Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jill Stein/Bernie … where Bernie may fail, he doesn’t fail, and Jill gains … Sandra Bland: comply or die? … Shawn Milnes: keeping opera alive, bless him …


I recently had a Facebook debate with some Green Party Jill Stein supporters. Most liked (“like”) the fact that I pledged my allegiance/support/future votes for Ms. Stein and her party if and when Bernie Sanders loses the Democratic nomination (a ticket I would never support without a Democratic Socialist on it). They see it as future support for a third party that speaks to a truly progressive political movement. A few, however, weren’t pleased with my decision to support a candidate that would run as a Democrat. They believe, and I agree, that there is no substantial difference between the two parties; that our military complex and corporate economics are embraced by both parties equally.

To be fair, their argument is a just one when I evaluate it from their perspective. I have long ago lost faith in the Democratic Party. I no longer pay much attention to a party that says one thing and does the exact opposite. There’s a terrific Salon interview with Bernie Sanders wherein he expresses his discontent with the Democratic Party and their acquiescence to greed (the repeal of Glass-Steagall, NAFTA, CAFTA and now TPP), and how economics are sidetracked for abortion and gun control issues, etc., but then Bernie claims they (the Democratic Party) are far better than the Republican Party.

I cannot agree.

Until the recent decisions by the Supreme Court supporting the Affordable Care Act (which doesn’t go nearly far enough) and Marriage Equality, the best argument for supporting the Democratic Party was the more liberal appointees to the bench they’re expected to make. Both those decisions came from a Republican majority bench (oops). The most significantly damaging SCOTUS decision made in recent times is the horrific Citizens United case that has legalized bribing politicians with big money. Do we really think Hillary Clinton (who has been amassing a great financial war chest for her 2016 presidential run for several years now) will seek to overturn Citizen United? Sorry, but there’s no trust here for Hillary Clinton to do anything she claims she’ll do for the left and/or the middle class and/or the poor, not after she’s taken hundreds of thousands of dollars reassuring Goldman Sachs that she won’t break up the big banks. She’s been a corporate shill since her Goldwater Girl days and she hasn’t changed an iota.
It’s where Bernie loses me and where Jill Stein supporters arguing against my support of Bernie make a valid point; if all Bernie is going to do is stir up the left before he throws his support behind Hillary’s coronation (with the hope she will somehow include concessions to the left), then what’s the point?

Like I said, it’s a valid point, and thus far it’s cost me $105.00 in support for Bernie.

On the other hand, where Bernie doesn’t fail is his introduction to the concept of democratic socialism. Conservatives will pull muscles sprinting toward the Stalin and Mao models of socialism/communism (the millions killed, etc.) and remind us of all the propaganda we’ve swallowed since childhood about the wonder of so-called free markets and the American dream. It’s not even a clever fantasy anymore. The anachronistic arguments against socialism, no matter how strong the push from conservatives, is being washed away daily by nation states practicing democratic socialism throughout Europe. It’s all about a quality of life, not whether or not one person/family can come to gain so much wealth (off the backs of others) that they can own an entire government—what we’ve become in America over the past few decades. The Citizens United decision cemented our oligarchic status.

So, my point to the Jill Stein supporters was this: be grateful that Bernie Sanders is introducing the concept of socialism to America in a way that is energizing people who’ve taken the time to read and pay attention to what’s happening to this country via its oligarchic economic system. We are all better for it. And when (and if) Bernie does the traditional Michael Moore/liberal democratic sell-out at the last minute, and he supports Hillary Clinton, myself and many more who supported Bernie will join team Stein and support the Green Party, no matter the cost.

Our reasoning is simple: We won’t reward a corporate shill and military hawk with a record so deceitful, her own supporters can’t deny it. Nor will we reward a party that assumes we’ll be there in the end for them no matter what; a party that can ignore the left without a concern. We blame the Democratic left for allowing itself to become blind faith lemmings anxious to fall into lock-step with a party that continues to devastate the middle class with legislation that permitted banks to become too big to fail (Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagall), or supported sending manufacturing jobs to Mexico for the sake of greater profit (Clinton’s NAFTA), or Obam’s TPP, which was authored by corporate execs for the sake of even greater profit at the middle class expense.

The other thing Jill Stein supporters have to look forward to from many (not all) Bernie supporters is the following: We’ll never fall for it again. From 2016 on, we’ll vote Green Party across the board.

Unless, of course, when/if Bernie loses, he throws his support behind Jill Stein (where it belongs).

So, hear what Jill has to say about the state of our country under its oligarchic structure.

Sandra Bland ... comply or die?

The video below is obvious enough. The cop started off fine. The woman was upset at getting a ticket for changing lanes without signaling. The cop didn’t appreciate her being upset and considered it a challenge to his ego/gun toting/badge wearing self-righteousness. He demanded she put out her cigarette and when she explained it was her right to smoke in her car (which it was/is), he went Rambo and threatened to “light you (her) up.”

What happened next was off screen so we’ll never know what really happened, except Ms. Bland did express very clearly that someone had banged her head on the ground. The fact she spent 3 days in lockup for a traffic ticket defies logic.

What we do know very clearly is that the officer in question (Little Rambo) lied on his police report. So, one has to wonder whether or not falsifying a police report (how many times a day do you think that’s done across America?) is grounds for dismissal?

He was assaulted? Really?

Some supportive of the police (no matter what they do) claim the following: if you don’t comply, you get to die. It’s an extreme form of simple-mindedness that overlooks what is obvious on the above video and then compounded by falsified police reports. Defenders of the police no matter what they do tend to be super-conservative and suffer from an extreme form of confused ideology. They’re the first to complain about the loss of liberty, while they simultaneously (and arrogantly) support a police state. It seems they would have thoroughly enjoyed life in Hitler’s Nazi Germany … at least until someone knocked on their door.

This following video surfaced some time ago, but it’s been appearing again with the ever increasing new videos of an out of control American police force. Police brutality is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around forever, except now there’s video catching some in the act.

Here a cop repeatedly punches a homeless WOMAN in the face for her "non-compliance"? Again, defenders of police claim it’s her non-compliance that affords the policeman the right to viciously beat her in the face with his fists.

Again, if you’re fine with what the cop in the video does, you’d probably be fine with Kristallnacht (when Nazi Party SA paramilitary forces conducted a series of coordinated attacks against Jews).

Shawn Milnes writing about Opera ...

An article by Shawn in the Daily Beast: How Composer Ethel Smyth Made Opera History. She was a militant suffragette and lesbian, and to this day is the only female composer to have had a work performed at New York’s Met Opera. Inside her amazing life.

Shawn is the son of the famous Sherill Milnes … one of the greatest baritones in the history of opera. A master of Verdi roles … no better Rigoletto on the planet.
Here’s Shawn’s dad singing one of his most famous roles—the one that made me name our pup Rigoletto … if you haven’t listened (or attended) an opera before, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND listening to the Milnes, Pavarotti, Sutherland recording of Rigoletto: and if you haven’t attended an opera before, Rigoletto is the one to begin with.


How do you listen to this beautiful music and not be moved to listen again and again?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Man in the Window (Review) … Snow Angels … Movie and Series Reviews … Trump/Hillary/Bernie/Jill Stein … and Eric Fucking Holder …


The Man In The Window, by Dana King. Nick Forte, the cynical, self-deprecating, witty, former cop, finds himself in a P.I. case that involves professional musicians, a lethal wannabe gangster who oversteps his abilities (as such types are wont to do), the Chicago outfit, and Homeland Security. The principal viola in the Chicago Symphony is suspicious of wife’s extracurricular activities. He hired Nick for a basic tail.

“I want you to follow my wife.”

What happens when Nick takes on the case quickly escalates into murders pretty foul, albeit accidentally. I’m no great fan of the P.I. novel in general, with the well written, humorous, educational exceptions (i.e., Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Craig McDonald, et al). I love historical novels of all types. I enjoy being educated as I read. I’m a classical music lover (opera and symphonies) … so when Dana King’s Nick Forte character investigates members of the Chicago Symphony, it’s Christmas in July.

Mentions of Solti, Karajan, Mahler and others I’ve never heard of (but am anxious now to learn more about) abound in Forte’s quest to find out why his client is gunned down, along with two others. Like the author, Nick is a former trumpet player … his best friend is a brilliant trumpet player for the same orchestra … he’s also equally as witty as Forte. The dialogue between these two is humorous and superbly penned. There is so much to admire in King’s skill. I’ve read the other Forte novels and loved them. This one, probably because of the musical education it provides, was extra fascinating for me.

No spoilers here, but if you enjoy great writing, similes that will make you smile from ear to ear, the heartwarming camaraderie between musicians and friends, and a plot that twists and turns enough to keep you anxiously focused, The Man In The Window is a summer read for you.

Snow Angels, by Mitch Wieland … an absolutely brilliant short story (plucked from a brilliant novel) is featured in the next Missouri Review (no small potatoes) … an American family down on its luck relocates in Japan. Their youngest son befriends a Japanese girl and the magic happens. We’ll do a proper review once the story is available, but above is the cover.

Movies/Series reviews …
The Gambler … the remake isn’t close to the original, not by a longshot, but there are a few good performances that stood out. Both John Goodman and Michael Kenneth Williams, as always, did a fine job with their roles. Mark Wahlberg did his best. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t nearly as compelling as James Caan’s English Professor/inveterate gambler. Wahlberg’s gambler was way too overstatedly dark to empathize with, and his hysterical tension (when his voice goes breathy and way up) just doesn’t work for me. That said, I really like Wahlberg in some other roles. This seemed like an honest attempt to existentialize (my word) Caan’s character to a fare-thee-well. I still think his best performance was in The Departed.

Although they kind of danced around the original storyline, this fell so far short of engaging, I had to force myself to sit through the basketball sequence on to the end.

If you want to see the same dark subject matter handled absolutely brilliantly (by the director, the cast and the writers), see the original with James Caan and Paul Sorvino. You like dialogue? This is the one you want. Trailer below.

The original (speaking of Mahler) …

“Forty-four dimes. That’s six Eldorados. Forty-four thousand dollars, Axel. It ain’t just numbers.”

Luther … oy vey, talk about silly television. Everybody loves Idis Elba (my wife especially) and Ruth Wilson, and several of the other actors/actresses who appear in this BBC series … but let’s face it, a paycheck is a paycheck. A serial killer helps a detective capture and/or kill the bad guys. Well, why not? In the good old US&A, that dopey series about a serial killer killing bad guys is/was a smash hit.

I watched all three seasons (mercifully, the 2nd and 3rd seasons were only 4 episodes long) … the relentless and never-ending internal affairs (or its equivalent) attempts to bring down Luther become so boring and predictable, I just let the stupid thing run while I worked on the screenplay and/or read.

I also have to wonder if the actors/actresses portraying the police ever feel as silly as they look walking up and down stairs in a firing position (arms outstretched, weapon in hand, etc.) … I mean, I feel silly watching them.

Luther is one really terrible show unless you’re willing to suspend reality to the point of the absurd and/or stupid. And if you are willing to suspend reality (etc., etc.), then Idris Elba does a fine job portraying the ultimate tortured cop (his wife left him for another man, he’s ALWAYS faced with a moral dilemma regarding criminals, and he’s ALWAYS facing more life and death situations week to week than most lawmen face in six lifetimes).

In the last episode of season 3, the serial killer is also a McGiver/Moriarity mix. I only know about McGiver (that silly show) from Saturday Night Live skits, so I’m still cool.

Oy vey …
Trump/Hillary/Bernie … Trump gathers the darker side of the GOP voters behind a return to ugly racism … the clown car has been adjusted to seat 16 (or so) … he threatens to run as an independent if the GOP isn’t nice to him … this is the state of our political system, an absolute and total joke.

And while Trump destroys the GOP presidential chances in 2016, the coronation starts to feel the pressure of hiding behind her Queendom … the corporate shill Hillary has been and will continue to be is being threatened by the upstart Jewish kid from Brooklyn … Bernie Sanders hasn’t floundered in forty years and people are starting to appreciate integrity. Whether it can survive the onslaught of Hillary’s very deep pockets (supplied by Corporations, banks and Super PACs—none of which Bernie will take a dime from), is another story. She doesn’t acknowledge Bernie’s surge or the fact that 57% of Democratic voters don’t trust her. The corporate owned media continues to call Bernie’s run a joke. Gee, I wonder why.

Here’s why.
The wife and myself have volunteered to campaign for Bernie. I consider this my last attempt to participate in the joke our political system/elections have become. And if Bernie doesn’t win the nomination and Hillary achieves her coronation, I’ll be voting for Jill Stein and the Green Party, because I refuse to reward the hypocrisy and deception that is Hillary (Goldman Sachs) Clinton.

No Bernie, then it's Jill Stein.

So, my loyal mainstream, lesser of two evils, ready to capitulate in a moment’s notice, can’t believe Obama turned out to be just another bought and paid for Pol after all, friends. Care to explain to us Utopia seeking MF’ers on the left how the two major parties are so vastly different you can’t believe we’d toss our votes away on candidates who can’t win?

Not only did this piece of shit not even attempt to prosecute the banks that robbed us all and sent millions of families into debts they can never climb out of, he’s now taken a position with a law firm that defends banks. Wow, what a progressive appointment he turned out to be! That Mr.TPP/Obama, he sure fooled you, didn’t he?