BOND REBOOT

The Daniel Craig Years, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

After 20 James Bond films and 40 years, EON Productions finally had something that eluded them from the start.  They obtained the rights to the first Ian Fleming novel, 1953’s Casino Royale.  The story had been adapted into a 1954 American television drama and a 1967 comedy spoof, but had never been given a serious big screen treatment.  The chance was at hand when Pierce Brosnan declined the opportunity to go on as 007.

The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli.  Other studios had given their heroes a new start to great success, so why not Bond?  Comic book characters had moved away from cartoon portrayals to serious action heroes.  It was time to move Bond away from the comic quips and amazing gadgets.  With an eye towards a more faithful portrayal of the book than any of the previous Bond movies had done, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig took the story back to the beginning as secret agent Bond becomes 007.

Interestingly, the series did retain one cast member.  Judi Dench returned as the head of MI6 and the boss of James Bond.  She sends him on his first mission to Casino Royale.  Only Timothy Dalton gave us such a serious Bond, but Craig shows less emotion than any previous version of our favorite spy.  He is serious and calculating in his efforts to defeat the bad guys and serve his country.  If you were a fan of the novels and a more serious Bond, the “reboot” might be much to your liking.

In Casino Royale, Bond must defeat the terrorist financier Le Chiffre at the Casino.  Taking away the bad guy’s money is a dangerous plan for both players.  There will be no spoiler alerts, but Bond will not escape with a few double meaning quips and hidden gadgets.  This will be a painful ordeal.

Not everything is resolved at the end of the movie which allows for something the series has not tried before, a story arc.  Elements are carried into Quantum of Solace as Bond seeks revenge for a murder and tries to learn about the organization, Quantum.  It is clearly a more serious and more violent film than any Bond movie we have had so far.  An interesting side note is that Craig and director Marc Forster wrote sections of the script due to a screenwriter’s strike.  They did not receive screen credit. The role of Judi Dench is expanded this time out.  It make sense to make greater use of an actor of this stature.

The third Daniel Craig movie, Skyfall, may be the best so far.  It honors the Bond canon by bringing back some favorite characters in the person of new actors while making reference to times past.  This time out the story centers around  M (Judi Dench) and the challenges to MI6 from outside and in.  The only agent she can really trust to hunt down the threat is, of course Bond, James Bond.  Already in her late 70s at the time, Dench is featured in the trap that Bond lays for the bad guys and the action sequences that follow.  Javier Bardem is the evil trouble maker who is out to destroy the spy agency and get M.  The action is intense.

Skyfall picked up a collection of nominations and awards.  Adele sang the title song which you could not escape on the radio for a long time.  It won the Oscar.  Miss Moneypenny returns to the franchise.  If you have not seen it, I will leave the surprising revelation for you.  The Quartermaster (Q) returns and he is not the old-timer we were used to seeing in Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.  Of course, Llewelyn was a lot younger when he first appeared in a 1963 Bond film.  British stage and film star Ben Whishaw is the younger Q, much to the surprise of Bond.  He is more of a computer geek than a developer of gadgets, although he does have something for Bond.  He is the perfect 21st century Q and a clever return for the character.

Ralph Fiennes is on hand as Mallory, M’s boss, and will play a continuing role into the next feature.  Veteran Albert Finney is also on hand to support Bond in the late action sequences.  All things considered, I liked the casting, the return of certain characters and even bringing back the Aston Martin.  It is clever script writing by people familiar with the Bond legacy. It is directed by  Sam Mendes, who returns for the 4th Craig film.

If you saw the early Bond films or read the books, you knew that James Bond was often on the trail of members of the criminal organization, SPECTRE.  So it should be no surprise that the Bond reboot will find our hero on the search for information about the organization and its leader.  We find another name from the past as the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

SPECTRE contains all the right elements: M, Q, Moneypenny, evil villains and beautiful “Bond Girls.”  The storyline incorporates elements from early Bond stories by Ian Fleming.  It will be interesting to see where they go from here.  Will Craig be back?  Will the newly reintroduced regulars be back with the same actors?  Will the storylines continue to look for elements from Fleming novels and bring them up to date?

It is impossible to compare the Craig portrayal of Bond with the previous actors.  The series “reboot” has given us a Bond for the 21st century, different from what we had before.  I think it was the only way to go.  The Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan portrayals are charming, yet dated.  I hope Craig is back, or someone who can bring the same level of action and intensity.

Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film:

Related:
Bond, James Bond
Never Say Never Again
Moore Bond
For Your Eyes Only
Bond Is Back
Goldeneye
A Tale of Three James Bonds

A BOUNTIFUL LIFE

A short story of gratefulness from Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Max had to get an early start on Monday.  Three times a month it was the most important day of the week and he did not want to be late.  It was quite the walk to the Methodist church but he felt he was up to it.  Anyway, he did not want to ride part of the way on the bus as that seemed a waste of money.  If he had a good haul, however, he would definitely consider public transportation on the way back.  Even though Max was not a Methodist, he was headed to the Methodist church.

Next door to the church stood a small wooden building.  It was painted grey, like the church building, and it seemed too small for most uses.  No one recalls why the building was there originally, but now it served as the neighborhood food pantry.  Three churches participated in the collection of goods.  Each took 1 Sunday a month to collect canned goods and non-perishable items at their services and then bring them to the pantry.  The Methodist church got the honor of running the pantry, because it had the extra space and the Reverend Lawrence J. Shepherd had the time three mornings a week to hand out goods to those in need.  The fourth and sometimes fifth Sunday of the month found no collections and the food pantry was likely to run out of food.  In the final weeks of the month the Reverend Shepherd asked his own congregation to consider bringing in items again.  If there was a fifth Sunday in the month, the good reverend was practically begging.  He would call local stores asking for assistance.  It was the small shops that would donate, never the big super markets.

UU doorIt was a good plan to be at the food pantry at 9 am when the Reverend came to unlock the door.  It was also a good idea to bring a sturdy bag with you, one that was good for carrying goods a long distance.  If you had no bag, the reverend always had some used plastic bags from the markets and the donated supplies.  People seemed more willing to recycle their old plastic bags then to actually give food or money, but the reverend was thankful for anything that would help him out.

“Good morning, reverend,” Max said in a cheerful voice.  Max always had a smile on his face and seemed to absolutely light up when he ran into anyone he knew.  People were as glad to see this happy person as he was to see them.

“Hello Max,” the reverend said.  “I think we have some good items this week.”  That pleased Max very much.  He felt quite fortunate to be getting good food.  It was not something that Max could afford on his own.

When Max was pushed out of his job at retirement age, he had little savings.  Almost half of his fixed income went to pay his rent.  The utilities and regular monthly expenses took about a third.  He only filled prescriptions that were of low-cost and skipped the others in order to stretch his funds.  The little that was left did not exactly cover the food costs.  That is why he saw the food pantry as a blessing that was bestowed upon the neighborhood in general and himself in particular.  He just could not imagine why he was so lucky to have the pantry.  He knew other neighborhoods did not have one.

After the reverend had gathered up a nice selection for Max, he handed him back his bag filled with goods.  Max was not one of those people who asked for specific things from the shelves behind the counter.  He was pleased with whatever he was handed.  “I guess we will see you next week, Max,” Shepherd said.  “Bless you.”

“Bless you too, reverend,” Max replied happily as he reached out and shook the reverend’s hand, just as if he was shaking God’s own hand right there in that little building next to God’s house.  Of course, it was not the house of Max’s God, but he figured they all pretty much belonged to the same supreme being.

Despite a brisk north wind blowing right at Max, he bravely made his return trip on foot.  He did not feel that being handed some excellent cans and boxes was any reason to turn around and throw away good money.  His fingers and toes were rather numb when Max got in the small apartment and finally sat down.  He would make the trip again the following week and the week after.  The reverend only allowed you to come once a week.  Few showed up on the weeks when there had been no collection of goods that Sunday.

Each Sunday Max made his way to his own church.  They participated in the food collection once a month and did their best to minister to the needs of the parish poor.  After such a fine selection of goods that Monday, Max felt it was very important to show up at church on time the following Sunday.  He greeted everyone with a smile as he walked in.  He paused at the back of the church where there was a small safe.  In the top was a slot to receive donations for the St. Vincent DePaul Society for the poor.  Max reached into his pocket and found a quarter, dime, 2 nickels and a penny.  He dropped them into the old safe.  Even though his coat and gloves were given to him by the Society, Max did not consider himself one of the poor.  Instead, he felt obligated to help out if he could.  He helped on the coat drive, the Christmas tree sale, the donut sale and other activities to benefit the poor.  Why should he not help, when he had so much?

As he moved up the center aisle, Max spotted an empty pew.  This meant he could get a nice seat on the aisle where he could look right down the middle and see the service.  He stepped in, knelt down and gave thanks for the bounty in his life.

CAN’T STOP THE FEELING? – RICH PASCHALL

Let’s Dance, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


When I was younger, so much younger, we used to go dancing.  Believe it or not, we fell hard into the disco era and found our way to bars and clubs where we could dance for hours.  There was plenty of Hustle as we would slide, turn, spin and merengue across the floor.  The period was brief, not just because we are older now, but because the flood of disco received a quick backlash and we moved onto other styles of music.  That did not stop the dancing.  It just changed the beat.

When I was a young boy,
Said put away those young boy ways
Now that I’m getting’ older, so much older
I long for those young boy days
(- John Mellencamp)

We may not be going down to the Copacabana anymore, but we can still do our Neutron Dance.  I am sure you know someone about whom you can say, “All She Want’s To Do Is Dance.” So why not be a Dancing Queen or King and get up and Dance, Dance, Dance.  There is no Dancing on the Ceiling at Marilyn’s house, but you can still Dance The Night Away.  I hear your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll, but what’s your excuse?

In order to get you up and moving, I brought along some music to spin on the old turntable.  Before I get to my Top 10 Dance tunes that actually have the word “dance” in the title, I thought I would lay an honorable mention on this current tune.  Maybe someone you know has already told you to “Shut Up and Dance.”

10. I Can’t Stop Dancing, Archie Bell and the Drells – The song was released in 1968 and was probably a predictable follow-up to 1967’s Tighten Up, another dance hit.  This was certainly pre-disco and what we were dancing to until the records skipped a groove.

9.  Dance, Dance, Dance, Beach Boys – The 1964 song by Brian and Carl Wilson along with Mike Love was a dance sensation.  It was often paired in performance with another Beach Boys song on our list.

8.  Come Dancing, The Kinks – The 1983 hit song was written by Ray Davies and inspired by his sister’s trips to the local dance hall.  There was a follow-up single entitled “Don’t Forget To Dance.”

7.  Do You Wanna Dance, Beach Boys – The 1958 Bobby Freeman song was given more life by the Beach Boys’ cover in 1965.  It was subsequently covered by many others, including a very popular slow version by Bette Midler.

6. Dance to the Music, Sly and the Family Stone – It is time to mix a little soulful funk in with your rock and roll.  The 1968 dance hit pushed music towards a more “Psychedelic” sound.  Other bands followed.  Everybody dance!

5.  You Should Be Dancing, Bee Gees – The Brothers Gibb knew how to push music in one direction and then another.  This 1976 chart topper helped disco to explode onto the dance floor.  It was one of 6 Bee Gees songs to appear the following year on the soundtrack album of Saturday Night Fever.  John Travolta taught people the moves as his stardom increased with every glide across the dance floor.  It you are still seated, this should get you up.

4.  Dancing In The Street, David Bowie & Mick Jagger – OK, I could have picked a lot of different versions of this song, but in this one they both Move Like Jagger.  The Marvin Gaye tune was a 1964 hit for Martha and the Vandellas.  Others covered it with success until David and Mick danced down the street in this 1985 version.

3.  Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen – “The Boss” wrote the song and was apparently looking for a dance club hit.  He got it with this 1985 release, the first single from the Born in the USA album.  The “B side” of the single was “Pink Cadillac,” another hit. Springsteen owns the stage in this live performance and official video for the song.

2.  Flashdance…What a Feeling, Irene Cara – The 1983 hit for the movie Flashdance was coauthored by Cara and picked up an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy.  Jennifer Beals is the dancer in the movie which received negative reviews and box office success.

1. Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters – I can see that you are now tired from all the dancing, so we will finish with a slow dance.  I have always liked this song and thought it was put to powerful use near the end of Season one of Queer as Folk, the American version here.  I will give you the 1960 version (used in QAF, by the way) with Ben E. King on lead vocals.

HOT, HOTTER, HOTTEST – FICTION BY RICH PASCHALL

The Greenhouse, by Rich Paschall

It was another hot February day in the nation’s capital.  Many people had flooded the city’s cooling centers to get away from the unusual heat, as well as the “rolling black-outs.”  Even some of these air-conditioned locations would go without power for a few hours a day. It was unavoidable.  Just a few structures, as well as most government buildings, were exempt from the power outages.  There were a variety of factors straining the power supply in many regions of the country.  Heat seemed to be the main one.

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When the 21st Century was coming to a close, the President at that time had to admit the impact on the earth that was caused by human factors.  When elected, he continued to insist that climate change was a hoax, just as many Presidents had done before him.  The 45th President eliminated the Environmental Protection Agency  The 46th left the United Nations in order to stop hearing worldwide complaints about the nation’s lack of action.  The 47th President demanded that the space agency stop commenting on the climate and stop posting pictures of the earth that were taken from space.  Despite all of these actions, it became inevitable that the nation should face the truth.  Everyone was living in a greenhouse and the heat was on the rise.

The average temperature of the earth had risen ten degrees in the 100 years leading up to the overheated dawn of the 22nd Century. Some areas of the world had seen an even higher increase and were suffering greatly from it.  This caused a great migration away from the center of the earth and toward cooler climates.  This crowding of certain cities and towns lead to a crisis of jobs, housing, education and electrical power.  The final president of the century had no answers.  He had spent too many years denying the problem.  Now his best advice to the nation was to “Conserve and Optimize 2 preserve energy.”  The slogan resonated with no one.

Campaign 2100 brought a demand by the people for action on all the problems caused by the weather.  A rise in sea levels had flooded many coastal cities and one city on the Gulf was declared a complete loss.  Former President Tower had seen his beach front home disappear, which many thought was poetic justice.  Much of the southwest was completely unlivable due to heat.  Severe storms and tornadoes had destroyed much of the middle section of the country.  And while heat had dried up some areas, increased rainfall flooded others.

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A weary populace seemed to turn against traditional candidates while giving hope to independents and other parties.  The Green Party candidate, Arthur Klima, gathered the most interest in 2100.  The former chief scientist for the space agency had been fired by a previous administration for his comments on global warming.  His supporters counted on that very fact to propel him forward in the race for President.

Klima had little political experience and had never run for office.  Green Party officials convinced the scientist that the nation not only was ready for a drastic change, but needed a climate change expert in charge.  So off Arthur went on the long campaign that was ironically well-funded by billionaires hurt by the climate and entertainment luminaries sick of “politics as usual.”

Arthur started in the southeast to explain how the melting of the polar ice caps so far away brought flooding to them.  Then it was to the southwest where he stood in 110 degree temperatures to review how greenhouse gases radiated the heat of the sun back down to the earth, rather than escape the atmosphere.  In the middle of the country, he told the followers how heating the planet caused a rise in water vapor, which meant more clouds and more storms.  In the far north, Arthur was dressed in a short sleeve shirt and summer time shorts when he told the crowd they should all be wearing winter wear at that time of year.  The wildlife they loved, he explained to deathly quiet crowds, were surely going to die off due to loss of habitat.

Klima won Campaign 2100 by what many would consider a landslide.  The favored topics of the main party candidates were of little interest to those without power or water.  Now the people were going to rely on a scientist rather than a politician to bring them answers.  There was only one problem with that.  While Klima could define the problem for them, he did not know how to solve it at this late stage in the earth’s life.

At 30 days into his administration, Klima was preparing to address the nation with an action plan as he had promised throughout the campaign.  It was just a few hours before he was to go live from the Presidential office when Vice President Colton was reading the final draft.  She was a lifelong politician and she knew a smokescreen when she saw one.  She decided to tell Klima as much.

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“What is this?” she asked in their private meeting.  “You call for increased use of wind power and solar energy, with less reliance on fossil fuels.  Decreased emission from cars and factories!  These are minor improvements and will have minimal impact.  It will take years for this to mean anything.”

“Yes, I know,” Arthur said quietly.  “We should have been doing these things over 100 years ago.  The reports and studies we have reviewed  in the past month show we may not be able to save the planet after all.”

“Then what are you saying to the people with this speech about water vapor and nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane gases.  What are you offering with more solar panels in the southwest?”

“Hope,” Arthur replied.  “It is the only thing we can offer.”

 

See also:
Arid – Where There’s Not Enough Rain

TELLING YOUR STORY – RICH PASCHALL

Finding Your Own Voice, Rich Paschall – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG


What is the best way to relate something?  When do you communicate well?  What is it that gets your point across?  When does your voice stand out in a sea of voices?  How can you be heard?  I like to think that I can write about anything, but the truth is some stories and essays are more widely received than others.  Why is that?  When you tell a story or try to make a point, when are you at your most effective?

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Certainly those with debating skills know how to line up evidence, organize their material, give weight and structure to their arguments and drive their points home.  For some that comes rather naturally.  They can readily see how point one leads to point two and on to point three.  They can see what supports each point along the way.  They understand when something needs extra support.  If they have a particularly effective quote, they know whether to play that card up front, or hold it back for a rebuttal in such a way that it is not “extra topical” but right on point.

For others this skill is acquired through study of argumentation as well as study of opponents.  If I say “this,” what is the likely response?  Will it be more effective to address this audience in a bold, out-spoken manner, or a soft and persuasive one?  Does my voice sound sincere?  Combative? Rude? Respectful?  When am I at my best?  When are people listening?

What if it is not an argument at all, but a simple point that is to be made?  When are you at your most interesting?  How do you capture the imagination of your listeners or readers?  There is not much point to advancing an argument if no one is listening, or reading, as the case may be.  What do you need at the open to get people’s attention?  Whether you are speaking to an audience or writing your point for Word Press, a good opening line is essential.  What is it though?  How do you find it?

Perhaps you wish to tell a short story.  Certainly there is a great oral tradition of story telling.  The earliest written stories were likely those that were passed along from generation to generation verbally.  If you sat down to write Beowulf out for a newly literate segment of the population, how would you begin?  Is the same opening effective on paper as it was sitting in the mead hall with your friends, having a glass of whatever (really, what was that stuff?), listening to a tale and wondering if that was Grendel or the Rolling Stones making noise outside?  How can you make yours words stand out?

By now, you have noticed that I have thrown out a lot of questions. I suppose you might think that this is the part where I start answering them.  OK, wait for it … Sorry, I don’t have the answers. I really don’t.  What’s effective for you, may not be effective for me and what is effective for me …

You get the idea. Different people are successful in different ways. That’s because we are unique.  St. Paul would have told you in his unique letter writing style that each has his own gift. It is up to us to find that gift, that voice, if you will, and use it to be your most effective voice.

In looking back over recent weeks on Sunday Night Blog and Serendipity, I wanted to find the most read, liked and commented upon pieces.  What voice is heard?  I notice there was much interest in the personal stories.  Last fall Marilyn encouraged me to write about my trip to England and I posted several pieces.  Much to my surprise, they continue to be found and read.  I am sure it is not so much the personal story, but the adventure of it.  Don’t we all love to look at articles on travel and the pictures they contain?  Short stories and social commentary find varying success, and everyone has a comment or story about politics lately.

Recently we posted the importance of telling YOUR STORY.  It is not something you have to publish on Word Press or facebook or any other social media site.  We may be interested in your personal antics, but you may not be prepared to tell them.  Should you tell them at all?  If you are not a writer here, should you not pass on your stories of ancestry to your family anyway? What do you remember that this generation may want to know?  What about the next generation?  Can you find the words to tell them?

Whether you are writing a blog or telling a story at a family gathering, you will find your voice and it will be a good one. It may take a long time, years in fact, but don’t stop telling your story.  Some day you may be the best storyteller at Aunt Martha’s Christmas party and every gathering will bring friends and relatives to your side to hear your voice.  Or you may some day be the best writer in the blogosphere, and I will be reading you faithfully.  By the way, if you have answers to any of the questions above, please leave them in the comments below.  I really want to know them myself.

YOUR STORY BY RICH PASCHALL

Why It Is Important By Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


From time to time, I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction.  They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point.  While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me.  I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make each a story.  If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment.  Now I would like to recommend to you a more important story.  It is one that only you can fill in the details, and it is imperative that you do it soon before the chance slips away.  That story is your story.

1930s Country-Road

How often have you wondered about the details of your ancestry?  How often did you wish to know more about your parents’ lives or your grandparents’ lives?  Where did they come from? How did they meet?  How did they fall in love?  What did they do before you were around?  Perhaps you have parents who were around at pivotal points in history.  What do they recall?  Did you wait until it was too late to ask these questions or is there still time?

It is not that my brother and I did not think to ask our parents about their earlier lives, we just did not get good answers.  Of course, we did not press them on anything, especially when we were young.  My mother lived through the Great Depression. The family was so poor that a wealthy relative offered to raise my mother. She feared my grandmother could not properly feed all her children (six, although one died as a child).  Apparently my grandfather was not a good provider.  Details of his bad habits are sketchy.  My mother was not given away and they struggled through the 1930s.  As for the war years, I have no idea.

My father was born into rural American farm life.  He joined the war effort (WWII) as soon as he was old enough.  Like many of our “greatest generation” he said little about it.  “What did you do in the war, dad?” we might ask.  “I learned to peel potatoes”, he would usually respond.  Even if that were true, it does not tell the story.  My father was a member of the army air corp. 509 Composite.  That is the group that was on Tinian Island.  There the secret mission of the group there was to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  Did my father know any of that?  Probably not as records indicate he was trained in first aid and medical support.  Remaining documents are a matter of contradiction.  Some of the record may have been untrue to cover what was the actual story.  We’ll never know.

Late in dad’s life it was futile to recover any details.  My brother tried to get some information and did a lot of research that allowed us to only confirm a few things.  We have medals, his discharge paper and the 509 Composite book with some pictures as the only definite facts.  The rest of the story was my father’s joke or dismissive answers.  Of course, we have heard that many who came back from the war, did not want to talk about it.  In my father’s later life we did attend some family reunions and travelled to the rural community where he was born.  My grandparents are buried there.  We learned some of his past, nothing about the war.

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I tell you all this to remind you that you may want to learn as much of your ancestry as you can.  It is part of your story.  You may have heard of ancestry.com or the PBS television series that traces the ancestry of famous people.  These have become popular because of our desires to know who we are and where we came from.  If your parents and grandparents are alive, ask them your questions now, before it is too late.

When my grandmother was still alive and in her 90’s, there was a picture taken with her holding her great-great grand-daughter with her daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter behind her.  I wonder if there is a copy of that photo for the infant in the picture.  More importantly, can anyone recount the stories of those in the picture?  Save your priceless photos too.  There may be no telling how valuable these pictures will be to future generations.

What about the most important story of all?  That would be your story, of course.  You may not think it now, but your story may be important to the future.  Consider what your friends and offspring may wish to know.  Tell the stories as honestly as you can.  That does not mean you have to tell everything.  Some things are best if they are not passed along.  Tell the things the next generations will want to know about you, and who and what came before you as far as you know.  You will be honoring the future generations in this way.  What you wanted to know about your past may be what your offspring will want to know about you.  Toss the dirt out the window and do not be tempted to give “alternative facts.”

National Public Radio has featured stories from Story Corps.  Over 100,000 people have recorded their stories there, some more than once, years apart.  Some are absolutely moving accounts of where some people have been in their lives.  I heard one on the radio of an elderly couple who told their story on-line and then updated 10 years later before the husband’s death.  Then he recounted how he wrote love letters to his wife every day for over 40 years and their love had never died.  Did following generations know this?  They know it now.  Do not leave your story untold and unwritten.  It is your legacy.  It is the most important story you know.

SEND IN THE FEDS – RICH PASCHALL

The Streets of Chicago, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


When I was in Medellin, Colombia, someone had brought up the name of Pablo Escobar when we were out for food and drinks.  Escobar was an infamous drug lord who had lived in the Andes mountains near Medellin.  My friend commented unhappily that they have to keep telling people that Escobar was killed in the 1990s, meaning he does not live there anymore.  I told him I understand. We have to keep telling people that Al Capone no longer lives in Chicago.  The crime boss died at his home in Florida in 1947.  Sometimes the truth does not help you to shake your reputation.

1931 Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection

1931    Photo Credit: cta Historical Photo Collection

At the present time you may hear that Chicago is the murder capital of the country, just like in the Capone days.  The leader of our nation has said that crime here is “totally out of control.”  He even tweeted recently that they might send in the feds if we do not solve the problem.  While we are all dismayed at the uptick in violence in our city, one thing we know.  We are not in the top ten in murders per capita on anyone’s list.  We are not in the top twenty either.  Depending on who is doing the measuring and what size cities they go by, we may even miss the top 30.  I know it is hard to believe.  Google it!  You will find many news stories about Chicago, but you will also find plenty of articles about cities complaining they have a higher rate.  You will find many web sites with rankings and wonder where we are.  We’ll wait right here.  Then come back and let’s talk about this.

The murder rate was up in 2016. We have not seen such rates since the 1990s.  It was a big increase over 2015, but when you look at this on a per capita basis for large USA cities, you may ask, “What about Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis?  What about Baltimore and Dayton?  What about Milwaukee?  Can we send the Feds there, too?  Can we send them to Atlanta and Houston and Camden?”  In fact there are many cities with increases, so why does Chicago get so much more coverage than the others?

Perhaps it is because we are the third largest city in the country.  In comparison to New York and Los Angeles, the crime numbers are much higher.  It is easy to look at the three together, as many newspaper articles are fond of doing.  From that vantage point, we look very bad.

Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive

Perhaps it is because we are the center of the country.  We have the busiest airports.  We are at the crossroads of the nation.  Highways, railways and even ocean carriers move through here, making this their hub and their home.  As a center of commerce, there is no overstating Chicago’s significance.

Perhaps it is because the 44th President of the United States hails from here and the current leader — number 45 — would like to embarrass him.  Perhaps it is because Chicago voted overwhelmingly for his opponent and he is trying to make an example of us.  Or not.  This is likely a minor issue as we were already getting plenty of coverage.  But why don’t we read tweets about any of the cities in the Top 10 of murder rate per capita?

No matter where we rank, the problem has grown and something needs to be done, but send in the Feds?  Absolutely.  No big city mayor is going to turn down help fighting crime.  But there is a slight problem with the leader’s promise.  “What does it even mean?” 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale asked. “It is so vague.”  What kind of help is he sending?

Representative from Chicago, Luis Gutierrez, (my Congressman, by the way) is not impressed with our leader “beating up” Chicago.  “Chicago’s murder epidemic is more serious than a late night twitter threat from the new Tweeter-in-Chief,” he said.  Other Chicago leaders from local aldermen to the Cardinal are unhappy with the treatment.

Instead of vague tweets, where is the partnership with the Justice Department, the FBI, DEA?  If there are resources to send, our mayor is all for it.  We are a big city with big city problems.  There are certain types of help that would be meaningful and possibly effective.  “Chicago, like other cities right now that are dealing with gun violence, wants the partnership with federal law enforcement entities in a more significant way than we’re having today,” Mayor Emanuel said.

In a breaking story this weekend, 20 more ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents are being assigned to their office here.  A request for this help is long-standing and the Mayor mentioned it to then president-elect 45 in a December 7th meeting (apparently fearless leader forgot about it).  Federal gun prosecutions in this District fall way behind other big cities and resources were needed.  If more agents have any effect at all, we know who will take credit.

Chicago lakefront

Chicago lakefront

It is tough to be in the spotlight, especially when the light is made brighter by a guy with a Twitter account.  We are a world-class city with world-class attractions.  We have fine airports and railroad stations.  We have a lakefront that runs the length of the city with land that is open and free for all.

We have one of the largest fresh water lakes that supplies our drinking water and our summer playground.  When I stand at the Planetarium out on the lake, I see what I think, in my biased viewpoint, is the greatest skyline in the country.  If someone wants to send help, we are glad to have you.  If someone wants to wage a Twitter war, can he pick on St. Louis and the Cardinals instead?

Sources:

Murders Up in U.S. Cities–But Crime Rate Still Near Record Lows,” Time, December 20, 2016
Highest Murder Rate Cities,” Neighborhood Scout, Location, Inc.
Most Dangerous Cities in the United States,” World Atlas
FBI’s Violent Crime Statistics For Every City In America,” CBS local, October 22, 2015
Emanuel to Trump: Chicago Would Welcome Federal Partnership to Quell Violence,” nbcchicago.com, January 25, 2017
Rahm To Trump: ‘Straight Up,’ No Troops In Chicago,” dnainfo.com, January 25, 2017
20 More ATF Agents On Their Way To Chicago,” Chicago Sun-Times, February 3, 2017