Sunday, December 13, 2009

CARE PACKAGES - Did you know? I didn't.

Last week we sent a CARE PACKAGE to our daughter who is serving with the Army in Afghanistan. Describing the process in my previous Blog set me to thinking about the etymology of the term "Care package". I thought I knew, but some Google sniffing opened my eyes. I don't mean I read the wiki page for the term. I used Google news archive and followed the term back to its birth year - 1946.

If you were a Canadian child of the 1960s, the TV addicted generation, you probably have the broadcast pleas of the big box charities burned into your cranial circuitry. (I can scarcely repeat a joke heard last week, but I have a jukebox full of 40 year old jingles in my head.) I haven't seen the U.S.C. television spot for decades but I can still hear the halting voice of its founder and spokeswoman... "This is Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova of the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4" . I don't recall who spoke for C.A.R.E. but I do know that we all assumed that the "C" stood for Canadian, but we were wrong.
The original concept of the C.A.R.E. package was to folks to supplement the efforts of the Marshall Plan in Europe by directing a box of food directly to a relative in bombed out Europe. In 1948 a piece in the New York Times described the Marshall Plan itself as "an enormous CARE package", which indicates the usefulness of the term. The service was convenient. You sent C.A.R.E. the money (with an address of a needy family) and they tapped into the mountains of rations which the U.S. had shipped to European ports.

A photo of a 50 year old CARE Package, from the era of the Berlin Airlift.

In 1946 the Cooperative for American Remittance to Europe C.A.R.E. set up a tiny office in Ottawa - 73 Albert Street, which was still going strong in 1954, as you can read in the news clipping velow. By 1954 the stockpiles of wartime canned and dried foods were depleated and CARE - Canada was purchasing fresh stock from Canadian and U.S. suppliers. By that time the "E" in the acronym had been changed from "Europe" to include "Everywhere". In April 1955 CARE Canada stopped sending food packages to European destinations. Attention shifted to Asia and Africa.
For a CARE official to make a point of telling a news reporter that it was "strictly a new-commodity agency purchasing in bulk" leads me to believe that there was controversy at the time involving CARE's procurement practices.

I also find this comment interesting: "CARE's policy of sending overseas only new grade A quality materials has proved to be a psycholigically-sound policy..." I often think of the psychological impact of the charity my family and our neighbors received growing up in housing project in Saint John, N.B. in the 1960s. We never refused "second hand" anything and I remember everything about being needy. We kids would go to the church basement where used footwear was heaped on the floor, to try on boots till we had a match with our feet. I recall once a boy accusing me with "Hey, that was my coat." "No it's not." "Yes, and that pocket there is torn out. That's why my mom gave it away." He proceeded to prove it in front of his friends. I, rendered mute by the truth, had to stand there and let the donor have his moment.

C.A.R.E. stopped shipping CARE packages around 1964. Though we all use the term as a generic, the charity continues to renew the trademark. Plenty of charities which emerged from the World Wars and which once involved thousands of volunteers in labour intensive relief efforts, now simply solicit cash donations. They form the corp d'elite of international NGOs which we often see in the news.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Attention Vancouver Shoppers - John Candy and Michael Moore

Christmas shoppers are out in full force and some have that Don't mess with me! look. I find the best defensive posture is to restrict my reconnaissance of the major Burnaby shopping malls to early morning or well after dusk. It's not that we need that much to make me happy, but as a film buff I need to browse regularly. I find I must satisfy that itch at the back of the eyeballs and the only balm is a good movie.

As a newly minted documentary film maker I am keen to study the work of others. I constantly add to my library of non-fiction DVDs - an expensive genre to build in. Recently I stumbled on a cache of deleted titles in a store at Brentwood Mall in Burnaby. I scooped up ten DVDs including films by Errol Morris, Patrick Creadon, Michael Wilson, Marc Levin and others. My pick of the bunch is undoubtedly MICHAEL MOORE HATES AMERICA - a Mike Wilson film. The 95 minute feature is virtually unknown in Canada... Big Surprise eh!... and more is the pity. I love discussing good cinema but couldn't find anyone who'd seen it. A young friend at SFU film school told me today that he just couldn't get past the abrasive title. But the harsh title is integral to the story, and all is explained to the viewer. Even the elder statesman of Documentary film Albert Maysles approved, and his integrity is legendary.

Michael Moore Hates America - The title is provocative, the content eye opening, and the DVD now extremely affordable: $5 at WALMART and $6 at ZELLARS in the Vancouver area (very limited supply).

What Michael Wilson did was simple enough in concept - he chose to serve Mr. Moore a generous dose of his own medicine. Wilson made a study of every trick Moore employed in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and then he spent over a year following Moore's trail. The process of discovery exposes a pattern of outright fraud in Moore's technique and execution, but it is done with tact, wit and humour.

Don't fixate on the title. Wilson is not on a vendetta. He does however, mount an an assault for which there is no defence - and as a result Moore's production company went into lock down while Wilson was on the streets with a camera. Neither Moore or any his staff deigned to respond to an investigation of their film making tactics.
I emailed Michael Wilson to express my appreciation for his film and told him that MOST of Michael Moore's features have been broadcast by Canada's state owned television network - the CBC. I asked if his film had ever been broadcast in Canada. The answer was that it has never been broadcast ANYWHERE. And that, boys and girls, is morality tale in itself.

John Candy does a LIVE remote for CBC and entertains the shoppers at Brentwood Mall in Burnaby, B.C. It was Christmas 1976.
The comedy setup was to get some volunteers to gift wrap boxes, and then... well you know John. Out came the moose antlers, and much more. The six minute clip is an entertaining Blast from the past. Check it out at:
The CBC Archives website uses a software which prevents simple screen captures, so I used a digital SLR.
JUSTIN is one of the efficient volunteers staffing the Military Family Resource Center at C.F.B. Jericho Beach on West 4th. MFRC - BC offers support to hundreds of military families in Greater Vancouver.

Since our daughter deployed to Afghanistan our family has taken advantage of the free parcel service offered by the Canadian Forces. We sent our third "CARE PACKAGE" on Monday and are amazed that it has taken as little as twelve days for small boxes to be delivered to her at Kandahar Air Field. Damn that's efficient! I guess the term is now universal for boxes of goodies sent to loved ones, often students at university, far from home. I was reminded of the origin of the term yesterday when I was riffling through a fifty year old copy of AMAZING STORIES magazine. The old advert reads:

"CARE FOOD CRUSADE - $1.00 sends a 22-lb. Food Crusade package to the world's hungry through CARE, New York 16."

22 pounds of food delivered for a $1 donation! Today it costs one dollar & tax just to send a two page letter as far as New York!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nien Cheng - my cherished hero, dead after a long, courageous life

Nien Cheng died on in Washington D.C. on November 2, and the world refused to take notice. I have been feeling a little bitter about that. My instinct is to hurl a few insults at the opinion makers and the navel gazers, but it wouldn't do any good. Nien was a cherished hero, and she was frequently in my thoughts. Though still a newcomer to documentary film, I would like one day to craft a fitting and lasting tribute.

It was actually April Lee of M.S.T.V. in Washington D.C., who informed me by email of Nien Cheng's passing. I am grateful for her kindness. My hero died at home, attended by loyal and loving friends, including Ms. Lee's mother. In an instant I did a Google news search. It was only two days after the death but I was astounded to see how scant was the news of a noteworthy death. I have waited a week for notices to accumulate, hoping to read some fresh anecdotes from her many admirers and friends. Sadly, my wait was in vain and it makes me a bit sour to see how many lazy flacks have gotten paid to plagiarize copy scraped from the web pages of two or three better newspapers.

Nien Cheng - author of LIFE AND DEATH IN SHANGHAI Nien Cheng - the eyes of a tiger. Anger and a deep sense of outrage kept her alive through years of torture and close surveillance by the Maoists.

Her birth name was Yao Nien Yuan and she was endowed with beauty, intelligence and a work ethic. She became a graduate of the London School of Economics, where she met her husband to be, Dr. K.C. Cheng. She became a diplomats wife when he was appointed, in 1941, the Second Secretary at the Chinese Legation in Australia. It was in Australia that their only child was born, a daughter they named Meiping. Postwar the Cheng's returned to China and would make careers with Shell Oil. Their fatal mistake, one common to many intellectuals of that era, was to give the Communist Party the benefit of the doubt.

Like her contemporary George Orwell, (another great hero of mine), Nien Cheng early in life had chosen to become a committed socialist. And like Orwell she was destined to receive a brutal education at the hands of "comrades". Orwell was denounced and relentlessly screwed over by ankle biters, but Nien Cheng suffered more. She was tortured in a Shanghai prison - subjected to the most bestial forms of coercive interrogation yet devised, and for more than six years. Her torturers, by the dozen, were never prosecuted, but that's another dossier.

Nien Cheng with her beloved daughter Meiping Nien Cheng with her beloved daughter Meiping, the budding actress who was murdered by Mao's Red Guards in 1967. [Washington Post photos]
After Madame Cheng was released from political prison, two extremely cold fish (members of a "Worker's Propaganda Team") appeared. Introducing themselves as spokesmen for the "Revolutionary Committee of the Shanghai Film Studio" they informed her that her daughter Meiping's name was on "the suicide list" at the studio, one of many actually murdered by Maoist Red Guards. "According to our Great Leader Chairman Mao, committing suicide is an attempt to resist reeducation and reform. It's a crime against Socialism." Much of the remainder of the book details Nien Cheng's tenacious hunt for the truth about her daughter's killers... another courageous blow for truth and justice by a heroic woman who simply could not be defeated by the black beast of authoritarianism.

The first line of Nien Cheng's memoir reads: "The past is forever with me and I remember it all." She has been a hero of mine since the first time I read her memoir - LIFE AND DEATH IN SHANGHAI (1986). I hope to read her inspiring book one last time before the clock strikes thirteen. You and I still have "that privilege", but for how long?
[I have shared thoughts on Nien Cheng a few times in the past, including one testy piece here in the blog. If you care to jump back two years, you can read the article here.]
Nien Cheng lived in Ottawa while waiting on the Americans to let her enter on her own terms. That's a story in itself. I see no evidence that any Canadian newspaper bothered to run her Obituary but at least a British paper, THE TELEGRAPH, mentioned the Canadian dimension to her story:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Burnaby Arts Council to launch film festival in 2010

One of several benefits I enjoy is the fact that I live and work in Burnaby, B.C., the community which, in July 2009, was designated "The best-managed city in Canada". Those kudos came from MACLEANS, the Canadian news magazine which also ranks our universities. (If interested, you can read "Canada's Best-Run Cities" here.) Even though our population density continues to climb, Burnaby also enjoys the distinction of having more jobs than it does residents. It is a fact that many of the major film studios and software design firms operate from Burnaby, but use Vancouver as their postal address. We often tip our hat to the "Vancouver" Brand, but must continue to forge our own identity.

One cultural event we have sorely lacked in Burnaby, is a festival which could showcase the talents of our emerging filmmakers, those who may not be ready to compete on a national level. Recognizing their need, one of the city's busiest cultural organisations - the Burnaby Arts Council (B.A.C.), has decided to sponsor a film festival which we will launch in April - May, 2010. The details... specific dates, application requirements, sponsor information and more, will be available soon.


I first met Brian Daniel, the B.A.C. President, two months ago. We swapped ideas, he sold me a membership, and before long he had me enlisted for a project he had been working on. It was easy to agree on the fact we must do more to encourage students and other emerging filmmakers. We will start small, but our goal is a festival for the younger talent in the Lower Mainland - high school, post secondary students and the newly graduated, who want exposure for their best film work to date.

I was given the green light to begin the planning and promotion, and my first act was to meet yesterday with Burnaby Mayor, Derek Corrigan and discuss the festival. He was very enthusiastic and it's encouraging to know that we can count on city to play a supportive role. I am seeking volunteers to assist with the processing the submissions, and a myriad of other tasks as they arise. We believe our festival will be a good fit for the James Cowan Theatre at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, which is neighbor to the B.A.C. offices in Deer Lake. Press releases will go out soon.
Derek Corrigan, Mayor of Burnaby, receives his copy of the film OAKALLA. The mayor had a long association with the prison and was interviewed for the documentary. [Philip Jack photo]

Friday, October 16, 2009


"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." So said C.N. Parkinson in 1955, but having just observed something rather extraordinary, I can attest that in the world of student independent film making, the reverse is often equally true. "Work compresses to fit a madly optimistic shooting schedule." From October 12 - 18, 2009 an enthusiastic film crew assembled at Simon Fraser University prepared to work their tails off. They were joined by a troupe of talented actors who collaborated on the production of IMMINENT CONTACT, a science fiction script written and directed by my son, Philip Jack.

Philip Jack directs IMMINENT CONTACT at the SFU studio. This view looks forward over the shoulder of an OMNI trooper at the flight crew of the drop-ship. [a Cedric Yu photo]

My role was logistical - the picking up and delivery of loads of building materials, props, costumes, and assorted consumables. I must admit that on the Monday I delivered the first load of wood frames and paint to the set at S.F.U. I was a tad dismayed. An abandoned set, comprising an entire apartment with bedrooms and furniture filled the studio from wall to wall, and it had to be cleared by the crew before IMMINENT CONTACT even had a floor to work on. And yet it WAS cleared quickly and efficiently so that construction could begin on the large drop-ship, a simple yet effective design which Philip had laboured over for months.

Student filmmaker Cedric Yu rigged an overhead camera to shoot a time-lapse film in HD, capturing the last stage of demolition and then two days of construction of the large drop-ship set. Yu's film makes for four minutes of fun viewing, and is posted on the IMMINENT CONTACT Facebook page, along with dozens of photos of the cast and the film crew.The cast of the movie includes actors Kate Crutchlow and Sam Spear as drop-ship flight crew, with DENYC, Steven Stiller, Donovan Cerninara and Sebastian Bertoli as OMNI's.

Four OMNI troopers featured in the movie IMMINENT CONTACT. They are Gunnery Sgt. Avery (Donovan Cerminara), Petty Officer Shepard (Sebastian Bertolli), Commander Grey (Steven Stiller), and Master C.P.O. Kurita (Denyc).
[a Cedric Yu photo]

Donovan Cerminara plays Gunnery Sgt. Avery in IMMINENT CONTACT.

OAKALLA to get its first screening. Yeah!
I got word today that my documentary short OAKALLA was selected for the Black Box Film Series which is running at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby. Oakalla will get its first screening on Monday, October 19th at 7 PM, and I am grateful for the opportunity as it contributes to the momentum for the feature length version THE GHOSTS OF OAKALLA, which I am currently researching and writing, and which needs to secure financial backing.

The Black Box Film Series is run in partnership with the Film Circuit, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). My ten minute DOC will precede the feature HEAVEN ON EARTH (2008) made by acclaimed director Deepa Mehta.

Post Screening : It was startling to view OAKALLA, which had been edited on a MAC, projected onto a full size theatre screen. Geraldine Parent gave the film a spirited introduction and I was gratified by the interest. I answered nearly a dozen questions from the audience before remembering to yield the floor to Mehta's feature film.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Ghosts of Oakalla and our Heroes in Kandahar

Gas masks for horses? Too surreal, and yet very real. The old OAKALLA PRISON was also HQ of the mounted troop of the B.C. Provincial Police between WW1 and WW2. The BCPP equestrian troop did practice for crowd and riot control, [I've hefted one of their 4 foot leather truncheons] but did not have teargas hoods for their mounts.

The ghosts of Oakalla are alive and still waiting to be caught on camera. When I began the OAKALLA Doc project I understood its potential, but could not guess so much worthwhile material would emerge or that scores of fascinating people would call me with great stories. After many consultations by phone, email or visits, I have chosen more than a dozen candidates for on-camera interviews. Script development is going well and I'm sure that most of what will appear on screen has never been seen or heard by the general public. Where my initial film, OAKALLA, was largely historical in content, the feature will delve into cases and issues which will make some uncomfortable. Several ex-staff who worked at Oakalla Prison have mentioned the "gag" provision of their employment contract, while others don't care. It is clear we have a common need to get these stories out.

OAKALLA : This is the DVD cover printed for distribution of a preview disc. Only a few copies are in circulation and a few were produced for legal deposit in B.C. and Ottawa. I have been offered a first screening at a Burnaby theatre.

Many unique photographs and artifacts have turned up, and generously offered for my use in the feature documentary. They will amaze even those who worked inside Oakalla, because it is a graphic record which is simply not supposed to exist. That it does exist is a credit to the foresight of a few individuals.

TF 3-09 KANDAHAR BOUND - One of the interests around the Jack household is following Canada's war in Afghanistan. Our daughter, Capt. Elizabeth Jack, left this week with the current rotation of troops which is designated TF 3-09. We are very proud of her and we fervently wish all of the brave men and women of the Task Force the best of luck and great success in their work.
To improvise or to modify? Student director Philip Jack has been spreading cash at TOYS R US, the HOME DEPOT and anywhere he can find bits and pieces needed to assemble props needed for his grad-film. He loves making props. (This bullpup is half completed, and will get a longer barrel and target designator.) The script for his Science Fiction story IMMINENT CONTACT is tweaked, the film is cast, and his crew at Simon Fraser University begin shooting later this month.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oakalla Prison Documentary - story buried in the heart of Metrotown

Film school kept me busy all summer, resulting in neglect to my Blogs and websites. This Blog article was published in RUNAGATE PICTURES, yesterday. There is no harm cross-posting because Iit's one more chance that other documentary filmmakers in the Lower Mainland might stumble upon my work, and perhaps make contact.
It has only been a week since the BURNABY NOW published a feature on my documentary OAKALLA, and the reporter included a list of minor mysteries which needed solving. For example, the Burnaby City Archives, the Museum nor the Library had a photo or knew of JUBILEE HALL, a landmark I needed to pin down for a location shot.

Much to my delight, a Mr. John Komm nominated an old wooden building he believed is the hall. I had thought the building torn down because it was already described as being "ramshackle" by a Vancouver SUN reporter in 1953. Though the property has passed through a half dozen owners and as many name changes, a few minutes in old City Directories confirmed that Jubilee Hall still exists in Burnaby Metrotown, near the Skytrain line. It seems an amazing example of survival in an area that has been very heavily redeveloped. This squat structure was the site of high drama in the 1950s, when Doukhobor men and women were moved from Oakalla by the busload, to be processed by a magistrate and then sent back to prison. (Photograph by John Komm)

In the photo (above) a Freedomite Doukhobor male and a woman are attempting to disrupt court proceedings by stripping in front of the magistrate. Doukhobor women also conspired to created chaos at nearby Oakalla Prison by burning their mattresses and refusing to eat.

I have enjoyed this very productive week. Well over twenty people got in touch to share stories or simply offer research leads to aid the next project, THE GHOSTS OF OAKALLA. I'm really getting a sense that people in the community want this film to be made. There has actually been a stunning development which has redirected much of my research time and must impact what I choose to shoot and how the story will be crafted. Unfortunately I cannot "give away" the discovery, as making key elements common knowledge would blow the dramatic impact I plan to build into the film.
Dylan Innes directing on the set of his film MANDROID, September 2009. His DOP is Felix Oltean. [Production still - Elaine Gebert]

Yesterday I had some fun playing a minor character in a scene for a futuristic film called MANDROID, written and directed by Dylan Innes. The crew was a talented bunch from S.F.U. film school and the set was located inside the busy headquarters of the B.C. Lung Association on Oak Street in Vancouver. It was only my second opportunity to "act". The first experience was in August when student director Jonathan Pon invited me to play an unfriendly Mall security guard in his comedy REBEL WITHOUT A CLUE. Jonathan's parody of film school actually reflects some of the "stuff" some of us went through at Broadway campus. REBEL will be screened at Langara College on September 27 at 3pm.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Terrorism Calendar - Yours, Mine and Theirs

How much time should we devote to pondering Islamic radicalism? What will you contribute in the effort to contain, if not defeat the fanatical terrorists of this world? Anything? ... Nothing?

Our family has never shied from the subject before 9/11 or since. Now, as our daughter is about to deploy to Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces, we accept the fact that our interest will be moving to a higher level of concern. The news on Friday that we lost another soldier in A-Stan to a roadside I.E.D. discourages me from my usual topics for Blog articles. Today I feel compelled to pay humble tribute to a few non-combatants who have sacrificed far more than most in the struggle to contain Islamic Fascism, or those who generously work to make life better for the unfortunate.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is a brave man and a Hero. The doctor has shown great courage and generosity of spirit by setting aside time from his lucrative medical practice in order to disseminate the simple truth: Islamic Fascism is relentless and it will never call a halt to the evil campaign to destroy our way of life.

Doctor M. Zuhdi Jasser is an extremely brave man. I read his profile in the current issue of the Jewish Tribune and was persuaded to look him up. Jasser is a Muslim American who disagrees with the Middle East policies of America's first Muslim President, Barack Hussein Obama. Jasser, though an orthodox Sunni, is a fierce and vocal opponent of radical Islamic militants, men he terms "Fascists" and accuses of wrapping their bloody expansionist political agenda with the green cloak of Islam. Jasser decided to distribute his potent warning in the form of a video entitled THE THIRD JIHAD. I encourage you to at least view the free 30 minute preview which on Google Video here.

Dr. Jasser has been vilified by professional apologists for the Jihadist agenda - no surprise there. Frequently their attempts at rebuttal begin by dismissing his message and his research as "a joke" or "humorous" but in every case that is the precursor to a bitter and personal attack. Jasser, though he looks mild in the photo, has great courage. He openly publishes contact information, including where he works, and shares photos of his family online. Compare that with the cowards at MACLEAN'S magazine who worked to suppress the Jyllands Posten editorial cartoons, or AIR CANADA which refused to carry any magazine which did publish them.

The Hapless Victim Card
If your search for meaningful information is confined to the local newspaper or just listening to an "anchor" reading a teleprompter, you're harming your personal interests. The interests of Big Media does not coincide with your right to unfiltered streams of source information and it never will. For example, why in June did ALL of the Canadian news editors allocate acres of podium space for the "Stranded Canadian" story? Why the sickening determination to shape another "victim" story a la Maher Arar travesty? Well now that Abousfian Abdelrazik has parleyed his passport and his media card into celebrity, the untouchable operative is back in Montreal after cooling his heels for six years in Sudan. What are his views on Al-Qaeda today? Ask him some questions... he'll tell you some lies.

GITMO and the braying donkeys of discontent
For several years we Canadians have endured frequent denunciations of the conditions at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and the alleged “unlawful” confinement of Islamic militants. Spokesmen for the Islamic resurgence, including publicity addicted parliamentarians and big city politicians brayed like donkeys, demanding that the evil Bush government close GITMO and free the “innocent” detainees. Canadians were fed on little more than recycled ACLU press releases. For a dose of reality, invest five minutes to read this N.Y. Post article published on June 7. It accuses the military, with justification, of allowing GITMO to become "more madrassa than prison camp".

Meanwhile Senator Obama promised voters that he would decommission GITMO if elected President. Well in mid-May we learned (from a leaked document) that many of the released detainees have rejoined the Jihad and are plotting new attacks. The leak made the White House very nervous indeed, and it took the Pentagon several days to confirm what the intelligence breach revealed - “that at least 74 former Guantanamo detainees have resumed terrorist activities after claiming they weren't terrorists.” Why the nervousness? Don’t these ex-detainees confirm by their actions that they are “lying” as well as “murderous” Jihadists? Well yes and no. It turns out that the White House has poured millions of American taxpayer dollars into building a half-way house in Saudi Arabia, where ex-GITMO prisoners might be groomed for release back into the general Saudi population. That high priority program has proven to be an abysmal failure, and as a result a similar facility for Yemen is now on hold. The Obama White House seems no different than its predecessor when it comes to toadying up to the feudal potentates who rule Saudi Arabia. The Saudis will never be held accountable for the mishandling of GITMO detainees released into their custody.

If you can believe it, the critics of counter terror operations are not concerned that tigers have been set loose. They quibble over the news that "only 74" GITMO prisoners seem to have returned to terror cells. "Some argue the alleged 14 percent rate is inflated, as it is based on a definition of "militant activity" so broad as to include merely associating with terrorists." [That's why the Toronto/Montreal media issued Abousfian Abdelrazik a free pass. The suggestion is he merely "associated" with terrorists. He didn't personally blow anyone's legs off.] "Others say the figure compares favorably with the 68 percent recidivism rate for US criminals." Now there's perspective for you!

Which brings me to Said Ali Al Shihri, who was freed from Guantanamo in 2007. This fellow, who denied his crimes and who was provided with an American lawyer, pro-bono, was one of those released into Saudi custody. He and his cohorts then easily slipped away. Al Shihri crossed into Yemen in 2007 to take the post of Deputy Leader of Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. He has already participated in fresh terror operations. To make the point, he posed for a staff photo with other regional commanders, which was released to rub Washington's nose in its failure to dissaude him from committing his life to Jihad. Most recently Al Shihri was implicated in the murder of a group of German Christians and a Korean who were abducted in Yemen in mid-June. (They were all members of a Dutch international medical charity.) The bodies of three nurses were found almost immediately and the German intelligence services announced that they believe the others, including children have been murdered.

Why Al-Qaeda? Why German civilians? Because the Germans have deployed troops to fight militant Islam and are committed to standing with the U.S. and Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban has no ability to mount acts of terror in Germany or other NATO countries, but they rely on Al-Qaeda to hit us where we are vulnerable - such as targetting the thousands of Christian lay workers who serve in Muslim territories.

German nurses Rita Stumpp, left, and Anita Gruenwald were kidnapped while returning from an outing to a farm in Yemen. As a warning to Christians who believe they have the right to run projects in Muslim countries, they along with their Korean friend Eom Young-san (above) were executed in a field near the Yemeni capital. Each young woman was shot twice in the head. The photo of the Korean woman is taken from the Blog she kept until the week of her murder. I found it rather troubling to view the happy photos of an obviously giving person, who was oblivious of the fact that evil men were planning to take her life.
Terrorist cell in Yeman pose for a staff photo, 2008. Center-left is Abu Hareth Muhammad al Awfi; far right and marked with an (X) is Said Ali al Shihri, one of the released Guantanamo P.O.W.s. (Photo source - Nick Grace) The Yemeni newspaper reports I've read attempt to disassociate Al-Qaeda from the abduction and murder of the nine volunteer charity workers. However the two tribesmen offered as scapegoats do not convince. This was not a kidnapping for ransom. It was murder orchestrated to terrorize foreign charities, and it has worked.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

DISTRICT 9 - The genesis of Neill Blomkamp's dystopian allegory

I'm old enough now that I can draw circles around genres which once excited publishers and Hollywood agents, but which were just as quickly discarded. Can you recall for instance, the sinister South African gangsters and rogue Apartheid agents who once populated movies like Lethal Weapon 2 and books like VORTEX the Larry Bond thriller?
The genre exploded in the late 1980s when the Soviet Union collapsed and fiction producers were suddenly desperate to find a viable alternative to the KGB. The nemesis for the 90s had to be a viable stereotype, and one which was hated by a broad demographic. Apartheid-era South Africans were perceived as vile villains who fit the Bill. They were after all, sophisticated, cunning, privileged and desperate to survive.

Well sir, our world changed too quickly. The mafia emerged as the new Russian strongmen and Muslim terrorists were a gift to our pop culture, scarier than the KGB ever was. As for the Republic of South Africa, the A.N.C. regime is already into its third president and a couple of million black kids were born under A.N.C. slogans and promises. Those who didn't like "the New South Africa" simply left, and now constitute an extremely tame diaspora in their adoptive countries. That said, a South African born Canadian has just crafted his first feature film, and his unique vision might trigger something akin to a new genre. That would be fun !Where CHARLIE JADE , the Canadian-funded South African television series failed, perhaps DISTRICT 9 the riskier Science Fiction - allegory may just succeed in stirring our imagination.

In 2005 Neill Blomkamp and friends crafted a six minute short called ALIVE IN JOBURG. The server couldn't keep up with the demand and the film became an Internet phenomenon. Peter Jackson was impressed and invited Blomkamp to try the creative atmosphere in New Zealand.

PART ONE: Original Sin

Neill Blomkamp arrived in Vancouver, B.C. with a South African high school diploma and a burgeoning talent for computer graphics. It seems he was not born with "original sin" as his family had avoided the taint of active participation in the organs of "White Rule". Neill never could wash the R.S.A. out of his hair, and so after some training here in computer VFX he secured steady employment and made it a personal priority to return to his native land each summer and discuss creative collaboration with young filmmakers who had stayed behind.

My research into Blomkamp's life shows that he has surprising depth, and that he will not shy from social issues that would crucify less sure men. With this movie, DISTRICT 9, Blomkamp is engaging in political allegory every bit as clever and biting as George Orwell pulled off with ANIMAL FARM several decades ago. We are witnessing a creative concept which is unique and possibly significant.

A production still from DISTRICT 9, a low budget Science Fiction - Allegory produced by Director Peter Jackson. The movie goes into general release on August 14. The INDEPENDENCE DAY type Alien spacecraft of Blomkamp's 2005 short, has been replaced by vessels equally sinister looking.

When SONY announced this project back in November of 2007, I was impressed by Blomkamp's tenacity and skill at getting the "Big Boys" to trust his creative judgement. The Fan Blogs are currently busy scraping up every studio dangle or minute clue needed to assemble a prediction of what this movie will look like. It is clear that the viral marketing campaign for the film has only succeeded in creating confusion, which is never a good thing in marketing. (see for example this site) A few leaked photos from the production show us a small outdoor set representing the entrance gate to DISTRICT 9. They confirm that production money was very tight, as does the Casting which was also very low budget.

We were told that Blomkamp co-wrote the DISTRICT 9 script with "his partner" Terri Tatchell. Now that's rather extraordinary. Blomkamp is certainly a wunderkind, but Ms. Tatchell has no S.F. track record whatsoever, except in her relations with Blomkamp. Tatchell attended the Vancouver Film School in 2001, earning her diploma in Writing for Film, Television & New Media. She then got a job at Rainmaker Studio under the late Bob Scarabelli, and was designated as Rainmaker's "Industry Relations Co-ordinator". At the same time she joined the Board of the Vancouver chapter of Women in Film and Television. (She served one term as its President but is no longer a member.) This thumbnail photo, which dates to 2003, is still archived on the WIFTV web page:It was at Rainmaker that Terri met Neill, who was then employed in VFX. She has no experience with Science Fiction and probably no cultural knowledge of South Africa beyond what she has picked up through Neill. Tatchell's best known creative effort is actually a stage play written for high school students, which is added to the curriculum of some schools because it teaches kids about the legal fight to gain Canadian women the vote. It's called "Woman Idiot Lunatic Criminal" and tells the story of a girl transported back to 1910 to meet her Suffragette great-grandmother. (The story takes its name from the awkward wording of the Canada Elections Act of 1918.) I'm not trying to pick on the lady but the truth is that while Neill was sequestered for most of last year directing the movie, Tatchell was back here in B.C. involved in her own thing. I can't believe she added much to the movie project, but who knows?

In PART TWO of this article I plan to comment on some of the creative aspects of DISTRICT 9.

UPDATE: It seems that the makers of DISTRICT 9 have themselves shill over on Wikipedia. In my naivete (When will I EVER learn?) I decided to contribute a few helpful sentences to the Wiki page that was created for this flic. In FOUR minutes some creepy wiki-guardian had removed my contribution. Some techno-Hobbit down in New Zealand perhaps.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"British Columbia or Columbia?" - THE ECONOMIST

The B.C. drug culture and trigger happy Narco-thugs continue to give our province a sorry-ass reputation in the Global media. The most recent example of ugly headlines is in the current edition of THE ECONOMIST. Here is how it begins:

If you wish to read the entire article, here is the jump: BRITISH COLUMBIA OR COLUMBIA? So if we are being compared to Columbia, what has been happening below the equator this week? Here is a taste:

Actresses perform among a display photos of people allegedly murdered or abducted by Colombia's security forces and paramilitary groups. The event was a part of a protest against state violence held in Bogota, Colombia on May 29, 2009. (AP Photo)

Since our federal police have not seen the need to organize anything resembling a Columbian death squad, and even the looniest of our left-anarchist "activists" have yet to resort to kidnapping, it is obvious that the ECONOMIST is punching below the belt.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

S.F.U. Graduate Film Screening 2009

Simon Fraser University has one of the busiest film schools in B.C., and an even more versatile program is in the offing. The January 2010 session will see a legion of very lucky novice filmmakers moving into spanking new digs at the SFU production facility being fitted with state-of-the-art gear, in downtown Vancouver.

On April 30th I had the pleasure of attending the "31st Annual" SFU Grad Film screening at Granville Cinema 7. The event showcased the creative talent of the last crop of students to use the old gear on the Burnaby Mountain campus. The evening offered an entertaining melody of 19 mini-movies which in turn charmed, dazzled and sometimes bemused. SFU Film Instructor Colin Browne admitted up front that they're not exactly sure this was the "31st annual screening" (the department flew by the seat of its pants in the late '70s), but they're pretty sure.
My ticket came courtesy of my son, a third year film student who worked on four of the films I would enjoy - as a sound designer, grip/dolly grip, a cast member or as sound recordist. I enjoyed every film, but I wouldn't be human if I didn't compare and sort my viewing into mental folders. That's part of the fun.

CATECHISM, by Jessica Moorhouse, was an obvious crowd-pleaser. It is the story of a young lass who struggles to reconcile her carnal urges with the dictates her "Catholic" upbringing. (The Ten Commandants are reduced to four ... it's a West Coast thing.) While I was a tad bemused by the mixing of the Catholic confessional with frequent dissolves into a Baptist-style angst over "what the Bible sez", I found CATECHISM a genuine laugh fest. The entire audience loved Jessica's casting of a Bobble-Head Jesus.
SQUADRON 5 was a brave attempt at a Science Fiction epic, and the hard work of Director Barry Liu shows throughout. Squadron 5 was also the only story film not produced in English. It was my first exposure to a Cantonese S.F. movie (with English subtitles) and it is evidence of the multicultural flavour of the Simon Fraser campus, although not enough Chinese youths choose film making. Mr. Google tells me that Al Leung, one of the actors featured in SQUADRON 5, has a webpage.

BOXED IN could have been produced by American International Pictures in the 1970's. Instead the splatter-comedy script had to wait for Kial Natale to be born and to choose film school. The movie a real hoot and the audience loved it. I don't know if the old guy who played Santa Claus was a professional actor or a talented rubby-dub the Director found on Hastings Street, but he was sure fun to watch.
There is a perky trailer posted for the Grad Film Screening. It's found at: There can be no doubt that several of the 2009 graduate films are going to be entered in film festivals, where I hope you will encounter them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kim Bolan exposes a dangerous ex-Mountie

Suddenly Vancouver gang reporting is less boring. I urge you to read Kim Bolan in THE VANCOUVER SUN today: "Ex-cop allegedly pretended to be IHIT member to locate Bacon brothers". We knew that local gangs had infiltrated the real estate industry, that they have lawyers, accountants and even members of the Canadian Border Service on their payroll... but here is something of greater enormity - the precedent of a turned cop begins to make the storyline of local gang wars begin to smell like the legal debacle over the AIR INDIA terrorism case. Once again there is no clear delineation between the good and the bad. Mr. Sidhu needs to get his side of the story before the public, perhaps through a lawyer, because this story has pinned him to the mat.

Ms. Bolan has so thoroughly "outed" Mr. Sidhu today, on the first strafing of her target, that it appears she believes Sidhu is guilty of darker deeds than merely breaching RCMP operational security. That is my impression but you should read the article and form your own conclusions.

This Vancouver SUN graphic accompanies Kim Bolan's hard-hitting page one article. She strips away the official secrecy surrounding the prosecution of disgraced Mountie Rapinder (Rob) Sidhu.

Rapinder (Bob) Sidhu... once an ornament of RCMP "minority hiring"... eleven years an RCMP officer... resigned from the force in July 2003 as a result of domesticate violence complaints... charged with fraud soon thereafter, and known to associate with gang figures... Bolan paints a very murky picture, and then she dismantles Sidhu's front operation - a supposed Private Investigations business called IMAX Investigational Group.

Sidhu posed as a serving officer to successfully breach RCMP security on July 31, 2007 ... was charged in January 2008.... and will finally have his case presented in court on June 17.

Ms. Bolan, while serving a generous dollop of information, including the fact that Rapinder (Rob) Sidhu "had been an undercover operator" while serving in the RCMP, leaves many pertinent questions unanswered. Did Constable Sidhu work undercover here in B.C.? Did Sidhu contribute anything of consequence to the Air India Task Force (acknowledged to be Ms. Bolan's journalistic bailiwick) and if not, what important cases does he carry in his memory? And most important, had any Vancouver Sun reporters ever been briefed by Constable Sidhu or his immediate RCMP coworkers, during those eleven years he served with the Force? Bolan knows virtually every Sikh in Vancouver who has worn a badge, or timed out, so it would be useful to know her earlier impressions of Rapinder Sidhu. Such details have a bearing on how he has been handled to date, and how he will be dealt with in court.

P.M. UPDATE : I thought to take a peak at Ms. Bolan's blog, and I note that she specifies that Sidhu worked on drug cases. Bolan also says, and this is interesting..."I tried to get Sidhu, calling his home and even driving out there Friday evening to knock on his door and leave a note requesting an interview when no one answered. I did finally get a call back from his lawyer Matt Nathanson, who said Sidhu is presumed innocent and will defend the accusations in court. I'll be watching that trial."Mr. Sidhu is now represented by lawyer Matthew Nathanson, a legal beagle frequently mentioned in Bolan crime stories.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The New Mounties and Reefer Madness

Maintiens Le Droit... "Uphold the law". It's the official motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and, until recently, the reliable code of constable conduct. They're stern words from a sterner era. Most military and police units in our nation's history preferred to use Latin phrases on their badges but when John A. Macdonald deployed N.W.M.P. troopers to quell the Louis Riel's rebellious Metis, the Mountie motto was French. So it remains, as does the "iconic" red serge tunic.

Here in B.C., with a boring provincial election underway, at least one party is advocating something novel - the cancellation of long standing Federal policing contracts and the reinstatement of the old B.C. Provincial Police. Jane Sterk, leader of the B.C. Green Party added that little gem to the Green plartform, along with a banning of Tasers. The predictable response of Gordon Campbell, Liberal party boss was "The fact of the matter is the RCMP is the provincial police force and it does an extremely good job across the province." Gordo will never discuss any idea which his own policy wonks did not originate. A pity that, because if the gold plated security component of the 2010 Olympics Budget shows us anything, it is that the real cost of federal troopers is unsustainable in the 21st Century.
You'll find a taste of the bitter truth reported in todays SUN: "Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit has announced it will pay $79.8 million for three cruise ships to house about 5,000 security personnel in Vancouver during the 2010 Games."
This doctored image, created by Taylor Rivard for his "Proud Smoke" cannabis webpage , depicts the RCMP insignia modified to reflect the current hiring policy of Canada's national police force.

One of the most popular Vancouver news stories last week was a piece written by Chad Skelton for the SUN [April 13]. It described Mr. Amyn Dharamshi, the inept ex-Mountie who lost his fat wallet back in 2005, which contained his RCMP ID, a baggie of marijuana, a package of Zig Zag cigarette papers and his "RCMP student-loan documents". (Who even knew there was such a thing an RCMP student loan!) The tattling tale, sans photo of course, was the delight of the Internet. Dharamshi was "suspended with pay"and used the appeals process for four years (on salary) before finally resigning. What I found astounding was not that he smoked dope or lied about it, but that he tried to implicate his brother, whom he claimed had "borrowed his wallet for a few days". There was an avalanche of opinion-posting when the story appeared, but the Net-signature is fast evaporating, and soon you will need the Wayback Machine to excavate the bones.

The wretched Dharamshi story must be assessed in combination with a CBC report which was published two weeks earlier, because the two are directly related. I say "published," but hasten to add that it was completely ignored by other media. An internal memo acquired by the CBC has revealed that RCMP recruiters will now "permit consideration of mitigating factors in all cases of criminal activity, which may include drug trafficking, etc." In other words we are living in a country where the heavily armed illegal drug industry has the upper hand, but also where the national police cannot manage to find recruits who have lived a life without illegal substances.

Screen shot of the March 27th CBC story revealing that RCMP recruiters no longer plans to exclude all drug users from serving on the force.

I have a big problem with the current decline in RCMP culture. Watering the vintage to serve a self absorbed population is unacceptable. I for one have never used any illegal drug, including marijuana, and I am proud of having lived my life with no more serious encounter with the police than a few speeding tickets. Quite frankly, we should be able to expect that an officer who approaches the car window has a character equal to, if not exceeding our own. That is not too much to ask. The RCMP and the poll-addicted politicians have to understand that if they lose the trust and cooperation of my generation, it matters not if they regain physical control of the streets. We have a thousand subtle or subversive ways of expressing our dissatisfaction with public employees who have lost their way. All of them legal.

A crowd of 5000 (VPD estimate) gathered in solidarity for National Pot Smoking Day, the "420" protest in Vancouver, held on Monday afternoon. The banner reads "HELP MAKE CANNABIS THE LOWEST POLICE PRIORITY". Clearly that was the case, as uniformed VPD officers politely observed the happy assembly.

TV Video of yesterday's "420 protest" was broadcast at noon today and it was obvious that the happy crowd was dragging extra hard on their cannabis in order to produce an impressive cloud of smoke. Bravo! Perhaps they could be persuaded to re-assemble and perform the feat at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. Now that is a stunt which would garner their cause some "World Class" media coverage, and for only a half hour of effort. They already know the VPD and RCMP will not intervene. Legal precedent is truly a modern marvel.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Vancouver

Vancouver's gang war, the UN Gang vs Red Scorpions, got boring, so I had stopped commenting on it months ago. The police chief recently admitted on camera that local politicians had been twisting his arm, demanding he not admit what all the bodies in the gutter imply... that it is a war. Many of you get your daily drip of gore from the Vancouver SUN, which gooses each edition with crime news, and links news coverage to Bolan's Blog on the same website. The SUN is now requiring its writing staff to participate in building a web-presence for the newspaper...The inevitable is just over the horizon. The expensive printing and distribution crews will get their pink slips... look for it in 2012, and the paper will go to online subscription.

This morning's SUN story on the Bacon family appearing at the courthouse, featured handsome Jarrod Bacon looking like he wanted to audition for a part in a Bond movie. His photo prompts an anecdote shared with me last week by a Grade 12 student who had just taken his Transitions Exit Interview, a process required by the B.C. curriculum. The student wanted to impress, so he bought a new suit and had his hair cut for the interview. He told me that when he walked into the room the first words out of the teacher's mouth were, "Wow, you look just like a UN gang member!"

I found his story a tad funny because it indicates an apparent shift in local perceptions of criminality. We have a whole new image of what might now be making many local women jittery. Good looking young men... those who keep themselves fit and are well groomed and well dressed, may now be deemed physically threatening.

This prompts the question, "What is the investigative profile of the man who killed Wendy Ladner-Beaudry at Pacific Spirit Park last Friday?" The brutal death of Ms. Ladner, who was a member of Vancouver's ruling elite, has shocked fellow residents of the West Side, those who have always believed that money and class insulated them from the more sordid aspects of Vancouver's social evolution. Are the police looking for some bedraggled, long haired transient, or are the looking for some buffed up young bloke, who was seen in expensive runners and designer sunglasses? Ms. Ladner's husband insists that his wife would have met any attacker with a barrage of blows. It was interesting to read that, in spite of their being overtaxed by almost daily gang killings, the V.P.D. was able to deploy 75 officers and 20 vehicles to the scene of Ms. Ladner's murder, and maintain those assignments ever since. Apparently we have more law enforcement capability than we've been told.

And what to make of the recent Paul Rogers story "FROM HEAVEN TO HELL" published in the THE INDEPENDENT ? (Many opinions held by Vancouver residents are posted online under Rogers' article. Have a read.) Rogers, a visiting scholar at SFU, bit into some tender political flesh with that story. Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell offered reporters an identical denunciation - "a cheap shot", apparently annoyed that foreign media are unwilling to fall into lockstep with the local media.

Mr. Beaudry, who is distraught and angry, told the Vancouver Courier "If there's any good in this, it's that we can't give in to terror. We can't fold. Terror is a great tool, but we can't let terror take over."

Linda Lorraine Howe (seen here in Dec. 2008 Xmas party photo) alleges that she was allowed to slip through the mesh of Canada's social safety net.

What are we to make of Linda Howe? This is the woman who recently brandished two weapons inside a nursing home at Gibson's B.C., when attendants tried to evict her from a room she was no longer entitled to. Ms. Howe's response was to barricade herself in the room. After shooting an attendant she had to be taken down by a police tactical unit. I can understand how Ms. Howe managed to conceal a small Argentinian auto pistol in her room, but how did she manage to cache a .303 Enfield Rifle?

Ms. Howe is here seen in a surveillance photo, taken inside her room at the care home.

Linda Lorraine Howe of Gibsons, B.C. was armed with a 7.65 Bersa auto pistol, which was manufactured in Argentina in the 1970s. Which of her beau's was stupid enough to give this gun to a woman with emotional problems?

Ms. Howe has been alleging for years that our "system" has let her down. Which node of the system in particular? DND, ICBC, BC Health, et al. Howe has told anyone who will listen that she is a Canadian "veteran" of the Gulf War, suffering from "post Traumatic Stress Disorder". Her family have told news media that she made up the Gulf War service but I read in today's GLOBE AND MAIL that she enrolled in a Vancouver Military Reserve Unit for a few months in 1990. On the strength of that abortive attempt to fit in, the GLOBE today dubs Ms. Howe a "Veteran". How does someone who doesn't take enough reserve training to get Trade Qualified, warrant the honour of "Veteran"? Gee whiz !

This screen capture is precious, isn't it? Ms. Howe's crimes are deemed "alleged" but the neophyte reporter confirms her supposed status as a "military veteran". (Based on a few months on the nominal roll of reserve unit.) Ouch. I guess we really did let Linda down.

DEC. 20, 2010 - we learn today that Ms. Howe was sentenced to seven years of detention.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

TRUE CRIME - But where is the Poetry?

I made only one New Year's Resolution, and until now I've kept it to myself. My resolve is to no longer write Blog articles about Vancouver Crime. Not because I have lost interest, but rather to devote more time to an allied creative pursuit - writing and producing documentary film. I am still interested in turning over stones in B.C.'s gangland graveyard, but I will be recording with HDvideo from here on in. My Blog intention for 2009 is to confine my discourse to crimes which are already entrenched in the public imagination in the context of Popular Culture - the movies, novels, graphic illustration, games and documentary film.

Serious books on Vancouver TRUE CRIMES do not appear with any frequency, and when top drawer B.C. criminals are committed to hard covers the prose are predominantly derived from old newspaper files. Most of these books, often written by Vancouver reporters who covered events for Pacific Press, I have found unreadable and I rarely bother to finish. I thought such disappointment was mine alone, but here is a corroborative and harsher view, expressed by a reviewer on the weekend: "I don't read true crime for good writing, and neither does anyone else. (Fortunately, because it's in short supply). I read it because I want to learn about a given case. Ann Rule hasn't sold a bajillion books because she's such a fantastic wordsmith; her prose is mediocre at best. But she knows how to identify a juicy story, she knows how to get access to everyone involved with it, and she knows how to keep it moving."

In fact there are many well written TRUE CRIME books kicking around, but few were penned by Canadians. The first of the genre I encountered was probably Vince Bugliosi's HELTER SKELTER (1974) which alerted me to the possibilities. Plenty of the kids in our impoverished housing project were living on Welfare, as were we, and many I knew of were already seasoned shoplifters or housebreakers. Membership in the Book-of-the-Month Club and a library card kept me safe. They dubbed me "the Professor"... as in "Hey Professor... want a kick in the face?"

I had long neglected to read THE BOSTON STRANGLER. I knew I should, but I let it slide. Boston in the early 1960s went through the disruption of Urban Renewal demolition of old slums and it shared a long history of neglect (as well as old family ties) with my hometown, Saint John, N.B.
In May 2006 VANITY FAIR magazine rekindled my interest in Albert DeSalvo, with a splash excerpt from Sebastian Junger's book A DEATH IN BELMONT. Soon enough I acquired his book and ... what a gyp!... realized that everything pertinent was already in the V.F. article. The bulk of the book is padding, as Junger has the Ripperologist gene - each of them simply must add to the suspect list. 'Else why write a book at all?

Fortuitously, in mid-2008 I chanced upon the real thing - Gerold Frank's THE BOSTON STRANGLER. The 1967 paperback edition was mint and unread, as if someone had purchased a copy and sealed it in a plastic evidence bag for me to unseal 41 years later. I took that as an omen and proceeded to surrender a weekend to reading it with great care. Oh bliss!
THE BOSTON STRANGLER - Gerold Frank, pub 1967
The first paperback edition (1967) of THE BOSTON STRANGLER, written by Gerold Frank. It won Frank his second EDGAR AWARD for True Crime writing.

I was initially put off by Frank's use of pseudonyms for several Boston area criminals and for victims of sexual assault who were fortunate in not having been murdered during DeSalva. That is until I realized that they were needed only to establish patterns of behaviour and the innovation pioneered by investigators, some of whom were forced to reinvent how they went about doing their jobs. The sheer volume of work created by the case was unprecedented. The detail and depth of Frank's own analysis is phenomenal, and it dovetails nicely with a few of my biographical research interests. That's always a bonus for a serious reader.

No author since 1963 has had the access Frank was allowed, largely due to his connections in publishing and law enforcement. When Frank assumed the project he was just still enjoying the accolades of another crime book called THE DEED, (which won him an EDGAR award) an account of the trial of two Jewish assassins who murdered Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1944. Frank had reported on the wartime trial during "the terror" and he returned in 1961 to interview all surviving participants. Thus when he went to Boston he was working in the genre he was already celebrated for advancing. It is also worth noting that Frank had some film background, having written and directed a documentary in the 1930s on Jewish migration out of the Polish Ghettos. His ambition had been to become a poet but a circuitous journey took him to journalism and finally, writing biography. A vast body of knowledge left this earth when Gerold Frank died.

THE BOSTON STRANGLER - terror in Boston 1963This 1963 photo, taken at the height of the Strangler scare, shows the type of desperate measures just one of many thousands of terrified Boston women employed to protect themselves. In every attack DeSalvo gained entry through cunning persuasion.

THE BOSTON STRANGLER - innovative film techniques
A Canadian book boasting of EXPO 67's accomplishments had this to say. "What Cubism was to painting before the First World War, Expo cinema was to the movies." Multi-screen projection, combined with multi-image composition, was a staple at many of the pavilions. Director Richard Fleischer attended the Montreal Expo and insisted upon using the same techniques in own project - THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968). Split image and montage were used extensively in the superb STRANGLER film, which featured Tony Curtis in the best performance of his career.
THE BOSTON STRANGLER - Killer Kpmix 2 (2000) KILLER KOMIX 2 (Pub. in 2000) was a homage to legendary serial killers, produced by creative team in Manchester, England. They strove to be offensive, but in a humorous spirit. The Strangler strip is built around the appearance of Dutch Psychic Peter Hurkos in the case, and lifted whole from Gerold Frank's best selling book. Hurkos was a minor celebrity in his time, who was featured in two episodes of ONE STEP BEYOND (available on DVD from Echo Bridge).
Early in 2008 VARIETY announced that Brian DePalma had acquired the rights to one of the books on the Boston Strangler, and was in pre-production on a movie. Since that book debunks the (I believe) reasonable assumption that DeSalvo's confession is valid, I assume that DePalma's film will have a more ambiguous conclusion. Ambiguity may not play well in an expensive feature film, but then again the success of any movie these days is a crap-shoot.