Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"CAPOTE" (2005) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery of photos from the 2005 biopic about writer Truman Capote called "CAPOTE". The movie, written by Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller, stars Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Clifton Collins, Jr.:


"CAPOTE" (2005) Photo Gallery











































Monday, March 30, 2009

"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 1/9




"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT"

RATING: PG
SUMMARY: The Charmed Ones discovers the limitations of their knowledge on witchcraft. Set after "The Staff of Fire" - AU between S5 and S6.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills, thankfully, are my creations.

NOTE: This story was written out of my growing frustration with the series' portrayal of witchcraft and the supernatural.



Chapter 1

Paige Matthews read the last page of her new book and slowly closed it. A sigh left her mouth. She had purchased it during her trip to Scotland, two weeks ago. After reading the book, she came to the realization that her knowledge of witchcraft was at best . . . minor. Worse, she could honestly say the same about her more experienced sisters.

A feeling of inadequacy overtook her. Paige had not experienced such a feeling in over six months. Not since last fall. Back then, her great desire to learn about the Craft had been about escaping the long shadow cast by her late sister, Prudence Halliwell - namely the uberwitch of the Halliwell family. The one sister who knew everything and could kick butt like no one else. This was the sister whose place that Paige had allegedly usurped. Who, in at least Piper's eyes, could not replace. After nearly a year, Phoebe, Leo and Piper had finally convinced Paige that Prue had not been as perfect as she had originally been led to believe. They also convinced Paige that she was regarded as a member of the family. But they still continued to treat her as a novice witch. Even after two years.

Slowly, Paige made her way downstairs and found her family watching television in the Sun Room. Piper glanced up at the younger woman and frowned. "Hi honey. Is there something wrong? You look a little upset."

"It's nothing." Paige settled in one of the empty wicker chairs. "I just finished reading my new book."

Leo gazed her. "What new book?"

"The one I had bought in Scotland, last month," Paige continued. "'Drawing Down the Moon'. Olivia's mom had recommended it."

Phoebe asked, "Is it any good?"

Paige heaved a mournful sigh, drawing stares from the others. "It's great. It . . . I don't know. I guess it's made me realize how little we know about witchcraft."

Her comment drew protests from the two older Halliwells. "What are you talking about?" Phoebe demanded. "Uh, may I remind you that we're the Charmed Ones? The most powerful witches, ever? And after five years, we're not exactly amateurs anymore."

"I thought that Wyatt was the most powerful witch, ever," Paige commented. She gazed at her nephew, wriggling in Piper's arms.

Piper heaved a sigh. "You know what Phoebe meant. I mean, c'mon Paige. We had defeated the Source. Three times."

"Piper, did you ever think that being the Charmed Ones doesn't exactly mean we know a lot about magic? Besides, as the Bearer of Aingeal, Olivia is just as strong as the Power of Three." As she spoke those last words, Paige noticed that her sisters' bodies had stiffened. "And the other McNeills are also pretty strong. And very talented."

Piper began to rock Wyatt. "Really? And I thought we were the talented ones. Right Leo?"

The whitelighter, whose attention had returned to the TV, looked up. His blue eyes widened. "Huh?"

"Didn't you once tell your old whitelighter friend, Natalie, that we were talented witches?"

Leo nodded. "Yeah, I did. And I was right."

"See?" Piper flashed a triumphant smile.

"Of course, I have to admit that the McNeills are also talented," the whitelighter added. Piper's smile disappeared. "I mean, they do know a lot about witchcraft."

Disbelief creased Piper's brow. "Are you saying that we could learn a lot from them? Even now?"

"Well . . ."

Piper continued, "Well what? Is that what you're saying, Leo?"

Paige came to her brother-in-law's rescue. "I would say that. Heck, I've already learned a lot from Olivia during the past seven months."

"Meaning?"

Uh-oh, Paige thought. Trouble. She recognized that arch tone in her oldest sister's voice. And judging from the expression on Phoebe's face, the latter did not obviously care for her praise of Olivia McNeill. But Paige realized that someone had to speak out. She took a deep breath. "Look, have you guys ever considered asking the McNeills to teach us more about witchcraft? Considering their long experience?"

Both Piper and Phoebe stared at Paige, as if the latter had grown a second head. "You've got to be kidding?" Phoebe retorted. "Right?"

"No, I'm serious!" Paige protested. "Didn't both of you once believed that you needed to learn more about the Craft?" Out of desperation, she turned to her brother-in-law. "What do you think, Leo?"

The whitelighter squirmed with discomfort. He looked as if he wanted to bolt for the nearest door. "Well . . . um . . ."

"Leo, don't tell me that you agree with Paige," Piper demanded.

Coughing discreetly, Leo finally said, "Actually, it's not a bad idea." Both Piper and Phoebe greeted his words with dismay. He interrupted, "However, I have to admit that you've all accomplished a lot on your own, these past few years. So . . . maybe you don't really need further lessons."

Disappointed by her brother-in-law's stance, Paige glared at him. "Chicken," she muttered.

"Leo's right," Phoebe added. "We're doing okay on our own. Actually, we're doing more than okay. So, I don't see why we need 'lessons' from the McNeills."

Paige retorted, "Oh really? I seem to recall Olivia teaching you how to summon a premonition, when Portia Della Scalla had kidnapped Bruce. And you ended up doing it without straining yourself."

"Paige . . ."

Frustration building within her, Paige shot to her feet. "Well, I'm going to ask Olivia if she's willing to help."

Piper rolled her eyes. "Help you do what? Become a witch? I thought Phoebe and I had already trained you."

"Don't take this the wrong way, Piper. But after reading that book, I realized that all of us don't know enough." Paige paused, as she stood over her sisters, hands-on-hips. "If you guys are gonna let pride get in the way of more knowledge - fine. Be my guest. But I won't." She marched toward the door, imagining the dark expressions on her sisters' faces.

---------

"Honey, I'd love to help you," Olivia declared over the telephone. "But am I the right person? I doubt that I know everything there is to be a witch."

Paige replied, "You know a hell of a lot more than any of us. Since tonight's Thursday, can I come by your place on Saturday morning?"

Olivia hesitated. "I'm sorry Paige, but I don't think that Saturday would be a good day. Cole's taking me to this antique auction in Modesto. We probably won't be back until later that night."

"Oh." Paige tried not to sound disappointed.

"However," Olivia continued, "I think my grandmother might be available on Saturday. Let me give her a call."

Keeping her enthusiasm in check, Paige said, "Could you call me back, as soon as you get her answer?"

"Sure. But I'm certain that she wouldn't mind giving you a few lessons. I'll get back to you in a few minutes. Bye."

Paige said, "Bye," and hung up.

-----------

Two days later, Paige found herself seating opposite Elise McNeill, in one of the wicker chairs situated in the McNeills' garden, on a bright Saturday morning. The elderly woman eyed the younger one with a thoughtful expression. "When Livy told me about your desire for more lessons in the Craft, I was a bit surprised. Didn't Piper and Phoebe already teach you, when you first started practicing magic?"

Paige nodded. "Yeah, they did. But after reading that book, 'Drawing Down the Moon', I realized that I didn't know enough. And after knowing your family for the past seven months, I figured Olivia or the rest of you would be the perfect ones to teach me."

Nodding, the older witch said, "I see. Well, let's start the lesson, shall we? First, tell me what you know about being a witch."

Paige hesitated. "Oh . . . okay. Um, a witch is a practitioner of magic."

A silver brow formed an arch. "That's it?"

Feeling slightly unsure of herself, Paige added, "Oh, ah . . . and a witch is also a protector of the innocent. You know, saving the world from magical evil bei . . ." Her voice faded, as she became aware of the stunned expression on Mrs. McNeill's face. "Is there something wrong?"

"Goddess!" the old woman declared heavily. "Do you honestly believe that a witch is some kind of supernatural crime fighter?"

Paige's sense of worth sank a few notches. "Well . . . isn't that supposed to be our duty? Kicking evil's ass?"

Mrs. McNeill replied in a sardonic tone, "I doubt it very much, considering that being a witch is not what one would call a duty."

Paige blinked. "Oh."

"First of all," Mrs. McNeill continued, "a person generally chooses to become a witch. People become witches because they want to, not out of some family or supernatural obligation to battle evil."

Shaking her head, the Charmed One asked, "But if witchcraft isn't for fighting evil, what . . .?"

Mrs. McNeill heaved a sigh. "My dear Paige, do you know what the word 'witch' means?" When the younger woman shook her head, the former continued, "It means 'wise one'. Witches are basically healers, teachers and spiritual leaders."

"But what about fighting evil? Vanquishing demons?" Paige demanded. "Isn't that important?"

Hesitating, Mrs. McNeill gave Paige a look that seemed to tinge with pity. "Paige? Why is it so important for you to fight evil? What do you think you're going to accomplish?"

Paige opened her mouth . . . and then closed it. Mrs. McNeill's expression left her feeling slightly uneasy. Then, "Well . . . to protect innocents from evil. Right? I mean, aren't we supposed to be in a war against evil?"

"Are you referring to a war in which we'll never win? Or lose? A war that the whitelighters are so determined that we take part in?"

"But we're supposed to help people!" The outburst came out of Paige's mouth before she could stop herself.

The elderly witch smiled wryly. "I never said there was anything wrong in helping others, Paige. Why do you think witches are healers, teachers and spiritual guides? In fact, our role as healers makes it important for us to learn the art of herb craft, in the first place. Yes, we might have to deal with the occasional daemon, warlock, or whatever that crosses our paths. Just as they have to deal with us on several occasions. It's the price we all pay for dealing with the supernatural. But the primary function of witches isn't to fight them."

Paige's first instinct was to reject Elise McNeill's words. They went against everything that her sisters and Leo had taught her. Besides, the idea of being a witch who protected the innocent and fought against supernatural evil, appealed to her. Gave her a purpose. And the opportunity to atone for the past, which included the misery she had caused her late step-parents and old friends. Quite simply, being a witch gave her the chance to erase the image of that adolescent troublemaker/alcoholic.

"But . . ." Paige began. Unfortunately, she found herself tongue-tied at the moment.

A sigh left the older witch's mouth. "Look Paige, I realize what you're thinking. I gather that the idea of being some kind of supernatural heroine must be very appealing. But that is not what being a witch is about. It's about giving us the opportunity to reach out and experience the oneness of all Life through our honor of the old Gods and Goddesses, through magic - whether we're Wiccan, Stregheria or any other kind of Pagan religion. In other words, it's about spiritual self-realization." She paused, as a small smile formed on her lips. "And not about 'kicking evil's ass'."

Paige finally found her voice. "In other words, we shouldn't bother to fight demons?"

"If we have to . . . sure," Mrs. McNeill replied with a shrug. "Mind you, not all daemons are evil. After all, I've dealt with my share of the supernatural evil over the years. Daemons, warlocks, trolls, wizards, sorcerers, witches and God knows what else."

"Witches?" Paige frowned.

Mrs. McNeill nodded. "Well, yes. I've encountered witches who have turned away from the path. Gwen's sister, Rhiannon, was one example." She peered at the younger woman. "Has Olivia ever told you about her?"

Paige nodded. "Only that she was the one who had killed Olivia's fiancé. Piper was the same way . . . after Prue's death."

The elderly woman added, "And don't forget Nick Marcano." She sighed. "But the main thing I wanted to point out is that being a witch is not all about fighting evil. It's much deeper and personal. Spiritual."

"Oh." Paige felt silent. She glanced around the room.

Shrewd blue-gray eyes observed the younger witch. "Is there anything else you want to ask?" Paige shook her head. "Okay. As you know, many people trace modern-day Wicca back to a scholar named Gerald Gardner, in the early 20th century. I'm sure you know that it goes a lot further back. The history of Wicca goes as far back as the pre-Christian era . . ."

Paige barely heard the older woman's words. Her mind continued to brood on Mrs. McNeill's views on witchcraft. The Charmed One knew that once she told her sister what she had learned this morning, they would have a fit.


END OF CHAPTER 1

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

"THE AGE OF INNOCENCE" (1993) Photo Gallery


Below are photos from Martin Scorsece's 1993 version of Edith Wharton's 1920 award winning novel, "THE AGE OF INNOCENCE". This version starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer and Winona Ryder:


"THE AGE OF INNOCENCE" (1993) Photo Gallery











































Thursday, March 19, 2009

"The Many Loves of Rafe McCawley" [PG-13] - 4/7




"THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY"

PART 4 - "Daddy's Girl"


LONG ISLAND, NY; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Danny sat on what he considered to be a ridiculous-looking chair. Beside him stood a dark-haired, Rubenesque nurse. She tapped his left kneecap for the last time. Danny's leg shot up, confirming his quick reflexes. "Okay, Lieutenant," she said in a nasal voice that hinted her origins as one of the five boroughs in New York, "that's it for today." She opened Danny's medical file and stamped it. PASS.

"Thanks," Danny mumbled, as he stood up. The nurse handed him his file and he joined Rafe, who stood nearby. The pair resumed their conversation on Ellie Conway. "So, you knew all along that she was using you to become Homecoming Queen?"

Rafe grunted. "Hell, Ellie was always pretty easy to read. And when she asked me to help her campaign for Homecoming Queen, I knew."

"When did you finally decided to break up with her?" Danny asked.

The two friends found empty seats for a few minutes' rest. Rafe took a deep breath. "It was after you brought up Lila, I reckon. I just got tired of pretending that I cared for her, after that. In fact, I think I simply got tired of Ellie, period. And I noticed that I wasn't the only one. Hell, she went through five boyfriends in one year."

"Six," Danny corrected. Rafe's eyes narrowed. "Becky McPherson and I kept count. It was a hobby of ours."

Rafe chuckled and shook his head. Danny smiled. It was nice to see Rafe relaxed for once. The older man had been on edge all morning and afternoon. "The only other girl I can recall who went through so many boys was Fenton Marsh," Rafe continued. "Only she went through fiancés, not boyfriends. You remember Fenton, don't you Danny?"

A groan escaped from Danny's mouth. Of course he remembered Fenton Marsh. He had been the one responsible for introducing her to Rafe.

* * * *

KNOXVILLE, TN; OCTOBER 1936 - APRIL 1937 . . . A tall, lanky figure raced across the Memphis campus of the University of Tennessee, oblivious of the others in his path. Rafe McCawley, who sat on one of the steps in front of Ayres Hall, averted his eyes from the book in his lap, as his best friend slid into a halt, before him. "Hey Danny, what's shakin'?"

"Hey Rafe." A breathless Danny Walker dropped into the empty spot next to Rafe. Despite his exertion, the younger man's dark eyes glimmered with excitement. "Say, are you available for Saturday night?"

Rafe shrugged. "Not really. I was hoping you would help me with my English Lit class." Although Rafe, along with Danny, had managed to complete two years of college and start his third year, English continued to be a major impediment in his education. It was a problem that baffled Rafe, Danny and many close friends and family. Everyone knew that Rafe was an intelligent young man. He had no trouble comprehending his other courses - especially those that dealt with mathematics and science. And he usually excelled in those subjects, as long as someone explained it to him. Or when he read mathematical figures. When it came to reading and writing, he usually encountered trouble. Thankfully, Rafe had Danny to help him. Just as he occasionally helped Danny with more complex mathematical and engineering courses.

Danny promised to tutor Rafe tonight. But he still had other matters to discuss. Like Saturday night. "What's so special about Saturday?" Rafe continued.

"Do you have a date?"

An exasperated sigh left Rafe's mouth. "You know the answer, already." He referred to his latest girlfriend, a fellow Shelby native named Burdetta Foster. They had recently broken up after a summer romance. No hostile words or bad feelings had been involved. Rafe and Burdetta simply grew tired of each other.

"Well, Carrie Ann and I found the perfect date for you," Danny continued. "Her name is Fenton Marsh." According to the 19 year-old, he and his girlfriend, Carrie Ann Vogel, had met this girl in their English Literature class. Fenton Marsh. Danny provided a few other tidbits about this prospective date. She was 19 years old, who would turn twenty, next month. Fenton majored in History and her father happened to be a wealthy businessman with investments in coal, steel and cotton. According to Danny, she also enjoyed literature, art, dancing and parties. "She's really swell," Danny added in an enthusiastic voice. "The perfect girl for you."

Perfect girl? Rafe did not believe such a person existed. At least for him. But if Danny thought otherwise (and the younger man rarely liked any of his girlfriends), Rafe decided that he would give this Fenton Marsh a shot.

* * * *

She was perfect. Rafe could not find no other words to describe Fenton Marsh. The moment this beautiful, chestnut-haired girl opened her mouth and laughed at one of his jokes, Rafe fell in love.

"You are so funny!" Fenton's deep blue eyes sparkled with delight. "I bet you could put Fred Allen and Jack Benny to shame." She leaned forward, her full lips stretched into a wide grin. "You ever thought of going to New York and performing on radio? Heck, you could probably try one of the stations, here in Knoxville."

The quartet of college students - Rafe, Fenton, Danny and the latter's girlfriend, Carrie Ann Vogel - occupied a booth inside a local dance club frequented by many students. A waitress appeared with their drinks. Other patrons filled the dance floor, as they moved to the music of an all-black jazz band.

Carrie Ann, a pretty girl with dark hair and almond-shaped brown eyes, took a sip of her beer. "Rafe on the radio? Well," she gave him a fond smile, "considering how much he likes to talk, that's not hard to imagine. But I think he would prefer to fly a plane than be a radio star. Danny too." She planted a quick kiss on the latter's cheek.

"A pilot?" Fenton's brows shot upward. "You two are pilots?"

Rafe nodded. "Yes ma'am. I've been one for the past four years. Danny got his license three years ago. But we've both been flying for at least six years. My daddy taught us."

Fenton asked, "And what does your daddy do for a living?"

"He's a crop duster pilot," Rafe replied. "And he also owns a flying school. He used to be an Army pilot during the War. You know, like Buddy Rogers and Dick Arlen in "WINGS"."

Fenton turned to Danny. "And your daddy?"

The younger man's face hardened momentarily. Before he could open his mouth, Rafe answered for him. "Danny's pa was a farmer. He died of a heart attack a couple of years ago. Danny's been living with my family ever since." Rafe acknowledged his friend's grateful smile with a small nod.

Meanwhile, Fenton continued to express interest in the boys' career plans. "So you both plan to be pilots. Doing what, exactly? Flying crop dusters or one of those new Pan Am clipper ships?"

"No ma'am," Rafe replied calmly. "Army pilots. Danny and I plan to join the Army Air Corps when we finish college."

A smile touched Fenton's lips. "How very patriotic." For a moment, Rafe wondered if she was being patronizing. But her expression seemed genuinely sincere.

The band began to play another tune. A popular Irving Berlin tune called, "Let Yourself Go". The band's female vocalist began to sing:

"As you listen to the band don't you get a bubble?
As you listen to them play don't you get a glow?
If you step out on the floor
You'll forget your trouble
If you go into your dance
You'll forget your woe
So - come, get together
Let the dance floor feel your leather
Step as lightly as a feather
Let yourself go."


Rafe stared at Fenton. "Well, you heard what the lady said. Shall we?" He eased out of the booth and stood up. Fenton gave him a happy nod, as she allowed him to help her do the same. Then the pair joined the others on the dance floor.

* * * *

"You were right about her, Danny," Rafe declared later that night. The two friends entered the dormitory building, where they resided. "Fenton's perfect."

A triumphant grin appeared on Danny's face. "What did I tell you?"

"She sure talked a lot about her daddy, though," Rafe added reflectively.

Danny frowned as he paused near the staircase, inside the foyer. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"Her daddy. Fenton talked about him. A lot."

Danny's frown deepened. "And that bothers you? Maybe they're close. From what Carol Ann told me, Mr. Marsh seems like a swell guy."

The pair began ascending the staircase. "Well, if you say so. I reckon there's nothing to worry about."

* * * *

The more Rafe became acquainted with Fenton Marsh, the more enchanted he became. He felt that she was wonderful. The couple grew close over the next several months. When they were not engaged in the great college social whirl, both helped each other with their studies. Fenton tutored Rafe in reading and writing, making it easier for him to comprehend the lessons in his textbooks. And Rafe helped her tackle the Geometry course she needed to complete this semester.

"I swear," she declared in a frustrated voice one chilly evening in early December. "If I ever have to read another science book again, I'll go mad."

The pair sat inside the study hall of one of the university's libraries. Rafe reached across the table and brushed away a strand of chestnut hair away from her forehead. "Just consider this - if you pass Geometry this semester, that will only leave you with Physics for next spring. And then, you'll be free to sign up for the courses that interest you during your senior year."

Fenton grunted, which produced a smile from Rafe.

The Christmas holidays arrived in late December. Rafe, Danny and Carrie Ann received invitations to spend the holiday with Fenton's family on their plantation in Tipton County. Carol Ann accepted, but Rafe and Danny had to decline. "I wish we could go," Rafe said to his girlfriend, "but Danny and me had promised my folks that we would be home for Christmas."

Fortunately, Fenton understood. "My daddy always said that Christmas was an important time of the year for family." Rafe remained silent. He usually did whenever Fenton discussed her parent. Which was often. "But what about next April? During Spring Break? My family and I are usually in Florida during that time. Would you like to join us, there?" Both Rafe and Danny promised they would consider the suggestion.

Christmas and the New Year came and went. The students returned to the campus to tackle mid-year finals, before commencing on the second semester. Rafe did not realize how much he missed Fenton, until they reunited for a Saturday night date at the end of his first week back. The moment she joined him inside his car, Rafe drew her into arms and captured her mouth with a kiss.

"Hmmm," he moaned, as the couple remained locked in a deep embrace. "I sure missed you a lot."

Fenton began to nibble his left earlobe. "Oooh and I missed you too," she murmured. "Even Daddy noticed that my attention was elsewhere. Christmas and New Year's wasn't the same without you. And I don't know how I'm gonna get through the Easter holiday. Or summer."

Rafe gently pushed her back against the car seat. "I don't know about the summer," he whispered, "but maybe I can do something about Easter vacation. Because right now, Florida is sounding very appealing." He brushed his lips against Fenton's cheek. "How about that?"

Another moan left Fenton's mouth. She grabbed the back of Rafe's head and drew it toward hers. "That . . . sounds like a wonderful idea. Just grand." She captured his mouth for another deep kiss.

* * * *

When Rafe broached the subject of spending Easter vacation with the Marshes to his parents, he was surprised by their easy acquience of the idea. In fact, they seemed unusually thrilled.

"Maybe they like the idea of you being serious about a girl, for once," Danny suggested. Rafe had just told him about the McCawleys' reaction. The two friends sat inside the older man's Cadillac convertible, as it sped toward the nearest airfield, where they planned to spend an afternoon of flying.

Rafe dismissed the idea with a wave of the hand. "What are you talking about? They've never met Fenton."

"True, but you gabbed about her during the whole time we were home. Your mama practically ordered me to tell her everything I knew about Fenton." Danny shrugged. "I reckon she liked what I told her."

Rafe shot his best friend a grateful smile. "You know what, Danny? You're a true friend. But I'll tell you something you don't know."

"Like what?"

The airfield loomed ahead. Rafe steered his Cadillac to one of the hangars. He put on the brakes and faced Danny. "I plan to ask Fenton to marry me. I've already bought an engagement ring."

Pure shock lit up Danny's dark eyes. "Marry? But Rafe, you've got one more year of college to finish before we join the Army. Isn't this a little soon?"

"Yeah, it is," Rafe said. "However, if Fenton says yes, I plan to suggest a year long engagement. Wait until we graduate."

Danny remained silent. Rafe began to wonder if his friend regretted introducing him to Fenton. "Look Danny, I still plan to join the Army Air Corps after graduation. If you're worried about that. And if Fenton doesn't agree . . . well, I reckon that would be it for us."

"I'm sure that Fenton won't mind being an Army officer's wife," Danny finally said. Rafe detected a note of doubt in his friend's voice. But he remained silent. Only time would tell.

* * * *

The following weekend, Rafe took Fenton to a formal dance being held inside a ballroom, at a local Knoxville hotel. To his delight, she accepted his marriage proposal. She even agreed to a year-long engagement, along with a wedding after graduation. And she did not seemed to have no qualms about becoming an officer's wife. "I suppose it will be difficult at first," she admitted, "but I've always loved a good challenge."

"I reckon that's what I'll be facing when I meet your folks. Especially your daddy," Rafe responded with a chuckle.

Fenton let out a squeal of delight. "Does this mean you'll be coming to Florida for spring vacation?"

Rafe nodded. "Yep. You don't mind if I bring Danny along, do you?"

"Of course not! Heck, I plan to invite Carol Ann, as well." Fenton threw herself into Rafe's arms. "Oh Rafe! This is gonna be just wonderful! I can't wait for you to meet my folks! Daddy's gonna love you! You two are a lot alike."

Rafe remained silent, while his fiancé continued to ramble on. Despite the delight he felt over his engagement, Fenton's words about her father reverberated in his mind. He did not know whether to feel complimented by the comparison. Or alarmed.

* * * *

Spring vacation finally arrived. After Rafe and Danny spent the Easter holidays on the McCawley farm, they met Carol Ann in Memphis and began a bus trip to Florida. After a connection in Atlanta, the trio finally arrived in St. Augustine, on the following afternoon.

A uniformed chauffeur conveyed them to an elegant, three-story villa located not far from the beach. Upon their arrival, they found Fenton waiting for them inside the foyer.

"Rafe!" She threw herself into her fiance's arms. Rafe responded with a long kiss. Danny, Carol Ann and the Marshes' servants pretended not to notice. Fenton broke away with a sigh and added, "Everyone's upstairs, changing for supper. You might as well freshen up, as well. Supper will be ready in one hour."

House servants escorted the guests to their rooms. Rafe noticed that Fenton had made sure that each had his or her own room. To guarantee a little late night privacy? Rafe did not have time to wonder. Instead, he showered, changed into one of his nicer suits and joined Danny and Carrie Ann, downstairs. The trio found the Marsh family sitting around a dining table on the verandah. Beyond it laid the beach.

Fenton shot out of her chair to greet her guests. "Hey everyone! I'm glad that you could make it." She grabbed Rafe's hand and dragged him toward the handsome, middle-aged man who occupied the seat at the table. "Rafe, I'd like you and Danny to meet my father, Hunter Edward Marsh."

Like his daughter, Mr. Marsh possessed chestnut-hair and deep blue eyes. Only his hair was sprinkled with gray and lines stretched from his eyes. He stood up to shake Rafe's hand. A tall man, but not as tall as Rafe or Danny. "So, you're the young man who's captured my girl's heart," he boomed in a deep voice.

A grin split open Fenton's mouth. "Oh Daddy! This is Rafe McCawley, your future son-in-law. And this is his best friend, Danny Walker. You already know Carrie Ann."

While he shook Rafe's hand, Mr. Marsh gave the other two a polite nod. "Nice to meet you all. This is my wife, Delphine Fenton Marsh." He nodded at a handsome, dark-haired woman with pale skin and dark-brown eyes, sitting opposite him. "And that young snapper over there," Mr. Marsh pointed at a young boy who seemed to be the spitting image of Mrs. Marsh, "is my son, Putnam Hunter Marsh."

After the introductions were made, the three guests settled into empty seats around the table. The meal, Rafe had to admit, was delicious. Crab, shrimp, rice pilaf, green salad, roast duck, corn chowder and sourdough bread. He found himself growing comfortable, while Danny and Carrie Ann described the trip from Tennessee. Rafe would have added to the conversation, but he was too busy observing Fenton's family.

It amazed him on how much Fenton resembled her father. And not just physically. Both daughter and father seemed to possess the same gregarious nature - talkative and at times, almost opinionated. Father and daughter also shared a taste for company, especially parties. Mr. Marsh seemed more excited than everyone else about the party he planned to hold in honor of Rafe and Fenton's engagement. "We can also celebrate your birthday as well, Rafe. Fenton tells me that you just turned twenty-one."

"Yes sir," Rafe replied with a nod. "Just over a week ago."

Mr. Marsh nodded. "Twenty-one, huh?" He sighed. "Why I remember when I was twenty-one. Going to college. I'm afraid that I spent more of my college years indulging in leisure, instead of my studies."

"But you still managed to turn out perfect, didn't you, Daddy?" Fenton crowed. She smiled indulgently at her father. A smile that left Rafe feeling very uneasy.

Mr. Marsh smiled back. "If you say so, darling. If you say so." Rafe's eyes focused first upon the father, and then the daughter. Finally, he stared at Mrs. Marsh, who merely rolled her eyes in disgust. That uneasy feeling now formed a tight knot in Rafe's stomach.

* * * *

"Danny, you ever get this feeling that you're about to make a mistake? Or have already made one?"

Rafe's question pierced the silence inside his bedroom. Danny had joined Rafe for a late night snack of chiffon cake that had been served for dessert. The younger man stared at the older one. "Rafe, what the hell are you talking about? What mistake?"

Sighing, Rafe rolled over to meet his friend's eyes. "I'm talking about Fenton. I got this feeling that marrying her might turn out to be a big mistake."

"What?" The word came out of Danny's mouth like a deep whistle. He lowered his voice. "What do you mean? You and Fenton are perfect for each other. It's not like you two plan to get married right away." After a moment's pause, he added, "Or have you simply changed your mind?"

Rafe took a deep breath. "No, we still plan to get married, next year. It's just . . ."

"What?"

Another paused followed before Rafe added, "I don't know. It's Fenton and her daddy. Don't you think that they seemed a bit . . . close?"

Danny's eyes flew open with alarm. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that Fenton and Mr. Marsh have some kind of . . . that their relationship is more than . . ."

"I'm not talking about incest, Danny!" Rafe retorted. Then he sighed, while the other young man's shoulders sagged with relief. "It's just . . . well, I think Fenton is what one might call a 'daddy's girl'. You know what I mean."

Danny nodded. "Oh."

Rafe continued, "Jesus Danny, I hope I'm wrong. I don't want to spend the rest of my life competing against my father-in-law for my wife's attention! Or even worse, agreeing to everything he says."

"Don't you think you might be exaggerating? So, Fenton's close with her daddy. Hell, you're close with both of your folks."

A sigh left Rafe's mouth. "I don't have some mutual admiration society going on with either of them. Then again . . ." he sighed, "I don't know. Maybe I am imagining things."

Danny smiled. "Does that mean I can leave and finally get some sleep?" He slid off Rafe's bed and headed for the door. "See you later, Rafe." And he left.

* * * *

Perhaps Danny had been right after all, Rafe decided two days later. Maybe he had seen too much in Fenton's relationship with her daddy. Since that first evening in St. Augustine, neither daughter or father have shown any signs of what Rafe feared. In fact, he has barely seen Fenton or Mr. Marsh together - except during meals.

On the fourth evening, Rafe, Fenton, Danny and Carrie Ann returned to the Marshes' villa, after spending a day visiting some of St. Augustine's tourist spots - including the famous Castillo San Marcos. The quartet found the household preparing for an early supper. They quickly headed for their bedrooms to change into less casual clothes.

Dinner started on a pleasant note. The young people enthusiastically described their day about town. Rafe had found his mood growing steadily positive since his late night conversation with Danny. But the good mood finally disappeared when Mr. Marsh decided to change the subject that evening.

"Say Rafe, mind if I ask you a question?" the older man said.

The hairs on the back of Rafe's neck began to rise. There seemed to be a hint in Mr. Marsh's tone that gave him a foreboding air. Rafe smiled dimly at his future father-in-law. "Yes sir?"

Mr. Marsh coughed slightly. "It's about your plans for after college. I understand that you and Danny plan to join the Army, following graduation. The Army Air Corps. Is that right?"

Oh oh, Rafe thought. Trouble. He answered, "Yes sir, that's right. Danny and me have been planning this for a long time. Ain't that right, Danny?"

The younger man nodded, warily eyeing their host.

"Uh huh." Fenton's father speared a piece of roast chicken and popped it into his mouth. He chewed. Slowly. "You know, it's fine thing that you want to serve your country," he added, after swallowing the chicken. "Only, why now? We're not exactly at war with anyone right now. And I can think of a better way to utilize that fine education of yours."

Rafe glanced at Fenton. His heart nearly sank at the hopeful expression, imprinted on her face. "Exactly what do you have in mind, sir?"

Mr. Marsh went on to explain that he had contacts with the Lockheed Company, located in Los Angeles. "I told them about you and Danny. And the good news is that they would be more than happy to hire you two boys as civilian test pilots. And once you earn your Masters, you can become aviation engineers. Now, how do you like that?"

How did he like that? It almost seemed like a dream come true for Rafe. To become a top test pilot at a prestigious company, along with the chance to design new aircraft seemed like a great opportunity. Well, almost. He still longed to be an Army pilot above anything else. Nor did he care for the idea of getting ahead in the world, due to marriage with Fenton. So, he had only one answer. "Thank you, Mr. Marsh, but I'm gonna have to say no thanks. I can't speak for Danny, but I'd prefer to go ahead with my own plans."

Danny's shoulders sagged with relief. Mr. Marsh looked at Rafe as if the latter had gone mad. Even worse, Fenton's expression seemed to crumble with disappointment. "Look here boy, I'm handing you the opportunity of a life time!" Mr. Marsh cried. "And you're turning me down?"

Rafe shrugged. "Like you said, sir, I want to serve my country. Besides, some of the best pilots have received military training. And there's a good chance that we might be at war within the next few years."

"With whom? Hitler? I suspect that Roosevelt and his cronies tend to make a big deal out of nothing. Hitler's no danger. He's only trying to help his country."

"By taking over the Sudenland, in Czechoslovakia?" The outburst came from Carrie Ann, who immediately blushed after everyone stared at her. "Excuse me," she mumbled.

Mr. Marsh's eyes lingered upon Carrie Ann for a moment. Before they returned to Rafe. "Now listen, boy. You better grab this opportunity, while you can. I'm not about to stand around and watch my daughter become some Army wife. She deserves better than that. So, I suggest that you accept this offer. Or . . ."

"Or what?" Rafe's voice assumed a slight, belligerent tone. "Look here, Mr. Marsh, I love your daughter very much. And I hope to make her my wife. But I also have every intention of leading my life in the way I see fit. Fenton has known about my plans to join the Army, since we first met. And she has no problems with it. Right Fenton?" Rafe faced his fiancée. To his shock, she turned pale. Then she let out a slight sob, slipped out of her chair and fled the dining room.

* * * *

"Why in the hell didn't you tell me that you had problems with me joining the Army?" Rafe bellowed at Fenton.

Following her flight from the dining room, Rafe found Fenton on the back veranda, sitting on the wicker sofa and staring at the ocean, beyond. Now the engaged couple faced each other, wearing grim expressions.

Fenton replied in a defiant voice, "I didn't mind. At first. But after Daddy and I talked, I realized that I didn't want to be an Army wife. Why can't you accept his offer?"

"Because I don't want to work for Lockheed! Not if your daddy arranged the whole thing."

"What's wrong with Daddy getting a job for you?" Fenton shot back. "You should be grateful!"

Rafe wondered if he had heard his fiancée right. "Grateful? Why the hell should I be grateful? If I give in to this, he'll be running our lives forever! Even with us in California and him in Tennessee!"

"You're just jealous! That's all. Like the others before you! You're jealous that he's a lot smarter. And you just can't bear the thought of him knowing better than you on what to do with your life! Our lives!"

At that moment, Rafe realized that he had fallen love with the wrong woman. A daddy's girl. He stared at her in disbelief. "I can't believe you're saying this to me."

Nodding furiously, Fenton added, "Well, believe this. If you want me, you'll have to give up the Army. You can't have both."

"I'm only surprised that your daddy doesn't come with the deal," Rafe replied sarcastically. The moment those words came out of his mouth, Fenton's slim hand slapped him hard across the face. Rubbing his cheek, he added, "I reckon that tears it, then. Good-bye Fenton." He turned his back on his now former fiancée and returned inside the house.

The following morning, Rafe, Danny and Carrie Ann packed their bags and left the Marsh house for good. The trio boarded the first Greyhound bus bound for Tennessee.


END OF PART 4

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Scourge of "LOST"



After hearing the latest rumors on who will be leaving "LOST" and who will be staying, I found myself reacting in the following manner:


The Scourge of "LOST"

After reading the recent rumors about which major character will be leaving "LOST" and who will be staying, I found myself getting emotional over the matter. I wish they would simply kill off the Kate Austen character. Just scrag her freckled butt, so I could watch the rest of this series in some semblance of peace. But . . . it will never happen.

The show's producers will never get rid of Kate. Never. She will probably be around until the very last episode. It occurred to me that even if Kate's character becomes "redeemed" in the end, I would still dislike her. I have never liked her. I used to be indifferent to her character . . . until I saw (1.12) "Whatever the Case May Be". Then my dislike of her character began in earnest.

Yet, despite the backstory given to her in episodes like "Whatever the Case May Be", (1.22) "Born to Run", (2.09) "What Kate Did", (3.15)"Left Behind", (4.04) "Eggtown" and (5.04) "The Little Prince"; Kate's lack of morals and responsibility is not the main reason why I dislike her character. Many of the other characters are just as flawed. But many fans have never gone out of their way to make excuses for the actions of other characters like they have done for Kate. And I suspect that there is a reason for this phenonemon.

I suspect that the Kate Austen character is supposed to represent the either a physical embodiment of the American feminine ideal (odd, for a character being portrayed by a Canadian actress) and wet dream of the aged 30-to-50 fanboys like the show's producers, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindehof and J.J. Abrams. Many fans already suspect that actress Evangeline Lilly was hired because she represented the "look" he wanted for Kate's character. Hell, Abrams had even had hired actress Michele Monaghan to portray Tom Cruise's wife in "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III", which was directed by Abrams. And Monaghan bears a strong resemblance to Lilly. Frankly, I wish she had been hired to portray Kate. Perhaps I would have been able to identify with the character a little more. Hell, Sun-Hwa Kwon is, in her own way, just as flaky as Kate. But her character was put into the hands of a first-class actress like Yunjin Kim. Which is why I find it easier to understand her character.

Frankly, I believe that Kate is a character that the producers should have written out of the show back in Season Three. Instead, they kept her around because of Lilly's looks and they needed to extend the much hated Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle until the bitter end. And to ensure that Kate's character remain as long as possible, they dumped the Aaron Littleton storyline on her. Why? To justify her continuing presence on the show. And if I have to be honest, they have barely done squat with that storyline. Really. We are supposed to finally discover why Kate did not bring Aaron back with her in an upcoming episode called, (5.11) "Whatever Happened, Happened". But you know what? I could not care less. I would rather see Kate dead than find out what she had done with Aaron.

But they will never get rid of Kate. She is like this disease that never goes away. Some article from the "E! Online" website had the nerve to say that many fans were glad that Kate was not being killed off. Perhaps that is true. However, the author failed to take into account the number of fans that had expressed their disappointment in the news that Kate was staying around.

God, I weep for this show!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Conflicting Views on the "NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy



I wrote the following article about many fans of the "NORTH AND SOUTH" trilogy:


CONFLICTING VIEWS ON THE “NORTH AND SOUTH” TRILOGY

I have been a fan of John Jakes’ ”NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy, ever since I read the first novel - ”North and South” when I was in my twenties. After reading both the first and the second novel - ”Love and War”, I became a fan of the miniseries, upon which the miniseries are based. Because of my love of Jakes’ saga, I began perusing many websites created by fans of the saga and joined a few Yahoo discussion groups. And what I had discovered about the saga’s fandom has left me feeling not only shocked, but wondering if these fans had any idea what Jakes was trying to convey in his story.

Reading some of the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” websites and the Yahoo groups has led me to wonder if the majority of this particular fandom tend to place the saga into the same category as ”THE BIRTH OF A NATION” or ”GONE WITH THE WIND”. In other words, many of these fans tend to view Jakes’ saga with a conservative eye. Either they seemed mistaken by Jakes’ (and producer David Wolper’s) theme behind the saga . . . or they may have decided to ignore it. I suspect the latter.

Now, some might be wondering why I had even bothered to write this article. Frankly, so am I. I doubt that this article will ever change these fans’ perspective on the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy. So why do I bother? To be honest, this article is not about changing their perspective. It is about me expressing my frustration over the fact that I cannot find one fan of the saga who does NOT view it along the same lines as Margaret Mitchell’s famous novel (and David Selznick’s famous screen adaptation). I have yet to encounter a ”NORTH AND SOUTH” fan who does not view the story as some kind of ode to the Old South. Judging from Jakes’ three novels and Wolper’s miniseries adaptations, I certainly do not view it as such.

This conservative attitude has never been more apparent than in my clash with other fans over the role of the slaves owned by the family of one of the saga’s main characters – Orry Main. Aside from the character of Cuffey (portrayed by Oscar winner, Forest Whitaker), these fans try to view the slaves in a sympathetic light by labeling them as loyal to the Main family. This is especially true of the two characters – Semiramis (Erica Gimpel) and Ezra (Beau Billingslea). While perusing a ”NORTH AND SOUTH” website created by a European-born fan (the site has since disappeared ), I noticed that he had described both characters as ”loyal”, due to their decision to remain at Mont Royal (the Mains’ South Carolina plantation) after the other slaves had left in the second miniseries, set during the Civil War. What many fans failed to realize that Semiramis or Ezra had not remained at Mont Royal due to any loyalty to the Main family.

”NORTH AND SOUTH: Book 2” had started with a recently married Brett Main Hazard (Genie Francis) in Washington D.C. at the beginning of the war, and Semiramis acting as her personal servant. Hours before the Battle of Bull Run commenced, Brett received a message from South Carolina that her mother, Clarissa Main (Jean Simmons) had been injured in a barn fire. Brett made the sudden decision to make her way through battle lines in order to return back into Confederate territory and South Carolina. Semiramis accompanied her. The pair eventually reached Mont Royal in the middle of Episode 2.

In the following episode, both Cuffey and Ezra separately questioned Semiramis’ decision to remain with Brett. Although the maid refused to acknowledge Cuffey’s question, she gave Ezra a vague answer about wanting to stick by Brett’s side. However, both men seemed to know the true answer. Charles Main. Semiramis had fallen in love with Orry Main’s younger cousin in the previous miniseries, ”Book 1”. And both men seemed appalled that she would harbor such feelings for a man who was related to their owner. But whereas Cuffey left Mont Royal (stealing Clarissa Main’s jewels along the way), Ezra remained behind, considering her treatment at the hands of the Mains’ former overseer, Salem Jones (Tony Frank). Even when the Main women – Clarissa, Madeline (Lesley Ann Down) and Brett – had permitted the other slaves to leave. And what was Ezra’s reason for remaining at Mont Royal? He wanted a chance to woo and win Semiramis’ heart. And Semiramis’ reason for remaining behind? She wanted a chance to see Charles Main again . . . on the chance he might return to the family’s plantation. Any loyalty toward the Main family had nothing to do with either slave’s decision to remain. However, many ”NORTH AND SOUTH” fans refused to acknowledge this. They simply wanted to believe that the two slaves had remained at Mont Royal, due to some kind of loyalty to the Main family. They especially seemed enamored of the idea of Semiramis remaining loyal to Brett. Judging from their remarks, the idea of a loyal servant . . . especially a black slave . . . seemed very appealing to them.

Another aspect about many of these fans of the trilogy seemed to be their belief that the Mains’ slaves should have been satisfied with their lot as the family’s servants and property . . . as long as they were well treated. In one of the Yahoo groups, one particular fan questioned this belief, expressing doubt that a slave would automatically love his or her master because of well treatment, pointing out that the master (or even mistress) was still robbing that slave of any kind of freedom. And another member responded in the following fashion:

”JESUS! BECAUSE THE SLAVE KNEW NO OTHER REALITY! THEY WERE SLAVES! HOW WERE THEY SUPPOSED TO KNOW ANOTHER LIFE! AFTER A WHILE, IT HAS TO AFFECT ONE'S SELF-BELIEF!”

Whoever had posted this response was obviously ignorant of his or her American history. If Southern slaves were unaware of the idea of freedom, why did so many of them escaped or attempted to escape from bondage? And that included famous fugitives such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William and Ellen Craft, Henry Box Brown, Robert Smalls, Thomas Sims and Anthony Burns. Even the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy featured two fugitive slaves – Semiramis’ older brother Priam (David Harris), and Grady (Georg Sanford Brown) – James Huntoon’s slave and Virgilia Hazard’s husband. Although both former slaves had encountered a great deal of bigotry and hardship in the North, neither of them had any inclination to return to their masters and slavery. Instead, both participated in John Brown’s failed raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Another one of the Mains’ slave – an elderly gentleman named Joseph (Harry Caesar) – seemed to be on friendly terms with Clarissa Main. He even seemed concerned for her well-being. Despite the lack of hostility between slave and mistress, Joseph did not hesitate to leave Mont Royal during the summer of 1863, when given the opportunity. Despite the Mains’ decent treatment of their slaves, one of them – a man named Caleb – reminded Orry that Mont Royal had never been their home.

If there is one character in the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy that personified some of these fans’ more conservative view of the saga, it is abolitionist Virgilia Hazard. Virgilia was not the only abolitionist in the story. Her older brother, George and his wife, Constance (James Read and Wendy Kilbourne) were also abolitionists. And Charles Main seemed to have a more liberal view of African-Americans than the others in his family. Judging from his comments to Semiramis, he never seemed to have a high or matter-of-fact opinion of slavery. But Virgilia, portrayed by the wonderful Kirstie Alley, managed to take her views against slavery to great heights. One might as well describe her as a fanatic. She had no tolerance toward all Southerners – especially slave owners. And she was very passionate in her views toward abolition and women’s rights. Many fans hate her . . . even to this day.

One can understand an initial dislike of Virgilia. She was bigoted toward all Southerners and harbored a fanatical view of her political and social beliefs. On the other hand, it is easy to admire her more liberal view toward African-Americans – especially in the mid 19th century – and abolition. This tolerance led her to fall in love and marry Grady. In ”Book I”, George had accused her of marrying the fugitive slave for political reasons. But Constance insisted that she had loved him. Virgilia’s reaction to his death seemed to support Constance’s views. And unlike other unpopular characters like Ashton Main (Terri Garber), James Huntoon (Jim Metzler), Isabel Truscott Hazard (Wendy Fulton, Mary Crosby and Deborah Rush), Harry Venable (Keith Szarabajka) and Elkhanah Bent (Philip Casnoff); Virgilia was able to face and acknowledge her flaws before her death by a hangman’s noose in Episode 6 of ”Book II”. Not only did her opinions of Southerners ease – personified by her sympathy toward a wounded Confederate officer - she also managed to make her peace with both George (whom she had accused of being a sympathizer toward Southern slave owners) and more importantly, Orry. But many fans have refused to acknowledge this character development in Virgilia. And they continue to blind themselves from her virtues. Because of this, I cannot help but wonder if their dislike of Virgilia had more to do with her liberal views than her personal flaws.

I find it ironic that the only fans of the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy I have come across, seemed to view the saga with a conservative bent. This is especially ironic, considering that John Jakes take on history in the antebellum United States seemed to be a lot more liberal – especially in his criticism of our country’s slave system. Even producer David Wolper managed to capture this view of Jakes’ saga in his three miniseries that aired between 1985 and 1994. Yet, I rarely come across any fan who seemed to view the trilogy in the same manner – especially in regard to their views on the Mains’ slaves and criticism of the Virgilia Hazard character. It almost seemed as if they would prefer to place Jakes’ trilogy in the same political category as Margaret Mitchell’s saga, ”Gone With the Wind”. And I do not know whether to find this sad . . . or ironic.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"GONE WITH THE WIND" (1939) Photo Gallery



Nine months ago, I wrote a REVIEW of the 1939 Academy Award film, "GONE WITH THE WIND". Below is a gallery of photos and publicity stills from the 1939 classic:


"GONE WITH THE WIND" (1939) Photo Gallery