This is a long one. In fact it's more of an epic poem than a series of blog posts. It's like Beowulf, but good.
I use to do a lot of commentary on magic advertisements. And one person I inadvertently found myself writing about frequently was a guy named Keith Lack. He first came onto my radar because he had produced the Silver Shifter coin with Steve Brooks. The first post here is me talking about the Silver Shifter advertisement. There are four posts altogether. Things may start a little slow, but they get better and better and genuinely bonkers by the end when Keith confronts me via email. After I posted his email I got replies from other people saying his email gave them the "chills." It's certainly a bizarre diatribe. Was he drunk? Just stupid? Did he have a tumor pressing against the part of his brain that controlled spelling and telling the truth? I don't know.
I think Keith got out of the magic making business as I haven't seen anything he's produced in recent years. I hope he's doing well. I have such fondness for all the weirdos who used to threaten me on my old site.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Truth In Advertising
There's nothing in the world quite like a magic ad. I remember when I got my first issue of Genii magazine. After the initial shock of it being 1989 and seeing a magazine that looked like it was still punched out on a typewriter, I became enthralled with the ads for the tricks. Every single one sounded impossible. I couldn't believe I could learn to float a dollar bill in a balloon for 13 bucks. 13 bucks! I was naive enough to believe that I would be buying some secret that exploited a little known law of physics. Later I realized that the secrets to the professional magic tricks are just as hokey as the secrets to the tricks in the books at the public library. These days I can appreciate that. I like the fact that the methodology behind these effects isn't usually something diabolical, it's double-sided tape or whatever.
The longer you're involved in magic the more familiar you become with the way magic ads are written. For instance, if the ad says, "A card is selected." What it means is, "A card is forced." Because if the cards wasn't forced it would say, "A card is freely selected (no force)." If you're buying a coin routine and it says, "No gimmicks used," it will involve difficult sleights. If it says, "No sleight of hand," then it will involve gimmicked coins. Sometimes the advertisers get so enamored with what isn't the method behind their trick that they go on and on about what it obviously couldn't be.
"You hold a blue poker chip in your left hand, in the blink of an eye it changes to red! (No duplicate chips, no sleights, no invisible thread, no rough and smooth, no marked cards, no "Pepper's Ghost" principle.)
I can forgive a lot in a magic ad. I have no problem if you don't detail every last procedural step. I have no problem if you describe the effect as the spectator perceives it as opposed to how it really happens. That's the nature of these ads. You want to give a detailed description which makes the effect sound good, but you don't want to give away the method by listing every step of the effect. Errors of omission I'm okay with, but don't bullshit me. Don't tell me something that is clearly untrue.
For example, in the ad for Steve Brooks and Keith Lack's Silver Shifter, it states:
no funny switches
Obviously they're trying to get you to believe that this effect doesn't involve a switch. But, of course, it does involve a switch. And not only do I find the switch to be "funny," I find it to be "fucking hilarious." Steve and Keith don't want you to look at the effect and think "Oh, a rubber coin that is switched for a bent coin." So they're trying to imply that there is no switch, even if it means their customer is disappointed when he gets the product. They don't care about that, they just want to move the product. You can't say "no funny switches" on a trick that includes a switch. FUNNY IS SUBJECTIVE, YOU ASSHOLES. So if we take the subjective word out of the phrase, we have "no switches," which, as I said, is bullshit.
If you see no problem with that wording in the Silver Shifter ad, consider this following effect I plan on releasing:
A deck is shown to consist of all different cards. A spectator cuts to any card. When the performer riffles the deck, the spectator sees that all the cards now match her card, then, just as quickly, the deck returns to normal. No "stupid" gimmicked deck. $85
Then you buy it and I send you a Svengali deck. Hey, I said no stupid gimmicked decks. I think the Svengali deck is rather ingenious.
I think that would be analogous to the Silver Shifter ad, which I find to be twice as deceptive as the trick itself.
[A week later I was commenting on the complete inanity of the presentation in the ad copy for his trick "Winter Spirit." It was a presentation that was inherently unworkable and suggested the trick had never actually been performed before being sold (at least not performed as described in the ad copy).]
Friday, February 06, 2004
The other day I said that I would post why the presentation given for this trick, Winter Spirit, is inherently unworkable. Go and read it now, we'll wait.
Now, you may think that I have some kind of grudge against Keith Lack as I've taken huge steaming dumps on his (and Steve Brooks) Silver Shifter in the past, and now I'm about to go off on Winter Spirit. But I don't at all. I don't care enough about the guy to have a grudge against him. From looking at his website I can see that his products don't appeal to me because he seems to be trying to dress up his effects, and my personal performance philosophy is to make things simpler. But that's just a presentational difference.
In fact, I think his Creature product looks great. I didn't think so when I read the ad. I recognized it as a variation on something that had been in Gary Ouellet's Fulminations column in Genii and even in Magic for Dummies. But then when I saw the video, knowing the gimmick and knowing how it's done, I still thought it looked great. I can't imagine what a spectator with no idea what was coming would think. I think it would look particularly creepy if you made it come out of your pubic hair.
Here's why the presentation for Winter Spirit as given in the ad is unworkable. Mind you, I'm saying the presentation he gives is awful, not the trick itself, although that may be as well. You ask for members of the audience to write down the first thing that comes to mind when they think of winter. Then you secretly switch the slips that the audience members just wrote for slips that all say "winter spirit" and have another spectator choose any of those slips. This is a pretty standard technique for forcing a word or whatever. But here's the problem, this actual effect takes place, literally, in your hands as you're cupping ice water. In other words, it's a close-up effect. Does anyone see the problem here?
Well picture it, you have four or five people gathered around to watch your performance, you've just forced the slip and the spectator calls out "Winter Spirit."
Magician: Ron, please open the slip and tell us what it says.
Ron: Winter spirit.
Magician: Okay, that could mean two different-
Pat: Bullshit. Nobody here said "winter spirit" was the first thing that came to mind when they thought of winter. What the fuck is the winter spirit? You mean "Christmas spirit"?
Magician: No, somebody wrote it. See, it's right here on the slip.
Pat: Oh, come on. You totally wrote that yourself. Are you kidding me? There's only four of us here, seriously, who said "winter spirit"? It sure as hell wasn't me. I said "mittens." Was it you? You? You? See, it was none of us. So what's the deal?
Magician: Well, I was just-
Pat: Listen, just go on with your trick, but know that we're not a bunch of idiots. Nobody who has been on this planet for any amount of time would ever say "winter spirit" in answer to that question. They probably wouldn't even say that if you asked, "What is the spirit of winter called?"
You see, there are only two situations where you can use the name-things-write-them-down-then-switch-slips bit:
- One, you're performing for an auditorium full of people who can't discuss what they wrote down with each other or...
- Two, you're switching slips that say something that you're positive at least one person will really write down. You can tell everyone to write down a vegetable, and then switch those slips for a bunch of slips named carrot and be pretty safe. But in a close-up environment you can't ask people to name the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of winter and then switch the slips for "Winter Spirit" slips because it's such a strange thing to be written down that they're going to wonder who the hell would write it. Maybe...MAYBE, you could get away with it if you were performing for a room full of Wiccans, but even then I doubt it.
And once you've forced "winter spirit," his presentation has you giving this long dissertation on the winter spirit. Something you were obviously prepared for, hence making the force all that more ridiculous and obvious and condescending. If you want to make the force seem real you should say, "Winter Spirit? What the fuck is that? Who the hell would write that down? That's ridiculous. I was expecting 'hot cocoa' or maybe 'shovel' but not 'Winter Spirit.' Well, I'll see what I can do with that."
Another problem with his presentation is that he ends it by saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, meet lady winter!" Which is kind of pompous and dopey, but more importantly, most any time Winter is anthropomorphized, it's as an old man. Old Man Winter? You heard of it? So when you say "Lady Winter" you'll have another instance of the audience not knowing what the hell you're talking about.
So, in summary, the presentation he gives for Winter Spirit would never work in a close-up environment, which is the only environment it can be performed in. Keep that in mind before you buy it. The trick may be fine and actually makes a lot more sense, if you don't try and force the choice of "Winter Spirit." Just produce the damn thing. Otherwise people will say to you, "What were you going to do with that ice-water if you had picked a slip that said, 'yule log'"?
[A few months down the road and I decided to take a look at his new effect Pop Eye, an effect where you pull your eye out of your head. I was taken with the notion put forth in the ad that there was just an abundance of ways to use such a gimmick.]
Monday, June 07, 2004
Magicians are a savvy bunch, and as such, they're always on the lookout for the next big utility gimmick. Oh sure, you can stun the pants of the ladies with one-trick-wonders like Color Monte or Milk to Light bulb, but the true bang for your buck comes from the gimmicks you can use for multiple effects like the thumbtip, the Raven, Xpert, and of course, Slush powder.
Well, get ready, because now you too can harness the awesome power of the most versatile utility gimmick since the thumbtip .
As the ad copy says, "The possibilities are limited only by your strange imagination."
Oh yes, the possibilities. Think of all the wonderful, varied tricks you could accomplish with this gimmick. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Pull your eyeball away from your head.
2. Pull your head away from your eyeball.
3. Pull both your head and your eyeball equidistant from an imaginary midpoint.
...among other possibilities too numerous to get into and too obvious to warrant mentioning.
And think of all the patter possibilities! Why, anytime you need to say the word eye, or even the word I, you can unleash a magical moment of astonishment. For example:
"Keep your finger on that card and don't move it. I have my eye on you." (Yank out your eyeball.)
When performing for the elderly. "I don't know about you, Old Man Periwinkle, but I can barely tell these cards apart from this distance. Let's take a closer look." (Yank out your eyeball.)
"Boy, I really wish I saved my $59.95." (Yank out your eyeball.)
I prefer to use this in my birthday clown shows as misdirection for the knuckle-busting move in my Forgetful Freddie routine. (By the way, I use my Forgetful Freddie routine to teach kids about the joys of forgetting. In particular, forgetting the way I caressed the birthday-boy's sweet, tender buttocks while his mom was in the other room scooping ice-cream.)
When performing for an adult crowd I like to get into this effect by telling a touching story about the first time I saw snow. You see, when I was growing up, my family would spend the winters with my grandparents in Florida. These were wonderful times but I never got to experience snow because we would always leave New York before the first snowfall and return after it had all melted. But then, when I was seven, my father needed to stay in New York a bit longer than usual on business. And one cold November night as I looked out my window I saw these beautiful white crystals falling from the sky. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw. I ran outside in my bare feet and twirled around in the falling snow. I was so awed by the spectacle of nature's majesty that my eyeball popped out of my fucking skull!
(Now, I realize that by so generously divulging my presentations to you, I could be in danger of someone stealing my routines, but that's a risk I'm willing to take if it gets people's creative juices flowing.)
And for those of you that like to do magic tricks to pick up women, I can't think of anything more romantic than getting two of these things and yanking them out of your head as you stare at some girl's tits. She'll really be flattered.
I applaud Keith Lack for doing something different and putting out some unique products. I'm particularly looking forward to August when he is going to release "Bust A Nut" which is an effect where you pull your nutsack out through your zipper and tug and squeeze it until one of your balls apparently rips through your sack and dangles from the epididymis. It's a worker.
[Then, in August of that year, Keith started emailing me. First with the long screed you'll read below, and then a dozen more times to threaten me or to tell me Steve Brooks is the person who fucked up the Silver Shifter (Absolutely true, Steve. He said you screwed up the first 300 and that's why he took over.) His first email came a day or two after I had left a goodbye post saying I was quitting my site because I had found this site and felt there was really no reason for me to continue posting because I could never live up to that example.]
Sunday, August 08, 2004
The Funniest Shit and The Art of Intimidation
So that was seriously going to be my last post on Wednesday. Well, it wasn't at first, but then I thought, "What the hell, now's as good a time to end as any." And I would have, if I didn't get this totally sweet e-mail from Keith Lack of Arlen Studios. So you can thank him for having me back.
What follows is the e-mail with my annotations, followed by some more comments to him. I've left his e-mail unedited, all the spelling mistakes and poor grammar are his.
What's the matter ASS FUNGUS?, 1
Too many of the "wrong" people starting to get close to knowing who you are. I've got news for you. I've know who you are for the last few months now. Why did I not do anything about it sooner? Well, your not worth a big effort in regards to retaliation and secondly, I am waiting to deal with you face to face (hopefully at a convention some time or if I get board, I may just hop on a plain and pay you an unexpected visit. I travel all over the world on a yearly bases. You would just be a convieniant lay over on my way to somwhere. 2). That is how men do things. See, I am not a cowered hiding behind some BLOG. 3 If I have an opinion, I voice it and want all to know it came from me. That is what individual self _expression is all about. I do not have a problem with you expressing your opinion publicly but why hide? COWARD is all that comes to mind. Actually, PUSSY is the first thing that comes to my mind but I think about that a lot in any case and it just may be a leftover thought so lets stick with COWARD for now. 4 You have hurt allot of people and in this cases, tagged me on your piss-ass little site once to often. Closing it, will not make me forget you or what you have done to so many. I am not going to let you fade off into the darkness of cyber world.
Currently, I am working on ways to make your life less private. See, I have all your contact info. at present and am going to post it in a number of places very soon letting all who you have slandered know who you are and how to get a hold of you should they decide to sue you. 5 Also, My father (retired now) was one of the best attorneys in the state of California till. He handled (and still can) litigations all over the world from right here in Ca. Currently I have six others whom you have hurt. My father and I are now preparing the documents to proceed in filing a class action law suit against you in their names. Dad is willing to work on contingence in this case (for free unless a judjment is handed down in our favor then 35% off the top for his time and trouble). The only cost will be the filing fees. Hope you have serious cash resources because your life is about to get real unpleasant for awhile. 6
I think you took the freedom of speech precedence set by Larry Flint in the Fallwell vs. Flint case to much to heart . 7 See "Andy", There are reasons there are words and phrases like "Deformation of Character" and "Slander" floating around. 8 These are words that our legal system has given us. And are there for a reason. Keep in mind, Flint had a dozen attorneys going over every Fallwell article before it was printed. He (unlike you) was careful when he went after Fallwell so as to not let his ass be hanging out. Why am I even bothering with you? Well, because you are the worst type of parasite. The human kind. You are no better than one of the terrorists that toppled the trade center in my opinion. 9 Shots from dark holes. Worms live in dark holes. By your writing, you seem like a smart guy so I was surprised to see you goof up so bad and leave your ass so exposed. You and those around you will know what I mean very soon now. All I will say at this point is Yahoo has been very cooperative once dad got involved. I wish I could be there to see the look on your face when you get............ I am letting to much out of the bag now. 10
About now you are saying to yourself, "Hummmmmm, Why does this jerk just tell me who I am now and prove to me he has all this info on me?" 11 Nope, that is not fun enough. I like the idea of you not being quite sure if I really know or not. Is it a bluff? Then POOF, one day out of the blue, you and your life goes on display for all you have hurt to see. What goes around comes around. Who is shooting from dark holes now? I think it is too late for public apologies and all that now and would rather see you exposed. I will admit it was allot of work to find you and cost some $ but once one starts throwing some cash around, it is amazing how tight lips loosen up. 12 I would hate to see it all go to waste by letting you off easy with an apology. I doubt you would do it in any case and expect this may fuel you even further to get your site back up and running again. Please do! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE...... I am a patient man and would love to see you dig yourself in deeper. I'll even wait a bit to get more on you. As it is now, I can not be added to the class action as I can not prove damages like the others. But if you get back up and running, no doubt you will goof again and I will be able to prove damages. 13 As it is now, we have excellent proof of damages from the six interested in the class action thing. Dad will take care of the rest. I hope you and those around you have more than the check we did shows. As it is now, the estimated judgment on this will be vast, you will not have enough even if we liquidate all you and yours assets to cover it. But the satisfaction will be so worth it to so many. See and talk to you soon! 14
Keith A. Lack
PS. We have already copied all the text from your site and had it notarized. No changing it now. You my friend are BUSTED!!!!!!!!!! Also, you should be expecting a call from your ISP soon as well. See dad and I will handle the civil thing but the FCC seems to be interested now as well. It seems you may now be under suspicion of having violated FCC regulatory commission gridlines. In short a FELONY. Wow! Congratulations. So much shit stirred up in so little a time. Your parents must be proud of you. 15
1- You don't often see a question mark followed directly by a comma. I appreciated this inventive construction.
2- Listen, Dropout, I'm not going to bust on you for your awful grammar, spelling, and punctuation throughout this e-mail, but if you want to be taken seriously you should really have someone go through your e-mails so they don't look so ridiculous. First, the word is "bored." Second, the word is "plane." Third, the word is "basis." Fourth the word is "convenient." Fifth, layover is one word. If you say I'd be a convenient lay...over on your way to somewhere, you're saying you'd find it convenient to come and fuck me while on your way somewhere else. I don't think that's what you mean.
Regardless of that, what are you implying here? That you're going to come and find me at some magic convention and beat me up. Good luck. I would love that. I'm the worst type of person to fight. There are certainly other people stronger or more skilled than me, but my greatest advantage is that while you're in the "let's circle each other and figure out if we're really going to fight" phase, I'm busy knocking your fucking teeth down your throat. I'm not averse at all to fighting, and I would love to kick the shit out of someone at a magic convention. That sounds super-funny. We should do it at FISM or some shit and see if it makes MAGIC magazine's coverage. Of course it would only be self-defense on my part because you're the one intimating you want to start physical violence because I make jokes about magic on a weblog. That sounds ludicrous to me, but if that's the way you feel, have at it.
3- I've never understood this argument. Why am I a coward (or cowered) because I post my thoughts online for anyone and everyone to read? I'm not talking about you behind anyone's back. I'm talking about you completely out in the open. Why don't I give my name? As I've mentioned before, this is easy for anyone with a second of thought to figure out. Let's say I'm completely unknown in magic, well, then what good is it going to do you to know my name? On the other hand, what if I'm somewhat well known, or even really well known in magic, then people find out I do this site and they act completely different around me. Companies that usually give shitty service go out of their way to do well by me so I don't trash them on this site, people become guarded in what they say. I don't want that.
4- Yes, I'm sure you spend a lot of time thinking about pussy. Like a hungry man spends a lot of time thinking about food.
5- Fucking go ahead then. What you don't understand is that I don't care if people know who I am. The only thing it will prevent me from doing is writing this site. So I'll stop writing this site. This is a very small part of my life.
6- Hahahahaha. Okay, I look forward to that lawsuit.
7- Your knowledge of the law is amazing (and it's about to get funnier, readers) you managed to misspell the name of both parties in that case.
8- Goddamn you are a riot! "Deformation" of character? It's defamation, you idiot. You're like Jeffy in the family circus. It's cute. Do you say "Psghetti and Meatbulbs" too? Oh, and "slander" is spoken. Your knowledge of the law is absolutely adorable!
9- He makes a good point. There really isn't much difference between killing a few thousand innocent people and making fun of Silver Shifter.
10- What a douche.
11- Actually no, I'm not thinking that. I know you have no idea who I am.
12- He's saying it was hard work tracking me down and it cost him a good deal of money, yet in the first paragraph he says that I'm not worth a big effort. Proofread your made-up shit for consistency before you send it.
13- Gee, I know I shouldn't be giving advice to the person who is planning on suing me, but you shouldn't beg me to restart my site, it kind of weakens your case in the class action lawsuit.
14- Looking forward to it!
15- Oh no! Thanks for the warning. Man, I'm really, really scared! I'm going to lose my anal virginity in prison because I made fun of The Magic Cafe! And the FCC does not look kindly on that.
Now, obviously I wasn't fooled by this shit. It's too ridiculous. Even if he did have people lined up to to sue me (he doesn't) I wouldn't care because I haven't done anything that you can sue me for. Maybe Keith's dad can explain this in more detail for him, but I'll give it a shot. You can't sue me for making fun of you. You can't sue me for giving an opinion on your service or product. Even if that opinion causes people not to buy your product or use your service. Got it? It's freedom of speech. If you could do that then people would sue Ebert and Roeper for giving bad reviews of their movies. The only thing you could possibly sue me for is if I wrote something that was provably false (opinions can't be proved false) and that false statement must have caused you quantifiable damages. Got it? That would be libel. But again you have a problem. First this is a comedic web site and there are looser standards when judging comedy. Second if I did ever print anything that was libelous, it would have been done unintentionally and I'd gladly remove it. These six people (not including yourself) who supposedly have damages against me have, oddly enough, never written me to say that something I've written is false. I wonder why. Hmmm, no I don't wonder why. It's because there are no six people and you're full of shit.
And damn, that bugs me. If you had written me like a normal human being and said, "Hey, I know you have every right to say what you're saying, and you're probably going to make fun of me for even asking, but would you go easy on me [or 'would you go easy on whoever']. I realize it's supposed to be all in fun but it's kind of upsetting." Guess what. I would have taken it easy on you. The big lie, and I certainly perpetuate it, is that I'm an unreasonable prick who just talks shit about everyone. And while that's somewhat true, it doesn't tell the whole story. It's only when you or your idiot friends talk about suing me (whether it be for "deformation and slander" or child pornography, as was mentioned by your inbred buddies at the Cafe) that I become truly rabid. So you can send me some more e-mails full of empty threats and utter bullshit if you're so inclined, but don't expect me to be intimidated.
The Art of Intimidation
First, don't lie. And certainly don't lie about things you don't know about. The mistake Keith made is that he tried to base his intimidation on a total bluff. And I (since I know who I am, and I know my situation) know the total truth, so I'm able to gauge all his statements against the actual facts. That might not be a clear and I don't want to give anything away, but, well let's put it this way... say someone called you up and said, "I followed you home last night and got in through your basement window. Tonight I'm going to do the same thing, but I'm going to slit your throat while you sleep." Now, that's certainly intimidation, but if you live in an apartment you know it's a lie, so it's not very effective intimidation.
Second, don't oversell your position. There is no quicker way to end an argument, debate, or fight than by overextending yourself. If Keith had just written an e-mail saying, "My father is a lawyer and we believe we can prove damages and we intend to sue you for libel." Perhaps that would have given me pause. I doubt it, but perhaps. But Keith made the mistake that if one threat was good then maybe 30 would be really good. And that caused him to just make some ridiculous statements. For example, a class action lawsuit can only be filed by people with substantially similar circumstances, I don't believe it could be filed in regards to different statements that affected different people in different ways. You can't just file a class-action lawsuit, you need class-action certification. Oh, and another ridiculous claim that he made (that the FCC wants to take action against me) is probably the dumbest thing ever printed on this site. And I've printed a letter from Daffydoug! The FCC doesn't regulate the internet you dipshit.
Third, choose your target carefully. I am not easily intimidated. You can regroup, get your shit together, and come back at me. It doesn't matter. I have no respect for someone who tries to shut me up not with logic or reason, but with threats and lies. Stick to making unnecessarily realistic looking thumbtips. Apparently that's something you're capable of at least. You're not capable of intimidating me because I'm smarter than you, and in this case, I'm in the right as well. Now shut the fuck up.
That's pretty much where things ended on the blog. Although Keith did continue to send me some strange emails. First to tell me that someone had called his house and threatened his daughter and he was bringing in the FBI and they were surveilling me. Sure. That happened. Anyway, here is the end of our email correspondence:
On Wednesday, August 11, 2004 8:09 PM, Keith A. Lack <email@example.com> wrote:
Come on dude,
I'll even help you out with that little PK Time problem you were having
after we talk. I am not going to hurt you physically, I just want the
chance to talk to you face to face. A few of the guys from the meeting said
they know where you live. Is it OK if we stop by after the meeting if you
can't make it? I'm here in town. Looks like you were not too far from me
To: "Keith A. Lack" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2004 9:34 PM
If I cared enough to be confused about what you're talking about, I would be.
On Thursday, August 12, 2004 2:54 PM, Keith A. Lack <email@example.com> wrote:
I missed you last night. Came by your house but the lights were off. I
have sold a bunch of Pop Eyes and CREATURES since you posted my link. So I
guess this is a bitter sweet deal.
To: "Keith A. Lack" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2004 12:16 PM
I'm glad you've sold some Pop Eyes and Creatures. As I said on my site, I thought Creature looked pretty great. You seem to think I wish for your failure, I don't. I don't think about you at all actually.
I was home last night, I wish you'd have stopped by.
On Thursday, August 12, 2004 3:42 PM, Keith A. Lack <email@example.com> wrote:
Came by around 2 after the magic meeting. Your lights were off. I am not
sure if you have kids or not. Did not want to do you yours what you have
done to mine.
And that's where I left it. I don't think I heard from Keith again. And apparently the FCC, FBI and local law enforcement are still putting together their case against me.