JFK Assassination Afficionados, Have I Found a Book for YOU!

A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT by Philip Shenon - what a great read!

A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT by Philip Shenon – what a great read!

If you are intrigued, as I have always been, by the strange events that resulted in the Kennedy assassination, have I found a boo for you!  It’s A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT by Philip Shenon.

This book is different from the others as it concentrates on a whole other angle: the investigation of the Warren Commission on the events surrounding the assassination.  

I was two and a half years old when JFK was shot and I did not realize, until reading this book, that the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the assassination arose almost immediately on the day that it happened.  Three days later, the man believed to be the shooter, one Lee Harvey Oswald, who claimed he didn’t do it and was nothing but “a patsy,” was shot by Jack Ruby, owner of a strip club, while being moved from a jail to another.  He never got there.  Another assassin’s bullet took Oswald out.

Oswald’s story is off-the-charts bizarre, and was so even before the assassination.  He was an avowed Marxist, fed up with America, and so enamored of the Soviet Union that he renounced America and defected there.  He met his wife, Marina, in Minsk and they had the first of their two daughters.  Then he became fed up with the Soviet Union and, along with Marina and daughter June, came back to the USA.

Considering it was the height of the Cold War when this was all transpiring, and not long after Russian spies stole the secrets of America’s atomic bomb program, Oswald’s initial defection is really creepy.  His flip-flop and subsequent return here, however, seems completely crazy.   Why did American authorities allow him to come back?

It’s almost inevitable under such circumstances that the public would wonder just what in blazes was going on, and why a defector from America would be granted the right to return.  Within days of the murder of Kennedy, newly sworn-in President Lyndon Baines Johnson decided a commission needed to be formed to look into the matter to put to rest the question of whodunit.  He chose Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren to lead it.  From then on, it became known as “The Warren Commission.”

Oswald, it turned out, was no stranger to the FBI or CIA, who had had him under surveillance ever since he came back to our shores.  He wasn’t considered all that much of a threat, just a nut, at least initially, yet watch him they did.  Later, after he was accused of shooting the president and killed before the authorities could prove it conclusively or find out additional info, there was a mad scramble for the FBI and CIA to cover their butts, lest they be thought of as having been too incompetent to stop him in time to prevent Kennedy’s murder. 

There’s lots of details in the book on the behavior of the FBI and CIA, which was not always honorable; of in-fighting between agents and agencies; of personality conflicts between members of the Commission itself, all of whom came from a legal background, and some that were previously opponents on various sides of high-profile cases like Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.   Earl Warren is a friend of the Kennedys as tries to go soft on the family.  He also doesn’t want the other commissioners to see the actual upsetting, and horrific, autopsy report.  Add to this the fact that Oswald was in Mexico City, talking to the Cuban and Soviet Embassy personnel, two months before the assassination, and the plot just thickens and thickens!  Best of all, it’s all true, and makes for a fantastic historical read.

A teacher of mine at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School had known him when he was in the military and told my class there’s no doubt in his mind Oswald did it.  His name was Richard Call.  Mr. Call was one of the witnesses who testified before the Warren Commission. 

Last night, fascinated by this book, I ran a YouTube search on the assassination.  I found this interview online of Oswald’s daughter, June.  Take a look.  I can’t help but feel for this woman, who had to grow up with the shadow cast by the assassination upon her.  June still has questions about the situation, and rightfully so.  She is excited by anyone who does research on the case since it might lead to new information.  

What happened in Dallas, really?

Did Oswald do it?

Did someone else?

If, indeed, Oswald had been “a patsy,” as he claimed…if there really was a conspiracy, and not a lone gunman with issues…who better to cast into the role of scapegoat for the crime of the last century than a man who’d defected to Russia during the Cold War and then returned?


Operation Smile: Give the Gift of a Smile Bag

What a great holiday donation this is: to give a child restored after facial surgery the gift of their first mirror!

What a great holiday donation this is: to give a child restored after facial surgery the gift of their first mirror!

My favorite charity is Operation Smile.  They’re the one that sends medical teams all over the world to perform facial reconstruction surgery on impoverished children who otherwise could not afford it – and, as result, grow up ridiculed and shunned.

Well, it’s that time of the year again, folks: time to make a tax-deductible charitable donation before the year is out, and have I got a recommendation for  you!  One of the donation options listed on their website is for the shipment of “Smile Bags” to their little patients.  For $50.00 you can finance the shipment of 75 Smile Bags, and for $100, you send off 150.

Smile Bags are created by volunteers.  They’re little draw-string bags that are filled with crayons, a coloring book, a little Beanie Bag toy – in many cases, the first toys some of these children will ever receive.  A few other items are included as well, including perhaps the best one of all for little kids with facial deformities: their first post-surgery mirror, in which they’ll be able to see for themselves that their faces – and dignity – have been restored. 

Operation Smile’s website can be found at www.operationsmile.org.

Want to see one of the expression of wonder on one precious little girl’s face when she sees how great she looks when she awakens from surgery?  Take a look here.  Meet a little girl named Talita who once hid her face behind a smiling doll.  You’ll see why I think there’s no finer charity than Operation Smile!










UNC, What the Hell is WRONG with You?

UNC's mascot: a ram.

UNC’s mascot: a ram.  Unleash a real one!

I thought I’d heard it all a year or so ago when I found out that the principal of one of the schools I attended many moons in the past had accepted bribes to raise the students’ grades for their academically-obsessed, monetarily loaded parents, but guess what?  Though I never thought I would say this, that particular school mess pales in comparison to this latest one.

This one is making headlines all over the world – as well it should!

It seems that the University of North Carolina has been involved in a massive academic fraud scenario.  Over the past 14 years, folks, they have given 3,100 students, yes, that’s three thousand one hundred students, fake grades for non-existent classes – just to pass morons in the athletics department!  After all, what’s important at a college, anyway – giving the students an education, or playing ball?

At UNC, the priority seems to have been playing ball.

If this isn’t the most ridiculous scam I have ever heard of involving a school, then I don’t know what is.  What are they thinking of at such an “institution of higher learning”?  What do they think their students – all their students, at the moment, not just the idiot jocks whose grades had to be fudged – look like, now that the unethical practices allowed there are common knowledge? I can’t even imagine doing anything even remotely this stupid once and then hoping to get away with it, let alone perpetrating such a scam 3,100 times!  If you are a Human Resources manager, looking to hire a graduate of the place, would you even want to interview someone with a degree from UNC, or would you toss their resume in the nearest garbage can since it might just belong to a kid with a transcript filled with fake A’s and the dubious ethics that would have had to be involved for them to accept it in the first place?

Sometimes a school is run by individuals who are so hideous that it won’t ever recover.  It may be unfair to the majority of the students, but this sounds like one of those.

The mascot of this ridiculous school is a ram, and if I were a graduate, or worse, if I’d spent my hard-earned money paying for a child to be educated at such a place, I’d hope a nice ram might just go on the charge  and boot some of the unethical, sports-crazed losers that run UNC right out the door – say, three thousand, one hundred times.  :-)



Viva the Political Independents!

Here’s a little sign for all the American Political Independents out there to have some fun with and share.  Voila!

And enjoy!

Also note that it’s the truth.  We really are the group that determines election outcomes – no matter what the party people may try and tell you!


Yes, indeed, I say it with FEELING!

Yes, indeed, I say it with FEELING!

Did She Think She Was Santa?

Up on the house top, click, click, click!  Down through the chimney but NOT St. Nick!

Up on the house top, click, click, click! Down through the chimney but NOT St. Nick!

Here is a good one, folks!

A woman named Genoveva Nunez-Figueroa was found stuck in a chimney, yes, a chimney, in Thousand Oaks, California.

It wasn’t the first time she was up on that rooftop, either.  She was found up there once before and got away.

Then she came back.

This time around, she got lodged in the chimney, could not get out, and was heard to be crying in there.  After that, the EMT’s had to come and rescue her stuck butt.  It seems obvious that she was probably hoping to rob the house thataway and did not count on the fact that maybe, just maybe, she carried, ahem, too wide a load to get down that chimney like Little Old St. Nick.

Mademoiselle La Fruit Loop Nunez-Figueroa had met the owner of the house in question on one of those online dating sites.  Well, I have long said that anybody who goes on a dating site to meet strangers must have a screw loose.  You do not know who or what you might be connecting with if you meet these people online.  You do not know their history.  You also do not know if they are truly looking for love – or for an easy mark.

The owner of the house who met this lunatic online is now saying he’ll be more careful in the future of who he invites in.

Whoa, boy!  


“And they heard her exclaim,

‘I can’t drive out of sight,

I am stuck, a dumb cluck,

And I’ll be here all night!’  HELP!”

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!


THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult.  A riveting book about the worst possible kind of dilemma.

THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult. A riveting book about the worst possible kind of dilemma.

What would you do if you had a friend who confided something in you that is not just horrific but immoral and illegal?

Would you stay silent, or would you take action?

This is the basic question that Sage Singer, the main character of Jodi Picoult’s novel THE STORYTELLER faces when an elderly man tells her a secret he’s kept for about seventy years.  The secret is, to use a term from my grandparents’ generation, “a real doozie.”

The book is striking quite a chord with me.  For some reason I’ve always brought out the secrets in people.  Even on first meeting, sometimes, a new friend will take one look at me and out pops their whole life story.  I’ve never quite known how I can have that effect on people.  I don’t like to pry.  That could be it.  A friend said once, “It’s because people sense you won’t do anything with the information.  You won’t use it against them.  You don’t ever look for it, either.  You’ll just listen.”

Yes  – but what if I had to listen to something atrocious?  What if what I was told is nothing less than heinous?  Criminal, even?

I know me, and I would not be able to stay silent under those circumstances.  Ages ago I wrote a blog post about how closely I could identify with the character of “Holly Martins,” portrayed by Joseph Cotten in the movie The Third Man.  He, like I, realized that one of his old chums was a denizen of the sewers…and that the situation was beyond bad…

His chum in the movie, called “Harry Lime,” is played by Orson Welles.  How does he justify his actions, which are killing people?

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!”  

It’s been said that Orson made that line up himself.  What a justification for sociopathic behavior!

Good wins out in the movie.  As Dumbledore says to Neville Longbottom in yet another book and movie, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

I don’t want to give too many more details away about THE STORYTELLER because I think spoilers aren’t cool.  Suffice it to say the book is a page-turner – but then, I’ve never read a Jodi Picoult novel that wasn’t.  I consider her to be one of our best current writers.  I would like to recommend THE STORYTELLER for anyone who’s looking for a riveting read.

Ah, the wisdom of Dumbledore!  Bravo!

Ah, the wisdom of Dumbledore! Bravo!

Andrea McArdle as Judy Garland in RAINBOW on YouTube

Andrea McArdle, as Judy Garland, sings "Dear Mr. Gable" to Clark Gable at his birthday party.

Andrea McArdle, as Judy Garland, sings “Dear Mr. Gable” to Clark Gable at his birthday party.

Here’s a treat!  It’s the television movie RAINBOW, which recounts the early life of Judy Garland.  It’s upbeat for the most part with all the fabulous songs, but it becomes increasingly terrifying, on an emotional level, as we see the stranglehold MGM Studios starts to have over Judy.

The movie stars Andrea McArdle of Broadway ANNIE fame as the young Judy, and she does an amazing job. I wish there had been a soundtrack recording of these songs when the movie first came out in the 1970s.  “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” never sounded better to me, before or since, as it does when Andrea belts it out. Brava!

Be sure to check out Martin Balsam as “Louis B. Mayer” in a performance that is downright chilling to the bone.  I have a feeling his portrayal was 100% right on target.

I won’t say too much more because I don’t like to put “spoilers” out there.  Take a look.  Locating this movie, which is one of my all-time favorites, on YouTube and getting to see it again has made my day!  Here it is.  Click on the movie title at the top of the frame to watch it directly on YouTube, and let it also make yours: