Thursday, July 31, 2014

Q is for Queer? Don't Blame Me!

Color me thick; or just plain stupid; but I don’t understand why the Gay Lesbian Bi-Sexual Transgender group has added the letter “Q”; as in “Queer”; to their organization’s name.  I am going to stick my neck out on this in the hopes that someone can explain to me why this is a good idea. Or, even simply how did this come to pass? And, of course, what the aim is.

“Queer”, we have been taught by the GLBT group, is the most vulgar term that can be used to describe another person’s alternate sexual identity. The word “queer” became the equivalent of the word “nigger”, which we have all learned to avoid; that is if we ever used it to begin with. Then we went from that to Negro; to African-American; to “black” and now, in some circles; particularly the field of entertainment; nigger is back. And that confuses me as well.

Note: I use the words “Queer” and “Nigger” in this post because I am writing about the words nigger and queer. I will not do as Alan Dershowitz did in his book; he used all the ethnic slurs imaginable for every race except African-Americans; for which he used the euphemism “the N- word” to de-note it; all while lauding his belief as an “absolutist” on the subject of free speech. I agree with Clarence Darrow who said that “there are too few words as it is. I think we should use them all.”  (He really did say that. Check the court transcript if you don’t believe me.)

As to the LGBT use of the word Queer, I have the following questions;

If Queer was so offensive to Gays and Lesbians, then for whom is the term now appropriate; and why?
If the people who consider themselves to be “Queer” can call refer to themselves as such, and even join an existing political lobbying group using that term, then is it okay for others to use that term again when describing people who live a lifestyle which may seem queer to them?

Further, if the people in this category seem queer to themselves; as well as the LGBT group; are they bigots in the same way as the people who used to call gay people queer because they found homosexual behavior to be, well, queer?

This is the same conundrum many of us have faced with the African-American use of the term nigger, nigah, nigga, etc. If such a vile word is now simply tossed off as being a part of entertainment, then the whole struggle to rid society of the racial prejudice which spawned the term to begin with has all been in vain. All those people who stood up to Bull Connors and the police dogs in Selma and Birmingham were wasting their time. Their own grandchildren would bring back the word with pride.

Now we have the GLBT movement telling us that they have a group of people whom they consider to be Queer. I’m wondering if this means that they’re straight. If so then I am offended. I don’t like being referred to as queer just because I have a different sexual identity than they do. I am proud to be a heterosexual. Where’s my parade?

The people who were beaten at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969; considered to be the birth of the Gay and Lesbian movement; must be appalled by the re-emergence of this term.

Women are another group who have presented a conundrum of sorts over the years. They had a big “revolution” in order to detach themselves from the rampant sexual exploitation of the media, and now they market shirts for women with the word “Bitch” on them. And women snap them up!

Just as I do not understand the GLBT community being willing to go back to the term Queer; in any form; and am equally appalled by the use of the term nigger in any of its incarnations (literature excepting); I am also dismayed that women have been reduced more than ever to “sex objects”; enough so that they would buy millions of these shirts. You can buy one at;


So, not only am I confused about all these things, but I still haven’t got a clue as to why the LGBT group considers queer an acceptable term for any group under their banner. I must be getting very old.  And, finally, why do all reform movements seem to end in some sort of insanity? Now, I just have to find a picture “queer” enough to illustrate this post…

Addenda: 7-31-14 11:30 AM A few individuals have expressed their beliefs; in a rather crude fashion; that I am either a racist, or homophobic. I assure you that neither is the case. I feel that everyone should have the right to be called what they please. That is why we have names. But when you adopt a derogatory term which is applicable to a whole group of people who may be offended by that choice, I have to opt in favor of the most aggrieved party. That message is the intent of this post. You can put the pitchforks and torches away now, thanks!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Ferlinghetti" with Allen Ginsburg and Bob Dylan (2010)

Most people first came across Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the film “The Last Waltz”, which chronicled the final concert of the group in San Francisco. The year was 1976. Lawrence Ferlinghetti had long ago made his mark on the world, but there were still many who had not read his poetry or even knew his name. 

His version of the Lord’s Prayer will forever be cemented in the minds of millions of movie goers who saw that film. (This version is from the film and is slightly different than the published one.)

“Our father whose art's in heaven
Hollow be thy name unless things change.
Thy kingdom come and gone
Thy will will be undone on Earth, as it isn't Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, at least three times a day
and lead us not into temptation too often on weekdays,
but deliver us from evil
whose presence remains unexplained in thy kingdom of power and
glory.”
Oh, man!"

In this film the poet explores the Beat Generation of poets and writers; many of whom appear in the film crediting Mr. Ferlinghetti with having been an inspiration to them. That list includes, Allen Ginsburg, Bob Dylan and Billy Collins. There are too many names to fit on the cover of this incredibly insightful documentary.

Poetry is one of the oldest arts; before stage and screen. It must have come about after people began telling tales around the fire at night. Certainly past the grunts and sounds which early on served as speech. But I suspect that as soon as words were formed someone started rhyming them, and shortly thereafter came free verse. And poetry has been around long enough to leave a complete account of history. "The Epic of Gilgamesh", an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is believed to date to the 18th Century B.C.  The Greek tragedies are almost modern by comparison! And the poetry we call the Bible is pretty much contemporary in the grand scheme of things.

This film will inform you and entertain you; it will also help you understand the direction which poetry; and what we came to call the “sub-culture” of the post-war era; took in the most tumultuous years of the late 20th century. 

For one of my favorite poems by Mr. Ferlinghetti; “I Am Waiting”, use this link;


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Doc Martin" with Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz (2011)

This quirky little series has a unique charm which will draw you in quickly. The characters are all richly developed. The story revolves around the simple plot of a doctor in a small Cornish town who has a baby with another medical professional. The two are unmarried.

Between the slightly inept Town Constable, the drugged out pharmacist, the cat woman, his off-beat “mother in law”, and problems associated with his rather brusque bedside manner combine to create some truly awkward moments for the Doc as well as those around him. In short, he has no bedside manner at all and is somewhat of a bull in a china closet. But, he is a genius.

One things for sure in this series; you never know what’s going to happen next; nor how Doc Martin is going to react to it. Nor, how the people around him will react to the things he says and does. You will marvel at the fact that this socially backward man could even land a woman at all, let alone one as sweet as his significant other. But will they last? This season finds her moving out to be with her mother, taking the baby with her.

While Doc Martin struggles to come to terms with his personal life, he saves just about everyone else’s. This is another of those great British series which I never see on TV; electing to watch them binge fashion instead when they are released as DVD’s. Though I have started with the 5th Season, the characters are immediately familiar, and basically what you see is what you get. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Take This Man" by Brando Skyhorse (2014)

The very first thing you need to know about this book is that the author is not an Indian, as his name would suggest. Neither is he Mexican, as his mother is. He is not really Filipino either, which is a shame because his real dad was. If you can wrap your mind around that then you are off to a good start in a very unique memoir that takes place in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles in the 1970’s and 80’s.

The author takes you on a journey through the dysfunctional world created by his Grandmother, who is Mexican; and his mother, a woman who has fashioned herself into an American-Indian. The problem is that she really believes this to be so. She has a child with a man from the Philippines. And then rejects him with the threat of having him deported because he is here illegally. And this is just the beginning.

Brando is raised within a whirlwind of new men his mother meets- 6 in all over the years- and each one becomes a possible father to the boy, only to fade away under the strain of dealing with his mother and grandmother. Or else they just leave on their own. These experiences with repeated hope and disappointment inform the man that Brando becomes.

This book will actually keep you engrossed, if only because you have never read a memoir like this before. There is no blatant physical or sexual abuse; just a succession of poor decisions by every adult in Brando’s young life. He is constantly on the verge of having the father he wants and needs so desperately, but never finds in the men his mother chooses.

I actually identified with the yo-yo type of existence the author lived due to my own mother’s long and severe illness. It’s hard to grow up when you are told one of your parents will be dead soon. And even harder when they don’t die, leaving you to experience the same pain over and over, each time loathing yourself for wishing it would finally happen and put an end to the anxiety. Of course this leaves you scarred and feeling guilty. And those feelings then claim whole parts of your life until you can find a way to deal with it. I’m one of the lucky ones; some never do.

After failed relationships and a move from Los Angeles to New York, the author; with the aid of time and distance; is able to gain some clarity on just what the hell happened to him while growing up. It took a long time, and was not an easy path, and in many ways the author still struggles to see what the meaning of it all has been.

Later in life he finds the family of his real father, where he is accepted by his half-brothers and sisters as an equal; a true sibling. After a journey of a lifetime the author finally gets his family and learns that love takes many different forms, and families come in many shapes and sizes. What counts most is the love.

This is a very different kind of memoir; it’s more of a search by the author to find out who he really is. And once he figures that out he still needs to assess the damage which has already been done. As the author’s mother used to say, “Well, at least it’s never boring.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Material World - Irony of Life

Have you heard the news today, oh boy? The George Harrison Memorial Tree, which was planted in his honor at the Griffith Observatory; located in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park; has died. Apparently it passed away last month but has just been announced last Monday by City Councilman Councilman Tom LaBonge.

The irony in the story is that the tree died as a result of an invasion of; you guessed it; beetles, the agricultural type. The irony of this is further compounded by the frantic effort to replace it. Mr. Harrison, who did not really believe in the impermanence of things material, would either amuse or bemuse him. The tree was planted in 2004.

The tree is a nice gesture and draws tourists. But a far better way to honor the former Beatle and all round musician/composer would be to have a look at the following video from 1990. At the time Romania had just come out of its darkest days under the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceau┼čescu.

Thousands of women were raped by the military and forced to carry the babies’ full term. Many of those children were infected with AIDS, as well as severe learning disabilities. Hospitals, when available, were primitive and lacking in everything. There were no schools for these children, who were all slated to become members of the Romanian dictators military. When freedom came the country was completely unprepared.

At the time, Olivia Harrison heard of the plight and visited the country. When she came back she got together with the other Beatle wives and formed the charity organization Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation. Quietly; ever so quietly, over the course of the last 24 years; Olivia Harrison; along with Barbara Bach, Yoko Ono and the now deceased Linda McCartney; made it financially possible for these children to survive and even excel.

In this following 1990 interview you will not only hear the story of how the charity came to be; but also about the Traveling Wilbury’s and their second album “Volume 3” which was released in 1990.
“Nobody’s Child” wasn’t on the original album but appears on the re-release. It’s an old American song by Cy Coben and Mel Foree; performed by Lonnie Donnegan. George had to call Joe Brown in London to get the lyrics. It was 5AM in London. They succeeded in getting half of them, and then wrote their own last verse.
     
The song originally appeared on an album for the Romanian Angel Appeal which featured artists such as the Traveling Wilbury’s, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Guns N' Roses, Ringo Starr, and Elton John. Here is that interview;


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Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Romeo and Juliet" - Andy Griffith Style (1962)


The Andy Griffith Show was always one of my favorites. The mixture of comedy with some basic lessons in life was the hallmark of the show, and it wasn't lost on me. I actually "got" it. When Opie killed a bird I knew it was wrong; just as I knew that his father's solution to have Opie care for that bird's hatch-ling was right.

In this classic episode Sheriff Taylor has been a bit humiliated. The night before this scene takes place he was confronted at home by 2 young people wanting to get "hitched" by that Justice of the Peace. Although both were of legal age the sheriff was unable to complete the ceremony when the fathers of the bride and groom showed up with shotguns. It seems that the two families were "a fueding";  in the parlance of the time and place.

Andy needs to recover his "lost face" and begins by explaining his actions; or non-actions; of the night before by making an appropriate comparison between the situation at hand and Romeo and Juliet. This is what made Andy Griffith so famous to begin with. He told stories. His legendary "What It Was Was Football" is the vehicle which took him from the Ed Sullivan Show to headlining on Broadway in "No Time for Sergeants."

From there he hit the screen with an Oscar worthy performance as Lonesome Rhodes in the 1958 film “A Face in the Crowd” which co-starred Patricia Neal. In that film Andy Griffith gives one of the best performances of his career as a drunken guitar playing bum who finds himself catapulted to fame. 

It’s not a pretty picture to watch as he becomes a controlling and nasty individual, pushing away all those who love him. It’s a far cry from the roles he became known for as Sheriff Taylor on TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show” and later as the homey attorney “Matlock.” If you have never seen the film before, you should.

Meantime, enjoy the clip above and hit you tube for a peek at Andy Griffith playing Lonesome Rhodes in “A Face in the Crowd.” You will be astonished. Here’s a clip; make sure you catch the performance at about 3 minutes into the clip. 


Friday, July 25, 2014

"Blood Done Sign My Name" with Ricky Schroder and Nate Parker (2009)

Ricky Schroder shines as Pastor Vernon Tyson in this 2009 film about a preacher who comes to the town of Oxford, North Carolina in 1970 with his family. The film is based upon a true story. It involves a local black man named Dickie Marrow who has just returned from Vietnam and was killed by a white man who thinks he heard him insult his wife. The actual murder was committed by grocer Robert Teel and his son Larry, who were both acquitted of the crime by an all-white jury.

William Chavis was the only real witness to the crime, asides from an elderly black woman. Both of their testimonies were discredited in order for the white men to walk free. During the trial a man arrives in town to organize the resistance among the people. He is known as a “Stoker.” He fuels the fires of dissent, hoping to help effect change. He is the legendary Golden Frinks, who roamed the country from one hot spot to another for the ten years between 1964 and the early 1970’s. This film is as much about him as it is about Dickie Marrow.

It is also a film about the effect our actions have on those around us; not least of whom are our families. Both main characters struggle to maintain a balance of what they are fighting against, as well as an awareness of how those actions will affect their children. This is particularly true of the Pastor’s young son.

Excellent cinematography and location shooting in North Carolina make this an extra special film to watch. The statue of the Confederate soldier is still in front of that court house; and several others in the state. I would not have them removed for all the tea in China. They serve as a reminder of an inglorious past, and were they to be removed we might forget the shame of those times.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shotgun Shacks - Relics of a Bygone Era

Driving home from Lincolnton one day I passed a group of shacks along the side of the road. They are at the intersection of  Routes 150/27 on the north side of the road. Intrigued, I turned around and headed back to take some pictures and a closer look. I got so much more for my trouble, it was worth the time.

The shacks date back to the earlier part of the 20th century, probably about 1920 or so. They were rented by the day, night or hour to people passing through. That was the story I got from the bank that sits adjacent to the shacks.

I was directed to the owner, who lives across the road on 150. She is an elderly woman and I really didn't want to bother her, valuing my own privacy as I do. So I asked two guys standing outside the Realtor Office, which is next door, about the shacks. They directed me to the Lincolnton Historical Society and gave me a contact there along with a number to call. And I just may do that. But the story they told was so good, I'm afraid that the truth might spoil it for me.

The area was known as Goodyville back then. It sits next to the town of Boger and has been swallowed up by Lincolnton over the years. It was commonly knowledge that these shacks were mainly used for drinking "white" liquor and also prostitution during the years of Prohibition.

That was all I needed to hear. My mind raced with sepia toned images of hot, sultry summer nights and ladies dressed in flapper type outfits with rolled stockings, drinking white liquor from glass jars. Maybe there was music -a radio, or perhaps a piano...

The mind is the most fertile of places. Images come and go as you drive by and stories plant themselves in your head. They take on a life of their own that nothing, not even the true story, can change.

I'll probably make that call to the Historical Society, but I'll always hold onto this little slice of life that I got driving down the road. Sometimes the truth just don't cut it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People Who Wear Masks

People who wear masks while advocating a political point of view have always baffled me. I know that they believe in the causes they claim to support- but I have to question the wisdom of the masks. Here is a photo taken a few years ago showing the Basque Separatists declaring a truce. I never thought of a truce as something to be ashamed of. What is so shameful about advocating for Peace?

Regarding masks in general, it would seem to me that if the cause were a just one, I would want my face to be associated with my point of view. I would take pride in my position. On the other hand, I do recognize that in some countries the mask may be necessary, especially if your views are not in sync with the repressive government with which you may be in contrast. 

But the mask does seem to take away from the perceived legitimacy of the argument. I cannot imagine George Washington or Thomas Jefferson wearing masks to obscure their identities. Because I have been raised in a free society it is hard for me to imagine the necessity of taking such measures. As a child I quickly understood that only the bad guys wore masks, with the possible exception of Zorro.

Once mask wearing begins, it doesn't stop. It snowballs into a mindset of deliberate obscurity, in which no one takes a personal stand for what they believe in. Even the Police and Military, when they don masks, detract from the honor of what they do to protect us. But given the danger of what they are up against, namely other people in masks, well, I understand that this may be necessary, although it does make me somewhat uneasy. Where does the responsibility lie when justice is obscured behind a mask?

Halloween is an appropriate use of masks, as is Mardi Gras. Here is a group of revelers in the Big Easy last year during Fat Tuesday. The masks are rather gruesome, but they are about fun, and not clandestine in nature. In my opinion, Political Views and Law Enforcement should be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency. It is only through a spirit of openness and honor that we will ever be able to face one another, and ourselves. And wouldn't that be something...?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jackie "Moms" Mabley

Jackie “Mom” Mabley was the Minnie Pearl of the old Chittlin’ Circuit. There’s only one big difference between the two; “Mom” came first by about 20 years. She appears to have hit the circuit sometime in the early 1920’s, arriving in Harlem at the height of the Cotton Club and everything else which came to symbolize a vibrant Black Renaissance; Langston Hughes, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and the list goes on and on.

Whoopi Goldberg narrates and appears in this lovingly made documentary about the life of one of show businesses arguably most beloved comediennes. Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Billy Mitchell and a host of others, all reminisce about, and add individual bits of knowledge concerning “Moms” and her sometimes not so clear biographical background.

But one thing is sure in all of their minds; this little woman with the big heart was one the most unusual, and outspoken of performers to come down the pike. And to have done this as a woman during the time period in which she lived, made the journey; let alone the actual feat; remarkable to say the least.

Raped twice and forced to give up both children, she never really had another man. She was an un-closeted Lesbian off stage; even dressing as a man and squiring beautiful young women with her wherever she went. Off stage there were no house dresses and funny hats. There were 3 piece suits and gold watch chains, with a fedora to top it off!

I first became aware of “Moms” through the magic of the Merv Griffin Show, which aired after school. She fascinated me with her stories; she told stories more than she told jokes. Her stories always touched on the human condition; as well as politics.

Here again was a woman way ahead of the curve. But armed in that housedress, with no upper teeth in her mouth, speaking from beneath a floppy hat, she could; and did; say whatever she wanted to say. Sometimes the white audiences didn't know if they were being made fun of or not. Black audiences loved her because she could say what they were thinking, and say it on the television!

“Moms” was born in Brevard, North Carolina years before many of the comedians she has influenced, right down to the present day. Arsenio Hall, Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers, Jerry Stiller and Eddie Murphy all appear in this film to share the influence which she had upon them.

If you have never heard of “Moms” before, then you need to hit You Tube and then get this HBO biopic to catch up with the rest of the world. Here’s something to start you off;


Monday, July 21, 2014

"Dear Leader" by Jang Jin-Sung (2014)

Through his writing and poetry, Jang Jin-Sung became a member of the inner member of the Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The author explains the role he played in the constant program of propaganda that has come to define North Korea; where it is not legal to write anything unless it is state sanctioned. That includes diaries and even something as innocuous as this blog.

Writing is controlled by a central agency which assigns the subjects to be written about. Mr. Jin-Sung was good at his craft and reaped much reward for his efforts, believing that he was a perfect example of the promise of a "perfect" system of government. After all, this is what he had been told and all he had ever seen.

The author explains why poetry is often the preferred way of distributing the party line; a la Mao’s “Little Red Book.” The simple answer is economic; as there is not enough paper and ink. It is also cultural in that it is so much easier to present a bad argument as art rather than simply try and impose a new set of rules. When people think that what they are doing has cultural merit they seem to go along easier. Think of the Jews and the calming effect which classical music had upon them as they were herded into the gas chambers.

His life at the top in one of the world’s most secretive nations; as well as his subsequent decision to escape; will have you turning the next page, all the while thinking “I’ll read just one more…” A trip outside of Pyongyang opens his eyes to the truth about the leader he is serving, triggering a crisis of conscious which affects him to such a degree that he is moved to plan his escape.

But how do you escape such a repressive regime? Where do you turn to find the kindred spirits to assist you when everyone is too afraid to speak openly? And, lastly, how do you get the money and food to travel? These are the most fascinating elements of the book. The human spirit is something which lives on within even the most repressive of situations. The stories of the Holocaust and the small acts of kindness; even in the midst of genocide; inform who we really are inside. And the author has to rely on that unique trait being present in his countrymen as he makes good on his plans.

While it is true that his past life as a propaganda artist may leave you feeling a bit unsympathetic towards Mr. Jin-Sung, in some respects I could not help recall the plight of the “wikileaks” guy, Assange; as well as the NSA whistle blower Anthony Snowden. In spite of the differences in their professions, the status of the 3 men as traitors versus heroes all depends upon which side of the divide you happen to be standing. This is a very informative book. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Don't Love Me Anymore"

It’s hard to be loved when you don’t love yourself to begin with. I mean, if you can’t stand yourself, why should anyone else even try. That is one of life’s hardest lessons to absorb. 

And once you realize it; well then you have to make sure you walk that fine line between a normal, healthy ego and a crippling self-aggrandizement.

On the other hand, if you don’t learn to at least like yourself, then you could end up like the fellow in this song. He finally gets it; but it’s too late to do him any good.

EABAE

I’m sorry to say but I noticed today
not for the first time.
I know that it’s happened many times before.
With each word that I say I catch you looking away
it’s not the first time.
I’m beginning to feel you don’t want me anymore.

AEBAE

Maybe you've heard my stories once too often.
I certainly never intended to become a bore.
There’s nothing new or exciting I can offer.
I’m beginning to feel you don’t need me anymore.

The smile on your face when you leave for the day
it speaks volumes.
And tells me just how glad you are to go.
I can’t really say that I’m even surprised
or that I blame you.
I’m starting to see you don’t need me anymore.

You know the words, the words to to all the stories.
You've memorized the punch lines, and you know the scores.
And though it's easy to blame you for turning away and leaving,
I never learned how to love myself before.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Synchronicity -

I have nothing to say today; a very unusual occurrence to be sure. Most days I have something to say; although whether or not what I do say is worthwhile, or not, is for others to judge. The fact remains that I usually have something to say; just not today.

The only thing interesting to relate here is that this Norman Rockwell painting graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on July 19, 1930. That’s 84 years ago today. I wasn't looking for synchronicity; it found me. 

I always loved Norman Rockwell, his illustrations graced the covers of the Boy Scout magazines I got when I was younger. His pictures always told a story beyond what you saw. For instance, when I look at this one I see more than an old man fishing.

I see contentedness in his posture; the way his hands are laid across his stomach, and the way the pipe is securely held between his teeth while he slumbers. I also see the loyalty and love of his dog, who is gazing expectantly at the water, waiting for the fish to break surface so that he can bark and wake the old man. The two are a team; where one goes, the other follows faithfully. Ah, if only life were filled with such trust.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Photos of John Lennon and Paul McCartney Together (1974)

Note: This may not be of interest to anyone else but me.

These are the last photos ever taken of John Lennon and Paul McCartney together. They were taken in the spring of 1974. It would be 6 more years before Lennon was killed in New York. The two would meet for the last and final time in New York City in April 1976, but there are no pictures to document that visit. (That was the night when they were watching Saturday Night Live together at the Dakota.)

This first one, above, is of John and Paul at the pool of the home in Santa Monica; which was owned by RCA and loaned to Harry Nilsson as part of a recording contract. It had formerly been owned by Peter Lawford and was the house where JFK had his trysts with Marilyn Monroe.

Nilsson was letting John use the house during his time away from New York with Yoko's  assistant, May Pang. Keith Moon and Ringo Starr, both recently divorced, were also living there at the time of Paul and Linda McCartney’s visit in the spring of 1974.

This next photo is of Harry Nilsson and Paul with John; back of Linda’s head. This was the same month in which John and Nilsson had their famous brawl with the bouncers at the Troubadour. Also, during this meeting, Nilsson offered Paul some PCP which he declined on the basis that when he asked Nilsson if I was any fun the singer said, “No, it’s not.” To which Paul replied, “Well, you know what? I won’t have any.” (page 108 of “Man On the Run” by Tom Doyle - 2014)

And this black and white of John with Keith Moon and Paul and Linda was taken by Peter Butler; the color ones I am not sure of. These 3 photos are the only surviving photos from that day. They were mostly Polaroid’s and time has had its way with them. Note that in this shot John is holding one of the photos.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"I, too, sing America" by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was one of the last of the great poets from the Harlem renaissance. His work influenced all who came after; including the great Maya Angelou, recently deceased. He was born in 1902, in the middle of the Jim Crow Era; and he passed away in 1967 at the height of the Civil Rights struggle.

In this 21st Century we are engaged in a new struggle; one for economic equity. In this struggle there are no colors; just bank balances. I have been struck by how appropriate the literature of the Civil Rights Era applies to this new set of circumstances.

For instance; in this poem, when you think of the “darker brother” think of the common working man. He does all the work for the least amount of money. He’s weary of being cast aside; told he doesn’t count. Remember the disdain which Mitt Romney showed for the average American. He even said it, we “don’t count.”

This poem is for all people everywhere who get the short end of the stick, while working towards a better tomorrow.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The Great Debaters" with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, Jr. (2007)

Imagine being the man who trained some of the greatest orators of the civil rights era. That’s the story of Professor Melvin B. Tolson, faculty member of little Wiley College in Texas during the 1930’s. His debate team consisted of some of the brightest stars who would later inform the Civil Rights Movement.

Jurnee Smollett plays Samantha Booke; Nate Parker plays Henry Lowe; Denzel Whitaker plays James Farmer, Jr., and Jermaine Williams plays Hamilton Burgess. These four comprise the debate team assembled by professor Toland. Forest Whitaker, Jr. (no relation) plays the father of James Farmer, Sr. Those two are exceptional in their portrayal of the sometimes tense; but always loving; relationship between the two.

Tolson trains his young debaters by challenging them at every turn. He even has them train their voices so they can be heard distinctly and clearly. Using a rowboat as his lectern he has them say the same mantra over and over again for days, each time rowing a bit further from shore while exhorting the team to speak louder so that he can hear them.

As they grow in confidence they beat every team they encounter. The other teams are always African-American. They soon discover that the pressure is very different when they face white opponents. There is always the racial disparity to overcome, but they manage to remain undefeated, a fact which professor Tolson uses to procure the opportunity of a lifetime; to be the first African-American debate team to debate at Harvard.

While this entire story unfolds, young James Farmer, Jr. learns that Professor Tolson is working with the local farmers to form a union; a very dangerous practice even for white men back in those days. While the boy is intrigued with the prospect of Civil Rights, his father seems to lives in the shadow of fear. This confrontation between father and son is one of the most emotionally charged scenes in the film; eclipsing in some ways even the final debate sequence.

The whole film is done with attention to detail and the result is perfection. This is a film which you will sit through even in front of your own television, eschewing the usual snacks and breaks available only a room or so away. An excellent screenplay by Robert Eisele; from the original story by Jeffrey Porro; coupled with excellent direction by Denzel Washington, combine to make this film a modern classic.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Under the El Tracks" by Glen Russell Slater (2013)

Glen Slater is a friend of mine; despite the fact that I know almost nothing about baseball. He’s generous in that way. He forgives me my shortcomings. He also writes stories and verse, of which I know a bit more than baseball. That's him in the red shirt in the front row above.

 This poem was written by Glen last year and is a perfect example of the free verse I wish I could write. Of course, Glen thinks it’s no big deal. But that’s because it’s easy for him. He has a blog of his own on Wordpress; though he hates the word “blog.” I hope you will drop in on him sometime at his site;


“Under the El Tracks”
by Glen Russell Slater

I feel so naked and awkward
In the sunshine
As if I’m being X-rayed by the stuck-up jerks on Lefferts Boulevard
In the rain I have some shelter
No one sees me.

But not in the sunshine, which exposes me.
Under the el tracks, they share a kind of common misery
Under the el tracks, I don’t feel so alone in my loneliness.

I wish that I lived near the el tracks
that would cover the boulevard
And I could get lost underneath the din and the dark
and the vibrating roar that envelops your ears and your entire body
from your head to your shoes.
Of the el Train of Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven
Or the el tracks on Brighton Beach Avenue.

Once upon a time,
One Brooklyn winter,
I made sandwiches at Perlmutter’s Luncheonette on Brighton Beach Avenue
Under the el tracks.

I used to screw up the sandwiches and give the wrong change
because I was so nervous as I was scrutinized by the tough guy jerks
who went in there to place bets
On basketball games.

They’d eat sandwiches and drink coffee and talk about the point spread.
And that funny-looking damn little Russian, that genius, wise-ass teenager
who worked there, too.
He made everything look so easy;
I wished the bastard would go back to the Soviet Union.

I’d deliver those sandwiches to those batty Russian broads every day
in that beauty parlor
above Weintraub’s hardware store
That was in the mid-80s.
But I didn’t know how good I had it……..
Lost underneath the el tracks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

"City on Fire" by Bill Minutaglio

This is a re-post from May 2009. I have reviewed hundreds of books on this site, but this was one of the more gripping accounts of any of the historical events of which I have read. The image of the lone Parish priest; Bill Roach; with a cigarette dangling from his lips, will stay etched in my mind forever. He heads down to the disaster area when everyone else is leaving; never to be seen again. And he saw it all coming beforehand. He is as firmly entrenched in my imagination as any fictional character ever could be.

The more things change the more they remain the same, or so they say. Reading this book gives you a good idea of what that means.

In 1947 America had just won the Second World War and was at the apex of its power. The Cold War was just beginning to emerge and Industry was King. No place was this more true than in Texas City, Texas- a conglomerate of chemical manufacturers and oil companies. Monsanto Chemicals, Republic Oil and Humble Oil were the chief employers and no one was going to rock this boat. Jobs, lives, industry and even the old reliable standby of “National Security” were not going to let anything stand in the way of profits.

The town was divided into sections denoting class and profession. Dockside the workers were in the chemical plants and refineries, along with the Longshoreman. Further inland and in neighborhoods with sewer and water were the elite of management. The division was soon to be erased by tragedy.

On April 6th, 1947 Father Bill Roach, a Catholic Priest, was sitting with his brother John, also a Priest, when he remarked that “Blood will flow in the streets of Texas City- and soon.” Father Bill had been something of an oddity around the dock area- very unusual fellow this Priest. He was more concerned with the Social ills that confronted the city than with merely saving souls. He had, along with the towns $1 a year mayor, Curtis Trahan, approached the corporations and hatched the idea of incorporating the areas outside the town limits in an effort to tax the huge profits of the chemical companies and oil refineries. They were met with stiff opposition at every turn.

All that changed on the morning of April 16, 1947. A French steamer, the Grandchamps, had been loading 100 pound bags of ammonium nitrate the day before and was just completing that task when a longshoreman noticed smoke coming from in between the bags in the hold. In an effort to salvage the cargo the French Captain ordered the hatches closed and the space flooded with CO2 to smother the fire. Water would have ruined the cargo. Over the next 90 minutes the pressure built and built- the ship was actually bulging and breathing at the seams, like a live monster about to explode- and she did, at 9:12 AM just 9 days after Father Bills’ vision of “blood…in the streets of Texas City.”

The explosion shattered windows over 150 miles away. In ports like Houston, which did not allow Ammonium Nitrate to be handled at its ports, buildings shook.

What follows is a story of the greed that allowed this to happen, and the mistakes that were made in preparing for and reacting to the fire and subsequent explosion. This would be the first time that the United States was named as a Defendant in a trial for Liability. The litigation lasted over 9 years and in the end each life lost was deemed worth $1,000. And with the exception of a few changes life went on.

This is a multi-layered story. At first glance it is the story of one of the greatest industrial accidents in the history of America; beyond that there is the story of Father Bill Roach and Mayor Trahan and their visions for the future. It is also the story of General Wainwright ceding control graciously to the local leaders rather than standing on Presidential Orders to the contrary.

Mr. Minutaglio has carefully crafted a vivid and accurate account of the events and their aftermath. And you can trace the story on through the years to Union Carbide and Bophal, India; the Great Lakes and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company in the 1970’s; the Valdez in Alaska and Exxon Oil in the 1990’s. The French were right- the more things change- the more they remain the same.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Occam's Razor and the Talmud.

This is a re-worked post from 2011. At the time I was exploring the most basic belief attendant to all religions; faith. There is not one religion which does not ask you to take it’s tenets on faith alone. Without faith there can be no devotion. Without devotion there could be no God. I believe very strongly in God. I have reservations about organized religions; but that’s just me. I accept your beliefs as being just that. In return I only ask that others respect mine.
  
This is Michelangelo's beautiful work from the Sistine Chapel showing God Creating Adam. Whether or not you believe in Creationism, or even God, the works of Michelangelo are certainly evidence of the beauty we are capable of carrying within us.

Man has been arguing religion for so long now, thousands of years, with no progress having been made concerning the respect for different beliefs. At times it seems more like a war than a theological discussion. And, sometimes it has been.

I really enjoy stories from the Talmud and the Mishna. They are the codifications of the events, and their meanings, in the Old Testament. The Talmud and Mishna are almost as old as the Bible itself, and though they are chiefly concerned with the teachings of the Old Testament, many lessons can be learned from these wonderful tales. 

There are many Talmudic "type" of stories, which usually illustrate some principle which has already been expressed in either the Talmud or the Mishna. My favorite is the one about "Two Men Coming Down the Same Chimney", a link to which is provided below. And, there are so many more. Here is another of my favorites, illustrating a basic concept;

Once, a man was visiting a small town for the weekend. He attended the local services at the synagogue. When it was time to honor some of the congregants with Torah blessings, he noticed that the Rabbi was calling random people to be blessed, without regard to name, age or community status. After the service he went to the Rabbi to complain about what he perceived to be an unfair practice. The Rabbi said, "You have been in this synagogue only one day, and yet you feel that there is no order here? I have a list, and I make sure that everything is in order. Remember, we are only on this earth for a short time, and that God has a list, too. Rest assured; everything is in order."

The point here is that; at least where religion is concerned; we never get to see the whole, larger picture. So how can we judge what is fair, or not? So, how is it possible to answer the question of God being fair? Just a thought for the day...

Here’s a link to the “Two men Come Down the Same Chimney” piece;


And if you like that, there’s also this piece, exploring the relation between the “Chimney” school of thought and the theory of Occam’s Razor;


Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Betty in Blunderland" with Betty Boop (Dave Fleischer - 1933)


Here's fanciful version of Betty Boop as "Alice in Wonderland" by Dave Fleischer. I love the fluidity of these old cartoons. They seem to have a life of their own.

As always, these cartoons are posted in the hope that my 4 granddaughters, Aliyah, Trinity, Molly and Julia will enjoy them. Well, I can hope. After all, these old cartoons are up against Dora the Explorer. That's rough competition, though I still prefer the old ones.

The direct benefit to me is of course; and not really having to think too hard about what to post on a lazy Saturday in July.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"The Jack Bull" with John Cusak and John Goodman (1999)

John Cusak plays rancher Myrl Redding in this story based on true events. It is a story of the search for justice; justice denied; and then a hard lesson. When no one is willing to back up; when no one is willing to compromise; the results can never be satisfactory.

Mryl is a proud and hard-working rancher. He raises some of the finest horses in Wyoming. When he takes a group of his horses; along with his hired hands; on a trip to complete a sale, he finds himself caught in a struggle with the wealthiest landowner in the territory of Wyoming; which is poised to become a state. But for the time being it is still a lawless place; which works in the favor of Henry Ballard, played by L.Q. Jones.

Ballard has erected a toll gate on the only path to the markets in the rest of the territory. He demands $10 per person to cross his land. There are no roads. When Myrl leaves 2 horses as collateral for the cash he does not have, a chain of events is unleashed, and impacting both men in ways they could never have foreseen.

Myrl returns to retrieve his horses, only to find them half-starved and abused beyond recognition. He tells Ballard that he has 2 weeks to nurse the horses back to health or pay the value of the animals. Ballard laughs and drives him off.  This leaves Myrl with no other choice than to seek redress in the courts. But the territorial judge is in the pocket of Ballard and so nothing is done to make Myrl whole.

Myrl now intends to bring a petition for statehood directly to the state capitol, where he intends to present it to the Governor. His wife Cora, played by Miranda Otto, takes the petition instead. She is accompanied by Myrl’s best man. But when they arrive at the capitol Ballard’s men are waiting.

They beat the hired hand and frighten the horses, causing Cora to be run over by a wagon. She dies on the journey home. Myrl has now been pushed beyond all reason and decides to take revenge. During the ensuing violence another man’s wife is killed and property damaged. The local judge is such a joke that another Judge is sent into the territory to stage a trial of both men. Their actions have now impacted others who were not involved in the original argument.

Judge Tolliver, played by John Goodman, is a tough and fair man. He intends to deliver justice to both men. He is also a very compassionate man, but he finds fault with both.

After a short trial the judge delivers his verdict. Ballard will restore the horses to their former state. Moreover, he will do this while working in Myrl’s stable. Ballard is furious with the verdict. But the judge is not through yet. He imposes the ultimate sentence on Myrl; to be carried out after his horses have been restored.

His reasoning is simple; Myrl wanted to see justice done so badly that he was willing to break the law in pursuit of that goal. So the judge lets him live long enough to get the justice he demands; and then punishes him for his crimes against others.

This is a film about the inability to compromise; or to see beyond your own personal goals. The desire for justice; when meted out without regard for mercy or compromise; can often be just as bad as justice denied. That is a lesson which both Myrl and Ballard have to learn the hard way. Judge Tolliver has the hardest job of all; he must find a balance which addresses the transgressions of both parties; leaving little room for the mercy and compromise which both men have previously rejected.

Intense acting from all parties, along with a tightly written script, give this movie an air of authority. Originally made for television in 1999 and released on DVD in 2010, this film is eerily reminiscent of the Chinese film "The Story of Qui Ju", which was released in 1992. For a review of that film, use this link;


Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Alone in My Home" - Jack White (2014)


Jack White is one of those rare musicians who influences so many other musicians yet never seems to have a big hit for himself. Other people have the hits with his songs, or even; as in the case of Loretta Lynn; with his superb abilities as a producer as well as a performer. Sort of like what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash. This live performance on Conan O’Brien’s show highlights all of those skills plus his ability as a writer to really hit the heart of the matter in a song.

I can’t figure out whether I like the music best, or whether it’s the lyrics. But then again it’s probably the performance itself which caught me by surprise. The white make-up; the unusual mixture of the instruments; the violin part; all come together in this number, making it impossible for me to ignore. (The studio recording also has a great piano part, which sounds slightly off but adds something of it's own to the song.)

After listening for several days it was impossible for me to stay uninvolved with the recording. The song is very simply composed; and can be played using the basic chords of E A and D. It’s the rhythm that takes a few tries in order to make the words flow as smoothly as they seem to come from Mr. White’s mouth. (I’m still working on that.)

The lyrics are really hauntingly beautiful, reflecting some of my own feelings about issues of trust. I especially like the verse about the ghosts; he paints them as opportunists who know exactly how to haunt him, even though they may not exist. Mr. White knows better. The ghosts are the products of our own insecurities, which in turn gives the non-existent “ghosts” the power they seem to have. Just as with Jacob Marley, we each forge our own links one at a time.

Anyway, you've seen him with the Rolling Stones; on late night TV; and heard him on the radio. Now, with this appearance on Rooftop Reviews, Jack White has finally made the big time.

“Alone In My Home”
(Jack White)

This light that shines on me tonight
Turns on when you wander through my door
And your friends won't see you to the end, I'm sure
But you love them anyhow

Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me
Lost feelings of love
Lost feelings of love
That hover above me

The ghost that visit me the most, drop by
Cause they know they can find me here
And they claim to be held from me in chains, but come on
They're guilty as sin my dear

I'm becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me
I'm becoming a ghost
Becoming a ghost
So nobody can know me

These stones that are thrown against my bones, break through
But they hurt less as times goes on
And though alone, I build my own home, to be sure
That nobody can touch me now
Yeah

All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me
All alone in my home
Alone in my home
Nobody can touch me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Eyewitness to Lincoln's Assassination - (1956)



I'm always looking for old TV shows and unusual things to post here each day. It's not as simple as you might think. Sometimes I have 20 things ready to go at once; while at other times I am really scrambling for something interesting. It sometimes feels like "feast or famine", and at those times it boils down to "sink or swim."

At any rate, this is a cool little segment from the "I've Got a Secret" television show which aired on February 9, 1956. The guest is Samuel J.Seymour, 97 years young form Maryland. His claim to fame is that he witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as a boy. He was about 6 years old at the time of the event at Ford's Theater.

I won't recap the clip - best to let you view it without a preamble. Suffice to say that it just one of the things that I enjoy so much about the internet. I can actually go online and find oral accounts of historical events from people who not only never wrote these recollections down, but are now; as Lincoln was;  lost to the ages.

These clips are valuable additions to the books I read. Enjoy Mr. Seymour's story as you try to imagine life as a 6 year old boy in 1865 Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Liberating Dixie" by Ed Williams (2014)

There are a couple of reasons I read this book. The first was that Ed Williams; although no relation to me; used to stop by my house every morning. He’s the former editor of the Charlotte Observer, which is the only daily newspaper in Charlotte, and so the one which I have had delivered for the past 16 years. Secondly; and of no less importance; is that Mr. Williams has been writing about the south, and its politics, for the Observer since 1973.  And lastly, as a newcomer to this city in 1998, his writings have kept me informed as to new changes, as well as some of the history of the not so old south. To a newcomer this was an invaluable service.

The author spent some time as the editor of the student newspaper at Ole Miss, before serving in the army for 2 years in the mid 1960’s. By 1967 he was ready to begin his journalistic career. And that career led him to a home in Charlotte.

Mr. Williams’ columns are insightful and cover everything from foreign policy and Civil Rights to Senator Jesse Helms and Barack Obama. He has presided over a newsroom which produced Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonists, and a Letters to the Editors page which manages to represent all sides of the divergent views which make us who we are.

He frequently reaches back into local politics and history, seeking to find some consistency in the inconsistent world of politics that will explain how things got to where they are. These columns have been more than helpful to a Northern transplant like me. And I know I’m not alone in that.

Gay Rights, Unions, Boy Scouts, Religion; it’s all here. The stories of the old cotton mills; once the staple of economy in our region; are moving and speak to the demise of the industry. The pieces about WBT – the Colossus of the South – are informative and entertaining. There are so many subjects covered in this book that it will be hard for the average reader to become bored.

This is a perfect book for summer reading. You can pick it up on any page and be entertained and informed all at once. And isn't that what a good newspaper columnist does? It’s just that most don’t do it as well as Ed Williams.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Ringo Starr!


Happy 74th to Ringo Starr. He has kept that back beat for along time, providing the pulse to our lives along the way. It's down to him and Paul McCartney now to keep the legacy of the Beatles alive. Paul does his thing and Ringo his, but there are always Beatles songs included in both their sets. How could it be otherwise?

Here Ringo performs a very heartfelt tribute to George Harrison, his dear friend and band mate for so many years, who had just passed away from cancer at the all too young age of 55. It was actually George who brought Ringo into the band just in time for their first record, "Love Me Do", in the fall of 1962. The irony was that Ringo never got to play on that record. I believe they used a session drummer named Allan White.

Ringo has always gotten short shrift for his accomplishments with the Beatles. But he's the one responsible for all the malapropisms such as "A Hard Day's Night", "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Eight Day's A Week", and the title for the album "Rubber Soul", along with quite a few others. A very witty man, Ringo is.

His wife, Barbara Bach; along with Olivia, the widow of the late George Harrison; have both been the driving force behind a project in Romania which has been going on since the days after the fall of the communists. They have sponsored orphanages for the children of rape; most of whom had AIDS. Some of those children are now alive and disease free due to the work of these two remarkable women and the support of their husbands.

Ringo Starr is still performing his summer concerts with the ever changing "All Star Band". If you've never been to one of those concerts you're missing out. Happy Birthday Ringo- with a little help from your friends...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Tempted" - Glenn Tillbrook


I was looking at some videos when I ran across this live, impromptu version of the old Squeeze hit "Tempted". Glenn Tillbrook was backstage, getting ready to perform in New York City when he did this for an interviewer from "Culture Catch!" What an impressive vocal performance; with no special acoustics provided; simply a guitar and an incredibly clear voice. But then again, he and Jools Holland always did amaze me with their vocals; as well as their writing.

I was in the Middle East for the entire year in 1981. I only made it home for a month in April and then again in late November. I used to miss out on a lot of new music while at sea. There was no satellite radio, VCR's etc. to keep us abreast of the new music, or even the news. Actually, when I think about it, it was pretty cool to not be bothered by the daily blitz of what's going on.

But, when we did get to a port we devoured everything we could find. I found Squeeze on a bootlegged cassette tape in an Arab souk in Alexandria. The guy had a whole cart full of every type of music you can imagine. And I mean a cart; as in horse drawn.

The whole market was strung with bare white light bulbs, like a state fair. There was music coming from the numerous boom boxes; which were for sale; and the music was a cacophony of sound from everywhere imaginable. There were African drums, Muslim calls to Prayer, Pop music like Squeeze, Symphonies and even Gregorian Chants; all available on these bootlegged tapes.

Food was another commodity which all sailors were eager to sample ashore. We ate well aboard ship, but steak and eggs; lobster and all the western foods paled beside the mysteries of something new. Spices filled the air and smoke from all the cooking fires made the night a bit hazy; the bare lights notwithstanding.

To this day, whenever I hear a song by Squeeze, I am instantly transported back to the time and place where I first heard their music. The cassette tape I bought that night became one of my favorites. 

I'm not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that "Argybargy"; the album I had purchased; was largely about the Middle East and the Mediterranean coast; which is exactly where I was working at the time. The album was probably already over a year old. Sometimes being the last one to learn about something new can be very timely.

To compare the quality of Mr. Tillbrook's voice in the studio with his performance above, hit this link;


Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Man on Fire" with Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning (2004)

The fireworks from the 4th have hardly settled, so get ready for some more explosive action in this unique thriller starring Denzel Washington as a burnt out government operative named John Creasy, who has had his fill of killing in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He questions the morality of the things he did.

His former partner; Rayburn; played by Christopher Walken; has no such qualms. He has found a wife and a life living in Mexico. When John approaches him he is unsure of the direction his life is taking. Rayburn gets him a job as a body guard for a rich Mexican family. In the wake of all the kidnappings they are concerned for their 9 year old daughter’s safety.

Her name is Pita Ramos; played with great charm by Dakota Fanning. She soon develops a crush on the stoic and reserved Creasy, who insists it is not his job to be her friend, but to protect her. This is really a fa├žade for the shell he has been forced to erect around his true feelings during his years working for the CIA. Little Pita is about to pierce that veil.

As Pita gets ready for a swimming contest the two become very good friends, and he encourages her to be her best. The little girl falls in love with him and even names her Teddy bear for him. Slowly Vreasy emerges from his shell and is learning to live again. And he likes it.

But when things take the ultimate tragic turn and Pita is kidnapped, the old Creasy comes back to life and he vows revenge on anyone who had anything to do with Pita’s disappearance. The surprise ending will have you wondering about the value we all place on material things. It will also leave you marveling at one man’s sense of self-sacrifice in order to assuage his own sense of guilt.