Have Yourself a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone, like Julia Child, to cook dinner for them.

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My Ten Favorite Conspiracy Films

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Friday is the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of JFK.  If you were alive back then, and old enough to remember this day, it’s one you never forgot from  the moment you first heard the news. For me, I was in New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, in a music class, when a member of the school staff came into the classroom and whispered something to our teacher. The teacher then announced to the class that the President had been shot. Most of us were shocked, probably not able to completely comprehend what had happened or what it truly meant. One wise-ass kid yelled out, “Nixon got him,” referring to Kennedy’s Republican opponent in the 1960 Presidential election. A few uncomfortable laughs were quickly silenced when the teacher began chastising the entire class for the actions of a couple of kids who were being so casually flippant, not recognizing the enormity of the moment.

We were sent home soon after and during the next four days the world slowly changed. That Sunday, my father and I, after church, went to visit my grandmother, a weekly ritual. While we were there the TV was on and we witnessed Lee Harvey Oswald being shot live on TV by Jack Ruby. Monday, schools were closed and we watched the entire procession from the Rotunda to Arlington.

As has been said by so many commentators in countless books, documentaries and TV shows about this time in our history, this was the day, the moment when America lost its innocence. It all seemed so impossible that this could happen, but it did.

The Warren Report was released in September 1964 claiming Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the President. Almost immediately afterward, skeptics began to question the Report’s findings. Theories abound, some seemed credible others just plain ludicrous.

Other events followed as the 60’s wore on. Other questions began to be asked. Why were we in Vietnam? Who really killed RFK and Martin Luther King? There were spooks under everyone’s bed or so it seemed.

As the Buffalo Springfield sang in “For What it’s Worth,” “Paranoia runs deep…” and it began to run very deep in American cinema as the events of the 1960’s unfolded.  There have always been films with conspiracies as part of the storyline, Fritz Lang’s “Ministry of Fear,”  Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and John Frankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate” to name a few. However, by the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, a golden age of paranoia, we hit the jackpot. The films listed are in no particular order other than their release date. Continue reading

E.J. Bellocq, Storyville and Pretty Baby

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E.J. Bellocq is best known today for his evocative photographs of the prostitutes of Storyville, the notorious section of New Orleans where prostitution became legal in the late 1800’s and lasted through the early years of the 20th century. Bellocq was a native of New Orleans and began his photographic career, first as an amateur photographer then turning professional, shooting mostly ships and machinery for local companies in the area. However, Bellocq did have a private side to his life  few people knew about. He would travel across Basin Street to Storyville where he turned his 8×10 camera on the ladies of the New Orleans night.  It is these photographs Bellocq today is best remembered for.  In many ways, the portraits at first seem standard portraits of the women of the day except that in many pictures the ladies are nude, though not always. Some of the women seem uncomfortable in the photos, not because they are naked, but more likely because they have no idea how to pose in front of the camera. Yet, others come across as very comfortable, relaxed, posing with an innocent grace. Bellocq was no pretencious “artist,” his work is very informal, almost anti-artistic. They have an old world charm, the women are plump, the clothes almost 19th century. The photographs become even more intriguing for the details they reveal about the interior living conditions, what it looked like inside these “specialty” houses. For example, in one of the photos we surprisingly see college banners (Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri) hanging on a wall. Continue reading