Sean Connery, who embodied James Bond and more, dies at 90

Sean Connery as James Bond in the 1971 film “Diamonds Are Forever.”

By Aljean Harmetz, New York Times

Sean Connery, the irascible Scot from the slums of Edinburgh who found international fame as Hollywood’s original James Bond, dismayed his fans by walking away from the Bond franchise and went on to have a long and fruitful career as a respected actor and an always bankable star, has died in Nassau, the Bahamas. He was 90.

His death, in his sleep either late Friday or early Saturday, was confirmed by his family.

“Bond, James Bond” was the character’s familiar self-introduction, and to legions of fans who have watched a parade of actors play the role — otherwise known as Agent 007 on Her Majesty’s Secret Service — none uttered the words or played the part as magnetically or as indelibly as Mr. Connery.

Tall, dark and dashing, he embodied the novelist Ian Fleming’s suave and resourceful secret agent in the first five Bond films and seven over all, vanquishing diabolical villains and voluptuous women alike beginning with “Dr. No” in 1962.

Read entire NY Times obit HERE

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Jack White: Patron saint of abused buskers

By Steve Beard

Jack White is the patron saint of bruised and battered street buskers. Just ask musician Matt Grant.

On Tuesday, Grant got his guitar smashed while he was performing on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. “Often I don’t rise to people coming up and talking nonsense but this lady was pushing it too far. She was in my face swearing and shouting at me. I told her to go away and she wasn’t having any of it. She grabbed my guitar and smashed it over the ground,” he wrote on Instagram.

“It’s every busker’s nightmare that someone does something like that,” he told Sky News. “I felt terrible. I felt really on the ground with it. I owned that guitar for five years and it’s my tool. It was a horrible feeling seeing it smashed on the ground.”

After setting up a GoFundMe page, Grant got the surprise of a lifetime. “Incredible. Jack White from The White Stripes got in touch this morning and decided to buy me a brand new guitar,” reported Grant. “Unbelievable. From one of the worst things to happen to one of the best. Once again, thank you for everyone’s help.” Continue reading

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Do Something: How one courageous woman deals with a pandemic

Mary Jo Copeland greets people Oct. 19 as they enter before breakfast at Sharing & Caring Hands, the food kitchen and charity organization that Copeland founded and runs in Minneapolis. (Jenn Ackerman for The Washington Post)

By Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing & Caring Hands, a food kitchen and charity in Minneapolis. Her story, told to Eli Saslow, was published in the Washington Post.

There’s always a line. The line gets longer. I wake up at 4 in the morning to start helping these families, but this pandemic never rests. I’ve been doing this work for 40 years, and I’ve never seen pain like there is right now. People come here from all over Minnesota because they’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their savings — their dignity. They’re carrying around the hurt of what’s been done to them. They’ve got nothing but anger, sadness and fear.

I had a lady show up the other day, another first-timer. Her life was falling apart in a hundred ways, and she started going on to me about this virus and all the protests happening downtown. She was obsessing over this presidential election. She said: “I’m terrified right now. It feels like I’m watching the whole world come unglued.”

I told her: “Okay, then stop watching. What’s something you can do?”

I’ve always tried to think like that. I’m not saying I don’t have my own anxieties. I’m 78, and this virus has already set me back in a lot of ways. I’ve lost more this year than ever, but what good have negativity and fear ever done for people? Nothing. Zero. You can waste your whole life as one endless complaint. Okay, yes, this country has big problems. But who do you think is going to solve them? It’s up to us. I believe in perpetual motion. Do something. Do something! If you see something that needs to be changed, try changing it. If you see somebody who needs help, help them. People act like that’s saintly, but shouldn’t it be basic? Why isn’t it basic?

We’re a one-stop shop to help the poor. We try to give people whatever they need: food, clothes, furniture, dental, housing assistance, money to pay their bills. We’ve been open every day since this virus hit, but it seemed like the rest of the city pretty much closed. I don’t accept government funds, which means I’m free from some regulations. We were the only place left serving meals downtown. We had five or six hundred people lining up to eat, and what am I going to do? Stay at home because I’m afraid I might get sick? Send people away if they aren’t wearing a mask? Come on. These people barely had the luxury to worry about a virus. They were jobless. They were homeless. They had nothing to eat, and they weren’t getting their food stamps because the county had shut down. I promised them: “I will not close.” We served something like 8,000 meals that first week, and it’s gone on from there.

Some days, there are 200 people waiting to see me by the time I get in to work. Each one has an emergency. I open the doors and greet everyone as they come in. I ask their names and listen to their stories. Continue reading

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Appalled at our political choices

Got hooked on P.J. O’Rourke back in 1988 with his blistering side-splitting book Holidays in Hell about trying to find the sliver of humor in basket case foreign countries and unbearable situations. What follows is from Reason magazine about his new book on our current political environment.

“This is the end of the world for classical liberalism,” writes P.J. O’Rourke in his new collection of essays, A Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land. The 72-year-old political commentator, who cut his teeth writing for National Lampoon and is the author of Parliament of Whores and other bestsellers, is pessimistic about the future of American politics.

“I’m appalled by the choice that we’ve been delivered,” says O’Rourke, referencing the 2020 presidential election. “I am worried.”

“I have always belonged to the pessimistic wing of the libertarian attitude,” explains O’Rourke. “There are many libertarians who believe that people are ultimately rational. I am not among them. This is probably because I spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent, largely covering wars, insurrections, social upheavals, and disturbances of all sorts….We have a rational side, thank God. And I hope we are appealing to that rational side. But it isn’t the only side in our multifaceted—and sometimes pretty ugly—little personalities.” Continue reading

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White Castle slider business explodes in Arizona

By Steve Beard

One year ago, White Castle opened its first restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Selling more than 4.2 million sliders in the last 12 months, it has become the #1 location of the 360 White Castle restaurants in more than a dozen states. At more than 4,500 square feet, the Scottsdale Castle is the largest White Castle location on Earth.

Uniquely, the Scottsdale location also pays homage to rock musician and Arizona resident Alice Cooper, a long-time White Castle fan and a member of the “Cravers Hall of Fame,” with a large portrait of Cooper hanging in the restaurant.

The legendary shock rocker actually attended the groundbreaking for the lone Arizona location last year. “Being inducted into the ‘Cravers Hall of Fame’ will go down as one of my all-time favorite honors,” said Cooper. “They promised me a Castle close by, but I never thought they would do it! This is going to be epic.”

Raised on sliders as a young boy in Detroit, Cooper is said to have chosen tour locations based on proximity to White Castle restaurants. “It’s probably one of the most all-American things that there is, White Castles,” Cooper told reporters in 2014 at the induction ceremony while visiting the restaurant’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. “So I feel like it’s the one product that hasn’t changed over all the years. … White Castle tastes exactly the same. It’s great.” Continue reading

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Avengers defend Chris Pratt

Excerpted from Abid Rahaman’s news story in the Hollywood Reporter

Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo and James Gunn took to social media to support actor Chris Pratt after a deluge of criticism of his supposed religious and political views.

Pratt reportedly attends services at Zoe Church in Los Angeles. The church has links to the Hillsong megachurch that has been criticized as ultra-conservative and was described by actress Ellen Page last year as “infamously anti-LGBTQ.” At the time, Pratt addressed Page’s comments, writing on social media, “It has recently been suggested that I belong to a church which ‘hates a certain group of people’ and is ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.”

Pratt was also criticized for missing a Joe Biden campaign fundraiser in Hollywood attended by many of his Avengers co-stars, which sparked off speculation he was pro-Trump.

Robert Downey was the most strident in his criticism of the internet witch hunt engulfing Pratt, writing on Instagram: “What a world … The ‘sinless’ are casting stones at my brother, Chris Pratt … A real Christian who lives by principle, has never demonstrated anything but positivity and gratitude …AND he just married into a family that makes space for civil discourse and (just plain fact) INSISTS on service as the highest value. If you take issue with Chris … I’ve got a novel idea. Delete your social media accounts, sit with your OWN defects of character, work on THEM, then celebrate your humanness …” Continue reading

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Ice Cube sets record straight

Legendary rapper Ice Cube spoke on CNN about his “Contract With Black America” which was released several months ago to address racial inequality. Cube said he has not met President Donald Trump and is not trusting either his campaign or Joe Biden’s campaign. Instead, he is looking for action. What follows are excerpts from Amir Vera’s report for CNN.

“I didn’t run to go work with any campaign. Both campaigns contacted me,” Cube said. “Both campaigns wanted to talk to me about the Contract with Black America. One campaign said, ‘We love what you have, but let’s really dig into after the election.’ And one campaign said ‘We love what you have, do you mind talking to us about it?’ And that’s what I did, so I didn’t run to nobody.”

The entertainer tweeted Wednesday that the Trump campaign made adjustments to “their plan” for Black America after talking to him.

Trump’s plan — dubbed the “Platinum Plan” — includes initiatives such as “neighborhoods with highest policing standards” and replacing “failing schools” with “full school choice.”

Cube is willing to work with both teams, he said, and with whomever will work with him.

“I’m not playing no more of these political games, we’re not part of a team … so I’m going to whoever’s in power and I’m going to speak to them about our problems, specifically,” Cube said, explaining that “our” is referring to Black Americans. “I’m not going in there talking about minorities, I’m not going in there talking about people of color or diversity or none of that stuff. I’m going there for Black Americans, the ones who are descendants of slaves.” Continue reading

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Alice Cooper for President

By Steve Beard

Like psychotic clockwork every four years, legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper has once again tossed his top hat into the center ring and is running for President of the United States. Running on the Wild Party ticket, his campaign platform is sleek and streamlined: “I can do nothing as well as they do nothing.”

He has been running for the highest office in the land since 1972.

The song “Elected” was the first single from his album, “Billion Dollar Babies.” It was No. 1 in the United States and the United Kingdom. (His new video of the song can be seen HERE.)

Cooper’s 1972 hit “School’s Out” went #1 in England and caused British politicians to call for a ban on Alice performing in the country. “We couldn’t have bought that PR,” recalled Cooper in Classic Rock.

“I decided to write a song as a general poke at politicians,” said Cooper. “And in America at that time, we had Richard Nixon, who was the ultimate target. Your President is always a focal point for satire, but Nixon – you couldn’t satirize him enough. Plus the 1972 presidential elections were coming up and I thought, ‘Who’s the most unlikely person you would ever want as President?’ And Alice Cooper was that person!” Continue reading

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Water is Life


At 4:30 a.m., it is pitch black in the village of Mzira in Malawi. In the early morning sky, the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper look bright enough to walk on. Dogs howl and scurrying animals rustle through the maize fields.

Most men and children are asleep but the women are stirring. African women gather under the shadows of trees, buckets swinging, ready to embark on the first of many journeys they will make during the day to fetch water for their families.

As they gather, they chat, laugh and count heads. Making their way through maize fields, creek and riverbeds, over slick rocks and through other rough terrain, the women sing to encourage each other and to scare away anything or anyone that might be lurking in the dark — including “bad men who may be rapists.”

“Water is life, let us go and draw water, water is life, our children should go to school,” the women sing.

Please follow the complete United Methodist News Service photo essay by Mike DuBose and Kathy L. Gilbert HERE

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Jack White saves the day – or at least SNL

By Stephen Thompson, NPR

This week’s Saturday Night Live musical guest was supposed to be Morgan Wallen, before the country singer got himself disinvited. On Friday morning, SNL creator Lorne Michaels announced that Jack White — whose best-known band, The White Stripes, releases a greatest-hits album in December — would show up to perform in Wallen’s place.

Though we’re only two episodes into Season 46, it’s hard to imagine that White’s turn won’t come out near the top when it’s time to rank SNL‘s 2020-21 musical guests. Unencumbered by new material to promote, White cranked out a few scorching career highlights, including 2014’s solo hit “Lazaretto” — which he performed with a guitar designed for him by the late Eddie Van Halen — and uncorked a fantastic medley.

That medley fused unexpected pieces in remarkable ways, kicking off with “Don’t Hurt Yourself” — the song he co-wrote and performed on Beyoncé‘s Lemonade — before shifting into a version of The White Stripes’ “Ball and Biscuit” that incorporated lyrics from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” So, on two days’ notice, we got an Eddie Van Halen tribute, Beyoncé, The White Stripes, a Jack White solo song and Blind Willie Johnson. Not bad!

To watch the performances, click HERE

Jack White’s Instagram reflections on the SNL performance: “I thought it could be a nice gesture for me to use this blue Eddie Van Halen model guitar for one of the songs tonight on SNL. The guitar was designed by Eddie (with a few customizations I had added). Eddie was very kind to me and saw to it that this guitar was made for me to my specs. I wont even insult the man’s talent by trying to play one of his songs tonight. Thanks again, Eddie, for this guitar and rest in peace, sir.”

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