Friday, October 31, 2014

So Like Candy

Happy Halloween!!  Let's celebrate by listening to So Like Candy by Elvis Costello.
She can't face the day
So she just melts away

Here lies the records that she scratched
And on the sleeve I find a note attached
And it's So Like Candy

My darling dear it's such a waste
She couldn't say goodbye but I admire her taste
And it's So Like Candy
The video is from a terrific 1991 performance on Saturday Night Live.
Elvis collaborated on So Like Candy with Paul McCartney and is the only person with whom McCartney has composed other than John Lennon.  Their partnership produced eleven songs in the late 1980s of which five appeared on Costello albums (including So Like Candy and Veronica) and five on McCartney albums.

The best known of the tunes appearing on McCartney's albums was My Brave Face which has an interesting story behind it.  During his Wings years and thereafter, McCartney avoided writing songs that sounded like the Beatles, particularly the pre-Sgt Pepper Beatles.  In My Brave Face there is a melodic part and lyric "take me to that place" (it first shows up at around 1:45 in the video below) written by Costello and which McCartney felt was too Beatlesque (and indeed, Elvis did so deliberately).  Elvis eventually persuaded McCartney to include the section in the song and when it came to the making the music video he even agreed to insert some Beatles footage.  And Costello appears at around 2:35.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Baseball Season Wrap Up

THC was rooting for the Royals but it was a fine game nonetheless.  And how about Madison Baumgarner?

We'll leave you with three items.

First, the Historical:

At citylab.com you can read about how before the days of TV and even radio, fans used to gather to watch the progress of World Series games on outdoor scoreboards.

Second, the Sublime:

Joe Posnanski on Bill James - Vanguard After The Revolution.  An ideal match of writer and subject. It's about baseball but it is also about how do we know we know anything regardless of the subject.

And finally, the Ridiculous:

From the Daily News: Jose Canseco Accidentally Shoots Off Finger While Cleaning His Gun.  Bizarre, but somehow not surprising considering who was involved.  We'll let Jose's girlfriend have the final word:
“I have to go home and clean up the blood and mess.  It’s been a long day.” 
Jose and his girlfriend:
Leila Knight and Jose Canseco

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bolivian Death Road Update

For those of you who haven't yet driven the Bolivian Death Road (see THC's prior post) here are some more photos from the Daily Mail Online to whet your appettite for destruction:

Don't look down: Cyclists are flocking to North Yungus Road in Bolivia, known as The Death Road Sky high: Clouds engulf the hills that the Death Road runs through

World's most dangerous road: A cyclist negotiates one of the many corners on the 40 mile-long North Yungus Road as it winds through the Bolivian rainforest

Monday, October 27, 2014

Push It

90s music from Garbage featuring Shirley Manson on vocals.  As an extra added bonus you get to watch the ridiculous introduction by the Special Rock U.S.A. show on French TV which seems to be the same show from which THC got this clip from Smashing Pumpkins (see The World Is A Vampire).
I was angry when I met you
I think I'm angry still

Friday, October 24, 2014

Eddie Coyle's Friend: George V Higgins


http://library.sc.edu/spcoll/amlit/higgins/images/higginspho1.jpg (library.sc.edu)
"For the past 30 years the greatest novelists writing in English have been genre writers: John le CarrĂ©, George Higgins and Patrick O'Brian."  - David Mamet, NY Times, January 17, 2000
"The best crime novel ever written . . . I finished the book in one sitting and felt as if I’d been set free.  So this is how you do it." - Elmore Leonard on The Friends of Eddie Coyle
"You hold in your hands the game-changing crime novel of the last fifty years . . .  How can a slim book with minimal description and no heroes lay claim to the status of a modern masterpiece?" - Dennis Lehane; introduction to the 2010 edition of The Friends of Eddie Coyle
". . . an obvious precursor of The Wire and everything that is most interesting in Quentin Tarantino movies"  - The Cincinnati Review
"This life's hard, but it's harder if you're stupid"  - George V Higgins
During much of the 1980s and 90s the only fiction writers whose new novels THC would buy without reading a review were George V Higgins and Patrick O'Brian (for more on O'Brian, author of the Aubrey-Maturin series, the best historical novels ever written, see Master And Commander).   Then, they were both suddenly gone within eight weeks; O'Brian on January 2, 2000 at the age of 85 preceded by Higgins on November 6, 1999 from a heart attack at 59.

George V Higgins was a double Eagle (Boston College and Boston College Law School), a big deal back then in Boston.  Born in Brockton, Massachusetts he grew up and later lived on Boston's South Shore (aka The Irish Riviera).  Before becoming a novelist he worked as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the State of Massachusetts, an Assistant US Attorney, and as a journalist.

Success as a writer did not come overnight.  Before The Friends of Eddie Coyle was published in 1972, he'd started more than a dozen novels.  Reflecting on this experience, he counseled aspiring authors in his instruction manual, On Writing (1990):
The secret remains that there is no secret.  The way to determine whether you have talent is to rummage through your files and see if you have written anything; if you have, and quite a lot, then the chances are you have the talent to write more.  If you haven't written anything, you do not have the talent because you don't want to write. Those who do can't help themselves.
If you do not seek to publish what you have written, then you are not a writer and you never will be.
And in typical Higgins style he also adds:
If your reading hasn't made you a better person, and it hasn't, why the hell should your writing make your reader better? 
Eddie Coyle was an overnight sensation; one that Higgins would never top in terms of sales or critical acclaim though he maintained respectable sales and good reviews until the end.  And he was prolific, producing 27 novels and 4 non-fiction books in just under three decades.  As a devoted fan, THC knew he could depend upon GVH to provide a steady stream of good reading.

Many of the grimy Boston locations and much of Higgins' dialogue were kept in the fine movie version of Eddie Coyle, made by Bullitt director Peter Yates and starring Robert Mitchum as the small-time hood just trying to make a living.  This is the opening scene of the movie in which Coyle (Mitchum) meets with a dealer in untraceable guns.  The dialogue closely tracks the novel and Mitchum gets it perfect (except for the Boston accent). 
The novel introduced what Higgins became best known for; his distinctive dialogue or as Higgins once put it "The quotes make the story.  Dialogue is character and character is plot."  Most of his novels consist of heavy doses of dialogue and sometimes dialogues within the dialogues and digressions within the dialogues threaded among other dialogues.  If you don't keep careful track you can find your head spinning.  It's what Mamet, Lehane and Leonard treasured about Higgins.  Some others weren't so enamored; critic Rod MacLeish once commenting "The plot of a Higgins novel . . . is a blurrily perceived skeleton within the monsoon of dialogue".  But that's precisely what we loved about the books.  These are not Robert Ludlum novels packed with plot and action.  We really didn't care about the plot other than the general set up; it was the characters and their meandering talk that engaged us.  As novelist Evan Hunter wrote: "The people are so real that it doesn't matter what they're doing or how they go about doing it; just being in their company is pleasure enough".

The dialogue Higgins wrote was realistic but it wasn't real.  Very few people actually talk like that, or at least they don't talk like that for so long and, at times, he could venture dangerously near Damon Runyon territory.  But mostly, Higgins had a knack for cadence, ambiance and simplicity that rang true even if it wasn't actually true.  This is Cadillac Teddy Franklin in Defending Billy Ryan (1992):
"It's all business, you know?"  Teddy said.  "That's all it is, a business.  You do a thing, you do a thing, you do another thing.  You say a guy: 'Hey, I need this,' and he says: 'Hey, okay'.  And then he goes and does it.  So, you use him once, and he comes through, you call him up again.  You say: 'Now, I need this other thing'.  So he goes: 'When?'  You say: 'Tamarra.'  He says: 'I can't do it then.  Gimme Thursday.  I'll be there.'  You say: 'Thursday.  You got it.'  Thursday he is there.  And he has got the thing."
This passage always reminds me of the scene from the remake of Ocean's Eleven when Elliot Gould's character tells George Clooney and Brad Pitt "I owe you from the thing with the guy in the place and I'll never forget it.  Give Dominc your addresses, I've got some remaindered furniture I wanna send to you." (watch it here).

Don't go looking for action sequences in these books; there are few.  A Higgins novel relies on dialogue in which the characters converse about what had happened, or was about to happen, or about things that had nothing to do with what had or was going to happen, though sometimes it would dawn on you towards the end of the book that that thing, you know which the guy talked about way back that didn't seem to have anything to do with the story, did.

A recent piece by Jim Sherman in the Houston Chronicle captures how Higgins struck a new reader:
No American novelist has ever mastered dialogue the way Higgins did. If anything, he may have had too fine an ear for the mainstream. I read Eddie Coyle when I was a Midwestern high school student, and I just didn’t get it. Then I spent 10 weeks in boot camp in the company of 20 or teenage boys from Southie and when I revisited the novel it made much more sense: Oh, that’s why he put that comma there! That’s why he murdered the verb tense deader than a stool pigeon! That’s the way those people talk! 
Messing with the verb tense was a Higgins trademark that makes for thrilling reading but requires careful attention lest you lose your bearings.  

Elmore Leonard paid further tribute to Higgins after his death:
"What I learned from George Higgins, was to relax, not be so rigid in trying to make the prose sound like writing, to be more aware of the rhythms of coarse speech and the use of obscenities [and there were times when he used a lot of obscenities]. Most of all … hook the reader right away."
Leonard didn't just admire Higgins, he became the bridge between GVH and Quentin Tarantino. The opening line of Eddie Coyle is "Jackie Brown, at 26, with no expression on his face, said he could get some guns.”  Twenty years later Leonard wrote Rum Punch, whose lead character was named Jackie Burke in tribute to Higgins, and several years later Tarantino made a movie based on Rum Punch and titled it Jackie Brown.

Coyle also introduced us to the trademark George V Higgins deadpan view of life's realities:
"You know how it is, you're talking to somebody and he says something and the next fellow says something, and the first thing you know, you heard something"

"That's the thing that bothers you, you know?  It is just, well, there's some things you can help and some kinds of things you can't do anything about, is all.  Knowing the difference, as long as you can tell the difference, you're in pretty good shape.  That was what kind of bothered me about that big broad with the bullhorn there, was that just for a minute or so it was like I didn't know the difference.  You get so you're in that position, you're not going to be able to do very much about anything."
Higgins further developed his mordant sense of humor and cynicism in his later novels.  From The Judgment Of Deke Hunter (1979), about a state cop facing career and moral choices:
"The way it is, I'm still scared all the time, scared I'll be wiped out."
"Is that likely?" Hunter said.
"I hope not," Edmund said. "Not that hopes matter"
Or take this little bit from Trust (1989):
"Whatever doesn't kill us, makes us strong," Cobb said.
"Fuck Nietzsche," Beale said: "He's never around when you need him."
In the course of the 1980s Higgins went through a period when his cynicism grew overwhelming.  THC recommends against a Higgins novice attempting Penance for Jerry Kennedy (1985), the second of the four Jerry Kennedy books (of which more below), because its acidic cynicism and fatalism burns through the pages.  Only take it on once you've become acclimated by reading some of his other novels.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-EB-lnm93Hk4/UnXK58GmPdI/AAAAAAAAImM/5W7rGbnQHH4/s1600/higgins+and+dex.jpg
And then there is Bomber's Law (1993), Higgins' Finnegan's Wake, which should definitely not be attempted by amateurs.  Nominally, Bomber's Law is about Detective Sergeant Brennan of the Massachusetts State Police, who is following a mob enforcer, Short Joey Mossi, in an attempt to build a case against him.  After tailing Mossi fruitlessly for years, Brennan is saddled by his boss, Brian Dennison, with a new partner, Harry Dell'Appa, an idealistic and impatient young state cop, who is puzzled why Brennan and Dennison's predecessor, the retired and now very dead Bomber Lawrence, have failed to get the goods on Short Joey after all these years.  Most of the novel, which is 95% dialogue, consists of Brennan, Dell'Appa and Dennison telling each other lengthy, and occasionally deliberately distracting, yarns in the course of which we learn a lot about Short Joey and his younger, mentally disabled brother, and eventually the secret of Bomber's Law along with embarking upon many entertaining excursions which have nothing to do with the plot, that is, if there is, in fact, a plot.  The story telling is wonderful but dazzlingly complex often requiring the reader to double back and make sure they understand just whom the speaker is referring to or who is actually speaking.  The entire novel is a digression - a great ride but you need to develop your Higgins' muscles before attempting.

Higgins' world was that of the low-life criminals or near criminals and those who track and prosecute them, along with the state and local politicians who also qualified as low-lifes in the Higgins worldview.  He didn't often feature women as lead characters, but one of his best is recently divorced Connie Gates in Imposters (1986), who gets entangled investigating a murder case on behalf of a Boston newspaper publisher and manages to get the best of everyone she deals with.  More problematic was when he strayed from his usual cast.  Higgins was a great admirer of John O'Hara and tried to emulate him with Dreamland (1977) and Swan Boats At Four (1995) both of which dealt with upper-middle class angst but ended up just being boring.

One of THC's favorites is A Choice Of Enemies (1984) the closest thing to a "big novel" that Higgins ever wrote.  In an interview Higgins said he had wanted to write the story for twenty years, based upon his journalism work in the early 1960s, but had waited until he had the maturity to do it justice.  Enemies concerns the travails of Bernie Morgan, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who is desperately maneuvering to preserve his political power and avoid jail in the face of an onslaught by his political enemies, including Governor John J Tierney and various law enforcement officials.  Morgan is based upon John Forbes Thompson, the corrupt Speaker in the early 1960s, and Tierney on Governor Endicott "Chub" Peabody of whom it was said he was the only governor to have three Massachusetts towns named after him; Peabody, Marblehead and Athol.  Speaker Morgan has two wives, both named Maggie, and his biggest resource is the fixer, the wonderfully written Francis X Costello.  It's a delightful and realistic plunge into Massachusetts politics, which haven't changed much in the intervening years which have seen several other Speakers go directly to jail.
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51kywtE4b5L.jpg
When he desired, Higgins could deploy a considerable gift for precise description.  Here's a passage from The Rat on Fire (1981), so titled in honor of an actual case of insurance fraud hatched by a building owner and fire marshal to torch tenements by setting fire to rats:
At 2:35 in the morning, Leo Proctor took a right on Dorchester Avenue and drove the van south for about half a mile.  He took a right and then another right, driving very carefully between the cars parked on both sides of the street, and found a place in front of his yellow three-decker, the one with the white trim, at 41 Windsor Street.  He did not hit anything when he parked the van, although he did stumble on the curb after he had locked it.  He moved slowly up the front walk, swaying very slightly, unlocked the door on the left side of the front porch with only moonlight to assist him, replaced the keys in his left pants pocket carefully, opened the door, felt for the light, turned it on, entered, closed and snap-locked the door behind him and pushed the bolt shut above the snap lock.
(Higgins in 1980 from writersbone.com)

Jerry Kennedy was Higgins' favorite recurring character, a man his own wife describes as the "classiest sleazy criminal lawyer in Boston".  Kennedy For The Defense (1980) introduces Jerry and Jerry, in turn, quickly introduces one of his best, because he often needs his services, clients, the aforementioned Cadillac Teddy Franklin.
I have a client named Teddy Franklin.  Teddy Franklin is a car thief.  He is thirty-two years old, and he is one of the best car thieves on the Eastern Seaboard.  Cadillac Ted is so good that he is able to support himself as a car thief.  He has been arrested repeatedly, which is how he made my acquaintance, but he has never done time.  That is because I am so good.  It is also because Teddy is so good.
The second novel, Penance For Jerry Kennedy is good, but thoroughly gloomy as mentioned previously.  Counselor Kennedy begins his personal and professional recovery in Defending Billy Ryan, representing the incredibly corrupt, long-time Commissioner of Public Works who, though guilty as sin, is acquitted possibly, or possibly not, because of Jerry's efforts.  It's the least dialogue heavy of the books and, for that reason, a good starting point for the beginner. The finale of the series, Sandra Nichols Found Dead (1995) finds Kennedy bringing a wrongful death action on behalf of the children of the long-missing, recently found, and definitely deceased Ms Nichols and, in the process, possibly stumbling into a modicum of happiness in his life.  And note to my family - if THC should ever disappear please hire Jerry Kennedy's investigator, Royce Whitlock, recently retired from the Massachusetts State Police, to search for me despite the fact that he's a cheapskate who thinks a Coke and a can of spam constitutes a proper lunch.

The Kennedy novels also bring to the fore Higgins' extensive experience as a lawyer, which includes, in addition to his years as a prosecutor, about a decade in the 1970s and early 80s as a defense lawyer representing, among others, Eldridge Cleaver and G Gordon Liddy.  His jaundiced view of the legal system is best expressed in Defending Billy Ryan:
If there is one thing a defense lawyer knows, it's that the government can get you if it wants to.  Any government.  Federal, state or local.  Law-abiding private citizens do not believe this until some government sets out to get them, and they have to pay good money to a man like me to fight for them, but their disbelief is like unto the very dew of May; it evaporates fast.  Along with their bank balances, cheerfulness, and the order of their lives. 
To which THC can only add, based on his personal experience, amen. 

Which brings to mind another wonderful lawyer moment from The Judgment Of Deke Hunter when, towards the end of the book, Deke, State Prosecutor Shanley and three defense lawyers adjourn to a bar to await a verdict and engage in a protracted, and very funny, bout of drinking and verbal sparring demonstrating what lawyers really think and say to each other when not in the courtroom.

Perhaps it is fitting that the last Higgins novel, published in 2000 after his death, was based on the notorious exploits of James "Whitey" Bulger and Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi, the degenerate mobsters and murderers who ruled the Boston crime world in the 1980s while at the same time making the Boston FBI office their accomplice in mayhem (for more, see I'm Shipping Up To Boston).  At End Of Day chronicles the unraveling of Arthur McKeach and Nick Cistaro.  As he frequently did, Higgins uses real events and people for inspiration but imprints his own unique take on the tale.

Higgins resented being pigeonholed as a genre "crime novelist", trying several times without success to reach a broader audience, and indeed, while most of his novels involved criminals, they were certainly not whodunits; they were simply novels in which the characters had criminal tendencies.  In an obituary John Williams of The Guardian provides an insight into his frustration:
In America, sadly, he was relegated to the ghetto of the crime round-up, where critics would routinely praise his dialogue and move on to the next serial killer epic. As a result, he had a particular fondness for Britain, where he had always been taken seriously. 

In person Higgins was every inch the smart, cynical trial lawyer with a fondness for red wine and political gossip. When I met him in the late 1980s he revealed himself to be a warm, funny man, but one with a pervasive sense of injustice and disappointment at the lack of serious attention his work was receiving.
If Williams had dinner with Higgins it was likely at Locke-Ober, the legendary Boston hangout often frequented by the novelist.  With its dark paneled dining areas, heavy decor and filled with the politicos, bankers, lawyers and businessmen who ran the city it was the perfect setting for encountering George V Higgins.  Like Higgins, it too passed away, closing in 2012 after one hundred and thirty seven years.
Locke-Ober Restaurant 2009.JPG(Locke-Ober from Wikipedia)
http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/schools/law/jpg/alummagfall01/feature1.jpg(Higgins at Locke-Ober from bc.edu)
Oddly enough for a writer so embedded and associated with Boston,  Higgins papers were donated by his widow to the University of South Carolina, where he had taught on occasion, and you can read about the George V Higgins Collection here.

Do yourself a favor, pick up a Higgins novel and immerse yourself in his world. He has got the thing.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Robert Cotton's Library Catches Fire


Damn strait. As a History Fan, THC still does get upset about the loss of the library of Alexandria.  Its fabled collection of classical Greek and Roman literature and learning disappeared and today we only have the precious  scraps in which are embedded references to thousands of other works lost forever.  The loss of the library is variously attributed to fire, Christian riots, Arab conquest or just plain neglect over the centuries but whatever the cause the loss is irretrievable.

While not as grave a loss as the Alexandria library we suffered another blow to our historical heritage  when Sir Robert Cotton's library burned on October 23, 1731.  Its origins lie in Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries during 1536-41 in the midst of his struggle to disestablish the Catholic Church in England and establish the Anglican Church under his direction.  In this process the wealth of the monasteries, built up over centuries, was transferred to the state and favorites of the King.  Among these were copies of Greek and Latin books, religious documents and a treasure trove of Old English books, poetry, charters and documents from Anglo-Saxon times before the Norman conquest, the largest collection of Anglo Saxon manuscripts in the world.
http://mediaevalmusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/480px-bust_of_robert_cotton_british_library.jpg(Sir Robert Cotton, British Museum)
In the early 17th century, Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), advisor to King James I, and an enthusiast of antiquity and literature began tracking down, purchasing and preserving the manuscripts and assembling them into his personal library located in London, near the Houses of Parliament.   Sir Robert, followed by his son and grandson eventually collected 958 manuscripts.  In 1701, upon his grandson's death the entire collection was given to Great Britain, a donation that led to the establishment of the British Library.

By 1731 the collection was being temporarily housed at Asburnham House, part of St Peters College near Parliament, when the fire broke out.  Approximately 1/4 of the collection was destroyed or severely damaged but the remained saved thanks to heroic efforts by people such as the librarian, Dr Bentley, who fled carrying the Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century Greek Bible, one of the three oldest full, or near full, Bible manuscripts.

Among the books totally or mostly lost were the Battle of Maldon, an Anglo-Saxon poem, Asser's Life of Alfred (a contemporary biography of the Anglo-Saxon King who, during his reign from 871-99, defeated the Viking invaders and initiated the unification of England, written by Bishop Asser who knew Alfred well) and the Cotton Genesis, a 4th century Greek illustrated copy of the Book of Genesis.  Fortunately while the originals were lost, at least some of them survive in transcripts made under the Cotton's direction before their destruction.
(Surviving fragment from badly damaged Cotton Genesis)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b6/CottonGenesisFragment26vAbrahamAndAngels.JPG/220px-CottonGenesisFragment26vAbrahamAndAngels.JPG
Even more fortunately many originals did survive including:
The Lindisfarne Gospels 
Virtual books: images only - Lindisfarne Gospels: St Matthew  ff.26v - 27
(go here to view this beautiful book)

Beowulf (charred along the edges)
one of the few copies of the Magna Carta
The Venerable Bede's History of the English Church & People
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Today most of the surviving manuscripts can be found at the British Museum.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Only The Lonely

No one ever sang a ballad better than Frank Sinatra.  This is Only The Lonely from a 1958 recording.  The song, written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, has a very subtle melody requiring great vocal technique to pull it off effectively.  Sinatra's version features one of the many wonderful arrangements Nelson Riddle created for Frank.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gift Idea

As always THC seeks to meet the needs of its readership.  With the holiday season approaching here's a great gift if you know a fan of King Leonidas and The 300 - the Sparta Knife Block.  Courtesy of missingdigit.com.  For more background see Go Tell The Spartans.
Better get your order in soon - they can't keep up with demand!

Sparta Knife Block - Maple & Walnut

Friday, October 17, 2014

Richman, Richman

A follow up to What? Richie Richman is a Democrat? 

The chart below is based on data from Opensecrets.org which has a large database on political contributions.  Notice something?  The top contributors send their money to support liberal causes.  Interestingly, once you get below the top 10 contributors on the second chart the contributions are almost 50/50.  In other words, the 1% of the wealthiest contribute heavily to Democrats and Democratic causes.

Really no surprise since, as the Associated Press recently reported, the six wealthiest Congressional Districts and eight of the top ten districts are represented by Democrats.

 Gee, why do you think that is?

The truth is both liberal and conservative candidates and causes get a lot of money from the wealthy. 

Big Money Donors Are Leaning to The Left


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hey, Those Are My Soldiers!

THC had this exact set.  Must have been around 1960.  From Jon's Random Acts of Geekery.  Those were the days when a buck ninety eight really went far.  And the quality was just as good as it looked - every piece made from "pure molded plastic"! 

alarmingadventures01_33

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Men

(Inspired by yesterday's post on Raiders Of The Lost Ark)

As crazy stuff seems to be erupting all around the world just be reassured that "we have Top Men working on it right now":

Monday, October 13, 2014

Raiders In Black And White

This is stunning.

It was a Friday morning in June of 1981 when THC and his consulting firm colleagues learned they had just lost a major project proposal to a competitor.  Expectations had been high that they'd get the job which was critical to the continued viability of the small firm so everyone was very discouraged.

A couple of hours later the boss came around and said "there's a new Spielberg movie coming out today, let's take the rest of the day off and go see it" and so it was that in early afternoon they found themselves in a theater in downtown Boston for the first showing of Raiders Of The Lost Ark which had just opened nationwide.  It was an exhilarating experience not to be repeated with the later films in the series which lacked the element of the unexpected, something Raiders had in spades.  Crushed spirits disappeared for a few hours and thirty plus years later THC can't remember what the project proposal was about but clearly remembers going to the movies that day.  Now that's good managing!
http://www.panicposters.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/f63dc5ec28f3175f8a7f615bd217eb71/p/p/pp31453-raiders-of-the-lost-ark-poster.jpg
Recently the director Steven Soderbergh (THC favorites of his visually distinctive films are Out Of Sight, The Limey, Ocean's Eleven and Solaris; he's also made some lousy ones) created a new take on Raiders on his website about which he instructs viewers to:

"think only about the staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are"
adding:

"this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day."
And to enhance your focus this version is in black and white, with no sound except for a soundtrack added by Soderbergh!

THC didn't exactly follow Soderbergh's instructions; he just enjoyed watching the reimagined film.  You don't miss the dialogue since for years it has been mandatory for every American to watch the film often enough to know the story and in black and white you see many new details (Soderbergh tells us the cinematographer was Douglas Slocombe, known for his high contrast lighting style which converts well to black and white).  Seeing the film this way gives you more chance to focus on the details.  In crowd scenes look as far as you can into the picture and see how well Spielberg builds the scene from back to front.  Also look at the little visual details in every scene. The overall effect is of something familiar yet different.

Watching this version is rewarding whether you do it from start to finish or just dive in at different points to see specific scenes and leaves you appreciating both Spielberg's original and Soderbergh's approach.  The video cannot be embedded so you have to go to Soderbergh's website to view it and read more about his purpose in creating this version.

And THC left the company early in the following year.




So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? - See more at: http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders#sthash.5q5HPdXp.dpuf

So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? - See more at: http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders#sthash.5q5HPdXp.dpuf
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? - See more at: http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders#sthash.5q5HPdXp.dpuf







Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dazed And Confused

(This is not a reference to THC's mental state . . . at least in his opinion.  One of the first posts on this blog was The Evolution of Dazed and Confused.  Since the key embedded video in that post has been made inaccessible by YouTube and some additional information has come to THC's attention he is presenting a revised version today.)

http://innocentwords.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/jimmy-page.jpg (Jimmy Page from innocentwords)


Dazed And Confused from Led Zeppelin's debut album, released in 1969, remains one of the band's most popular tunes; an epic heavy tune showcasing the guitar riffs and screeching vocals for which Zeppelin came to be known.  The song's been used in many TV shows and movies (it even became the title of a movie with a great cast) and was a highlight in the band's concerts.  On the album the composition of the song is credited to Jimmy Page, Zeppelin's lead guitarist.  But was Page really the composer?
In 1967 a little known singer named Jake Holmes released his debut album oddly entitled "The Above Ground Sound" Of Jake Holmes.  It wasn't a big seller but one of its purchasers was 16-year old THC.  He liked it enough that he took the train from suburbia to see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/58/The_Above_Ground_Sound_of_Jake_Holmes.jpegHolmes play two shows in August and September 1967 at The Bitter End, a small club in New York City's Greenwich Village and got to sit in the first or second row.  Holmes opened the August show for Neil Diamond, just starting his solo career with the hits  Solitary Man (on which he does a fine version about 12 minutes into the video linked below), Cherry Cherry and Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon.  Holmes was terrific and Diamond proved to be a fine live performer.  You can listen to Diamond's set here (sorry for the bad audio quality) which includes I'm A Believer, the huge hit Neil wrote for The Monkees and Kentucky Woman, soon to be released as his next hit single. A warning note - though the YouTube video says it is from The Bitter End if you listen closely it appears possible two of the songs, including Kentucky Woman, may have been edited into it from other appearances, though THC remembers him playing it in his set.
http://fond.mineandsteve.co.uk/pics/cd_bitter2.jpg
(above and below from fondmineandsteve)
Holmes next opened for Van Morrison whose first solo hit, Brown Eyed Girl, was still riding high on the charts.  Much of Morrison's set consisted of songs later included on his 1968 album Astral Weeks which, for unexplainable reasons, was adored by the critics.  Morrison was unbearable, wandering around the stage with his eyes closed, hands on his head, yelling unintelligible lyrics accompanied by music which was mostly boring though on occasion it rose to the level where it became irritating.

At the time THC liked much of Holmes' repertoire but having recently listened to the album most of it does not hold up well with one exception, a song called Dazed And Confused, which stood out then and now for its weirdness and intensity.  As you can hear Holmes played with an unusual band lineup - Jake on acoustic guitar,  a bass, a very trebly lead guitar and no drums.  You can watch Holmes playing at what seems to be The Bitter End here.  And now take a listen to Dazed And Confused by Jake Holmes.
The lyrics are different than the Zeppelin version but the melody is the same as is the basic chord structure.  Even the guitar break bears some similarity.  Coincidence?  THC thinks not.

In August 1967, Holmes opened a show for The Yardbirds, a British band with a lead guitarist named Jimmy Page.  THC has written about The Yardbirds before and earlier lineups featured Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck as guitarists.  This is the 1966 version of the band featuring both Beck and Page, playing The Train Kept A Rollin' from Michaelangelo Antonioni's film Blowup (one of many hit movies from the era that are unwatchable today and among Vanessa Redgrave's first films).

The Yardbirds liked Dazed And Confused quickly incorporating it into their live set with Page embellishing the instrumental sections.  Appearing on French TV in March 1968 their revamped version still had Holmes' lyrics, sung horribly by Keith Relf, but with an arrangement sounding very much like that recorded by Zeppelin a year later.  Embedding of the video from French TV is disabled by YouTube but you can see it here.

Later that year The Yardbirds dissolved and Page started a new band, Led Zeppelin, a name bestowed by Keith Moon, The Who's drummer, who Page was trying to recruit to join his new group.  Page completed the transformation of Dazed And Confused by writing new lyrics and that's how it happened.  Dazed And Confused was not the only Zeppelin song to generate controversy over its composition - if you do a google search on "led zeppelin plagiarism" you'll come up with 89,600 hits and "led zeppelin song stealing" yields 159,000 results.

Jake Holmes released a second album but while his performing career quickly faltered he ended up becoming quite successful.  In 1969 he co-wrote the Watertown album for Frank Sinatra.  It was Sinatra's least commercially successful album but it was, after all, Frank Sinatra!  During the 1970s Jake became a phenomenally successful jingle writer.  Included among his credits are writing the music for "Be All That You Can Be" for the US Army, "Be a Pepper" for Dr. Pepper, "Best a Man Can Get" for Gillette, and "Aren't You Hungry for Burger King Now?" and doing the vocals on many of them.

All through these decades Jake never took action about Jimmy Page's writing credit for Dazed And Confused other than writing a letter to Led Zeppelin which was never answered.   Finally in 2010 he filed a lawsuit against Page claiming copyright infringement.  The case was dismissed with prejudice in 2012 (see Order of Dismissal) but it looks like that action was part of a settlement between the parties though neither has spoken publicly about it.  Shortly thereafter Celebration Day, a Zeppelin live album, was released with the credits for Dazed And Confused reading "Jimmy Page; inspired by Jake Holmes".

(Jake Holmes today from Broadwayworld)
(Jimmy Page today from local rhthyms)
http://localrhythms.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/jimmy-page.jpg

Friday, October 10, 2014

What? Richie Richman Is A Democrat?

When THC saw this his first thought was "surely you must be joking" to which Mrs THC responded "no, and stop calling me Shirley!".  And, in fact, Shirley was not joking:

From the New York Post on October 8:

  President Obama blasted Republicans as the party of “billionaires” on Tuesday while mingling with high-rollers at the $26 million estate of Rich Richman — yes, that’s his real name — in Greenwich, Conn.

Richman, who built his $10 billion company developing rental housing, lives in the Conyers Farm area, where the minimum lot size is 10 acres. Twenty-five donors paid $32,400 each to get their photo taken with the president. Others paid $10,000 for dinner.

“If Republicans win, we know who they’ll be fighting for,” Obama said. “Once again, the interests of billionaires will come before the needs of the middle class.”

Obama arrived from New York City — where he had attended a fundraiser with hedge-fund billionaires George Soros and Paul Tudor Jones — in a convoy of four helicopters that landed at the Greenwich Polo Club.
Wait a minute, is that the same George Soros who's spent millions in dark money funding progressive organizations and who testified to Congress in support of Dodd-Frank touting the importance of "transparency" in the financial sector and then when the bill (for more on that travesty see Surely You Must Be Joking) was enacted promptly took his hedge fund private where it would not be subject to the Dodd-Frank disclosure requirements?

Is my memory failing me or wasn't it billionaire Tom Steyer who was able to rent the United States Senate for a $100 million contribution to the Democratic Party in return for which Harry Reid conducted a special session on global warming?

And wasn't that dinner taking place in the Congressional District of Jim Himes (D-Goldman Sachs) who after making his big stash at Goldman decided to become a Congressman as a tax shelter move and so he could spend other people's money while protecting his own?

And all of this from a President who had the support of most of Goldman's political  contributions in 2008 (as well as that of its former co-chairman Jon Corzine, who more recently managed to misplace $1.4 billion of his investors money - if you don't remember the details read Did You See The NY TImes Frontpage Story On Jon Corzine) along with that of Dick Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers the collapse of which triggered the financial panic and of Citigroup which routinely funnels millions to Democratic hacks replenishing their bank accounts in between "public service" stints (see, for instance, Jack Lew, current Treasury Secretary and Peter Orszag, former Director of OMB).

So we're supposed to believe that the Koch Brothers, those terrible, horrible no-good fascist right-wing extremist supporters of abortion rights, same-sex marriage, drug decriminalization and reduced defense budgets are the new Public Enemy Number One?

Since 2008 we've gone from The Audacity Of Hope to The Audacity of B.S.

In retrospect the much-maligned 1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis may have had a good point when he observed "the fish rots from the head".

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In A Shady Grove With Doc Watson

http://www.docsguitar.com/photos/homepage.jpg(Doc from docsguitar.com)

THC's first recollection of Doc Watson is hearing him on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, the 1972 double album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band featuring many "old-timey" country artists including Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff and Mother Maybelle Carter along with Doc.  THC later saw Doc, and his son Merle, do a wonderful concert in Paris during 1978.  Doc had a great guitar style and his speaking and singing voice was warm and mesmerizing.

Born in 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina way up in the Smoky Mountains, Arthel Lee "Doc" Watson was blind by the age of one due to an eye infection.  Learning guitar he began playing with bands by 1940.   His repertoire encompassed bluegrass, country and folk music and the flatpicking style he developed placed the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument in country and bluegrass.
http://highcountrypress.com/weekly/2011/06-30-11/00_photos/doc.jpg(Doc with Doc Watson statue in Boone, NC from highcountrypress.com)
Here's Doc performing Black Mountain Rag in 1991.  You'll recognize his version from its inclusion on several movie soundtracks:
This is Doc and the guys performing Tennessee Stud from Will The Circle Be Unbroken.  Just listen to that voice!
And finally, here is Shady Grove.  He starts by talking about how he met Rosa Lee, his wife of 62 years, who died in 2009.  Doc passed away in 2012 at the age of 89.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Playoff Team

. . . is now the Kansas City Royals.  They looked pathetic when we saw them play at home in July and would not have believed that team would be playing for the American League championship.  With the exception of Lorenzo Cain they looked like a AAA team that night losing to Detroit 16-4.

Watching them win the wildcard game and then sweep the Angels has been exciting and they're now a fun team to watch but what make them officially MY TEAM for October was what happened after the game last night.

Eric Hosmer led several of his teammates to McFadden's a large downtown bar/restaurant where they invited their fans to join them and bought drinks for everyone according to this story in the Kansas City Star.  Here's Eric's tweet:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Can't Stop

. . . this life is more than just a read-through . . . 

Can't Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (2002)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Watching Walter Johnson

http://voices.suntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/WalterJohnson.jpg(Walter Johnson from suntimes.com)

(UPDATED with more footage of Johnson pitching - see below)

It was ninety years ago when a Washington baseball franchise won the World Series for the first and only time and just within the last few days the Library of Congress has made available a recently discovered Kinogram newsreel containing not only the only known footage of the 1924 series but the only film footage THC is aware of showing the great Walter Johnson pitching during a game. 

The newsreel was found in the rafters of a garage in Worcester, Massachusetts. It is on nitrate film stock which is highly flammable and unstable so it is miraculous it's survived all these years.  You can read the full story of the discovery and restoration at the Library of Congress website.

The Series, in which the Senators defeated the New York Giants in seven games, was considered, along with the 1912 classic, as one of the two best series played up until that time (for more on the dramatic 1912 series see THC's game by game account).  Four contests were decided by one run, a fifth by two runs and two games went 12 innings including the finale.  This post is particularly timely since THC spent six hours last night watching the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals play an 18-inning game won by the Giants 2-1.

The Giants, making their fourth consecutive appearance in the Series (a record at that time) fielded a lineup in which seven of the eight position players ended up in the Hall of Fame and the eighth, Hank Gowdy, was a veteran catcher who had been the star of the 1914 World Series sweep by the Miracle Boston Braves (for their story see The Boston Braves Are In Last Place).  Of course, all hardcore baseball fans know there is a big asterisk around the legitimacy of Hall of Fame credentials for most of this group.  The seven in the Hall are Freddie Lindstrom, Travis Jackson, George "High Pockets" Kelly, Hack Wilson, Bill Terry, Ross Youngs and Frankie Frisch and only Terry and Frisch are considered solid Hall of Famers.  The rest, among the least qualified Hall members, owe their status to Frisch heading the Veterans Committee at the Hall for many years and ensuring that many of his Giants and Cardinals teammate joined him in Cooperstown.

For the Washington Senators the story was the first series appearance of Walter Johnson, considered by many to be the greatest pitcher in baseball history, who had laboured for an often futile Washington team since 1907 (for more on Johnson see Smoky Joe Versus The Big Train). Though pitching decently, Johnson had started and lost games 1 and 5.  The series was tied 3-3 when Game 7 took place on October 10 at Washington's Griffith Stadium.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Giants were leading 3-1 but the Senators had the bases loaded with two outs.  Player-manager Bucky Harris hit a grounder to rookie third baseman Lindstrom which took a bad hop and two runs scored tying the game.

In the top of the 9th, Walter Johnson, with one day's rest, entered the game and went on to pitch four shutout innings striking out five.  THC noticed one interesting bit of strategy in the play by play.  On two occasions, Ross Youngs, a left handed hitter faced Johnson, a right hander, with a man on base.  Both times Youngs was intentionally walked so Johnson could pitch to the right handed High Pockets Kelly who he struck out both times.

  In the bottom of the 12th, Muddy Ruel hit a foul popup but catcher Gowdy tripped on his discarded mask and dropped the ball.  Reprieved, Muel doubled to left field.  Johnson batted and reached first on an error and was followed by Earl McNeely who hit another bad hop grounder past Lindstrom scoring Muel, winning the Series and giving Walter Johnson his first post-season victory.

The Kinogram runs about 4 minutes.  A couple of notes;
- The quality of the film is startlingly vivid and clear.  The score was added with the recent restoration.
- At about 2:00 it says "Senators tie score" but the sequence actually shows the inning ending double play in the Senator's 9th
- At 2:18 is the first appearance of Walter Johnson.  His motion is pretty interesting with a high windup and then dropping down into a sidearm motion.  Johnson is reputed to be the hardest thrower of his era but he could not have thrown 95mph with that motion.  However, there is another possibility.  In 1920, Johnson hurt his arm and missed much of the season; could he have changed his motion when he returned in 1921?  (Since the initial post, THC found more footage which you can see here.  Johnson's motion is remarkable.  It's all arm - and his arms are very long - and almost no leg)
- You see a Giant hit a triple off Johnson.  That's Frankie Frisch who ended up stranded at third in the 9th.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Those Days Are Gone Forever

The recent news of a White House intruder and the increased restrictions over recent decades on public access to areas around the White House prompts us to go back to a time when things were a bit different in Washington DC.

In May of 1836 Alexander Stephens, a young Georgia lawyer (later to be Vice-President of the Confederacy) making his first visit to Washington decided to pay a call on President Andrew Jackson.  On January 30 of the prior year, the President was leaving the Capitol when Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, attempted to shot Jackson at point blank range.  When his pistol misfired, Lawrence pulled out a second pistol which also misfired.  The President beat his assailant with a cane (Jackson was a tough hombre, for more see Presidential Knife Fight) while others nearby, including Congressman David Crockett, helped subdue Lawrence.
(Lawrence attempting to shoot Jackson; Wikipedia)
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/sites/default/files/styles/article-top/public/m-4041.jpg?itok=G_JlAZPd(Stephens from georgiaencyclopedia.org)

Despite this incident there was no elaborate security around the President when Stephens decided to visit him the next year.  As recounted in Alexander H Stephens of Georgia by Thomas Schott, Stephens, without an appointment, simply went to the White House knocked on the door and asked to see the President.  Schott reports on what followed:
After a short wait, he was shown into a large room.  The Old Hero, dressed in a 'rather dirty' ruffled shirt and loose slippers, sat beside a coal fire at the end of a long table.  Motioning his young visitor around to a seat beside him, Jackson inquired of the news from Georgia.  
http://www.thehermitage.com/events/Events1/sm_files/andrewJackson.jpg(Jackson from thehermitage.com)
When Stephens mentioned some Indian disturbances, Jackson, who was in the midst of expelling five peaceful Indian tribes from the Southeastern states (for more on this see Sam Houston: The Raven), exploded and embarked on a 20 minute profanity-laced soliloquy. Stephens left "awed and slightly scandalized".

How far we have come from those days.

As Steely Dan reminds us:
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Afternoon With Rachid al-Ghannouchi

As a follow up to the recent Evening With Ayaan Hirsi Ali, yesterday THC attended a lecture at Yale Law School by Sheik Rachid al-Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, Tunisia's Islamist party.  The Sheik (as he was referred to) spoke about democracy in Tunisia after the Arab Spring revolt of 2011.

Because of his complicated, and at times murky, background this post will contain more biographical information than did the Ali post.

The Shiek was born in 1941 and became attracted to political Islam in the 1960s.  In 1981 he founded the Islamic Tendency Movement, specifically based on non-violent Islam, to seek reform from the autocratic administration of Tunisia's long-time President, Habib Bourguiba.  That same year he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured before being released in 1984.  In 1987 he was arrested again and sentenced to life imprisonment but freed shortly after Bourguiba was deposeda.  In 1989 he went into exile in England where he remained until the overthrow of Bourguiba's successor Ben Ali in early 2011.  Upon his return he became leader of Ennahda and one of the most prominent politicians in Tunisia.  Ennahda is the largest Tunisian political party and has been actively involved in the development of Tunisia's new constitution which was adopted in January 2014.  The country's first parliamentary elections under the new constitution will be held on October 26 and its first President election on November 23.  Despite Ennahda's popularity it will not field a Presidential candidate.

While regarded as a democratic Islamic moderate al-Ghannouchi also has a more controversial side.  He is an outspoken opponent of Israel and a strong supporter of Hamas, the latter position resulting in him being denied a visa to visit America in 1994.  He also denounced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the "colossal crime" of inviting US forces into his country in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

According to the Investigative Project On Terrorism reporting on a 2011 visit by the Sheik to the U.S:

In a May interview with the Al Arab Qatari website, for example, Ghannouchi called for the destruction of Israel and expressed optimism that the Jewish state would disappear in the very near future.

The Arab Spring "will achieve positive results on the path to the Palestinian cause and threaten the extinction of Israel," Ghannouchi said. "I give you the good news that the Arab region will get rid of the bacillus of Israel. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said that Israel will disappear by the year 2027. I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this."

[Cautionary note:  The link takes you to an Arabic language website and THC has been unable to find an English language version so cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statements quoted.  This is a not uncommon problem in this area.  As an example see this apology that The Economist issued to the Sheik in 2011.  Doing some quick research for this post THC found several statements repeated in many articles but could not locate an original source.  For instance there is a repeated allegation that "Mr. Al-Ghannouchi was a founding trustee and board member of a group that signed onto a notorious 2004 fatwa endorsing the killing of U.S. troops in Iraq and has personally urged the Muslim world to “burn and destroy” U.S. interests across the glob" but THC has not found a definitive source to support this.  THC did found several contemporaneous articles containing other statements demonstrating al-Ghannouchi's hostility to Israel and to American policy in the Middle East].

(Recent photo from al-Ghannouchi's Facebook page showing him with leader of Hamas)


Because of his ties with the Muslim Brotherhood he has also raised suspicions about his ultimate goals with other Arabs interested in reform (see this article from Al Arabiya News) and amongst those concerned about some of the ambiguities in his public statements (see this Open Letter, for instance).

Unlike Hirsi Ali's appearance, the Sheik's lecture was not the subject of objections or protests from the Muslim Students Association or any other student group. 

What follows are THC's notes from the lecture and Q&A.  There were about 100 attendees with the room not quite filled to capacity.  The Sheikh's lecture was in Arabic with simultaneous translation but he answered questions in English.  With him was a female aide who responded to some of the questions regarding details of the new constitution; she was quite well-spoken.  In person the Sheik comes across as humble and good-natured and made several jokes.

Lecture
The Professor introducing the Sheik (but who failed to introduce himself) hailed the new Tunisian Constitution pointing out that it rejected Sharia law and provided for the protection of the rights of women, noting that Tunisia was, quoting al-Ghannouchi, the "last candle" of the Arab Spring.

The Sheik started by noting that justice and oppression were the only things fairly distributed during the 40 years of dictatorship but that today, three years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia was the "only tree standing in a destroyed forest".  He spoke of it as the birth of the first Arab democracy and of Islam rejecting terrorism.

He spoke of the difficulties during this transition period mentioning that in 2013 terrorists entered Tunisia and conducted two political assassinations that almost dealt a fatal blow to democracy.

The new Constitution is the 1st Arab constitution enshrining freedom of conscience and association and believes there is no conflict between Islam and democracy and that the terrorists (who he later described as Al-Queda affiliated) have remained isolated.

He described why he thought Tunisia was succeeding where others failed:

1.  Belief in co-existence between moderate Islam and moderate secularism.  That coalition has worked.
2.  Rejection of exclusion.  They opposed the proposed political exclusion law which would have forbid previous regime figures from running for office in the future those eliminating a potential grievance.
3.  A consensus approach to governance rejecting monopolization of power based on 51% of the vote.  Ennahda specifically rejected this even though it was the largest party, making sacrifices such as not taking key ministries and not running a candidate in the upcoming Presidential election.
4.  The military stood by the people and did not intervene in the process.

The challenges were terrorism and economics.  He did not speak much to the latter other than the importance of growing the economy to provide opportunities for people.  As to terrorism he stated that with a declaration of August 27, 2013 the Tunisian government had declared its own "war on terror" against two groups but that military solution alone was not sufficient and must be countered by capturing "hearts and minds" [yes, he used that exact phrase].

Islam has no relation to terrorism.  It is a religion of peace.

Q&A
1.  (From Professor who introduced Sheik). On the compatibility of Islam with democracy.  If democracy means the sovereignty of the people and Islam is based on the sovereignty of God how can this be reconciled?

A.  There is no contradiction.  In Islam there is no church, no religious authority, no official spokesman for God.  A Muslim makes direct communication with God.  There are many interpretations of Holy Text - there is no official interpretation.  The people of Islam are free to adopt any interpretation.

2.  (From Syrian who fled the country).  Started by commenting, "We followed the Tunisian example and look where it got us".  Question was around how to handle returning radicalized fighters from Syria. 

A.  Sheik mentioned their experience when after 2011 revolt 3,000 political prisoners were released by the new government but some of them resorted to terrorism and that prompted the 2013 decree outlawing two of the groups.  He went on to say it requires a social, security and cultural solution but that their view of Islam is false [occurred to me that this might contradict the Sheik's response to the first question].

3.  (From an Egyptian-American).  What went wrong in Egypt?

A.  The Egyptian elite (by this he meant across the political spectrum) refused to dialogue and manage differences.  In Tunisia in 2013 when things were near collapse the Chamber of Commerce, Labour organizations and the human rights league intervened and called the government and opposition together.  In Egypt the military intervened to prevent dialogue.

4.  If Muslims are free to chose doctrine does this not open the door to terrorism?

A.  We oppose extremism.  Democracy is pluralism.  We recognize all who recognize the rule of law.

5.  Does he consider Hamas attacks on Israelis to be terrorism?

A.  "I come to talk for Tunisia" and refuses to say anything further.  This was the only time when he was interrupted with applause.

6.  How do you improve the rule of law after the dictatorship and corruption?

A.  Still a work in progress.  Next challenge is turning the Constitution into law.  They have established a Constitutional Court along with independent committees empowered to balance executive and legislative branches.

7.  (From a Tunisian who left country).  Concern about ex-regime people now returning to the country and maybe returning to office.

A.  He opposes automatic exclusion and revenge or collective punishment just based on holding a position in the old regime.  That would only spread the hatred.  He cited Mandela as an example of reconciliation and then said we must "make victory against our desires for revenge".

THC had to leave at this point so missed last few questions.

It is clear that regardless of who rules the Arab countries that hostility towards Israel and the U.S. will remain.  As to the future of democracy in Tunisia it will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years and the role the Sheik chooses to play.  Is he an actual inclusive Islamic democrat or just a cleverer tactical politician than those in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood?  THC doesn't have a clue.