Outback

 

English is not my first language, and of all existing English accents, from all English-speaking countries in the world, none reminds me so well of that as Australia.

Growing up in Brazil, I remember how frustrating it felt to go to the movies to watch Paul’s Hogan (whatever happened to him?) fight criminals and crocodiles and having to read the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. My English was good enough for Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker, and E.T. phoning home, and Michael J. Fox piloting his flying Delorean, but Crocodile Dundee was just impossible. I could not hear the words right; was not prepared to comprehend the way even the most mundane vocabulary was pronounced. Not to mention the local slang. Had high hopes for Crocodile Dundee II, and the disappointment was devastating. I had not learned a single thing from the first movie. In fact, it became even more garbled and frustrating. How could the Men At Work band sound so clear when they ordered a vegemite sandwich and asked everybody to take cover, and I could easily sing along, but Paul Hogan’s brogue was worse than Greek to my ears?

In frustration, I gave up on Australian movies and TV shows. I would never be able to figure their accent. It was beyond me. I loved koalas and kangaroos but was doomed never to understand a word pronounced by humans living on the land Down Under. Until a WW II doctor, a survivor of the Singapore fall, showed me there was hope. I may at last have the courage to enter an Outback restaurant without fearing the waiter’s accent or any exotic words on the menu.

The Letter B

The town of Ballarat looks lovely on a sunny spring afternoon; its most prominent citizens gathered to celebrate the Begonia Festival. Rumor has it that local politicians planned on taking the famous  festival into the next town over, Bendigo, as Mrs. Beazley told Dr. Blake, but for now things remain as they are. Except that one of those prominent citizens in the public ceremony appeared to have been shot dead. And you wonder how such a charming town can afford to lose so many people in three seasons, one per episode. Worry not, because every single one of these deaths is going to be investigated and elucidated by Dr. Lucien Blake.  I am talking about the Australian TV show The Dr. Blake’s Mysteries. Netflix has it and your local PBS channel may also be airing it. The abundance of B-initialed names may have just be a coincidence but it added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to the show.

I realized the profusion of Bs before I did it was an Aussie show. The first episode of the first season opened with post WW II hair and fashion styles and automobiles. Where are we, I remember thinking. The U.K.? The building style vaguely reminded me of Southampton in England. However, there was no shore, and to confuse me further, some architectural elements resembled those in India under the British rule. It could not be Australia, I concluded, because I was able to understand every single word they spoke! It was not until the credits were rolling on our TV screen that I confirmed this was a made-in-Australia show, with Australian actors, incredibly well produced and acted, speaking such a clear English that even I could figure what they were saying in the flawlessly-written dialogues. I just had to keep watching. And three seasons went by in a blink of an eye.

Forensics in pre-DNA era

Criminals back then had no idea how lucky they were. It’s the late 1950’s in the first season. Lucien Blake is back home after decades living abroad. He left Australia in his 20’s to study medicine in Scotland. He got a job at a London hospital and then joined the British Army as a medical officer. During WW II Blake’s service included the Far East, where he married a Chinese lady and had a child. When Singapore fell though, he lost them both. Lucien searched for them all the time he was away, and continues the search after he returns to Ballarat. Dr. Blake also spent time in Thailand’s Ban Pong POW camp. After a 33-year absence, Blake returns home in 1959 to take over his late father’s practice as a  general practitioner and also becomes the police surgeon; a mix of detective with coroner. The series is set and mostly filmed in the gold rush city of Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, in Victoria. It features some of the town’s most popular sites, as Lydiard Street, and many of the heritage buildings, including the Colonists Club – a very exclusive, members’ only venue.

As if rebuilding one’s life after such tragic circumstances were not difficult enough, Blake is having an especially hard time as the entire town keeps comparing him to his deceased father. True, as a GP, Lucien Blake is a much better PI, but even a POW, schooled in patience and perseverance, has his limits. The constant comparison to his well-succeeded and well-liked dad is always in favor of Blake senior. To what Lucien utters his habitual, Right…Even Jean Beazley (played by actress Nadine Garner), his receptionist and housekeeper (Blake, as his father, works out of his home, when not at the police headquarters), spares no words praising Blake senior’s professionalism and demeanor against Blake junior’s shortcomings in the first two seasons. Jean actually disapproves of almost everything Lucien does and he takes her criticism without complaint; never losing his temper. If anything, Lucien’s experience of the war, combined with his natural or doctor-trained compassion, made him extra tactful when the human psyche is concerned. He is extra-understanding and tolerant in season I and II, which in turn drives his fellow police officers crazy. Having survived the horrors of the war, Lucien believes in the good in people; much better than he believes in our evil side.

As the show progresses though, and Blake feels more comfortable in his own hometown (and the actor probably more used to the character), we see how he starts granting himself license to be bolder, slightly more aggressive and trickier when interacting with suspects or hostile police officers. Having lived abroad most of his life, the locals sense in Lucien Blake a strangeness they are not willing to accept without due resistance and which  they externalize by alluding to how great a physician his father was. Such a great doctor; such a great man… Leaving unspoken the second half of their comment, not like you. Blake sounds as Australian as his hometowners and yet people treat him almost as harshly as they treat migrant workers from Italy and Russia. As a result, Blake is clearly divided between loving the community for its tradition and history and hating it for its prejudices. The show scores high in displaying this ambiguity without being boringly explicit about it.

Blake drinks himself to oblivion but plays the piano beautifully (Gold Logie award-winning actor Craig McLachlan is actually an accomplished musician as well) – after two in the morning,   much to the distress of Mrs. Beazley who struggles to understand why can’t it be be like-father-like-son after all. She does not have a lot of patience for Blake’s often irresponsible behavior. Having lost her own husband to the war and living apart from her two grown sons, Jean is herself a survivor. And not a wealthy one. Blake’s mental tortures and eccentric behavior appear superfluous to her. But Jean is intrigued by the multiple letters received from Singapore. One evening, while Lucien is out investigating another murder-like death, Jean enters his room with a just-arrived envelope from Singapore. As she places it on his desk, there is a massive leather-bound book on the table. She can’t resist it. It’s a scrap book. From the drawings inside, Jean is petrified by one in particular, depicting a man being executed.  And then Blake arrives. When a scene on TV makes you cringe for the characters, you know it’s good stuff. I felt bad for Jean’s embarrassment and for Blake, for having his privacy invaded. Jean is a very good person; not a gossiper.  The indiscretion  she just committed only means she cares for Blake so  much she had to look into those papers hoping they would shed some light into what’s going on in his mind; why does he drink so much, why is he not like his father; why can’t he be normal and fit right in? The mishap did not put a dent in their relationship though. Blake is basically a forgiving soul exactly because of things like that drawing that he witnessed in the war.

Dr. Blake’s Mysteries widened my eyes to a new perspective related to WW II. For Australians, Europe was a distant battle front. Their hell was fought much closer, across the Pacific, which by no means should be interpreted as an easier front. There is little war zone flashback, which is a relief. And Lucien Blake’s hands are not always shaking – his PTSD is not used and abused in the script. We know he has it, we understand why, but the production spares us from over-exposure to his war traumas, which I found commendable. As commendable as Lucien’s wardrobe – he is always impeccably dressed; hat and overcoat included. I doubt his acclaimed father could have been half as elegant as his troubled son. The show makes a point in dressing actor Craig McLachlan as flawlessly as we rarely see on TV these days. But for all his prominent status in Ballarat, Lucien Blake himself is victim of the small community’s narrow-mindness.  If he had family in China, he must be a communist.  If he, an unattached man, co-habits with his equally non-attached receptionist and housekeeper, something shameful must be going on between those two…

As an actor known in Australia mainly for memorable roles in popular soap operas, Craig has to stretch himself in Blake’s skin. For example, he has to drive a 1930’s Coventry Standard English car that has been modified with a Holden 202 engine and whose original gearbox broke during a take. Craig recalls: “On our first day of filming we were stuck in second gear and then the gear stick came off in my hand as I tried to change gears.”

Blake seems to be attracted to steady and permanent things he sees no reason to change, like his cute bi-color automobile, the furniture in his father’s old house, and the housekeeper herself. Dr. Lucien Blake is a curious mix of conservative physician with politically-forward citizen – to him the British are first and foremost colonialists (even though he is a member of the Colonialist’s Club where he befriended Cec Drury, the astute bartender) and then war heroes. Australia is home but distant China is never far away from his thoughts because it was where he last saw his wife and daughter. Blake can be so unorthodox and inconvenient, Chief Superintendent Matt Lawson rolls his eyes on a good day and threatens to fire the good doctor when he gets out of control. The mighty local industrialist and newspaper owner, Patrick Tyneman, would gladly ship Lucien back to Asia…

Let me stop here, before I give away too much on the show – it’s supposed to be a mystery after all. If you are looking for a well-produced series to follow this summer, Dr. Blake’s Mysteries may be the answer. The show is a eulogy to an almost forgotten world of good manners and civility, despite all the deep scars left by WW II in countries and individuals. Whenever I see those awful videos and selfies of people behaving like savages on air planes, whether by their own fault or on account of poor customer service and consumer disrespect by the air carrier, I want to go back in time (even if this blog could not exist in the 1950,’s) and live in Ballarat, and wear the pretty dresses girls did back then. Now that I know that I can speak the language…

Enjoy your Memorial Day Holiday

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Stuff of the Gods

 

A man named Bolt said he wanted to go even faster but his body did not respond. He got the gold three times nevertheless. A 19-year old girl (not 5 foot tall) got four golds and proved to the world she is only afraid of bees (“Attacked by a bee at the World Championships” – watch the video at: www.youtube.xom/watch?v=Az3ytVFM7ew). A 41-year old gymnast from Uzbekistan, competing for the seventh time, proved that age is just a number. A 31-year old swimmer added 6 medals to his already impressive collection, sometimes winning over the silver medalist by half a pool (the only time he got the silver himself was when the second competition in the evening started a few minutes after he had been on the podium, receiving the gold medal!). I had never seen anybody swim like that. Another swimmer lied to the local authorities and got himself in trouble, losing a couple of his sponsors. A golfer poked his club gently on the snout of a caiman. A capybara and an owl made that same golf course their home for the entire world to see on TV. A Chinese diver went down to his knees and proposed to his fiancée at the Medal ceremony. One man was – again – the best in the ten different sports events that constitute the Decathlon.  Maybe he should have received ten golds… New Zealand competitor in the 5,000 meter race, after colliding with her U.S. counterpart, helped her back to her feet and together they crossed the finish line. They did not get gold, silver or bronze, but something infinitely rarer, the Pierre de Coubertin medal, awarded only 17 times, for their extraordinary act of sportsmanship.

Not sure where I was or what I was doing in 2012 while the Olympics were taking place in London, a city I always admired, but Rio is going to be the Olympic Games I will remember forever. I watched it almost every night, in awe at the beauty of the city and the character of the athletes. Rio is an old love of mine, dating back to the first time my dad took us there for a family vacation in July – Brazil’s school winter break. All I know, decades later, is that there will never be another city like Rio. Troubled as it may be sometimes, so far from perfect, I’ll take the laughter and tears, and make them all my souvenirs, goes an old song by a French composer. For nearly three weeks, in the evenings after work, my world shrank to the Rio Olympic stadium, the Aquatic Center and the Olympics Village.

I happen to have a 9-year old nephew that knows everything about how the Olympic Games began in Greece. Courtesy of his 3rd grade school teacher and her degree in History.  He had no idea all of the above could happen in the 31st edition of the Olympiads though. Mount Olympus is still located in Greece, however, it felt as if a crowd of demi-gods descended into Rio this summer, to amaze the world. Mount Olympus became the Sugar Loaf; the many gods of the Greek mythology crystalized into the one with open arms embracing the city. I did not want it to end; I wanted to keep watching it every night; keep on watching Simone Biles defy gravity and Physics in general for she does everything I did not know the human body could do. As a Brazilian reporter told her when she mentioned how wonderful the fans had been and how much she wanted to return to Brazil for tourism, “Volte sempre, Simone, que voce e de ouro!” Come back soon, Simone, because you are made of gold!

I am already missing the faces and the views of Rio. The planet watched records being broken under the unstoppable capacity of human creatures. Men and women made of flesh and blood like us all, sitting in our couches and chairs. Astounding skills and resilience paraded in front of our eyes in all shapes, colors, forms; speaking a myriad of languages – the living proof there is no limit when humans put their minds into transforming dreams into goals. Then goals become gold.

As Rio passed the baton on to Tokyo and the lights at Maracana stadium went out, the hardest thing was to return to every-day TV. I will miss the faces and the names who inspired the world for three weeks. The charisma (Greek for gift) of the athletes was a brutal contrast to the reality of our politicians; most of them men and women without a single drop of charisma in them,  but all running for the gold at the White House this November.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Men in (Long) Black (Coats)

Fans like me around the world waited patiently since 2014. In those longs months of waiting, the only bright notes had been HBO’s Game of Thrones on Sunday evenings and The Killing, a Netflix series starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnnnaman.

At last on May 31st we’ve sprang into action again in Birmingham, UK, as the third season (six episodes) became available at Netflix. The year is 1922. WW I is over, Great Gatsby hair styles and dresses are in, everybody smokes too much, and Europe is busy celebrating and enjoying peace once again, when not mourning the fifteen million plus dead.  But peace is not something The Peaky Blinders are used to, even in the aftermath of the First World War. It’s not what the viewers want for them or from them. The Peaky Blinders thrive in turmoil; constant trouble makes us come back for one more episode yet.

Peace is not what the fans expected and counted on either when season III opened with a highly anticipated celebration. Thomas Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy), the Peaky Blinders’ head (brains actually) wedding day. The gang’s muscle are brothers Arthur and John Shelby. Finn Shelby, the baby brother (chubby and short in season I, back in 2013) is still too young for us to know whether he’ll join the muscle or the brains in the anatomy of the immensely popular BBC show. Kids grow fast, and especially so in the somber environment of working-class Birmingham,  against a backdrop of  dark houses and streets,  where no green grows and the cobbler stones in the pavement shine on your TV screen under a fine constant rain. Muscle and brain aside, there is also the feminine Shelby touch, provided by aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), strong and stubborn as ever, but more refined this time; suddenly in love with her own reflection in the mirror, dressed like a grand dame. A dress from Paris?, asks her new admirer, an artist who wants nothing better than to paint her portrait because he never before saw “a face so full of contradictions.” So deep in love with her new image is Polly – a woman of class and substance, to use the artist’s words – she became careless and is making mistakes that may cost dearly to her nephew and boss Tom Shelby.

Back to Tommy Shelby’s wedding night, the identity of the bride is kept secret until the very last moment; her face covered as she enters the church and walks to the groom. The blonde or the brunette? We were left wondering as the last episode of season II ended in 2014. There was a woman, Thomas, whispered to himself, looking up to the sky, savoring a last cigarette before his execution by IRA operatives, standing on the edge of the grave dug for him. And she loved me and I got close… Actually, there were two ladies in that position, Mr. Shelby – we Peaky Blinders viewers are like the North in Game of Thrones – we don’t forget.  Two women had told him they were in love with him. With different words and under different circumstances. I remember every line and scene as if I had watched it last night. And I had been betting on the blonde, considering the past she and Thomas shared. Cheering for the brunette, though, as she appeared to be a more noble person.

Just because Thomas Shelby’s life was saved at the very last minute in season II by a British agent who promised him Mr. Winston Churchill would be in touch soon, it doesn’t mean his troubles are gone. On the contrary. Thomas hates his new lack of freedom and the way the Crown is now even spying on his telephone lines. The war is over, Thomas Shelby is a hero, but the Romanov dynasty in Russia has been decimated by the Bolshevik and somehow a few representatives of the royal family ended up in England, being helped by the government – allegedly – and, somehow, against his own will and intentions, Tommy finds his business intertwined with the affairs of Russian refugees. Aristocrats, posing as nearly bankrupted and paying for his services with impressive gemstones. One in special, a huge blue sapphire, finds its way to Shelby’s wife, to be worn in a gala party. A cursed gemstone, a member of the Russian family reveals. Cursed by a gypsy. So what, the Shelbys are half-gypsy as well, right? Tommy is a horse whisperer, if you remember that from season I. He can talk to animals in the ancient Romani tongue. Gypsy curses are not his major worry as Tommy is trapped again in a maze of secrets, betrayals, and corruption, when all he ever wanted was respectability and independence… The Scotland Yard on his neck, the Russian aristocrats, the Russian spies, the local communists… And we thought the IRA and the local cops were giving Thomas Shelby a hard time last season… Don’t trust these people, Tommy’s wife whispers in his ear; the kind of whisper only a gypsy heart can hear. One last comment about his wedding night: Tommy wishes to please his bride that evening more than anything – the evening has to go flawlessly.  Therefore, quick meeting in the kitchen of his new and fabulous home to distribute strict instructions to key guests, his brothers and friends members of the Peaky Blinders:  absolutely no fighting, no gambling, no drugs, no violence tonight; don’t drink to the point of losing your head (did you hear that, Arthur Shelby?), play nice, be mindful of the bride’s family members. Thomas shouts his commands in the center of a circle of young men as if they were disciplined soldiers. Ha! As if that could be possible…Watch what happens next!

Thomas Shelby still walks facing the ground – long black overcoat flapping behind him (the long overcoats worn by Tommy, Arthur, and John Shelby top the elaborate elegance of their attire), huge blue eyes hidden by the woolen cap, a thousand things burning in his brain as the furnaces in the factory he is touring. He needs to pay a visit to the foreman. There is this particularly large storage room – large enough to accommodate heavy weaponry (really heavy) – to which Tommy needs access. From there he goes see the Russian aristocrat who wears a chest full of medals, does not pay his bills, and devours caviar as if the world was ending tonight. The Russian aristocrat’s niece is a handful too; pretty, spoiled and twisted. Tommy still speaks sparsely, asks more questions than answers, the shadows only leaving his face when the wife is around. When things take a bad turn, Thomas Shelby hops on a gypsy cart with his old friend Johnny Dogs and rides from Birmingham to Wales, to consult with a gypsy fortune teller – the businessman in him never really erased his Romani background. For an individual who has serious issues with rogue authority figures, be them corrupt police officers (Sam Neil played the best villain a cop could ever be in seasons I and II) or the bad priest in this third season (father Hughes, played by Paddy Considine), despite owning a medal for bravery in the war (which he tossed away), after saving a bunch of his comrades’ lives, is a pool of contradictions. Like Aunt Polly’s face. It’s hard to be Thomas Shelby.

Here is UK’s The Independent on Thomas Shelby: “Too many glossy TV dramas lack that powerful, gripping subtlety, but (Cillian) Murphy helps make Peaky Blinders a rare exception. Tommy is a criminal and his brutal behaviour is not softened up for appeal, but Murphy’s charismatic performance, along with masterful scriptwriting, means you find yourself rooting for him regardless.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/peaky-blinders-season-3-why-you-should-catch-up-on-seasons-1-and-2-ahead-of-the-may-release-date-a6979186.html

And as if trouble with the Scotland Yard and the Russians were not enough, the rival Italian gang is back. In my teens, American movies on Italian gangsters dominated the big screen – to me the realm of organized crime belonged to the Mafia only. Never knew of gypsy-English gangues and a most noticeable difference is the role women play in The Peaky Blinders versus The Godfather. There’s no trace of the Italian women’s well-behaved recalcitrance, silence and, ultimately, resignation. The Peaky Blinders ladies are as explosive as the men in their lives. John’s gypsy wife Esme (a marriage arranged by Tom by the way, and which seems to be working) is every bit courageous and bold; Aunt Polly and Shelby’s new wife – who are not very fond of one another – follow the same pattern. Arthur’s wife Linda (don’t be fooled by her quiet and soft manners), knows just how to order her husband home in the middle of the night, when he was supposed to be fighting Italian gangsters at one the Peaky Blinders clubs alongside younger brother John. Powerful Linda. Ada Shelby, the only sister among four brothers, after marrying a communist agitator who was killed at some point between seasons I and II now raises her kid named Karl (in honor of Karl Marx, her late husband’s idol) is feeling restless at her present job as a librarian. She misses some action as much Esme misses traveling with her gypsy family. Ada, you used to hunt rats with a pistol, Thomas Shelby recalls, setting the scene for the job he is about to offer his sister. Just like in the Italian Mafia plots though, family is everything for the Shelbys.

As we all know no family is a rose garden. Arthur Shelby, for example, has always been a bit suspicious of the close relationship between John and Tommy. Arthur is now jealous too of Michael, the once-stranded son of Aunt Polly, who went to accounting school and seems very influential on the family business. Michael is the legitimate piece of the business, Thomas explains to make amendments with Art. We need to keep him clean so the business can be legitimate. And so we can be respectable. Somehow, someday… Or is it on their tombstone that the name Shelby will ever be, if not respectable, at least in peace? Anyway, to make Art Shelby even angrier but much to the fans’ delight, on episode # 4 we have an old acquaintance back: Alfie Solomons (Thomas Harding, from The Revenant just to mention his latest big hit).

Summoned by Tommy for a meeting in the house, Alfie’s presence is as enigmatic (the confusing language he uses is just one of his weapons) as we remember from season II. Unpredictable, intelligent, imposingly large and pale, with a reddish long beard that makes Harding almost unrecognizable under a wide brim black hat, Alfie Solomons, Jewish businessman and gang leader from Camden Town was once a potent enemy of the Peaky Blinders. Before Solomons and Shelby united against the Sabini – the Godfather guys. Arthur Shelby still can’t stand him and his discomfiture amuses Alfie as they sit side by side in Tommy’s impressive office discussing the Russians. Alfie Solomons too has good reason to dislike everything about the foreign aristocrats except their Faberge eggs.

But the thing is, as Grace – Tommy’s girlfriend – used to say in season II whenever she was to deliver a bombshell line – were the Peaky Blinders respectable and their business legit, chances are I would still be craving for a good show to watch after Sunday’s Game of Thrones. Were they respectable and their businesses legit, BBC would not have renewed the show for a 4th and then a 5th season. We root for the bad guys this time just because they look strangely a lot like the good ones. When ordered to shoot an elderly Italian lady from their school days, John Shelby refuses. He defies Thomas’s command because Tom is over his head with anger and pain, blinded by his craving for vengeance, and, mostly, because “that’s not who we are.” That’s it! Right there, John Shelby gave me (and viewers around the world) permission to keep on cheering for their family. Explosive and violent – not cruel though – the Shelbys surely are. Theirs is the saga of the underdog striving to win a spot under the sun. Good, I just convinced myself I can keep on cheering for the Peaky Blinders!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Company

 

As part of my research for a new book, I have been reading the work of Irish priest and author Malachi Martin. Former Professor of Paleography at the Vatican’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, from 1958 to 1964 Father Malachi served as secretary to Cardinal Bea during preparations for the Second Vatican Council. Disappointed in the Church reform, he asked to be released from certain of his vows in 1964 and moved to New York City, where he later became an American citizen.

Author of 17 novels and non-fiction books – of which I have only read three – he was often critical of the Catholic Church, for a myriad of reasons, and made no secret of it. Wikipedia lists his most significant works as The Scribal Character of The Dead Sea Scrolls (1958), Hostage to the Devil (1976), and The Final Conclave (1978).

My favorite Malachi book so far is a non-fiction, called SJ – Jesuits – The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church, published in 1987. The SJ in the title stands for Society of Jesus – that’s how Ignatius of Loyola intended the religious order he founded in 1540 to be called.

Before we move on with more on Malachi’s book, let me rewind almost five hundred years into the past, to Ignatius of Loyola’s days (1491-1556). A Spanish knight, from a Basque noble family of warriors, his resume includes hermit, theologian (studied at the university of Alcala and then in Paris), and, finally, priest. His real name was Inigo, adapted to Ignatius – the closest Latin version Loyola himself could find of his Basque name – when he enrolled for classes in Paris. On April 19 1541, at the age of 50, Loyola became the first Superior General of the religious order he started. The main characteristic of his organization: total devotion to the Catholic Church and absolute obedience to the Pope. All through History, true to its roots, the order came to be referred to as “Pope’s Men”.

Loyola’s conversion from soldier to priest developed as the result of his survival at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521. While convalescing from gruesome wounds, complicated by improper medical care, and in great physical pain for months, he decided to abandon the military and pledged his life to the service of God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. Loyola composed the Society’s Constitutions and bound himself and his followers by vows of poverty, charity, and obedience. He called the organization the Company of Jesus. In Latin it became Societas Jesu, and soon, as a contemptuous nickname given them by their enemies – the Jesuits.  A muscular, brainy, and vigorous kind of Catholic faith emerged from Loyola’s company.

Now back to where we started: Malachi’s book on the Jesuits. Here is how it opens:

“A state of war exists between the papacy and the Religious Order of the Jesuits – the Society of Jesus – to give the Order its official name.  That war signals the most lethal change to take place within the ranks of the professional Roman clergy over the last thousand years. And, as with all important events in the Roman Catholic Church, it involves the interests, the lives, and the destinies of ordinary men and women in the millions…”

“All wars are about power”, as Malachi writes in the book’s introduction. And this one was not different. The battle between the papacy and the Company entailed two fundamental issues: Authority – who is in command of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, decides what Roman Catholics must believe and how they should morally behave? And the second issue: Purpose – what is the purpose of the Roman Catholic Church in the world?  For many Jesuits the Church’s centralized authority and structure through which command is exercised and its purpose are no longer relevant. In the place of a hierarchic Church, they were proposing a church formed of small and independent communities – “the people of God” or “the people’s Church”; all associated by faith, however not by this two thousand year old central authority – the Pope. Instead of worrying about the next life, the new Jesuit approach went, the Church should strive to assist and liberate the millions of men and women who suffer from social, economic, and political injustice today, in this life.

And so it happened that class struggle become an important subject to the Company, perfectly aligned with its new mission; if needed be, allowing them even to associate with Marxist groups anywhere on the globe. The picture perfect of the new Jesuit, explains Malachi, metamorphosed into an individual with these traits:  “a sociopolitical scientist, a devoted guerrilla, and a formidable theologian-teacher”. Somehow along the years after the Vatican’s Second Council of 1962 – 1965, the Company adopted an anticapitalistic behavior. Jesus identified with the poor, therefore acknowledging class struggle and endorsing revolution became the new Jesuit mantra. The updated and revised message was delivered in written, encapsulated in a novel theology– the Theology of Liberation, whose handbook was written by Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez, S.J..

Though an international movement, with tentacles spreading all over the world since its inception, it was in South America that this peculiar alliance between Jesuits and Marxists got its strongest momentum. In Nicaragua, in 1979 (and then through 1990), when the Sandinistas took power, a good number of Jesuit priests were nominated for crucial government posts.

“Drunk on the ignorance-laden idealism of Liberation Theologians”, Malachi writes of some of the most prominent of these Jesuits, some came to believe that “a Marxist is not dogmatic, but dialectical. A Christian does not dogmatically condemn anyone but respects the beliefs of others. A dogmatic anticommunist Christian is not a real Christian; and a dogmatic anti-Christian Marxist is not a real Marxist.” One of those new religious stars – Chicago-born James Francis Carney, S.J. – volunteered for work in Central America and was sent there in 1961.

Carney became convinced that the purpose of the dialectic of struggle was to overcome the sin of conservatism of the Roman Catholic Church; that “God’s very plan for the world’s evolution and human society would unfold in conflict and armed revolution.” Carney – just one of the many immensely capable and influential Jesuits of that time, ends his autobiography with a plea to all Christians: “Get rid of any unfair and un-Christian prejudices you have against armed revolutions, socialism, Marxism, and communism…. There is no third way between being a Christian and being a revolutionary.” In the spring of 1971, authorized by his superiors, Carney illegally entered Honduras to become a guerrilla commando for the next 12 years.

Malachi is right; the Theology of Liberation spread all over Latin America as wild fire. In an extreme Catholic and mostly poor environment, when priests spoke of a classless world and armed revolution, it sounded like military Gospel; Jesus armed to the teeth. It turned explosive. Nicaraguan’s Sandinistas originated the Tupamaros in Uruguay, the Motoneros in Argentina and the Paraguayan guerrilla. Soviet Union –supported Cuba was the crown jewel of Marxist Latin America, with its history of brutality and violence turned into glorious tales of heroism by popular and seemingly immortal legends as Che Guevara.

I recall echoes of the Theology of Liberation well when it took Brazil’s Catholic Church by storm in the 1970’s and well into 1980’s. It was mind-boggling to me that priests could advocate Marxism when Marxism is basically an atheist credo. It took me four decades to find an author who could help me make sense of such impasse; how the Gospel was changed to conform and justify Liberation Theology teachings; how Christ became a revolutionary – which justified even priests carrying and using guns – while hell and the devil were equaled to capitalism and wealth.

South American revolutionary groups incensed by anti-capitalism ideals were very intimidating and violent; I saw nothing heavenly or sacred in their actions and became allergic to anything remotely resemblant of community activism because I remember well the disruption – and destruction – those groups brought about. Nothing positive and constructive ever came from their actions; no progress was ever achieved in South America through their angry movements, no matter how desperately the Marxists and Communists back then and the Socialists or Progressives today try to sugarcoat the pill. It was bitter poison disguised in medicine and healed no one. It only scarred people and nations further, making recovery twice as hard if possible at all. Fidel Castro’s Cuba never recovered. Venezuela has just fallen into that old trap again. Brazil, the 8th economy in the world, struggles against an ocean of deep government corruption inherited from its leftist leaders now 13 years in power – the Esquerda Furiosa, the Furious Left – a populist leadership as ignorant and incompetent as it is shameless.  The “class struggle” in reality has always been a surge of violence to obtain and retain power – all wars are for power as we said before – never to help people in need. The ones in need –  those are the ones always used to justify wars –  in the hands of the agitators who led Latin American often to bankruptcy,  were made poorer as armed revolution  scared away any possible foreign or local investments that could create jobs; it destroyed any possibility of a  healthily growing middle class. Nothing is more elitist than the elite in a communist society; the true Intoccabili (Untouchables). Class struggle has always been a hoax for power shift.

Here’s is Malachi Martin’s portrait on how the Jesuit priests behave in Sandinist Nicaragua, after being appointed to high government posts, under the excuse of their “preferential option for the poor”:

“For (Father Fernando) Cardenal and other political priests have stayed on within the hierarchy of terror, the Sandinista nomenklatura, enjoying all the perquisites of power and privilege of a Marxist elite. They live in homes expropriated from the ousted middle class, in comfortable Managua suburbs such as Las Collinas. They shop at specially designated hard-currency and ‘dollar’ stores, where there is no ‘preferential option for the poor.’ They dine at luxury restaurants restricted to Party officials, and lunch in their government offices on the daily loads, delivered by official vans, of ham, lobster, and other delicacies unobtainable elsewhere in Sandinista Nicaragua. They relax in reserved box seats at the baseball stadium, enjoy unlimited supply of gasoline and water that are rationed to the people, and vacation in mansions of the (ousted) Somoza dynasty, suitably rebaptized by the Sandinistas as ‘protocol houses’. They travel around their native Nicaragua with personal bodyguards of Cubans and East Germans who are armed with Soviet automatics, ostensibly to be pointed at potential assailants (…) With such incentives to fuel their ‘theological’ ardor, Fernando Cardenal and his brother priests tour other Latin American countries organizing revolution, and jet at Soviet expense on diplomatic missions to the United States, the Middle East, and Europe.”

Soldiers of Christ and the Second Vatican Council

“The more universal your operation is,” said Loyola, “the more divine is becomes.” While most global corporations would gladly adopt this motto as their own were it not for the implication of God in its context – not very popular these days – Loyola’s meaning for those words were a complex mix of both the practical and the divine. The more the Company expanded around the world, bringing the Church of Christ closer to foreign peoples in foreign lands, closer we would be to God.

With that in mind, before half a century had passed after its foundation, the Jesuits were indeed working all over the world. “There was no continent they did not reach, no language they did not speak and study, no culture they did not penetrate, no branch of learning and science they did note explore, no work in humanism,  in the arts, in popular education they did not undertake and do better than anyone else”, Malachi recalls. Also, “no form of violence they did not undergo (…) Jesuits were hanged, drawn, quartered,  disemboweled, eaten alive, poisoned, flayed to death, crucified, starved to death, beheaded.” The Company gave the Church 38 canonized saint and 243 martyrs – they were put to death for their beliefs; for defending the Catholic Church and the Pope. They were justly called Pope’s Men. A special fighting unit at the total and excusive disposal of the Roman Pope. From the beginning, the Jesuits were conceived as a military mode – Soldiers of Christ.

Father Malachi is a true admirer of Loyola’s company, as it shines clear in his comments:

“They were giants with one only purpose underlining every single one of their efforts and actions: the defense and propagation of papal authority and papal teaching. Less than one century after the founding of the Society, Jesuits became the first Europeans to penetrate Tibet and then proceed to China. Father Matteo Ricci was the first person to prove that Marco Polo’s Cathay was identical with China and not a different country. Jesuit brother Benito de Goes lies buried at the northwest terminus of China’s Great wall. No hidden corner of the world was too far away or too inhospitable that a Jesuit missionary could not reach for the glory of Christ and his Church under the pope.”

The world knew the Jesuits were champions of that authority and primacy; they had been the first body of Catholic scholars to became preeminent in secular sciences – math, physics, astronomy, archaeology, linguistics, biology, chemistry, zoology, paleography, genetics. Their manuals, textbooks, treatises, and studies, as Malachi points, were authoritative in every branch of Catholic and secular learning.

The Society of Jesus, an institution from the beginning bound to the Pope by a sacred oath of absolute obedience, for over 400 years, never deviating from that mission… Until 1965. In that year the Second Vatican Council ended the last of its four sessions and Pedro de Arrupe Y Gondra was elected the 27th Father General of the Company. The rapid and complete transformation of the organization in its mission and core purpose developed easily under the enthusiastic leadership of Arrupe and met almost no resistance from the Church under popes John XIII and Paul VI. The Pope’s Men were fast becoming Arrupe’s Men. They took a sharp turn against the very leader and the institution they were sworn to defend. The Bishop of Rome is successor to Peter the Apostle upon whom Christ founded his Church – was their motto under Loyola. Under Father General Pedro Arrupe the motto turned into something like, class struggle and proletarian revolution as integral parts of genuine Christianity.

It did not matter that occupying high government posts, as it happened in Sandinista Nicaragua, without special permission by the Holy See, was forbidden to priests – all priests, not only Jesuits – per Cannon Law # 285. It mattered even less that, as Malachi reminds, “In Church teaching, neither poverty nor riches confer union and solidarity with Christ. Only the grace of Christ himself effects that. Grace is open to all, not exclusively or even ‘especially” to the poor. (…) To say that one cannot partake of the Eucharist ‘without struggling against poverty through personal sacrifice, selling one’s goods and seeking solidarity with the victims of misery’, (words from Father General Kolvenbach, who replaced Father Arrupe as the leader of the Company in 1983, following his predecessor legacy), “is more than simply bad theology; it is theology at the service of economics, and overshadowed by prejudice against capitalism as a way of life. It is, finally, a doctrine condemned by the Roman Church as far back as the fifteenth century.”

As I read on I started to understand how and why Father Malachi Martin requested dispensation of some of his vows in the 1960’s and relocated to America.

The Company and Four Popes

“John XXIII (1958-1963) in his efforts to establish and ‘open window, open fields’ policy in Rome, to induce others to revise their own policies even went so far as to guarantee immunity to the old USSR from attacks by the Church, lowering as many barriers as he could”, describes Malachi, calling it “a huge gamble”. A gamble that failed, as it often happens when odds are stretched to impossible levels, under too much risk and with little gain at stake. Instead, the Church under John XXIII began seen by the world as weak.

Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) merely expanded on his predecessor’s deficiencies. Still it was Paul VI, “the gentlest of the modern popes”, per Malachi, who realized, toward the end of his papacy, that the purpose of the Company had radically changed. He ordered an extensive dossier. What emerged from that report was that for the Jesuits the papacy no longer held primordial importance: “The corporate aim of the Society was now to place itself at the disposal of a radical and purely sociopolitical change in the world, without reference and indeed independent of papal strategy and policies.” Alarmed, Paul met with the head of the order, Father General Pedro Arrupe several times and more than once wanted him to resign.

Following Paul VI’s death, cardinal Albino Luciani – Pope John Paul I – was elected on August 26 1978. He too had made up his mind about the changes needed in the Jesuit order. “Let it not happen that the teachings and publications of Jesuits contain anything to cause confusion among the faithful”, he planned to say in a speech addressing the Society. Based on John Paul’s memoranda  and notes, unless the order  obeyed , he had in mind an extreme measure –  its liquidation; perhaps to be reconstituted later, in a more manageable form.  John Paul I had received petitions of many Jesuits asking him to do just that. But he never delivered that speech of warning. On the morning of September 29, after 33 days as Pope, on the day he was to address the Jesuits’s General Congregation (that’s how the Company calls its general meetings), he was found dead in his bed.

Next came Karol Wojtyla, in 1978. John Paul II was no Paul VI or John XXIII. Schooled in how to deal with the communist regime that ruled his beloved Poland, the recalcitrant Jesuits under Arrupe’s leadership (by the way, the Superior General of the Jesuit Order is called the Black Pope because he dresses in black – whereas the Pope is always in white – and their headquarters are also located in Rome, not far from Vatican City) were not expecting a strong Pope. He ordered a meeting with six of his highest cardinals to decide the fate of the Jesuits. The Church had already dissolved the order once and according to Malachi, it is possible that John Paul II was willing to do it again if needed.

(Here is Wikipedia, briefly, on the historical dissolutions of the Society through the years:

The suppression of the Jesuits in the Portuguese Empire (1759), France (1764), the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma and the Spanish Empire (1767) is a highly controversial subject. It has been argued that it was a result of a series of political moves in each polity rather than a theological controversy.[1] Monarchies attempting to centralize and secularize political power viewed the Jesuits as being too international, too strongly allied to the papacy, and too autonomous from the monarchs in whose territory they operated.[2] By the brief Dominus ac Redemptor (21 July 1773) Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits took refuge in non-Catholic nations, particularly in Prussia and Russia, where the order was either ignored or formally rejected. The Jesuits were allowed to return to many places starting in the late nineteenth century.)

John Paul II and his Cardinals

The description of that meeting between John Paul II and his six top cardinals is one of the best things I have ever read. John Paul heard his fellow cardinals’ comments and advice one by one, mostly in silence, and ended the meeting with one single remark: Well, my cardinal brothers took eight ballots to elect me pope. No one knew exactly what he meant by that.  All they knew was that the Pope had ordered a General Congregation to take place the following year. Whether he planned on the dissolution of the order in that meeting or the dismissal of Jesuit leader Father Arrupe, your guess is as good as any. A couple of weeks after that private meeting, on May 13 1981, John Paul II was shot in Saint Peter’s square.

Two bullets went into the 60-year old body. Blamed on the confusion, the Pope was taken to the wrong hospital where he was submitted to surgery and blood transfusion – the blood saved for such emergencies was not used. Instead, the blood was taken from the general public bank and, as it was later found, infected with hepatitis. Divine influence of strong physique – call it what you prefer –John Paul II survived. His life-long friend in Poland, Archbishop Stefan Wyszynski, was found dead in Warsaw two weeks later, on May 28, while the pope himself fought for his life at the hospital in Rome.

Anyway, all this history, ancient and contemporary, to get to this one specific point: in that 1981 meeting with the six top cardinals, a lengthy report was presented to them by John Paul II,  containing a long list of irregularities committed by Jesuits around the world.  This one was particularly interesting to me:

“There was the matter of a devastating report received in the Vatican in 1979. Their Venerable Brother Cardinal Vicente Scherer of Porto Alegre, Brazil, had written at length about the Jesuit Colegio Anchieta in that same city. According to Scherer, Marxists textbook were used in the classrooms, Marxist principles were inculcated into students, the Sacraments of Confession and Communion were derided as anachronistic. What, the cardinal puzzled, had happened to that report? The Jesuit colegio had gone along its marry way. Why hadn’t Father General Arrupe corrected those grave errors?”

Three or four decades later things come full circle to me, I thought. I was myself a student of the prestigious Jesuit “colegio” in that report. I remember as if it was yesterday a project assigned to us by our first high-school Philosophy teacher (a very angry and bitter personality), that entailed a visit to one of the city’s favelas (slums) where we were to interview some of the residents.  Parents, especially of girl students, frontally opposed and the project was eventually cancelled. We were no older than 14. Furthermore, I remember cardinal Scherer well (1903 – 1996)  – he was often present to public celebrations in the city; the white-haired and soft-spoken uncle of one or our elementary school teachers, a Franciscan nun, at Our Lady of Good Counsel.  For many years Cardinal Scherer led the remodeling and reorganization of the largest Catholic/Charitable hospital in town, which became a world-class facility – Hospital Santa Casa de Misericordia (Holy House of Mercy Hospital).

I could not believe when I saw Cardinal Scherer’s name and the name of my high school in that Vatican report, used in a historical meeting between John Paul II and his top cardinals. Apparently Cardinal Scherer’s report had been buried in a folder somewhere for the longest time, until a Pope came to Rome from Poland.

With both the White and the Black popes in this war sharing a deep sense of divine mission, each claiming to be acting for the well-being of God’s people and for the exaltation of the Church Christ started with Peter (Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam; Latin for You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church) – it is not certain who will win or has won. The decision of dissolving the order, as done in the past, would be an extremely disrupting and costly one, considering its 17,000 priests and brothers around the world, in schools, hospitals, missions and charity institutions.

John Paul II was canonized in 2014. He passed on April 2nd 2005, long  after the Berlin Wall had fallen (November 9 1989), ending the Cold War era, under Ronald Reagan’s presidency and his own papacy. He struggled for a word without communism and I can only imagine his dismay at seeing some of that same ideology infiltrated in the ranks of the Company of Jesus. I have not finished Malachi Martin’s lengthy book (472 pages, published by Simon & Schuster and a New York Times bestseller) yet and the Roman Catholic Church has had two popes since John Paul II: Ratzinger (Benedict XVI, from Germany, 2005-2013),and the now ultra-popular Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis since March 2013), a Jesuit too, from Argentina.  As for Father Malachi Martin, great author, professor, and disenchanted priest, he died in July 1999, before the world became even more complicated by 9/11-like events. He was himself a Company’s man, by the way, a Jesuit…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New book now live at Amazon.com

It’s Thanksgiving again and I had to say thank you to all the readers, family and friends who nominated Yesterday Lies Ahead in Amazon’s program “Kindle Scouts”.  It received nearly 800 nominations but it was not selected for a contract. The bad news about not having a contract with Amazon is that  I have to keep on doing my own marketing… The good news is I get to keep the copyrights. There’s always good and bad in everything. I chose to celebrate and appreciate the good things; like the time people took out of their busy days just to nominate Yesterday Lies Ahead – thank you ! The book is now available at Amazon.com  in Kindle and paperback. Here are the link and the product description:

http://www.amazon.com/Yesterday-Lies-Ahead-Liv-Lugara-ebook/dp/B018IJT4GU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1448543574&sr=1-1&keywords=Yesterday+Lies+Ahead

“In the sequel to The Traveler’s [K]Night, it’s now 2024, and Ali Kharan’s sons, Ben and Jeff, have moved on with their lives, not knowing whether the series of unexplained phenomena that swept Philadelphia in 2012 or a failed marriage was responsible for their father’s disappearance.
Ben has become the chief technology officer of Volstaad Labs. Ben and his millionaire boss, local genius and technology guru Eric Volstaad, work remarkably well together. In fact, they’re in perfect unison—until Eric starts acting strangely.
Things get even stranger when Ben is forced to enter a new world that Eric has secretly created. Stranded there, Ben fears that—like father, like son—his marriage may also be doomed to fail. Surrounded by people whose intentions could spell disaster, Ben trusts no one but Virginia Volstaad—Eric’s daughter. The boss’s only child is recovering from her own family tragedy when she bursts into Ben’s world bearing unsettling information about her father’s mysterious enterprise—as well as surprising news about Ben’s missing father, Ali.
Linking Philadelphia of 2024 with Denmark and Germany of medieval times, Yesterday Lies Ahead delivers intrigue, action, suspense, and a twist of epic romance.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You too

It was a decision that startled the music world, last year, when Apple announced the album would be downloadable (is that even a real word?) to half a billion iTunes Store customers worldwide at no cost. I am sure a lot of people shook their heads in disbelief.  What a different, strange world we live in, where one of the most popular and enduring bands in history has its new album given away just like that? I saw the TV commercial and only registered the unmistakable singer’s voice in passing; somehow my brain acknowledged that a new album was out and that it, somehow, was sponsored by Apple. That was September 2014 and honestly I did not think about it again until one month ago when I realized the album had been made available on my Apple devices for free and decided to give it a try.

I am not a marketing expert to judge whether or not Apple’s strategy worked, but the album is phenomenal; as phenomenal as the enduring success achieved by this band.  You too may be a fan, like me. I mean U2.

That Mr. Paul David Hewson is the owner of a peculiarly beautiful and warm voice, capable of reaching high notes, at this point, after decades of listening to him, it comes as no surprise. If the singer’s triple name is puzzling you, we’ll go with his nickname. Bono is actually short for BonoVox (and bona vox is Latin for good voice by the way). After four kids and a marriage as lasting as his relationship with Edge, (guitar), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen, Jr. (percussion) – his fellow U2 musicians – Bono’s voice does not sound one day older than the first time I listened to Where the Streets Have no Name. If anything, he is more precise, clearer, stronger, and in control. It fills you ears with sounds no other band on earth can reproduce. I can tell a U2 song right at the very first seconds so unique they are. I once thought Cold Play was going to be able to do something similar, but it never really happened. They were not able to give me the goose bumps U2 does, after all these years… The U2 guitar starts and the magic begins in me.

This realization – I don’t forget lyrics and melody to which I attach a deep emotion and most songs by most popular bands fail to do so – only came after years of listening to music and choosing my favorites. I finally figured out that the ones that stick with me, the ones whose lyrics I know word by word – be it English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian- from memory, many years after I heard it for the first time, are those to which I attached a deep feeling. The emotional imprint could be triggered by a verse, a rhyme, a guitar solo, the unmistakable piano or drums… And once my brain learns to identify it as special, remarkable, I don’t forget it anymore. As U2 puts it, friendship once is won, is won.

The song featured in the Apple commercial one year ago is very engaging – The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone); before you know you are humming the melody to yourself and it only makes sense it was picked to be the opening track. It’s a perfect display of U2’s energy and vitality.  But it is when the second track begins, Every Breaking Wave, that Bono will remind you why he has been the super musician he is all these years. Everything works perfectly; his voice is at its best shape ever, the lyrics are of that type – unforgettable:

Every breaking weave on the shore

Tells the next one there’ll be one more

Every gambler knows

That to lose

Is what you’re really there for…

In From the Sky Down, a 2011 documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim on the production and release of U2’s album Achtung Baby (Berlin, 1991) the band’s evolution was growing apparent, transitioning from a strong politically activist style to a much more personal and introspective point of view. It was then that it became clear they were reaching for something different – not musical identity, but spiritual identity. You need faith to move from one note to the next, as Bono remarks. Music is a living thing; we have a low opinion of musicians and a high opinion of music.

I did not know about that statement – not musical but spiritual identity – until I had listened to their 2014 album – Songs of Innocence – many times. This is exactly what the band achieved; that is why I can tell them from any other successful group – they have something unique that goes way further and above talent and musical skills. We are loyal and kind to each other. A group of people not genetically related who pledged allegiance to one another – Bono adds, in From the Sky Down, describing not their marriages and families but how the band members relate to one another. How devastating it was for all of them, including Bono’s wife, for example, when the first divorce happened among the group in the early 1990’s. How saddened they all were at the first serious breakup suffered in their “community” – Bono’s word for the link uniting them – since high school.

It was only then that I began understanding the reasons behind U2’s stability through the years; how they managed to remain intact, apparently immune to the breakups and exclusions that affected most bands. Besides U2 the only other group that comes to mind is The Rolling Stones – I have never been an admirer but they do stick together…

Songs of Innocence took almost six years in the making – the longest gap in U2’s career – and the delays prompted Bono to declare he was not sure the band was still “musically relevant”, as they struggled with the quality of the material until it was finally deemed acceptable per their obvious high standards.

Son of a Catholic father and a protestant mother, Bono admitted in an interview that growing up in Ireland in the 1970’s (the golden era of the IRA activities in the UK) thought him a thing or two.  I was a war zone in my teens, he sings in Cedarwood Road (track # 8). Songs of Innocence is all about first trips, Bono also said of their album; the first time we fall in love, our first trip to LA (thus the song California – There is no End to Love, track # 3).  As for the war zone teenager Bono was and probably lived in sometimes, it did not help that he lost his mother at 14 to a brain aneurism. IRIS is the song he wrote for her:

The star that gives us light/ Has been gone a while/ But is not an illusion/The ache in my heart/Is so much a part of who I am (…) Iris standing in the hall/ She tells me I could do it all/ Iris wakes to my nightmares/ Don’t fear the world; It Isn’t there/ Iris playing on the strand/ She buries the boy beneath the sand/ Iris says that I will be the death of her/ It was not me…

(If you happen to be wondering if Bono has siblings, yes – one older brother named Norman, who is a restaurateur in Dublin, according to Google).

Songs of Innocence dives deep into another fundamental relationship: Song for Someone (track # 4), inspired by Bono’s wife of many years Allyson (Ali) Hewson and their romance since both were very young.  I was told I’d feel/ Nothing the first time/ I don’t know how these cuts heal/ But in you I found a rhyme (…) You lead me into conversation/ A conversation only we could make/ You’re breaking into my imagination/ Whatever is in there is yours to take…

Every time I hear U2’s Edge or Adam Clayton on their guitars I feel renewed in my dream to learn to play it one day. So far the guitar I own has been standing in a corner in my office, shinning and pretty,  and I dust it regularly, waiting  for the miracle to occur (Bono’s words in The Miracle of Joey Ramone), that will give me the courage to look for actual guitar classes. I tried online lessons but I am too bad a student for those to work; broke two strings trying to tune it up properly… I will need a real teacher – the poor thing – and will probably give up in pain and despair shortly after, realizing not all the sincere admiration and heartfelt respect I have for competent and well-accomplished musicians will ever make me one of them.

In the meantime, I can only hope U2 never stops making beautiful music; I hope Bono never feels that the band is no longer musically relevant. If it takes them another six years to release the next album and if one day the band doesn’t have the energy to travel the world promoting their work, that is okay by me – just keep writing songs, keep singing please, until you have no voice left.

If you ever liked U2 in the 1880’s and the 1990’s, try Songs of Innocence; you too will be (as Every Breaking Wave predicts) swept off your feet

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Yesterday Lies Ahead – New book campaign launches at Amazon.com

 

Amazon offered me a different deal this time: they made the book available for 30 days on their Kindle Scout site. If the book gets clicks enough, at the end of  the 30 day trial period they may offer me a contract.

It would be great if you could click the link below and nominate Yesterday Lies Ahead:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/3RWVB0MB51QS1

You don’t have to purchase anything. As you click the link, the page with the book cover and a sample opens up. All you have to do is to click NOMINATE IT!

If possible, please tell your friends as well – every click counts!

Thank you so very much for your support; a writer is nothing without her readers…

Liv Lugara

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment