Saturday, September 15, 2007
A few weeks ago, as I approached the theater to attend a screening, a young man rushed up and asked if I would like a pass for a screening of a film to be shown in Hollywood at the Mann's Chinese Theater titled "The Kingdom".
Sure, I replied.
I am prone to take in a few films a week - so when they're free - I'm even more enthusiastic!
Without much thought, I slipped the voucher in my pocket and proceeded into the 11th Hour (DiCaprio's film on the Global Warming).
A couple of days later, I dragged out the paperwork to verify the date, time, and location for the other movie.
As I read the details, I was a little disturbed by the contents.
First - the filmmakers instructed all moviegoers attending the premier to either e-mail their confirmation for a pass - or call an 800 number with the information requested.
Frankly, I wasn't upset by the fact they asked for my name; after all, common sense dictated that they probably needed it to identify me for their guest list.
But, I paused when I noticed they wanted me to disclose my race and my gender!
The one that really packed the punch was the notice that the individual making the reservation provide the age of the parties who were requesting seats.
The film company was limiting entrance to individuals aged 17-50.
I turned over the voucher to determine all the pertinent details about the film.
Director Peter Berg and producers Scott Stuber (You, Me, and Dupree) and Michael Mann (Miami Vice) apparently sat at the helm of this "timely thriller" which they described as,
"The explosive clash that happens when Middle East meets the West: The Kingdom."
Since the film was rated R, I understood the requirement that an individual be 17.
But why must a moviegoer be under 50?
Are they afraid that the violence onscreen may induce a heart attack? If so, what a presumption!
Or, that citizens over 50 may not be able to fathom the issues pertaining to terrorism, race, or sensitive political tensions in the Middle East?
If anything, I expect the elderly sector in America - through life experience - would have a better grasp of the realities than those their junior.
Of course, I'd hate to generalize.
So, the age stipulation was puzzling.
Maybe, studio didn't want to turn off a younger audience by seating them alongside a bunch of grey hairs with wrinkles in the close quarters of a crowded theatre?
According to experts in the field:
"Most broadly, discrimination is the discernment of qualities and rejection of subjects with undesirable qualities."
Unlawful discrimination can be characterised as direct or slightly less direct.
Direct discrimination involves treating someone less favourably because of their possession of a legally protected attribute (e.g., sex, age, race, religion, family status, national origin, military status, disability) compared with someone without that attribute in the same circumstances.
Discrimination against the elderly American society has been described as maintaining a stereotypical and often negative perception of older adults. This negative and/or stereotypical perception of aging and aged individuals is apparent in such areas as language, media, and humor.
For example, such commonly used phrases as over the hill and an old fart denote old age as a period of impotency and incompetence.
The term used to describe this stereotypical and often negative bias against older adults is ageism.
Ageism can be defined as "any attitude, action, or institutional structure, which subordinates a person or group because of age or any assignment of roles in society purely on the basis of age".
As an ism, ageism reflects a prejudice in society against older adults.
The victims of bigotry and prejudice are generally referred to as minorities. This is not because they are necessarily fewer in number, but because they are deprived of the rights and privileges of the majority.
Ageism, however, is different from other isms (sexism, racism etc.) for primarily two reasons:
First, the individual may be ageist with respect to others. That is, they may stereotype other people on the basis of age.
Second, the individual may be ageist with respect to self, so ageist attitudes may affect the self-concept.
"We live in a culture that reveres youth. To be young is to be alive, sexy, and full of energy. To be old is to be 'senile', 'worthless', and having 'one foot' in the grave."
This is the attitude most often seen in modern society.
In general there are at least nine known major stereotypes that reflect prejudice towards senior citizens.
These include illness, impotency, ugliness, mental decline, mental illness, uselessness, isolation, poverty and depression.
This "discrimination" allows the rest of us to separate ourselves from older people and view them as less than fully human.
Curiously, reporters in a Time Magazine article had this to say on the subject of ageism:
"Ageism consists of taking a mere count of years as a gauge of a person's capacity and vitality. But the troublesome truth is that the higher the age the less it dependably reveals about the human being."
"The aged are a more diverse, heterogeneous group than any other," says Dr. Robert N. Butler, who is the Director of the National Institute on Aging.
Bottom line, do we want to be part of a "Kingdom" that bases its inclusion on race, age, or gender?
George Burns once said,
"You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there."
Friday, September 14, 2007
A few years ago, filmmakers toyed with split images on screen, but the idea generally came across as gimmicky and was never developed to its fullest potential.
In "PARIS JE T'AIME", the producers have used the concept to great effect; inviting, juxtaposed images are used to introduce a handful of characters whose stories unfold on screen in a simplistic, easygoing manner.
In a novel approach, a dozen or so directors at the height of their game, meet the challenge of crafting small celluloid clips based on the theme of "love".
Some of the vignettes range from the offbeat to the hilarious and occasionally zero right in on the human Richter scale: excited hearts beat faster, reflective ones pulse more cautiously, while others brazenly leap out in pursuit of their undying passions.
In one segment, a chance encounter of two hapless city-dwellers results in a practical union of spirits; in another, a young woman craves a drug and succumbs to its sweet seduction, a ready substitute for affection when the stress of her life overwhelms.
For those who wax eloquently that everyone falls in love with Paris, a Vampire tale is obviously a metaphor for those seeking eternal life in the City of Lights.
In my favorite scene, a young artist passionately tries to connect with the object of his desire. Do you believe in soul mates, he wonders aloud; a naive young suitor enthralled with the very idea of love. Unbeknownst to him, the attractive stranger has difficulty comprehending French.
Yes, love is a language that does not always translate well, appears to be the underlying theme of the film.
Probably the most poignant segment unfolds when a postal worker from the U.S. (there are several American characters in the wide-screen release) wanders the picturesque streets babbling in stilted French in the inner recesses of her mind about the joyful élan of the city.
On a park bench - in a happy/sad moment which wistfully washes over her - a startling flash of insight descends on her: she complacently accepts how it is that she has "come to fall in love with Paris".
A number of familiar faces saunter across the screen - Nick Nolte, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, Steven Buscemi, Bob Hoskins, for instance - and voyeurs, that we are, we salaciously peer up at the screen with fascination as they spin their yarns with expert ease.
Directors adeptly handling their assignments include: Gus Van Sant, the Coen Brothers, and illustrious Wes Craven.
Bottom line, PARIS JE T'AIME is a visually-stunning film.
For romantics, a must see.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Conflicting State and Federal Laws have put users of Medical Marijuana at legal risk and Landlords of clinics in threat of property seizure...
West Hollywood landlords, renting to Marijuana sellers, received notification in recent weeks from the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency informing them they could lose their property or face twenty years in prison, or both, if they continue to lease to the providers.
The communications stated in part,
"...this letter shall serve as notice that there is a dispensary on your property and you have now been made aware of it. You are advised that further violations of Federal Law will result in prosecution, imprisonment, fines, and forfeiture of assets (property seizure)."
One dispensary operator confirmed his landlord asked him to shut his operation down; reports from various media sources around the country note that managers from at least five collectives will close up shop because of Landlords' fears of DEA-threatened actions.
This extraordinary move by the DEA comes on the heels of years of failed efforts to combat the use of what they deem an "illegal substance" through standard arrests and raids.
In recent days, the top-drug-enforcement agency in the U.S. determined that hitting the dispensaries at the source and seizing the buildings where the activities occurred - was the best, most-winning strategy.
In view of this, some medical marijuana patients - who are legally entitled to use the illegal substance for medicinal purposes - fear they will have to resort to purchasing marijuana on the streets, where the quality is not guaranteed. And, also run the risk of arrest by undercover drug agents.
The focus heightened in West Hollywood, affectionately known to all the locals as Boys Town, when two owner-operators of medi-mari dispensaries were indicted on July 18th, 2007, by the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's office.
The Government's argument?
According to Timothy L. Landrum, Special Agent in charge of the DEA in Los Angeles,
"...these dispensary operators are no different than any other drug trafficker; they prey on people in our communities to make a profit. The DEA and our Law Enforcement counterparts will not turn a blind eye to flagrant disregard of our Nation's essential drug Laws".
However, the fact remains: there is a definite conflict between State & Federal laws which needs addressing.
For example, while it is illegal to possess, sell, or distribute Marijuana in the United States on a Federal level, in California a resident is legally entitled to use the substance for medicinal purposes.
In view of this, shouldn't licensed distributors, working within the confines of the laws of the State of California, be entitled to continue providing?
Although the Los Angeles City Council met with West Hollywood Officials in a sincere, good-faith effort to put a "hold" on the arrests until the issues could be resolved, local law enforcement stressed they would not bow down to the local or State Government, but continue in their raids pursuant to the mandates of the Federal Government.
In sum, this issue underscores just how convoluted and nonsensical the Justice system is in this country today.
Yeah, Reefer madness!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Earlier in the week, the LA TIMES featured a behind-the-scenes look at David Cronenberg's new film - Eastern Promises.
Obviously the detailed account of a fight scene with Viggo Mortensen in a bathhouse scene was a bold-faced effort by the producers to create some buzz for the film prior to the Nationwide release on Friday.
The reporter, Gina Piccalo, duly noted that Cronenberg captured every clammy square inch of Mortensen's well-toned flesh as it was pummeled and slashed and slammed into the unforgiving bathhouse tiles by two clothed real-life professional fighters, turning an otherwise excruciating four minutes of film into a quintessential Cronenberg statement.
For example, in the Times article, the Hollywood director excitedly recalled that he told the actor he wanted realism and body-ness in the key scene, so that the audience would be challenged to really experience the intimacy of such violence.
Intimacy of violence?
Well, there wasn't much intimacy, or common sense, or realism - for that matter - anywhere is this big-budget clunker.
In fact, even in the fight scenes - if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty - it's obvious to any fool the shots were cleverly orchestrated and edited with razor-sharp precision to ensure that the body-ness he referred to - in particular that of Mortensen's male organs - were safely out of harm's way.
Let me be the first to tell you...Eastern Promises doesn't deliver on any artistic or intellectual level.
If this is supposed to be a feature in the suspense, or political spy-thriller genre, then Cronenberg managed to break the mould.
All that's left here are jagged pieces on the movie house floor, for audiences to grasp at - like straws!
In fact, one critic's wild comparisons to the "Godfather" are ludicrous; after all, there is no brilliance on the silver screen here, no groundbreaking filmmaking, no magic.
How would that be possible without a quality, well-written script?
And, without any insightful, talented director at the helm?
In a nutshell, the plot focuses on a young woman who stumbles into a hospital bleeding, who dies in childbirth.
A copious review of her diary reveals that she was raped, and forced into prostitution and drugs, by the nefarious Russian Mafia in London.
In an effort to save the child, Naomi Watts' character is forced to pursue the matter, and does so - albeit - hesitantly.
Although she holds her head high with some convincing acting, she basically goes down with the ship, what I would refer to as a ceremonial barge.
For starters, the dialogue is stilted, off its mark, and downright cliche.
Because Mortensen has delivered high-caliber performances on screen numerous occasions in the past - it is somewhat disappointing to find a shell of his former acting self - trussed up thick in this turkey...the worst movie of the year.
For all the brouhaha in the press, the film is a total washout!
Quintessential statement? Bull****.
Notwithstanding, the twisted tale's obvious flaws, it manages to go one step farther and takes a swipe a class of people who did not deserve the slap in the face.
For instance, when the Chauffeur played by Mortensen is asked to explain what lies were being spread about his son which warranted a gang-style murder, he offers up this little gem: "...they said he was queer".
Oh, gee, Then string him up by the *****, right now. He deserves a lynching, man.
Worse than that (If I didn't hear it with my very own ears, I wouldn't believe it) in one scene when the police arrive to test a lead character's blood to establish fatherhood, he gazes at his arm distastefully after he's been poked with the needle and mutters, "Now am I going to get the gay disease?"
That was not only a shocking, disgusting remark, but an insult to terminally-ill AIDS patients suffering from the incurable disease around the globe - and the thousands of health-care workers who toil endlessly on their behalf not only to prolong their lives but to ensure in their last days they are treated with dignity and respect.
The disgusting remarks, and the scripted messages in the plot line, were senseless, irresponsible, and ugly.
Which inspires me to beg the question...
Will the Producers admit their mistake and make an apology to the millions of infected Aids patients around the globe who were the target of their hateful innuendos for no good reason?
It is difficult to fathom how the Studio Execs overlooked one vital fact in the screening room: their film is a stinker.
Yeah, there's no originality, no clever or imaginative storytelling device, no nothing.
That you will walk out of the Theatre offended, like I was.
What is the role of the film critic?
According to the Boston Globe:
"A film critic's manifesto takes directors down a peg, puts writers on top, and turns Hollywood on its head."
Leading critic Clive Barnes noted from his perspective:
"One of the difficulties of criticism is that you are remote from the people you're criticizing for. You are probably more sophisticated than your average reader. You've certainly seen more than your average reader. Just the same as the ballet master or the choreographer doesn't represent the audience any more. So you do have to be very careful that you're not adopting too elitist a view, or be aware when you are adopting an elitist view."
In my opinion, a critique should be a thoughtful intelligent analysis of the key elements of a film to determine the aesthetic value on a myriad of artistic levels.
Ultimately, the film critic is a guiding light for the filmgoer.
Main Entry: 1crit•ic
Etymology: Latin criticus, from Greek kritikos, from kritikos able to discern or judge, from krinein
1 a : one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique b : one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances
2 : one given to harsh or captious judgment
I'm a big fan of the 99 cent store.
When it comes to cleaning solvents, why pay more?
After all, soap is soap, isn't it?
When I've got a bad case of the blues, I head out to one of their busy outlets for some upbeat mindless shopping.
There are bargains galore at the popular chain.
For instance, white athletic socks are just a buck. Fruit-of-the-loom charges at least $2.99 for the same item. For someone like me who is quite hard on footwear, it's a plus.
Goods on tap range from party favors to greeting cards and even light snacks.
One of my particular favourites is the neatly packaged lunch snack consisting of cheese & crackers which includes a miniature-sized chocolate bar.
The tapioca pudding is hard to resist, too.
Although they have segued into vegetables, milk, and bread products, I'm inclined to pass; after all, I don't want to take my life in my hands, just yet!
But the canned goods are a safe bet. Also, the cheap beer and wine which we used to call "rot gut" when I was a teenager. It'll do in a pinch.
The other day I was wrestling over one lone package of Omega 3 in the sales bin with a feisty customer. She won!
If you're a man of letters like me, fifty envelopes at a discount price, is worth the trek down Wilshire Boulevard during busy rush-hour traffic.
One day the 99 cent store saved the day, too.
I was in a ditzy mood one morning and managed to misplace my prescription glasses; fortunately, I was able to facilitate a pair of their magnifying glasses until the new specs arrived.
Believe it or not, whenever I slipped the cheapo glasses on my snoz - invariably - strangers would comment on how much they liked the expensive look of the frames.
I was too embarrassed to reveal the cost!
Sometimes the overhead announcement can get under your skin a little.
Throughout the shopping experience you'll hear a perfect-sounding female voice lilting in a sing-song-y tone,
"Everything is just 99 cents. Even if the package says it's more, it's only 99 cents."
The slogan is becoming as famous as the one from that other discount store,
"Attention K-Mart shoppers."
There are a number of 98 cent stores sneaking into the neighborhood, but don't be fooled!
If you're a people-watcher, the 99 cent store offers up an eyeful, too. Folks from all walks of life and social persuasion shop there.
It seems that jet-setters with money to burn can't resist a bargain either.
Of course, when you arrive at the check out, it may floor you to have to get into a line that snakes all around the lower-end of the exit.
As I have always said, it may be thrifty but it sure ain't speedy.
I'm always amused by the cash register; if a product does not have a bar code, a cartoon-like voice quips in a small high-pitched voice, "Oh, oh".
Occasionally, I am inclined to mimic the voice as I wait in line. What can I say, I have an offbeat sense of humor.
Sometimes, people turn and chuckle with me, or give me an odd stare.
Heck, what do I care, I just saved ten bucks!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
After a good workout at Gold's gym the other night - stay in shape actors, unless you want to be cast in character roles for the duration of your career - I drifted up to the strip to take in the scene.
It spite of the fact the "Boulevard" has been coined Hollyweird, it all seems a little tamer these days.
As I munched on pizza, my focus tended to gravitate to the stars inscribed on the pavement below me.
There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the placement of the "plaques".
For example, Spike Jones is nestled right up close to Maria Callas at the corner of Hollywood & Vine. Meanwhile, a few stars down, Katherine Hepburn's star attracts quite a number of ooh's and aah's from the lookie-loo's.
I stumbled on Desi Arnaz, but there was no Lucy in sight.
Elizabeth Taylor is in front of the Hollywood Literary Project at 6344 Hollywood Blvd; ironic, because I heard that the Oscar-winning actress has a "thing" about words.
I held a door open for her once on a movie set.
As she glided by me on a waft of mystical air, she gazed up at me with those dazzling violet eyes and gushed, "Thank you".
"You're welcome", I quickly responded, as I nearly fainted dead away.
Some names, I was unfamiliar with. Were these ghosts from Hollywood's past before my time?
Tourists buzzed around me like locusts on a hot summer night, excitedly pointing out this & that.
"There's Tab Hunter," one cried out loud. The heart-throb of the fifties is in front of a vintage clothing shop.
When you hover over Doris Day, you can glance across the street and view Capitol Records sandwiched between two buildings; imagine that, developers want to turn the building into a Condominium Complex - much to the chagrin of the old guard who seek to preserve the landmark.
But as the main character (Christopher Plummer) in the film - "Man in the Chair" - astutely noted, "the glitter stops at La Brea".
Folks in-town are privy to the joke.
You see, the whole boulevard is sprinkled with a sort-of stardust - which glistens with an eerie glow - under the silky rays of the moonlight. But, the glitter ends, you got it, at La Brea Avenue and Hollywood Blvd.
Ah, I spy Mary Pickford's star! In spite of the fact she was known as "America's Sweetheart", Douglas Fairbank's real-life wife was actually from my home town, Toronto.
The Hollywood elite were aghast when Meshulam Riklis & wife Pia Zadora razed "Pickfair" (her palatial estate) which was affectionately known as the "White House West" by powerful Hollywood Players lucky enough to have been invited for dinner & drinks in the halcyon days of Tinseltown.
To check out star locations go to:
If you favorite celebrity is not on the Walk of Fame, you can start a campaign to get the ball rolling by abiding by the guidelines as follows:
When nominating an individual or group, the sponsor must submit a photo, a bio and the nominee’s qualifications as well as a list of contributions to the community and civic-oriented participation. A letter of agreement from the nominee or his/her management must be included with the application. Nominations are accepted by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce during a scheduled 60-day nomination period announced to Hollywood’s entertainment trade publications and print and broadcast media. Nomination of an individual or group must be approved by the Walk of Fame Committee, sometimes requiring several annual nominations before a nominee is selected to receive a star. The ten to fifteen most qualified artists nominated are eligible for a star to be installed in the walk during the subsequent year. Those not selected for the current year are requested to resubmit for the following nomination period. The criteria for receiving a star consists of the following: professional achievement, longevity of five years or more, contributions to the community and the guarantee that the celebrity will attend the dedication ceremony if selected. Posthumous awards require a five-year waiting period. After the Walk of Fame Committee has made its selections, the Chamber’s Board of Directors also vote to approve the star and then for a final vote, the names are submitted to the City of Los Angeles’ Board of Public Works Department.
Monday, September 10, 2007
The Dead Sea Scrolls are our bridge to a period that laid the foundation of Western traditions, beliefs, and practices throughout the past two millennium.
A handful of the priceless scrolls were on exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum through December 31st (2008).
The Dead Sea Scrolls - objects of great mystery, intrigue and significance - are widely acknowledged to be among the greatest archaeological treasures ever discovered, according to the Museum Curators.
In 1947, young Bedouin shepherds searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert entered a long-untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. That initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade and eventually produced tens-of-thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves.
The Scrolls date from about 350 B.C. to 68 A.D. and are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
The artifacts that were unveiled to the public, consisted of Biblical and apocryphal works, prayers and legal texts, and sectarian documents.
What were museum guests treated to exactly?
For starters, the presentation represented the largest, longest, most comprehensive collection ever assembled in any country.
The exhibition spanned two floors and 12,000 square feet.
27 Dead Sea Scrolls (10 exhibited for the first time ever) were displayed over the course of the exhibit.
Among them, were Dead Sea Scrolls from Israel and never-before exhibited ancient Hebrew codices from the Russian National Library, medieval manuscripts from the British National Library, and stunning modern interpretations of the texts.
Scholars underscored that by tracing the scrolls and their meaning through time, the exhibition - in effect - connected the ancient world to the modern.
Try to catch the intriguing historical collection next time around!
When the Literary giant - Ernest Hemingway - took his own life many years ago, relatives were astounded to learn that his legally-binding Last Will & Testament stipulated that his cottage in the South-Eastern part of the United States be kept up and that his brood of cats be permitted to roam freely about the estate.
In particular, Ernest had a soft spot for his beloved "Snowball" who was graced with six-toes, a rarity in the feline world.
Other, less notable breeds - who were coddled and spoiled just as lavishly none-the-less - were named after some of his infamous friends: Truman Capote, Zane Grey, and Charlie Chaplin, to name a few.
The news wires were humming over the fact in recent months that the Hemingway cats were being threatened due to proposals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have the furry attractions at the prolific writer's Florida home declared performers in a zoo or circus.
In essence, the Government wanted the Museum to obtain an animal exhibition license so that the cats would be protected from mauling by spectators and subsequently caged after they appeared in their natural habitat on the property each day.
One of the managers was upset by this turn of events for obvious reasons:
"Our cats do not do tricks. They don't do flips or jump through hoops."
Hemingway must be turning over in his grave!
Years ago, I vacationed in Key West where all the brouhaha over the feline wonders has been unfolding.
The snorkeling is fantastic just off the coast of the quaint little town. Out on the stunning, picturesque coral reef, schools of tropical fish glide right up making for a memorable holiday moment.
Of course, I shelled out a few bucks to take a tour of the Hemingway cottage.
There are some intriguing tales for those who are prone to cling to urban myths.
Apparently, one night the best-selling author was down at the local bar holding court and tossing back a few - as he was want to-do more-often-than-not - when he noticed an old decrepit urinal from the men's room discarded atop a pile of trash.
"Ah," he allegedly slurred to the pub owner, "This will make a great trough for the cats to drink out of."
So, with a nod from the barkeep, the barrel-chested writer hoisted the awkward over-sized receptacle onto his shoulder and drunkenly wrestled with it all the way home where he summarily let it drop with a thud to the ground.
The next morning his second wife - Pauline, a very elegant woman by most discerning standards - was aghast to encounter the unsightly addition to the garden.
But Hemingway was adamant: the urinal would stay.
Being the great schemer that she was, Pauline proceeded to have the gardeners excavate a hole in the ground large enough to accommodate the tub. Then, she proceeded to edge it with imported designer tiles until it sparkled there among the lush shrubbery and exotic flowers, a work of organic art!
The watering hole continues in its function today in its entire glorious splendor.
In passing, it should be noted that Hemingway was great friends with Pablo Picasso.
In honor of Hem's love for cats, the world-renowned artist fashioned a ceramic plate in the form of one. Valued at about $1,000,000.00 (U.S. funds), visitors may view the delightful piece of artwork up-close in the main house.
Yes, it's wired to a sophisticated security device - so cat-lovers - don't get any larcenous ideas!
The Hemingway's were also the first property-owners in the area to sport a swimming pool in their backyard, much to Ernest's chagrin.
He argued with Pauline that the cost was excessive - and summarily - put his large foot down: no pool. In the aftermath, he assumed, "that was that".
However, when he returned from a jaunt overseas, he was shocked to turn the corner of the cottage one day and discover that Pauline had installed a top-of-the-line model in his absence at a cost of $20,000.00; an astronomical, outrageous sum of money in those days.
Allegedly, he grabbed a penny from his pocket, angrily threw it to the ground, and lamented at the top of his lungs: "Pauline, you'll bankrupt me one day."
She hastily snatched the tarnished coin up and proceeded to have it cemented into the cement walk. Amused tourists can take a gander at it today.
There are other points of interest, too.
Between the main house and the small cottage out-back there is a catwalk that swings between the structures.
Apparently, it was an arduous task for Hemingway - a burly man - to lumber up and down the narrow back stairs to his writer's loft. So, when he was off on a Safari or some other exploit elsewhere, Pauline hired a crew to construct a swinging bridge to facilitate a stroll from the upstairs bedroom right into the study in the building next door.
During my exciting stay in Key West, I rented a comfy suite at an out-of-the-way turn-of-the-century bed & breakfast with a quaint exterior decorated in ornate gingerbread trim.
On the eve before my departure, I learned that the guest next door shared the same birthday as me.
So, that night, a group of us went out on-the-town to celebrate.
Upon hearing that it was "our" birthday at the local watering hole, pub crawlers proceeded to sing out a raucous rendition of "Happy Birthday" - the strains of which echoed across the still inlet under a starlit romantic night.
On the way back to the Inn, about eight of us scrambled into a flashy red mustang, with our legs and feet dangling over the sides of the open convertible.
But, a few minutes later, we held our collective breath when we spied a squad car heading down the main street making a beeline towards us.
A pleasant, lone female Sheriff slowed a little, laughingly instructed us to pull our limbs into the car, and then commanded us to drive safe.
In a nanosecond, we were on our merry way
Ah, they know how to treat you in Key West, unless you're of the feline persuasion, I guess.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
As I thumbed through the Los Angeles Times today, the handsome young face of Staff Sgt Jason L. Paton of Poway (CA), stared up at me from the obituary section of the newspaper.
Paton, 25, was among 14 soldiers killed on August 22nd when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Multaka, Iraq, North of Baghdad.
At the end of his tour of duty, the army ranger planned to marry his pretty fiancee Nikki Palmer, then move to Georgia to serve as a training officer in the military.
Instead, he was cut down in the prime of life, never to experience the bliss of matrimony, the joy of a young child in his arms, peace in our time.
I count my blessings.
The draft was not compulsory when I was of military age in Canada.
Nor was I packed up and shipped off to some foreign shore to fight for God and Country, oil, or democracy plain upon its face.
North of the border, our inclination is to remain neutral in world conflicts.
After all, it is our sincere belief that cooler heads will prevail, given the chance.
In spite of our pacifist approach to human conflicts, on the other hand, Canucks don't idly sit by when threatened at home, either.
For instance, when the FLQ crisis erupted in Quebec a few decades ago and a couple of politicians were kidnapped by the extremist political organization, Prime Minister Trudeau took a stance which was swift and severe.
"The Government", he assured the Canadian people, "would not negotiate with terrorists".
Within a few short hours, Trudeau ordered Martial Law, and the streets were filled with troops to secure the status quo.
To protect one's borders - or to eliminate the enemy within - is obviously a battle worth fighting for.
But in the instance of Iraq - where the issues have been murky - shouldn't there be a sincere effort to disarm, and likewise, send the troops home?
After all, a number of mistakes were made from the offset which warrant action.
For instance, the conflict started on the premise that Iraq posed a nuclear threat.
In spite of the fact the allegations were later proven to be untrue, the U.S. maintained its military stance against Iraq.
In retrospect, many theorize the charges were just a clever ruse to attack, with the ultimate aim of ousting Saddam Hussein and his corrupt evil regime.
Even so, in spite of the fact Saddam was captured and prosecuted and punished for his war crimes, the U.S. continued with its surge willy-nilly.
Instead, Mr. Bush should have set a time-line for the occupation, stabilized the region within the confines of a specific game-plan, then ordered an exit.
However, the U.S. presence remained long after the first assault, in spite of protestations that the unwarranted attack on Iraq was about "oil" and the second-largest reserves in the region.
Thereafter, the Government wrung its hands about the endless unstoppable uprisings.
And, cast a blind eye to the senseless killing of young American boys on hostile foreign soil, for no rhyme or reason.
Why, oh why, must the U.S. continue to strive to be the Supercop of all Nations?
Frankly, in my estimation, it's time to withdraw from Iraq.
If the Government falters in the middle-eastern region, then a League of Nations should organize a multi-national army to stabilize the area, until Iraq is capable of handling the stewardship of its own independence.
Like Gandhi before me, I'm a peace-nik.
From his hallowed grave, I hear his voice:
"Aggression, armed conflict and violence are not the answer."
The Global community cries out for an effective peaceful means for the resolution of world conflicts among Nations.
The U.S. military presence in Iraq continues to hinder those efforts on the planet.
Imperialist military occupation of foreign countries must cease and desist.
Mr. Bush, given the opportunity, the United Nations will fulfill their mandate.
"To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of Nations large and small."
"To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained."
"To practice tolerance and to live together in peace with one another as good neighbours."
"To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples."
And to these ends:
"To save succeeding generations from the scourge of World War, which at least twice in our lifetime, has brought untold sorrow to mankind."