22 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT JOHN F. KENNEDY

It is fifty years to the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, but his life – and death – continue to fascinate. He was certainly one of America’s most charismatic Presidents. But how much do you know about him?

1. He was a sickly child, often bed-ridden

He was hospitalized more than thirty times in his life. He had suffered from colitis since his late teens as well as a duodenal ulcer, Addison’s disease, frequent UTI’s, and hyperthyroidism. His medical records were largely kept hidden from the American public.

2. He flirted with death all his life

JFK, John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassinationHe almost died from scarlet fever when he was 3 and received the last rites no less than four times in his life.

The first occasion was on the ocean liner ‘Queen Mary’ in 1947 after becoming gravely ill in England; in 1951 while stricken with a high fever in Japan; and in 1954 after a urinary tract infection following spinal surgery.

The last time, of course, was on November 22 1963, in Dallas.

3. He was no coward

He could have avoided combat legitimately but chose not to. At the start of World War Two he tried to enlist but the Army disqualified him on medical grounds because of his intestinal and back problems. He used his father’s considerable connections to get accepted.

4. He was a genuine war hero.

When the PT-109 that he was commanding was sunk by a Japanese destroyer, he towed a badly burned crewman through the water with a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth. He later received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for extreme heroism.

5. He carved a rescue message on a coconut

JFK, John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassinationAfter the sinking he and his crew were stranded on an island. He carved a message onto the husk of a coconut shell and gave it to two natives to deliver to the PT base at Rendova so he and his men could be rescued.  He later had it encased in wood and plastic and used it as a paperweight in the Oval Office. It is now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

6. He was not supposed to go into politics

His older brother Joe Junior was supposed to carry the family’s standard into the political arena but he was killed while serving the USAF during World War Two.

7. He won a Pulitzer Prize.

It was awarded in 1957 for his second book “Profiles in Courage,” although there is considerable debate about how much was written by his aide Theodore Sorensen.

8. He was beyond rich.

In fact, Kennedy was the richest man ever to take the oath of office and gave his entire $100,000-a-year White House salary to charity.

9. He is still the only President to ever receive a Purple Heart.

10. He was the first President to dance with a black woman at an inaugural ball.

11. He also bugged the White House.

JFK, John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassinationNo, Nixon wasn’t the first to do it.

Kennedy installed a secret taping system in the Oval office before Nixon did.

It recorded many historical discussions between JFK and his staff, including conversations during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

12. He bought 1,200 high-grade Cuban cigars the day before he ordered a ban on Cuban imports.

13. He wanted to share the moon with the Russians.

In September 1963, alarmed at the cost of NASA’s space program, he proposed partnering the Soviet Union on a joint expedition to the moon.

14. He thought Vietnam was an unwinnable war.

He escalated the Vietnam conflict even though he thought America could not win. In April,1963 he said, supposedly off the record: “We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our butts out of there.” But he went ahead anyway, rather than risk electoral backlash.

15. He shared a mistress with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana.

JFK, John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassinationJudith Exner was sleeping with the Illinois godfather and the President of the United States at the same time.

Sleeping with Monroe upset his wife. Sleeping with Exner severely compromised his government.

16. He smoked marijuana with mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer in the White House.

17. His back condition was so severe he was forced to wear a back brace.

On November 22, it kept him erect after the first bullet went through his neck so that he was unable to fall forwards. This would have prevented a second and fatal bullet from hitting him in the head.

18. He was the target of four assassination attempts prior to Dallas.

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracy

moments before the shooting in Dallas

Just a month after he was elected President a retired postal worker named Richard Pavlick followed the president-elect from Hyannis Port to Palm Beach. His car was loaded with dynamite and he intended to ram the president’s vehicle and blow it up. He was foiled by a routine traffic stop.

Two more assassination plots were uncovered, one in Chicago on the 2nd November 1963 and another in Tampa four days before Dallas.

19. The first physician to see Kennedy at Parkland had delivered Lee Harvey Oswald’s baby one month before.

20. The police captain who led the interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald had been with the Dallas Police Department for so long he had been part of the team that hunted down Bonnie and Clyde.

21. Some of the men in his cortege had just been in a fight.

Jackie Kennedy asked the Scottish Black Watch pipers to march in front of his funeral cortege. Some had cuts and bruises from a bar brawl in Kentucky where they had defended Jack’s name and reputation on the night of the assassination.

22. Kennedy was the only U.S. president whose grandmother lived longer than he did.

Having read through the list perhaps you came to the same conclusion that I did; beyond the gloss lay a man full of contradictions.

He may have been a legend. He was also very human …

 

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracy

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COLIN FALCONER

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DO YOU KNOW WHO KILLED PRESIDENT KENNEDY?

Friday is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was the end of Camelot; the death of the last great US President.

Only it wasn’t like that.

It was nothing like Camelot and Jack had more enemies than any President of the 20th century.

A recent poll shows that 61% of Americans do not think that Oswald acted alone. Nor should they.

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracy

moments before the shooting in Dallas

There had already been two assassination attempts that November, one in Chicago on the second, (Kennedy cancelled his trip), and one on November 18 in Tampa. That one the Mob called off.

If you were a novelist, writing this scenario – and remember, novelists must rely on logic if they don’t want to infuriate the reader – then there is only one plausible explanation for the events of November 22.

It wasn’t about killing Jack. It was about stopping Bobby.

He was the most aggressive Attorney General the United States has ever had.

He was waging a relentless war against the Mafia. He was about to deport one of the big bosses – Carlos Marcello. He also had a Get Hoffa squad targeting union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa’s Teamster Union fund was the Mafia’s private bank.

If they were to survive, they had to act.

But you kill Bobby, you have the President of the United States come after you. You kill the President – and Bobby is the brother of a dead President. 

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracyBut how were the Mafia so well protected in the aftermath? Weren’t they a world away from the White House?

Not really. Not even hardly.

Kennedy shared a mistress with Sam Giancana, the Chicago mob boss, who was himself a close associate of men like John Roselli and Carlos Marcello.

Jack also owed Sam the Presidency – in the narrow election win over Nixon, ‘Momo’ got Kennedy over the line by delivering key votes in Chicago.

And what thanks did Sam get? Kennedy let Bobby off the leash.

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracyBut wouldn’t you need heavy influence inside Washington to kill a President?

They had plenty of influence, thanks to Jack and Bobby. The Kennedys wanted Castro dead and they had asked the CIA to do it. Mission impossible.

So the spooks asked the Mob for help, as they had done many times in the past.

After all, who had all the anti-Castro contacts in Cuba?

The Mob. They practically ran Cuba before Castro took over.

So by 1963 the Agency and Team Soprano were very cosy with each other indeed and they both had common cause; they both hated Jack for the Bay of Pigs.

But would the Mob kill a President? Well of course they would. Hollywood said it best:

‘If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.’ Michael Corleone, Godfather II.

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracyDid it work? Did it stop Bobby in his tracks and get him out of Washington ?

Look it up.

And someone got to Bobby in the end, too. Another lunatic, of course, another gunman acting alone. Bobby had just won the California primaries and looked to be heading to the White House.

You can imagine what they thought of that scenario in certain Italian restaurants.

Sirhan’s attorney happened to be Grant Cooper; one of his clients was … oh, John Roselli.

What a co-incidence.

Sirhan has since claimed he remembers nothing of what happened that night.

Eerily, his John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracyclaims bear an astounding similarity to the plot of a movie called The Manchurian Candidate. 

The star of the movie? Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was Kennedy’s go-to guy when the Kennedy’s wanted that little favor just before the 1960 election.

Because he was a very close friend of someone they needed.

Sam Giancana.

Really, if you were a novelist you couldn’t make it up. And why would you? Someone thought it all out for you fifty years ago.

It’s all fiction, of course. Nothing like that could ever really happen. Not in the Free World. Not in the United States.

 

John F Kennedy, Dallas, assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, conspiracy

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ARE YOU MAKING THESE SIMPLE GRAMMATICAL ERRORS? A QUIZ TO FIND OUT.

The Grammar Gestapo are out there!

If you slip up they’ll be onto you faster than a bull shark on a whale carcass.

Even as I write this, I keep asking myself … should I have put an ellipsis there? And is it ellipsis or ellipses?

You may have had the same thoughts.

Are you making simple grammatical errors when you write? Here’s a quick quiz to help you find out and keep you out of the clutches of the Grammar Gestapo.

1. What is a gerund?

(a) a non finite verb that can function as a noun

(b) an adverbial participle

(c) A sort of hamster

(d) A what?

2. What is a modal verb?

(a) a verb that doesn’t eat very much and poses on the front of sports cars

(b) a verb that always does what it’s told to do

(c) special verbs which behave very differently from normal verbs and cannot be used in the past or future tense

(d) A what?

 3. Which of the following is in the future perfect continuous tense?

(a) You will have been waiting for more than two hours when her plane finally arrives

(b) Yes, and I would like to have been able to get someone to feed my gerund while I’m gone

(c) To hell with it, let’s go and get rat-legged in the bar

(d) Future perfect what?

 4. When should you use a semi colon?

(a) in place of a period to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out.

(b) between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.

(c) only when writing non-fiction

(d) when you can’t think of what to write next

 5. Should a period go inside parentheses?

(a) No, it always go inside

(b) No, it always goes outside

(c) only if the entire sentence is inside parentheses

(d) only if there’s a gerund with a semi colon in front of it

 6. Which sentence is correct?

(a) There gerund has escaped

(b) Their frantic with worry

(c) We’re going in they’re car to look for it

(d) There was fur in the cat box so they’re going to have their cat X-rayed

 7. What is an apostrophe?

(a) a kind of disaster

(b) like a bishop, only in the Greek Orthodox church

(c) something you use to form plural’s

(d) a punctuation mark used to indicate possession or the omission of words and numbers

 8. Which is correct?

(a) Sorry, weir closed, we have to go to the airport to pick up the wife’s sister

(b) Sorry we’re closed, our gerund escaped while we were gone

(c) Sorry were closed, we have to bury it and the kids are upset

(d) Sorry where closed, we have to go and buy another one

 9.  What is wrong with the following sentences?

(a) But I have promises to keep

(b) And did those feet in ancient times?

(c) Because the world is round it turns me on

(d) And God said, let there be light

 10. What’s a split infinitive?

(a) A semi colon between an apostrophe and a subjunctive mood

(b) When a past conditional perfect tense is put in parentheses

(c) When you put an adverb between the to and the verb root

(d) I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to go and feed my new gerund

 ANSWERS

1. (a) It’s a non finite verb that can function as a noun. Eg John enjoys swimming.

2. (c) A modal verb is an auxiliary verb that expresses necessity or possibility and cannot be used in the future or past tense. Eg must, shall, will, should. You don’t say ‘musted’ or ‘will must’. Well you can, but if you do you’re probably a member of Congress.

3. (a) It’s something that will have been happening once it’s happened. Clear? You form the tense by using the subject with three auxiliary verbs plus a main verb. It’s easy if you don’t have to think about it, but it’s much harder if you’re a Lithuanian waiting at an American airport trying to explain to an English-speaking friend that your gerund is at home and hasn’t been fed.

4. A semi colon connects two independent clauses. (b) is also correct. In layman’s terms a semi colon is like a super comma. If a comma is a short breath, a semi colon is a dramatic pause. Some people don’t like semi colons; they think they are unnecessary.

5. (c) There is a strict rule for this one (if you like rules). The period only goes inside if it’s a complete sentence. (Like this one, for example.)

6. (d) They’re, their and there sound the same and so are called homonyms, (which is why the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t like using them). Their is the possessive form of they; there indicates a place or location; they’re is a contraction of ‘they are’.

7. (d) If you answered (c) you’re thinking of the word Stavrophore. Not even close. Take off one point.

8. (b) More homonyms. More trouble with those Westboro boys. Were is the past tense of are. We’re is a contraction of we are. Where refers to location.

9. All four sentences display bad grammar as they begin with a conjunction. If we were to be grammatically correct we would have to tear up the best work of William Blake, Robert Frost, Lennon and McCartney and the Book of Genesis.

10. It’s when you put an adverb between ‘to’ and the verb root, the most famous example of which is: ‘To boldly go where no man has gone before.’    Remember: to split an infinitive you have to be traveling at least at warp speed factor three.

YOUR RESULTS:

More than 8. You’re a grammar nerd. You’ll never be William Blake or write classic songs.

Between 5 and 7. You should have spent more time with homework instead of feeding your gerund.

4 or less: Were where you when you’re teacher was showing you the rule’s?

Professionally edited to eliminate grammatical errors:

 

Naked, Havana, romantic suspense

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THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT THE SHOCKING TRUTH

16 THINGS A WAR CORRESPONDENT WILL TELL YOU

War correspondents have existed as long as war, and that is a very, very long time.

charge of the light brigade, war, war correspondents

The Valley of Death complete with cannonballs, Crimea 1855

Before modern war journalism, accounts were written at the end of a conflict, such as Thucydides account of the Peloponnesian Wars.

Dutch painter Willem van de Velde is credited with being the first modern war correspondent; in 1653 he used a small boat to row out from land and watch a naval battle between the Dutch and the English at close hand.

When newspapers became established, one Henry Crabb Robinson covered Napoleon’s European campaigns for the London Times.

One of history’s most famous photographers, Robert Capa, once said:

“I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of my life.”

war, war photographers, Max Hastings

Robert Capa by Gerda Taro

In fact he barely got a moment’s rest. In the thirties and forties he covered the Spanish Civil War, the second Sino-Japanese war, World War Two, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and then the first Indochina war – in which he was killed.

Modern war correspondents aim to bring graphic images and reports of wars from around the globe right into our living rooms to show us what it’s really like.

And the last I heard there were no rumors of peace. The modern war correspondent’s job still appears recession proof.

What is their shocking truth about the shocking truth?

1.‘I have made arrangements for the correspondents to take the field .. . and I have suggested to them that they should wear a white uniform to indicate the purity of their character.’

–        attributed to Union General Irvin McDowell during the American Civil War.

american civil war, war, max hastings

aftermath of Antietam

 2.     ‘By showing war in its stinking reality, we have taken away the glory and shown that negotiation is the only way to solve international problems.’

–        Howard Smith, ABC news presenter

3.     ‘Take the glamor out of war? I mean, how the bloody hell can you do that? … Can you take the glamor out of a Cobra, or getting stoned at China Beach? … War is good for you, you can’t take the glamor out of that. It’s like trying to take the glamor out of sex, trying to take the glamor out of the Rolling Stones!’

–        Tim Page, combat photographer, Vietnam War, in his autobiography Page by Page

4.     ‘If you have not seen a battle, your education has been somewhat neglected. For after all, war has been one of the primary functions of mankind, and unless you see men fight you miss something fundamental.’

–        Herbert Matthews

5.     ‘I just figured what with guns going off and things blowing up, there’d be plenty of deep truths and penetrating insights.’

–        P.J. O’Rourke, Holidays in Hell

6.     ‘When one’s nation is at war, reporting becomes an extension of the war effort.’

–        Max Hastings

7.     ‘I wouldn’t tell the people anything until the war was over – and then I’d tell them who won.’

–        military censor at a meeting in Washington

Kokoda, war, Max Hastings

8.     ‘You see these things, these terrible things. But in an odd way they’re good stories.’

        Charles Mohr

9.     ‘War is the ambulance chaser’s wet dream … the visions of misery and suffering can also provide a convenient reference point for putting aside one’s own damaged emotions.’

–        Paul Harris. ‘Someone Else’s War.’

10.  ‘Perhaps everyone who reports on war is in part sating their own dark curiosities. I know I will return soon.’

–        Askold Krushelnycky, war correspondent

11.  ‘Most wars literally, not merely photographically, go through people’s living rooms.’

–        Charles Mohr, war correspondent

12.  ‘Nothing makes an easier lead sentence than a stray mortar round hitting a starving baby in a typhus hospital.’

–        P. J. O’Rourke, Holidays in Hell

Leningrad, Max Hastings, war

Leningrad 1941

13.  ‘Working as a war correspondent is almost the only classic male endeavor left that provides physical danger and personal risk without public disapproval and the awful truth is that for correspondents war is not hell. It is fun.’

–        Nora Ephron

14.  ‘It is not the bullet with my name on that worries me. It’s the one that says: “To whom it may concern.’”

–        resident of Belfast

15. ‘The brave ones shot bullets; the crazy ones shot film.’

–        quote from ‘Joseph Longo, founder of the International Combat Camera Association’

16. ‘Despite all the videos you see from the Ministry of Defence or the Pentagon, and all the sanitized language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children. Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice. We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story.’

– Marie Colvin. Killed in Homs Syria February 2012 while reporting on the Syrian conflict.

war photography, combat photographer, Max HastingsFrom Vietnam to El Salvador, Sean Ryan and Hugh Webb share beers, lovers and slit trenches and photograph the worst that human beings can do to each other.

They think themselves above it. But are they?

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Holy Week, Easter, Spain

COLIN FALCONER

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22 KINDA FUNNY, KINDA PAINFUL WRITING TIPS

Before we set out as writers we imagine a life marlin fishing off our boat in Havana, or knocking out a leisurely sentence or two while swapping bon mots with French existentialists or just appearing on Oprah week after week so we can be reminded of how brilliant we are.

Reality, when it hits, is sobering.

But others have been there before us.

Here are 22 kinda funny, kinda painful reminders of what the writing life is really like.

Just remember: you are not alone.

  1. A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.  ~G.K. Chesterton

 2.  He that uses many words for explaining any subject doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.  ~John Ray

3.   Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.  ~Samuel Johnson.

Stephen King, writing, TS Eliot

4.   Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.  ~Edna Ferber.

5.    Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.  ~Jules Renard. 

6.    The artist’s only responsibility is his art.  He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one…. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate:  The “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.  ~William Faulkner. 

7.   An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. ~Gustave Flaubert

Stephen King, writing, Oprah

8.   It’s not plagiarism – I’m recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do.  ~Uniek Swain

9.   It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.  ~Sinclair Lewis

10.  The land of literature is a fairy land to those who view it at a distance, but, like all other landscapes, the charm fades on a nearer approach, and the thorns and briars become visible.  ~Washington Irving

 11. The road to hell is paved with adverbs.  ~Stephen King

Stephen King, writing, Oprah

Author: Pinguino

 12.   Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.  ~T.S. Eliot

13.    An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names.  I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.  ~Mignon McLaughlin. 

 14.  Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.  ~Sholem Asch

 15.   A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one. ~Baltasar Gracián.

16.  When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man. ~Blaise Pascal

Stephen King, writing, Oprah

17.   It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.  ~Ann Beattie. 

18.   A writer and nothing else:  a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right.  ~John K. Hutchens. 

19.  A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote.  ~Mignon McLaughlin.

20.   Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

Stephen King, writing, Oprah

21.    A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

And my personal favourite, because it works:

22.   No man should ever publish a book until he has first read it to a woman.  ~Van Wyck Brooks

Here is my form of schizophrenia. I’ve had it adverb proofed:

 

 

 

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13 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT CHE GUEVARA

We’ve all seen his face so many times, it’s almost as if we knew him personally.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe iconic image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is one of the world’s most objectified images, found on an endless array of t-shirts, posters, tattoos, and even bikinis.

He is a superhero of the consumer culture he despised and a universal symbol of rebellion.

According to leftist mythology he was a brave, noble soldier who loved freedom and sacrificed his life for the socialist cause and he yet remains a national hero in Cuba, where his face is on the 3 peso coin and school children begin each morning pledging: ‘We will be like Che.’

Universally he is both loved and reviled.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen I pre-released the cover of my latest novel, NAKED IN HAVANA, with the tagline ‘Sex, Lies and Che Guevara’ someone commented that they wouldn’t buy anything that had Che in it.  Extreme? Decide for yourself.

Here are some things you perhaps didn’t know.

1. HE WAS ALSO KNOWN AS THE BUTCHER OF LA CABAÑA

The La Cabaña Fortress is a popular tourist destination dominating Havana Bay. It was once the final destination for many of Castro’s enemies and it was here that Che ordered the executions of hundreds of Batista loyalists, a job for which he was uniquely suited:

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. 
These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a 
revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine 
motivated by pure hate.”

In his defence, Batista loyalists weren’t renowned for being warm and fuzzy either.

2. HE WAS NOT A BIG SUPPORTER OF LGBT

Che oversaw the establishment of Cuba’s first gulag at Guanahacabibes. The forced labor camp was used to detain homosexuals and devout Catholics as well as dissidents.

3. IN SOME PARTS OF BOLIVIA HE IS WORSHIPED AS A SAINT

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaOn October 8, 1967, U.S.-trained Bolivian rangers captured Che in a ravine near the Bolivian town of La Higuera.

The next day he was summarily executed in a local schoolhouse and his body was moved to nearby Vallegrande and put on show for the press inside a laundry room. That room has now become a pilgrimage site and is featured along the tourist ‘Che Guevara Trail.’

Locals in the town now pray to “Saint Ernesto,” although his sainthood is unofficial. As he was a sworn Marxist don’t expect any move for canonization from the Vatican anytime soon.

4.  A LOCK OF HIS HAIR FETCHED SIX FIGURES AT AUCTION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHis body and belongings were treated with little respect by his killers.

His famous pipe was taken by the man who shot him and the CIA agent who interrogated him, Felix Rodriguez, took the tobacco.

His not-very-Marxist Rolex also disappeared.

Another agent, Gustavo Villoldo, snipped a lock of hair and auctioned it 40 years later – for $100,000.

5. YOU MAY STILL BE ABLE TO SHAKE HANDS WITH HIM

The Bolivian army never revealed what happened to Guevara’s body but his hands were amputated and preserved in formaldehyde. They were then sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification so that Castro could never claim they shot the wrong man.

What happened to them after that? No one is able to point the finger to where they are now.

6. HIS KILLERS WERE CURSED

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe order to kill Che came from Bolivian President René Barrientos and was carried out by Captain Gary Prado, from an army division under the command of General Joaquin Zentano.

2 years later Barrientos died in a helicopter crash; Zentano was assassinated in Paris in 1975. In 1991 a gun accident left Prado a paraplegic.

Does that mean they were cursed? It could just be the law of averages. Bolivian presidents and colonels don’t often die in their beds.

7. ‘THAT’ PICTURE EARNED THE PHOTOGRAPHER NO ROYALTIES

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen he was captured, Che Guevara reportedly shouted: “Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more alive than dead!”  

A gazillion t-shirt sales say you were wrong there, Che.

Photographer Alberto Korda took THAT famous photograph at a memorial service for te victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana on March 5, 1960.

Copies were later acquired by a wealthy Italian businessman, Giangiacomo Fetrinelli. After Che died his image acquired a life of its own.

A lifelong communist, Korda did not claim moral rights until 2000 when Smirnoff used the image in a vodka commercial. He was awarded $50,000, which he donated to the Cuban healthcare system.

8.  CHE’S REAL NAME WAS ERNESTO LYNCH.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaChe was actually Ernie. His family was half Irish and he was descended from one Paddy Lynch from Galway, on his mother’s side.

He was born in Rosario in Argentina to wealthy parents and never became a Cuban citizen, despite his intense involvement in that country’s destiny.

9. HIS NICKNAME WAS PIG.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe got the nickname (“Chancho”) as a youth because of his poor hygiene.

He may look good on a t-shirt but apparently he didn’t change his own more than once a week.

People stopped calling him Chancho when he acquired powers of summary execution.

10. HE WAS A GEEK

As a youth he played in chess tournaments and liked to recite poetry. His favorite subjects were mathematics and engineering.

11. HE HAD FIVE MINI CHE’S

Hilda_Gadea_y_Che_Guevara_-_Luna_de_miel_-_Yucatán_1955He had a daughter with his first wife, Hilda Gadea, born in Mexico City on February 15, 1956.

He also had four children with his second wife, the revolutionary Aleida March – Aleida, Camilo, Celia, and Ernesto.

12. HE WAS A KEEN ANGLER.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe and Fidel Castro competed with a certain well known writer in what was known as The Hemingway Fishing Contest.

The Angry Young Man and the Sea.

13. HE TRIED TO BLOW UP GRAND CENTRAL STATION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaLast year a right wing author named Humberto Fontova claimed to have uncovered evidence that Guevara was involved in a November 1962 plot to use 1,200 pounds of TNT to blow up Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdale’s, and Grand Central Station the day after Thanksgiving.

As this is the busiest shopping day of the year the resulting carnage may have eclipsed 9/11.

As John Lennon would have said: You say you want a revolution?

 


Naked, Havana, romantic suspense

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COLIN FALCONER

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THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWO MINUTES

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HOW TO STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, PREVENT CHILD ABUSE AND CHANGE THE WORLD

The best way to change the world is one person at a time.

So – are you ready?

If you’re a woman, then you’re probably already engaged in some way in what I have here. But if you’re a guy like me, this might make you think.

And then start to change the world.

Let me tell you a story.

My oldest daughter manages four old and established pubs in the heart of London. A lot of staff, a lot of responsibility. She worked her way up in five years from a part time barmaid to a director of the company.

Why?

Because she’s very smart.

Recently she got a call from a salesman representing  an electronic cigarette company. He wanted to put a vending machine in her pub.

She said no.

He said: Can I speak to the manager?

She said: I am the manager.

He said: No the real manager.

It turned out that he did not think a woman capable of holding down a senior management position.

NOW THIS PISSES ME OFF.

Not for my daughter’s sake; she is more than capable of handling herself in any situation.

But as a father of two highly intelligent, strong and independent young women, it brings on the red mist.

But we all know guys like this right? From the locker room, from the office, even if they don’t count among our close friends. 

But what can you do?

Then we go home and watch the evening news, and we see the battered wives; we listen to congressmen assert that women can’t get pregnant from rape; we sit through endless stories about priests and football coaches who abuse their young charges.

But what can you do?

Well there is something we can do. I watched this video and decided I do not do nearly enough.

This guy is electric. You can hear the passion in his voice.

His presentation is about twenty minutes. If you can’t spare that, start from the 9.30 and watch the last nine minutes.

(After seeing it, you’ll go back and watch it all anyway. Twice.)

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Holy Week, Easter, SpainCOLIN FALCONER

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WHAT LOVE CAN TEACH US ABOUT HATE

There’s a song originally recorded by The Persuaders in 1971 and covered many times since, most famously by Annie Lennox.

It’s called: ‘There’s a thin line between love and hate.’

Braveheart, Edward II, IsabellaIt kept going round in my head when I first read the story of Edward and Isabella.

Isabella was the queen of Edward II of England. Their marriage had been arranged when she was just three years old to try and cement the truce between France and England over disputed territories in Gascony.

Edward was a fine strapping fellow, by all accounts.

She was only twelve years old when she married him but was destined to grow into a beautiful young woman.

They were the glamor couple of the early fourteenth century, a Brangelina in the making.

Edabella.

435px-Leighton-God_Speed!But two things stood in the way of their happiness and future success; Edward didn’t particularly want to be king of England and wasn’t really suited to the job – and he had fallen in love at first sight.

Just not with her.

The love of Edward’s life was a former squire named Piers Gaveston.

Gaveston was murdered by some of Edward’s disaffected barons when she was seventeen and just growing into womanhood, so it may be that she thought that afterwards their marriage had a chance.

And it seemed that way for a short while.

photograph: Chris McKenna

photograph: Chris McKenna

Edward performed his conjugal duties by England if not by her; they had four children over the course of the next decade.

But it seems she never really won his love. She was replaced in his trust, if not his bed, by another of his court favorites, Hugh Despenser, and after the birth of her last child she became an increasingly lonely figure.

He sent away her French retainers, separated her from her children and spent little time with her.

But finally, with the aid of her lover, Mortimer, she deposed him and he died at the hands of his captors in Berkeley Castle.

Did she know about the planned murder beforehand?

Braveheart, Edward II, Isabella

Edward_II’s_cell at Berkely Castle
photograph: David Stowell

That we cannot know.

Did she come to hate him that much?

It is an intriguing question.

More intriguingly – did she love him in the first place?

Isabella was an enigma.

After Edward’s funeral at Gloucester Cathedral, she was given his heart in a silver casket.

She had never had it in life; she owned his heart in death.

When she herself died in 1358 she was buried, at her own insistence, in her wedding dress, holding the casket to her breast.

How do we interpret such gestures?

Did she wish him dead for spurning her, and when it was done did it trouble her conscience for the rest of her life?

Or was she, as history has painted her, a she-wolf, cold as the alabaster of her tomb, and everything done all for show.

It’s a thin line between love and hate. The heart in the casket. The wedding dress.

What did it mean?

If it was all done for love, it would make their story one of the most poignant in English history.

 If it was hate, it was the perfect revenge.

But we can never know, we can only guess.

And historical novelists love to guess …

Braveheart, Edward II, Isabella

ISABELLA, Braveheart of France.

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Holy Week, Easter, Spain

COLIN FALCONER

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How to find a needle in a haystack after 25 years.

This is the story of Saroo Brierley, now a countryman of mine.

His account of how he found his family again – after 25 years – is literally, incredible; by the time this particular three minutes is up, you’ll have a lump in your throat.

To read more about him, here’s his Wiki page. The producers of Slumdog Millionaire are talking about making a film of his story.

Let’s hope they do.

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COLIN FALCONER

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