Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Most Eloquent Explanation of Chris McCandless

 
 
Chris's Class Photo  High School in Virginia

Watch both parts of this documentary about Chris as seen through the eyes of Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer. Fascinating and gives you a real sense of who they are and Chris was.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9tjqblawHA


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOXBi8SvJqY

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Who was Lawrence of Arabia?
“He was born a double agent. He loved deceptions, puzzles, and disguises. But so did others in the England of his time. All his life Lawrence told tales, passing off his inventions or exaggerations as the truth. In fabricating stories, Lawrence cheated as a child cheat, with no essential dishonesty, meaning no harm, but passionately desiring the attention and recognition that the achievements bragged of will bring. Perpetual boyhood was a theme that ran strongly through the British imagination in his time (and afterwards). It found its full expression in Barrie’s Peter Pan, which appeared in 1904 when Lawrence was in his teens.
Mrs. George Bernard Shaw, a confidante of Lawrence’s to whom he confessed much that was false, once exclaimed in exasperation that ‘He is such an infernal liar!’; but her husband disagreed. ‘T.E. was a born an incorrigible actor,’ wrote Shaw. ‘He was not a liar. He was an actor.”
At first even Thomas questioned the farfetched tales that Lawrence told him, but (according to Thomas), “T.E. would laugh with glee and reply, ‘History isn’t made up of truth, anyhow, so why worry?’” Later Lawrence would remark “on the whole I prefer lies to truth particularly where they concern me.” Lawrence claimed that the fictions he passed off as accounts of his adventures satisfied his craving for self – expression in some imaginative form: when some friend objected, he countered with “What does it matter? History is but a series of accepted lies.”
Bernard Shaw wrote that “through an accident in his teens Lawrence never grew up. He looked like a boy. His great abilities and interests were those of a highly gifted boy. He died, not as a great thinker, but as a boy tearing along at 80 miles an hour.” Only a fine line separates an existentialist hero from what the London Press has taken to calling “a crazy, mixed up kid”, and T.E. was so much of his Century that he could be said to be on either side of the line.
It was his special quality: he does not age or date. He belongs to today. Even his theory of strategy is as current as this morning’s headlines. He had a genius for taking the road we would like to follow. His attitudes and interests anticipated those of the 1960’s the 1970’s the 1980’s the 1990’s: and so did his style. He was casual. He was cool. He never stopped being young. He shared the modern crazes: Motorbikes, speed: celebrity.
It is as a voice of our time that he is certain to be heard. As other men lust for power or wealth or woman, he craved to be noticed and to be remembered and he was and he is, and he will be.”
David Fromkin on TE Lawrence

 
 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Georgia Governor John Slaton

In 1915, Slaton commuted the sentence for Leo Frank from death to life imprisonment. "I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation," Slaton said, "but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience which would remind me that I, as governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.... It means that I must live in obscurity the rest of my days, but I would rather be plowing in a field than to feel that I had that blood on my hands."

When I was a kid, I went to a nursery school on Frey's Gin Road in Marietta, Georgia. I remember that there was a big tree in our playground. One morning when we drove by my former school I noticed that there was a bouquet of flowers at the foot of this tree.  I was only 10 at that time, but I remember asking my Mom about the flowers. And she told me the story of Leo Frank and that he had been lynched on that tree. About how Leo had been the manager of the National Pencil Company and that a little girl from Marietta named Mary Phagan had been murdered at the factory. During the investigation of the murder the police incorrectly came to the conclusion that Leo Frank had done it.
My Mom explained that he was killed by people who hated Jews. I had a courtesy Aunt Rose and Uncle Norman Brilliant, who were Jewish, so the story of injustice was deeply personal to me.
My grandfather ran a grocery store on Belle Isle Drive in Sandy Springs, Georgia. I remember him talking about how Georgia Governor Slaton would come in and shop with his wife. Governor Slaton was an open, gregarious man who my reticent Pop-pop truly liked and respected.  My Grandfather said that if Governor Slaton said he had doubts about Leo's guilt, then something must have been wrong with the case against Leo. Governor Slaton reviewed Leo Frank's Case and commuted the sentence from death to life because of irregularities in the prosecution and evidence.

Governor Slaton hung in effigy as "King of the Jews"


A crowd of 5,000 marched on the Governor's Mansion calling for the lynching of the Governor.  President John F. Kennedy told the story of his courage in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Profiles in Courage".
A crowd of vigilantes were so enraged by the commutation that they went down to Milledgeville and grabbed Leo Frank out of the prison cell and then took him back to Marietta and lynched him.

  
 


Mary's family and in crowd in front of the mortuary

\
Confederate Veterans erect a monument over Mary's grave 1914

 

The cross-examination of 16-year-old Philip Chambers(left), Leo Frank's office boy and messenger, was used by DA Hugh Dorsey to smear Leo Frank during his testimony at the trial.
Years later, Alonzo Mann(right), another office boy at the National Pencil Factory, said that he had seen the building janitor, Jim Conley, carrying Mary's body, alone(which contradicted Conley's trial testimony, which said that Leo Frank and Jim Conley had carried her body together).  Jim Conley threatened to murder the 14-year-old if he said anything about what he had seen. Alonzo was terrified, Jim was known as a man not to be messed with and a dangerous drunk, which was his normal state.


Jim Conley's testimony was the only direct evidence against Leo Frank. As noted by famed historian C. Vann Woodward, the trial evidence was “overwhelmingly more incriminating [of Conley] than any produced against Frank.” 

Leo Frank

Mary Phagan



It was Tom Watson's personal vendetta through his newspaper which called for Leo's conviction and execution. Later he championed Leo Frank's lynching and hailed the lynch mob as heroes.


Gathering of lynch mob supporters in the Marietta Square


Leo and his wife, Lucille Selig Frank


The murder occurred on Confederate Memorial Day when the factory was practically deserted. Mary had come for her weekly pay of $1.20 and see the parade which included the widow of General "Stonewall" Jackson.  The only evidence against Leo Frank was the testimony of Jim Conley.

District Attorney Hugh Dorsey smearing a defense witness, Philip Chambers, who testified to Leo Frank's good character.   Dorsey inflamed the anti-Semitism which was running rampant because of men such as future Georgia Senator Tom Watson(Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel by C. Van Woodward). The reason that Philip and Alonzo's character testimony was so important was that they were white southerners(Leo's family home was from Brooklyn, New York and he went to college at Cornell) and saw him every day. Both boys genuinely liked him.


Cross-examination by Hugh Dorsey:
Dorsey:  "You and Mr. Frank were pretty friendly, weren't you?"
Chambers:  "Just like a boss should be." 
Dorsey:  "Did you ever complain to J.M. Gantt that Frank had made improper advances to you?"
Chambers:  "No, sir."
Dorsey:  "You didn't tell Gantt that Frank had threatened to discharge you if you did not comply with his wishes?"
Chambers:  “No.”
 [Arnold objected that this line of questioning had no support and was designed solely to damage the reputation of the defendant.  Arnold complained:  "It's the most unfair thing I've ever heard of in a court proceeding. It's the vilest slander that can be cast upon a man. If Courts were run this way it could be brought against any member of the community-you, me or the jury. No man can get a fair showing against such vile insinuations. If this comes up again, I will be tempted to move for a new trial." Judge Roan ordered the evidence concerning Frank's sexual interest in Chambers struck from the record.]            
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/frank/testimonyphilips.html

After Governor Slaton commuted Leo's sentence to life, he was both lionized and vilified:





For twelve days Slaton wrestled with the materials. On the last day he worked well into the night, and at 2:00 A.M., on June 21, 1915, he went up to his bedroom to inform his wife. “Have you reached a decision?” she asked.
“Yes.” he replied, ”…it may mean my death or worse, but I have ordered the sentence commuted.”
Mrs. Slaton then kissed her husband and confessed, “I would rather be the widow of a brave and honorable man than the wife of a coward.”


 http://www.americanheritage.com/content/fate-leo-frank?page=5



The Rio Olympics A Legacy of Terror

One of the saddest movies that I've ever seen was Pixote (1981). It told the story of a poor kid who gets into horrific trouble and is sent to Juvenile Hall where his life becomes a living hell.
Burt Lancaster was being interview on TV and he recommended it strongly, so I went to see it. It was one of the most powerful emotional, depressing experiences of my life, but it also leaves you heartbroken, because you know it is true. There are a lot of Pixotes in the world.  It is a movie you probably only want to see once.

Pixote became a huge international success, even being nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, although it only achieved moderate success in its native country of Brazil. It is estimated that the film was screened for 2.5 million viewers in 20 countries.
Roger Ebert described the film in the Chicago Sun-Times as "a rough, unblinking look at lives no human being should be required to lead. And the eyes of Fernando Ramos da Silva, Director Babenco's doomed young actor, regard us from the screen not in hurt, not in accusation, not in regret -- but simply in acceptance of a desolate daily reality."
The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote, "Pixote's performances are almost too good to be true, but Mr. Da Silva and Miss Pera are splendid. Pixote is not for the weak of stomach. A lot of the details are tough to take, but it is neither exploitative nor pretentious. Mr. Babenco shows us rock-bottom, and because he is an artist, he makes us believe it as well all of the possibilities that have been lost." Wikipedia





The star was a boy named Fernando Ramos da Silva. His Dad had just died, leaving his wife and 10 children in poverty in the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil. They lived on his Dad's $10 a month pension and whatever money his mom could earn.
Fernando heard that they were looking for a 10-year-old boy from the slums of Sao Paulo to star in a movie, Pixote. Fernando won the audition, beating out 2,000 other boys. He was paid $75 for a movie which made $50,000,000.00  

When he tried to get work in TV and Movies after Pixote, Fernando was turned down every time. As soon they discovered that he didn't know how to read or write. In Brazil the rich and powerful waste no money on things like education for the poor.

Fernando got married at 18 and had a little girl name Jacqueline. Out of work, things so desperate that he stole a black and white TV to get enough money to feed his family. A police right-wing death squad caught him and shot him 7 times in the back, killing him. The TV was worth about $75.



The right-wing has overthrown the elected government of Brazil in a coup. They and their death squads will be in full force at the 2016 Olympics. Though they have to get through stealing all the money first.

Pixote, depressing, emotional and not for the weak of heart, recommended by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel of PBS At the Movies:


Pixote with English subtitles



Fernando Ramos da Silva was a Brazilian actor who became renowned for his role as the eleven-year-old title character in Hector Babenco's 1981 film Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco, a documentary-style account of the street children of Brazil. Wikipedia



Born: November 29, 1967, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Died: August 25, 1987, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Spouse: Cida Venâncio Silva (m. ?–1987)
Movies: Pixote, They Don't Wear Black Tie
Parents: Josefa Carvalho da Silva, João Alves da Silva


Near the end of his short acting career, Ramos da Silva pleaded with the author whose book inspired "Pixote" to write a sequel.
"If you write 'The Return of Pixote' I will be even better," he told Jose Louzeiro. Louzeiro, recalling Ramos da Silva's words in a local magazine article this week, said the boy remained obsessed with being Pixote.
"I tried to pull him out of this absurd dream, to wake him up for other projects, but he didn't seem to believe," Louzeiro wrote. LA TIMES


One of his few other jobs, Fernando Ramos da Silva appeared on Brazilian television screens promoting Christmas card sales for the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF. "If everyone helps, one day there will be Pixotes only in the movies," he said. LA TIMES


Hedi Lamarr, Hollywood Star and co-inventor of Cellular Networks



Hedi Lamarr is most famous for her first acting which required her to swim in the nude in  Gustav Machatý's Ecstasy in 1933. She was born in Austria in 1913. She married an Austrian Industrialist Frederich Mandl at age 19. Her husband entertained Adolf Hitler, Herman Georing and Benito Mussolini. On the eve of the Austrian-German Anschluss, she fled to America. But she isn't just known for this or her career in Hollywood.


A Mathematical Genius and Beautiful Too

Frequency-hopping spread-spectrum invention


Avant garde composer George Antheil, a son of German immigrants and neighbor of Lamarr, had experimented with automated control of musical instruments, including his music for Ballet Mécanique, originally written for Fernand Léger's 1924 abstract film. This score involved multiple player pianos playing simultaneously.
Lamarr took her idea to Antheil and together, Antheil and Lamarr submitted the idea of a secret communication system in June 1941. On August 11, 1942, US Patent 2,292,387  was granted to Antheil and "Hedy Kiesler Markey," Lamarr's married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. Although a presentation of the technique was soon made to the U.S. Navy, it met with opposition and was not adopted.[16]
The idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution. In 1998, Ottawa wireless technology developer Wi-LAN Inc. acquired a 49 percent claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock (Eliza Schmidkunz, Inside GNSS). Antheil had died in 1959.
Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections, and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones. Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam's 1920 patent Secrecy Communication System (1598673) seems to lay the communications groundwork for Kiesler and Antheil's patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.
Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.
Wikipedia

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ronald Reagan's friend General Rios Montt

 
 
 
 
 
Under enormous pressure from the US Military and CIA, a Guatemalan Judge intervened and shut down the War Crimes Trial of Rios Montt a few weeks ago. Rios Montt was a member of the Junta which ruled Guatemala in the 1970's and 80's. He has been accused of War Crimes, Atrocities and Crimes Against Humanity.
He attended the US Military School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia. That is the school that Martin Sheen tried to shut down, for exactly this reason.
Rios Montt became an Evangelical Christian while training in Columbus. The Guatemalan military dictatorship was plagued with insurrections and revolts. General Montt declared that he could solve the problem. The challenges to the Junta's rule was caused by the Catholic Church and impoverished Mayan Indians. His fellow Generals allowed General Montt to implement his plan to pacify the country. He proceeded to exterminate 500,000 Catholic Mayan Indians. One of the most horrible stories from this genocide was that his army would take babies and throw them up in the air and use them for target practice. Documents show that Rios Montt believed that the only way the Junta could rule was to exterminate the Mayan Indians and silence the Catholic Church.
We now know, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, that President Ronald Reagan knew exactly what was going on and continued to give the Generals Foreign Aid and technical assistance.
In the last few days, the judges order shutting down the trial has been overturned by the Guatemalan Supreme Court, the trial will be re-opened on May 7th. Though 86 years old, this evil man must be made to pay for what he did.
 
 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Michael McNamara was AMAZING and almost no one knows it.

I love old game shows, because it is great way to see stars of yesterday, along with some good, clean, clever dialogue. I must admit to having watched hundreds of episodes, with several sticking out in my mind.  Two episodes of  "I've Got A Secret" in particular caught my eye and I thought I would share the information that I gleaned from Youtube.

Michael McNamara was a "Equilibrist" who had won Ted Mack's Amateur Hour Talent Show at age 11. He was from Crown Point, RFD, Ironville, New York. He had learned his field from an artist with the county fair. When asked, Michael said an old guy taught me. When pressed by Gary Moore, he said that the guy was about 30. You could hear the groans among the panel.
Michael was scheduled to appear on the Steel Pier at Atlantic City during the Memorial Day Break from college.  He had already appeared in major venues in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis and New York.  He appeared twice on "I've Got A Secret", at age 13 and again at age 15, and both times charmed and stumped the panel.

Unfortunately, Michael never had a chance to display his unique talent as an adult.

"Michael and a friend, Paul Frolich, also a student at St. Procopius College, were walking at the side of the road in Naperville, Illinois when an approaching car went out of control. Michael immediately pushed his friend out of the way, just in time, saving his life.  Unfortunately, because of this decision, Michael received the full force of impact from the careening automobile. He sustained a shattered skull and two fractures of his right leg as he was slammed against a brick wall.  He remained in a coma until he died after 8 days in the intensive care unit."

He saved his friend's life at the cost of his own. Michael knew the real definition of friendship: he lived it and was willing to die for it. But more than that, the impact of losing such a accomplished young man, because few have had more promise than Michael did, made the pain of losing him all the worse. He was a member of the generation which went to war in Vietnam. His sacrifice was as honorable as any soldier's, because he chose to do the right thing for the right reason. His parents and his brother and sister, rightfully, should be proud of Michael, who was a real hero.

He lies buried in a grave in Torrington, Connecticut



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs6MoZKIErI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPZRAJiqJTk
 


 
I spoke to Arlene Francis and Martin Gabel's son,  Peter, and told him that the thing that struck me from watching his mother and father, as well as, Benett Cerf, John Daly and Dorothy Kilgallen was how nice they were and that you could tell that they were truly pulling for contestants to win. When Peter and Benett Cerf's son, Jonathan, appeared you could tell how proud each of the panelists and John Daly, the host, were of the boys and their success as editors of the Harvard Lampoon(Peter went to Deerfield prep, Johnny Gunther's Alma Mater).  Many people credit Peter and Jonathan for laying the foundation for the talent and ambience which helped create The National Lampoon. 
And I told Peter that I had come to the conclusion that we were much nicer people then. Peter agreed.
 
 
 
Nowadays, the only thing that matters is winning, back then people mattered too.
 
 
Back Row to Front:  Comedian Fred Allen, Journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, Host and Newsman John Daly, Actress and TV Host Arlene Francis Gabel and Bennett Cerf.