Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ebert Gives Hopkins' Demon Priest Three-Star Review

The Rite

BY ROGER EBERT / January 26, 2011

"The Rite" takes exorcism more seriously than I expected it to. It begins with the supposition that Satan is “alive and active in the world” and assumes that satanic possession takes place and that the rite of exorcism works. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a movie, would we? In metaphysical terms, I must immediately jump on the word “alive.” In what sense can a being that exists outside of time and space be said to be alive? Active, yes.
The movie is based on the actual experiences of Father Gary Thomas, a California priest who was assigned by his bishop to study exorcism at the Vatican. In "The Rite," he becomes Father Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) from Chicago, and the closing credits tell us he's now working in a Western suburb. That's a fib. The director, Mikael Hafstrom, should say three “Hail Marys” and make a good act of contrition.
Continue reading Ebert's three-star review

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Richard II, Act 3, scene ii, by William Shakespeare

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greg Scarpa: Mob Informer Who Played Key Role in Historical Civil Rights Case

Readers of this blog know that the Mafia is of major interest to me. I enjoy bringing to light interesting mobsters who did unbelievable things but who are not widely known about. The mob didn't end when John Gotti went to prison.

This post concerns Gregory Scarpa, Sr. (May 8, 1928 – June 4, 1994), who was a fiercely loyal capo in the Colombo crime family with cojones the size of coconuts. Known as "The Grim Reaper," for decades, especially from the1970s through early 1990s, Scarpa was Colombo boss Carmine Persico's chief enforcer, doling out the proverbial dirt nap to whoever defied the administration before dying of AIDS, contracted from a crew member during a blood transfusion.

In my post about junior hitman John Pappa, who also fought in the war on the same side as Scarpa, I wrote he'd be a great subject for a book or film; Scarpa would be an even better one.

Grim Reaper/informer Scarpa
shows off the fashion of the day.
That's because Scarpa, a mobster's mobster, was actually an informant for the FBI nearly the entire time he was in the mob; during his tenure working for the Feds he played a pivotal role in solving the 1960s murders of civil rights workers down in Mississippi.

From a entry: According to [long-time lover] Linda Schiro and other sources, in the summer of 1964, "FBI field agents in Mississippi recruited Scarpa tohelp them find missing civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, and Michael Schwerner. The FBI was convinced the three men were dead, but were unable to find their graves. The agents thought that Scarpa, using illegal interrogation techniques not available to agents, might succeed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

MTV Hits 'Jersey Shore' Again

Sammi, the Jersey Shore roommate whom everyone
loves to hate--excepting of course, Ronnie, her man.
OK, I admit it. I watch Jersey Shore. It reminds me of those carefree days of my youth, back when a career was the furthest thing from my mind (though I was always a writer, since I was maybe 12. I'd pound away on my father's old typewriter, a metal Remington that weighed a ton, and I know I finished one novel, though it was probably only 100 pages long. And it was about gangsters! I wish I had a copy of it, I'd love to read it. Hopefully I'd see that my writing ability had improved somewhat in the 31 years since. [We had just gotten HBO at the time, this was 1980, and I had been heavily influenced by The Godfather film, which HBO was playing like crazy at the time. The Deer HunterEscape From Alcatraz and Jaws 2 also were getting a lot of play around the same time -- that was the ultimate summer for a movie nut who just got HBO!] I also wrote horror, as a young writer named Stephen King had also grabbed my attention, and I had always been a horror fan, perhaps due to watching Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? as a young child?)

Back to the Shore. "The Jersey Shore is a term used to refer to both the Atlantic coast of New Jersey and the adjacent resort and residential communities," according to According to MTV, it is something else. I add this for those of you who have never watched the show -- and who haven't clicked the link in the first line.

(Bret Easton Ellis has an essay in the January Playboy, as noted here, which I plan to write about; his review is more about The Hills than the Jersey Shore; I think he snorted too many chemicals and forgot what he was writing about. I do love some of his novels, and I thought the film of The Informers wasn't half bad, though the baby producers cut from the film some graphic stuff that was in the book.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Noted Author of the Dark Side Philip Carlo Dead

Philip Carlo, whom I criticized as well as hyped in one of my posts, "Philip Carlo and the Quacking Duck," is dead. This came as a complete surprise to me; I just saw him, for the first time, on an episode of Mobsters about Anthony Gaspipe Casso, the subject of his book "Gaspipe," which I used as the jumping off point for my post, in which I called out some obvious mistakes in Mafia history made by Carlo. He died on Nov. 8, 2010, never to see the publication of his last book, "The Killer Within," which is ironically being released today, Jan. 6, 2011. (Here is an excellent interview with Carlo, on

However I still recommend his books, especially "Gaspipe," because there is a fascinating intimacy in his work due to his relationship with organized crime figures in the New York Mafia (his wife is the daughter of slain Eddie Garofalo, who was murdered by Sammy Bull Gravano); additionally, Carlo and his family had been close friends with Casso.

I would like to rerun Carlo's obituary here, from the New York Times, then follow up with some of my own commentary, including Tony Danza's embarrassing outburst at the funeral:

Philip Carlo, 61;Wrote About Crime Figures
Philip Carlo, who produced novels and nonfiction accounts of serial killers and hit men before writing about his own struggles with disease, died on Nov. 8 in Manhattan. He was 61.
The cause was a combination of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and cancer, said his wife, Laura Garofalo-Carlo.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

John Pappa—Life Behind Bars For A Job Well Done

UPDATED: There are a million stories in the naked city, and in the mob, too.
Take the case of John Pappa—books and films could be made about this guy, and perhaps one day will.
In May 1999 John Pappa was convicted of racketeering, drug dealing and four murders, including the 12th and final killing of the Colombo family war, which took three years to run its bloody course.
The Colombos have probably had more wars than any other family in the Mafia—they have also produced some of the most legendary “gangstars” of our age, including Greg Scarpa and Wild Bill Cutolo.
John Pappa, looking as innocent
as a puppy dog.
Pappa was arrested during a wedding rehearsal in 1997. That’s how it is done: you put a bullet in his head, then hug and kiss his mother at the funeral, and maybe you are invited to join the victim’s brother’s bridal party.
An excited team of cops and FBI agents nabbed the mobster at a church on Staten Island.
Pappa, 22 at the time, was chased into St. Ann's Church as members of the wedding party looked on in terror and screamed.
The police came charging into the church; Pappa was carrying—given his lifestyle, he was probably always carrying. On this occasion he had a 9mm.
But God was in Staten Island that day, and Pappa dropped the gun and raised his hands without anyone else dying because of him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Department of 'Tell Us Something We Don't Know': The Inspiration for The Godfather Was Not 'Lucky' Luciano -- DUH!

UPDATED: Small World News Service is running a review of a book about Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, "Lucky Luciano: Mafia Murderer and Secret Agent," by Tim Newark (though the title seems to have been changed to "Lucky Luciano: The Real and the Fake Gangster," which at least sounds less silly than the first title, though it is still pretty damn silly nevertheless).

The book describes him as being "heralded ... as the model for legendary mafia boss Don Vito Corleone," from The Godfather, novel by Mario Puzo, and the film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, screenplay by both men [as well as the screenplays for the two sequels].

"He was widely credited for running New York’s notorious underworld, and linked to multimillion dollar extortion rackets, revenge beatings and gangland murders," the review adds, quoting the book or a release about the book.

"But according to new research, his ‘legend’ was largely false and was fabricated by the U.S. Government to justify the expense and manpower of tracking him down." And, heaven's to Betsy, he wasn't the inspiration for Don Vito Corleone.

First off, who ever said Luciano was the model for The Godfather? He was certainly not. I have heard that Vito Genovese was often considered to be the basis for the character, or that Don Vito, which Marlon Brando breathed such incredible life into with his spectacular award-winning performance, was based on a composite of several underworld characters.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Latest News for the "99ers"

At least they are not forgotten, and someone is fighting the good fight, uphill struggle though it is -- from an article a couple of days ago on The Richmond Times-Dispatch:


A month ago, Delta Airlines announced it was hiring 1,000 new flight attendants. The job can be difficult, and the pay isn't great. Nevertheless, more than 100,000 people applied. Sadly, we've seen this story repeated across the country. Americans are desperate for work.

Though the economy is getting better, out-of-work Americans face the most difficult job market of their lifetimes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 4.4 unemployed people for every job opening in America today. Add in those who are working part-time but want full-time work, and the number exceeds seven unemployed or underemployed Americans per unfilled job.

"Yet some would turn their backs on their fellow Americans ... conservative talking heads call unemployed people lazy, and oppose these much-needed benefits while working to ensure the rich get richer through more tax cuts."

These stories and statistics show why unemployment insurance — now more than ever — is so important. The tax compromise President Obama recently negotiated with Republicans extended unemployment benefits for many people. But it didn't help the long-term unemployed, people who have exhausted their available weeks of state and federal unemployment benefits, equaling 99 weeks in roughly half of all states. That is why we recently introduced a bill to help these "99ers" and others who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, by adding another 14 weeks of benefits they can receive. This extension won't solve everything, but it will provide them vital extra time to find work as the economy slowly improves.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Was Up With Hitler's Mustache?

I could never understand it. Why did he wear it? It looked so ridiculous!

I am talking about Adolf Hitler and that toothbrush mustache he wore most of his life. During WWI we see pictures of him wearing the rich, luxurious handlebar that most other German soldiers also wore, but when he showed up in a suit ready to tackle politics he had trimmed the thing down. Well, now I know, and it makes perfect sense: Hitler and other WWI German soldiers had to trim their flowing mustaches to facilitate the wearing of gas masks; it makes sense that Hitler would wear it from then on, despite the changing styles and jibes from friends who dared to jibe him. His WWI experience was so important to him, it defined who he was and why he did what he did.

From Wikipedia a bit more background on that mustache: The Toothbrush moustache (also called Hitler moustache or Hitlerstache, Charlie Chaplin moustache, 1/3 moustache, philtrum moustache,the postage stamp, or soul (mou)stache) is a moustache, shaved at the edges, except for three to five centimetres above the centre of the lip. The sides of the moustache are vertical rather than tapered. The moustache became popular during the 1920s as a response by working-class men to the flamboyant, flowing Kaiser-style moustaches of the upper classes.[1] It was also quite popular among German soldiers during both World Wars.