Commander Zero and Jack McKinney

Commander Zero has died and I’m thinking of Jack McKinney – what?

In the late 1970s Edén Pastora, also known as Commander Zero, was a leader of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. They were fighting to over-throw the US-backed dictator. I had never heard of Commander Zero until Jack McKinney, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News traveled to Central American and wrote a few columns from there. Jack’s columns were usually worth reading. When he was interested in something he usually got involved with it as much as possible. Also, during the 1970s he was interested in The Troubles, so he went to Northern Ireland for a while. Any way, I always remember Commander Zero and Jack McKinney together. It’s strange how the mind and memory work sometimes.


Edén Pastora – Wikipedia

Jack McKinney – Philadelphia Press Association

Edén Pastora, ‘Commander Zero’ in Nicaragua, Dies at 83 – New York Times obit

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Retail Report: Fine Wine & Good Spirits Shoppe Back Open

My local PLCB State Store in Conshohocken reopened and I visited it this week. The shelves were full. I got a bottle of gin and a pint of soju. There were a few items of note:

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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ well-done but familiar story

Bohemian Rhapsody has been out for a while now so you’ve probably heard how good it is. And it’s just about as good as everyone is saying. Rami Malek is simply great as Freddie Mercury, the lead singer for Queen. It’s hard to believe he’s the same actor who starred in Mr. Robot (a TV show also worth watching). The rest of the cast is good too (Aiden Gillen, Littlefinger from Game of Thrones, has a small role but does a good job with it).

The movie is over 2 hours long but it never feels like it’s dragging. The director and editor skillfully mix together several aspects of Freddie’s life to keep the story from getting boring. So we see him interacting with family, bandmates, record executives, friends, and lovers. Also this film is well shot, there are lots of interesting perspectives scattered throughout. The camera wasn’t just set-up in front of the actors.

My only (slight) problem with Bohemian Rhapsody is that it all seems so familiar. Band formed by a bunch of social outcasts who want to bring their unique sound to the masses; some powerful and influential people say that it’ll never happen; band persists and achieves stardom anyway; now there are fights amongst band members over all sorts of things – money, drugs, artistic direction of the music, girlfriends, touring, etc.; then the band breaks up or calls a hiatus for a while; band regroups for a triumphant return; end on a high note … yes, I just described Bohemian Rhapsody but this same storyline has been repeated over and over again by just about every rockumentary since MTV began in the early 1980s.

All of this is to say, if you haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody yet then you should definitely put it on your To Be Seen list.

Bonus Material on Disc

  • The complete Live Aid movie performance, not seen in theaters (DVD & Blu-ray)
  • Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie (Blu-ray only)
  • The Look and Sound of Queen (Blu-ray only)
  • Recreating Live Aid (Blu-ray only)

The Blu-ray special features are well worth watching. All together the extra material runs about an hour.


Rotten Tomatoes: the audience liked it much more than the critics.

IMDb: rated 8.1 / 10.

Amazon (my affiliate link): over 2,400 reviews, 83% are 5 stars.

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Quick Movie Review: ‘A Private War’ – Good, could have been better

A Private War is about Marie Colvin, an American journalist who was an award winning war correspondent for the Sunday Times of London. It is well acted, Rosamund Pike does an great job as Ms. Colvin. She even nails her voice. See if you can tell the difference between the two of them at the end of the movie as a clip of the real Marie Colvin is shown. The movie also does a good job of recreating the various conflict zones around the world. They seem real enough to me.

Marie Colvin wanted to personalize war, to show what it did to ordinary people. This is mentioned several times by Ms. Colvin’s character in the movie. However we rarely see her connecting with the local people. In only one seen that I can recall she refers to someone by name and hugs him (a local fixer in Iraq). Sure, we see her interviewing plenty of average people affected by the bombs and bullets but we don’t see or feel she has a real connection with them. Then we also don’t see how her reporting of their stories is received by the world at large. She just files her story by laptop and moves on to the next event in her life. Oh an editor says something like “this proves there were civilian casualties” every now and then. But we don’t really see or feel anything … Until the end …

… spoilers follow …

Then right at the end in Homs, Syria we see Marie Colvin report live on CNN. Previously we had never seen anything like this in the film. She always just filed her story via laptop. Now all of a sudden we feel how bad things really are. Then she’s killed. Just like that it’s over. If there were more of the feels along the way the movie would have been much better. The other ‘private war’ she battled was PTSD and Rosamund Pike does a very good job portraying that too.

DVD Bonus Material

There are a few featurettes included about making the movie, including an interview of Rosamund Pike by Tina Brown. Worth watching if you have the DVD but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them.


Marie Colvin’s Private War by Marie Brenner for Vanity Fair. This was used as the basis for the movie.

A Private War at Wikipedia.

The True Story Behind the Movie ‘A Private War’ at Time magazine.

The Official Trailer of ‘A Private War’ at YouTube.

Rotten Tomatoes’ A Private War page.

A Private War at Amazon (my affiliate link).

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Fish Sauce – um, um, umami …

Squid brand fish sauce from Thailand.

“Fish sauce, made from fermented anchovies and salt, is in fact a versatile seasoning for all manner of dishes. Like Worcestershire sauce, it adds a layer of indefinable savory flavor, a touch of fermented depth, and even—if you’re using a fish sauce made with fructose or hydrolyzed wheat protein—a thread of sweetness.”

from: Why you should use fish sauce for more than just stir-frys

That “indefinable savory flavor” is usually called “umami.”

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