Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Suicide of the Superhero: The Loss of a Hero

by G. Jack Urso

Dale Pople as Superhero (from Portrait of a Superhero).
In 2014, I wrote a research paper on Logan’s Run, Beyond the Dome: A Critical Analysis of Logan’s Run, comparing elements of the novels, film, and TV series, and posted it to this blog. I’m a bit of a sci-fi fan and have written numerous articles on a variety of books, films, and TV series as an exercise in writing reviews. Almost from the start, the article took off, gaining thousands of individual page views and remained among the top 10 blog posts every week for almost six years.

Dale Pople was one of those who stopped by to read the article. He was a HUGE Logan’s Run fan who ran a tribute site. I joined and we exchanged thoughts on the film and promoting it, lobbying Mego to release a Logan’s Run line of figures, video making (we used the same software), etc. A big, bald-headed, gregarious guy, Pople had a smile that lit up a room. He actually was a superhero — dressed up in costume and hit the streets looking to help those in need. Active on social media, he gave encouragement to his fellow fans and took the time to connect with many on a personal level, as much as social media allows.

On July 18, 2020, Dale Pople took his own life.

Briefly a pro-wrestler whose persona was named “Superhero,” Pople’s career was cut early by an injury. A navy vet, he also completed police academy training, though he never served. In 1998, Pople took to the streets as the costumed superhero named Superhero! An early member of the Real-Life Superhero community (RLSH), Pople put on the costume and walked the streets looking for people to help, and he did. A short award-wining documentary, Portrait of a Superhero: A Documentary Film (2018), revealed his troubled childhood and detailed his adventures as “He helps the homeless, provides charity to sick and disadvantaged children, aids stranded motorists, and patrols the streets to prevent crime.”

I found the documentary inspiring and considered asking Pople if I could get a glossy 8 x 10 autographed photo to hang on the wall next to the ones I had of William Shatner, Adam West, and Burt Ward, who I met at the New York Comic Con, but never got around to it. There’s always time I thought.

In 2018, Pople hung up his tights when he turned 50. As he reported to the Tampa Bay Times, Sep. 24, 2018, despite his 6-ft, 220 lb frame, bad knees, hernia surgeries, and shoulder injuries were affecting him. "I don't care how good of shape you are in," he is quoted. "You are not going to break up a fight between 21-year-old kids at 50.”

Nevertheless, he remained a superhero to many. Pople had most recently worked as a salesman and a personal trainer. He had a 25-year career in broadcasting in various technical positions, including about 18 years at one cable network, which seems to have come to an end in 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile. On July 15, 2020, Pople announced he and his wife decided to get divorced, a situation he describes as having been "thrust" upon him. He then adds, "the other decision I made is a choice," without saying what that was. In retrospect, it is likely he had already made up his mind about ending his life. Two careers coming to a close in the same year, followed by the end of his marriage, must have been one hit too many.

Tony Armer, director of Portrait of a Superhero (see video, below), confirmed Pople’s suicide and reported that he “struggled with depression for most of his life.” We’d all be lying if we say we didn’t experience dark hours of desperation ourselves.

Pople‘s last post on July 18 is a short video of him wearing the red shirt from his Superhero costume. The description says: “Check please. To quote Herman Goering when he was caught, I can’t complain I had a good run.’” In the video itself, Pople is reflective and quotes George Reeves, the 1950s TV Superman, who said ‘Welcome to the bottom of the barrel boys, but don’t worry, I got the check.’” It is worth noting that both Göering and Reeves committed suicide. Pople muses, “There was a time when I really wasn't too comfortable being Superhero,” but concludes “He was all I was really good at being anyway.” He gives a nervous, ironic laugh; his face is flushed, and the smile tight. Nevertheless, the video strikes an optimist note at the end as he points to the camera and gives his Superhero character motto, “You know what to do!” — To encourage us all to do the right thing.

One commentator on the video asked if Pople was doing ok, and he responded, “Better than Ever.” Pople took his life later the same day. It has been said that those who give so much for others often have little left for themselves. Maybe that was the case with Pople, but who knows? The loss of his broadcasting career, the end of his superhero career, the dissolution of his marriage, and the social isolation of living in Florida during a pandemic must have been a very difficult time. I can only imagine though.

Dale Pople’s comments on my Logan’s Run post.
One day, after nearly six years of my article on Logan’s Run being on my blog’s weekly Top 10, it suddenly dropped off the list.

The date was July 18. The day Dale Pople ended his journey on this planet.

I wish I asked him for that autograph.

Here is the full 15-minute documentary about Dale Pople on YouTube:


Thursday, July 2, 2020

We Shoot Them

by G. Jack Urso

We have a warrant

It says to freeze

Say your prayers

Down on your knees


We shoot them in the streets

We shoot them on sight

We shoot them in the dark

And in the broad daylight


We shoot them when their hands are up

We shoot them when they’re down

We shoot them standing up

We shoot them on the ground


We shoot them if they’re proud

We shoot them if they’re brave

We turn the cameras off

And say they misbehaved


We shoot them if they’re young or old

We shoot them if they’re gay

We shoot them when they’re standing up

And when they run away


We shoot them in their homes

We shoot them in their bed

We shoot them while they’re dreaming

Dreams already dead


We shoot them going out for dinner

And while they're eating ice cream

We shoot them during traffic stops

And remember them in memes


We shoot them on their feet

And force them to their knees

We strangle them until they say

 "Stop, I can't breathe."


They ask for help

From their neighbors and the law

But the president calls them "Sons of Bitches"

For protesting it all


The world keeps turning

Tumbling and rolling

Close your eyes

And let them rest

Keep scrolling

Keep scrolling

It’s what we do the best

Author’s Note: This is the original version of the free verse poem I wrote “The Facts Are Plain.”


Friday, June 19, 2020

Take This Statue Down!

by G. Jack Urso
Statue of General Philip Sheridan on the grounds of the New York State Capitol, Albany, NY.
On the grounds of the State Capitol building in Albany, NY, resides a statue of city native General Philip Sheridan. Erected in 1914 while many Civil War veterans were still alive, the memorial honors Sheridan who played an important role the defeat of the Confederacy. After the war, Sheridan was put in command of the Department of the Missouri to fight the various Native American tribes and bring them into submission.

As widely reported in various sources, including writers/historians Dee Brown in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Evan S. McConnell in his exhausted biography of George Armstrong Custer Son of the Morning Star, Sheridan is also rather infamously noted as saying, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” While Sheridan himself reportedly denied saying this (though his actual denial seems undocumented), his denial alone is not credible given that his actions certainly reflected the spirit of the saying. The wars, lies, and betrayals that nearly destroyed the Plains Indian culture were committed under his command.

There are few phrases that more embody the offensively racist and genocidal attitude of a nation against an ethnic group, and we have a statue of the person to whom it is attributed to, and who led the campaign to take their lands, on the grounds of the New York State Capitol.

Dedication plaque at the base of the Sheridan statue.
In the past, when I served as a reporter, whenever I interviewed a state or local representative I invariably would ask them about the statue of Sheridan and what he reportedly said. I never met one who was even aware this heinous comment is credited to him. Not one.

New York State still has reservations for Mohawk and Seneca Indians and their populations are greatly reduced from the many thousands who once possessed the land the state now claims for its own. How do you think they feel when visiting the State Capitol and see this statue? If you can’t imagine that, then consider what if there was a statue of someone who said the only good White people he ever saw were dead? Get it now?

Across from the statue of Philip Sheridan in front of Albany City Hall stands the statue of Revolutionary War Hero Philip Schuyler which is scheduled to be removed due to his own history with slavery. Schuyler was a mediocre general whose plan for the invasion of Canada was a failure and was court martialed, but acquitted, for his role in the loss of Fort Ticonderoga. He is perhaps and more famous for hosting some of the most notable people of the times at his home in Albany (which still stands), including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. His daughter Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton.

According to a Jun. 18, 2016, article in The Guardian, forensic examination of the bodies of 14 slaves (one man, six women, five children, and two infants) owned by Schuyler showed the adults were worked hard and, despite being well-muscled, had severe arthritis and some broken bones, typical of the treatment of people in bondage sentenced to a life of hard labor. It is notable that half of the dead found where children.

By a large margin, the only people demanding these statues remain are of European heritage whose ancestors felt no impact from the institution of slavery in the United States.

I am not ignorant of history. My master’s degree is in both history and literature, so I understand the contributions of both Sheridan and Schuyler to the nation. However, ancient Greece and Rome, on whose foundations our Western culture was built, erected statues in public places of those individuals who represented their heroic ideals. When those individuals fell from grace it was common for those statues to be removed, and the Romans simply swapped out the head with that of someone else. In fact, the statues of emperors, senators, and generals were often made with replaceable heads with just that purpose in mind.

By removing those statues and putting them in museums where they belong we are not forgetting or rewriting the past. Rather, we are finally listening to the voices we have ignored for far too long.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Facts in Doubt: Fake News and the Manipulation of the Masses

by G. Jack Urso 

As a freelance editor/writer and reporter with over two decades of experience, including in fact-checking and corporate intelligence, I have developed something of a sixth sense for spotting sources of questionable validity, or, to put it more plainly, “fake news.”

The “fake news” I refer to does not regard different political interpretations of an event based on a person’s party loyalties, but rather direct attempts from an unidentified source to surreptitiously spread disinformation.

A Facebook discussion group I belong to named “Liberal Christians” started to get articles submitted by a new member, who I will identify later, that were from a news site that has a lot of left-oriented “news” that made assertions with any evidence or more typically commentary posing as news.  All this struck me as curious, so I dug a little deeper.

One article this new user posted that caught my attention reported that Antifa was named as the group responsible for the damage and arson in the riots. This struck me as odd for a several reasons. First, the article presents no evidence that Antifa was responsible for any of the violence (subsequent reports indicate White Supremacists have been posing as Antifa on social media). Second, the article is asserting a Begging the Question logical fallacy: The rioting is what Antifa would do, therefore Antifa is responsible. Third, the article overlooks the fact that neo-Nazis were arrested during the riots and caught posing as Antifa on social media. Fourth, people often mix up anarchists with Antifa, and while there may be some crossover the two are really separate movements. I found it odd that the author of the article would identify one group as the instigator and not the other two.  

Another sign that this article was problematic is in the title: “White Activists need to be VERY FUCKING CAREFUL” [https://testset.io/2020/05/30/white-activists-need-to-be-very-fucking-careful/]. I found this an issue on two points: 1) “Fucking” is language that “Christians” (even the liberal ones) do not normally use and 2) A legitimate journalist/news source would not include such a vulgarity in a headline or an article unless it was a direct quote from another source, and even then it would likely  present it as “F______” or “F******” or refer to it obliquely as the F-word.

All this peaked my interest, so I did some research on the news site, the author of the article, and the member of the group who posted the article. Here is what I found:

First: The news site in question, Testset.io, has a .io suffix in its url. The .io suffix is assigned to Internet domain names registered the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Second: Right on Testset.io’s webpage at the bottom it says it is located in Beirut, Lebanon.

Third: Although the news site is using the .io suffix, according to information on Whois.com, an online domain search database, the domain was registered in the United States from a company located in Colorado on April, 9, 2019, and “updated” on April 12, 2020.

A legitimate news website has a single stream of registration and locality. The domain is invariably registered in the nation in which the company's headquarters resides and does not misdirect readers as to its location. It does not split it up between three nations and/or territories.

Fourth: I was unable to find anything about the author of the article, one David Icke Turner who shares part of his name with that of a British conspiracy theorist David Icke, an anti-Semite who believes in such things as an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings who are controlling the Earth. I do not think David Icke Turner and David Icke are the same person, but integrating part of the name of a conspiracy theorist seems an almost obvious attempt to throw in a Red Herring and mislead people. 

Other Testset.io authors include an Anatole d’Ecotopia and Quiscalus Texicanus. These are obvious pseudonyms with an interesting entomology. d’Ecotopia appears the reference the 1975 novel Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston by Ernest Callenbach.  The story involves an ecological utopia and was very influential on the countercultural and ecological movement of the 1970s.  Quiscalus Texicanus is close to the Latin name Quiscalus Mexicanus, the scientific designation for the Great Tailed Gackle, a bird. Is this a reference to the fact Mexico once owned Texas or maybe the Southern border immigration crisis? The names seem too carefully constructed to be just random choices. 

Like the purported author of the article, David Icke Turner, Anatole d’Ecotopia and Quiscalus Texicanus, have absolutely no web presence except for the articles at Testset.io — no LinkedIn profiles, no social media presence, no articles on other websites — nothing. Additionally, there also seems to be a similarity in writing styles among the authors, so for all we know they may all be the same person.  

Fifth: The person who posted this article to the Liberal Christians group used the name Allison Mcdermot (original spelling). I found the spelling odd since Mcdermot is usually spelled McDermott. It could have been a misspelling, but I found it a curious detail.

Sixth: Mcdermot’s profile picture was a professional quality head shot of female model doing her best “sexy look” — a finger placed lightly on one lip while her hair hangs down loosely over her face. Something of an odd choice for someone posting to a discussion board that usually parses scripture from the Bible. I did a reverse image search on Google for Mcdermot’s profile picture, which I found attributed to the following individuals:

·         Cassandra********** on Facebook
            (*full name withheld as this person is a make-up artist
            with whom the picture may have originated).

·         hanalove at galaticlove

·         rachecd246 at galaticlove

·         monica150f3 at galaticlove

·         aliciael233 at devoted singles     

·         ᴀʟᴇx (@easy_brew) at pictame.com

·         Татьяна Новаковская at ВКонтактеvk.com (a Russian dating site)

Additionally, this person's profile lists as her occupation "Whore at Badvice" and that she previously studied pimpin hoes daily P.H.D at University of Houston.” As occupations, these seemed not quite representative of someone interested in discussing the finer points of Biblical scripture. This cast further doubt on the validity of the user profile.

Seventh: A search of Facebook showed that Mcdermot joined several FB political discussion groups in the 24 to 48 hours prior to joining and posting the article in question (and other Testset.io articles) to the “Liberal Christians” Facebook page. These groups include:

·         Christian Democrats of California

·         Christian Democrats of Texas

·         Christians Against Trump

·         Fort Bend Democrats

·         Harris County Young Democrats

·         Houston Democrats

·         Politics of the USA

·         Social Democrats USA-Socialist Party, USA

·         Social Justice in Early Childhood

The conclusion is that there is a concerted effort to spread disinformation among left-oriented political discussion groups on Facebook who would be largely sympathetic to the protestors of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

As the old Buffalo Springfield song, “For What it’s Worth,” goes, “Something’s happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.” One thing, however, is clear, the website is at the very least engaged in spreading disinformation and at worst hoping it will further enflame racial discontent.

America, we are being played.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Facts Are Plain

by G. Jack Urso

The facts are plain.

The police had a no-knock warrant where they don't have to announce themselves. 

The police claim they did so anyway.  They were not wearing body cameras, so we only have their word. 

The officers were looking for a drug suspect who lived 10 miles away and was already in police custody.

No drugs were found in the apartment.

Neither Breonna Taylor nor her boyfriend Kenneth Walker had arrest records.

Kenneth Walker was a licensed gun owner who was protecting his home from what he thought were burglars.  Walker was doing what the NRA tells people — buy a weapon and use it to protect your home — but since he's black the NRA has had nothing to say about this.

This wasn't a horrible accident.  It was a homicide.

We shoot them in their homes.

We shoot them while they're sleeping.

We shoot them while they're eating ice cream.

We shoot them during traffic stops.

We shoot them while they’re jogging.

We shoot them while they're running away.

We strangle them until "I can't breathe" is all they can say.

And the president calls them "Sons of Bitches" for protesting the injustice.

Keep scrolling.

Keep scrolling.

It’s what Americans do best.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

And Now, the Response by the Honorable Haiku from New York:

by G. Jack Urso 

 politics poli

 tics politics politics

 politics the end 


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Don Felder: Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)

by G. Jack Urso

From the 1981 film Heavy Metal, Taarna, last of the Taarakians, takes revenge on the mutants who destroyed a city. Song “Heavy Metal (Takin' a Ride)” by Don Felder. A classic clip from the classic film based on the classic sci-fi/fantasy magazine. 

 From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Abbott and Costello Discuss the World Health Organization

by G. Jack Urso

Abbott: Ok Lou, today we’re going to talk about the World Health

Costello: Who?

Abbott: Exactly.

Costello: What?

Abbott: No, WHO.

Costello: That’s what I said! Who are we talking about?

Abbott: Precisely.

Costello: Look, Bud, I’m confused . . .

Abbott: I’ll say.

Costello: What are we talking about?

Abbott: Not what, WHO. We’re talking about WHO.

Costello: Who?

Abbott: That’s right.


Abbott: Oh, I see your problem. WHO is an abbreviation for the
               World Health Organization. A wonderful group that does
               important work.

Costello: OK, well then, what about WHO?

Abbott: Well, WHO has come under fire recently for its purported
               close ties to China under its current leader Xi Jinping.

Costello: Xi Jingaling?

Abbott: No ding-a-ling, Xi Jinping. Show some respect why don’t

               you? Now, follow along with me . . .

Costello: That train has already left the station.

Abbott: [slaps Costello] Hey, don’t be a wise guy!

Costello: WATCH IT! So, who started all this trouble?

Abbott: No. It was probably Hu.

Costello: WHO?

Abbott: That’s right,

Costello: How can I be right? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M
                TALKING ABOUT!

Abbott: Listen Lou, it’s really quite simple. People think WHO has
               too close ties to China, led by Xi Jinping, but those ties
               were first established under the previous Chinese leader
               Hu Jintao as an effort to get WHO’s help to deal with their
               periodic epidemics.

Costello: Periodic enemas?

Abbott: Well, that won’t help with respiratory diseases, but it's
               probably better than injecting disinfectant.

Costello: What idiot would suggest that?

Abbott: Oh, I don’t know. Some stooge I suppose.

Costello: Who?

Abbott: [slaps Costello] Don’t insult Hu like that!

Costello: HEY!

Abbott: Sorry Lou, you just get on my nerves sometimes.

Costello: So, let me get this straight, you’re saying who is
                 responsible for close ties to who?

Abbott: Boy, you said it.

Costello: And who was replaced by Xi Jingaling?

Abbott: Hey! [raising his hand] You want a fresh one?

[knocking on the door]

Costello: I wonder who's at the door?

Abbott: No, its not Hu. It’s probably the landlord coming to collect

               our back rent.

Costello: You mean, Fred Trump?

Abbott: That’s who.

Costello: Boy, at this point I really wouldn’t be surprised at all. 


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira

by G. Jack Urso

“The mbira is not just an instrument to us. It is like a Bible; it is the way we pray to God.” — Unnamed Zimbabwe musician.
From the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube Channel.
Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira, is a 1973 release in Nonesuch Records classic Explorer Series which also includes Africa, Music from the Nonesuch Explorer Series, Ghana: Ancient Ceremonies, Songs & Dance Music, and Kōhachiro Miyata: Shakuhachi — The Japanese Flute, covered elsewhere on Aeolus 13 Umbra. The mbira, also known as a thumb piano, is a traditional African instrument with a delicate, lyrical sound somewhat reminiscent of higher-tuned Jamaican steel drums in the soprano range. The Bantu languages native to the region, in this case Shona, utilize open syllables in an alternating consonant-vowel pattern which complements the mbira and provides both a natural and an ethereal sound — at least to Western ears.

Liner notes are provided below from the album by John Berliner, who recorded the music in the field. The complete album is provided above and the track list with links to individual songs is listed below from the Aeolus 13 Umbra YouTube channel.
Matepe, a type of mbira, in gourd resonator.
All images from Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbira (1973).
Liner Notes from Zimbabwe: The Soul of Mbria (1973), by John Berliner

The Mbira is an ancient African instrument consisting of reed or metal keys mounted over a bridge on a hardwood soundboard. Typically, an external buzzing mechanism adds complexity to the instrument’s sound. Known by different regional names, numerous varieties of mbira are popular throughout black Africa. The mbira commonly serves as a solo instrument with vocal accompaniment, but it can also be played in small ensembles.

In Zimbabwe, there are several types of mbira, ranging in numbers of keys from eight to fifty-two. Four types represented here are the mbira dzavadzunu, matepe, njari, and ndimba. Musicians play the smallest instruments with two thumbs; the largest, with two thumbs and one or two index fingers. For amplification, musicians stabilize their instruments inside large gourd resonators decorated with shells and more recently bottle tops, which add a vibrating quality to the rich sound mix. Gourd rattles called hosho commonly provide rhythmic accompaniment.

Webster Pasipamire (left) and Erick Muchena with dried gourds
to be fashioned into resonators.
From the earliest times, the mbira has played an integral role in Shona culture. Sixteenth century missionary accounts describe its use in courts, providing music for the praise of kings and for entertainment. To this day, musicians perform the instrument at a traditional religious ceremony called a bira, in which villagers consult their ancestral spirits and make ritual offerings to them. Although mbira players are professional musicians, they commonly supplement their income through their vocations. Hakurowi Mude has earned his living as an upholster and a general store owner; John Kunaka, as a blacksmith and carpenter; Simon Mashoko, as a catechist for the Roman Catholic Church. Hakurowi Mude and Mujuru Muchatera have both served their communities as spirit mediums.

I am greatly indebted to the performers, whose conviction that mbira music holds universal meaning made these recordings possible. With the passing of Mubaywa Bandambira, John Kunaka, and Mukuru Muchatera, the recordings (made in 1972) have become precious documents of Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage. Additional information about the lives of the music’s importance in Shona culture is provided in the author’s companion book, The Soul of Mbira, the University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Track List:

1. Nhemamusada (7:03)

22-key mbira dzavadzunu. MhuriyekwaRwizi ensemble (Justin Magaya, Kuken Pasipamire, mbira; Hakurotwi Mude, voice; Webster Pasipamire, hosho.) Recorded at a bira in Kwaramba Village, Mondoro.

2. Taireva (4:02)

24-key mbira dzavadzunu. Eric and Mondrek Muchena. Recorded in Highfields, Harare.

3. Nyamaropa (6:20)

22-key mbira dzavadzunu. MhuriyekwaRwizi ensemble (Hakurotwi Mude, voice & mbira; Cosmas Magaya, mbira; Ephraim Mutemassango, hosho). Recorded in Highfields, Harare.

4. Kuyadya Hove Kune Mazove (4:25)

26-key matepe. Gibson Utsvoma, mbira; Jospeh Katvayire and Mrs. Fatsika, singers; Garage Nyamudya, hosho. Recorded in the Mkota district, Mtoko.  

Njari, a type of mbira.

5. Mbiriviri (5:54)

35-key njari. Simon Mashoko (Gwenambira), mbira & voice. Recorded at Glen Clova, Masvingo.

6. Nhimutimu (4:02)

24-key mbira dzavadzunu. John Kunaka (Maridzambira), mbira; Cosmos Magaya, hosho. Recorded at Nyamweda, Mondoro

7. Nyamaropa yeVana Vave Mushonga (5:00)

25-key mbira dzavadzunu. Muchatera Mujuro, mbira & voice. Recorded at Dambatstoko, Rusape.

8. Dangurangu (4:23)

23-key mbira dzavadzunu. Mubayiwa Bandambira, mbira. Recorded at Musondza Village, Mondoro.

9. Kumakudo (3:06)

17-key ndimba. Simon Mashoko (Gwenambira), mbira & voice. Recorded at Glen Cova, Masvingo.

Muchatera Mujuru (right) as spirit medium with his attendant, Wafawanaka Mu[fururi.