Keira Knightley is the best…and not cuz of her boobs

Keira Knightley, you all probably know who she is, the cute actress who gets cast in movies because she makes audiences swoon. But that is not why I’m writing this post about her. As good of an actress that she may be, she is equally as cool and kind as a person….and I’m taking that opinion of her just from one detached experience. About 4 years ago, my father, who was terminally ill with cancer, had what was to be, his final birthday approaching. And I took it upon myself to write to about 10-15 of the actors/actresses from the Pirates of the Caribbean films. You see….my Dad was a big fan of those movies and he frequently laughed his way through the horrors of chemotherapy’s side effects because he watched them constantly (HBO played them non-stop at one point in time). I’m not sure how a man could still find enjoyment from watching the same films, day after day…..but then again he WAS pumped full of toxic chemicals and just looking for a good laugh and an escape from the pain.

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Any who… I printed out a bunch of head-shots of various actors from the films and sent off dozens of padded envelopes with letters that said essentially, ‘Hey, my dad is sick. He loves the pirates films. This might be his last birthday….and I want to give him a present of all these get well signatures from various actors from the film.’ A fan letter is a long shot….but I work in the industry and I know that famous people have assistants, secretaries and agents that sort through their mail (and sometimes they actually do it themselves) so I figured…..why not? I’d sent the letters out about 8 months before his birthday. PLENTY OF TIME. I also sent duplicates to some people.

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I waited and waited….hoping to get a few of the stars. I mean….Jack Sparrow surely would send a reply. Or Geoffrey Rush….right? Nope. Nada. No Johnny Depp. No Orlando Bloom. No Bill Nighy. And more importantly…..No Bootstrap Bill. Really? Paul Newman even personally wrote me back when I was a kid. And that was PAUL NEWMAN!!! What did I actually expect though? I went to college with a butt-load of theatre kids. I’ve worked in film/tv for years and I know what actors and actresses are like. So I was being VERY realistic….but I figured….hey come on it was a really nice letter….and it’s a HUGE FANS LAST BIRTHDAY!!! After a while I’d even forgot about the whole ordeal because I’d waited so long to get a single reply. And then about a week before my Dad’s birthday a couple of packages came to the door. Naturally, I rushed out to open them. Boom! The first one was from Mackenzie Crook, you remember him right?…The skinny guy who’s eyeball kept popping out of his head. And the next was from Kevin McNally, Johnny Depp’s right hand man ,Gibbs, in the films, who left my Dad an AWESOME birthday inscription on the headshot. If you ever read this…THANK YOU KEVIN!

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So, I said to myself….ok. ok. Two side characters. That’s awesome! But it kind of sucks because I sent out so many letters and took the time to actually print out the head shots so it’d be REALLY, FUCKING SIMPLE for a person to just sign it. I mean….because they have SOOOO MUCH TO DO. Ya know, read through scripts, choose a project, get driven around by assistants (what I used to be-kind of why I know intimately what their lives are like), socialize at parties, go to nice hotels, eat at nice restaurants with producers and then oh yeah…..pretend to be someone else in front of the camera. Woopdy Doo! I was a tad bit bitter, to say the least. Not bitter for bitters sake (an actors life can be hard sometimes, I know. They deal with an ENORMOUS amount of BS)…..but just bitter because I know from personal experience HOW EASY IT IS FOR AN ACTOR TO REPLY TO A FAN!….just then….another package came. Who could it be? Was it Jack Sparrow!?! Yes!!!!

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Nope. Not Jack Sparrow. You know who it was from?…….Keira Mother Fuckin’ Knightley. Yeah boy! Leave it to the lady to show some respect & compassion. She sent two small, signed head-shots. One of them was even made out to ‘Joe’, my Dad. SCORE for Team McConnell. Hey…I mean….it probably wasn’t even her. Maybe her assistant read the letter and just said, ‘Hey Keira. Sign these head-shots. Make one out to Joe’, and she signed it and didn’t give it another thought. Or maybe the assistant even signed it. But maybe she actually read the letter….maybe she has some compassion for her fans….and maybe she is a really cool and genuine person. Either way…..those pictures & signatures made my Dad’s day. And yes, he swooned for Keira Knightley…..who wouldn’t? Even my Mom swooned. That’s why she gets the work after all. So, Keira….if you or your associates & comrades ever find this on a google search for some un-Godly reason….THANK YOU! Number 1…..you made a dying man very, very happy. And Number 2…..because you took 3 seconds to sign a head shot…you’re way cooler than any of the other ‘stars’ from the Pirates films. Thank you Keira, Mackenzie and Kevin for being part of the 10% of cool people in the industry (Cast/Crew alike….man some crew members are assholes). It’s not always easy for an actor to remember that they’re a regular person living in a fantasy world. Also, part of the reason why I wrote this post is for you unfortunate souls that work in the film industry and trudge through the slop of sycophants ….hey! Here’s a real story from someone else who works in the film industry. And it’s a good one! About something good that happened in the business. Cheers! (cheers as in go drink a beer, or two, or three…because you work in the film industry-not the Cheers! that the English & Australians say)

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Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. I hope that you take a look at the work of Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Crook and Kevin McNally and maybe even become fans of theirs.  As always. Be good to yourself. Be good to others. Even animals, plants and rocks. It’s a pretty jacked up world so…. do your best to follow The Golden Rule. Have a great day!

 

Native Americans

It is hard for me to think of America, the country that I live in, without recalling all that I’ve learned over the years about the Native American people and what we as “Americans” have done to them. Sure, in elementary and high school we are given a broad overview, which doesn’t necessarily highlight the heinous crimes committed, just as young little Germans are given a broad overview of who Hitler was. (To support that last sentence, while spending time in Germany in an adult education course, my instructor, as we discussed WW2, was playing down the atrocities and then told me that ‘Hitler was an Austrian you know’. So, that shows you how instructors are taught to kind of….’brush over’ that little smudge on their countries reputation.) In fact, Adolf Hitler is known to have studied what the United States did to the Native Americans when planning his own genocide. He used it as inspiration. Hmmm….curious. And we’re the good guys. You sure?

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How many Native Americans did our government actually murder, whether directly or indirectly? There’s a wide gap in the estimates that you will find. Some scholars say around 10 million and some people even say upwards of 100 million. I’m apt the believe that the official number is somewhere in the middle of those two. Why? Well because if you have any common sense, you’ll know that history is written by the conquerors. OF COURSE the US Government would play down the official death toll for its beloved citizens. “Oh hunny….we only killed 1 million people. That’s not THAT many. Let’s buy this 500 acre plot of land for .50 cents and open a farm! Yay!’. Either way….we killed tens of millions of native inhabitants just so we could have a home. That’s defined as theft right? And yes, disease, smallpox and plague played into lots of the deaths as well, but those are diseases that Europeans brought with them.

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It’s a difficult topic to research and find solid information on because so much of that information has been buried. Also, Native Americans have an oral tradition so it’s very possible that a lot of the history and knowledge from many past elders has faded with time. Of course, you can do a quick google search on this topic… but there are some very good Native American authors that I’d urge you to read, including Joseph Marshall III and David E. Stannard (though he’s not Native American). Why am I writing about this and why do I even care, being that I’m not Native American? Well….I live in this country. As a citizen I’d like to know the history of the place I call my home. I find the Native American culture fascinating and I believe that their wisdom and teachings are tantamount to succeeding as a person and as a country. I hope to see a day where the U.S. Government and the U.S. President will actually openly apologize to the Native Americans, rather than giving them a cheap and underhanded whiff. Ya know? A real apology…with fanfare, tv specials, ceremonies, charities and large reparations, with suitable and sustainable parcels of their homeland given back to them, with reasonable subsidies given to their families so they can thrive, revive their culture, religion and way of life and not become poverty stricken alcoholics. Our American ancestors were thieves and murderers. We killed their culture, raped and murdered their people, displaced them and destroyed their way of life….for HUNDREDS OF YEARS. We could at least acknowledge it, properly educate ourselves about it and give the remaining Native Americans a large slice of the pie that we’ve been eating for the past 400 years. After all….we stole that pie from them. You might say, ‘Hey…but they’ve got their casino land and are wealthy now….so we’re even’. Come on now hypothetical guy who said that….don’t be foolish.

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I wasn’t there during the colonization of America. I wasn’t involved in the killing of the natives. I didn’t rape and scalp Indians and then murder thousands of buffalos just so the Native Americans would starve. I’m sorry for it. But I wasn’t there. And now….. I enjoy the life that I’ve been raised in and have become accustomed to as an ‘American’. I’m not saying we should demolish all our houses and revert back to the ways that the Native Americans lived (though some of the things that existed in their former lifestyles are very attractive). For one, those of us who come from other countries, however far back the genealogy goes, are not ‘natives’ in America. And two…..once you put milk in the coffee….it’s kind of hard to get it out. So, we can’t just go backwards and change history, however horrible it may be, and live in a world of ‘what if’s’. But what is essential… is to remember what our ancestors did…..understand it, accept it, formulate a better and more respectful way to live…..and move on. Otherwise, we’re doomed to continue dealing with corrupt politicians, a pure profit driven society, oppression, war, famine, a highly stressed out populace and an under educated, short attention spanned, reality-show obsessed culture. Maybe if we had some Native American leaders in political office….things would get better. Philosophies could change. Who knows? It’s worth a shot because as many pro’s as ‘America’ has….the list of con’s has been steadily growing.

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Why do I say we as a people and a country would be doomed? Well….look at it this way. When two people in a marriage have a problem, it gets better and/or goes away once it’s brought out into the open, discussed, and then resolved. When the problem is ignored….or the other persons opinion is rejected or passed over….the problem gets worse, and worse and worse….until there’s a HUGE FIGHT. We’re connected to the Native Americans, whether we think we are or not. And if ‘we’ (the US government….and it’s citizens) don’t fix the problem that ‘we’ created…..it’s going to continue to be a problem. It will be this underlying, spiteful, festering anger…(no matter if another 500 years pass’s before anything proper is done). Call it a Native American curse, call it karma, call it whatever you want….but ya know….fixing the problem….that’s called LOGIC. Maybe our country and even our world is a such a disaster, filled with hatred and injustice, because we can’t mend our root problems? Maybe…just maybe?

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Hey….I’m just a regular white guy with a blog…..but I hope that I’ve struck a chord in some way and have encouraged you to learn more about the Native American people (through books or films or museum visits), to join their cause and/or to amend your attitude about them. They’re a great people with a rich history, in each and every one of their tribes, and they deserve the utmost respect.

Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. As always….do your best. Be as kind as you can. Follow the Golden Rule. And have a great night.

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Outrageousness: Kiryas Joel

Kiryas Joel. For those of you living in Orange County, New York (especially Harriman, Woodbury or Monroe), I’m sure you have pretty strong opinions about this ‘village’. So what is Kiryas Joel? As taken from wikipedia, “Kiryas Joel is a village within the town of Monroe in Orange County, New York, United States. The great majority of its residents are Hasidic Jews who strictly observe the Torah and its commandments, and belong to the Satmar Hasidic dynasty. There are about 20,000 people in the village. The village has one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation with 2/3rd’s of residents below the poverty line and about 40% of residents on food stamps”.

But what really is Kiryas Joel? It is a shining example of how you can blatantly and effectively abuse the system and manipulate the government to your whim. It is, in effect, a giant commune or cult of religious fanatics who have as many children as possible, get as many tax breaks as possible, claim poverty while at the same time making money and utilizing religion as a crutch and a means to further their expansion and greed. Now don’t twist my words and opinions please. I am not anti-semitic. I am anti-asshole and pro-truth. And the majority of Hasidic’s who live in Kiryas Joel are arrogant assholes who have no regard for other cultures, believe that they are superior, are cheats and liars, are obsessed with money and are a complete drain on the economy and the natural world. If they’re so horrible why are they able to flourish and succeed? Two simple things…money and politics. They vote in blocks. They have the power to sway elections with one phone call. Even former US President Bill Clinton has them on speed dial. Also, they’re extremely wealthy. As a giant community associated with all sects of Satmar Hasidic’s (those in Brooklyn and elsewhere), they have vast business enterprises and real estate holdings.

So why do I care and why am I writing a M.A.V.B.L.O.G. about Hasidics? It’s because I live in Monroe, New York. My family has been here for almost 60 years and has seen Kiryas Joel grow by leaps and bounds. I’d like our family to keep my childhood home and not be forced out because of real estate devaluation (a common practice of Hasidics). And……I’ve encountered deplorable Hasidic’s enough times to fill a novel. In my life, I’ve met one Hasidic man who I could identify with. ONE. He was present with other Hasidic families that were being unruly, irrational and heinous and he distanced himself from them. He apologized for their behavior. But just like in any organization……one good man doesn’t make up for 1,000 scumbags.

I applaud the fact that they appreciate education. An average Hasidic speaks several languages. There are frequently Hasidic’s going to the library, taking out books instead of movies, and continually learning and improving themselves. That’s about the only thing I can applaud though. As a community they have high rates of mental retardation, this due to the fact that they practice arranged marriages, those that are frequently incestuous. (Yes….brothers and sisters. 1st cousins. All that stuff). Quote below taken from.  (http://www.debrapasquella.com/2007/07/whats-truth-among-hasidic-community.html )

“For one, it’s been known that the Hasidic community intermarries for reasons of keeping the inheritance within the family or {klan}. They want to keep their genes pure, for reasons of heritage and keeping the family businesses intact. If they rely on the Old Testament, then why would they commit such an abomination? Or is it an abomination?”

What else makes me mad? Well…..they don’t add anything to our communities. They keep to themselves. You’d think with such a rapid population growth they’d open some restaurants and bakeries….or general shops. No. There’s nothing. Hasidic’s frequently utilize the parks and public places in Monroe……they purchased the entire main street and are happy charging exorbitant rents to small business owners. But they don’t open any business’s themselves. Why not? They’re essentially taking over the Orange County…..why not show off their culture and let us folks from other cultures get to know them through their foods or shops? Take Mexicans and Central Americans for example. Hard working people. Maybe you have an issue with them because they could be illegal aliens, they don’t learn English or they take jobs away. But they add something to the community. They open restaurants, bars and shops. They have great music. They have great food. They invite outsiders to enjoy their culture. That is great! That is proper assimilation for the benefit of everyone, regardless of your culture, religion or color of skin.

Now I know from experience that Jewish people are extremely touchy. I don’t say that as an affront, but I’m getting across that this has NOTHING to do with religion. It could be a village filled with Muslims or Buddhists, born again Christians or Scientologists. I don’t care. There’s a proper way to show your fellow man respect and common courtesy….and that is not present in Kiryas Joel. Do you know that there’s a welcome sign in Kiryas Joel that tells you how to dress if you’re going to their village? Excuse me!!!??? Do the residents of Monroe, New York tell Hasidic’s how to dress when they utilize their public parks and business’s in town?? Nope. But why shouldn’t they tell them to take off their overcoat and hat? I mean….they basically look like terrorists (in the traditional view of it), that’s a perfect justification. You know….The Patriot Act and all. But the residents of Monroe don’t do that…..because they’re not fanatical.

I’ve experienced and also heard multitudes of anecdotal stories about Hasidic’s over the years that shock me. Sexually frustrated Hasidic men who ask for hand jobs and blow jobs at respected spas and massage places, rebellious Hasidic’s who run away from home and drop acid and do hard drugs,  Hasidic landlords who cut corners and put their tenants through hell, Hasidic’s who smash their shopping carts into people’s cars because they dislike everyone else, Hasidic gangs who beat up people from other ethnicities, Hasidic men who consistently rape Hasidic women (and the women can’t do anything because they’re treated like animals)….etc….etc. They’re not exactly improving the community or the areas around their community.

I feel sorry for them (mainly the women who are treated like garbage). Hasidic’s live their live’s by a strict set of doctrines that represses their wills and probable desires to live an enjoyable life. They’re indoctrinated from a young age and have no choice to be free. They have no choice but to follow the rules of their fathers and grandfathers and so on. The women are treated worse than pets, they’re made to shave their heads and wear scarves, their sole purpose in life is to have as many children as possible. They’re a community of robots. They listen to their master and follow the rules, as irrational as they may be. Personally I view them as a cult……because I respect and admire the truth……..and that is the truth. (A community that keeps to themselves, has a fanatical and outmoded religion, hoards money, manipulates the system, has an outdated and brutal treatment of its women and feels superior to all others = CULT). At the end of the day, if the Hasidic’s continue to expand and devalue Monroe and the surrounding towns, I’ll simply move away and not have to think about it anymore. But a once quaint farming village……has rapidly been transformed to resemble a crummy area of Brooklyn…..and that is sad.

Again, for those of you reading who are extremely sensitive, those of you who make a habit of contorting people’s words, those of you who may have business interests with Hasidic’s, those of you who may work within politics or our government…….this has nothing to do with religion. NOTHING. It has to do with being a good person. Showing respect to all men. Living by the tenet that ‘all men are created equal’. I don’t care if you dislike someone…..you can still show them respect without being an asshole. So you wanna worship frogs and start a cult? You want to be a Mormon and wear sacred underwear? You want to venerate goats and live in a teepee? I don’t care. Go ahead. Do it. Do your thing. That’s your choice. Just whatever you do…….be a good person. Hasidic’s may wonder why there’s so much anger and frustration towards them and it’s because when you’re a bully…………..people tend to not like you. When you’re mean to others…..no one will care when tragedy strikes (just like their recent building fires). Kiryas Joel may be a money maker and a political asset……but it is a haven of fanatical, irrational people who disrespect and disregard all other cultures. If I were a politician and financiers threw a bunch of money at me to run for office in Monroe……I’d simply go under the banner ‘I’m not Hasidic’.

I’d hoped that in the 21st Century all individuals, groups and communities would transform into a higher design with qualities such as respect, mutual adoration, cooperation and acceptance. But to use the famous quote of our times…..’It is what it is’.

Thanks for reading this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. post. I hope you learned something new and became enlightened to this situation. As always, do a quick google search or go to the library for more information. Have a great day! And make sure you take care of yourself and your family! And be to good to others!

(as an aside- two nights after I posted this I encountered a very friendly and helpful Hasidic man who was a fireman. So that’s TWO nice Hasidic’s I’ve met. Maybe times are changing. I sure hope so.)