Saturday, December 24, 2022

Book Reviews: Gangland

by Chuck Hogan
Historically New York City had five separate Italian-American criminal organizations, or "Families" that were arguably the nation's most powerful Mafia collective. The only Mafia organization that could match or rival the NYC Families was the Capone descended Chicago Outfit. 

Anthony Accardo, a Capone protege, driver, bodyguard, and business associate, was the Outfit's longest serving overlord. Capone called Accardo "Joe Batters" because of his prowess with a baseball bat. Accardo rose quickly to leadership, combining brainy business acumen with violence. 

Accardo and his older but equally homicidal buddy Paul Ricca shared power as the Outfit's effective CEO and Chairman. No one called Accardo "Joe Batters" to his face. Close friends could call him "Joe". Everyone else called him "Mr. Accardo" or "The Man".

Later in life, Ricca and Accardo ceded authority over daily operations to other gangsters. Despite their "semi-retired" status, no hoodlum who liked living ever challenged or defied Accardo or Ricca. Outfit Boss Sam Giancana, himself a brutal killer, learned this the hard way in 1975, when he was murdered in his home. The slaying was unsolved.

Gangland starts with the Giancana murder. A low level Outfit hoodlum, Nicholas "Nicky Pins" Passero, (so-called because of his bowling alley ownership) killed Giancana on Accardo's orders. Accardo likes and seemingly trusts Nicky. Accardo gives Nicky special off the record jobs.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Crow

The Crow
directed by Alex Proyas

This 1994 goth action/horror/romance film was the actor Brandon Lee's breakthrough film. It would have made him a household name and likely raised his profile for many more lead action roles and who knows what else. Unfortunately it became Lee's epitaph. People could only wonder what might have been. 

Another actor shot and killed Lee while the two were filming a dramatic sequence. The actor used a weapon that should have had blanks but via negligence had been loaded and misfired with a dummy round that still had primer. Lee had completed most of his scenes before his death so the director and producer finished the film, using other stand-ins and creative editing for work or dialogue that required Lee.

These events gave The Crow more somberness but it was already a dreary movie. The film was based on a comic book /graphic novel written by a man who was processing his emotions around the sudden random death of his fiancee. Combine that with some real life criminal events in Detroit and you have The Crow.

Michigan Woman Cyberbullies Daughter

There is a BB King song/lyric titled "Nobody loves me but my mother/And she could be jiving too!". It's funny because if there's one person that most people think will be in their corner when times get tough, it's usually their mother, the person who brought them into the world. 

I thought of this lyric when I ran across the below story about a Mt. Pleasant, Michigan woman. Sometimes you can't even trust your mother.

A Mt. Pleasant woman accused of engaging in a sophisticated catfishing campaign of harassment that targeted two teens — one her daughter — was charged with five crimes, including one that accused her of attempting to frame another student.

Kendra Gail Licari, 42, was charged Monday afternoon with two counts of stalking a minor, two counts of using a computer to commit a crime and one count of obstruction of justice. The obstruction charge alleges that Licari attempted to frame another minor for her actions during the investigation. Licari and the mother of the other student worked with school officials to figure out the source of the harassment, David Barberi, Isabella County Prosecutor, said Monday.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Movie Reviews: Violent Saturday

Violent Saturday
directed by Richard Fleischer

I have seen this movie characterized as a film noir. I'm not sure I would categorize it as such. It has some noir elements. Many characters are sympathetic or disturbing mixes of good and evil. 

I think this is a good crime drama that doesn't try to convince the viewer that the bad guys aren't so bad or like some later films show things from the bad guys' point of view. 

Nonetheless in style and interlocking story lines this film must have had an influence on later crime or drama directors, especially people like Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. I seem to remember reading someplace that Tarantino cited this movie approvingly. 

Don't worry. This film is not that explicit in terms of violence despite the title. It does play up the idea that no one is safe, even women and children. I suppose that was a little unusual in the mid fifties when this film was released. This film didn't have much in the way of cynicism, pessimism, or "good guys" losing, all of which I think are important to a greater or lesser extent for something to be a true film noir.

Popeyes Chicken And Roaches

Do you like Popeyes Chicken? If so you will be excited to know that a Popeyes Chicken location on Detroit's east side was giving its customers bonus protein in their order in the form of grease fed sustainably sourced humanely raised roaches. For some strange reason an unnamed Doordash employee blew the whistle. 

The restaurant location has closed down for cleaning and extermination. Still my bet is that it won't be much longer before the location has re-opened. Then customers will once again be able to get some wriggling insect treats to go along with their greasy poultry, all free of charge! Yum, yum eat em up!!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Movie Reviews: I, Madman

I, Madman
directed by Tibor Takacs

This horror movie is visually and thematically a homage to old noir films and pulp detective/adventure stories that usually had an endangered pretty woman, a protective two-fisted hero, and some creepy psycho villain. 

Although this 1989 movie was made when standards on horror film depictions of sex and violence were relaxing, this film remained faithful to its influences in that more is implied than is shown. 

I didn't think anything shown or implied was gratuitous. I like horror movies; it takes a lot for me to think that something is gratuitous. Anyhow I never thought that the director was trying to hide a bad story with cleavage shots or buckets of blood.

Movie Reviews: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story
directed by Bob Clark

It's nearing the time of year when this movie will be playing all day every day somewhere on a cable or streaming service. If you are under 40 or so you may wonder what the big deal is. Older people such as myself may remember watching the movie and experience a wave of nostalgia. 

I still think the movie is funny. My good feelings about the film are not because the film is always laugh out loud hilarious but because I remember watching this movie with departed family members. So I associate this movie with better times.

Yes, many of the film's activities and attitudes are now dated. Most mothers work outside the home. Most kids would rather have the latest video game than a BB gun. A lamp of a female leg clad in fishnet stockings would be tame today. And there would be some sort of adult intervention if a child bully and his evil henchman chased other children home from school every day.

But some things are timeless. Adults and children live in different worlds with different rules. People often have outdated perceptions of younger relatives. Most parents love their children unconditionally.

Labrador and Bearded Dragon Share Salad

Labrador and Bearded Dragon share salad. Or rather the Labrador eats all the good stuff while the lizard eats the lettuce. But sometimes that's what friends do isn't it, take all the good parts and leave you with wilted lettuce.