Arts, Beliefs, Film, Music

The Beatles Changed More Than Music

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Just when you think you knew everything about The Beatles…

Did you know that the first time they played Shea Stadium in 1965, and heard that the audience would be segregated, (whites in one section, blacks in another) they said they would not play the show. There was no segregation at shows in England and “we play to people” which means everybody.

There was no segregation at the show.

Whoopi Goldberg was Beatle-crazed kid who knew her family couldn’t afford to go to the show. But her mother surprised her with tickets as they got off the train at Shea Stadium.




Beliefs, Books, Film, Meta Stuff, Television

Do Your Beliefs Define You?

No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, brought up a new idea when she asked him, “What is belief?” He answered, “Identity.”

I’ve spent my life sifting through various religions and philosophies in search of what I truly believe. From the time I was introduced to the Catholic Church, I’ve been trying to determine what is real for me. It didn’t do me much good to sit through a mass delivered in Latin if I didn’t understand the language. My high school didn’t even teach Latin. I only knew a deity that demanded obedience or else. No matter how well behaved I was I didn’t experience enlightenment.

I was born on Native American soil while being of European lineage. I got in trouble if I asked the priests or nuns about the differences in belief systems. Who was right? Like most people, I was in search of “the truth.”

If belief is identity, I didn’t know who I was for most of my life. I know now (or think I do), but what if you don’t? Are you void of identity if you don’t know what you really believe? I don’t think so. You just don’t know how to define it with clarity. Doesn’t mean that you don’t know your own mind.

When you ask a Jewish person “who” or “what” they are, they will generally respond with their religion instead of a nationality. “I’m a Jew.” I’m not sure any other group of people does this with as much conviction. Ask an Irishman the same question and he will identify regionally. I’ve always been a blend of several varieties like table wine. I’m not comfortable with labeling my belief system as any one thing. If I had to, I’d call it Open. Open to all systems of belief, understanding that even through our differences we share common ground.

There’s the old “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” line. But being spiritual is not the same as believing in a deity. In my view, I am a spirit living in a human body. Being human is the perspective from which I view the world. As much as I can identify with other species, I am human and cannot view life from any other perspective. Just as the humans who penned all the religious texts on the planet. They identified their beliefs in human terminology, including their gods. Does this perspective define me? Of course it does. What I believe about everything defines me: business, politics, art, morality, etc. Stir all those things into a pot and you have a souffle as unique as the human who made it.

At last week’s RiverRun Film Festival, the film Heavenly Nomadic told the story of a dying culture of horse people who, when the leader of the clan died, killed his horse to go with him to the next life. Talk about a defining belief system. Indigenous people honor elements in nature, especially animals.

I adored this film by the way.

I envy Aslan’s ability to clearly articulate my own understanding. If you are as fascinated by belief systems and other world views as I am, check out his books as well as the series Oprah Winfrey produced last year called Belief, and Morgan Freeman’s current series running on the National Geographic channel, The Story of God.

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Arts, Books, Film

Should Unfinished Works by Deceased Artists be Completed?

In the wake of the passing of the legendary writer Jim Harrison I ask: Should his unfinished works be completed by another writer? Or be released unfinished?

Jim Harrison in February 2008.  Jim Harrison

I lost a fellow writer in my circle who’d left several unfinished works behind. Family members made mention of finishing them and seeking publication. To my knowledge, nothing came of this. And I wasn’t sure how I would have felt about seeing his work altered or added to by someone else. Would it still be his?

I saw a television piece on Unfinished Works by authors Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, and Jane Austen. When passersby were polled, they responded that they’d rather have the unfinished piece of work than seeing it completed by someone other than the original artist. And I agree.


   Charles Dickens


Ian Fleming

Jane Austen

This is not to be confused with the co-writing of mainstream authors with others such as James Patterson and Janet Evanovich. Those authors are hands-on, with final say over the finished works. That is also not the same as when a copyright expires and the work becomes public domain. Ian Fleming’s James Bond continues to live through the pens of other authors, but they must meet the strict requirements of the agent of Fleming’s estate to maintain the integrity of the character.

Did you know that the face of George Washington on U.S. One Dollar note was an unfinished work?

But I think the important portion was already completed by the artist. It wouldn’t matter if someone else filled in the coat and backdrop.

I think unfinished work should remain that way if the artist has left the building. I wouldn’t want anyone finishing mine.


For more on Jim Harrison:



W.T.F. – Smarter than Silly

You never know what you’ll get with a Tina Fey film. Could be risky. It might be too silly or raunchy to be worth the time. So, I saw this hoping it wouldn’t take a wrong turn, and was pleasantly surprised. They kept it straight by surrounding Fey’s Clueless Kim with smarter characters in-the-know.

Kim has no experience as a field journalist when she’s pressured into an assignment in Afghanistan. Off the plane, she’s as lost as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, and I worried that a couple of her bone-headed moves might send the plot down Cheap Laugh Lane. It did not. After a rocky start, Kim learns fast with a lot of help from a sympathetic General (Billy Bob Thornton), a local fixer/translator who protects her from her American ignorance, and a couple of fellow reporters (Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie) who have become addicted to the adrenaline-filled lifestyle.

Kim adopts a “When in Rome” attitude to fit into the booze-soaked nightly ritual of her peers.  Even though a situation or two wouldn’t have occurred in real life, Kim manages to wise up and earn a little respect out of sheer tenacity, proving that a woman can step out of her comfort zone and survive in spite of being dealt a lousy hand.

I love when a film exceeds my expectations. This is one of Fey’s better performances and worth a look.


Arts, Film

My Bologna has a first name. It’s Oscar.

Remember that commercial with the little boy sang with his bologna sandwich? (Maybe not if you were born after the 70’s.) But that thirty-second spot was so much more fun than the Academy Award show last night. And yes, his bologna was between two slices of white bread.

Celebrities have used the Oscar stage for their political platform as long as the show has been televised. Who wouldn’t with such a large captive audience? So it was no surprise that Chris Rock’s theme for the night was black actors getting the shaft. I just didn’t think it was necessary to poke the world in the eye with it the entire show. That’s preaching to the choir.

I’m not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Therefore, I can’t nominate anyone for an Academy Award. Nor can most of the viewing audience.

My morning paper praised Rock’s ranting. Was I the only one that got bored? I certainly didn’t find it entertaining. And, had I been one of the nominees, I would have felt embarrassed for my lack of skin tone.

I agree with equality in all things. Race, gender, religion, politics, sexual orientation, you name it. I’m down for equality for all. But if someone isn’t nominated for an award, does that always mean it was for a biased reason other than that particular role might not have been worthy of a nomination?

And there was no mention that at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, every black actor nominated won their category. Did that mean they won because of their brilliant performance, or because of their skin tone?

Is it any wonder the rest of the world views Americans as rich, spoiled, and now, racist?

Plenty of actors have been nominated several times for great roles and never won an Oscar.  Great actors like Peter O’Toole, Glenn Close, Ed Harris, Albert Finney . . . Wait! All white and still lost.

I adore film and television, and all the creativity and work that goes into making them. At one time the theater was my church where I worshipped the gods of visual art.  I still live to experience all kinds of diversity in settings around the globe that I’ll never get to see in person. I want to see, feel, and hear how other groups of people think and respond to all kinds of circumstances. I want the “me too” moments, and the “I can’t imagine” thoughts.

What I don’t care about anymore is all the pomp and pageantry of award shows. I mean, pre-show emcees were all a-Twitter about Rock’s use of a rainbow pen in rewriting his monologue. Really?

I don’t care who shows up with whom, who or what they are wearing, or who Oscar says is the best. It’s all bologna. I’ll wager that no Syrian refugee, homeless Haitian, or Greek grocer lost sleep over not being represented at the Oscar’s last night. My guess is that they would have preferred bologna, too.

Beliefs, Film

The Press vs. The Catholic Church


The film Spotlight follows the story of The Boston Globe investigation that verified and published an unthinkable systemic child abuse cover-up by The Catholic Church in 2002. This blow came to Boston just months after the dust of 9/11 settled on New York.

The film was not easy to sit through. Having been raised Catholic, stories of misconduct in the church had many of us leaving the organization, but not the actual faith. The Catholic Church has changed a lot in the time I’ve been alive, yet it clings tightly to its rules – that seemed to go overlooked in regards to its priests.

But thank God for men like Mitchel Garabedian, played by Stanley Tucci, an abuse lawyer who, to this day, defends victims like a pit bull. Garabedian didn’t take time to marry “because the work is too important.” He doesn’t wear a collar, but took an oath to uphold the law, and seems to be the only man any abused child in Boston can trust.  In the film, he admitted to remaining Catholic even after all he’d witnessed – Catholic by faith, not by association with the institution of men. To paraphrase one quote in the film, “If it takes a village to raise a child, you can be sure it takes a village to fail a child.”

Think what you will about lawyers, but the world needs more like him. I fell in love with his principles. To know that there are real people like him fighting for the rights of the victims restores some of my faith in men.

It’s important to note that the Spotlight team verified nearly 6% of Catholic priests in the Boston diocese alone had been moved due to abuse accusations. That still leaves 94% of them to be, hopefully, good vow-keeping men who honorably go above and beyond to serve their community.

But that statistic can’t be of consequence to victims.

One victim described that when a servant of God is the abuser, he not only destroys the innocence and self-worth of his victims but their faith in anything.  Because if “God” is hurting them, who is left to turn to?  Abuse breaks any spiritual foundation they had.

Men fail at being human every minute of every day. Catholics believe that if they are truly remorseful and repentant, God will forgive them. But does God forgive repeated offenses? And for men who act as His representatives? I think He’s got some restructuring of “the organization” to do.