Monday, March 31, 2014

"Me and a Guy Named Elvis" by Jerry Schilling (2006)

Jerry Schilling was a member of Elvis Presley’s inner circle; known as the Memphis Mafia. He’s also the guy who accompanied Elvis on his trip to meet President Nixon in the White House, arriving unannounced in the early hours of the morning. That episode alone is reason enough to read this book.

Elvis has most often been portrayed as the drug addicted and aging singer who made a stupid deal with Colonel Tom Parker. Many people considered him to have “sold out” by making all those banal movies through the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. But he proved them all wrong when he did the 1968 Christmas special, which became known as the “Comeback Special.” And in many ways it was.

Mr. Schilling’s story of his time with Elvis begins with a game of touch football when Elvis was barely 19 and his first record had just been played on the air in Memphis. Elvis was older than Mr. Schilling and hung out with what was considered a “rough” crowd, including his friend Jerry West who would be at Elvis’ side for his entire career. They were one man short for a 6 man game of touch football and Jerry was selected by Elvis to fill the vacancy. A lifelong friendship was born that day.

Elvis books are a dime a dozen, but Mr. Schilling has a unique story; and perspective; which no other writer can possibly lay claim to. He lived with and worked alongside Elvis from 1954 until his death 23 years later. During that time he was there for all the main events of Elvis’ career. He was a member of the famed “Memphis Mafia” and lived at Graceland with Elvis and Priscilla for years.

The drugs, the excessive spending sprees, creative rages, and all the rest of the things which made Elvis who he was are explored here. And the other, more spiritual side of the man is also chronicled. Elvis was a big reader interested in all philosophies and religions. His grandmother was Jewish and he had Stars of David placed on the memorials for her, as well as in the meditation garden at Graceland. When he was asked why he used to reply, “To make you think man, to make you think.”

His relationship with Colonel Parker is a puzzle to most people, and Mr. Schilling is no exception. He does give him credit for helping to create the Elvis empire, but acknowledges that he was way short on having any respect for Elvis as an artist. He also writes about how good recording material was kept from him by the Colonel unless the songwriters were willing to forgo a portion; if not all of; their royalties.

In the early days it was an honor to have Elvis record something written by someone else, but as the industry changed most artists wrote their own material and songwriters became more reluctant to forgo their own royalties. This same manipulation was happening in relation to his film work, and was also a reason why Elvis was not performing in Europe or the Far East, much to his chagrin.

The book is a not only a very factual account of the remarkable career of Elvis Presley, but also a moving portrait of friendship between two boys from North Memphis. If you are an Elvis fan, or just a student of the music industry, this book will leave you the richer for having read it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Look Who's Barking" - Married With Children (B.B. King and Cheech Marin)

When Fox TV made it's debut in 1987 nobody thought they had a chance against the Big 3. But, before only 3 seasons were over Fox was leading the Sunday night crowd. With innovative programs such as "The Simpsons" and their human counterparts the Bundy's, FOX was way more reflective of what was happening in America than the same old stuff on the same old networks.

In this unique episode of "Married With Children", Buck finds himself neglected and the audience gets a view of life from a dog's point of view. When nobody takes responsibility to feed him Buck is forced to take to the street where he meets a cute little girl dog whom he invites home. His intentions are less than honorable; hey he's a dog, right?

The Bundy's love the new dog, but can only afford to keep one. Sensing this, the new dog sets Buck up for a fall by doing all kinds of bad things around the house and making sure that Buck takes the blame. Though Buck may be slow, he's not stupid and soon he finds a way to turn the tables on his guest, while ensuring that he remains a member of the household.

Highlights of this episode are Cheech Marin doing Buck's voice over, and B.B. King as a street singer performing twice; once near the beginning, and then again at the end when he sings "Woman Makes You Stupid." A very clever show.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"The Sugar's at the Bottom of the Cup" by By Elda Del Bino Willitts and Patricia Henley

It was 5 years ago today that I began this blog by re-posting a book review I had written for a friend at the time who had a blog of her own. That review led to another which led to still another and before long I was in the “habit”, so to speak, of blogging daily on a variety of subjects. I no longer have the friend, but the blog lives on thanks to people like you stopping by. As long as people read it, I’ll write it.  And so, with this re-post I begin my 6th year of Rooftop Reviews.

Ever wonder what the Marina District along the Northern edge of San Francisco was like in 1916? Or what Ocean Beach was like before all those houses arrived in the Richmond and Sunset Districts? Then “The Sugar’s at the Bottom of The Cup” by Elda Del Bino Willitts is a book for you.

With a sparse and direct approach to the subject, Mrs. Willits takes you back in time to an era when steamships still arrived daily in San Francisco and filled the streets with newly arrived Americans from all over the world. Adding to this mix was the influx of European immigrants arriving by train from the East.

Elda Del Bino was seven years old when she stepped off the train and into the fast moving cosmopolitan world of San Francisco. With straightforward prose she vividly describes her journey by ship to New York and Ellis Island and then the train trip across rural America prior to the First World War, arriving in San Francisco in 1916.

Taking up residence in the Cow Hollow area South of Lombard Street and the present day Highway 101, finding jobs, enrolling in school, learning English, Mrs Willitts draws a clear and accurate picture of San Francisco’s bygone era. Through the changes of the 1920’s and the dark years of the Depression, the book captures the flavor of a changing city. The World War Two years in San Francisco and the changes in morals and values that flowed from that war are all here to examine in the life of one elderly woman.

Full of wit and inescapable charm, Mrs. Willitts has written a wonderful and informative book about San Francisco, the City by the Sea.

This review has also been featured on Garden Lust Journal:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weird News - Time Magazine (1979)

Here are 2 news stories from the May 21st, 1979 edition of Time magazine. Obviously they caught my attention enough to have clipped and saved this page for many years. The first involves a skid row plot to kill President Carter. Or, maybe not. 

The second involves a very clever movie like plot to pull off a heist from the inside. Great movies are made of articles like these. That might be why I saved them. You can’t make this stuff up.

I had a tooth pulled the other day so I am taking it easy. Be back soon!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Chapel of Love" - The Dixie Cups (1964)

Your eyes are not deceiving you; that’s the wrong record cover for the song you’re listening to. But the reason I posted it has nothing to do with the obvious error. Rather, I have posted this simply because it may be the best stereo version of this song I have ever heard.

Take it out to the car and listen to it with the sound up and the windows closed tightly. The hi-hat is right there, the bass is thumping and the vocals are out front. The whole car; as well as your body; seems to react to it.  I don’t know if this has been re-mastered but the quality is overwhelming.

Now, think about the first time that you ever heard this song. Most likely it was on a transistor radio, or in the car on a dashboard speaker. Both very low quality. But your reaction was the same; you simply couldn’t help but respond to this song.

Now, try this little experiment. You’re in the car. One of your favorite songs is playing. Turn the bass down to zero and do the same with the treble. Now listen. It’s still pretty good.  That’s when I want you to turn off the rear speakers. Then turn the balance to one side only. This is how you used to listen to most music; on one speaker with almost no tone controls. And the music was really good!

Over the years this has become kind of a test for me whenever I listen to new music. I subject it to the single speaker, six transistor, and dashboard car radio speaker test. You know what? When I did that with this version of “Chapel of Love” I ended up singing along even louder than when listening to it in stereo surround sound. Or maybe I could just hear myself better. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson is one of those great poets you've probably never heard of. He was an American, lived in the late 19th Century and wrote long poems, epic poems and short poems. He was; in short; a poet. He did write some plays in verse but I am not familiar with them, so I can’t say if they are any good. I suspect that they are.

The poem here is called “Ballad By the Fire” and is considered; at least by me; to be one of his best. He wrote quite a few. Almost all of them end with a 4 line summary under the heading of ENVOY. I only mention this because if you have never read his stuff before it might throw you.

This is one of my favorite of his many ballads, as it speaks to my own self-doubts. Curiously I have the same ability as the author does, in that I can also feel myself shedding those doubts with each passing year. The more I get to know me the more comfortable I am with being me. Now, that’s easier said than done.

And that’s the beauty in this poem. A poet’s job is to distill complex feelings into as few, potent words as possible. The reader fills in the missing pieces, which is what makes poetry so personal. What this poem means to me may not mean the same thing to you. And neither one of us is probably even close to knowing what the poet felt when he wrote it. So, without further ado, I give you Edwin Arlington Booth.

Ballad by the Fire

Slowly I smoke and hug my knee,
The while a witless masquerade
Of things that only children see
Floats in a mist of light and shade:

They pass, a flimsy cavalcade,
And with a weak, remindful glow,
The falling embers break and fade,
As one by one the phantoms go.

Then, with a melancholy glee
To think where once my fancy strayed,
I muse on what the years may be
Whose coming tales are all unsaid,

Till tongs and shovel, snugly laid
Within their shadowed niches, grow
By grim degrees to pick and spade,
As one by one the phantoms go.

But then, what though the mystic Three
Around me ply their merry trade? --
And Charon soon may carry me
Across the gloomy Stygian glade? --

Be up, my soul! nor be afraid
Of what some unborn year may show;
But mind your human debts are paid,
As one by one the phantoms go.


Life is the game that must be played:
This truth at least, good friend, we know;
So live and laugh, nor be dismayed
As one by one the phantoms go.

For more poetry by Edwin Arlington Robinson, use the following links. You will find them all encompassing.  (Whatever the others don’t have you can find here.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Johnny Hartford - Gentle on My Mind

It seems like each spring I re-discover the music of John Hartford. I suppose it has to do with the river. The Mississippi was Mr. Hartford's place. He even held a river pilot's license for the Big Muddy. Its waters ran through his veins. And each year when spring arrives I picture that river coming back to life after a long, hard winter. I see the old riverboats in my minds eye; and Mr. Hartford is always on board, playing the banjo, or guitar, or mandolin to entertain the passengers.

Most of us became aware of this incredibly talented musician/singer/songwriter/historian/poet/storyteller/foot dancing minstrel during the opening moments of The Glen Campbell Show on Sunday nights. Mr. Hartford was the lanky, long haired fellow in a vest who stood up in the audience each week playing his banjo as Glen Campbell sang "Gentle On My Mind", which was written by Mr. Hartford. And for many folks, that's as far as it went.

I was captivated the first time I saw this guy with sleeve garters and a vest, looking as if he'd just stepped out of a saloon circa 1870. And with time I realized that that's exactly who he was. He was just born in the wrong century. He had a passion for Civil War era music and what has come to be called Americana in general.

His version of "Lorena", the most popular song from the Civil War, is probably the best ever recorded, in that it captures so well what the music must have sounded like at the time it was written. Many people have recorded the song; some before Mr. Hartford; but none have captured the song as it was originally written, as Mr. Hartford has. But then again, I may be a wee bit biased.

The most incredible thing about Mr. Hartford as a performer was that he used his whole body to create the music he loved so well. For example, in the above video of Mr. Hartford performing "Gentle On My Mind" you will hear a tapping sound and wonder where it is coming from. That's his feet. By the end of the song you will be able to see those feet in action beneath the bell bottoms, but at first you can only hear the sound.

There are times when he would use those same feet to slide on the stage floor to create a shuffling sound to accompany himself. He was like a train. He pulled the weight of all the music which defined America in the years before and after the Civil War. And when he played a song from the Civil War, he didn't do "Dixie" or the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". He did the one song which soldiers on both sides of that conflict sang each evening around fires, thinking of the loved ones they had left behind.

"Lorena" was a favorite of both sides in the war simply because it spoke to every man. It was universal in its expression of longing for home and the fear that when you returned all would not be the same. Lovers move on and hearts are broken.But through it all there is an acceptance of that failed love. When he sings the verse about "We loved each other then Lorena", he sings about what might have been but never could be again. And then accepts it without bitterness. The pain was the price payed for the memories, and was well worth it. It was also written in 1857, before the war began, and so served as a powerful and common reminder of better days for both sides.

Here is Mr. Hartford playing "Lorena" dressed as I will always remember him;

Monday, March 24, 2014

"The Race Underground" by Doug Most (2014)

On March 24, 1900 there was a ceremony held in New York City which marked the beginning of digging the subway, which we all take for granted today. But the story didn't start there. It began in the first half of the nineteenth century, when city streets were becoming too crowded and unmanageable for people to move around efficiently. There was also the weather to consider, and the Blizzard of 1888 was a perfect example of how the city could be crippled for days by the weather. While everyone agreed that something needed to be done, agreeing on just what, was another matter entirely.

Most people would point to the pneumatic tube built by Alfred Beach as the first subway in New York City, and they would be right. His “tube” ran from Murray Street to Warren, across from City Hall and it was the first transit system to operate underground. There was already a subway system in London, begun in 1861, but it was plagued with problems. There was no efficient air handling system and the steam locomotives were wholly unsuited for an underground enclosed area. But they already had a pneumatic tube for moving the mail, and this system was of great interest to Alfred Beach.

The story of Mr. Beach and how he had to construct his tunnel in secret, at night, using the basement of Devlin’s department store as a base, is amazing. Although the secret was exposed when a portion of Broadway inexplicably “sunk” one night, he was able to continue with the work by promising to repair the damage when he was done.

On February 26, 1870 he opened the station at Warren Street to a select group of politicians and news reporters for the one block ride to Murray Street. The tunnel was just 312 feet long. It was accomplished at the rate of about 6 feet per night over a period of 58 days, during which time they ran into one major difficulty. That was when they ran into the foundation of an old Dutch fortress, which they were able to take apart piece by piece, hoping that the street above would not collapse upon them as they worked.

The public’s reception to the new tunnel was one of wonderment. They envisioned a day when the streets would be more manageable and cleaner as millions of their fellow New Yorkers were whisked about below ground. And it looked like that was going to happen until Mayor “Boss” Tweedy stepped in. He had the Governor of the state in his pocket, and it was rumored that he would set Governor Hoffman on the road to the White House if he would just play ball with the Mayor.

Accordingly, when 2 proposals were laid before him; one for an extension of the pneumatic tube; the other one for an elevated steam railroad; the choice as clear and the elevated railway won out. Of course Tweed had an interest financially in the project, and when done the elevated railways blocked sunlight and rained soot and smoke on the city’s poor for the next 60 years or so.

It’s so easy to get lost in any one part of this book. The story of what preceded the pneumatic tube is every bit as interesting as what came after it. At first a man named Brower had a coach maker make him a coach that held 12 people and hauled them around town for a shilling; or about 12 and a half cents. This same idea was being used in Boston and would be the first of many competitions between the two in an effort to move the masses about, resulting in the final race between the 2 to build an actual subway.

This horse carriage business was fraught with danger as the competing companies in New York strove to outrace the other in an effort to pick up more fares. The sheer recklessness with which they operated quickly dissuaded most of their prospective customers from using the service. Once again, clearly, something needed to be done.

Then there came the Omnibus; an even larger coach which was being introduced on the streets of London and Paris. The system was adopted in New York and Boston with similar results; once again the drivers were beating their horses to get them to pull harder and faster. The effect of these large vehicles only added to the problem of overcrowded streets and quickly fell from popular favor. While a large wagon might be useful in crossing the continent, it was clearly not suited to an urban setting.

By this time railroads were coming into wide use and the idea of laying tracks in the streets for local transportation came into favor. Accordingly, rails were laid between the Harlem River and 23rd Street. There tracks were for the use of even larger omnibuses and drawn by horses. Without the need, or ability, to make turns it was thought that with this system congestion could be eased in the streets. But the problem of the horses and their waste; coupled with the smell in the summer months; made this system unfeasible as well.

It was now time to turn to a newer technology, and the pneumatic tube carrying mail in London seemed to hold promise in the mind of Alfred Beach. And if it were not for the interference of Mayor Tweed, that technology just may have been the direction the future of transportation would have taken. That station is still there today. Incidentally, Mr. beach also published the Scientific American, which first featured his story about a subway in 1849. That magazine is also still with us.

But this book is more than just the story of the parallel projects taking place in New York and Boston. It is the story of an age of discovery, when new technologies were being invented in rapid succession. Electricity, steam power, the telegraph and telephone were all coming into play at the time. And all would have an influence on the direction which mass transportation would take.

New motors, designed to work on electricity, would be needed to power the trains underground. Ventilation systems would have to be designed; lighting problems had to be overcome. In short, this endeavor was; for the time in which in occurred; very much like going to the moon.

In the end a new list of heroes, and villains, would come out of the story. Men like Marc Brunel, who pioneered the London underground; along with others like Frank Sprague, a colleague of Edison's, who developed and tested his electric motor in an alleyway in New York City. His design is what enabled the whole project to become feasible, and his ideas are even incorporated into the engines which are in use today. The dispute between Thomas Edison and Frank Sprague over credit for the technology would last their entire lives.

Along with others such as William Parsons, the engineer that began the final push to design the system in New York; John MacDonald, the contractor who built it; August Belmont, who put up the money and founded the IRT to run the finished project; and the Whitley Brothers, Henry and William, who would each make a mark on their respective cities in the race to transport people safely beneath the streets. Together they would build and operate the subway, which was finally completed in 1904. In the decades that followed the system would expand to an astonishing 800 miles of track with hundreds of stations.

Then there were the politicians, such as the infamous politician Boss Tweed, and the visionary Mayor Hewitt who was in office when the Blizzard of 1888 struck. He was correct in everything he believed was right for the city, but had angered too many of his colleagues with his Reform Movement. And, of course there was also Governor Hoffman, whose ambitions outweighed his commitment to the public.

Along the way there are explosions, flooding, technical problems, inventions and everything else involved in an effort to change the world about us for the better. With a deft hand Mr. Most has given us a book which is part adventure, part politics, part history; and in the end, just plain fun to read. 

If you are a fan of the subways; and I think many folks are; then this book is one which you will enjoy from the first page until the very last. Illustrated and backed up by Chapter Notes, this book is also a wonderful reference tool.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Power of Doubles

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

A man; or woman; comes up to you and asks if you would be interested in working for 30 days at 1 cent for the first day, with the daily rate to double for the 30 days. There is only one catch; at the end of the month long assignment you can no longer work again; anywhere, at anything.

Do you take the job? Hopefully your answer is yes; because the last 3 days alone with net you a whopping $11 million or so. Do the math, it’s kind of fun and it gives you a whole new perspective on numbers.

Related to this would be artists royalties on records; either as performers or writers; the pennies they receive each time their records are played amount to millions over the period of just 1 year alone. And those pennies; unlike the 30 day $11 million dollar deal above; go on forever.

The same process applies to pandemics. The first person gives it to another person who gives it to 2 more who pass it on to 4 more, etc., etc. The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 is a great case in point. The same is also true of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s.

Numbers have always fascinated me; even when I was failing math in grammar school. I knew that there was a magic there which I couldn’t decipher yet. Later; when I learned to navigate by the stars; I found the numbers to be every bit as fascinating as I knew they would be. And still are.

If you want to see the math  behind this 30 day plan, visit the following site. Great minds think alike, and as I was looking around on the net to see if anyone had posted on this before, I came up with the following site. Totally different articles about the same thing. That's what I love about the internet. Perspectives.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"To Spring" - Happy Harmonies (1936)

This winter has seemed to drag on forever, so I thought I’d repost this cartoon from last year. It seems to fit the yo-yo like weather which we have been experiencing here for the past month or so. Hopefully we have seen the last of the bad weather until next year…

The MGM series of Happy Harmonies cartoons were really not preserved as well as many of the other cartoons of the era. However, there are still some real gems out there. Like this one, “To Spring”, in which the elves are awakened from their winter’s nap by the dripping of the melting ice which slowly sets off the alarm clock to awaken them to their annual task. It is a very important one, too.

You see, these elves are in charge of putting color back into the world after the bleak period of winter has passed. They seem to be enjoying themselves until Old Man Winter makes one final push to regain control over the elements, keeping things cold and bleak. But the elves are up to the challenge, restoring the world to its colorful array of beauty and its natural cycle of life.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"The Kate Logan Affair" with Alexis Bledel and Laurent Lucas (2010)

Have you ever stood by helplessly while a situation spun wildly out of control, only to wonder later how it happened? That is exactly the predicament in which a French businessman, played by Laurent Lucas, who portrays a man engaged in computing probabilities, finds himself. His own life expectancy is 82 years old. He takes this as a certainty.

Alexis Bledel, who plays Kate Logan , a rookie police officer in a small American town, mistakes Lucas as a fugitive and pulls her pistol on him as he sits in his car outside a convenience store where both have gone for coffee. When she realizes her mistake she is apologetic, but as the day goes on she begins to worry that should the man complain, she just may lose her job.

And thus initiates a chain of events in which she returns to apologize again, which begins an encounter with the Frenchman, each step taking him further and further from the world he took for granted. At the same time Officer Logan becomes more and more entrapped in a situation of her own making, which must now be undone. But who will pay the cost to save her career?

Tersely filmed and directed, this film explores the seemingly harmless lines we sometimes cross, and the consequences which those actions ultimately have on those around us; and ourselves. Ecellent script and performances make this film one not to be missed.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lt. Carlin Murl Conner - Unsung Hero

This story broke last Wednesday, but I wanted to chronicle it here, where my grand-kids might see it someday. It’s a story of sacrifice and heroism unheralded for decades. And even now, when the long overdue honors have begun to emerge, there is still one last roadblock between full recognition for this man. And it appears that this roadblock is permanent; being the decision of the Armed Forces, who are the final arbiters in cases such as this.

Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, from Kentucky was the 2nd most decorated soldier of the Second World War. He earned 4 Silver Stars, 4 Bronze Stars, 7 Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross while engaged in combat for 28 months. It was during the last part of his service that he won the DSC. 

The actual wording of the citation explains that on January 24, 1945 near Houssen, France, he left his comfortable berth at the military hospital where he had been convalescing from a hip wound in order to rejoin his comrades. Had he not taken this action he would have been returned home to Kentucky.

When he arrived back at the front he unrolled a coil of telephone wire and took up a position in a ditch. From that vantage point he began to relay the coordinates for artillery fire on the German positions. He did this for 3 straight hours, even as the German troops came within 5 yards of his “nest.” 5 yards, 15 feet. That’s about as long as your average living room.

The original application for the upgrade from the DSC to the Medal of Honor was initiated by Mr. Conner’s widow, Pauline Conner, in the late 1990’s. The application was rejected at that time on the grounds that no new evidence had surfaced to support the claim. This was upheld on appeal in 2000.

By 2006 Pauline Conner had found 3 eyewitness accounts which met the criteria for the upgrade, which is very rare. Only 178 recipients of the DSC have had their awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor since 1917. When the evidence was finally presented to the court in 2008 it was rejected on the grounds that the statute of Limitations had expired on the case in 2006.

This is a sad example of how the government doesn’t really take care of its’ veterans. They never did. Just take a quick look back at the Bonus Army March during the early 1930’s. These men were asking that the bonus promised them for their service in the First World War be paid 10 years early due to the pressing economic conditions of the Depression.

They were so destitute that they camped out in Washington, vowing not to leave until the Bonus legislation was passed. They were gassed, beaten and even shot by some of the very officers whom they had served under during the war. Officers like Eisenhower, Patton and MacArthur were all on hand to kick the men when they were down. Amid tear gas and gunshots, the once proud veterans were run out of the seat of the very government which they had once fought to preserve.

And now, even as the press is filled daily with stories about the shortcomings of veteran’s services in the wake of the last 2 wars; in Iraq and Afghanistan; we see the same attitude in the case of Mr. Conner and his long overdue decoration.

In spite of the backing from members of Congress, the Senate, and fellow veterans, the request by his widow; who has been waging this fight on behalf of her now deceased husband for over 17 years; a federal judge in Kentucky now seems to be getting the final word. Mr. Conner will not now; or ever; receive the award which he so clearly deserved.  

The message is loud and clear; “Uncle Sam Needs You”. He just doesn’t care about you when he’s done.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Violet and Daisy" with James Gandolfini and Alexis Biedel (2013)

In the grand tradition of movies such as “Snatch” and “Pulp Fiction” this film ranks among the best. With a bit of satire and plenty of sharp tongue in cheek wit, two young hit women; Violet, played by Alexis Biedel; and Daisy, played by Saoirse Ronan; decide to take on one more job before beginning a long overdue vacation.

But when their mutual idol; Barbie Sunday; releases a new fashion line the two women decide to take on the job they initially refused, all in order to buy themselves two new dresses. What happens next defies all logic yet somehow seems as if it could really happen that way. Well, maybe.

When the girls arrive to make their hit, they find the intended target all too willing to meet his fate. This intrigues them and they are hooked on finding out why. Of course this humanizes the target, played by James Gandolfini, making it all that much harder to kill him.

To complicate matters even more, there is another hit team on the way to kill him for another transgression. While Violet goes to get more ammunition to kill him with, Daisy is left with the target and finds that he has terminal cancer. This sort of explains why he is so eager to die, but it also serves to make the girls feel sorry for him.

Through a strange sequence of events Violet ends up killing the other hit team, who are also rivals who may have sexually assaulted her in the past. But still, amidst all of the killing, James Gandolfini’s character; who is a mysterious loner- I don’t recall him having a name; is still not dead.

As time moves on the people who have paid to have him killed look to Violet and Daisy for answers as to why he is not dead. What will they tell him? Will they tell him? Or do they have something up their sleeves that will spare the target and still enable them to get the coveted Barbie Sunday dresses?

Geoffrey Fletcher; the director of “Precious”, wrote and directed this offbeat comedy about offbeat people in an offbeat world. Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Angel of the Morning" - Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts (1968)

Until just now I couldn’t tell you the name of the singer, or the group, who sang this song back in 1968. I only remembered that it was on Bell Records. It had a blue label with a Liberty Bell on it if I remember correctly. I just know that I have never forgotten the song. Obviously, by the picture above, I was mistaken about the Liberty Bell.

In the 1980’s it was covered by another artist, Juice Newton, who had a huge hit with it, but the arrangement was identical. The only difference was that the horns; which are one of the best parts of the record; were more downplayed. I have heard this song in several movies over the years; most notably “Girl Interrupted” with Angelina Jolie. And there’s a funny little connection between Ms. Jolie and the song, which was written before she was born.

The song was written and composed by Chip Taylor, born James Wesley Voight, who is the younger brother of actor Jon Voight, and who are both her Uncles. Chip Taylor also wrote "Wild Thing," which was a huge hit for The Troggs in 1966, as well as "I Can't Let Go," which was a hit for The Hollies.

Merrilee Gunst; later Rush; was born on January 26, 1944 in Seattle, Washington. She was nominated for a Grammy in 1968 for the recording of “Angel of the Morning.” It was also a top 10 hit for what seemed to be several months when it was first released in early 1968. It should be noted that the group does not play on the recorded version of this song.  The recording was actually made with the same musicians who played on Elvis Presley's famous Memphis recordings.

Ms. Rush studied classical piano at a young age. By 16 she was auditioning for the part of lead singer in the Seattle based band Amazing Aztecs, which was founded by the saxophone player in the band, Neil Rush. The two would later marry. The Aztecs became Merrilee and Her Men, mostly playing cover versions of other people’s hits.

It was through the connection of one of the bands road crew that they became the opening act for Paul Revere and the Raiders during a tour down south in 1967. It was actually Mark Lindsay, the lead singer for the Raiders, who introduced Ms. Rush to producer Chips Moman. They recorded the record in Memphis early in 1968 and it was released on Bell in June of the same year.

It was my favorite song that summer. And there was a lot of competition that year. Cream was out, the Beatles were still recording, the Stones were still riding the wave they had created with “Jumping Jack Flash”, and their newest hit “Street Fighting Man” was to be heard everywhere. But this little record by Ms. Rush hung in there and when it came on the radio it was always well received.

I think that is what I miss the most about radio back in the 1960’s; the diversity of music on the dial. AM was still king; FM was just starting to become the viable market that would set AM back a bit on its heels. So, the AM stations had this huge task; playing something which everyone enjoyed. It wasn’t unusual to be listening to the Supremes and then Jose Feliciano before hearing the Stones or even a Broadway hit song like “Hello Dolly” by Louis Armstrong. “Oh Happy Days” was a gospel song which was always in the lineup that year as well.

Ms. Rush didn’t win the Grammy that year. She was up against some stiff competition for “Best Contemporary Pop Female Vocalist of the Year”. She was nominated along with Barbra Streisand for "Funny Girl"; Dionne Warwick for "Do You Know the Way to San Jose"; Aretha Franklin for "I Say a Little Prayer", and Mary Hopkin for "Those Were the Days".  (Dionne Warwick was the actual winner.)

While watching a new film the other night I heard this song in the background. Which is pretty much standard now a days. It seems like all of the movies have some of the older music in them. TV shows seem to use more of the newer music in their soundtracks. And some of it is pretty good. But I find that when the show is over and I go to listen to the music again it lacks something. 

It’s almost as if the music has no life of its own beyond the film with which it was presented. Or maybe it’s just me, lacking an old memory to go along with the new music…

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish / Italian Medley - Bing Crosby and Dean Martin

I could not upload Bing Crosby doing "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" from "Going My Way" with Barry Fitzgerald. The only other movie which is as Irish as that one is probably "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, but they don't sing. There is a pub scene where the locals sing songs, but that clip is also unavailable.

So, while looking around for something appropriate to post for St. Patrick's Day, I found this cool little clip from Bing Crosby’s show in 1958, with Bing and Dean Martin trading Irish and Italian songs. 

They actually end with a bit of "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral". Along the way they hit some favorites numbers, among them "Torna a Surriento", "My Wild Irish Rose", "Oh Marie", "Galway Bay", "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral"  and "O Solo Mio" with a bit of light banter thrown in.

You can view Bing Crosby singing Barry Fitzgerald to sleep in "Going My Way" by hitting this link;

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Éirinn go Brách!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Sugarholics" - Jack La Lane (1958+/-)

My doctor has got me thinking about all the things I eat which aren't good for me. Like the 5 pounds of sugar which goes into my iced tea each week. The red meat is also no good for, but I do eat a fair amount of chicken. However, most of the chicken I eat has probably been treated with antibiotics, which are also not good for me. Then there is my evening milk shake; a long time staple of my life. It causes mucus to form which is bad for my stomach and also my breathing.

Man, I am really up a tree! Everything I eat, or drink, is bad for me in some way. And I have been eating these things for my entire life. I thought I really had done well about 15 years ago when I realized that I was "binge eating" without realizing it! I had just fallen into the habit of polishing off boxes of donuts and half gallon containers of ice cream. I've always been very thin so I figured I was okay.

Then my daughter started to educate me about food disorders. I quickly realized that I was engaging in "binge eating", and put it down to smoking too much. It works like that sometimes. So, I just stopped doing it. The "binge eating", not the smoking. It wasn't very difficult as I wasn't doing it out of any deep seated emotional reason. I was just having a bad case of the "munchies."

So now, here I am 15 years later, still skinny; I had thought when I slowed down the rate at which I was eating I might gain some weight, but that never happened; and wondering what my next step will be. Will I be up to this 1958 challenge by Jack LaLane to eat better? Will I be able to quit sugar, or at least slow it down?

I'm not sure. But I do know that it's lunch time and there isn't anything in the house that I feel safe eating. The sausage is bad, the iced tea is bad, jello is just sugar, Gatorade is crap, eggs are not really heart healthy, and I am getting hungrier by the minute. I guess the mashed sweet potatoes are okay. And the banana. Nothing wrong with a banana.

Well, I guess it's off to the store to see what kind of foods appeal to me which are healthier. Wish me luck; this is like re-inventing the wheel after 59 years of rolling along unconcerned.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"This is the End" with Seth Rogen and James Franco (2013)

Get ready for one of the most off beat disaster films you will ever see. The film is something like a Cheech and Chong film crossed with “Animal House.” You might say the film is juvenile in nature and be right, but it sure is funny, in a belly laugh type of way.

Two friends meet in L.A. after a year apart with plans to party the time away. One is a rising star in the movie industry, eager to show his old friend the collection of writers and stars that comprise his new world. While at a party with all the ritzy set they go out and see the world is ending.

Spaceships, explosions, people being sucked up into the sky; everything which you can imagine in the worst low budget Hollywood disaster film is assembled here. And with great comic effect as the two go back to the party to warn their friends, only to be rebuffed by these materially possessed people. When they finally realize that the two are not kidding, it is too late.

As the world about them crumbles and goes up in flames the two are separated, with one going up and the other going down to the pits of hell. As they struggle to hold onto one another they are forced to make a decision; let go and save one of them, or be dragged down together.

They choose to say goodbye and as one is sucked upward into the light the beast below swallows his friend, belching fire. But then, just as with Jonah and the Whale, his friend is regurgitated form the belly of the beast; cast upward towards his friend in a shaft of light.

When the two are last seen they are spiraling upwards towards heaven and the light, presumably towards the great party in the sky. This is a very strange film, but funny as hell. Let me know if there is any deeper meaning to it, other than the analogy of Jonah and the Whale.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Kings Highway at East 16th Street - Two Views (1929)

This corner may be one of the most photographed in Brooklyn, new York. This picture is of Kings Highway at East 16th Street looking eastward about 1929. The Avalon, a Century owned Movie Theater is visible on the right side of the street.  

Most likely it was taken from the BMT station at Kings Highway which was located right at Dubrow's, the cafeteria, and across the street diagonally  from the bank, which open in 1929 or '30. There was also a tiny little jewelry shop located under the station right where Armando's would someday be. The owner was a crippled veteran from the 2nd World War. At the time of this photo he would have been just a kid.

My mother was born the year that this photo was taken. The Depression didn't really hurt the middle class section of Kings Highway as much as if affected other areas. Mostly the inhabitants were clerical and somewhat educated, unlike the poorer areas which were disproportionately affected by factory layoffs, etc.

My mother's memories of the neighborhood were vivid and I was an avid listener. Kings Highway still has that feel to me; like it is a special place; not subject to the changes of time as much as other areas. of course I'm biased, and I have only been back there once in the past 14 years. It's easy to hold onto a dream.

But, I swear, the feeling I had walking down that stretch of Kings Highway from Ocean Avenue to Coney Island Avenue, was the biggest jolt of energy I have had in years. It was electric in nature and a balm for my soul. These photographs are a way of capturing my Mom's memories; as well as preserving my own.

The one at the top came from Facebook. It's an old postcard. The one below I really do not remember where I got it- but it's a photo of the same area looking East toward the Avalon and then enlarged on the right. Kind of fun to see if you can orient the two. No point to this post, just enjoy the old photos.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Midnight - The Fight Goes On

They say that cats have nine lives and I’m beginning to worry about Midnight. He’s on about number 5 right now, as far as I can tell. Two flights with the hawks and now 3 with the big Tabby up the street.

On behalf of said Tabby, Midnight has been where he shouldn't be in relation to visiting “Ghost”, the local feline slut who sashay’s throughout the neighborhood, exciting all the boy cats. They should know better, but at the same time, she knows just what she’s doing.

I've tried talking to Midnight about this constant fighting, but he just looks at me with those eyes. And then I give him tuna. The fights make him a bit skittish immediately afterwards, but by the next can of tuna he’s ready to go again!

Sometimes I have to put some crushed Penicillin in his food to make sure his wounds don’t get infected. About 100 mg’s usually does the trick. I crush the tablet in a spoon.

I really love this guy, but I wish he would stop fighting. Perhaps I would find it less of a problem if he were winning; but that doesn't seem to be the case. So I’ll just stock up on tuna and Penicillin, hoping for the best.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Little Red Wagon" with Frances O'Conner and Anna Gunn (2010)

When Hurricane Charley hit in Tampa, Florida back in 2004, 7 year old Zach Bonner, played by Chandler Canterbury, didn't wait for the usual school fund raiser to pitch in. Instead he took his little red wagon and set out to elicit support for the victims of the hurricane. That effort morphed into the Little Red Wagon Foundation which has provided relief for the estimated 1.3 million homeless children in America. He even received the Presidential Service Award in 2006 for his efforts.

His motivation was simple, “"These kids don't have a home, they don't have a safe place to sleep at night. They're out on the streets not because they want to be, but because it's out of their control.”

The story also delves into the life of this extraordinary young boy and what may have motivated him in the first place. Coming from a broken home has not been easy for him and he stands up by standing out.

As his organization expanded into the national arena, he found himself doing battle with the local politicians, and even other charities as they all try to take control of what he has started and put their own spin on things. His journey was like Homer’s Odyssey, with triumphs and near pit falls aplenty as he navigates the tricky world of politics and the media in his quest to help others.

By 2007, Bonner began his "My House to the White House" project, with the goal being to raise awareness about the problem of homeless children. That year he walked 280 miles from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida. The following year he covered the 250 miles from Tallahassee to Atlanta, Georgia. And finally, he walked 668 miles from Georgia to Washington D.C.

When that march was done he didn't stop. From March 23 to September 14, 2010 he walked an incredible 2,448 miles from Tampa to Los Angeles. This film chronicles the story of one little boy, from a broken home, who set out to heal a nation, and the effect that his actions had upon his own family.

The movie was filmed in 2010, but not released until 2012. Still, I wonder how I missed his one. Outstanding performances by all make this a wonderfully uplifting film to watch. And the best part is that it’s really true.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fukushima Disaster - Glenn Beck Explains Nuclear Power

This is the 3rd anniversary of the meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Facility in Japan. It is also the anniversary of Glenn Beck’s notoriously simple explanation of how a nuclear power plant functions. Actually, although oversimplified, it is quite informative. Perfect for an elementary student, or even an adult who wants to know the basic concept of how the plant; as well as the “Containment” process; actually work.

But his segue into the economic meltdown of America and the middle class is priceless. You can call it a leap of genius or just the result of a disordered mind, but either way it’s an example of the media manipulation/indoctrination of which guys like Beck regularly accuse the left. But, I still give him credit for the M and M’s.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Down to the Crossroads" by Aram Goudsouzian (2014)

Author Aram Goudsouzian explores the march which changed the direction of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Up until the “March Against Fear” in Mississippi in 1966, African-Americans were patiently protesting, in a non-violent fashion, the injustices of the past 100 years since the end of the Civil War and slavery.

But when a lone white man shot and wounded James Meredith; the first African-American to enter the University of Mississippi in 1962, he set off a chain reaction which brought everyone under the umbrella of the Civil Rights Movement to descend on Mississippi in a show of unity. At the time some whites even accused the “movement” of having orchestrated the shooting to drum up national support. I’m not kidding. They actually said that; even as far away as New York.

James Meredith had begun what was essentially a one man march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi when he was shot on the 2nd day, just after entering Mississippi. The assailant merely stood in the road waiting for him and announced that he was looking for James Meredith and didn't want any trouble with anyone else. When Meredith stepped forward and identified himself, he was shot.

The whole spectacle was bizarre. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the iconic photograph of Mr. Meredith being shot does not do justice to what had just happened. Meredith, being trailed by the media and the State Police, was walking along in broad daylight when he was shot by a man who did not even try to get away after the shooting. His only concern was to ask if Meredith was dead. He was visibly disappointed when he was informed that Meredith was still alive. I have never seen such hatred, either before this incident, or since.

In the town of Greenwood the police station boasted a plague dedicated to “Tiger” the police dog who had taken a bite out of several demonstrators in 1963. The animal was a local celebrity.

The main point of this book is to chronicle the change that the attempted assassin’s bullet had upon the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. Within hours of the shooting, members from every sect of the Movement came forward to lend a hand in completing the March which Mr. Meredith had begun. This was also the march which brought the Vietnam War to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. With African-Americans dying in disproportionate numbers in that conflict, they had a big stake. As remarked by Vincent Young, a bus driver from Brooklyn, “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger.”

Joined by Martin Luther King and his troupe, the march also attracted Stokely Carmichael and his group, SNCC. This was the birth of the Black Power movement; within just a few days that slogan would become a household word. And, who you were and where you lived would come to inform the meaning of those words.

To the marchers in Mississippi it meant getting the vote and respect; to the people living in the ghettos it meant exactly what it said; Black Power. They would begin to exert economic power in their neighborhoods, buying from African-American merchants only. This kind of puzzled white people because to them it represented nothing short of the discrimination which African-Americans were fighting against themselves.

Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael were not the bitter rivals that history would have us believe. The older man saw in Carmichael something of himself 10 years earlier during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His only real concern was that the rhetoric of Black Power would do harm to everything which had been accomplished up until that point. For Carmichael’s part, he didn’t want to distance himself too far from King, since doing so would mean losing the support of the press, which was solidly behind the older man.

Local Mississippians lamented the march as the work of outsiders coming to foment trouble. This ignores the fact that people had to come from all over the country precisely because the locals were afraid to march. They stood to lose their jobs, their homes, and even their lives. The African-American was so cowed by fear that in the town of Grenada the local blacks turned in anyone who even spoke of civil rights, ensuring their own continued inequality. Can you even imagine being that “beat down” in spirit? I can’t. Can you imagine doing that to someone else? (Fill in your own response here.)

During the march a local man named Ben Chester White was shot and killed by 3 local men whom he knew well. They called themselves the Cottonmouth Gang, and simply went by his house and asked him to help them look for their dog. He came willingly, as he had always obeyed white men without question. They drove him to a nearby bridge and shot him with 2 shotguns multiple times, disposing of his tattered corpse in the river.

Mr. Goudsouzian has left no stone unturned in this riveting portrait of the march itself, as well as the movement as a whole. He carefully chronicles the changes which were taking place in the movement at the time, as African-Americans began to act on their unwillingness to wait patiently any longer for something that was theirs to begin with.

The March against Fear was a pivotal moment in a time filled with moments which would all add up to a big change in America as regards Civil Rights. Although almost 50 years have gone by since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the job is not done. Even as I write this; in a country with an African-American President; there are still people who want to roll back that historic law, along with all of the gains made by the Civil Rights Movement in all of its diverse forms.

From the NAACP to SNCC and even the Black Panthers Party, all of these groups have contributed to change. Without any one of them in the mix it is doubtful that the Movement would have remained cohesive after 1968, when Martin Luther King was murdered. It’s important to remember that. Diversity within the Movement is precisely what saved it in the long run.

One of the most ironic moments in the book occurs when Mississippi Highway Patrolman Fred Ogg remarks; at the end of a long day; “I’m just about overcome.” 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Consequences" - Lena Horne and Eddie Rochester

There's nothing like watching "Cabin in the Sky" to put things into perspective. The simplicity of the plot is designed so that everyone can identify with it. Unlike the symbolism of "Moby Dick", or "Heart of Darkness"; both of which explore the consequences of evil; this film lays it out in plain language.

The story, which centers around the character of Little Joe, is straightforward. Little Joe has been hurt in a fight while gambling and now the Devil has come for him. But an Archangel also shows up at his bedside to claim Little Joe's soul for Heaven.

What follows is an all out battle for Little Joe's soul, with the Devil giving it his all to make sure that Little Joe pays for his sins. But the Archangel has some tricks of his own which he is bound to try before he gives up.

In this scene Little Joe is being tempted; again; by Lena Horne's character. And he tries his best to resist her charms. One of the most remarkable things about this video is the contrast between Eddie Rochester's vocal and that of Ms. Horne's. It juxtaposes the rough and coarse nature of Little Joe's singing; and hence sinful ways; with that of Lena Horne's smooth and sultry performance, kind of seductive, like the Devil would be. In a way it is also emblematic of the difference between Little Joe and Petunia, played by Ethel Waters. Joe has to fight the Devil, while Petunia embraces the Lord. They are as different as night and day; save for one thing. They truly love one another.

And, in the end, the only thing which can save Little Joe from his fate is the love of his woman, Petunia, who who just loves Little Joe so much that she can't even bear the thought of Heaven without him there. Rather than follow her faith into the Heaven she has earned, she turns her back upon God, and her reward, choosing to go instead with Little Joe. Her love and commitment to him impress the Lord so much that he takes them both.

So, ultimately, Little Joe gets to Heaven on a pass from Petunia. And, she is being rewarded for her faith that everything would turn out okay. But, remember, it was really her love that saved Little Joe from "those old devil consequences".

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Susie the Little Blue Coupe" - Walt Disney (1951)

This cartoon has gotten more "hits" than all of the Popeye cartoons combined. Something about this cartoon hits a nerve with many people. They seem to identify with either the car, or the driver.

We all love our cars. It's one of the only times we get to be alone. We listen to our music, think out loud, sing out loud, and basically we get to be ourselves in the privacy of our automobiles. Some of us even eat there, right behind the wheel.

Well, for better or worse, cars are definitely going to be around for at least a little while longer, so I thought I'd re-post this cartoon, which was done in 1951 by Bill Peet for the Walt Disney Studios.

Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Snake Pit" with Olivia DeHavilland, Mark Stevens and Celeste Holm (1948)

This is one of the hardest films for me to watch. It is searing. I have planned on reviewing this film for several years, but needed to work up the courage to view the film again. It is that painful in its portrayal of human frailty. I cannot imagine how deeply Ms. De Havilland had to dig within herself in order to play this role. This film was made in the days when actors and actresses had to dig deep within themselves in an effort to bring life to the characters which they portrayed. This film, and Ms. De Havilland's performance, prove the point.

In this film she plays Virginia Cunningham, a woman who finds herself in a mental asylum with people who are seriously afflicted. She cannot recall how she got there. Through a series of flashbacks her husband, Robert, played by Mark Stevens, begins to recount the story of their courtship in Chicago. What follows is the tale of a woman going mad.

As the two continue to date, Virginia becomes more and more shut off, and eventually she leaves for New York with no explanation. When Robert runs into her again, after some time apart, the two are married and all should be well. Instead this is only the beginning of Virginia’s final descent into her own private hell.

While Virginia continues undergoing treatment under the care of Dr. Mark Kik, played by Leo Glenn, she seems to be making progress. But soon she takes a turn for the worse and finds herself back in the most intensive ward of the hospital, known as the “Snake Pit”.

In 1948 a film dealing with a schizophrenic inmate at a mental institution was pretty much cutting edge stuff. Virginia hears voices and is totally out of touch with reality. The scenes of shock therapy and the treatment of the inmates by some of the staff were not yet the stuff of TV dramas and documentaries. The strait jacket scene still sends shivers down my spine; I cannot bear to be restrained.

The film won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture for 1948. It was directed by Director Anatole Litvak, who was adamant that Ms. De Havilland, as well as other key players in the film, undergo several months of research and training before shooting of the film even began.  In the end though, it all paid off. This is one intense film to watch.

Ms. De Havilland, who is still alive and well; living in Paris; has described this as being her favorite movie among the scores in which she starred. I know this to be true; as about 5 years ago, on her birthday in July; I sent her a birthday greeting along with a review of “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn. She was kind enough to send a reply and mentioned the fact to me then.

The “Snake Pit” is so painful for me to watch; and her acting so realistic; that it has taken me that long to work up the courage to watch it again! It is no wonder she won the Academy Award for her work in this film.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Strange Days Indeed

These are strange days indeed. A passenger on a West Jet flight left the above note on a napkin for pilot, who has 17 years of flight experience. Obviously the writer knew that this was an insensitive; at best; thing to do. They even admit to the political incorrectness, which doesn't bother me at all. It’s the stupidity of the note, and the writer, which annoys me more.

We are all entitled to opinions. That goes without saying; but when you leave anonymous notes you are no longer expressing your opinion. You have crossed the line into intimidation. If someone wants to disagree with someone else, that is perfectly acceptable. You simply wait to engage them in conversation or correspondence where you both can address the issue at hand.

Of course when dealing with the pilot of an airliner there are certain rules which may keep you from engaging the pilot directly, but you can leave a note with your contact information with the steward/stewardess to give to the pilot.

That is, if you don’t have a problem with the gender of your steward/stewardess. Let’s face it, the guy who wrote this note is not going to be happy with a male steward. And I feel sorry for him. Everywhere he goes he is surrounded by women in jobs he doesn't feel comfortable with them holding.

It must be so sad to exist in a world where everywhere you turn you find yourself in disagreement with half of everyone you see. And, if you have a daughter it must be twice as painful. She may have ambition and want to do something which you feel should be open only to men. Will you stop her?

Here is the reply which the Captain sent via her Facebook account;

To @David in 12E on my flight #463 from Calgary to Victoria today. It was my pleasure flying you safely to your destination. Thank you for the note you discreetly left me on your seat. You made sure to ask the flight attendants before we left if I had enough hours to be the Captain so safety is important to you, too. I have heard many comments from people throughout my 17 year career as a pilot. Most of them positive. Your note is, without a doubt, the funniest. It was a joke, right? RIGHT?? I thought, not. You were more than welcome to deplane when you heard I was a “fair lady.” You have that right. Funny, we all, us humans, have the same rights in this great free country of ours. Now, back to my most important role, being a mother.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Angry Masses - No Post Today

These people are really angry! And they have just cause to be so. The problem seems to have arisen at the offices of Rooftop Reviews, where there was shock and dismay at the discovery that I had nothing to post today.

With a daily circulation of almost 200 in 59 different countries, word spread quickly and people were upset everywhere! This crowd, in Manchester England, took it out on the local constabulary, who showed great restraint in the face of  overwhelming emotional odds.

But, fear not, by tomorrow there will be a resumption of the usual pithy nonsense you have come to expect of Rooftop Reviews. And thanks to these fans in Manchester, I ended up with something to post today anyway.

To be honest, it really is a very interesting video. I could expound on the reasons why, but then that would be a real post, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Leaves of Grass" with Edward Norton and Tim Blake Nelson (2010)

Tim Blake Nelson wrote, directed and stars in this hilarious comic/drama in which he plays Bolger, a friend to Brady Kincaid, played by Edward Norton; who also plays his own twin brother Bill Kincaid. Brady is a local marijuana grower in Oklahoma, while his brother Bill has left home and become a well-known Ivy League Professor of Philosophy, who is clearly headed for bigger things.

When a local drug lord, played by Richard Dreyuss, tries to make Brady start dealing hard drugs, Brady rebels and hatches a scheme with his best friend Bolger to take the drug lord down. Unknown to brother Bill is that he is to be a major player in this scheme. Brady has his brother notified that he has passed away, and when Bill returns for the funeral he discovers that he is being used.

Bill meets a woman named Janet, played by Keri Russell, and he falls for her. Meantime, the boys mother Daisy Kincaid, played by Susan Sarandon, has place herself in an old age home, where Brady delivers fresh pot to her. The town Sheriff is looking to bust Brady but can’t get a handle on anything incriminating to work with.

Brady leaves town for a day or so to conduct some “business” with the local drug lord. He has cut his hair and shaved so that he looks exactly like his brother Bill, who is now the target of the local sheriff, as well as some rival drug dealers who want Brady’s growing operation.

Somehow it all comes together in a most unexpected way, when Philosophy takes a back seat to brotherly love and this comedy becomes a full blown drama with a surprise ending. This film is a triumph for Tim Blake Nelson for writing and direction. Edward Norton shines in his dual role playing his own brother in this highly entertaining and thoughtful film.  An outstanding soundtrack; covering everything from Little Feat to Townes van Zandt and Steve Earle; makes this a sure fired winner.

These are the artists and songs featured in the film;

“Stand Up” by Doug Bossi

“Illegal Smile” by John Prine

“My Wildest Dreams Go Wilder Every Day” by The Flatlanders

“Faithful and True” by Richard Myhill

“Fat Man in the Bathtub” by Little Feat

“Rex's Blues” by Townes van Zandt

“Sailin' Shoes” by Little Feat

“Sweet Revenge” by John Prine

“Shall be Released” by The Band

“Lonely are the Free” by Steve Earle

“Boys from Oklahoma” by Cross Canadian Ragweed

Monday, March 3, 2014

"I Am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai (2013)

What a remarkable book this is! I was expecting; and not looking forward to; a lengthy tome about Malala Yousafzai’s shooting at the hands of the Taliban in Pakistan. Her crime was two- fold; she was a woman, and she wanted to be educated. There are very few people who haven’t heard of this brave young woman with the idealistic father. Her accomplishments in the area of Women’s Rights are already legendary, and she is just barely 18 years old.

What makes this book a standout is that she has written a seamless history of contemporary Pakistan; from its birth as a nation in 1947; through the troubled early years, and the turmoil which has made Pakistan an ally of both the Eastern and Western powers at various times since. Even more remarkable about it all is that she seems to grasp the significance of that history as it relates to the Pakistan in which she was raised. How many Americans, of any age, can make that claim about our own nation?

After a few pages at the beginning, in which she describes the immediate event of being shot on a bus coming home from school, she moves backward in time, describing both her parent’s history as well as the political strife in which they were born. She examines how those times shaped both her parents in different ways.
Her father became an outspoken advocate of education for both boys and girls; which put him in the crosshairs of radical Islamists early on. Her mother, on the other hand, became more concerned with not rocking the boat and keeping all around her happy.

After a few false starts in opening a school in the Swat Valley; that area on the Pakistan/Afghan border which became a hotbed of violence during the American-Iraq War after 9/11; her father manages to found a school which eventually had 3 buildings and 100 students; both boys and girls. He teaches them in a secular way; everything from science to mathematics and even literature. He firmly believes that the future well-being of any society lies in the education of its youngest members.

Malala begins to fall in step with her father from an early age; delighting in pleasing him by winning contests in school for speaking in public. Ate age 11 she was already speaking on issues such as the right of girls to receive an education. By age 12 she was questioning why women were considered to be less than equal to men. She was already disputing the claims of Radical Islamists that the Quran mandated such treatment.

Encouraged by her father she began to amass a collection of prizes; some even monetary; for her work. This was all happening as the war in Iraq was heating up and spilling over to Pakistan, where the Taliban were hiding from our forces in Afghanistan. As the war progressed the Taliban were making more and more incursions into the Swat Valley, disrupting life there. This is the same area as the one where the Taliban were blowing up the ancient statues of Buddha. Malala used to play amongst those statues; a fact which served to make more real something which, for most people, had only been an abstract item in the press. That perception changes when you hear how it affected someone else’s life, especially a child’s.

The author vividly recounts the confusion attendant to living in Pakistan at the time after 9/11. As the Taliban ramped up their efforts against the “Great Satan” of the United States, they used religion as a means to extract money from the Pakistani people. Often these contributions took the form of women donating their precious wedding bangles. Those pieces of gold became bullets used in battles from which many of their own men never returned while fighting Jihad.

Malala was 16 when she was shot. Her story might have ended that day with her death. The fact that it didn’t has a lot to do with politics, as well as people who were committed to not letting this young woman die. She became a symbol of the contempt in which most of the world holds the Taliban.

Her description of life in England, where she was relocated for medical reasons, is interesting in that with all that has happened to her at such a young age, she still wants to go home. She still wants to fight for justice for her fellow Pakistani’s and women in particular. She still considers herself a good Muslim and wants to help Islamic people everywhere reclaim their religion from the fanatics who have; for the most part; hijacked it. 

This is a remarkable book written by a remarkable young woman, caught up in extraordinary circumstances. And, more than that, it is the story of the triumph of the human spirit over the forces of darkness; which would swallow us whole if we let them.