Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Midnight - Life on the Mean Streets

Just a quick look at these 2 photographs will give you a rough idea of what life as a stray cat is like. When he was first abandoned near our house, Midnight was a cute little fellow, with a purr-fect face and a meow to match. There was an innocence behind his eyes.

Here it is, almost 3 years later, and his voice is shot, and his face is scarred in several spots. There are also wounds to his ears and sides. The innocence has been replaced with a certain wariness. In short; he has had a thin time of it.

He has become even more feral in nature; never trying to come into the house at all; although he still allows himself to be brushed and occasionally tolerates being petted. This is a photo I took today. It's rare that he lets me photograph him close up anymore. Since his recent fights he has become increasingly camera shy, although he has healed nicely. He looks kind of like Keith Richards. "Torn and Frayed."

I wonder, what is the nature of the bond that has formed between us? We both have scars; and we both don’t always feel well. Beyond that we have little in common aside from the need to know that we are there for one another.

He uses me for food; that’s true. But he can get along without me. He sometimes stays away for several days and seems to survive. He might be a bit more hungry than usual upon his return, but you know what they say about lean freedom being better than fat slavery.

He looks at the house cats in the windows with disdain. And he scorns the ones that go in and out of their little cat doors. But, then he also steals their food on occasion.

When I go out for my morning paper I am not at my best. I have to adjust to the day. And there’s Midnight; lying by the front door; trying to stay awake for his “dinner” before he sleeps off whatever it is that he just done did last night.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ronald Reagan and the Redistribution of Wealth

Got a piece of mail from a Republican candidate for State Senator in NC; I won’t say his name; and it opens with a very familiar quote from Ronald Reagan; a man who would be horrified at what has happened to his “conservative movement.” The quote is as follows;

“Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe that every day is April 15th.”

Okay, let’s examine those words. They are designed to leave the impression that all republicans are patriotic and all democrats are tax and spend freeloaders. Think about it; if you believe in using your taxes as a way to fund programs you are actually being fiscally responsible.

This is very unlike the Republicans, who wail on about the ills of “redistribution” of the wealth; all while they vote for tax breaks they know we cannot afford. Those tax breaks are paid for with the money from the social programs which have been paid for by the taxes which they are exempt from. Sounds like redistribution of the wealth to me; just in the wrong direction!

It was a slick piece of mail with but one flaw; it made me think…

For the record; I am an unaffiliated voter.

Monday, April 28, 2014

"A Serial Killer in Nazi Berlin" by Scott Andrew Selby (2014)

This is the bizarre but true story of Paul Ogorzow, one of the world’s most infamous serial killers. It is also the story of the Nazi’s; arguably the world’s biggest serial killers; and their attempt to find him in wartime Berlin. Apparently it was an “It’s okay to kill Jews on a mass scale, but don’t mess with our women” type of mentality.

It took over two years to catch this monster, in large measure because the Nazi’s couldn’t be perceived as having been stumped by the perpetrator. At first he was considered to be a Jew; why not? But then, realizing that meant the regime was not able to keep the people safe from Jews and other minorities, they began to focus on the hunt for the real killer.

The only thing they had to go on was that all the crimes; which began as nuisance type of offenses; had escalated to rape and murder. The crimes had all taken place along one line of the Berlin train system, known as the S-Bahn. The killer lived in the area as well as worked there.

The blacked out streets of the “garden area” where half of the crimes occurred, were dark for the blackout necessitated by the Allies relentless bombing. It was literally pitch black, making identification almost impossible. The living victims could only describe a vague sort of uniform. Germany was rife with uniforms at the time so it could have been any number of people.

The main concern of the Nazi’s was that the women would be too frightened to report to their jobs at the factories where the munitions and other necessities of war were manufactured. Moreover, what were the men at the front supposed to think when they heard that their loved ones were not safe at home? Would they desert? Would you blame them?

All of these things combined to keep the news from reaching the public; until the killer shifted his modus again; this time to early Sunday mornings when it was still dark. The meager clues that the authorities had all began to take shape and form. They finally had a suspect.

In the end, absent any of the modern means of detection; and with scant clues to go on; this investigation boiled down to good, old fashioned detective work.  The author’s account of the final interrogation is reminiscent of the tension found in Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart.”

Plainly written; almost too simply it seems at first; this book is a study of one particular case. But is also an insight to what justice was like under the local authorities in Nazi Germany. From all indications it was surprisingly normal if you were of Aryan descent. Paul Ogorzow was ultimately found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death by guillotine. This was a fascinating book.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Journalist Bloggers - Bloggers as Journalists

Have you noticed that many of your favorite local newspaper columnists have become bloggers? Some have found themselves out of work as a result of the demise of the daily newspaper; and others have found themselves working essentially for free as “featured bloggers” in the very papers they once worked for. I have no idea how they are making a living. Some have fallen back on grants and fellowships to pay the bills while they further their educations; while others have gone on to jobs working in the universities.

All of this brings to mind the question of just what is a journalist and where do bloggers fit into the picture? It can be argued; and has by many of the columnists who are out of work; that bloggers are nothing more than wannabes with no credentials and little talent. Ouch! That’s a bit harsh, considering all the grammatical errors I correct in the daily paper. And that’s not to mention some of the outright falsehoods and stretching of the truth that most columnists rely upon to make their case about whatever they are writing about. Most, if not all, have an agenda.

Bloggers, for the most part, are “wannabes” like me. We write because we always have, it’s just now that we finally have a place to put our stuff with any hope that someone might read it. We are composed of poets, armchair historians, storytellers, hobbyists and political hacks; the latter being the most closely related to the columnists who decry them to begin with.

The reason I blog is because I no longer work for a living. Sidelined by health, blogging has proven an effective way to keep in touch with my own intellectual abilities and also functions as a sort of diary of what I am reading; music I am listening to; and stories which I want to pass down to the grandkids. Along the way I might take on some politics; even the Constitution if I feel so inclined.

But mostly I enjoy writing about films which I have grown to love and books which have become a part of me. By writing it down I hope to leave an impression of who I was while I was here. Not for fame, fortune or love do I toil; I write for me. But when I get notes, letters, e-mails and even books from people who are reading this stuff, well, I feel as if I have made a connection. And when I get an e-mail from someone who was related to someone I have written about; and this has happened more times than you can imagine in the last 5 years; giving them back a piece of what was a puzzle to them; then I am over the moon!

So, I guess this is what bloggers do best; we fill that space between the columnist hacks and the legitimate news reporters. We are composed of people just like you. While it’s true that many of us don’t have degrees in journalism, we bring a whole wealth of knowledge and skills to the table which would not be represented elsewhere. For that we neither ask, nor expect, anything in return; except for a nice e-mail when warranted.

The above illustration is of the bronze statue titled “Newsboy” which sits in the Library at the University of Arizona. It was unveiled there in 2010 and was created by artist John Muir. The number for the Libray is 520-621-6406.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sight Reduction Tables - Not So Obselete

Someday my children; or perhaps grandchildren; will come across these volumes of carefully arranged numbers and wonder just what in the hell they are; and what they were used for. That will explain this post.

I used these books while in the Navy; and later as a Merchant Mariner; to find where we were while at sea. They were commonly called “lattice tables” if my memory holds correct. When shooting the sun or stars for a position these books were invaluable since they saved you hours of the computations necessary to obtain the information already contained in the book.

The book itself   is the finished product of about 3,000 years of observations and calculations made by mariners who were sometimes representative of nations who were at war with one another. But still the knowledge was shared. That’s how important these books were. Now, of course, everything is on computer and smartphones, navigation satellites, etc. but at one time you had to actually know what the numbers represented. And how to use them.

Basically the numbers are published in six volumes, with each spanning a 15 degree segment of latitude. The one at top would be used in latitudes from Northern Brazil to the lower southern United States.; or any other location in the world within those boundaries. They are used for navigating by sextant while crossing the ocean and out of sight of land.

Their use is outlined in the beginning pages so that anyone can open the book up and teach themselves. That’s what I did. You take your longitude in relation the Aries; this is called your Local Hour Angle. That, along with your assumed latitude and sextant reading will yield you the precise mathematical location of the star, or planet, which you have “shot” with your sextant. Converted, this will give you a line of position. Ideally, you do this for several stars.

These lines of position will then be used to lay lines on the chart to the points where the stars would be if they were at sea level. Just like a lighthouse, or bouy. The point where all of your lines cross represents the position you are at on the terrestrial plane.The satisfaction of making these computations is enormous, as they give you a sense of just how small you, and your ship, are in comparison to the larger picture. Nowadays there is a place to go online and the computer will make these calculations for you.

You may have seen these for sale on e-bay. They run anywhere from $9 to $20. I suppose many of the people snatching them up are survivalists, waiting for the end times when all the technology will come crashing down and  knowledge will be magic. More power to them. I’m holding onto mine because when I hold it in my hands I am 26 years old again, “punching pubs” at dawn; or dusk; beneath a red light to preserve my night vision. The ship is rolling and the air smells like diesel; or maybe that was me. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cliven Bundy and the Negroes

Thank you Mr. Bundy; until your comments on the “Negro” surfaced I was not sure of what I would be posting today. Thanks to you I am now clear on that question.  So, in case you have been buried somewhere in a hole; or just had your head in the sand lately; here’s some background.

Cliven Bundy is the Nevada rancher who has been grazing his cattle on your land for 20 years, or more, and doesn’t think he owes you any money for. He was repeatedly warned about this practice and ignored several warnings which were given concerning our government seizing his cattle as payment. When the bill came due and our government sent marshals to do that, he met them with armed resistance. After a brief stand-off, our troops decided not to kill him and his supporters and left. Mr. Bundy has been crowing ever since.

I use the pro-nouns “our” and “we” in describing the government because that is exactly who the government represents; you and me. Mr. Bundy and his friends are so busy casting things in terms of “us” and “them” that I felt the need to remind everyone who “we” really are.

We are the government; though at the present time we may not all be happy with our representation; either at the local or federal level. The fact remains though, that when Mr. Bundy picks Uncle Sam’s pocket he is really stealing from you and me, since there is no Uncle Sam; just a treasury with “our” money in it.

So, why all the surprise that this guy is a racist who supports the idea of slavery; search me? Here are his remarks. If you like this guy, more power to you; just don’t steal any more of our money. The next time I’m rooting for the Federal Marshalls.  I have highlighted the double negatives of this highly educated man. It's the same old crap - just in a different hat. You can't make this stuff up...

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children; they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Cold Comes the Night" with Alice Eve and Bryan Cranston (2013)

Riveting is the one word which bests describes this film. Chloe, played by Alice Eve, is a single mother living in a run-down road side motel. Her daughter lives with her. The local DSS wants her to move from the transient hotel or lose custody of her child. She plans on leaving but is trying to save enough money.

The motel doubles as a brothel run by local police officer Billy, played by Logan-Marshall Green. He is corrupt and ruthless. And though he doesn’t know it, he is about to meet his match in TOPO, played by Bryan Cranston. TOPO is a mysterious figure who is passing through town with a driver and a whole lot of cash. When the driver gets involved with one of the local girls at the motel and is killed, TOPO has no one to finish driving him on his mysterious journey.

As TOPO uses Chloe to try and finish the job he was paid to do, she realizes that his eyesight is failing; which is why he had a driver in the first place. Essentially trapped in the motel with no transportation he is forced to use both Chloe and her daughter as his eyes; as well as shields.

When the car TOPO was being driven in is impounded he must use her connections with Officer Billy in an attempt to retrieve the cash hidden in the car. But Billy has gotten to it first. This begins a deadly game of cat and mouse as TOPO looks to get back the cash, along with a bit of revenge.

Tautly directed and tersely written, this film will have you stuck in your seat for the full 90 minutes. Outstanding performances by all make this one a sure fire winner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kings Highway - 1906 and 1907

The Brighton line at Kings Highway and East 16th Street has been elevated since 1907. This photo from the “Brooklyn’s Mother Road” site;  purports to be a photo of Kings Highway in 1906 with the tracks at the street level. You can see them running left to right in the foreground. That means this photo is facing either East or West on the Highway. The following photo shows the same location 1 year later with the new elevated station in place, leaving me unsure that the first photograph is really correct as to location. 

Although the tracks are in the street, which is consistent with the original Brighton line location, the street looks too un-developed in the first photograph. And, in the second photograph, the buildings don’t look brand new and the sidewalks don’t have the strips of earth for planting. Still, though, the first photo is a great reminder of the days before the Brighton line was elevated. 

The 1907 photo is more emblematic of the Kings Highway we all remember growing up. The candy store is already there on the right, hidden by the delivery wagon. The station platform doesn't look quite the same. I think the station platforms were extended later on.

I really wish that the first photo had a better description of which way it is facing. If it is facing east then it is possible that the street beyond East 16th Street had not yet been developed. That kind of makes sense, as the Kings Highway Savings Bank on the corner of East 16th Street didn't go up for another 20 odd years.

But, if the photograph is located correctly then it was taken just a few feet from where Dubrow’s would eventually rise on the left; and Rainbow Shops would later stand on the right.

Brooklyn; especially Kings Highway; has a long and storied past. If you were raised there then you have the fortune to be able to go on line and find these old photos. If you were raised in a small town somewhere it can be very hard to find old photos such as these to piece together the growth of your town; or in this case a neighborhood.

If anyone has any further information on that first photo; showing the tracks of the Brighton line at street level; please let me know. Like many of the people I grew up with, I have been collecting these old photos from the internet. They make a fascinating study in urban growth.

But even more important for me, the ones from the 1930’s on are a visual record of the places my Mom and Dad used to go as kids, and later as teenagers. I can’t look at a photo of the Kingsway Theater for example, without thinking of the night my mother first met my father there. He was 17 and working as an usher.

It’s the same with the photos of the train station itself. Whenever I see those older photos I remember the story of the Blizzard of 1948. My father’s family had moved to Manhattan by then, and my father had to make the trip from the Upper West Side to Kings Highway to see my Mom.

The blizzard story was one of my favorites. My Dad made the trip, which took hours in the storm, only to arrive at Kings Highway and then make his way on foot from East 16th Street to Bedford Ave where my Mom lived. He made it, and had to stay the night and the next day until the storm had passed.

No point to this post; just my way of putting down on paper some of the stories I want to pass down the line for my children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The 27th Amendment and Women's Rights - A Connection

The Constitution of the United States of America is a wonderful document. The principles upon which it is founded are the cornerstone of our very souls. The document is emblematic of that uniqueness of the American Spirit which gave it birth. It has but one flaw. Almost immediately after the opening phrase “We the People”, we the people get left behind. The document is so hard for the average American to understand that it sometimes appears to be saying the opposite of what it means.

We all know that it is not without flaw; no document ever is; even my own. But you have to marvel at some of the stuff the founding fathers; and their successors; have come up with over the centuries. My favorite is, of course, the 27th Amendment. This Amendment was passed within our lifetimes. I’m assuming that you were born before 1992. I was born in 1954. And, as with all previous Amendments passed since I was born, I paid close attention to it.

The 23rd Amendment was the first in my lifetime. It dealt with giving the citizens in the District of Columbia the right to vote. This was a big deal. Imagine, before this law was passed, white folks were actually equal with African-Americans south of the Mason-Dixon Line. They couldn't vote either. I was 7 years old and I understood this Amendment.

The 24th Amendment was passed in 1964 and abolished the poll tax, ensuring that all citizens had a right to vote. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Voting Rights Act. I was 10 years old and understood it.

The 25th Amendment was less interesting, as it dealt with succession of the office of the Presidency. But since we had lost a President when Kennedy was assassinated only 4 years earlier, I did pay attention. I was 13 and I understood it.

The 26th Amendment was an easy one. It was passed in 1971 when I was almost 17 years old. With a Presidential Election coming in November of 1972, it meant that I could vote, along with anyone else who was 18 years old. I was 17 years old at the time, so I really understood this one.

Now, here’s my favorite; the 27th Amendment. Before I even take umbrage with it, I will print it here for you. You can go and check it elsewhere if you wish. I assure you it is to the letter.

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

Now, the Amendment was added as an addition to Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which states;

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

The original intent of the article was that the elected members of Congress not decide for themselves how much they were worth. The Amendment to it not only muddles this point but ends up in calling for an election of the representatives; which was never an issue in the first place. After all, Congress does make the laws.

But; moreover; in practice this was tied to a Court Case in 1989 which gave the Congressmen and Congresswomen a Cost of Living increase annually. The rest of the country has never had a cost of living increase. The court declared that a cost of living increase for the Senate and Congress was not a raise. This of course also applies to Federal Employees.

So, basically the Congress waited until the cost of living was already in place before ratifying the amendment giving themselves the power to grant themselves a raise. And they get a cost of living increase along with it. And every other year they get to vote against accepting this cost of living increase, giving themselves a great opportunity to pretend to be turning down a raise. At about $180,000 per year plus perks and expenses I guess they can afford to wait a year or so.

And let’s not forget that if they vote against it for 3 years in a row; or any number of years for that matter; they later on get the cumulative increase for the years in which they voted to not get a cost of living increase. It’s a shell game. It took them 202 years to ratify this 24 word amendment. Ask someone what it means. I’m 59 and still don’t understand it.

Now you have to ask yourself why this was allowed to stand after so long a time had passed. After all, the passage of time is exactly what they say keeps the Equal Rights Amendment for Women from being ratified. And that's only 41 years old. It only lacks 3 states. By contrast the 27th Amendment was only ratified after Michigan certified it on May 7, 1992. This made 38 states, enough for the Amendment to be certified by the Chief Archivist of the United States Don W. Wilson. On May 19, 1992, he had it printed in the Federal Register, together with the certificate of ratification.

The only 2 legislators to speak out against the unusual length of time for ratification were Tom Foley and Robert Byrd. They called for a challenge to the Ratification. But,technically speaking, certifying an amendment falls under Title 1, section 106 b of the United States Code, which states:

“Whenever official notice is received at the National Archives and Records Administration that any amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States has been adopted, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the Archivist of the United States shall forthwith cause the amendment to be published, with his certificate, specifying the States by which the same may have been adopted, and that the same has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.”

Notice the statute does not contain a time clause. Now you have to ask yourself why the Equal Rights Amendment for Women was not afforded the same privilege. The reason often given is that too long a time period has passed. That flies in the face of the 27th Amendment and how it had no trouble being ratified.

Basically this is about duplicity concerning the Ratification of the ERA. The real reason for the law has been lying dormant is in the wording.  It is written to grant Equal Rights to all genders. That would now include the LGBT community and Same Sex Marriage, which are both Civil Rights Issues to begin with. That legislation reads as follows;

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Our Constitution is a wonderful piece of legislation. It is; as I said earlier; the backbone of our society, and I wouldn't change it for the world. But there are parts of it that need to be made clearer for the average citizen. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Dark Invasion" by Howard Blum (2014)

If you believe; as I do; that the only thing new is the history you don’t know, then this book will astound you. It’s like reading today’s newspaper; underscoring the fact that precious little has really changed in the last 100 years since these events occurred.  

Terrorism, espionage, germ warfare, piracy; in short; anything which you can find in today’s paper can be found in this book which recounts the events of the 2 years preceding America’s entry into World War One. Germany’s undeclared war on the United States mirrors everything which the Islamic terrorist of the 21st Century would like to accomplish.

If you lose track of some of the aliases and names while reading this book, don’t worry, author Howard Blum pulls everything together in an ending which rivals the best that Hollywood has to offer in the way of fiction. The big difference, of course, is that this story is true.

With the same wide ranging and highly charged style which marked his earlier book “American Lightning”, Mr. Blum introduces the reader to an astounding cast of characters; comprised of diplomats, Professors, stevedores, watchmakers and even J.P. Morgan; the American financer who once bailed out the country with cash during a recession. There are policemen, detectives and politicians; some good, some bad; but all part of the plot to keep American munitions out of the war against Germany by whatever means necessary.

The bombings were simple enough; compared to the planned anthrax and horse plaque attacks which were planned by German diplomats, along with scores of German seaman who found themselves stuck in a foreign neutral port for the duration of the war.

The story also involves a Harvard college professor named Muenter, who killed his wife and left his children, taking on a new identity in New Mexico.  He remarried under the assumed name of Frank Holt and began a new academic career in foreign languages. He was soon at the top of his profession. He also became an important component to the larger story.

At the same time, Detective Tom Tunney; in New York City; is on the trail of the mysterious bomber who has been successfully sabotaging the American war effort.  At the direction of the Police Commissioner he is able to tap phone lines, use force, and whatever else may be necessary to stop the sinking of ships by explosion after the ships have been at sea for several days.

During the summer of 1915 there were scores of ships sunk as a result. The devices ranged from a small “cigar” bomb; which was a small lead container divided in half by a small sheet of copper. Chemicals were added to each side that ate the copper sheet away. When the chemicals combined they produced a white hot flame. Planted among cargo they were devastating.

The German ships which were interred in the harbor on both sides of the river made for ideal recruitment for the network needed to plant the explosive devices on the American ships. And with the help of German diplomats and shipping executives, the operation was well funded and there was serious money to be made for the bored German seamen. One ship, interred at Hoboken, was actually converted into a bomb factory, with every member of the crew taking part in some way. Irish stevedores; with no love for England; were also a reliable source of operatives.

There were also plans to blow up various landmarks around the country. One of the first successes Detective Tunney enjoyed was the arrest of the men who planned to blow up St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That effort was foiled by two detectives dressed as scrub-women, who watched the bomber plant the bomb before tackling him.

Detective Tunney successfully infiltrates the Brescia Circle; a group of radical immigrants; and before too long finds himself involved with the German Abteilung IIIB spy network headed by Heinrich Albert, who was also the Commercial Attaché to the German Embassy here in the United States. From this lofty position he was able to recruit and co-ordinate not only the ship bombings, but also the germ warfare program. There is even a plan to restore Mexico’s exiled President Huerta to power in exchange for his help in de-stabilizing the Mexican border. His reward was to be the restoration of Texas and New Mexico to his country.

The germ warfare was designed to sicken the horses which the United States was supplying to all of the nations at war; with the exception of Germany. This is the same thing that caused Japan to form the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, which led to the Second World War. Sanctions don’t work well without force to back it up. This is a lesson which should be heeded by our own politicians today. There is no teacher as adept as knowing history.

Paul Koenig was the German shipping magnate who ruled the waterfront in New York and New Jersey. He was loaded with cash but when his nephew didn’t show up for work one day due to an illness, he was docked $2.52 for the day. Infuriated at his Uncle he would become part of the events which unraveled the madness.

It was the same with Heinrich Albert. He was too cheap to spring for a $1.75 taxi ride; opting for the elevated train instead. He fell asleep on the train and left his briefcase; which held documents summarizing all of the sabotage that had been done up to that point; and also gave insights into what was still being planned.

But of all the characters in this story, none is more fascinating than Frank Holt, the former Professor Muenter. After killing his wife with arsenic and leaving the children with his in-laws, he sets out to reinvent himself. With his love for the fatherland and his talent for languages, he is looking for a way to serve the cause. In a 48 hour period during the July 4th weekend in 1915 he not only successfully plants an explosive in the Capitol; he then heads to Long Island and the home of J.P. Morgan.

Once there he intends to speak with him; he wants Mr. Morgan to stop financing the Allied war effort; but he brings along 6 sticks of dynamite and a revolver just in case JP needs persuading.  He is beaten and captured by the servants after shooting Mr. Morgan. Morgan survives, but Frank Holt only lives for a few more days in the town jail, where he is either killed by 2 gunshots to the head, or he jumped from the top bar of the cell door, dashing his skull.

There is so much more to recount about this book, but it really needs to be read to be enjoyed thoroughly. I think it is to safe to say; from the Black Tom Explosion to the Zimmerman Telegram; that Mr. Blum has covered it all.  He has a style which makes you wish he had been your history teacher in high school. He writes with a sense of urgency which is easily felt by the reader. As Detective Tunney races against the clock to avoid one disaster after another, you can almost hear the clock ticking. Or, is that a bomb? 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Easter Parade" with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (1948)

Here’s another fine movie I first saw on television as a kid. The plot is extremely simple; a nightclub performer hires a chorus girl to become his new dance partner. He does this to prove to his ex-partner that he can make anybody a success. But that’s just the plot.

And, what makes this film such a timeless classic is the score by Irving Berlin and the performances by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. After all; the real joy of this film; or any musical for that matter; is in the songs. And this one has a whole bunch of showstoppers in it.

Of course, Judy Garland; as Hannah; and Fred Astaire; as Don Hewes; are the stars of the show. Bringing up the rear you have Anne Miller; as Nadine; and Peter Lawford; as Jonathan Harrow III; who are both friends and rivals of Hannah and Don. And Miss Miller can really dance! And, while Peter Lawford gives it his best shot at singing, his strongest suit (no pun intended) is that he looks great in a tuxedo, and you get the feeling that’s how he got the part.

This is a wonderful movie, filled with one great number after another. I hadn’t seen this film in about 30 years and decided to give it a shot for the holiday. Most people would probably post the “Easter Parade” number in the review of this film. I’m partial to the song below. I actually used to sing this in the shower when I was in the Navy. The old timers thought I had good taste; though a lousy voice. The younger guys just thought I was gay!

Happy Easter and enjoy the film!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Week in Jerusalem - Divisions

It’s Holy Week in Jerusalem again. It’s also the tail end of Passover for the Jewish people. It's also Easter for the Christians.  And the place which is at the center of both holidays is Jerusalem, which is also home to the Islamic religion. Have you ever stopped to consider the conundrum created by this close proximity of the world’s 3 largest faiths? 

The photo above is of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried. It's only a stones throw away from the Western Wall, which is just a stairway away from the Dome of the Rock. It's a volatile situation. 

The Hebrews’ have fought there against the Romans, who wanted to take away the concept of a religion based on One God; this was before they became Christians and added the New Testament to the Old. The Christians, in turn, have fought there against the Islamics; who wanted to amend the New Testament with the Quran. And that’s just the religious element.

The settlement the Jewish people in what would shortly become Israel after the Second World War brought a new conflict to the area. And this conflict, between the Jewish people against the Islamic; while over land rather than religion; shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

Just take a look at the events of last Wednesday as an example of the obstacles to be overcome before there can ever be peace in the Mid-East. The story takes place at the Western Wall; Israel’s most Holy site; which is located at the bottom of the Dome of the Rock; which is Islam’s most Holy site.

The Wall is the physical location of the first two Hebrew temples, the spot where in 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed the second temple. The top of the wall; and the Dome of the Rock; is the spot where tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Jewish people believe that a third temple will rise there someday. The Christians expect the Apocalypse to begin there, as foretold in Revelations.

So, while the Jews expect that their religion will be the dominant force in the area, the Islamic believers expect that their God will prevail; which leaves the Christians, who are waiting for it all to be destroyed because we all fall short of God’s Glory. Have you got all that?

The events of last Wednesday are the result of the Islamic fear that Israel is chomping at the bit to take over the Dome of the Rock. This belief is bolstered by the fact that Jews are permitted to worship at the Dome; though not inside; while the Arabs are banned from the Wailing Wall below. The part which probably irks the Islamic side so much is that traditionally Jews have considered the top of the rock; where the Dome sits; to be so holy that no Israelis have ever really been encouraged to pray there. Until recently, that is.

The Orthodox Jews in Israel; who don’t believe they have the obligation to serve in the Israeli Army; apparently have no qualms about escalating the tensions in the world’s most volatile spot. Increasingly they have demanded to be allowed to pray at the Dome, which has many Arabs angered and concerned. And I can understand that.

Last Wednesday, as tempers flared again over this contentious issue, the Arabs worshiping at the Dome of the Rock staged a demonstration, barricading themselves in a part of the holy site. At the same time they began to hurl stones down on the Jewish people below who were worshiping at the Western Wall.

This, in turn, sent the Israeli Police and Military to the Dome of the Rock; which they control as a result of the 1967 “Six Day War”, in which Israel was the victor and so won control of Jerusalem. At the time Jews were not permitted to worship there, as it was under the control of the Islamic side. The Police had to actually enter the Dome to quell the disturbance, which only fueled the anger of the Islamic worshipers.

Jerusalem is the holiest city to the world’s three major religions. No one should own it, or control it. It should be under some sort of international stewardship. Millions come from all parts of the world each year to see and touch their heritage. Surely this is one spot on the earth where differences of faith should be set aside for the further glory of all people, of all faiths.

The stakes are high; after all, if something so small cannot be accomplished by the people who are most affected by it, what hope is there really for Peace in the Mid-East in general? Maybe the Christians have it right; perhaps it all needs to be destroyed before we can ever really get along with one another.

Somehow I just can’t bring myself to give up hope that human beings will someday be able to respect one another and share the world. I’m just not holding my breath any longer.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Paul Revere and the Raiders - (1967)

Today is the 239th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. It is one of the first American history lessons I ever recall hearing. I must have been in Kindergarten at the time. Mrs. Gerber; with seamed stockings; was my teacher and she read the poem to the class. We were enthralled. And I’ve never forgotten her seamed stockings – or the poem.

Of course, that’s not Paul Revere, or even Longfellow above; that’s Mark Lindsay with Paul Revere and the Raiders doing a medley of their hits “Mr. Sun”, “Out on Road”, and “Kicks.” I have included them for the sake of diversity. 

Following is a short paragraph about Mr. Longfellow and his famous poem; followed by the poem itself. At the end I have included an eye witness account of that day at Lexington and Concord by Sylvanus Wood, who was 23 years old at the time.

In April of 1860 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow climbed the tower of the Old North Church and was inspired to write his simplified version of the nights' events. It was first published in The Atlantic Monthly in January of 1861. It has since acquired legendary stature and has served as the inspiration for millions of Americans to learn more about the events of that night. I reprint it here with great pleasure and as a tribute to those men who gathered at Lexington that morning to begin the labor pains that ultimately gave birth to our Nation.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

The following is an eyewitness account of that day by Sylvanus Wood, who wrote the following in 1828. He was born in 1752 and was 23 at the time of the actual events. This statement was sworn before a Notary.

 "I, Sylvanus Wood, of Woburn, in the county of Middlesex, and commonwealth of Massachusetts, aged seventy-four years, do testify and say that on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775, I was an inhabitant of Woburn, living with Deacon Obadiah Kendall; that about an hour before the break of day on said morning, I heard the Lexington bell ring, and fearing there was difficulty there, I immediately arose, took my gun and, with Robert Douglass, went in haste to Lexington, which was about three miles distant.

When I arrived there, I inquired of Captain Parker, the commander of the Lexington company, what was the news. Parker told me he did not know what to believe, for a man had come up about half an hour before and informed him that the British troops were not on the road. But while we were talking, a messenger came up and told the captain that the British troops were within half a mile. Parker immediately turned to his drummer, William Diman, and ordered him to beat to arms, which was done. Captain Parker then asked me if I would parade with his company. I told him I would. Parker then asked me if the young man with me would parade. I spoke to Douglass, and he said he would follow the captain and me.

By this time many of the company had gathered around the captain at the hearing of the drum, where we stood, which was about half way between the meetinghouse and Buckman's tavern. Parker says to his men, 'Every man of you, who is equipped, follow me; and those of you who are not equipped, go into the meeting-house and furnish yourselves from the magazine, and immediately join the company.' Parker led those of us who were equipped to the north end of Lexington Common, near the Bedford Road, and formed us in single file. I was stationed about in the centre of the company. While we were standing, I left my place and went from one end of the company to the other and counted every man who was paraded, and the whole number was thirty-eight, and no more.

Confrontation at Lexington Green

Just as I had finished and got back to my place, I perceived the British troops had arrived on the spot between the meeting-house and Bucknian's, near where Captain Parker stood when he first led off his men. The British troops immediately wheeled so as to cut off those who had gone into the meeting-house. The British troops approached us rapidly in platoons, with a general officer on horseback at their head. The officer came up to within about two rods of the centre of the company, where I stood, the first platoon being about three rods distant. They there halted. The officer then swung his sword, and said, 'Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men. Fire!' Some guns were fired by the British at us from the first platoon, but no person was killed or hurt, being probably charged only with powder.

Just at this time, Captain Parker ordered every man to take care of himself. The company immediately dispersed; and while the company was dispersing and leaping over the wall, the second platoon of the British fired and killed some of our men. There was not a gun fired by anv of Captain Parker's company, within my knowledge. I was so situated that I must have known it, had any thing of the kind taken place before a total dispersion of our company. I have been intimately acquainted with the inhabitants of Lexington, and particularly with those of Captain Parker's company, and, with one exception, I have never heard any of them say or pretend that there was any firing at the British from Parker's company, or any individual in it until within a year or two. One member of the company told me, many years since, that, after Parker's company had dispersed, and he was at some distance, he gave them 'the guts of his gun.'"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Clinton, DOMA and Article IV - WTF?

Am I the only one who understands this, or am I just ill-informed? First off, if you don’t know the difference between an Amendment and an Article in the US Constitution, then this post is not for you. If you would like to know, then I’ll tell you.

An Amendment to the Constitution is something which has been added; or changed from the original Articles; which delineate what the government’s functions are, and how they are to go about their jobs. Amendments are; beginning with the first ten in the Bill of Rights; outline the areas of  our lives in which the government is not allowed to intrude. And sometimes; as with the 27th Amendment; they are merely additions or corrections to existing Articles. 

Secondly; Civil Rights Issues; of which Same Sex Marriage is but one; are not negotiable, and therefore not subject to populist elections. It is essential that you understand these two things. Okay, got that straight? Now, some background.

Bill Clinton is the ex-President who is seen as the godfather to the GLBT movement. I hope I have the initials in the proper order so as not to offend anyone. But Bill Clinton; in addition to giving us the ill-advised “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy; also left us with a lasting legacy; and conundrum; in the form of the Defense of Marriage Act.

DOMA; it’s easier to use the acronym; basically stated that marriage in the United States consists of one man and one woman. That alone is confusing to me in that Bill Clinton is embraced by the GLBT community as a champion of their quest for equal rights. But what really puzzles me even more is the clause within DOMA which basically guts Article 4; the Full Faith and Credit Clause; which states that “Full faith and Credit shall be given in each state to the Public Acts, records and Judicial proceedings of every other state….” In essence, this clause prevents the individual states from not honoring your driver’s license, automobile registration, marriage license etc. when traveling through their districts. This was a good thing.

Can you imagine the confusion resulting in having to pay a fee at each state border as you travel across the country? Or having to get a temporary marriage permit while on vacation? Full Faith and Credit is the antithesis of State’s Rights, which brings me to the crux of this post.

Bill Clinton planted the seeds for all the confusion going on in the courts across the country right now in regards to Same Sex Marriage. That’s right; the godfather of alternative lifestyles is at the root of the problem being faced by GLBT people all across the land as they try to navigate the labyrinth of state laws which permit them to marry in some states, while making those unions illegal in others.

Further complicating the matter is that the Supreme Court struck down only that portion of DOMA which restricted Same Sex Marriage. It did not, however, strike down the clause which allowed the individual states to by-pass Article 4 of the Constitution. This is why you have lawsuit after lawsuit concerning Same Sex Marriage in one state after another. If the  entire DOMA had been struck down this would not be an issue.

President Bush postured to repeal the entire DOMA Act in order to gain conservative votes. Had he known what a roadblock DOMA could be for Same Sex Marriage he would have felt differently. This brings us to President Obama; who has stated in the past that his position on this issue was “evolving.” What is his administration’s position on this issue now?

Well, according to Eric Holder and the Justice Department, the portion of DOMA which remains intact regarding Full Faith and Credit; which would allow a Same Sex Marriage in Vermont to not be honored in Kansas; the government; for now; will not pursue a change. What the hell does that mean?

Full Faith and Credit has served this country well; both socially and commercially; for well over 200 years. The patchwork quilt created by Bill Clinton; and unchanged by his predecessors; is an ill omen of things to come. As a legal precedent it threatens us in more ways than just Same Sex Marriage. With Conservatives calling for a roll back to an era before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it threatens us in more ways than you can imagine.

And, as these elections about Same Sex Marriage roll around to your state, it is important to remember that Civil Rights are not subject to elections. They are non-negotiable. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April - History's Busiest Month

April is one of the most active times of the year historically. There is reason for this. In the past, before airplanes and other modern conveniences became available, April marked the end of winter and the roads became passable. New conflicts arose and old ones resumed. Just look at our own American history; which is fairly recent in the grand scheme of things; and you will see the pattern.

The Revolutionary War began in April, with the landing of the Kings troops in Boston and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Our Civil War may have technically begun in January, but it wasn’t prosecuted in full until the Battle of Bull Run in the spring. The war also ended in April, just in time for General Lee’s troops to return home and try to coax a harvest out of their war ravaged land.

The picture above is “April”, or “Avril” from “Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry”, which is translated as The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry.” I ran across this beautiful collection of French Gothic Art while looking up some information for this post. The complete work consists of 12 panels, each one representing a month of the year. This panel shows a couple exchanging rings.

Now, I could continue on with what would be a very boring piece about the importance of the weather in history; which is what makes April so significant in regards to the amount of historical events contained in any single month. Or, I can tell you about these new paintings I just “discovered.” I’ll take the latter option.

Apparently, at the dawn of the 15th Century; about 1400 A.D.; there was a Frenchman who had some money and wanted to chronicle the months of the year in paintings which also represented his lifestyle. To that end he commissioned the Limbourg Brothers to create a 12 panel set. The work was begun in 1412 but by 1416 the two brothers; as well as the Duke of Berry; were all dead. The paintings then passed on to his relatives, where it languished for several decades.

In 1845 an heir of the Dukes decided to have the work completed. He chose Jean Colombe to finish the set. Though his paintings are in many ways distinguishable from the original ones completed by the Limbourg Brothers, the spirit of the project remains wholly intact. Upon first viewing it would appear that these paintings were the result of one unbroken effort on the part of the Limbourgs, rather than a project which was completed years later by another artist.

You can see all of the paintings; as well as read about them here;

This is one of the best things about blogging. I am always learning things. When I look up one thing I bump into another. It’s endless; underscoring just how much there is to learn in the short time which we are given to learn anything at all. Now, that’s a sobering thought…

As far as my post about April; there was one part in which I was going to explain how the name represents an “opening”, or “blooming” of a new season. Also, in many Asian countries April 15 is celebrated as the New Year, which coincides with the spring planting. There were lots of other boring things I was going to relate; like the Titanic going down, etc.  But they all paled in comparison to these wonderful paintings which I had never seen before.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"A Cruel and Shocking Act" by Philip Shenon (2013)

If you believe that President Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin named Lee Harvey Oswald, then this is the book you have been waiting for. On the other hand, if you believe that President Kennedy was a victim of a conspiracy, then this is the book for you. Author Philip Shenon has gathered the memories of all the surviving staff members who assisted the Warren Commission in compiling its report, and in doing so has only bolstered the beliefs of both sides.

The Warren Commission Report was initiated by President Johnson, who later opined to Walter Cronkite that he believed there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, and therefore did not believe in the findings of the commission he himself had created. It was never signed by the man who chaired it; Chief Justice Earl Warren, who suppressed evidence in order to wrap things up neatly. And, finally, it was signed reluctantly by the man who would, 11 years later become the first unelected President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

If you ever want to explain why Americans don’t really trust their government, and embrace conspiracy theories in the first place, you have only to look at the dysfunction of the Warren Commission to prove your point. The infighting between the various agencies; such as the FBI and the CIA to withhold evidence and sources from one another, as well as the commission, are perfect examples.

The book goes into detail about the connection of Oswald’s supposed Mexican visit, which produced no known photos of him at either of the embassies he supposedly visited, raising the possibility of a double agent. His relationship with Silvia Duran, of the Cuban Embassy is also explored.

Of particular interest are the deals made by Marina Oswald in the days immediately surrounding her husband’s death at the hands of Jack Ruby. She sold her husband’s diary without even telling the police that there was one. She also burned what she thought to be the only copies of the now iconic photos of her husband posing with a rifle, handgun and a Communist newspaper. The fact that there were so many other copies floating about in the days before digital scanning, etc. makes me wonder. Who else had copies of these photos and why?

Her take from the various book deals and magazine articles amounted to about $300,000 in today’s dollars. She fired her business manager, James Martin, after having a brief affair with him while living in his home. She ended the affair by calling his wife and telling her that her husband was no longer employed as her manager, or lover.

Marina Oswald wasn’t the only widow taking in some immediate cash. Jackie Kennedy began work on her book with Arthur Schlesinger before the Warren Commission was even done with their report. The commission was not even going to call upon her for her testimony; wishing to spare her the ordeal; until they got wind of the book. If she could talk about it for money, then she could appear before the Commission. Still, when it came time to depose her, they went to her home in Georgetown, where she was living at the time.

Robert Kennedy would only appear before the Commission by a series of letters; ones which he wrote himself. The first one was a request from Chief Justice Earl Warren to him; written by RFK asking him to submit a reply. The Chief Justice signed that request and sent it back to RFK. A pre-approved reply was then sent to the Chief Justice.

The portion of the investigation dealing with Jack Ruby is a true riddle. The man had the opportunity to kill Oswald on Friday night at the infamous “news conference” at the City Jail, where he was paraded before the press. Ruby even took part in that event when he corrected DA Henry Wade on the correct name of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He was that well known to the local police, yet no one noticed him entering the building on Sunday morning when he was finally able to kill Oswald.

Ruby ended up deranged before and during his trial for killing Oswald. He believed that since he had murdered Oswald the Jews of America were being tortured in retaliation. He was clearly insane; even judged to be so; yet he was still sentenced to death for his crime. He died before the sentence could be carried out. His chapter remains one of the most controversial among conspiracy theorists.

Arlen Specter, the architect of the “magic bullet” theory; which says that one pristine bullet caused 7 wounds to both Kennedy and Governor Connally before landing underneath a rubber mat on the gurney at Parkland hospital; is portrayed as an adequate investigator. His theory was doubted by just about everyone on the Commission. It has been the subject of numerous recreations using the latest technology to prove its validity. But think about this; if you intentionally set out to prove a theory correct, you must first start out by accepting that theory to be true. If you believe it to be false it is just as easy to prove that as well.

One of the most interesting events to come out of the Warren Commission’s investigation occurred when William Coleman; the lone African-American working for the Committee; went to a secret rendezvous off of Cuba to meet Castro and ask him; face to face; whether or not he, or the Russians, had anything to do with the President’s murder.

Castro had told the press in October of 1963 that the American government was targeting him for assassination; which they were under Operation Mongoose a black op being run by the CIA. He also promised to retaliate in kind; which many people think is actually what happened; Operation Mongoose got reversed by right wing factions within the United Sates, making Kennedy the target instead.

The most interesting thing about Coleman’s encounter is that he already knew Castro from the Cuban leader’s visits to New York, which had begun as early as the 1940’s. Apparently Coleman had met him in Harlem at the jazz clubs when Castro was on his honeymoon in 1948. They were both jazz fans. When they met again in 1964 aboard a Cuban navy boat, they discussed that visit and music before getting down to business. Castro denied any involvement in the murder, and Mr. Coleman took him at face value.

The investigators themselves; along with the 7 Committee members themselves, were often at odds over the direction and progress of the Commission. Some wanted to focus on the foreign conspiracy aspect of the crime more than others. As a result of the pre-determined outcome of the report; it must sate that Oswald acted alone, this was understood by all; any leads not leading back to Oswald as the sole shooter, were given short shrift.

Commission investigator Jim Liebeler was a hard working staff member. But he still found time to attempt the seduction of both Marina Oswald and Silvia Odio; the Cuban woman in Texas who claimed to have seen Oswald in the company of 2 other Latino men prior to the assassination. Silvia Odio is a possible key to the unexplored portions of Oswald’s Mexico City trip.

The other Silvia in this story is Silvia Duran, who was taken into custody within hours of the assassination by Mexican police at the request of the CIA. She was beaten and tortured in an effort to find out what she knew about Oswald and his activities there in Mexico.

All of these loose ends are what have Mr. Shenon concerned; and rightfully so; that there are still unexplored leads to the murder of President Kennedy in 1963. The latest ones involve Elena and Helena Garro, a mother daughter team who claim to have attended a party at which Oswald was present in Mexico prior to the assassination.

Whatever your beliefs about the Kennedy assassination may be, this book delivers all of the excitement you have come to expect from the crime which just won’t be solved. Mr. Shenon has done his homework well, and as a result has delivered an exciting book about the scenes behind the Warren Commission and the men who served on it.

In the end, it is also the story of the Warren Commission Report; a report which the Chief Justice for whom it was named refused to sign; and was only signed by Gerald Ford, who never believed it to be correct. And 11 years later he would become the first un-elected President of the United States.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Everything Is Free" - Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (2004)

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are coming to Charlotte in a few weeks. They will be playing at the Neighborhood Theater in NoDa, just north of Uptown, on April 25th. It's a very pleasing venue with about 600 seats in all. And that's the best way to see these two extraordinary artists; in as small a venue as possible.

The beauty of watching them perform their magic lies in the fact that they are partners in life as well as music. Mr. Rawlings obvious command of his instrument melds seamlessly with Ms. Welch's singing and her playing.

Songs like this are easily learned. Capo on the 5th fret; Am C G D with a few minor variations and you've got it. But songs like this are also a lifetime in the making. Though I have been fans of these two remarkable artists for several years now this is the first chance I will have had to see them. You can bet that if I had the extra cash I would be going to this show. For now though, I'll just play along....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"It's Only me" by Robert Williams (2009) - The E book Version

In 2009 I wrote a short memoir called; appropriately; “It’s Only Me.” It consists of 30 chapters, with photos, written during 30 sessions of approximately 1 hour each over the course of 4 months. I posted it here as I wrote it; which means that it has never been posted in one spot all at the same time.

I suppose I could do that now, but that would be one long post! Instead I am going to post it here as my version of an “e-book.”  The real purpose for this post is so that I can have all 30 chapters in one spot. If anybody actually reads it; well, that’s always a plus!