Thursday, September 27, 2012

Carice van Houten’s Music CD, A Review

Amsterdam, The Netherlands—In this wonderful city full of the richest art, sights and sounds, is the gifted actress and singer Carice van Houten.  First, I must confess, I love everything this European siren does. 
I first heard van Houten sing in the great Paul Verhoeven film, Black Book (2006).   She was the masterful leading lady of that thrilling film in every respect.  If you’ve not seen it, you must! She swims, sings, dances and acts in three languages.
If you saw the film Valkyrie, van Houten played Nina Von Stauffenberg opposite Tom Cruise.  She also has a role in the successful HBO series Game of Thrones.
This charming lady speaks, sings and acts in Dutch, German and English.  She again caught my attention in a wonderful duet with Kane called, No Surrender. 
Finally van Houten has brought her talent to the recording studio and cut an album titled, See You On The Ice.  The songs are modern and are in English.  This is all new material. 
It’s only a matter of a short time before van Houten catches on in the USA in a big way. 
I got a sneak peek at the CD from van Houten’s promotional efforts and it’s great.
You must check this out on ITunes and other music sources such as  This is great stuff to play in your car while traveling these upcoming fall evenings.

UPDATE:  Carice has tweeted that there is a delay in getting her music up on ITunes in North America until October 2nd. 

Below is the Official Video of Emily contained in the CD.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Barbara Graham was executed in California’s Gas Chamber

Barbara Graham in Court at her 1953 trial
Burbank, CAMabel Monahan a former pro-roller skater who had been disabled but was living out her retirement in a nice Burbank home located at 1718 West Parkside Avenue in Burbank, CA.
30 year-old Barbara Graham was a very pretty but troubled gal who came from Oakland, CA.  Graham was raised in really crappy conditions and often often by strangers.  Her education was somewhat marginal.
Back then being homeless was a crime called Vagrancy.  That was her first offense and Graham was jailed at the Ventura State School for Girls.  Graham’s own mother also once did some time there.   Later Graham also did a prison stretch over a perjury beef while trying to help a friend in trouble.
Back in those days there were no birth control pills and abortion was a serious felony.  Graham unwisely married three men, had a child by each.   
Everyone treated single mothers of that sad era very poorly.  Their job prospects were limited greatly and Graham understandably fell into a life of prostitution, bad checks and the underworld.
Barbara Graham was now 30 years old and married to her third husband, Henry Graham.   He was a drug-addicted bartender who introduced his young wife to his own unsavory friends.  That union was the beginning and end of this tale of despair, deceit and doom. 
We know for sure Mabel Monahan was brutally beaten and suffocated to death. We of course can only guess just how that happened based upon the statements of those involved in the killing.
The killers of Monahan, were named in exchange for full immunity from prosecution by a co-conspirator by the name of John True.   True’s self-serving statements sealed the fate of his friends.  They were Barbara Graham along with Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins.  
The prosecution theory was that Santo, Perkins and Graham targeted Monahan because of rumors she keep lots of cash and jewelry around her home.
True claimed that Graham knocked on the door and when Monahan opened it all four killers forced their way in to the home.  True claimed that Graham bludgeoned Monahan repeatedly in the head with a gun and suffocated her. 
I think it was safe to assume that by implicating Graham is the actual killer that she’d somehow be spared the death penalty.  With luck Perkins and Santo would then be able to mitigate their actions and be spared too. 
Prosecutors did not have particularly strong case against Graham so they enlisted the aid of a slimy jailhouse snitch and an undercover cop. 
They successfully entrapped Graham to put up the cop as a phony alibi witness.  The conversations were surreptitiously recorded and sensationally used against her in the Los Angeles superior Court.  That made getting a conviction much easier.
Graham and her two co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to death.  Appeals in those days went very quick.  Within two years all three exhausted their failed appeals and were executed the same day June 3, 1955 at San Quentin.
Two films were made depicting these events.  Susan Hayward and Lindsey Wagner both played Graham. 
The story was told by a hearing impaired, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Edward Montgomery who did his best to save Graham’s life.  His reports along with their written correspondence became the basis for the screenplay. 
Graham’s horrible life and death was used in a failed attempt to champion anti-death penalty efforts in America.
The death penalty sucks in a big way.  We kill people based on mistaken or perjured eyewitness testimony every day.   The death penalty is a power no government should be able to exercise against its own citizens.
California like many states did not just execute murderers.  Rapists, kidnappers and even horse thieves often faced death upon conviction.  The last convicted rapist put to death in California was Caryl Chessman on May 2, 1960. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

End of Watch, A Crimefile News Film Review

Los Angeles, CA—Where better than in the City of Angels could it be to see a film about LAPD cops?
I have to warn you that this film is very violent and may give sensitive types, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The title says it all.  End of Watch or EOW, is standard police jargon to signify an officer’s sudden death on the job.
The film is gritty and from the point of view of cops armed with various high definition video cameras and well as their sidearms.  Most of the video is shot with handheld cameras rather than using tripods.  It’s like the TV series COPS but on steroids.
This story centers around two young cops in the very busy Southwest Division of the LAPD.  These two lads are just starting families and their spouses are no small part of the film.
This was written and directed by, David Ayer.  The writing, directing, acting and casting are as good as it gets.  You will immediately fall in love with the teriffic smile of actress Anna Kendrick (Janet) as I did.
The two co-leading men are Jake Gyllenhaal (Brian) and Michael Pena (Mike).  The second wife is Gabby is played by Natalie Martinez
When I say the film is violent and often heartbreaking it is indeed.  I don’t care how tired you are you’ll never doze of during this film  
It compacts all of the most violent events of lets say a 15-20 year career in a busy police district just into two hours. 
The cast and crew have captured the personalities and attitudes of real cops and there spouses.   Of course the use of cop’s personal cameras would be frowned upon in a big way, but times and technology are changing at breakneck speed.  Many cops whip out their IPhones these days to capture the some of the amazing images they come across.
My cop friends and readers  will enjoy the film and many will relive similar events of their own careers. 
Anyone applying for a police officer’s position after seeing this film should be carefully examined for obvious mental defect.
Here is a trailer for End of Watch:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

If you're in Chicago, Catch this Great Show!

Chicago, IL—In the Windy City live theater is legendary. Tonight and for the next month theatergoers are in for a treat.  My talented friend, Jack Fry brought his show there.  Take from me this will be a night out to remember.  The show is, They Call Me Mr. Fry.  It's playing for the next four weekends at Stage 773 on Belmont Ave.
Jack Fry is a real Los Angeles, inner-city, substitute, fifth grade school teacher.  This is about his first year in what would best be described as somewhat of a combat zone.  In fact the teachers get paid extra for the challenges there.
What Jack Fry does in his production is relive the culture shock, fears, hopes, and dreams along with the lives involved in his teaching experience for the audience.
Fry delivers a commanding performance as he takes you through school district’s bureaucratic political correctness gone bonkers.   Fry enters a world of gangs, violence, neglect, heartbreak and poverty to capture the attention of his students, long enough to teach them. 
Fry’s show has a similar theme to that touching 60’s film with Sidney Poitier, To Sir With Love.  The difference it’s Fry that becomes all of the characters in his story.  The laughter, anger, tears and joy are amazingly similar between these two theatrical works.
Fry is the natural target of everyone’s wrath, punishment and surprises.  Fry teaches these difficult children, but it’s Fry who learns the most important lessons.
Fry realizes a shocking discovery that he spends more time with some of the children and knows them better than their own parents.
If I have a gripe about teachers is that so many of them duck, run and simply mark time until they retire.  They are not inspired and have no ability to inspire anyone else.
Teachers must be first class showmen and women.  How else can you keep the attention of students long enough to transfer that all-important educational information?
I challenge anyone to name more than a handful of teachers that were ever inspiring to him or her.  I personally view the American teaching profession as mired in a world of seniority, tenure, unions and abject mediocrity.
Fry’s students are indeed lucky because he’s a born showman.  He has a charismatic gift to hold his student’s attention to pass on the information they desperately need to break the chains of poverty.
This show is a, must see for parents, teachers, and politicians everywhere.
When you go wait after the show and meet Jack and be sure to tell him I said hello. 
Here is a trailer to enjoy:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Video Vigilantes and The Romney Campaign, a Sign of the Times

Los Angeles, CA—Back when the mainstream media had money the sensational hidden camera story was all the rage.  Ambiguous privacy laws, deep pockets and lawyers changed the game, at least for well-healed broadcasters.
The days of big broadcasters using hidden cameras has ended because of the omnipresent specter of expensive litigation.
The landmark case that changed everything was in 1992 when ABC News, PrimeTime Live did a revealing hidden video exposé of the Food Lion supermarket chain’s really disgusting meat marketing deeds.
Food Lion was selling outdated meat to unsuspecting shoppers.  ABC claimed the practice was a health hazard but allowed six months to pass before airing their story for the industry sweeps time.  I guess it wasn’t that serious of a health threat after all.
It’s a safe bet that Food Lion would never have let ABC News come unannounced in with cameras, inspectors and reporters to show the public what they were actually buying.  ABC News understood that and went in another more sensational direction.  
ABC resorted to a clandestine route of deception, concealment and, of course the sneakycam.  They infiltrated Food Lion with reporters, spooks and spies to gather news and make history.
The truth is always a defense against libel.  Cameras seldom lie and wining a libel award over a hidden camera piece would be unprecedented. 
As it turned out this was not about libel or for that matter the truth.  Instead it was about trespass, deceptive acts and invasion of privacy.
Food Lion went to their lawyers who sued ABC and obtained a $5.5 Million jury verdict.
How does this impact today’s citizen journalist, blogger or the opportunist that uses a concealed IPhone or similar device to capture what might turn out to be a regrettable conversation or performance?
ABC News had really deep pockets, insurance and assets that Food Lion’s lawyers were confident in seizing.  Had some small group of video vigilantes done the same thing, the lawyers would have had zero interest in pursuing Food Lion’s claims. 
I’m not saying that Food Lion or anyone could not sue a citizen journalist, it just would be burdensome and a giant time waster.  If they did prevail no jury would return such a large verdict against some vigilante with a camera.
Collecting even tiny judgments against ordinary folks can be very challenging or even impossible. 
There are however laws in various states, about gathering audio or video that can be quite draconian and punitive.  Citizen journalists must be very careful not to wind up charged with wiretapping type crimes.
The hidden camera investigations are again making headlines.  
The Mitt Romney Campaign my have picked up several million new votes from his apparently candid remarks.  Most Conservative voters could find little difference between Obama and Romney.  Now they may take a chance in voting for a Liberal Republican.  The effort to cripple the Romney campaign may have backfired!