetent defense lawyers, new evidence. Death penalty cases take years, sometimes decades.

Westley Allan Dodd did not want that. Instead, he wanted to be executed as quickly as possible.

In letters to the Supreme Court of Washington, Dodd urged the court to allow him to waive his right to appeal his death sentence. He believed he deserved to die for what he did, and wanted it done as soon as possible. Dodd was what’s known as a “volunteer”–someone who gives up their rights in order to hasten their own execution. The Death Penalty Information Center cites about 150 cases of “volunteers” in the United States.

Dodd’s case sparked debate both among people who supported and opposed the death penalty. Some argued he had the right to choose whether the court would review the validity of his death sentence. Others argued that the law ensures that all defendants have due process whether they want it or not.

In the meantime, Dodd continued to advocate for his own execution in interviews and in exchanges with his pen pals. He said he felt remorseful, and even wrote a self-defense booklet for kids to learn how to stay safe from men like him. The booklet was called “When You Meet A Stranger”.

The debate made its way to the Washington Supreme Court.  In a 7-2 ruling, they decided that Dodd did, in fact, have the right to waive his remaining appeals. After just three years on death row (5 years shorter than the national average at that time) the State of Washington hanged Westley Allan Dodd.

On this episode Bethany Denton interviews  Dodd’s former attorney Gilbert Levy. And defense attorney Jeff Ellis, who was a young lawyer during the time of the Dodd trial.   Bethany also talks to Becky Price, who was one of the recipients of Dodd’s pamphlet  “When You Meet A Stranger”.

Producer: Bethany Denton
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music:  The Black Spot

HBM037: Uncertain Death

Recent episodes of Here Be Monsters have been largely about death.  So, on this episode David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg teach us about the exact oppositeimmortality, living forever.  Their documentary film, The Immortalists, follows a small community of scientists who think of aging as a preventable disease, not an inevitable outcome.   

Watch Trailer for The Immortalists

Seeking immortality is nothing new, in fact, the oldest known text, The Epic of Gilgamesh, is largely about a king's quest to live forever.  And further, it seems to be a quest of the rich and powerful.  Today, the community of bio-gerontologists is largely white, rich, and male.  Co-director Jason Sussberg calls aging a "first world problem," associating it with Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs.  

One of the film's protagonists is Aubrey de Grey, an incredibly vocal advocate of anti-aging.  He's a computer programmer turned bio-gerontologist.  In 2012, he participated in an Oxford debate against Sir Colin Blakemore where the motion was to defeat aging entirely.  A clip from this debate appears in the episode, and the whole debate is certainly worth watching.

The Immortalists is not yet available for download, but it will be soon (release date is Fall 2014).  In the meantime, you can check your local film festivals and theaters to see if there will be showings.  Also, visit TheImmoratlists.com, @theimmortalists on Twitter, and The Immortalists on Facebook.


If you enjoyed this conversation, you'll probably enjoy HBM010: The Time Traveler's Convention which touches on many of the same topics, but through the lens of retrograde time travel.  You might also enjoy our interview with Sean Dunne, another filmmaker who made a short doc at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos.  We talked to him in HBM016: 10,000 Juggalos.

Music on the show from Swamp Dog and Serocell

HBM033: What One Does [EXPLICIT]

Ryan Beitz recently experienced a meteoric rise to fame as the Chairman of The World Speed Project, which aims to collect every single VHS copy of the 1994 movie SPEED (Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels).

Please note that this episode contains strong language.

Ryan's presence is bizarre...he never wears pants. instead, most days, he opts for giant shapeless coats and tall hats and sorority girl sunglasses. And he's intensely funny. All this comes through loud and clear in his dozen or so segments on Good Morning America (ABC), All Things Considered (NPR), Vice Magazine, etc.

But I grew up with Ryan, and so I have reason to believe that he's a bit more nuanced than the "crazy guy does something crazy" box most media outlets squeezed him into for their reports.

In this extended interview, Ryan and I sit in his Moscow, Idaho treehouse and talk about German Romanticism, Lacanian Jouissance, Stoicism and the nature of anger, and how The World Speed Project is a rebellion against the "what one does" that society shoves our throats. Then we make nasty noise metal in his friend's basement.

Music on the show was made by Ryan and me.  See photo gallery above.

The World Speed Project is currently running a KickStarter to get their van painted like the bus from Speed. At time of publishing, the project is just $500 dollars short of its goal.

Donate $ if you can, or donate your old copies of SPEED. Otherwise, just enjoy the amazing KickStarter video...seriously.

HBM030: Crickets, Cadavars, and Conventional Wisdom

This episode is a Grab-bag, it contains three segments that serve as follow-ups to the three most recent episodes of Here Be Monsters.

Part 1: Crickets on Tape

In this segment, Jeff takes apart his tape recorder and installs a knob to help him slow down the tape without using digital wizardry in attempts to de-muddy the waters after HBM029: Do Crickets Sing Hymns.  He bought some more crickets and slowed the cassette slowed down to 1/3 speed.  The results were telling, and surprising.

In that episode, we were talking about the confusion surrounding the bit of audio called God's Cricket Chorus by Jim Wilson.  In this segment we’ll clear up exactly what is known and exactly what is not about God’s Cricket Chorus and its derivative works.

Also, a correction to a mistake we made in Episode 29 about how digital audio is constructed for our ears.  In that episode we represented the final product of digital audio to be choppy, yet moving by too quick for our ears to notice its choppiness.  This is NOT the case.  In fact, digital audio is always converted back to analog before it hits our ears.  This is done with a device called a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC).  Here’s an article that explains this process very simply  (Page 4 is where the good stuff starts).  Big thanks to the two commenter s who pointed out this error.

Want to try stretching some crickets yourself?  Download this same set of cricket songs we used for the shows.

Part 2: Conventional Wisdom on the Future of the Four Humors

In HBM027: Balancing Act, Here Be Monsters producer Lina Misitzis delved into the rich history of the Four Humors, which was, for thousands of years, the way much of world understood medicine, the body and the universe as a whole.

While we never heard from Alain Touwaide in that episode, he was central to our research of traditional medicine.  He’s the director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions in Washington DC.

He spoke with Lina about the foggy past and likely future of Humorism. 

Part 3: The Resting Places of Medical Cadavers

In HBM028: Johnathan’s Cadaver Paintings, Johnathan Happ, a grad student at the University of Washington, visits one of the cadaver labs on campus.  He spends a lot of time there, studying the bodies, so that he can make paintings of them in his studio. 

While that episode has a lot of information about the cadaver labs themselves.  We never got the chance to talk about  what happens to those bodies after their 3 year rotation in the lab. 

So, in this segment, Jeff goes out to the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in northern Seattle, where most of those bodies come to rest. 

Special thanks to two employees of Evergreen-Washelli who helped out with a lot of the background for this piece:  Sandy Matthie (Reception at Columbarium) and Brian Braathen (Funeral Home Manager)

Music:

The Black Spot ||| Half Ghost  <-- New!

 

HBM028: Jonathan's Cadaver Paintings

Jonathan Happ’s white lab coat and latex gloves make him look like a doctor when he stands in a room full of people. But he’s not a doctor…he’s an artist, and the people he shares this room with are all dead.

In this episode, Jonathan takes a recorder into the University of Washington’s cadaver lab and reports on what he sees, and why he draws and paints images of the bodies.

Sensitive listeners should note that this episode contains graphic (but mostly scientific) descriptions of the cadavers.

The track image is one of Jonathan's paintings. To see a larger version and a drawing of the tendons in a cadaver hand, go to HBM's facebook page

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Music from: Swamp Dog ||| Flower Petal Downpour ||| Nym ||| The Black Spot

Here Be Monsters is now a proud member of the Mule Radio Syndicate, which distributes some other really great podcasts. Check them out at MuleRadio.net.

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