Coronavirus Diaries 18

We’re in some kind of Sisyphus-type nightmare, aren’t we?

Seems like a couple of months ago we locked everything down and it seemed like we were getting a grip on the Covid-19 situation… to a degree.

The infection rate was stabilizing if not dropping and people seemed to be practicing social distancing. Masks, we found out a little later, were considered a great help in lowering the transmission rates and, as of the past couple of months, the wiser businesses have required any clients who step in their stores wear them.

Then things slipped.

The rates of infection are rising through the proverbial roof and the mighty United States, the envy of the civilized world, has shown itself to be far from ready to take on this particular fight.

As with so many things, the fault lies at the top.

I know, I know… its probably getting tiresome hearing me bemoan our “President”, but the reality is that Trump and his bizarre, uneducated, and irresponsible manners has for the past several weeks played down the COVID-19 situation and, sadly, so too have too many state governors.

When the states were “re-opened” there was this sense -incorrect, as it turned out- that perhaps we have turned the corner and could go back to normal.

Restaurants and bars opened in far too many places and without enough safeguards present.

In the end, too many people congregated too close to each other and, today, we keep seeing record numbers of infection rates. What follows, even more sadly, are deaths from this virus.

You can’t blame Trump for everything. I know that. I don’t blame him for this virus but I do blame him for his too blasé -bordering on criminal- attitude toward it.

He thought people wearing masks were dumb… and he even to this day refuses to wear one because, I can only guess, he feels it makes him look weak.

Or something.

This despite statistics and the professional immunologist advice that wearing a mask makes you less likely to contract the COVID-19 virus.

With someone as powerful as the President poo-pooing the notion of wearing masks, it was only nature that we’d see too many people doing the very same.

And they did.

And now we’re here, with the rates going through the proverbial roof with no end in sight.

I genuinely fear what’s coming next.

The economy has been severely hurt and if the rate of infection continues, it can only get worse. Europe is opening up but, given our infection rates, United States citizens aren’t allowed to travel there.

Can you imagine?

Our mighty country so far behind in dealing with this situation that we’re considered a danger for travel?

I don’t know what lies ahead but I genuinely wonder how much long responsible people in government are going to let this go on.

I also wonder how much longer regular citizens will have patience with this.

Are we in for another lockdown?

I have to admit, a part of me hopes this will happen.

But, once we do, will we again let our guard down and again open ourselves up too much and yet again find ourselves with far too many infections as before?

And so it goes…

This just can’t be…

I mean, please tell me this isn’t true.

Yes, tell me it’s “fake news”. Please!

Written by Bill Hutchinson and presented on abcnews.com…

Alabama students throwing “Covid Parties” to see who gets infected: Officials

The upshot of this article is even more frightening than the headline suggests. Read the whole thing, I urge you.

These are the first three paragraphs of the article:

Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing “COVID parties” as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.

I mean, come on! This has to be a joke, right?

Please…?!

While its tempting to simply blame youthful stupidity, the reality is that stupidity seems to be all too plentiful these days.

“President” Trump refusing to wear a mask and still (still!) saying he feels the pandemic will miraculously “disappear”… even as our rates of infection are back to where they were when everything was first shut down.

The congress -sadly mostly Republicans- keep their mouths shut instead of screaming from the top of their lungs while citizens day after day die from this deadly disease. Many refuse to go to meetings with masks on because… I dunno… I guess its more manly to risk infecting other people?!

Is it so fucking hard for people to get it through their heads that, yes, the disease exists and that, absolutely yes, it can be deadly? And, sometimes when its not deadly, it can leave you with medical issues you may have to deal with for the rest of your life?

Is it so hard to tell people to please, please wear a mask and social distance?

Is common sense in such a limited supply?

I just don’t know anymore.

Corrosive Knights, a 6/22/20 Update

First: I haven’t been posting as much as usual of late and I do apologize for that.

The reason is pretty simple: I’ve been laser focused on Draft #4 of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series…

Corrosive Knights

Today -just a couple of hours ago, in fact!- I finished putting the last of the corrections into the novel’s Word file and will print the whole think out this evening and very shortly start up Draft #5.

Draft #4, as I look back on it now, was a watershed revision. What I mean by that is that this Draft felt like a very in depth, top-to-bottom revision which caught most of the important elements I needed to address in the book and fixed them. Hopefully, in completing this Draft, and until I get my fingers more into Draft #5, I feel like I’m very close to the point where I can focus entirely on how the story is told versus what I’m telling, and whether all the creative elements are in their proper place.

Looking back a little further, I regret my decision to do Draft #3 completely on the computer rather than as I usually do it, ie printing it out, reading the print out, and adding the voluminous corrections by pen on the pages themselves before going to the computer and putting those corrections in.

Which is, of course, what I did with Draft #4.

Mind you, I’m not saying the way I did Draft #3 was a total waste of time -it most certainly was not!- but given how early in the drafting process I was, I mistakenly felt I had advanced much further than I was. Therefore the corrections made for Draft #3, while they certainly moved the proverbial ball forward, in retrospect feel like they were pretty minor compared to the near total overhaul I did with Draft #4.

What pleases me the most now that I’ve finished Draft #4 is that the story elements are by and large where I think they need to be. There might still be some additions I’ll make -there often are!- but truthfully it feels like this book is very close to being done.

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll repeat it again: For the last few novels and for whatever reason it has taken me 12 Drafts -not 11 and not 13- to get my novels to where I’m comfortable releasing them.

Not so with this book.

I believe when I’m done with Draft #5 I’ll be very close to the end. I will very likely need to do a Draft #6 but, after that, I can see myself finishing this off with either the 7th or 8th Draft.

This time around I either got really lucky and hit upon the plot quickly or I’m growing as a writer and don’t need to spend as much time in the earlier stages getting the book’s plot settled.

Regardless, I still feel like this is a book I can finish by the end of Summer or, unless some other problems arise, early in Fall.

I’m incredibly proud of this book and think it’s a wonderful addition to the Corrosive Knights series. I know Book #7, Legacy of the Argus, was presented as a conclusion to the major Corrosive Knights series and it remains so… but this new book, while not necessarily opening a whole new story line in this universe, adds an intriguing new piece.

I can’t wait to release it!

Rough Night In Tulsa…

I really, really try not to get too political in these postings but it’s really tough lately.

“President” Trump, who, if you’ve come ’round these parts now and again, isn’t exactly on my list of favorite politicians. (Quick aside: Is it just me or have the Republican presidents been going from bad to incredibly terrible from Nixon on? I mean, even those who love the admittedly very charismatic Ronald Reagan have to admit his administration had plenty of problems, especially in the second term, and what he opened up lingers to this day…)

The other day he had the first of his rallies, intended to kick start his re-election and…

…the whole thing was a gigantic failure.

Kevin Liptak and Kaitlin Collins over at CNN write about…

Sick and empty seats: How Trump’s triumphant return to campaign trail went from bad to worse

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, the last few weeks (years, it seems!) have been full of protest following the death of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and it seems the Trump White House has no idea how to deal with it. Worse, they used the protest time to stage a very ill advised photo-op at a church which backfired spectacularly on them…

Nothing wrong with Trump's Bible-toting photo-op | Letter ...

Then, “President” Trump seemed to dig his grave even deeper with conspiracy theories regarding the police pushing -and subsequently lying- about Martin Gugino’s fall…

See the source image

There were more things that happened (I don’t even want to get into the botched firing of Geoffrey Berman or the release of John Bolton’s scathing book), but suffice to say the Trump re-election is, at this moment, on very shaky grounds.

In fact, in recent days (and we must bear in mind the election isn’t until November, so much can change) the odds of re-election have dropped pretty significantly, and I suspect “President” Trump, shrewd enough to realize this was the case, decided in the middle of this pandemic that it was time to start holding his rallies.

His first one was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state which overwhelmingly voted for him over Hillary Clinton in the previous election, as “safe” a state as one could find for Republicans and, by extension, Trump himself.

To Trump’s re-election campaign, things were looking really positive. There were a lot of requests for tickets and he was expecting the venue he was in, capable of fitting some 19,000 people, would be full to capacity and he would then go outside and give a speech to the overflow.

Only, things didn’t quite work out that way…

See the source image

Yikes! Want more?

See the source image
See the source image

Even official images, which had the sparse attendees crowded around Trump, revealed the emptiness…

See the source image
Check out the upper part of this photograph

Estimates were that only some 6200 people showed up for the event, less than half of the stadium’s capacity.

Even worse, reports came out that the Trump campaign tweeted during the event (one imagines, quite desperately) that there was still plenty of space available and for anyone interested in coming to please come on in!

Only, they didn’t.

The event was such a bust that the very few people by the outside platform were told to go into the convention center and the various staffers started dismantling that outside platform even as the main event was still going on.

“President” Trump was reportedly furious about the event and the lack of people who showed up and, in this case, I can totally understand.

This has to be concerning. A sitting President -even one as loathsome as I feel he is- should be able to get a decent turnout at any event and especially one that takes place in a voting stronghold for him.

The fact that so few people showed up has to be worrisome. If even his supporters aren’t that encouraged/motivated to come in to see him, how encouraged/motivated will they be to vote for him?

Again: The election is still a very long way away.

However, going by this alone, it seems his support is sagging.

Perhaps very badly.

Re-Evaluating Our Statues/Memorials

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement comes a needed re-evaluation of many of the memorials and statues both in the United States and throughout the world.

The fact of the matter is that with the passage of time, we’ve come to re-evaluate some of the statues and memorials in light of these more enlightened times and deem some of these items need to be gone.

I wrote about the Stone Mountain Memorial and the many Confederate statues and monuments which are currently being -rightfully, in my humble opinion- re-evaluated and/or taken down (you can read about that here), but when I heard the other day that a statue of Teddy Roosevelt was being removed, I thought… really?

I mean, Teddy Roosevelt never struck me as a historical figure quite in the same vein as the various Confederate characters we see paraded around far too much in the South… why him?

Then, I read this article, by Ed Mazza and presented on Huffingtonpost.com, and it all made sense:

Teddy Roosevelt statue gets evicted from outside Museum of Natural History

In this case, the removal of the statue is not so much because of any nastiness in Teddy Roosevelt’s history but rather because of what the statue depicts…

Equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in NY New York City US

…and from the other side…

Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt" (1940), bronze statue by ...

From the article:

“The statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside,” the museum said in a statement. “Many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist.” 

You know… I can see that. It sure does make Roosevelt look like some kind of “giant” alongside the others.

Again, from the article, even the relatives of Mr. Roosevelt, the Museum itself, and it seems just about everyone else involved are fine with the removal of the statue. Further, there is no implication Mr. Roosevelt himself is being removed because it is somehow distasteful to show him… just to show him in this very questionable mileu, which is more on the artist and the people who commissioned the statue originally.

Whew.

Sometimes its nice to hear how everyone can agree about something without it going nuclear!

Coronavirus Diaries 17: Nothing To See Here

It’s one of the funnier jokes presented in the hilarious The Naked Gun:

The not so funny thing is that the Trump administration seems to have decided that if they can’t figure out the Coronavirus situation, their best strategy is to deny reality and act like its already done and the vaccine is just about here and, as Frank Drebin said above, “there’s nothing to see here.”

If only.

I truly don’t like to wade into politics that much and for the same reason I don’t like discussing religion. If people are perfectly capable of losing their minds over whether or not you like Batman v. Superman, then moving into the realm of religion and politics is just supercharging that nerve.

But, I’ll do so anyway…

At least in politics.

So, yeah, that seems to be the Trump message of late. Don’t worry about Corona. Absurdly, they state the only reason we’re seeing larger amounts of Corona cases is because of testing. If we eliminate testing, then everything will be fine and we won’t see those numbers (huh?!).

They plan to continue their rallies in closed off/indoor stadiums. They encourage people not to bother with masks (Trump himself seems allergic to them, I suppose macho-man thinks it makes him look like a pussy or something) and if/when those rallies come to be, we’re going to have a bunch of folk who feel Covid-19 is “fake news” and I doubt we’ll see too many of them bother with masks.

Which makes the fact that Trump and company are forcing people who do come to his rallies sign a contract which absolves them of getting sick or dying that much more hilarious…

…if it weren’t so fucking sad.

Yeah, I’m surly today.

We’ve got a guy in the White House who gassed peaceful protesters so he could do a stupid photo op in front of a church… where he looked like it was the first time he held a book, much less a bible.

This is a guy who is repeating stupid conspiracy theories about Martin Gugino, the 75 year old man who was pushed by police, and whom the police subsequently lied about what happened to him, claiming -until the video proved otherwise- he “tripped”…

It’s been reported the man suffered a skull fracture, brain damage, and is unable to walk.

But… let’s scream Antifa, amiright?!

Here’s the thing, though: It seems like Trump’s latest moves have exposed him to a very harsh backlash. His approval numbers are going down to historic (for him) lows. Polls in must win states are dropping and in some, he’s losing.

By a lot.

All this while Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, is essentially invisible.

Thing is: why should Biden do more than he is at this point?

The saying goes when your opponent is falling, give them space. Let them do your work for you.

Problem is: The election isn’t today. It’s in November, five months from now. An eternity in politics, surely.

Hopefully, Biden’s “down time” will allow him to sharpen his rhetorical knife and create a more powerhouse public machine to promote his candidacy.

At this point I’m at least cautiously optimistic that perhaps -maybe!- those people who voted for Trump because “what the hell, he’s better than Hillary” (as opposed to those who are still his most rabid fans, who will obviously vote once again for him) are finally waking up to what Trump is really all about.

I doubt very much there are many who did vote for Hillary Clinton who will now back Trump. He’s done nothing at all to make them want to vote for him… indeed, quite the opposite.

But again: November is still a long way away.

And it can’t come quick enough.

Please, don’t do as Trump. Wear your masks. You’re helping yourself, you’re helping others around you.

The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t through. It isn’t over. Magically thinking doesn’t stop it but wearing a mask might just help do so.

Please.

If not for your sake, then for your family members (elderly or not), friends, and co-workers.

Denny O’Neil (1939-2020)

The name may not be that familiar to most people out there, but it can be argued Denny O’Neil -along with artist Neal Adams- were instrumental in making Batman what he is today.

See, back in the 1960’s DC comics were having a somewhat rough time with their superhero books. There were some really good ones out there, don’t get me wrong, but Marvel was commanding readers’ attentions with the iconic work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee. Among their most famous comics you have the building blocks of what we see today in the very successful Marvel movie franchise.

DC, on the other hand, released their most iconic material at the beginning of the age of comics, when they published the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, 1938 (the first actual superhero comic book) and followed that up with Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939).

Superman and Batman -and a little later Robin- dominated the superhero market, though they unleashed a flood of other characters, some of which did spectacularly (Captain Marvel, today known as Shazam!), while others didn’t do as well.

By the 1950’s, however, the books developed a certain pattern and when you got to the 1960’s, Batman in particular seemed something of a lost character. He passed through some weird phases (including more science fictional stories) but he -and his world- were simply not as fresh as they were a generation before.

The success -and then cancellation- of the purposely campy Batman TV show didn’t do the comics many favors afterwards and the character continued to float along, selling issues but never really seeming to do better than tread water.

Then along came Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams and the iconic issue #395 (1970) of Detective Comics, featuring the story The Secret of the Waiting Graves.

Detective Comics (1937-2011) #395 - DC Entertainment

In one fell swoop, Mr. O’Neil and Adams returned Batman to his darker roots in a story that also had more than a hint of the supernatural. It was a sober, serious story.

It was absolutely fantastic.

Mr. O’Neil -often with Mr. Adams- would continue writing Batman in his own unique -excellent!- style, bringing him into the then present as a force to be reckoned, a dark, mysterious being who scared the crap out of villains yet was very much human and decent at his core. The two would come together again to take on the Joker and also bring him to his roots as a homicidal psychopath in the absolute classic Batman #251 (1973)…

Batman (1940-2011) #251 - Comics by comiXology

But not only did Mr. O’Neil revive Batman, his cohorts, and his villains, he would also go on to create an incredible new nemesis in Ra’s Al Gul and his lovely -and deadly- daughter Talia… characters who would be prominently featured in two of Christopher Nolan’s trio of Batman films…

Batman (1940-2011) #232: Facsimile Edition (2019) - Comics by ...

Had his work on Batman been the only thing Denny O’Neil did as a writer, his iconic status within the field would have been assured.

But he did so much more. Again with artist Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil would write the incredible Green Arrow/Green Lantern series, which dealt with social ills in an adult manner and pushed the envelope of what comic books could focus on. Their run featured what is arguably one of the most famous sequences in comic book history, where the character of Green Lantern runs into the notion of racism …

Green Lantern No. 76 Was the Moment Superheroes Got Woke

While their run, unfortunately, wasn’t a big seller, the issues have become legendary for not only dealing with issues of racism but also political corruption, cultural fraying, and drug use…

Green Lantern Green Arrow #85 Facsimile Edition |

Indeed, it could be argued these books were the first “serious” comic books, and one imagines they must have been a big influence on the likes of Alan Moore (Watchmen) years later.

Mr. O’Neil continued working within comics and expanded into TV, scripting TV shows featuring Batman, as well as others.

He would move to Marvel Comics after his stint at DC and is credited, during that time, with being the person who named the Transformer’s Optimus Prime. He also wrote and edited many books during that time, from Daredevil to Iron Man.

In the late 1980’s he would return to DC and edit various Batman titles and began, in 1987, a lengthy run on The Question, another high water mark in his writing career…

Question TPB (2007-2010 DC) By Denny O'Neil comic books

He continued to work in comics and, sadly, yesterday the news came out that at the age of 81 Mr. O’Neil passed away.

He led a long, incredibly productive life and is one of the authors, along with the recently passed Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, I recognized by name when I was very young and really getting into comic books.

A part of me is obviously very sad at his passing, yet another part of me celebrates the fact that he was around as long as he was and that he was able to do as many great works as he did.

2020 has been a hell of a year -mostly bad- and the loss of Mr. O’Neil certainly doesn’t make things any better.

On the other hand, its given people the opportunity to look back at one of the icons of the so-called “Bronze Age” of comics, a man who left an indelible mark on the comic book world.

Rest in Peace, Mr. O’Neil.

You did more than good.

Dawn of Change… Stone Mountain

The death of George Floyd has ignited something both in this country and throughout the world:

People are galvanized not just against police brutality but a cold focus is being placed on systemic racism throughout society, whether it be subtle or only too obvious.

I think I wrote about this before so excuse me if I’m repeating myself: I’ve lived in many places throughout my life. My early years were spent in four different countries, the longest sustained time of which was spent in South America -Venezuela to be precise- before permanently moving to the United States.

My first semi-permanent “home” was in a High School, specifically a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. When I got there, there were plenty of new and interesting things for me to experience, but one of the stranger ones proved to be sightings here and there of the Confederate flag.

You might see someone with a T-Shirt or baseball cap with the Confederate flag on it or perhaps a passing car -often pickup trucks- would sport such flags on their rear windows or perhaps emblazoned on their door or, the smallest example I can think of, it might be a bumper sticker.

While it might have been a relatively small number of people, there was a definite Confederate flag culture, if one could call it that, back then. Please note: We are talking about Jacksonville as I experienced it nearly (*gasp*) forty years ago and my most recent visits, the last one I did not even two months ago, show the place to have changed quite a bit. I don’t see what I saw back then and, in that respect, the city has certainly matured.

Yet those memories persist and I distinctly recall when I first got to the city being bewildered by the sight of any Confederate flag.

Why?

Because up to that point though I had been raised in “American” schools (there was one!) in Venezuela, the history books I read and what I was taught tended to be pretty straight-forward regarding the Civil War rather than being suffused with revisionism and/or the glow of nostalgia or something far more sinister.

When studying the Civil War, the history was simple: The North wanted to get rid of slavery while the South wanted to keep their slaves.

However one tries to cut it, this is what that war ultimately was about and when looked at that way, there is simply no “kind” way of looking at those who fought for the South and what they hoped to achieve.

For what they sought was a continuation of the cruelty of slavery, no matter how one tries to frame it now.

Over at CNN.com, George Shepherd offers a fascinating opinion piece regarding the various Civil War monuments and one in particular, that found at Stone Mountain in Georgia…

Stone Mountain and other monuments to the Confederacy should be wiped clean

Mr. Shepherd, far better than I, provides a history of these various monuments/statues to the Confederacy and the dark reality of what they represented: A visual reminder to African Americans -and any others- that though the Civil War was lost by the Confederacy, the defenders of that cause are still very much around.

Or, as Mr. Shepherd puts it:

Like so many Confederate monuments, the carvings on Stone Mountain were not an innocent artifact of Civil War history. Instead, they were a middle finger both to African Americans and to the federal government that was trying to end discrimination.

If you’ve been to Stone Mountain -I have- there is no denying seeing those massive sculptures is an incredible sight.

But there is also absolutely no denying the subject matter, General Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis represents exactly what Mr. Shepherd noted above.

Considering what the Confederacy was fighting for, it is difficult to argue that statues and monuments to that cause should remain. We do not see statues or monuments dedicated to Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler. We see no monuments dedicated to Benito Mussolini.

Indeed, any building or park that once displayed material identifiable to these individuals in Germany or Italy or Russia has been stripped. In Germany, whatever monuments you see are dedicated to the victims of these people, not to the people who inflicted their cruel harm.

So it should be, Mr. Shepherd concludes, with the case of the Confederate monuments and statues. Instead of honoring those who fought to keep the brutal institution of slavery, we should instead have monuments dedicated to the victims of that heinous institution.

As Mr. Shepherd so eloquently concludes:

African Americans should not have to encounter each day the equivalent of state-endorsed swastikas. Museums should be established not to explain the Stone Mountain carvings and other Confederate memorials, but instead to explain the scar on Stone Mountain that will exist after the images of the white-supremacist leaders are blasted away. Like the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., an apt memorial for the Confederacy is a scar, not an heroic statue. True healing will begin only when the pressure of racist monuments is removed from African Americans’ necks.

POST SCRIPT:

Just as I was posting this, the following news appeared online.

The article is by Steve Almasy and is presented on CNN. The headline tells all:

NASCAR bans Confederate flags

Rather incredible -and welcome, IMHO!- turn of events.

Coronavirus Diaries 16: How Are We Doing?

Seems like a very long time since normalcy.

In the past week plus we’ve had the death of George Floyd which has touched a very raw nerve, leading to major protests and, hopefully, a re-examination of the way we police ourselves.

Lost, it seems, in all this furor was what led the police to be called on Mr. Floyd: My understanding is that he was at a store and tried to pay for items with a false $20 bill.

The man lost his life for $20, something so hard to get into your head that even the store that called the police on him have stated they wouldn’t have called had they know the over-reaction (to put it bluntly) it would have caused and have sworn off calling the police for any minor matters like this.

Its incredible, nonetheless, that someone lost his life for a measly $20.

While it is certainly possible the man knowingly tried to pass off the phony bill, its just as possible he received it in a transaction beforehand and innocently tried to use it.

I’ve worked in places where we have received phony bills. Hell, I recall one person tried to pass off a $100 bill that was actually -believe it or not- a $1 bill which was bleached clean and then the $100 pictures were pasted on it. Thus, the bill would, if the clerk checked, come out as “real” even if the value of it was phony.

Other times, the person who tried to pass it to us was -we thought- genuinely shocked to see the bill wasn’t real.

And there have also been times where I’ve gone to make a deposit in the bank and found that among the bills we had for the business, there was one -usually a high value bill- that was phony.

The bank didn’t call the police on us and we lost the money and time spent writing where we likely collected the bill and, if we could recall who gave it to us. Understand, this doesn’t happen every week but in some 30 years of business I’d say its happened at least two dozen times. Not bad, I suppose, for the length of time, but it happens and it sucks and I wish people wouldn’t do it but to lose your life for $20?

No.

Moving along, we are also seeing some weird reactions.

“President” Donald Trump has been consistently doing the wrong thing, it seems, but its almost like we expect it from him now, so inept is his administration and he in particular.

It is disheartening to see looters setting fire to stores and robbing all items within, but it appears these provocateurs were a small number and, as time goes on, it appears they are being frozen out of the major protests which are -again it appears from watching the many news stories/perusing the internet- being led by people who don’t want these characters around them.

It is also disheartening to see some of the Police Officers and their overreactions, another number I fervently hope is very small when compared to the total number of people in the force.

Granted, no one wants to stand at the front lines and have people yell and curse -or worse- at them but some of the images we’ve seen, of officers abusing protesters who clearly weren’t doing anything that merited their overreaction, has been chilling. No one wants to see images of people bleeding or the aftermath of being hit with a rubber bullet and having their eye explode in its socket.

What has been heartening, however, is seeing the police officers who have shown empathy to those protesting or have maintained order without going crazy.

Yeah, I feel like there are more of them.

Reforms will come, I’m confident, because this time around we’re seeing almost everything filmed and no longer can a “bad apple” try to lie their way out of something ghastly they did.

Louis Brandeis is credited with writing sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants and, while he wasn’t necessarily writing about social movements, it applies.

Which brings us to the next thing, and its another depressing one: While one appreciates the peaceful protests and the changes they seek, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and I can’t help but think that in the next few weeks we are going to see a significant rise in people infected with Covid 19.

Perhaps the numbers won’t be so bad but I worry.

I really do.

We’re still in the middle of it, sadly, and the end doesn’t look to be in sight.

Yet.

That day will come.

Soon, I hope.

Across 110th Street (1972) A (Very) Belated Review

The history of cinema is littered with films that have done extremely well and in time been forgotten. Or, conversely, did poorly upon their initial release only to be re-evaluated over time and are now considered classics. There’s a swath that did mediocre/poor business and are justifiably -or not- forgotten today, just as there are those that were smashes upon their initial release and are viewed as classics to this day.

Then there are those films that are by and large forgotten today but deserve to be remembered.

Having just seen Across 110th Street, the 1972 feature starring Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, and Anthony Franciosa, I feel this is a film that deserves to be re-discovered by audiences today.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Way back in the stone age of the later half of the 1970’s, my family had a (gasp) betamax machine. Don’t remember the old betamax tapes? Here you go…

Wait, Why Was Sony Still Creating New Betamax Tapes? - CINEMABLEND

These tapes were smaller than VHS tapes, which came a little later, and were a video technology that VHS supplanted.

But in those days and while we were living in South America, families that hailed from the U.S. and were living there would trade betamax tapes among each other. These families would tape TV shows or movies or whatever they could find and bring them to South America and, over time, we’d get a hold of copies of copies (or original copies!). It was a way to entertain ourselves and see things that were in English versus the television shows/channels there which were all in Spanish.

Back then I very distinctly recall we had a copy of Across 110th Street but I never bothered (for whatever reason) to see the film.

So when it showed up on TCM and with memories of having -but not watching the film- waaaaaaay back then in my mind, I decided to record it (using the newfangled betamax of today, the DVR!) and, a couple of days ago, sat down and watched it.

Wow.

First though: I’m kinda glad I didn’t see the film way back when I originally could have, assuming the copy we had was the uncut/theatrical version of the film. I suspect it was, but its also possible it was recorded off TV and might have been a cut up version of the film. Having said that, considering much of what happens in the film, I can’t even begin to imagine a “TV” version of Across 110th Street.

Had I seen this film back then, when I was perhaps between 10-13 years old, it would have certainly done a number on me!

This film is very much an adult feature, a movie that takes a cold eye on Harlem of the early 1970’s and of the mob and crime and police corruption and decaying neighborhoods and hopelessness (for the most part African American) citizens bear… and presents it all in an unflinching -though at times pulpy- manner.

It is the pulp elements that keep the movie from being, say, another French Connection but I’d argue the film is damn close to that work and -this is high praise indeed!- it even predates some of the earlier works of Martin Scorcese.

The movie’s plot goes like this: A small group of Italian mobsters get together with some African American hoods to count out their take for the past week or perhaps month. The source of the dough is never spelled out, but one can imagine its for drugs or prostitution or gambling or “protection” or maybe all the above… and more!

While counting the dough, a car parks beside the building they’re in and two African Americans in police uniforms exit the vehicle while the wheelman remains in the car, waiting.

These bogus officers barge into the room where the money is counted intent on robbery. There is a nervous energy and you can tell things are about to go to hell… all that’s needed is a spark.

Then it happens. The suitcase of money falls to the floor and one of the African American hoods reaches for his pistol. He, along with all the other hoods/mobsters in the room are machine gunned down and our two bogus cops/thieves beat it out of there with most of the money.

When they reach their escape vehicle, they are confronted by two real police officers, both of which they kill while making their getaway.

What follows are three stories: The police and their search for the murderous thieves in the form of the young and idealistic Lt. Pope (Yaphet Kotto) and the man he is about to supplant, the veteran, racist, and at times violent -yet paradoxically at times very tender- Captain Matelli (Anthony Quinn).

On the other side you have both the Italian and African American Mob under the cruel overview of Nick D’Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) also searching for the murderers/thieves.

Then you have the murderers/thieves themselves, who are, incredibly enough, presented as three dimensional people whose despair is palpable even if the methods they use to try to rise up from their lowly status are not.

Across 110th Street manages to present almost all the major characters well. We understand Lt. Pope’s indignation with Captain Matelli yet also understand Matelli’s impatience with Pope’s idealism, which at times slows the investigation. Nonetheless, we wonder if maybe when Matelli first joined the force he was not unlike Pope but after a lifetime of service in these means streets, he became the hardened man he currently is. As I mentioned, he’s not all sharp edges: In an early scene we see Matelli vouch for what are clearly a transvestite’s boyfriend and later on he gives, from his own pocket, money to the wife of one of the thieves, even as we learn he takes kickbacks and is not below beating suspects to get confessions. Considering he’s presented as a racist bigot, its interesting he helps out a transvestite -we are talking about 1972 here- and further helps out the widow of the wife of one of the thieves, who had a hand in killing two very real police officers.

Nick D’ Salvio is also a curious character. He’s a relatively young mobster and we infer from the opening minutes that the older Mafia members consider him a foot soldier. They show something of a disdain for him and put him in charge of getting the stolen money because they can’t be bothered to dirty their hands. Perhaps, too, the money isn’t as important to them as making sure those responsible pay dearly for daring to rob from the mob. In his first appearance, he looks nervous and unsure and, later on, overcompensates in trying to look like a fearsome mobster/enforcer.

The more veteran African American mobsters see through his veneer and, while they agree to do his bidding, show considerable disdain for him and even laugh in his face while eventually plotting to do him in.

Then there are the criminals themselves. Their boss, at first presented as a stone cold killer, is revealed to be a man who is desperately poor and cursed with thinking about where he and his girlfriend’s life is going. In one particularly poignant scene, where he justifies his theft/murders, he reminds his girlfriend that she has to frequent the bars where she works constantly dealing with crude propositions. One day, he says, when they get so desperate for money, he fears he will tell her to accept these propositions and sleep for money just so they can get by.

Across 110th Street is violent and foul mouthed and shows us a dog-eat-dog world where no one is an angel and where the mob and the murdering thieves and the police are all tarnished by their environment and the city and aren’t really all that different from each other.

The movie’s title refers to the point where Harlem begins, the “other side of the tracks” so to speak, and the place they are all imprisoned in their own way.

The film moves like lightning and there is virtually no fat to be found, though there does seem to be at least one sequence that was cut. We go from the mob finding the first of the thieves/murderers, beating him, then taking him away to -we assume- really work him over to Pope and Matelli in a ambulance hurrying to the hospital with the severely injured and on the verge of dying thief/murderer. They try in vain to get him to tell them who were the others in on that theft but we never know how it is they got him and got to the ambulance.

It’s a weird, abrupt scene shift and I wonder if maybe they filmed the police finding the man and getting the ambulance to take him but the whole thing might have been too bloody (what the mob did to him is pretty gruesome) in the end to use.

Regardless, Across 110th Street builds as it goes along, the tension increasing as we get to know the characters and feel sympathy for some and growing anger towards others, culminating in a climax involving all three factions along with more violence and death.

If you haven’t seen it, Across 110th Street is very much worth your while, a top notch crime drama that fits in well with some of the better New York-centric crime dramas of that era.

Highly recommended.

POSTSCRIPT: I didn’t mention it but several of the actors, most notably Yaphet Kotto, would go on from this movie to appear in the first Roger Moore James Bond film, Live and Let Die. I saw at least two, maybe three familiar faces among the many characters presented in the film and Mr. Kotto, of course, would be the most familiar as he would play the Bond villain Kananga.

The Blog of E. R. Torre

%d bloggers like this: