Sarasota National Cemetery

sarasota-natl-cemenatry3-cw-1-of-1Back in January, we drove down to Sarasota to visit two local parks, Myakka River State Park and the Oscar Scherer State Park. Driving along State Rd. 72 on our way to Myakka, we passed by the Sarasota National Cemetery, 295 acres run by the Department of Veteran Affairs. We stopped and I  took a few photos.

The cemetery is less than ten years old. Groundbreaking began in 2008 and the first burials occurred in 2009. Among the more than 15,000 buried there are Florida native, Rick Casares, Korean War Veteran, and professional football player in the 1950’s and 60’s. Casares played for both the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins in the NFL and the Miami Dolphins, then part  of the AFL.  Also buried there is Hal White, a World War II U.S. Navy Veteran who saw action in the Pacific, and was a major league pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals.

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Devious Tales – New e-Book Coming Soon

devious-tales-book-cover-final-1-of-1My latest e-book of short stories is nearing completion. I am happy to share some information including the book cover and title. The collection will consist of twelve tasty tales of twisted love, revenge, money, lust and murder. Here are the titles of the stories included:

Holcomb Bridge

Late Night Diner

Smart Like Dillinger

The Old Man

Amanda

Call Waiting

An Anniversary Surprise

An Almost Perfect Woman

An Office Romance

Life Lesson

 A Merry Little  Christmas Gift

The Organic Garden

That’s it for now. Will keep you posted.

 

Catherine Leroy – Combat Photographer

catherine-leroy-3At the age of twenty-one, Catherine Leroy became the first news photographer, male or female, to parachute into combat with American troops in Vietnam. During the 1968 Tet offensive, Leroy and her camera were captured by the Viet Cong. Before managing to convince her captures to release her, she would became the first photographer to shoot images of the enemy in their own back yard. Her story is both amazing and inspiring.

leroy4Leroy was born in Paris in 1944 (some accounts say 1945). She grew up in a Catholic convent where she discovered copies of Paris Match magazine filled with images of war. The photos were powerful and made a lasting impression on the petite young girl; she stood barely five feet and weighted less than 100 pounds. With the images of war etched in her head, she recognized both the physical and emotional toll war took on the human condition. Early on she was set on becoming a war photojournalist. At the age of twenty-one with approximately one hundred dollars in her pocket and a Leica M2 in her camera bag, Leroy purchased a ticket for Laos and then on to Vietnam. She did have the name of a contact, Horst Faas, the celebrated photographer who at the time was the Associated Press bureau chief. The year was 1966.

Faas promised Leroy a small fee of $15 for each photo she came back with, if she came back, and the AP used  it. To Faas, Leroy was just another in a long line of wannabe war photographers, some who made it, some who could not and went home and some who died before going home. Leroy went out into the boonies with the grunts and soon began  coming back with one successful photo after another, many of which would appear in magazines around the world, among them Life, Look and Paris Match.

A year after her arrival in Vietnam, Leroy became the first accredited photojournalist to parachute into combat. She was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Operation Junction City. In 1968, during the Tet offensive, Leroy was captured by the North Vietnamese for a short period. During that time, she managed to convinced the enemy to allow her to photograph them. This resulted in an amazing photo-essay called, A Remarkable Day in Hue: the Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture. It was published in Life magazine and included a cover photo. Soon after, Leroy somehow persuaded  her captives into freeing her.life-magazine-1968-02-16

Leroy traveled back and forth to Vietnam for a few years. In 1972, she co-directed, with Frank Cavestani, the documentary, Operation Last Patrol, which follows Vietnam vet Ron Kovic and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War as they traveled to Miami on their way to protest at the 1972 Republican Convention. Four years later, Kovic would write his own version of the events in Born on the Fourth of July, later to be made into a film by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Cruise.

Though barely five feet tall and feather weight, Leroy earned the respect of the tough hard core combat soldiers she followed into combat. She was as tough as the men she photographed and never asked for any special favors because she was a woman. She always carried her own weight.

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Catherine Leroy in the Vietnam fields with troops

After Vietnam, Leroy, continued to photograph the pain of war around the world including the conflicts in Iran, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Beirut and Afghanistan. Later in her life, she settled in California. She did some fashion work along with selling prints of her Vietnam War work donating profits to U.S. Veteran’s groups.

Leroy was a pioneer and she became somewhat of a legend for both the photographs she captured and the danger she was willing to place herself in including being seriously wounded during one battle. Long after she left Vietnam, Leroy admits that the war and its brutality haunted her for the rest of her life.

In photography, sometimes the reaction shot is the most powerful to capture. For example, in sports, photographing the reactions of the losing team’s players after a big a game would reveal more human emotion than shooting the joy of the victors. If you are a war photographer, the typical shot is the one that shows a solider, or a civilian, bleeding profusely or dead. The real genius though is when the exceptional war photographer captures the nearby surviving soldier, the guy’s buddy, reading the pain, the suffering and human agony  of war written on his face. Catherine Leroy showed us war close and personal.  It was these kind of photographs that first inspired Leroy as a child looking through those Paris Match magazines. It was all about the human condition.

Corpsman in Anguish

The above photographs are her most famous. They show a Marine looking after a fellow soldier. In the series of three shots the Marine applies a bandage and checks for a heartbeat. Realizing his comrade is dead, he looks up to the sky as if in anguish asking why? There was also a fourth photo showing the Marine jumping up and charging toward the direction the bullets that killed his buddy came from. Leroy recalled, “It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, I was maybe 3 or 3 1/2 meters away. Of course I was as close to the ground as I could be.” She heard the Marine scream as he ran, ” ‘I’m going to kill them all, I’m going to kill them all.’ “

In 2005, Leroy published a book called Under Fire: Great Photographers and Writers in Vietnam. Along with her own work, the book included works by photographers Larry Burrows, Dana Stone and Tim Page along with writers Philip Caputo, Tim O’Brien and Neil Sheehan among others. Among her many honors, Leroy was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa award for her work in Lebanon in 1976 during the civil war. She also was the recipient of the George Polk Award for her work in Vietnam.

Catherine Leroy passed away in 2006 from lung cancer.

There is a 72 minute documentary called, Cathy at War, directed by Jacques Menasche, that chronicles the photographer’s life thru letters, interviews and her work. I have been unable to find out anything else about  it other than back in 2015, there was a one time showing at the International Center of Photography in New York. If anyone know more about it, I would surely be interested to hear.

Australian Photographer/Filmmaker Lucas Scheffel made a short 7 minute film about Leroy focusing on the period of her short capture by North Vietnam.  The film has won various film festival awards and is now available on youtube. Take a look by clicking on the link below. That said, the short is very loosely based on Leroy’s experience, as the director admits. It’s more a reimagining than what actually happened.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvrKhhEkEo0&w=1536&h=864

References:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/catherine-leroy-408257.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Leroy

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/What-can-photos-teach-us-about-war-Have-a-look-2678825.php#photo-2151410

 

 

 

 

Classic Books, Strange Times

1984

Four classic novels that should be read or re-read during these strange days. All of these books have seen an uptick in sales. George Orwell can thank Kellyanne Conway and her ”alternative facts” for a recent 9,500 percent increase in sales of his dystopia novel 1984 on Amazon.

Other books that have seen sales rise include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale which looks at a totalitarian society that has women forced into secondary status as citizens.

handmaidThen there is Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. Published in 1936, the novel is a satirical look at what if? What if FDR lost a reelection bid to a charismatic and power hungry politician who ran on a campaign of fear and social reform. Promising great economic reform and running a platform of so called “traditional” values and good old fashion patriotism. Sound familiar?

itcanthappenhereAfter winning the election, the new President quickly turns toward a totalitarian rule backing it up with a guerrilla style military.

A few other books with similarly unsettling themes that are worth reading include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, George Orwell’s Animal Farm  and Ray Bradbury’s  Fahrenheit 451.

Planet Earth II

After a ten  years wait, Planet Earth II begins this coming Saturday on BBC America. Once again, the stunning photographic wildlife adventure is narrated by Richard Attenborough. The recent advancements is technology (photographic, drones) will make this a breathtaking journey. Check out the trailer attached below.

 

Coming Soon to TCM

golddiggers-of-1933Two films featured in my book, Lessons in the Dark, will be coming soon to TCM. Tonight at 10:15PM (Eastern) the superb Great Depression era musical Gold Diggers on 1933. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell along with an excellent supporting cast that includes Aline McMahon, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee and Billy Barty.

grapes-of-wrath-3On Friday (Feb. 10th) at 8PM (Eastern) don’t miss John Ford’s masterful production of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad. The cast includes Academy Award winner Jane Darwell and John Carradine. Look for a very young Darryl Hickman (Dobie Gillis) in a small role.

You can read more about both of these films plus others in Lessons in the Dark. Below I have reprinted the Introduction to the book.

Introduction – Lessons in the Dark

Why these films, why this book and why this collection you ask? It’s simple enough to answer. A few years ago I did a series of articles for Halo-17, a now defunct Australian music and arts website. One of the editors discovered my blog, I assume liked it, and asked if I would be interested in writing a column about classic films. The only caveat was that I had to make the films I wrote about connect to what was happening in today’s world. I needed to show readers how these old black and white films were still relevant. Illustrate how history repeats itself and there are lessons to be learned even from a film that is seventy years old.

   Well, the requirement set forth by the folks at Halo-17 turned out to be simpler than I thought. As I began to look at films from this perspective I realized many films whether twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years old or more remain relevant. They had something to say about us today as well as years ago. Life and art repeat themselves. As the poet, novelist and philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Classic films help us remember the past, both the good and the bad. Sometimes they even predict the future as it did in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), both which forecast the reality TV and political circus we are forced to endure today. A film like Black Legion (1937) teaches us about hating someone who’s different, how people get sucked into hatred or blaming immigrants for taking jobs from “real Americans.” Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of Will (1935) presented Adolph Hitler as Germany’s savior, a leader who would bring glory back to Germany by once again making it a great power! This Nazi rhetoric, the fear mongering, is awfully familiar to what we hear today from plastic gods with simplistic solutions promising to make America great again as they feed on the hate.

This collection of essays is divided into various sections focusing on specific themes. Each contains essays on films. Though “old” they speak about or reflect on the times we are living in today. Every one of these films remains pertinent to our current lives. Not all are great cinematically, yet there are lessons or messages to be learned. Some films are more direct in their ideas, others are more understated. There are even a few films that put forth a message or point of view for most of the film and then reverse course in the final moments. Why? Censorship sometimes exposes its ugly head or maybe the filmmakers or the studios got cold feet. Whatever the reason, it’s all part of what makes these films fascinating and worth watching and discussing.

    Part One looks at films from or about the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  As we continue to come out of our recent Great Recession that has been hanging over us since 2008, one can read into many of these films the similarities, the hard times and uncertainty we have all recently endured. In Part Two there are films exploring the absurdities of war and its effects on the men and women on the front line and back at home. Part Three contains a couple of films that reveal the influences of the news media on our lives. Part Four takes a look at social injustice. In Part Five we look at films about discrimination. In Part Six we see how the pre-code era gave us a look at tough, strong, independent and progressive women. Finally, in Part Seven, a section that is a catch all. It contains a variety of topics that we still deal with and affect our lives today.

   “Old” films are not just nostalgic. They entertain, or at least attempt to, however, they are also avenues for learning and a passageway to take a look at ourselves as we were then and are now. Movies hold up a mirror to both our past, our lives today and our future. We can see how far we have come; the mistakes that we made, the choices we made, both the good and the bad. Hopefully we are able to learn, realize the bad and not repeat them.

   The majority of these essays first appeared on my blog, Twenty Four Frames. I began the blog almost eight years ago, like many others, as a place to share my love of movies. The blog has evolved over time as I believe I have myself. During a lifetime of watching movies I have discovered new roads to travel and lessons learned. I hope you, the reader, will too.