Guard Geese · Mark Geragos · The Dissident

Plus: finding Manhunt

And on the sixth day of Best Evidence, my true love gave to me way more than six geese. According to an Atlantic report from 2013, many more than a half-dozen of the birds were employed in “the Xinjiang province’s war on crime,” with Chinese officials saying that “Among all poultry, geese [are known] for being extremely vigilant and having excellent hearing…Geese are very brave. They spread their wings and will attack any strangers entering [someone’s] home, like a radar that does not need power.”

According to National Geographic, the program started paying off immediately, as when “a guy tried to break into a police station to take back a motorbike confiscated by the cops. The guard geese sounded the alarm, awakening the sleeping officers.” Patrick Cumins, director of bird conservation at Audubon Connecticut, says that geese are good guards, as it’s an “instinct for them. They're territorial. They could fly off anywhere they want to, but they hang around their home.”

When asked if a goose might be distracted by a miscreant, the way a guard dog might be with a steak, Cumins said, “It's pretty hard to give geese something that's going to distract them enough where they wouldn't make noise. They might make more noise if you throw something yummy at them. And once they get going, they're hard to quiet down.”

Someone please remember this the next time we’re talking about ways to redeploy the police. Could we replace officers in some roles with six geese, laying or not? If Cumins is correct, we just might. — EB

The Dissident will be released in theaters on Christmas day. The documentary from Bryan Fogel (winner of the 2017 best-doc Oscar for the Olympic doping scandal film Icarus) is being pitched to the media less as a standard true-crime film and more as an action film, as you might have guessed from the intense score in the trailer above.

From the press release:

The Dissident is an edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline-filled thriller that plays out at the highest levels of power, exposing the labyrinth of deceit behind the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was a principled reformer who sought to create a more open society in his homeland, and who was ultimately murdered for his vocal opposition to the Saudi government. Featuring never before seen surveillance footage and unprecedented access to a wealth of other damning information previously unavailable to the public, Fogel earned the trust of those closest to the tragedy -- Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz and the UN Special Rapporteur who led the inquiry into the assassination, Agnès Callamard, as well as Turkish police and prosecutors, cyber security experts, and a young Saudi activist with whom Khashoggi was secretly collaborating, Omar Abdulaziz -- to weave together this story of courage, money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok.

Of course, I’m not going to a movie theater on Christmas, and unless you live in, well, not the U.S., you probably aren’t, either. But it’ll hit streaming services on January 8, after which we can all judge if it’s as “adrenaline-filled” as they say. — EB

I’m big into Manhunt: Deadly Games for a couple reasons, which I will list for you below. But the headline here is that the CBS show has been freed from the shackles of CBS All Access for the verdant plains of Netflix, so now we can all enjoy it together.

  1. The whole story — Richard Jewell saves the day and then is blamed — is a fascinating nightmare.

  2. In Manhunt, my beloved Cameron Britton plays Jewell. He’s the guy who played Ed Kemper in Mindhunter, and he’s great — and, also, Manhunt and Mindhunter are similar enough names that everyone (myself included) will eventually conflate the two and the next thing you know Kemper is saving the Olympics can you tell I couldn’t sleep last night?

  3. Manhunt is not Clint Eastwood’s misogynistic, dead-journalist-defaming Richard Jewell.

All your favorite true-crime podcasts are about to be movies. If you truly care about how true crime is told and sold, this Deadline article on the podcast-to-film gold rush is required reading. Basically, Dirty John started it all. Here’s a snip:

Television and film option fees have provided many podcast companies with bonus revenues on top of their more traditional ad sales and distribution partnerships. Max Linsky, co-founder of Pineapple Street Studios, which co-produced the Heaven’s Gate podcast with Stitcher that has been adapted for HBO Max as a four-part docuseries coming out last week, says the boom has been “totally wild.” His business partner Jenna Weiss-Berman says that limited-run shows are harder to monetize with ad dollars, so they can now often make up for it with option fees. She adds that the company’s business model shifted because of TV adaptation boom.

“We’re always making sure that we make a great podcast but we’re also now thinking in terms of derivative potential when we’re thinking about pitches,” she says. “We try to look for things that are cinematic that we could imagine as film or TV, which is definitely a new way of thinking in the podcast space and has become a major part of the business model for podcast companies.”

You see why I picked this excerpt, right? It sounds like this is a sign of where we can expect true-crime podcasts to head as podcasting “grows up.” With the knowledge that a podcast can generate massive revenue with an adaptation deal, podcasters are going to grow more and more likely to choose topics — and formats — that will attract studios. Podcasts will be informed by the knowledge that adaptation is an option, and will get more cinematic as a result, eventually narrowing the gap between the audio and video mediums.

I suppose we’re already seeing a little bit of that, with podcasts like Billionaire Boys Club attracting Hollywood talent like Timothy Olyphant. Expect more of that as the hustle to cash in continues. — EB

How did Mark Geragos end up there? There I was, doing my day job as a food writer, when I started getting press releases from the famed criminal defense attorney (Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson) at my work email address. As it turns out, Geragos is also the owner of a downtown Los Angeles restaurant called Engine Co No 28, which sounds pretty wild. From its website:

Built in 1912, costing roughly $50,000, Engine Co No 28 now rests in the shell of an old Los Angeles Fire Department Station. The station, which was closed in 1967, was one of the first buildings built with reinforced concrete making it a class-A
fire-proof structure. A one-of-a-kind building consisting of brick hollow tile and concrete.

The building was renovated in the late 1980’s and turned into the restaurant we now know; Engine Co No 28. Originally serving classic “fire-house favorites” based on American fire-house recipes. Moving in a new more modern direction our menu consists of California inspired dishes with modern techniques.

I had no idea that Geragos, who is also a producer on some ABC procedural lawyer show called Notorious and a frequent legal commentator on cases of note, also “has a passion for historical real estate,” DT News reported back in 2015, buying the fire house and turning it into a “power lunch establishment,” albeit one with only three stars on Yelp, and a faint praise damnation in Los Angeles Magazine.

Anyway, Geragos was behind a lawsuit filed by restaurants in LA against county officials that argued that they should be allowed to resume outdoor dining despite skyrocketing COVID-19 rates. As my friends at Eater LA report, a judge sided with Geragos, but it didn’t matter — by that time, a state lockdown means that restaurants have to remain closed to everything but takeout and delivery orders, anyway. — EB

Friday on Best Evidence: I'll just tell you that it has the best lead image we’ve ever run and leave it at that.

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