“Our Name Be Witness”, poetry collection by Marvin K. White

I picked up “Our Name Be Witness”, by Marvin K. White, at a “Small Business Saturday” booth at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, on that day (Nov. 25), and got to talk to the owner of the small press,  Lisa Moore.

This book is not self-published, but it is offered by a small press that offers specific sub-genres.  I doubt mine would fit because I’m more on the conservative-libertarian-individualistic (perhaps Log Cabin) side of the LGBT area, and I pay attention to global issues a lot (like North Korea right now).  But I had an interesting conversation with her on how she works with independent bookstores, which are in almost every smaller city or college town (not to mention the antique shops and used book stores, and the kind that have store cats to greet customers).  A small press has to be run as a business, and that takes a lot of time away from developing content.

The book is a set of free-form prose-poems.  Each poem is untitled and one paragraph long, with some spanning two or three pages, others just two lines.  Each poem starts on a new page.  There is no TOC, but it looks like there are about 80 poems.

I recall when I was staying at the Westin on the Fort Lauderdale Beach two weekends ago (sorry, folks, I have not been invited to Mar a Lago)  that there was a hypermodern lobby with antique bookcases containing some textbooks, one of them an earlier edition of “British Poetry and Prose” as I had read in the early 1960s as an undergraduate at GWU.  Oh, I remember those pop card quizzes, and the concern about being able to identify quotes on a final exam. A typical homework assignment for the next class would be to read about 40 pages of poetry. We had to get used to Old English and to the idea that not all poems rhyme, and that some (as in this book) don’t have identifiable verses.  Then we were amazed that creative writing could be done within the discipline of iambic pentameter. And that some authors (Thomas Carlyle) indeed experimented with a “new kind of book” (“Sartor Resartus”).  So did I, with my own DADT-III book, with non-fiction and then fiction sections, a kind of “meta-book”.  So maybe I can call White’s effort “meta-poems”.

The poems do reflect a stream of consciousness, rather like the marginal alternate reality of dreams.  Sometimes there is alliteration, onomatopoeia, and clever use of homonyms. A couple of the strophes that I live the most appear on p. 70, when he talks about naming names (Randy Shilts knew what that meant in the military a few decades ago – the anti-gay witchhunts), or p. 136 that equates a prime number with solidarity. P. 14 talks about shame (its masculine counterpart in the Rosenfels world is “guilt”) and p. 15 talks about cooking and fixing your own stuff, like you were a doomsday prepper (“The Survival Mom”).

Author: Marvin K. White
Title, Subtitle: Our Name Be Witness
publication date 2011
ISBN 978-09786251-5-3
Publication: Washington DC, RedBone Press, 140 pages, paper (authors)
Link: author, Lambda Literary

(Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 3 PM EST)

“Justice League”: in the DC Extended Universe, angels can be retroceded

Justice League”, the latest DC Comics movie, directed by Zach Snyder (who wrote the story with Chris Terrio) reunites the super-heroes of the DC Comics world, to repel what is a complicated alien invasion based on the “mother boxes”.

The details of the “DC Extended Universe” (DCEU) need not be resummarized here, as it is already covered in great detail on many other sites, as well as Wikipedia. But what strikes me is that the superheroes more or less correspond to the Christian idea of angels, who are supposed to be immortal, maybe.

Nevertheless, the film begins with a headline that Superman is dead. A superhero can at least be retroceded, perhaps, or maybe lose his or her “powers” and become mortal because of some moral or ritualistic failure. Superman (Henry Cavill) is resurrected, starting with exhuming his body (where as Jesus simply disappeared from the tomb)   At first he doesn’t remember who he is, but Lois Lane (Amy Adams) helps him recover.  Cavill gives a very different look to Superman, hairy chest and all, than did a younger Tom Welling in ten years of “Smallville”.

I guess the chief heroes are Batman, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Dianna Primce, Gal Gadot).  Ezra Miller plays Barry Allen, The Flash, and manages to make him look and act a bit like Marvel’s Spider Man.  He has an odd line about blood sugar suggesting diabetes.  In a late scene, he runs a sprint race with Superman, that reminds me of the “Timo v. Richard Harmon” race in 2012.  Neither of the later two actors has appeared in a comics movie (yet) as far as I know, but Harmon is nurturing his own horror project, “Crypto”, which I’ll be covering here in due course. Descamps has a sci-fi project called “Floating” that I’d love to see go somewhere.

In the second half of Justice League, the enemies attack the remains of the nuclear power plant, which logically would be Chernobyl in the Ukraine.  But the script says the facility is in “northern Russia”. The special effects with the sarcophagus get quite impressive. There are rumors about Russian facilities in northwestern Russia, around Lake Ladoga, which Finland and the Baltic states are quite nervous about. I wonder if the movie intended to suggest that Putin is the “alien enemy”.   The film does an impressive set of a Russian village and of the living standards therein.  Later, the movie moves us back to Kansas and Smallville.

The film was shot in regular 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which may make IMAX and DVD transfer easier.

Picture: Flint Hills, Kansas, my picture, 2006

Chernobyl sarcophagus, Wiki.

Lake Ladoga, wiki.

Name:  “Justice League”
Director, writer:  Zach Snyder
Released:  2017/11/17
Format:  1.85:1 Imax 3D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/27, small auditorium, daytime, small audience
Length:  120
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Ratpac, DC Comics
Link:  official 

(Posted: Monday, Nov. 27, 2017 at 8:45 PM EST)

“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”: the hypocrisy of the world of a left-wing lawyer comes to a head (like it can for a blogger)

Roman J. Israel, Esq.” may not sound like the name of a black activist lawyer (played by Denzel Washington), but the new film by Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) starts in a most non-visual fashion, with an image of the legal complaint where Roman sues himself for hypocrisy (or perhaps gratuitous speech).

Yes, I’ve made little videos comprising images of paperwork. The opening image may explain why the film, long at 125 minutes, was shot in the conventional 1.85:1 aspect.

As the mains story line starts, we find out that the owner of the LA law film Roman works for is in a permanent vegetative state after a stroke, and that the law firm will close.  Enter George Pierce (Colin Farrell) who makes no bones about the fact that left-leaning law firms that help destitute underclass clients still have to make money.

That sets up the trap, where Roman has to play the system against itself.  I know that idea as a blogger. Roman needs money for his own life, fast.  Screenwriting 101.  Even so, he has floated the idea of a class action lawsuit to stop all plea bargains which deny poor defendants a chance at exoneration (and this brings up the idea of the Innocence Project and films about wrongful convictions, like “Dream / Killer” by Andrew Jenks about Ryan Ferguson).  He also mentions the privatization of prisons, and describes the hole system as one that keeps blacks in their place (as in the film “13th”.Nov 14, 206)

The firm gets a case involving a convenience store murder, where the guy who pulled the trigger disappears   Roman is first assigned to help the other know-nothing defendant, and even tries to cap a plea bargain with the butch female prosecutor . The Armenian community puts up reward money, and in time Roman takes the bait, literally pulling $100,000 in cash out of a trash barrel.

The film makes a lot of the pressure trial lawyers work under (much like the John Grisham novel movies like “The Firm” and “The Pelican Brief”, oh, and even “The Rainmaker”).  They have to think and talk on their feet for a client’s interests.  As a blogger/journalist, I don’t have to do that.  I feel like I’m not supposed to take sides.

There is a scene late in the film, as Roman contemplates his own end, as he drives alone out into the desert, and he thinks a sports car is following him.  He brakes and runs off the road. The teenagers (Kevin Balmore, who looks Hispanic, and Miles Heizer, who looks white) come back and actually want to help.

The music score, by James Newton Howard, is schmaltzy, with a touch of jazz.

I wasn’t sure if the technology was supposed to be current.  Some of the cell phones look modern, others were flips.  The computers looked more like late 90s.

There are scenes at the Los Angeles County Courthouse and later the federal district court in LA.  I kept thinking of Reid Ewing’s wonderful little short film “I’m Free” filmed in the former.  Roman is not , in this lifetime.

Intellectual Takeout (Annie Holmquist) offered a perspective on Denzel Washington’s own perspective on the film and the causes of violent or self-destructive behavior among men of color:  fatherlessness. Here is more about Denzel’s comments in the New York Daily News.  Don’t blame private prisons.  A fair question to follow up with could concern the moral obligations of childless people.

Picture: Along I-10, May 2012, near Ontario CA, my trip.

Name: “Roman J. Israel, Esq”
Director, writer:  Dan Gilroy
Released:  2017/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/11/25, night, fair crowd
Length:  125
Rating:  R
Companies:  Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 4:45 PM EST)

“Coco”: a real look at an afterlife, where you can die again if you really are forgotten


Coco”, Pixar’s latest “real-life animation” opus, directed by Lee Unkrich (author of the original story) and Adrian Molina, hits two philosophical areas (admitting some intersectionality) pretty hard.

The most interesting of these is a physical presentation of the afterlife, and the assertion that someone has eternal life as long as at least one person on Earth remembers the person.  (It’s sort of “the right to be forgotten” in reverse.) That would occur either through content the person produced (especially music), or (for more people) descendants in the biological extended family, the common idea of vicarious immortality (which accounts for a lot of homophobia and now trans-phobia). The second idea follows, that participation in the extended family is mandatory for everyone, that guarantee gives more meaning to the family, which is viewed as only as strong as its weakest link.

The hero, 12-year old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) has been told by his family, especially grandma, that music is forbidden and that his life is mapped out for him in the family business, real-world shoe making. (There’s no Internet.) On an annual “Day of the Dead” (“Dia de los Muertos”), gandma smashes his guitar.  In a complicated sequence, Miguel breaks into the tomb area of an ancestral troubadour, trying to find a guitar, and accidentally takes the “bridge” to the Afterlife.  The deal is he can stay alive only if he returns by dawn.

Now the Afterlife, if not exactly heaven, is an interesting place.  It comprises toroidal columns of roads and houses floating in space, connected by bridges, with an occasional theater hall.  There is a kind of crude metro train that runs between the “chandeliers”.  The people look like skeletons nicely dressed, and Miguel has to undergo that transformation.  We hope it’s temporary. There’s also a bottomless well, and other traps. You have to pass through TSA-like security to get in.  The entire dominion reminds one of Clive Barker’s depiction of “The First Dominion” toward the end of his 1991 novel “Imajica” (and that dominion, along with “God”, gets destroyed at the end of the novel).

Now the family is headed by Miguel’s great grandma Coco (Ana Orfelia Murguia), impressively built as a character, and descending into Alzheimer’s – a development which threatens the memories and immortality of people already passed to this other “Dominion”. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that music will restore some of her mind. (There’s reason to think that this works medically with real dementia patients – sounds like a volunteer or career opportunity.)   The family hates music because a great great grandfather left his wife and became an itinerant singer and then got killed in a freak accident when a bell found on him.

Once in the Dominion, Miguel encounters a murder mystery, as a family member Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) had been murdered by an imposter (whom Miguel felt upwardly affiliated to) who in fact stole all Hector’s songs (like copyright infringement).  There is a script line about having to “fake it” that sounds borrowed from Reid Ewing’s “other” song for “Modern Family”, “Imagine Me Naked”, which works better if you are a healthy 23 year old than if you’ve become a skeleton or nullianac in the First Dominion.  The end credit song in this movie is “Remember Me” (by Kristen Anderson-Loprz), which could almost fit into “Modern”.

The feature is preceeded by an animated short “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” (21 min, directed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermer) as kind of epilogue to “Frozen”.  The main song seems to be “Together”. But Trump uses that word.  Vox reports that this “short” is not going over well with audiences.

Name: “Coco”
Director, writer:  Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 (short is 1.85:1), 3D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, larger auditorium, near sell-out on Black Friday afternoon
Length:  106
Rating:  PG
Companies:  Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: Let Frances McDormand become “The Lobster”

As far as I can determine, Ebbing, MO is fictitious. I’ve been in the Missouri Ozarks myself a couple times, once in 1983 when I stayed in Joplin (later to be hit by a tornado) and visited the AOG headquarters in Springfield out of religious curiosity. In December 1992, after Clinton got in, I had flown to Memphis and driven up to Sikeston and west across US 60, where it’s flat until you suddenly encounter the gentle uplift of the Ozark plateau.

But Martin McDonagh filmed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in the foothills of the North Carolina Blue Ridge, perhaps near Brown Mountain, where the ridges look larger than they really would.  I like to see movies set in specific places really filmed there.  There are shots of a hillside quarry that I don’t recall seeing in my own numerous adventures in the NC mountain country.

By the way, I think I drove through Branson in 1983, and my mother and aunt went to a concert there once upon a time.

But let’s get to the movie, a black comedy that gets Lobster-wicked. Frances McDormand (the pregnant detective in “Fargo”) plays Mildred Hayes, a single divorced mom out for justice after losing a daughter to rape a few years back. Since the town police chief (Bill Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson [“Natural Born Killers”, 1994]) has failed to solve the case, Mildred coughs up multiple grands to rent three billboards on a “mountain” road outside town.  The early scene where she pays “Red” (a freckled Caleb Landry Jones) the bounty sets the tone for what follows. Soon she has a session with the dentist (“Little Shop of Horrors”) where she stabs the dentist in the thumbnail with a drill. Bill is ready to arrest her, but coughs up blood all over her and is quickly diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. (Lance Armstrong coughed up blood when his testicular cancer metastasized, and we all know about his spectacular recovery, his bicycle races, and his own fall.)  Now I get into spoiler territory, out of necessity. Bill ends his own life, not out of anger over Mildred, but because he doesn’t want to become a medical spectacle.

Then there is the angry gay cop Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who goes on a rampage and throws Red out the window, and does other stuff and gets fired.  Mildred thinks he torched her signs, and winds up torching toe police department herself. All of this set up an opportunity to solve the case and lead to a vigilante, extra-judicial (like Duterte) revenge conclusion. Bill writes post-suicide letters to a number of people, telling them their good sides.  Dixon, even fired, gets the idea that he can redeem himself, even though he is badly burned and disfigured when the police station is torched.  He goes into a bar (Ebbing isn’t big enough for a gay bar per se, and gay bars rarely have brawls compared to straight bars), and overhears a man bragging about raping a girl.  He thinks he finally found the suspect.  And even if he is the wrong guy, he and Mildred can enforce the death penalty themselves on someone.  Along the way, she pretends to date the dwarf James (Peter Dinklage) even if he isn’t physically he perfect “catch”. It gets Shakespearian.

Bill has two young daughters, whom he indulges, like on a fishing trip.  But Mildred’s kids are more adult, particularly Robbie Hayes, of college age, played by Lucas Hedges, who looks muscled up and buff for this role, ready to protect mom.  Lucas, as in all of his roles, talks like a polished, educated young man, better than the people in the surroundings that reared him.  It’s as if being a successful person were more about genes than mere upbringing and parenting. Mildred checks that he is sleeping soundly on the early morning that she goes out with Dixon to enforce extra-judicial capital punishment on the rapist,  because she knows her son would stop her from doing it.  But the movie declines to show the final execution that we know will happen, no questions asked.

My overall reaction was that this satire makes fun of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”, the poor white trash who rose up out of the politics of resentment to put Donald Trump in the White House, with the help of the Russians, who sent fake news to people like this.

The Amazon link above is for the screenplay script.  This one will be taught in classes.

The bar scene has curious musical accompaniment: the andante from Mozart’s Piano Sonata #1 in C, K. 279 (not the famous #15); the slow movement sounds almost like Scarlatti.  The film music score is vt Carter Burwell, whom I think I have heard of (maybe met) through the Metropolis Ensemble.

Bell Mountain in the Missouri Ozarks, Wiki.

First picture is Mother’s from near Branson; second is mine near Brown Mountain in NC (near the filming location).  And, oh, yes, in 2002 I almost wound up working for “the state” as a contract programmer in Jefferson City (per diem while I was still living in Minneapolis).

Name:  “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Director, writer:  Martin McDonagh
Released:  2017/11
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Landmark E Street, Thanksgiving Day, afternoon, fair audience
Length:  115
Rating:  R
Companies:  Fox Searchlight, Film4
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 9 PM EST)

“Lady Bird” is someone else besides LBJ’s spouse

Lady Bird” (directed by Greta Gerwig) does not refer to LBJ’s First Lady, who though everything was “so good”.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”) is a senior in Catholic high school, and is growing up in a working class family in Sacramento, CA.  Dad (Tracy Letts) has lost his job, after the parents took on more mortgage debt to send their kids to Catholic school.  Mom (Laurie Metcalf) chides Christine on leaving her room and clothes a mess after she goes out, saying that potential employers for dad get a bad impression when she is sloppy, even at home.

Sister Sarah (Lois Smith) encourages Christine to get into legitimate school activities, including the school musical (it’s not “The Sunbonnet Girl”) or play (it’s not “Wise Guys”). Improve her chances to get into college, as her grades are mediocre.  She even negotiates with the appealing young male algebra teacher (Jake McDorman) when he loses his grade book (a catastrophe for a teacher).

In drama class, she encounters interesting acting exercises, such as being the first to cry (sounds like “The Ninth Street Center” earlier in my own life  — “did you cry about it?”  “Why not?”  Oct. 18, 1974, a day of confrontation in my own life).  But the she meets the star senior of the class, Danny O’Neill, played by the lanky Lucas Hedges.  O’Neill sounds like a proper Irish Catholic name, but Lucas is, as in a few other films, presented as a kind of Smallville-teen Clark Kent looking for powers, ready to save everybody.  Danny (aka Lucas) dates her, and is so properly respectful when they look up at the stars.  But, as in “The Zero Theorem”, Lucas (who has done juggling on Jimmy Kimmel) is “nobody’s tool”  Christine sees him making out with another young man at a party, and soon confronts him that he is gay, a scene where Danny does cry.  Bur Danny really is better than everyone else (even if, in a way, Shaun Murphy on “The Good Doctor” is likewise.)

So Christine dates the next best boy, Kyle (Timothy Chalamet), who admits he is not a virgin. The intimate scenes with him are intriguing and well done and make Kyle interesting.

Then, Lady Bird starts getting her college application letters.  Rejections, and finally a wait list.  But she finally gets into a college in New York School.  After her tearful sendoff, she meets another (truly heterosexual and less than superman) boy friend and gets into trouble with underage drinking, winding up in the emergency room.  But finally, everything is all right.

The film is not all that impressive technically, being mostly indoors, with a few shots of Sacramento commercial highlights and hangouts. The sound track sounded a little muddy where I saw it.

Sacramento downtown (wiki). I was last there in 1995.  The immediate countryside is flat, as it is part of the San Joaquin Valley.  My own picture is from the Texas Hill Country, maybe not too far from the original Lady Bird’s ranch.

Name: “Lady Bird”
Director, writer:  Greta Gerwig
Released:  2017/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/21, fair crowd, late evening
Length:  94
Rating:  R
Companies:  A24
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 at 2:45 PM EST)

“Shadow World”: how American businessmen get rich selling arms to our enemies

Shadow World”, directed by Johan Grimonprez, written by Andrew Feinstein, based on his own book (“Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”) , chronicles the underbelly of corporate contractors (especially defense contractors) which allegedly sell to the enemies of the US and the west.

A highlight of the film concerns Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who was kidnapped in 2007 and who had been arrested at least twice by US forces.  The scene where he throws shoes at president George W. Bush at a December 2008 press conference in Baghdad becomes a centerpiece of the film, which for the most part is a collage of speakers with short narratives about secret dealings.

The film mentions American support of Iraq and Saddam Hussein during the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.  That caught my attention because Keith Meinhold, one of the early sailors to challenge the gay man the US military (even before “don’t ask don’t tell”), had claimed he was the “best submarine hunter in the Navy” when he served on Orion planes patrolling the Straits of Hormuz – in the days that oil supply really mattered.  (It still does.)

The film does cover some of the misleading rhetoric about Saddam’s phantom WMD’s that serves as a justification for the war in Iraq (I remember watching the accounts at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis when the “shock and awe” started in March 2003).

There is also coverage of selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to countries who have implicitly supported terror.

But selling arms simply becomes a big business career for a lot of people, making them rich.

The practice is particularly disturbing as it could have contributed to the NSA tool leaks that led to an outbreak of ransomware in some companies and hospitals last spring.

The film aired on PBS Independent Lens on Nov. 20.

Wikipedia collage pictures of Baghdad.

Name:  “Shadow World
Director, writer:  Johan Grimonprez, Andrew Feinstein
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS Independent Lens, 2017/11/20
Length:  90 (84 on PBS)
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS Independent Lens, Louverture, Tricoast Films
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 at 12:15 PM EST)

 

Beau Biden’s tragic death of cancer and Joe Biden’s “Promise Me, Dad”


Joe Biden’s memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose” intermixes the most productive years of Biden’s vice-presidency under Obama, with the tragic loss of his son Beau Biden in 2015 to an aggressive brain tumor.

The book narrative is often out of sequence, starting out on vacation and then shifting to his vice-presidential home near the Naval Observatory, before taking off with competing narratives.

Beau had served as Delaware attorney general, and had been quite supportive of progressive causes, including LGBT marriage equality. The family’s Catholic upbringing did not lead to any personal moralizing on the social issues.

Biden first notice symptoms around 2010, which went away until about 2013 when he was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma. His genetics made the cell type particularly aggressive.  The physicians (including MD Anderson in Houston) tried a novel approach of engineering a live virus that would attach itself to the tumor cells and stimulate an immune response.  In the end, it seemed promising for a while but Biden suddenly deteriorated and died with family present on May 30, 2015.

I had an uncle who apparently died at age 60 of a similar tumor in 1976.  Even with genetic causes, its actual appearance is unpredictable.

Biden discusses his foreign policy work, especially with regard to ISIS, Russia, and Central America. He covers the second Obama term well, a history that took a shocking deadend with the election of Trump. He wrote the book just before we have a real understanding of the Russian “fake news” campaign and of the way Trump would be able to resurrect tribalism within “the proles”.  Biden is quite specific in his account of Putin’s cruelty with rebels in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.

He also talks about infrastructure, and his work on improving natural gas lines and other critical infrastructure, some of which he says is made of wood. He does not seem to particularly oppose pipeline developments and on may economic and industrial policies he may have been more conservative than Obama.  But he would have supported aggressive policy on climate change (picture above: damage in Florida keys from hurricane Irma, my visit).

But he also talks about the depth of the financial crisis of 2008, and of the need to make work pay better in relation to capital.

Toward the end, he talks about the sudden decision not to run against Hillary Clinton, and about his reservations about superfund money in the Democratic Party primaries.

Beau’s story also reminds me of the narrative of Lee Atwater, who collapsed at a speech in 1989.

Somehow, I wonder about the “originality” of books by established politicians, who have made their names for themselves before taking up the pen.  Echo Hillary’s book.

Author: Joe Biden (Beau Biden)
Title, Subtitle: Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose
publication date 2016
ISBN  1250171679
Publication: Flatiron books, hardcover (airport purchase) also Kindle, 264 pages
Link: official

(Posted: Monday, November 20, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT)

“The Skyjacker’s Tale” and left-wing terrorism

Jamie Kastner’s 76-minute documentary “The Skyjacker’s Tale”, while not exactly the Pardoner’s Tale (from Canterbury), is indeed a riveting account of the background of a political hijacking in the 1980s, New Years Eve 1984, to be precise.

Ishmael Muslim Ali aka Ishmael LaBeet got a gun onto an America Airlines flight from the Virgin Islands and demanded to be left off in Cuba.  The film has many snippets of the elder l:aBeet talking from Cuba today, saying he is respected in his neighborhood.  He sounds proud of what he did.  But as Obama normalized (somewhat) relations with Cuba in 2014, he could face extradition again to the US.

The background is that in September 1972, apparently about the time of the Munich Olympic attacks, LaBeet and a cadre of other black men stormed the Rockefeller owned Fountain Valley Golf Club in St. Croix, killing at least five white people.  The motive was at first thought to be robbery but soon began to appear to be race and class war.  There were stories that this was an armed insurrection intended to make the Virgin Islands a black country.  The film makes a lot of the rhetoric of the time;  in some circles around the Black Panthers, you could not remain moderate;  if you didn’t didn’t fight for them, you were part of the enemy.  For a time much of the Virgin Islands was shut down by the terror threat.

LaBeet and the others were eventually caught, and confessions were extracted perhaps with torture (“Extreme Rendition”).  LaBeet wound up serving about 12 years in mainland US prisons before legal tricks got him back to the Virgin Islands for retrial. When he was flown back to the states to return to prison, he pulled off his own heist.

Charlotte Amalie, wiki

Communist Party HQ in Havana, wiki

See also “American Heiress”, Jeffrey Toobin’s book. Nov. 9, 2016.

Name:  “The Skyjacker’s Tale”
Director, writer:  Jamie Kastner
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant Play, 2017/11/15
Length:  76
Rating:  na
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 at 11:50 PM ESR)

“Almost Sunrise”: two Iraq war veterans walk across America to raise awareness of “moral injury” from combat

Almost Sunrise”, directed by Michael Collins, written with Eric Daniel Metzgar, aired on PBS Independent Lens and POV Monday Nov. 13.  The film depicts a journey of two Iraq war veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, on foot, across much of the country (from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara), to raise awareness of veteran PTSD and suicide, and particularly with the psychological issue of “moral injury”. That concept refers to the idea that when in combat soldiers engage in behavior that would be criminal or otherwise morally reprehensible in civilian settings.

But of course one of the points of international terrorism (especially some associated with radical Islam) is to blur or eliminate the distinction and vulnerability between civilian and military combatants.

.

The men gather support, including from those who find that some veterans’ families don’t get full benefits, as after suicide.   There is a home with a family of an affected veteran with a “no media” sign on the front door.

In Colorado they reach an ashram run by an unusual Catholic priesthood.  They explore some other forms of spirituality. In Utah, they go through some of the familiar scenery.

The film was funded by Kickstarter.

The film was accompanied by two shorts.  One of them, “Voices of Resilience: Insight from Injury”, by Veterans Trek and Pacific Islander.  The film presented a support group in Hawaii, where there seemed to be no VA hospital (Pearl Harbor notwithstanding). But there followed  panel discussion about the effect of a volunteer Army which almost seemed to beg the question of returning to conscription (including women, and making the now settled question about gays [don’t ask, don’t tell as repealed in 2011] and less settled issue of trans solders morally [aggravated by Trump’s tweets] relevant). The film said we have a warrior class of a small percentage of the people waging a war on terror of unprecedented length. It is also a problem that civilian citizens act as if military and foreign policy should not be their concern.

The program also presented a very short animated film “Tom’s War” where Tom visits the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.

Name: Almost Sunrise
Director, writer:  Michael Collins, Eric Daniel Metzgar
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/11/13
Length:  98
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Thoughtful Robot Productions, PBS POV
Link:  official PBSofficial

(Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 12 noon EST)