Want to Help Children Like the Ones in QUEEN OF KATWE?

Mary's Meals provides nutrition at school for impoverished children.

Mary’s Meals provides nutrition at school for impoverished children.

Mary’s Meals is one of my two favorite non-profit organizations.  When I make donations, they’re a recipient.

I couldn’t help but think of them when I was watching the terrific movie, QUEEN OF KATWE.  I was pretty sure Mary’s Meals already operated in the country of Uganda.  When I got home from the movie I double-checked, and found out that was right.  Thank goodness, because it’s impossible to watch such a movie and not wish for children who are living in such dire straits to obtain some basic relief, starting, first and foremost, with simply being fed on a regular basis.

Mary’s Meals is a great organization because they serve meals at school to children that are made from local produce.  The children benefit.  The parents want to send them to school so they’ll get fed.  Many of the mothers come to the school to help prepare the meals, so they get the joy of feeding their kids and seeing them with full bellies.  The farmers in the area served also benefit because it’s their crops that are bought for the ingredients.  Everybody wins!

Mary’s Meals serves children in 12 countries all over the world.  Believe it or not, it’s all run by a gentleman named Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow from his backyard sheds in Scotland!  He wrote a book on his grassroots charity called THE SHED THAT FED A MILLION CHILDREN.

Inspired to want to give children in Uganda a break?  Want to raise that number to One Million and One?  Did you know it only costs less than twenty bucks American for Mary’s Meals to feed a child for an entire year?

Aren’t they awesome?  Here’s a link:  Mary’s Meals Uganda

Magnus MacFarlane Barrow's book about Mary's Meals: THE SHED THAT FED A MILLION CHILDREN.

Magnus MacFarlane Barrow’s book about Mary’s Meals: THE SHED THAT FED A MILLION CHILDREN.


Poster for the new Disney hit, QUEEN OF KATWE.

Poster for the new Disney hit, QUEEN OF KATWE.


The Latest JonBenet Book Should Have Been the First: WE HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER

The new book on the JonBenet Ramsey case that the public has needed all along.

The new book on the JonBenet Ramsey case by Paula Woodward.  This is the one the public has needed all along.

By all rights I shouldn’t be writing this blog post about the new JonBenet Ramsey case book yet.  I shouldn’t be sitting here putting this up on the Internet because at this moment I’m only halfway through the book and nowhere near finished reading it, though not for lack of trying since I can’t put it down.

Be that as it may, it’s got me so steamed that I can’t resist writing what I’ve found in the first half of it already.  Everybody who’s ever wondered about this case has got to read this particular book.

The book is WE HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER by Paula Woodward.  Paula is a Colorado investigative journalist who was involved with covering this case from the very beginning.  She regularly talked to the late Patsy Ramsey.  She had access to the JonBenet Ramsey “murder book” kept by the police about the investigation.  She knows the players personally, the police, the politicians in Colorado, the Ramsey family and friends.  She’s also one fantastic and refreshingly thorough reporter.

I’ve been watching several of the new specials on the JonBenet case the past couple of weeks and one thing that has been bothering me is the never-ending concentration so many of them have on one of the cellar windows, the broken one, that may have given an intruder access to the Ramsey house.  This was the window to the room where a suitcase was found.  For some reason I always thought the suitcase was found in the same cellar room as JonBenet’s body.

Not so.  It was in a storage room on the other side of the cellar.  JonBenet was found in a different room.  Woodward’s book comes complete with diagrams of every floor of the house.

About the house…the whole reason I’ve been bugged lately about that cellar window the media never stops harping about is that the Ramseys lived in a 15-room house.  Surely, I had started to think right before this new book was delivered, there must have been more ways for some creep to enter that 15-room edifice beyond that one window in the cellar.

Take a look.  Here’s the oft-photographed front entrance to the house:

Ramsey house, front entrance.

Ramsey house, front entrance.

And here is the rarely photographed back:

What a difference a another view makes!

What a difference a another view makes!

Just look at this photo!  Look at all those windows, so low to the ground.  Did you know the house had 100 windows?  That there were eight possible points of entry? That many of the windows and doors weren’t locked?  That the burglar alarm wasn’t one because the Ramseys, foolishly, didn’t bother to use it?   That neighbors, and one of the friends who came to the house on the morning the child’s body was found, saw a door that was ajar?  That JonBenet, and her brother Burke, both had second-floor bedrooms with doors leading to outdoor balconies?  That the parents also had a room with a balcony and a door on the third floor?

Paula Woodward brings out all of these points, plus a whole lot more.  JonBenet was injured with a blunt object.  Did you know that there was a dark-colored baseball bat, found outside on the property after the murder, that didn’t belong to anyone in the Ramsey family?  Woodward includes a black-and-white police picture of it.  It is a very disturbing sight.  Was this the object used to kill that little girl?  Wouldn’t it have made perfect sense, if it was, for whoever did it to have tossed the bat outside of the house afterwards?  I read about the bat, and the rest of this stuff, on Friday, then tossed and turned the entire night.  Why wasn’t all of this this publicized?

The police.  That’s why.

Here’s where I started to really get furious.  Woodward found that a lot of the “information” released to the public about the case was, deliberately, bogus.  The Boulder PD had “decided” the Ramseys “did it” and wouldn’t let go of this pet theory.  They were telling the public outright lies to make the Ramseys look as hideous as possible.  Patsy Ramsey’s appearances on television – made, Woodward reveals, while Patsy was operating under heavy-duty medical sedation – had already made her look bizarre, but the powers that be in Boulder were making things far worse.  They said they hadn’t interviewed the family, when they had.  They said Patsy wouldn’t give them DNA samples, when she had.  They insinuated there was something suspicious in the death of John Ramsey’s daughter from a previous marriage.  That daughter had been killed in a car accident involving a truck.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the book for the moment.  I’ll write more  once I’ve finished reading the rest of this well-done book.  However, this story, at last, is finally in the hands of a writer who is capable of exploding one Ramsey myth after another, and it’s about time.  The more that get stripped away, the clearer the picture seems to look.

Brava, Ms. Woodward!  Let’s hope it helps lead to a resolution!


Riveting Movie: SNOWDEN

SNOWDEN the movie.

Poster for SNOWDEN the movie.

As far as movie-going went, this weekend I went from the sublime – QUEEN OF KATWE – to the disturbing.  The second film I saw was SNOWDEN.

SNOWDEN, the new movie about whistleblower Edward Snowden who revealed the extent of American and international cyber-spying by leaking the story to journalists, exceeded my expectations.  I found myself hanging on every word.

Snowden is played beautifully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Rhys Ifans plays Corbin O’Brian, his instructor at a CIA training facility in Virginia.  O’Brian is not entirely honest with Snowden, who doesn’t quite realize what he’s gotten himself into.

SNOWDEN snowballs.  It starts out kind of slowly and just keeps rolling along, gathering steam.  A colleague calls Edward Snowden “Snow White,” and it’s rather fitting, since he doesn’t realize the extent of how far government agencies are spying on people.  The audience will be shocked as well.  Someone sitting at a desk in Switzerland can see into the room where you’ve left your computer on?  Uh-oh!

What elevates this movie beyond the usual techno-thriller is the relationship between Snowden and Lindsay Mills, played by Shailene Woodley, an actress I first became aware of when she was in the American Girls colonial movie FELICITY.  Snowden has to leave his Lindsay if he’s going to warn the world about what’s going on with the NSA and the CIA and a whole host of other organizations and companies.  He can’t tell her much of what is going on or why it’s so disturbing to him.  At times she thinks he’s paranoid, but still, her loyalty to him is just plain beautiful to see.  The two are a great onscreen couple, so the knowledge that Snowden will have to leave her leads you to sit there feeling a great big sense of “ouch” – but keep watching.

Oliver Stone is the director, and as usual he didn’t disappoint.  Be on the lookout for the way that Snowden gets quite a collection of classified info out of the bunker-like facility where he works, too.  This is a movie worth seeing.  If you’re ever in a position where something bad and hidden could use a nice dose of the light of day, don’t be afraid to blow a few whistles yourself!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.  What a great onscreen couple!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. What a great onscreen couple!

Uplifting Movie: Queen of Katwe

Poster for the new Disney hit, QUEEN OF KATWE.

Poster for the new Disney hit, QUEEN OF KATWE.

Want to see a nice, old-fashioned, wonderfully uplifting movie?

Then run, don’t walk, out to the nearest theater that is showing QUEEN OF KATWE  and watch it make your day!

The movie focuses on Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan child living in extreme poverty.  The family lives in a shack and sleeps on the floor.  She and her siblings don’t attend school. They can’t afford it.  They sell vegetables in the outdoor market to help their mother.  The father is nowhere to be found and has, apparently, abandoned his family.

Enter a chess coach who is working in a “Sports Ministry” while he awaits a better job.  Then watch how the devoted coach, played by David Oyelowo, begins to turn everything around for Phiona, in whom he recognizes a touch of genius…

Phiona is played by a newcomer, Madina Nalwanga.  She’s a luminous child and it’s impossible not to root for her.  I just researched her now and found out that her journey to starring in this movie is similar to that of Phiona.  Both came from poor backgrounds, but look at where they are now!  They’re both an inspiration.

David Oyelowo, by the way, is a phenomenal actor that I’ve written about before.  He was overlooked for an Oscar  nomination when he gave a terrific performance as Martin Luther King in SELMA.  When that happened, I wrote:

As they used to say in Brooklyn when the Dodgers didn’t win the pennant, “Wait until next year!”  The day will dawn when you “go home with Oscar.”  I think it’s inevitable.

Indeed, I still think it’s inevitable!  I’m hoping that this year David Oyelowo gets nominated, and for QUEEN OF KATWE this time.  I’m hoping that Hollywood’s recent newcomer, Madina Nalwanga, gets an Oscar nod this year, too!

Madina Nalwanga and David Oyelowo light up the screen - and the world - in QUEEN OF KATWE.

Madina Nalwanga and David Oyelowo light up the screen – and the world – in QUEEN OF KATWE.

Bullies Won’t Change My Vote

Nobody ever forgets the kids who bullied them...but it's worse when it comes from adults!

Why take abuse from adults about the election?

I remember full well the kids who bullied me back when I was “the new kid” at two horrific schools.  I remember their names, the way they looked, and the vile things they used to say.  At one of the schools, a terribly run private one, I was also subjected to a barrage of daily, never-ending bullying tactics from two particularly vicious teachers who did not like my family.  That’s a rather long story, and I’m saving it for a book someday, but mainly they didn’t like us because they had no control over us.  There’s the definition of a bully in a nutshell: they don’t like whoever they can’t control.

They also desperately need to get a life of their own, rather than focusing on everyone else’s…

Remembering the bullies, one of the very first things I did when I joined Facebook, decades later, was to find the worst of the ones I’d been subjected to way back when so that I could block them and prevent their access to my page.  I do not want any of those barbarians back in my life, and I shall make no apology for that statement.  They were atrocious then, so they can stay out of my business now.

See how “beloved” bullies are?  They have an impact, sure, but it’s a totally negative one.  They’re not recalled with fondness.  Whatever they stand for, whether it’s their style, values, music, clothes, shoes, hairdos, politics, religion, or something else, they usually turn their targets off on it.  I’ve also never known anyone who dealt with a bully who’s made the mistake of wanting them to come around again.  When I left the worst of the schools, I didn’t bid the bullies goodbye, nor did I add, “I hope to see you again soon!”  Ha, after walking away from such pathetically toxic people, I felt the most positive thing I could do for myself was to not let them back into my life.  Ever.  “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!”

That said, I am continuously astonished, these days, at the level of puerile, nasty, and completely unacceptable bullying  behavior that’s being utilized by quite a few adults on Facebook and other social media platforms, and all with regard to Presidential Election 2016.  The antics of the lunatic fringe are getting more insane by the day.  God forbid if someone else puts up any article or wall sign that doesn’t agree with their personal beliefs. Oh-ho!  They react like you’ve fired the opening shot in a war!  It’s gotten so extreme I have even wondered if some of these people might not be suffering from a very severe psychological condition like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Do they think pushing people so hard that we start to wonder if they have a problem like that is going to persuade us to vote for someone we don’t like?  Seriously?

As my mother once said to a political party fanatic who was always screaming and yelling against the other side, “Everybody gets only one vote.  That’s it!  Just one!  It’s majority rule.  You can’t control the outcomes of elections with just one vote.  So spend it any way you like, go vote – and shut up!”

Exactly!  May they spend their votes however they want, but leave the rest of us be about it.  I say to them, “My vote isn’t yours.  It isn’t about you, no matter how much you would like it to be.  It isn’t even your business.  Grow up, get used to it, and try to control yourself!”






One Final Idea on the JonBenet Ramsey Case: Truth Serum!

There's still no justice for JonBenet...

There’s still no justice for JonBenet…

The more I find out about the JonBenet Ramsey case, the more convoluted it gets.

Everybody in law enforcement pussy-footed around the suspects.  There was amble evidence of that shown last night in The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey.  Well done, producers of the show!  Glad you showed the world that the DA’s office in Boulder has been ridiculous.  He even didn’t indict the parents when the Grand Jury found reason to do so.  Unbelievable incompetence…

Or was there, perhaps, a payoff?

So here’s an idea.  What about the rights of the victim?  Why not have law enforcement give everybody who’s still alive and who was in any way, shape or form involved in this case a nice shot of truth serum, turn on the video camera, and then see just what might get revealed?  Seriously!  This has already gone on for twenty years.

As they said in Casablanca, “Round up the usual suspects.”


Bring 'em all in!

Bring ’em all in!

Creepiness Overload and the JonBenet Ramsey Case

JonBenet Ramsey.

JonBenet Ramsey, who didn’t deserve what happened to her.

Well, I’m on full creepiness overload tonight thanks to two television specials in a row on the JonBenet Ramsey murder.  At 8:00 PM I saw the third Dr. Phil interview of JonBenet’s now 29-year-old brother, Burke, and at 9:00 PM there was the second The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey on CBS.

Whoa, boy!

Burke smiled, grinned, and looked just plain eerie all through all three Dr. Phil episodes.  The doc himself tried to deflect attention from that bizarre smile by saying Burke worked with computers, people handle grief in different ways, Burke was nervous, and he hadn’t really ever spoken out before.  Be that as it may, it was still disturbing to watch those three interviews.  Lots of people haven’t spoken out before about a whole variety of subjects, but come on, Phil, if somebody’s discussing their sister’s murder twenty years after the fact, why would they smile as they discussed it throughout all three shows?

Had Burke not plastered such a grinning mask onto his face, I would have been a lot more impressed.  He gave decent answers to Dr. Phil’s questions.  He even said he hopes the case will be solved one day.  John Ramsey, the ever-calm father, was also interviewed on the show and presented himself very well.  I’d have been able to say the same for Burke, save for the three episodes of constant smiles.  Something’s wrong there.  Nobody’s that uneasy…

Might their decision to speak out at this moment have been prompted by knowing investigators would be involved with the second show that was on tonight?

The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey did a remarkable job of presenting another look at the evidence.  Their main theory, following exhausting research, is that Burke killed his sister by accident and the parents covered it up.

And yet…

One of the most fascinating aspects of The Case Of was their enhancement of the 911 call Patsy Ramsey to report her daughter “missing” following her alleged finding of the ransom note.  After Patsy thought she’d hung up the phone, the operator could still hear what was going on.  The recording was muffled so they used technology to clarify it.  One of the things that could clearly be heard was a small voice, presumed to be Burke, asking his parents, “What did you find?”  The emphasis was on the “did,” not the “find.”  A male voice scolds harshly, “We weren’t talking to you!”

If that child had truly been responsible for the accidental killing of his sister, why would he be asking his parents what they found?  Wouldn’t he already know what happened?  If the family spent the night trying to disguise “Burke’s” crime, isn’t it reasonable to believe he’d have seen at least part of the mad dash to cover it up?

What if Burke knew something about what happened, perhaps even saw some of it go down, but wasn’t the one who did it.  My bet’s always been on Patsy.  Why else would Burke ask what they found?

Besides, as The Case Of pointed out, the parents did all they could to prevent the Boulder Police from solving the case, not agreeing to be interviewed by them – while talking to CNN – and hiding behind lawyers…

What a mess!

I like the way The Case Of ended.  They think someone out there might have been told relevant information by the person who actually did it.  Come forward!

There’s a good summary of the findings here: Hollywood-Reporter-The-Case-Of-JonBenet-Ramsey

John and Patsy Ramsey. Patsy had no problem emoting on television but wasn't helping the police find out who hurt her child. Was it because she already knew?

John and Patsy Ramsey. Patsy had no problem emoting on television but wasn’t helping the police find out who hurt her child. Was it because she already knew?