Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Company He Keeps
The Mafia, CIA and Steven Seagal
Of all the Hollywood martial arts stars, Steven Seagal may be my favorite. His stunts are no-nonsense and he uses techniques that any competent martial artist could use. No incredible 360-degree jump-spin crap, just good solid Aiki and “crash-and-bash”. Stuff I could use. One of my Aikido instructors in the past, Robert Button trained with Seagal in a Dojo in Tokyo. He said he had never, ever, been thrown harder by anybody than Seagal. Seagal was the real deal.
Despite my leanings towards Seagal’s techniques, movie-star looks, and story plot lines, I have already trashed Seagal. In February ’07 I wrote about the legendary story of Seagal getting his ass kicked by aging Judo man Gene Lebell. As the story goes, Lebell choked Seagal out to the point where Seagal shit his pants. (LINK HERE)
But Seagal has more in his background than his current washed-up movie career, he has a whole host of bad-boy friends.
Despite his suave and swarthy approach, Seagal has consistently had trouble with relationships with women. His first wife was Miyako Fujitani, a Japanese national Seagal followed from California to Japan.
They had a child together, and Seagal’s Dojo in Japan was actually founded by Fujitani’s father, owned by Seagal’s mother-in-law, and managed by his wife.
John Connoly, in his epic expose’ of Seagal in “SPY” Magazine reported that Seagal was assigned four women to be his “production assistants” in 1990. All four quit in 1991. Connoly writes that as assistant Raeanne Malone was brushing her teeth in Seagal’s quarters during an interview, he commented publicly that “You look like that when I come in your mouth”. (ouch) Two of the women were paid around $50,000 each to drop charges against Seagal.
His Japanese wife, Fujitani, went on to describe how Seagal told her “I never will betray you”, right before he took all her savings and moved back to America to pursue his movie career. Without seeking a divorce, Seagal went ahead and married Adrienne La Russa in 1984, followed by actress Kelly LeBrock. La Russa told Connoly that she couldn’t say much, “Because I am afraid of Steven and his friends”. As alleged, Seagal was so broke in 1985 that he arranged for LeBrock’s Porsche Carrera to be stolen so he could collect the insurance money.
Seagal apparently had developed other sources for money; he was said by friends to have disappeared while flat broke and returned with a new car and a stack of $100-dollar bills six-inches high. Seagal boasted to friends that he had done a job for the mob.
Seagal’s mob ties were known at times. His one-time partner Julius Nasso was a pharmacist from Staten Island and owner of a company that “supplied pharmaceuticals to merchant vessels”.Nasso and Seagal formed a production company that was headquartered in Brooklyn. Nasso had served as an assistant to Sergio Leone in the Mafia film “Once Upon A Time In America”, which spawned his movie desires. Nasso’s uncle was the owner of a concrete company that was involved in a Mafia bid-rigging scheme and company employees testified for the government, leading to the imprisonment of Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. Nasso was also the best man at the Seagal-LeBrock wedding, and held the deed on Seagal’s house.
Much later, the tables would turn and Seagal and Nasso would be at odds, but more on that later.
Perhaps even more curious than Seagals Mob friends, are his seemingly outrageous claims of having been a CIA contract employee. Robert Strickland, an actual CIA contract agent claimed that Seagal made him a $50,000 offer to kill Gary Goldman, a former Mercenary who had collaborated with Seagal on movies but threatened to expose Seagal’s exaggerated CIA ties. Other mercenaries and agents Seagal associated with claimed he started telling stories of their mercenary adventures as if they were his own. This certainly did not set well with the rough boys, one of whom claimed Seagal “Would surely die of starvation if he was given a compass and a map that led to a restaurant five miles away”.
But the Truth was, Seagal was indeed running with a very bad crowd.
Robert Booth Nichols
It’s a little unclear how Seagal hooked up with Robert Booth Nichols, identified in Federal wiretaps as an associate of the Gambino Crime Family. Nichols became one of the technical advisors on Seagal’s film “Under Siege”, and actually had a bit part in the movie. An associate of Nichols said Nichols once hung an adversary up in an airplane hanger and started up the propeller plane in front of where he hung. We don’t know what happened after that.
Nichols has a reputed history during the Reagan administration of being involved in the Nicaraguan Contra re-supply operation. That means Guns down, Cocaine back. How else does the CIA fund an “off-the-shelf” operation? (To quote Oliver North).
But it was Booth’s relationship with murdered investigative reporter Danny Casolaro that really creeps people out. Casolaro had befriended Nichols as he was researching deep levels of government corruption in the Reagan era. His thesis was called “The Octopus” a criminal enterprise involving the Mob and the Reagan administration that had “tentacles” everywhere. Casolaro was using Nichols as a primary source, and was found dead in his hotel room before he could publish his completed story.
Nichols had been the owner of “Meridian arms”, and had been accused of attempting to take over Howard Hughes’ former company, The Summa Corporation.
At the time, Nichols was involved in a scheme to manufacture arms on an Indian reservation in California, the reason being there was no authority other than reservation law, and the airspace was open for uncharted, un-inspected flights.
Casoloro was at some point clearly over his head. I remember hearing about his death when I was writing for alternative newspapers in Portland. One of my contacts was Heinrich Rupp, a survivor of the Nazi Luftwaffe who claimed to have flown George Bush senior to the treasonous “October Surprise” meetings with the Iranians – to hold the American hostages until Carter was defeated by Reagan. Rupp referred to Casoloro’s death and warned me off of a subject I was writing about. I wrote it anyway.
Danny Casoloro was found in the bathtub, in his hotel room. None of his friends or family said he had been depressed, yet he was found with dozens of razor cuts to his wrists, some down to the tendons. No one knows how this was possible, and plastic bags and bloody towels were found on the floor. Forensic evidence was destroyed when Casolero’s body was embalmed.
According to an FBI agent named Thomas Gates, who was dogging Nichols and was actually being sued by him, Casoloro had told Gates that his life was in danger. The last known contact with Casoloro was Nichols, who may be the main suspect in Casoloro’s “Suicide”.
As reported, Casoloro had discovered that Nichols had one weak spot, one that he might have to kill for. Federal agents had told Casoloro that Nichols had offered to be a snitch against the mob, probably to cover his ass. One way or the other, Casolero died with that knowledge, His death ruled a suicide.
Detectives, Movie Stars and Hillary Clinton
Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano is in big trouble. Remember Seagal’s pal Julius Nasso? He and Seagal had now fallen out, with allegations by Seagal that Nasso and the Mob were attempting to extort money from Seagal. Seagal was deeply intertwined with various crime families and was treading water, trying to stay on top. Well, Pellicano’s name came up in the course of the Mob investigations. He was already known for his connections to the Clintons. According to Judicial Watch, a citizen’s legal watchdog group, Hillary Clinton had previously hired Pellicano in 1992 to get dirt on Gennifer Flowers, who had claimed to have had an affair with Bill Clinton. Pellicano is now awaiting sentencing for 76 out of 77 counts of racketeering, wiretapping and operating a criminal enterprise. The list of his clients and targets is a virtual whose-who of Hollywood.
Allegedly, Seagal hired Pellicano to go after writer Anita Busch of the Los Angeles Times, who had written unfavorable reports about Seagal. As the story goes, Pellicano allegedly detailed associate Alexander Proctor out for the job. Anita Bush came to her car one day to find the windshield smashed, with a dead fish and a rose stuck in it, along with a note saying STOP!
Authorities investigating Pellicano and Proctor raided Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office and discovered C-4 plastic explosive, hand grenades and presumably other weapons. As stated, Pellicano is currently awaiting sentencing.
While Seagal's Mob ties are certainly more clear than his association with shady intelligence operatives, he has at times been involved with some bad cats. Seagal has attempted to live his life like one of his own movies.
And come to think of it, I haven’t seen a Steven Seagal movie come out for quite a while now…
The Waterfront Trials
More on Pellicano
Reprint of 1993 Spy Magizine article
Come on all you cool cats!
Time to help Floyd Webb complete his documentary movie on the life of John Keehan (aka "Count Dante"), one of the most notorious American martial artists that ever lived.
I just sent $25 through pay-pal, it was easy and painless and Floyd will be returning the favor with DVD's and possibly other goodies when the film is completed.
Be a part of history!
Help support "The Deadliest Flim-maker Alive" as he documents the life of "The Deadliest Man Alive"!
HERE"S THE LINK to Floyd's site, and be sure to go to the main page for several new posts about the mysterious death of the man of mystery.
Check it out now!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I'm putting together a lengthy post that will be very interesting, coming soon...
Also, check out the Black Taoist Youtube on the Memorial Day Brawl in Union Square, I don't think the level of fighting is that great (most of us could kick their ass) but the spirit of competition on the open streets is pretty cool.
BRAWL LINK HERE
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Above: A nice rural organic farm
An inner-city urban farm at an old florist shop
For those who are interested in the "Back-To-The Land" theme we have been following, here's another article. This one is from the Associated Press, and deals with families in rural Vermont who are moving towards self-sufficancy by growing some of their own food and setting up solar power systems. The bicycle is filling the position of the modern horse, and has the side benifit of getting the rider in good shape.
The common thread among these folks is the notion that rising fuel and food costs are just the tip of the iceberg, and that things will get considerably worse.
As a gambit, what do they have to loose? They seem happier and healthier and are generally better prepared for any kind of disaster, be it earthquake, storm or the implosion of modern society as we know it.
HERE'S THE LINK
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Just when you least expect it, violence occurs. This display of fury and anger reminds us that as martial artists, we must always be prepared for a confrontation. This poor guy was just standing there, waiting for his "Happy Meal". Out of the blue, a restaurant employee snaps and attacks the unwitting patron. I'm sure this is grounds for a lawsuit. Thank goodness cell phone cameras are everywhere now, as evidence of this shamefull attack has been recorded.
What would you do if you were attacked in this way? What if you were standing in line waiting for your own "Happy Meal" and witnessed this brutal attack? Have you experianced a similar attack? Clowns can be very scary.
Self defense suggestions are welcome...
Thursday, May 22, 2008
High gas prices drive farmer to switch to mules
2 hours ago
MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.
T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.
"This fuel's so high, you can't afford it," he said. "We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That's the truth."
And Danny Raymond says he just likes using the mules around the farm.
"We've been using them quite a bit," he said.
Brother Robert Raymond added, "It's the way of the future."
(D.R.): Ok,ok, I know I sound like a "Doom-and-gloomer", but there could be something liberating and environmentaly sound about the so-called "Energy Crisis".
James Howard Kunstler calls it "The end of suburbia". Notice how Robert Raymond in the Mule article above says it's "The way of the future".
In his writing, Kunstler states that the farm belt, which has been generally abandoned in recent American history, will again be re-populated with a new "back to the land" movement. A side benifit of this movement in today's times is that the ethnic composition of rural America will become much more diverse, changing voting demographics and other issues.
We now know that energy prices, much like the housing bubble and current grain prices, are a direct result of market manipulation of investment speculators. Unbridled supercapitalism is cannibilizing itself, and fueling "resource wars".
The only thing we really have control over is where we put our money. If I become even more disenchanted with the path our country is on, I can pull my money out of the bank and stash it somewhere. That is the only thing the establishment fears; a run on the banks.
My parents talked about how during World War Two, EVERYTHING was recycled, and many families had "Victory Cardens". If there is a "back-to-the-land" movement, it may change and improve the way we relate to our neighbors and force a more collective bonding among people. Everything would become "Local", and people will remember where their food comes from.
But it's going to take some major re-thinking.
Here's a trailer for Kunstler's documentary - "The End Of Suburbia":
(UPDATE): check out this article that says to get ready for $12-$15 per-gallon gas.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Terry and Alex below, Tim Cartmell in Blue pants above
Tim Cartmell was back in Seattle for a seminar on Bagua and Tai Chi applications on Saturday. Tim (Read his Bio here) is the author of "Effortless Combat Throws", and teaches that these internal arts are composed of 70% grappling and throwing techniques. And believe me, after six hours of grappling and throwing, my nearly fifty-year-old ass feels it!
After fundementals, The Bagua portion delt with defense from a straight jab and a wide hook. The straight jab defense involved moving to the outside of the opponent and using an "eyebrow moping" technique, where you use your forearm and palm to turn the opponents head and neck to the point where he can no longer maintain stability and is taken down. This could begin with a forearm smash if needed. On the wide hook, Tim's technique involved moving into the hook early in it's arc and jamming it with Peng at the elbow. A strike with the other hand can be used. The opponent's arm is taken in a low pass across your body for an oblique shoulder-type throw (which is hard to describe in writing) or the arm is not passed but held with an overhook while your other arm (palm) is placed against opponent's thigh as a fulcrum for a snake-form takedown. There were many options and variations of these techniques.
Tai Chi applications began with yielding drills, showing that when one part of your body is pushed back, the rest of the body moves into the opponent. Also when pushed, your arms in a relaxed state will swing up to intercept and stick to the arm which is pushing. There were quite a few of these drills and variations. An important point I understood was that slant flying must enter the opponents body at near 45 degrees upward. Tim's comparison was that even a small kid can push over a heavy refrigerator if this angle is used. One thing that he really made a point about is that "Parting wild horse's mane" with your arm under opponent's arm and extending across opponent's chest is a flawed technique. He points out that it leaves you wide open to have your arm barred and broken across the opponent's chest. He recommends using it as a shoulder or elbow stroke instead, something I had not considered.
As always, Tim's approach is very scientific, no-nonsense and ultimately practical. His approach is on the grappling aspects, because the hitting options are self-evident.
This is in no way a complete description of the entire seminar, I'm still mulling things around in my mind and making notes. I'm also nursing some sore spots, in that good "I had a sound thrashing" sort of way.
Information on future seminars and Chinese martial arts in the Seattle area can be found at Jake Burroughs website www.threeharmonies.com
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sensei Rick Alford
Here is a fairly good demonstration of how Small-Circle Jijitsu (Wally Jay style)
sticks and flows with the opponent. You can see some of our versions of lock-flows on the video bar to the right of the screen.
At our Dojo, we are trying to integrate the techniques in the video above with Tai Chi Chuan push hands practice. In that case I guess it would be called Chin na.
You can see how well they would work together; close proximity, face-to-face, constant contact. Push hands may appear more circular than the demonstration above, which clearly has the Japanese Jujitsu influence.
I'm curious what the Aikido and BJJ guys have to say...
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Badfinger Cocanut Killer
And... The real "Badfinger"
Ahh, yes, this takes me back to Eighth Grade.
The history of this band is fascinating. Originally from the UK, they headlined with groups such as "The Yardbirds" and eventually a roadie for the Beatles hooked them up with Apple Records. The Beatles were very supportive of the group. Unfortunately, they fell into the hands of a mob-connected manager who squandered their money and left them in near financial ruin. Friction also arose when wives of band members got involved in management issues (there's always a Yoko). Lead singer Pete Ham comitted suicide, the others ended up laying carpet and working for an industrial plumbing company. I believe surviving member Joey Molland is still out on the Casino circut with remenants of the band.
So tragic, with ethical management, these guys really, really could have had a nice long run...
Monday, May 12, 2008
(D.R.) Nathan and Rick over at TDA TRAINING posted a copy of this movie trailer earlier, but I found a good review which is posted below. Mamet's writing is legendary, and now we find out that he is also a ranked Jujitsu student himself. I wonder how Mamet's usual fans, whom I suspect are not fight-game-types, will react to this type of screenplay? It really looks great, here's the review:
'Redbelt' an oddly intriguing Mamet mix
It's like 'Rocky' with literate patter, same end
By Christy Lemire, AP movie critic
Friday, May 9, 2008
It sounds like a jarring combination at first, as if the two just don't go together — until you learn that Mamet himself is a purple belt in jujitsu. Clearly, this is a subject that's dear to his heart.
Then you realize while watching "Redbelt" that many tenets of the sport — the ideas of control, manipulation and one-upmanship — jibe perfectly with themes the playwright, director and screenwriter has explored for decades in some of his best-known works, such as the plays "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Speed-the-Plow."
And so "Redbelt" makes sense in its own weird way: a mix of sports-flick cliches and Mamet's patented rat-a-tat writing. It's "Rocky," it's "The Karate Kid" — only with more stylized, rhythmic dialogue.
Several Mamet regulars show up (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, David Paymer and Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon), which does put us in somewhat comfortable territory. But it's Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Dirty Pretty Things"), the film's star, who commands our attention. As the unflappably moral, placid jujitsu instructor Mike Terry, Ejiofor can be both attractive and warm, fierce and intimidating.
A series of strangely intertwined events forces Mike into the ring, a place he's never wanted to be, to fight for $50,000. Among the players pushing him into battle are his sexpot wife (Alice Braga), a jittery lawyer (Emily Mortimer), an aging movie star (Tim Allen), a producer (Mantegna), a loan shark (Paymer) and a shady fight promoter (Jay).
It goes without saying in Mamet Land that none of these people can be trusted.
But Mike truly practices what he preaches, handling every obstacle and challenge that thrusts itself into his path with the same calm he urges his students to achieve.
"Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. You know the escape," he'll repeat when someone looks particularly defeated during his class. Here's a bit of advice that he takes, which comes from his wife, Sondra, and gets him further into trouble: "Let the wheel come around."
Mike and Sondra are already struggling to maintain their West Los Angeles studio at a time when the more violent Ultimate Fighting and mixed martial arts are in vogue. A shattered front window, the result of an accidental gunshot, puts them further into debt. Then a chance encounter at a bar with Allen's Chet Frank seems to turn their financial troubles around.
In no time, Mike is visiting Chet on the set and talking about receiving a producing credit, and Sondra, a fabric designer, is working with Chet's wife, Zena (Pidgeon) on a clothing line. (Allen is surprisingly good in an uncharacteristically cynical, haggard role.)
Could all this happen so quickly? And could it all disappear just as fast? Probably not. But something has to get Mike into the ring for The Big Showdown. Even though the championship match doesn't play out exactly the way you've seen it before, it still adheres to the same hackneyed conventions. And the final moment, which was probably intended to be poignant, instead feels laughable.
"Redbelt" is also overly familiar in its serious, "Crash"-like collision of disparate Los Angeles denizens, tied together by fate.
It is novel, though, that Mamet didn't subject us to the obligatory training montage. Perhaps that's because he figured it would be one less opportunity to have his characters talk.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Outlaw Pat Crowe, 1920
Reprinted from "Time" Feb. 01, 1926:
In Manhattan, a month ago, detectives observed the conduct of a raggedy, bearded "bummer" on an elevated railway platform; questioned him, arrested him, took him to court, whence he departed with a pocketful of money given by court attendants who thought they knew a good old scoundrel when they saw one.
He was Pat Crowe, "outlaw, author and lecturer," whose misdemeanors began with robbing Omaha streetcars in 1890 and included a diamond theft, homicidal attempts, a visit to and escape from Joliet prison, hold-ups and pilfering on railroads. Lately Pat Crowe has been going straight, the foeman of crime and drink. Pamphlets that stuffed their author's pockets said: "The best man we have this side of eternity is the man who warns us of possible danger. . . . Beware of hypocrites and deceivers who sit in high places."
Last week, a detective in Washington, D. C., was reminiscing to newspaper reporters about a plan Pat Crowe had once had (and been foiled in) to kidnap John Davison Rockefeller. Crowe had figured he could get as much as a million dollars for a Rockefeller, and he knew the market fairly well. He had once got $25,000 for a Cudahy, 15-year-old Edward Aloysius Cudahy Jr., then of Omaha, Neb., where Mr. Cudahy Sr. was engaged in the meat business. On trial, five years later, Pat Crowe had successfully maintained that young Cudahy had suggested the kidnaping himself and had received $6,000 of the ran-By coincidence, Edward Aloysius Cudahy Jr. also appeared in the news last week. Many years have passed. Pat Crowe has gone straight. And newspaper readers discovered how false was the impression they have had of Cudahy Jr. ever since Pat Crowe's kidnaping trial. Last week the boy who was once suspected of being a sly young rascal was elected President of the Cudahy Packing Co., of Chicago, after 20 years in the business, during the past ten of which, as Vice President, he "had relieved the elder Cudahy of many of his more arduous duties," so that "the recent progress of the company is due in no small measure to his efforts."
(D.R.) Ahh.. Back in the days when Outlaws could go straight and live on to represent the face of the American frontiersman...
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
For a couple of years now The Dojo Rats at Shima Dojo have been having a music jam and a few Beers after our workouts. It started when we were traveling to other Martial Arts seminars and events, which require us to wait for hours at times to catch a ferry back to our secluded island hideout. Full-sized guitars are too big to sit in your car and play when it's cold, dark and raining outside. So we started packing Ukulele's, 1/2-sized kids Guitars and Harmonicas. With the right amount of Beer we start to make noise that resembles something like music.
I sang in a church choir and had a few guitar lessons when I was a kid, but didn't play much until about 10-12 years ago. Now I've got all the Dojo Rats playing.
But more to the point; I'm sure that there are some of you out there that play music or sing also. I'm sure that you would agree that there is something tremendously stimulating about giving yourself up to the rythyms, patterns and vocal expression that is found in playing and singing songs.
I had read in the past that Masters in the best Karate schools in Japan required their top students to play or sing some kind of music. Think about this: playing an instrument requires intense focus and concentration, and also lulls the mind into a meditative state when you relax into it. First you must develop dexterity to manipulate the keys or strings correctly. You must have a sense of timing and rythym, which is the most difficult thing for many people to learn. Then, if you are singing along with the instrument you are playing it brings all of your brainpower into one unified moment. You have to keep chords, notes, words and proper pitch in place or it really sucks. If you really belt out a song and get everything right, it is a fantastic rush. You have unified your mind and body in what might be the highest form of human expression. Think about how that would be amplified with 15,000 fans screaming for you at a concert and you can imagine how much energy rock stars recieve.
Well, The Dojo Rats are no Rock stars, but we sure have a great time.
Check out these kids if you want to see real talent, this blew my mind...
Sunday, May 4, 2008
The Foot Fist Way
Oh My Gawd...
I can't believe I didn't catch this one before. It looks like John over at Martial Views had a brief post on it, and fellow Dojo Rat H2H brought it to my attention.
So, so many stereotypes in this hilarious trailer I have to get this movie. I'll pick up a copy on Amazon or elswhere and have more to say about it later...
(Edit.) Hmmm... It doesn't appear to be out in DVD yet...
Friday, May 2, 2008
Here is a clip that the guys over at Tim Cartmell's discussion board were enjoying, and it's so good I had to slide it on over to Dojo Rat also.
This shows how Tai Chi Chuan postures and Chinese wrestling are perfectly incorporated into Taiji Push-Hands. The expert is Hawkings Cheung. Novice Taiji players may not realize it, but 70-80% of Taiji techniques are grappling. This includes joint-locking and takedowns.
For those who are interested, Tim Cartmell - author of "Effortless Combat Throws" and other books, will be in Seattle May 17-18 for seminars on Bagua, Tai Chi Chuan applications, and ground grappling.
Contact Jake Burroughs at firstname.lastname@example.org