Category Archives: Religion

Ten Creepy! Scary! Shocking! LOL! Horror Film Moments: “The Omen” (II)

The second installment in my “cinematic moments” series, “Ten Creepy! Scary! Shocking! LOL! Horror Film Moments” is from the original (and best) 1976 version of “The Omen,” which, like “The Exorcist” before it, featured a stellar cast and fine screenplay. And, also, like “The Exorcist,” it features many creepy, shocking scenes. I’m posting one of those today, though it was really hard to pick just one. It’s when American diplomat Robert Thorn (played by Gregory Peck) returns home to check his son Damien’s scalp for the mark of the Antichrist in the form of a 666 birthmark. The tension leading up to his discovery and what happens when the housekeeper, Mrs. Blaylock (played by Billie Whitelaw), attacks him, is palpable, to say the least.

“The Omen” — Be careful what you look for!

Ten Creepy! Scary! Shocking! LOL! Horror Film Moments: “The Exorcist” (I)

It’s the first of October! And on the last day of this month, it’s Halloween! As a follow-up to my June 2021 “cinematic moments” series, “Ten Iconic Hollywood Film Scenes“, I’m beginning today a new installment that I call: “Ten Creepy! Scary! Shocking! LOL! Horror Film Moments.”

I’ll post these throughout the month, ending on Halloween, of course.

Ah! What exactly is a horror film? Well, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

A horror film is one that seeks to elicit fear or disgust in its audience for entertainment purposes. Horror films additionally aim to evoke viewers’ nightmaresrevulsions and terror of the unknown or the macabre. Initially inspired by literature from authors such as Edgar Allan PoeBram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. Horror may also overlap with the fantasysupernatural fiction, and thriller genres.


Not a bad working description. All I can say is that I’ve been fascinated by the genre since childhood, and growing up, there was nothing like being in a crowded movie theater with a bunch of people screaming in shock or breaking out in nervous laughter after a particularly disturbing scene had wreaked havoc on screen! I consumed all the “monster magazines” I could lay my hands on and regularly watched everything from Zackerly to Chiller Theatre [YouTube links] on WPIX (Channel 11) in New York City.

But nothing on WPIX could have prepared me for what I saw in 1973 at the age of 13 when “The Exorcist” premiered. Today, some folks might laugh at this particular scene, the first in our series of ten creepy, scary, shocking film moments, but nobody was laughing in the theater that day when I saw this unfold on the screen. It scared the bejesus out of me (no pun intended). Even looking back, I can say that few horror films capture the terror of this movie, which, in its psychological and visual exploration of the battle between good and evil, the sacred and the profane, still packs a powerful punch.

WTC Remembrance: Twenty Years Later

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Since 2001, I have been writing annual installments to a series that came to be known as “Remembering the World Trade Center.”

My 2021 installment encapsulates all of the previous entries in the series, revisiting my own personal reflections, pictorials, and interviews of people who were deeply affected by the events of that day. Folks can read the newest essay here:

Twenty Years Later: Remembrance and Rebirth

As I state in the conclusion of my essay:

I have always touted the importance of a dialectical method of understanding the world—a method that requires us to look at each issue, social problem, or event by situating it in the larger context of which it is a part.


In this series, however, I made a conscious decision not to focus on the “big picture” in which the events of 9/11 took place or their historical background. I have not examined the wider political, social, and cultural context that made 9/11—and its aftermath—possible. I have done that elsewhere. I was less interested in those larger questions and more interested in understanding the personal tragedies of that day, because all too often, it is the personal that gets lost when one looks at the sheer scope of the catastrophe that was 9/11, with its monstrous loss of human life. Over these last two decades, I was persuaded that something unique was to be gained by piecing together a tapestry of tragedy—and of hope—not only through my own reflections and pictorials, but through the voices of individual human beings, each of whom had their own contexts, their own lives, their own futures altered so fundamentally by the events that unfolded on that late summer morning.


I have long believed that a future of more humane possibilities can only emerge when one does not disown memories, no matter how painful, sad, or tragic these might be. In the context of September 11, 2001, remembrance and rebirth entail one another. Remembrance has its therapeutic value, but it is also cathartic insofar as it makes possible our own ability to rise above the tragedy. Rebirth is itself an act of catharsis, of cleansing, almost by definition. It is my hope that this series of twenty-one installments has contributed to that project of remembrance and rebirth. It has been a tribute to those we have lost, and a paean—a song of praise, indeed—to those who survived, who demonstrated the life-affirming power of a community of individuals coming together to aid one another in the face of unimaginable horror. It is the power of life over death. It is the power of love over hate.

Though each of the previous installments is noted in the current piece, I provide below a convenient index to the entire series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

2019: Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories

2020: Firefighter Gerard Gorman: Ultimate Survivor

2021: Twenty Years Later: Remembrance and Rebirth

Never forget. ❤


The Twin Towers, from the Staten Island Ferry, May 12, 2001
Photograph by Chris Matthew Sciabarra

“Kill the Mothers, That’ll Stop Them!”

This week, the United States Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law (Senate Bill 8) that went into effect on 1 September 2021, which effectively criminalized any abortions that take place six weeks into a pregnancy. But the bill goes a lot further. As Newsweek reported: “The law does not contain criminal penalties for illegal abortions but it empowers private individuals to enforce the regulations through lawsuits against doctors and anyone who ‘aids or abets’ in procuring a ‘criminal abortion.'”

This law allows any private individual in Texas to sue those who “aid or abet” the “murder” of the unborn, rewarding successful litigants “at least $10,000 in statutory damages for each illegal abortion aided by the defendant. … One potential target of lawsuits could be the person who gives a woman a ride to an abortion clinic. … ‘It even means you can sue an Uber driver who drives someone to an abortion clinic’.” That’s one way to get the state’s tentacles deeper into our lives: deputize the citizenry to carry out the moral law!

It occurs to me, however, that if folks in Texas really believe that the abortion of a fetus is akin to murder, why aren’t they taking care of this the ol’ fashioned Texas way? I mean, Texas has long led the United States in executions (since 1976, the state has executed well over 550 people). Granted, the rate of execution has slowed the last couple of years, but the state still far outstrips any other state in the country. So go ahead and criminalize the whole process!

It reminded me of a classic exchange of dialogue from the hilarious 1996 comedy, “The Birdcage“, between “Mother” Goldman (played by Nathan Lane) and conservative Senator Keeley (played by Gene Hackman):

Senator Keeley: Of course, it’s very wrong to kill an abortion doctor. Many pro-lifers feel … I don’t agree with them, but many of them sincerely feel that if you stop the doctors, you’ll stop the abortions.

Mother Goldman: Well, that’s ridiculous. The doctors are only doing their jobs. If you’re going to kill someone, kill the mothers, that’ll stop them! Oh, I know what you’re going to say: If you kill the mother, the fetus dies too. But the fetus is going to be aborted anyway, so why not let it go down with the ship?

Seems to me that the legislators in Texas ought to go all in on this and stop these half-hearted measures. Take a leaf out of Mother Goldman’s playbook and get this done!

How NOT to Read an Article

It was really late last night, after a long, eventful day, and I decided to open up Friday’s copy of the New York Daily News (Friday the 13th, no less!), and was thumbing through the newspaper, and the Sicilian in me caught the headline on page 18: “119.8 degrees in Sicily is eyed as European record” (by Nelson Oliveira). Wow! — I said to myself.

I gravitated to the center of the article, where something odd caught my eye:

Lucifer was expected to bring more heat and dry weather to Italy and neighboring countries, possibly causing additional wildfires.

WTF?? The West coast is burning, Greece is on fire, and now Lucifer is in on the act “causing additional wildfires” in Italy and elsewhere.

This couldn’t be, I said to myself. “Must be a misprint,” I muttered aloud. Now I’m looking back through the article to see how it is that somehow, on top of pandemics and global unrest, Lucifer has made an appearance to make matters even worse! And I found the answer!

Sicilian authorities said the mind-boggling [temperature] reading was recorded in the town of Siracusa on Wednesday afternoon as the region was hit by a brutal heat wave and an anticyclone dubbed “Lucifer.”

Okay. So at the very least, could we put “Lucifer” in quotes next time!

Homonograph Reviewed @ C4SS

Eric Fleischmann—who is not just a student of my work and a very dear friend, but a very fine young scholar in his own right—offers a critical and provocative review of my monograph Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation on the site of Center for a Stateless Society, which, not coincidentally, is offering the “Homonograph” for sale at its C4SS Store here.

Eric interviewed me for the piece, which places the monograph in its proper context—a nearly two-decade old discussion of the relationship between Objectivism and those in the LGBTQ+ community who were drawn, “like moths to a flame,” to Rand’s uplifting celebration of individual freedom and authenticity “only to be burned in the process.”

Despite some many on-point criticisms of the work, of Rand and her acolytes, and of reactionary elements within the libertarian movement, Eric argues that the “monograph serves as one of the centerpieces in the establishment of thick libertarian ideas. It especially forwards the point that it is not enough that people refrain from trying to use the state against the LGBTQIA+ community. We must go further and combat a culture that breeds both physical and nonphysical violence.”

Check out the review here and other reviews of the work here. And thanks, Eric, for your challenging and wide-ranging examination of the monograph!

The “Homonograph” (Leap Publishing, 2003)

The Mandalorian Finale!

After having finished season 1 of “The Mandalorian” just four days ago, I knocked out season 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it!

I won’t say anything to those who have yet to see it, but the finale was so rousing that the moment the “first” of the last scenes was over I expected that triumphant John Williams music to engulf me! But I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell folks not to fast forward through the credits because there is one extra scene that is quite obviously a set-up of things to come!

Finally, no matter how much George Lucas‘s Industrial Light and Magic has forever altered our cinematic experiences, the one thing that this particular show never sacrifices is the wonder of storytelling. You don’t have to be a hardcore Star Wars “nerd” to appreciate the mythology of these stories and the universal thematic content they express. Two Thumbs Up!

Ten Iconic Hollywood Film Scenes (II)

Following up on yesterday’s “challenge”, today I post the second in a series of ten iconic Hollywood film scenes among my all-time favorites. Little surprise here … from my all-time favorite film, director William Wyler’s 1959 version of “Ben-Hur”: The Chariot Race (though this segment was actually directed by Andrew Marton and stunt legend Yakima Canutt). There’s only a highlight of this action-packed cinematic gem on YouTube. NO CGI here! Nothing like seeing it, however, in all its widescreen glory in a theater equipped to handle it! But this will do:

Ten Iconic Hollywood Film Scenes (I)

As part of a new “summer” challenge (even though the Solstice doesn’t arrive until June 20th), I will post one image and/or film sequence per day for the next ten days, of ten iconic Hollywood film scenes. There are plenty more than that, but these ten are among my all-time favorites. And, no, I’m not going to tag anyone… but folks are free to add their own to the mix. I’m not wavering though. My ten have been picked and their fate is sealed! 🙂

First up, the scene that gave birth to what I would call a “Red Sea Moment” in reference to an epic-scale special effect—the parting of the waters in Cecil B. DeMille‘s classic 1956 rendering of “The Ten Commandments“:

“The Greatest Enemies of Peace are Those who Extol War as Noble and Heroic …”

An earlier version of this revised essay first appeared on the Liberty and Power Group Blog (Memorial Day Weekend 2004). It also appears here. This 2021 Memorial Day Weekend mirrors that 2004 calendar.

As people honor the memories of those who died in wars past and present on this Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about a man who, not unlike others of his generation, served in World War II. His name was Salvatore “Sam” Sclafani, first cousin to my Dad, married to my mother’s sister, and forever etched in the minds of our family as “Uncle Sam.” Born in 1915, Uncle Sam left us in 1994, having succumbed to prostate cancer. But it was this man who was my earliest inspiration in all matters political; he nourished in me a love of history and politics, and was the guy to whom I dedicated Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.

My Uncle Sam was, without doubt, one of the funniest and most benevolent souls to ever grace this planet. And when you got him to talk about politics, it was like a veritable ride aboard the Coney Island Cyclone, that landmark splintery wooden rollercoaster. He was the most opinionated and outspoken critic of politicians, left, right and center, whom I’ve ever had the privilege to know and love.

Back in 1976, I interviewed Uncle Sam for a special project I’d done on the veterans of World War II. His comments are as precious today, as they were back then.

He remembered that “day of infamy” in December 1941. His mother labored by the stove, preparing the traditional Sunday home-cooked Italian meal. In the background, the radio played the sounds of a Swing band … and then, a news flash came that the Japanese had attacked the US military base in Hawaii.

My Uncle had been classified in the army for the draft, but after years of working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he decided to enlist in the navy instead. Several days after his enlistment, he was shipped out to the Great Lakes Military Installation in Waukegan, Illinois, outside Chicago. Like a tale out of a storybook, he married his girlfriend, my Aunt Georgia, the day before he left.

From his hair-scalping at the installation to the strenuous marching, walking, running, rifle and rope exercises, boot-training was a test of his endurance. Even learning to sleep in a hammock—or as Uncle Sam reminisced, “trying to get into them, and involuntarily getting out of them”—was a chore. From Illinois, he was sent to Norfolk, Virginia for further training. He eventually became a part of the Seabees (the United States Naval Construction Battalions), a relatively new branch of the navy that was similar to the army corps of engineers. In learning the arts of naval engineering, these Seabees were taught everything “from building bridges and laying down airfields in record time, to advanced techniques of camouflage.”

From Norfolk, Uncle Sam went on to Pleasantville, California, and then on to the Bremerton Navy Yard in Puget Sound, Washington state, where he participated in the salvage work on the USS Nevada, damaged in the Pearl Harbor raid. As they awaited orders on their next assignment, Uncle Sam’s group was split into two: Group 1 was headed south—to Guadalcanal. By the mere accident of being part of Group 2, Uncle Sam ended up in the North Pacific. “We then realized,” he recalled: “This is it. This isn’t playing anymore. We’re not training. From here on, everything is real.”

Morale was remarkably good on the trip. But there was a common expression on everyone’s face, he told me: an expression of suppressed horror, worry, and uncertainty. There was that constant alert for possible enemy aerial or submarine bombardment. While he remained remarkably calm, many of his newfound pals were desperately ill. “My comrades wished they had died. Men were throwing-up against bulkheads and walls and fainting on decks. They lost their appetites from terrible fear and severe seasickness.”

Ten days after rough riding, the ship neared its destination. A heavy fog descended. And when the land mass came into focus, it looked like the cold, barren surface of a distant planet: no trees, no vegetation, immense mountains of stone and volcanic rock. Uncle Sam wasn’t a few minutes on land before an alert signaled an imminent Japanese air attack. An earlier attack that day had destroyed the boats that lay docked around a makeshift pier. Running to take cover, the men passed an enormous hill of greenish-white pine boxes … coffins waiting for new inhabitants. It was the kind of greeting that sobered the most stubborn among them. “A morbid, depressing and unsettling sensation came over me,” Uncle Sam said. “We were finally aware that we had been sent to the notorious Dutch Harbor in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, the closest US military base to Japan, only 600 miles away.” This was a place where temperatures ranged from 12 below to 60 above. At times, many feet of snow would fall. Certain seasons brought 18-hour days, while others brought 18-hour nights. But always, there was a damp, musty fog; for the two years that Uncle Sam was stationed in the Aleutians, he never saw the sun.

Within the first week of their arrival, the new troops faced air attacks, volcanic eruptions, storms, earthquakes, and “horizontal rain,” due to “winds that could blow a building across the Hudson River.” Those winds, dubbed “Williwaws,” were sudden and severe, up to 200 mph. Ironically, it was the difficult climactic conditions that saved Aleutian Island residents from both constant Japanese aerial bombardment and the typical diseases that infected troops stationed in the South Pacific. “American pilots remarked that there were better odds in flying 50 missions over Berlin,” Uncle Sam would say, “than even one mission over the Aleutian Islands.”

He remembered walking along a dirt road, when a light breeze had suddenly transformed into one of those Williwaws. By the time he had hit the deck, the wind had uprooted steel cables, boulders, and a 13-ton patrol bomber on the beach—smacking it up against a mountain. The Seabees’ efforts to camouflage their work were not very successful because of these winds. “We were forced to build revetments for planes to try to camouflage them with heavy steel-cabled nets. After the first storm, all the nets went flying across the Pacific Ocean and days of work went down the drain.”

But the Seabees transformed the rough Alaskan terrain, by literally leveling mountains. After laying down many miles of airfields with heavy metal stripping, the Seabees paved the way for an Aleutian air-force, since land-based bombers were now able to land.

By this time, Uncle Sam had become a Second Class Petty Officer. His days began at 5 am. His meals consisted of passable substitutes, since there were no eggs or milk. Remarkably, he gained 30 lbs. while living in Dutch Harbor. It was weight he desperately needed, as he worked hard on airfield and submarine installations. (He remembered going into one of those primitive subs: “I was qualified for submarine duty,” he said, “but they were out of their minds: it was like staying in a narrow coffin, cluttered with levers, wheels, and machinery. I would never have survived!”)

When his day of rigorous work was complete, he’d go back to the bunkhouses, which had been built to withstand the wind, the rain, and the war. Fighting his solitude and isolation, he found comfort with his comrades, smoking cigarettes, reminiscing of home, listening to their “Pacific sweetheart” on the radio: Tokyo Rose. Whoever she actually was, Uncle Sam had vivid memories of all the things she told them on the radio. “She’d tell us how our girls were cheating on us back home. She would say that we were very stupid to be fighting … we were going to lose anyway. So we might as well rebel, destroy our superiors, and go home.” It gave them a lot of laughs, he said, but it was hard to avoid sobbing, silently, as you listened to the Swing music she played. From the crackling of the radio speaker, came the Big Band sounds of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey; more than anything “Tokyo Rose” had actually said, the use of this great music constituted a form of psychological warfare that infected everyone with homesickness, he said. “It would place us in a very depressing state. Some men cried openly.”

The men of Dutch Harbor served as a diversionary force in the Battle of Midway. They prepared munitions for the bloody US invasions of Amchitka, Adak, and Attu. They played an active part in the isolation of Kiska, even though they failed to prevent the evacuation of 5,100 Japanese troops, who departed in the middle of a fog-heavy July night to return to Paramushiro Harbor.

During his two-year tour of duty, Uncle Sam experienced about six Japanese air bombardments; though the attacks were only seven to eight minutes in duration, they felt like seven to eight hours. A two-hour alert would usually precede an attack, as men would frantically prepare their anti-aircraft positions. “We were told to run off the ships and scatter into the hills, where there were fox holes.” Men clung to their own hopes for survival, some praying and giving substance to the old adage “there are no atheists in foxholes.” You just didn’t know if “that next bullet would have your name on it. Then you’d hear the incoming planes.” Within seconds, bombs would be dropping, destroying installations, oil tanks, gasoline storage facilities, and piers. Raging infernos and thick, black smoke would engulf the camp. “Things flashed quickly through my head,” he painfully recalled. He had fears of invading parachutists, naval bombardment, “the end of the world. In one attack, our ship, the Northwestern, was blown into a million pieces as a bomb was dropped down the smokestack. Shrapnel and other fragments went flying, as the explosion echoed through the hills and canyons.”

Uncle Sam learned a few things about wars, even “good” wars. He thought it was a joke when some said that the Americans would sell you the noose with which to hang them … until he realized that scrap metal from Manhattan Els (elevated trains) had been sold to the Japanese and used by them to create their machinery of war. He even remembered going over to a downed Japanese Zero. “And on the engine was labeled ‘Pratt-Whitney Motors, USA.'”

While he wouldn’t have thought twice about shooting another human being in order to survive—“quite frankly,” he’d say, “it was either them or us”—he never accepted the notion that he should hate his enemy. “We had been taught to hate the enemy for their bombardment of Pearl Harbor, for their cruel and inhumane treatment of our men.” But when prisoners were caught, “you’d look at these men, ‘our enemy,’ and see a reflection of yourself. I felt sorry for them.”

In 1944, Company C was reorganized and sent back to San Francisco. As his ship neared the Golden Gate Bridge, Uncle Sam cried “like a baby. It was the most fabulous sight I had ever seen. To be on American soil again, a feeling you can’t imagine unless you had been in that situation. And there, on the dock was the American Red Cross—with gallons and gallons of ice-cold milk.”

The climactic changes were not friendly to Uncle Sam. He developed a mysterious illness in which his legs swelled, as he lay nearly paralyzed in pain. When it was apparent that he would be in a military hospital for months, he was given an honorable discharge. In May 1944, he finally came home to New York. For months, he had difficulty adjusting. He was immensely uptight and shuddery. He developed a fear of passing overhead planes—a fear that some New Yorkers might remember, in the wake of 9/11, in a way that my Uncle could never have dreamed. The war had split homes and families, had taken away friends and relatives, and had damaged relationships. “You never know if you’re going to come back during a war,” he stated. “But if you have that luck, you can really appreciate what you left behind.”

A bolder and more “patriotic” American you’d be hard pressed to find. But Uncle Sam had had enough with politicians. He had voted for FDR because he was convinced that the President would preserve the peace. “The President had said that American boys would not fight on foreign soil. He forgot to add: ‘They’d be buried in it.'” For thirty years thereafter, Uncle Sam refused to go into a voting booth.

I come from a family of servicemen. Uncle Sam was fortunate enough to come home and to live a wonderful life, becoming a second father to me, as my own father had passed away when I was 12. But other relatives were not as lucky. My Uncle Frank was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. My Uncle Charlie survived, but was unable to talk about his war experiences for the rest of his life, having lived for years in a German POW camp. Fortunately, my Uncle Al and Uncle Georgie lived to talk about their experiences in the European theater. And my Uncle Tony remained in the army for the rest of his life. They are all gone now.

The human cost of war is usually calculated by raw data on battle deaths, casualties, and medical evacuations. But my Uncle Sam always believed that Memorial Day weekend was not a celebration of the majesty of war. He used to cite the old adage that “the greatest enemies of peace are those who extol war as noble and heroic.” This weekend is about remembering those who were the victims of war, especially those whose lives were sacrificed on its battlefields. It is also important to remember, to tribute, those who survived, those who lived to tell us about the horrors of war, and who did the most heroic thing imaginable: Building and sustaining their own lives in the aftermath, drawing strength from their love of family, of friends, and for life itself.

I honor their memory.

This brick was placed in memory of Uncle Sam by my cousin William Jannace as part of the National WWII MuseumRoad to Victory Brick Program.” It is a commemorative with the exact engraving of the brick therein.

Salvatore “Uncle Sam” Sclafani (1915-1994)