Odds and Ends: July 24, 2020
Hi, there, Constant Reader. I hope you are safe, healthy, and practicing safe social distancing on this penultimate Friday of July 2020.
As I sit down to write this in my little corner of Florida, it’s almost 2 PM Eastern (not that it matters, since I can’t publish this post till after 5 PM) on a hot summer afternoon. Presently, the temperature outside is 90˚F under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 61% and a 6 MPH breeze – with gusts up to 10 MPH – blowing from the east southeast, the feels-like temperature is 102˚F, even though the cloud cover is reported at 76%. No rain is in the immediate forecast, although, per my AccuWeather app, it looks like there may be a thunderstorm tomorrow afternoon.
Great Music to Escape By….
Today I received a package from California-based Intrada Records, a label that specializes in movie and TV soundtrack recordings. In it came my new 3-CD set with the Complete Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack: The Great Escape – Composed and Conducted by Elmer Bernstein. Produced by Douglass Fake and executive produced by Roger Feigelson, this 2011 album collects the reconstructed complete score to John Sturges’ classic 1963 film The Great Escape in two compact discs, as well as a CD edition of the original 13-track soundtrack album from 1963.
The Great Escape is the first movie I remember seeing in a theater – I’m sure that there may have others that I saw before, but either I was too young to remember or the movies themselves were forgettable. I was six years old and – because this took place in Bogota in AD 1969 – it must have been a re-release by MGM, since by then the movie, too, was six years old! It’s a fictionalized account of a real-life breakout by Allied prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III near Sagan, in what was then eastern Germany near the Polish border.
Based on a book by Paul Brickhill – who in real life had been a prisoner at Stalag Luft III and played a minor role in the breakout – the movie chronicles the efforts of Squadron Leader Roger “Big X” Bartlett – based on South African pilot Roger Bushnell, the real-life Big X – to lead 200 POWs out of the prison camp and to neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland, as well as the Germans’ savage reaction: of the 76 men who managed to get out of Stalag Luft III, only three managed to escape re-capture. On orders from an enraged Adolf Hitler, 50 of the 73 POWs caught by the Germans were executed.
I have always loved Elmer Bernstein’s score, especially its famous “Main Title” theme, which is jaunty, catchy, and has been popular for nearly 60 years. It is beloved not just by fans of the movie or film music in general, but, according to the booklet that comes in the multi-disc jewel box package, English soccer fans have adopted as the unofficial theme song of the English national soccer team.
I had hoped to get a digital album instead of a “physical” CD set from Amazon Music; the best I could do in that regard was to purchase The Great Escape; Original Soundtrack Suite, a 14-minute orchestral suite derived from the various themes in the score. It’s not a “cover” performance; it’s composed and conducted by the late, great Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Airplane!), and it is an enjoyable piece of music.
However, it’s not the complete score; I wanted that, so I decided to check the Intrada site to see if The Great Escape soundtrack was there. And happily, the 3-CD set was in stock and for a reasonable price: $19.99 plus shipping and handling.
I thought about reviewing my new addition to my soundtrack collection today, but I only received the package a couple of hours ago and I haven’t had time to listen to even the 32:34 mins.-long 1963 album!
So if you want to read my thoughts about the Complete Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack: The Great Escape – Composed and Conducted by Elmer Bernstein, you’ll just have to wait. Writing that review is on my “To Do” list for next week’s slate of blog posts.
Coming Soon to a Blog Near You
And speaking of upcoming reviews in A Certain Point of View, Too, next week I expect to receive two new Star Wars-themed books. One is Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren, which I suppose is the backstory of how Ben Solo, Luke Skywalker’s nephew and Jedi apprentice, fell into Snoke’s orbit and destroyed Luke’s Jedi Temple and killed most of the Jedi initiates.
This hardcover edition collects the 2019 four-issue comics series written by Charles Soule and was originally slated for a May 2020 publication, but…you know…COVID-19. I pre-ordered it in January, so I am looking forward to getting on Tuesday or shortly after that.
But wait – as they say on those late night commercials for Ginsu knives and Thighmasters, – there’s more. In addition to Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren, I’ll also be getting Quirk Books’ William Shakespeare’s The Merry Rise of Skywalker: Star Wars Part the Ninth, by Ian Doescher. As the title implies, this is a mashup of the story by Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, and Colin Trevorrow for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and the works of the peerless Bard of Avon.
I have been reading – and reviewing – the previous eight books in the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga for a while now, so I’m looking forward to see how Doescher wraps up the saga in this last “William Shakespeare play” set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Late July is probably my least favorite season of the year, mostly because it was around this time five years ago that my mom died, and I was embroiled in a nasty legal fight over her estate with my half-sister Victoria. While such a dispute between siblings over a dead parent’s estate is not uncommon – it happens more frequently than not, and at all levels of society – I was unprepared for how complex and emotionally exhausting probate court cases are.
In my particular situation, I feel particularly aggrieved because my half-sister was not only greedy and unscrupulous – she removed items from my mom’s (and briefly, mine) house even before we went to court to settle the issue over which will – Mom had prepared two; one that heavily favored my half-sister, and a second one that practically disinherited her – was going to be legally binding. Among the items were three photographs that Vicky and I had orally agreed to share. (Mom had originally told us to divide the two most contentious ones – which were of my dad and Mom at the Lido Hotel in Paris – among ourselves; the third, a photo of Mom as a baby, was not expressly bequeathed to either of us.)
I had suggested a compromise that would have made everyone happy: why not scan the photos and have digital copies made? That way, no one would be a winner or a loser.
This agreement was made in the presence of Vicky’s cousins Juan Manuel and Mauricio, who came back to the house after Mom’s earthly remains had been taken to the funeral home for prepping for the next day’s viewing. They took all three photos, promising me that I’d soon get copies.
That was five Julys ago. The one time that I asked Juan Manuel about the photos on Facebook – we had been friends on the social medium up to then – he said, “Vicky said that the photos were lost.”
Uh-huh. Right. And if you believe that, Dear Reader, I have the deed to a bridge in Brooklyn that I can let you have for $1000.
If I had held on to the pictures instead of handing them over when I was stressed out and in mourning, I would have made every effort to make sure Vicky got copies. No matter how much I dislike my half-sister, I have been fair about the distribution of Mom’s personal effects. I don’t know how many times I went with friends to the UPS Store near my old house with moving boxes full of family photos, every gift from Vicky to Mom that I found in dresser drawers and closets, books, and even Mom’s DVD player to be shipped to my half-sister’s apartment.
But…no. I was not in my right mind when I agreed to let Vicky and her cousins just take the photos; I had a sneaking suspicion that Vicky would pull the “Oh, we lost the photos” stunt, but I still held out hope that her cousins would do the honorable thing and make sure I received my copies.
I’m trying hard to move on from that and let the issue go; I could probably file a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Civil Court, and I think I would win a settlement, but I really don’t want to go that route. For one thing, it would entail having to pay court fees, hiring an attorney, getting depositions from everyone involved, and then waiting for a judge to decide. If I still lived in my townhouse, I would 100%-sure-do-it. But since I don’t….
In any case, I was prescient enough to take pictures of the pictures in question with my previous smartphone’s camera and uploaded them to Facebook about a year before Mom died. They’re not that great, but a friend from high school scanned them, and using Photoshop or a similar program, cleaned up and colorized them.
So, in the remote possibility that Vicky is telling the truth and the original pictures did vanish in 2015, if she wants copies of the photos, all she has to do is send word to me through mutual acquaintances and I’ll send the digital files.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Do you?
 While Mom’s decision to do a new will was unfortunate, even for me, it was a necessary one. Not only did Mom find out what my half-sister had in mind once Mom was dead, but she was not happy with the way Vicky was behaving in those days before Mom went to Mercy Hospital for back surgery. Vicky was acting like the head of the household and taking liberties with the SNAP benefits that Mom had recently qualified for due to her age and financial status.
At this early stage of the process, Mom had not yet decided to entrust me with the responsibility of running our financial affairs and the day-to-day running of the household, so Vicky was doing our grocery shopping – she drives, I don’t, so for her, it was easier to go to Winn-Dixie than for me – and running errands for Mom.
However, Vicky was not only buying items on the shopping lists that Mom and I gave her, but she was also using the EBT card issued to Mom to get groceries for herself, too. Mind you, for the first year that the State of Florida approved the EBT card, we had to get by on $178 a month. That barely sufficed for our needs – Mom was still eating relatively well then, and I got some food items, too, using the EBT card. But Vicky was still working and making at least $25 an hour as a registered nurse at the now-closed Metropolitan Hospital. She also lived in her own place and could afford to use her own money for her groceries.
One day in late May of 2015 – during the wait for Mom’s operation – Vicky pulled two dirty tricks for the price of one. First, after I asked her to bring two bags of frozen green beans from Winn-Dixie, she pretended to ask Mom if she could have half of the green beans. I say pretended because she made a big show of going into Mom’s downstairs room, then walking into the kitchen, where I was unpacking the bagged groceries and putting them away, and saying “Mami said I could take one of the bags of green beans home with me.” At that moment, I said “Okay,” but later, when I asked Mom if Vicky had asked for the bag of green beans, Mom looked at me and said, “No. She never mentioned it.”
Vicky was also prone to using Mom’s EBT card to buy ice cream and other goodies to take back to her apartment. When I saw that this was depleting the monthly $178 allotment before mid-month, I got mad and, in front of Mom and her friend Maruja Velez, I confronted her. I demanded that she hand me the EBT card; she made good money as a nurse, wasn’t paying any of our bills herself, and she was using money that was specifically for Mom and – by extension as her son and fellow resident of the townhouse, I wasn’t polite, not at all, and I did not ask nicely. I was beside myself with anger: I remember myself saying “Give. Me. The. Card. Now,” in an “I’m not taking no for an answer” tone.
Vicky, of course, was furious, but when Mom finally said, “Give him the card, Vicky,” she reluctantly took the EBT card out of her purse and handed it over.
This was the incident that caused Mom to change her last will and testament, so if my half-sister is angry about that, well, she can only blame herself.