Monthly Archives: January 2008

Yeti9000: Published Photographer

This past week, several of my strike buddies (Aaron, Nina, etc.) were interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times for an in-depth article about life during the strike…financial concerns, getting day jobs, eating free meals at Bob’s Big Boy, stuff like that…

The Slackmistress rocks Hollywood! (Nov. 20, 2008)
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I was not interviewed myself, but the photo I took above — of strike mate Nina Bargiel aka “The Slackmistress” rocking her biker boots @ the Hollywood Rally on November 20th — will be making an appearance in the article instead. Yeah!

So, if you happen to be near a news stand, check out today’s (Sunday, January 27, 2008) NY Times Art & Leisure section to see my credited photo. And if you don’t have the bread to buy a newspaper, check out the link below to read the whole rocking article: “The Agony of Spare Time”

My picture is on page two under the pic of Aaron Bob’s-ing it. Enjoy!

 

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“Persepolis”

With everyone gearing up to see all the Oscar nominated films they missed this weekend, I thought I’d add one more to the list…Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s rocking “Persepolis”!

“Persepolis” production still (2007)

We saw this kick-ass animated film at a screening back in November and loved it so much that we literally spent the entire night talking about it. It’s layered, complex, beautifully told and best of all, surprisingly realistic for an animated film. Our immediate thought was: “What a fantastic film. Too bad it won’t get nominated for an Oscar…”

But guess what? Despite the odds, the French-language “Persepolis” managed to snag one of the three coveted slots in this year’s Best Animated Feature category! Yeah…sometimes, I’m happy to be wrong.

And while it will probably lose the gold to Brad Bird’s enormously popular “Ratatouille” — which was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay — just being nominated is a huge deal for a movie like “Persepolis” because it means people might actually, you know, see it.

Punk rockers in “Persepolis” (2007)

Based on a pair of award-winning graphic novels by Iranian-born author, Marjane Satrapi, the film is the touching, and often hilarious story of a rebellious young girl coming of age during the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

I know it sounds heavy — and sometimes it totally is — but since everything that happens is filtered through the eyes of the quirky, insanely-opinionated Marjane, the movie is also much funnier than you would expect given the subject matter.

Marajane marching against the Shah in “Persepolis” (2007)

Like her central character, the real-life Satrapi has spent most of her adult life in France, and thus chose French as the language for the film. And when paired with the simple, strikingly beautiful animation, the French could not sound more lovely. You seriously wanna bathe in this movie…it’s that gorgeous.

And the voice casting…wow…Satrapi and Paronnaud have peppered the cast with some of the finest actors in Europe. The legendary Catherine Deneuve voices Marjane’s mother, Danielle Darrieux the Grandmother, and Chiara Mastrianni (the real-life daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve) lends her voice to the main character Marjane.

Trust me, you haven’t heard acting like this in an animated film in years…if ever. Simply put, the cast, like the rest of the film is amazing!

Marjane and friend in “Persepolis” (2007)

So since you’ve probably already seen “Ratatouille” (we actually have not seen it yet, but plan to rent it soon) and the other nominee in the category is “Surf’s Up” (Yikes!) make sure to check out “Persepolis” on the big screen while you can.

Oh yeah, and if you like the movie, check out Satrapi’s lushly illustrated graphic novels as well, because they too kick some serious ass!

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“Not Nigella 6-Toes”

This post is coming a couple months later than planned — literally, as it actually happened way before Thanksgiving — but here at long last is the story of our book signing adventure with our favorite female UK celebrity chef, the crazy-beautiful Nigella Lawson. I know, I know, technically, Lawson is not a chef, but as someone who has sampled many of her dishes, this bird can cook!

Nigella book signing poster @ Williams-Sonoma (Nov. 10, 2007)
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Though we have met Jamie Oliver at a number of stateside book signings, Nigella Lawson sightings on this side of this pond are much more rare.

So, though we’d already had her sign our entire back library of her books the last time she was here — in 2005 to promote her best-selling cookbook, “Feast” — we couldn’t resist heading out to the posh Williams-Sonoma in Pasadena to have Lawson sign her latest tome for us.

Released to coincide with her snazzy new Food Network show, “Nigella Express”, Lawson’s latest cookbook “Nigella Express: 130 Recipes For Good Food, Fast” couldn’t be cooler.

Nigella & Laura! (Nov. 10, 2007)
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As always, the recipes are simple, easy to make and downright delicious. And the pictures…wow, beautiful! Christine’s favorite is the inside cover shot of the interior of Lawson’s well-stocked spice cabinet. Amazing…

And though we got some pretty cool pics of Lawson last time we met her, this time, we came bearing gifts! Much to Christine and my sister-in-law Laura’s dismay, I brought a picture of our very own Nigella (our six-toed kitty, for our newer readers) lounging atop one of Ms. Lawson’s books with the words: “Nigella the cat @ seven months! Enjoy, Tomás & Christine” scrawled on the back.

I know, nerd-tastic, but I thought Lawson would appreciate the tribute.

Me & Christine with Nigella! (Nov. 10, 2007)
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And man did she ever! When we finally got through the line outside to the book signing table, I presented the real-life Nigella with the picture and told her that we sometimes called our giant-clawed cat “Nigella six toes” as a joke.

Lawson and the Williams-Sonoma staff nearby burst into laughter and then, the real kicker came when Lawson wrote the following inscription in our book: “To Tomás and Christine, Love, Nigella (not Nigella 6-toes)”.

Nigella’s inscription in our book… (Nov. 10, 2007)
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Ha! We were dying! Not only is Lawson the hottest female cook in the biz (sorry Giada De Laurentiis) but she also has a rocking-good sense of humor. So, thank you “Not Nigella 6-toes” for another signed book and some awesome pictures!

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Marvel inks Interim Agreement!

Yesterday, Marvel Studios joined indie powerhouse Lionsgate in becoming the latest two companies to sign interim agreements with the WGA. Basically, this means that they agree to abide by the totally fair terms we are proposing in our new deal offer to the AMPTP. But more importantly, it means that WGA writers can begin working for them again, as both Marvel and Lionsgate are no longer struck companies.

The Hulk (Nov. 16, 2007)

As you can see from the picture above, Marvel all-star, The Incredible Hulk was elated at the news of the interim agreement. Let’s hope he stays that way…

In the meantime, while the WGA continues to engage in “informal talks” with the greedy bastards at the AMPTP, Marvel and Lionsgate execs can sleep better knowing they did the right thing by joining other groundbreaking companies such as the Weinstein Company, Tom Cruise’s recently revitalized United Artists, Spyglass Entertainment, MRC, Jackson Bites, Mandate Films, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants in securing interim agreements that get writers back to work sooner rather than later.

Rock on, interim agreements!

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Heath Ledger (1979-2008)

Wow…every once in a while, a celebrity death really just throws you for a loop, and today was one of those times. Christine had the day off and we were just getting ready to head out to the picket line together when she came across the news of Heath Ledger’s untimely death online.

RIP, Heath Ledger (1979-2008)
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Like the rest of the world, we were stunned. And no matter how and/or why he died, everything about Ledger’s death is shocking and downright tragic. Here was an actor’s actor, a guy who could have easily skated by on his looks — OK, sometimes he did. I mean, let’s face it, “Casanova” was no “Shakespeare in Love” — but chose instead to pick challenging, often tortured roles that involved some serious heavy-lifting in the acting department.

Christine and I have been huge fans of Ledger’s since he first burst onto American screens in the teeny-bopper ode to Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, “10 Things I Hate About You”. The movie kind of sucked and I still cannot wrap my arms around Julia Stiles (in anything!) but even here, he had something special and totally elevated the material.

The next thing we saw him in was Mel Gibson’s ‘The Patriot” and here again, Ledger’s character stole every scene he was in and became pretty much the heart and soul of the picture. When he dies, the movie dies with it. Seriously, you might as well stop watching because it’s all downhill from there.

Heath Ledger circa “Lords of Dogtown”
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But the first time we really were shattered by Ledger as an actor was in his haunting portrayal of the doomed, suicidal son of Billy Bob Thornton in the so-gut-wrenching-I-defy-you-to-watch-it-more-than-once, “Monster’s Ball” (2001). Here Ledger showed the startling range and depth that his earlier roles only hinted at. Everyone talked about Halle Berry — and rightly so, as she was awesome — but Ledger was like, James Dean good in that movie.

And then, there was his Oscar-nominated turn in his most famous film to date, “Brokeback Mountain”. I had some problems with the movie overall, but I defy you not to weep like a little girl when he clutches Jake Gyllenhaal’s denim shirt to his chest and cries…wow…that is some acting for the ages, amigos. Powerful shit!

But the thing I really dug about Ledger is that he always seemed to be having fun with whatever it was he was involved in. Even that “Brother’s Grimm” crapfest looked interesting (we haven’t seen it) and even if it wasn’t, I’m sure he and co-star Matt Damon had a kick-ass time making it. There was no ego or star bullshit with him, he was like a character actor with a leading man’s face.

Ledger (far right) and castmates in “Lords of Dogtown”
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And speaking of, two of my favorite performances of his were in smaller supporting roles. In the first, as the shaggy elder statesmen of the skate punks in the wildly uneven “Lords of Dogtown”, Ledger rocked as a stoner trying, and ultimately failing, to keep his struggling skate shop in business. I swear to God, he was either stoned in every scene in that movie or he’s a better actor than I thought. This performance alone should qualify him for the stoner hall of fame. Classic, realistic and f-ing awesome!

My second favorite of his performances was in last fall’s trippy masterpiece “I’m Not There”. His “interpretation” of Bob Dylan seemed the most balanced of the six actors playing him. Ledger wasn’t all good and he wasn’t all bad either, instead his version of Dylan was a messy, screwed up mélange of misogyny, sweetness and prickly genius.

And though you sometimes hated him for the way he treated Charlotte Gainsbourg (who played his beautiful, long-suffering wife) Ledger’s Dylan was perhaps the most human and real of the bunch.

Heath Ledger in “I’m Not There” (2007)
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So, while I’m sure the marketing for his final completed film — Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Batman sequel, “The Dark Knight”, with Ledger playing a grungy, maniacal Joker — will be understandable subdued in light of his passing, I can’t wait to see what magic Ledger works with such an awesome, iconic part in a big summer movie.

And though we may not see the likes of Heath Ledger again, I gotta say, I’m glad we got to see him at all. Like James Dean and River Phoenix before him, Ledger left an idelible mark onscreen and he will be greatly missed…

Thanks to my new Flickr friend, Howie_Berlin for the use of the photo at the top of this post. To see more of his Heath pics, check out his photostream at: http://flickr.com

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Oscar Nominees 2008

Earlier this morning, Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates — who actually looked kind of hot rocking this new blonde hairdo — and Academy President, Sid Gannis announced the nominees for the 80th annual Academy Awards.

And while there is much to celebrate — Ellen Page for Best Actress in “Juno”! “Persepolis” snags a Best Animated Feature nod! Hal Holbrook finally scores his first-ever nomination as Best Supporting Actor for “Into the Wild”! — the fact that the bloated, pretty-on-the-outside, empty-on-the-inside “Atonement” scored a whopping seven nominations is just plain criminal.

Best Picture Nominee “There Will Be Blood”
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OK, the little girl was good — Saoirse Ronan, who scored a well-deserved best Supporting Actress nomination — but Best Picture? Over “Into the Wild” and “American Gangster”? Are you f-ing kidding me? Ridiculous…

The inexplicably dismal showing for “Into the Wild” aside, I was thrilled to see “Michael Clayton” (one of our favorite pics last year) tie “Atonement” with seven nominations! This movie seriously rocks, so kudos to all the nominated cast and crew, but a special shout out to the incredible Tilda Swinton, a first-time nominee for Best Supporting Actress! Go, Scotland!

Also awesome to see “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” pick up eight nominations each (the most of any film). These are muscular, stand-out movies and they totally deserve every honor they are showered with this year. So, rock on, guys!

Best Picture Nominee “Atonement”
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But perhaps the biggest surprises came in a totally out-of-left-field nomination for Tommy Lee Jones as Best Actor for “In the Valley of Elah”. Huh? Who even remembers that thing? My thinking is that they wanted to honor him for his far superior work in “No Country for Old Men”, but the Supporting Actor category was too full, so they plopped him down here. Odd choice, I would have gone, again, with the devastating performance given by Emile Hirsch in “Into the Wild”. But that’s just me…

Also, very cool (and kind of shocking) to see a comedy director like Jason Reitman nominated for Best Director for “Juno”. That hardly ever happens, and though I had some problems with the first half of the movie, by the end, I was loving me some “Juno” big time. So, rock on Reitman!

Best Editing Nominee “Into the Wild”
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Same goes for “Michael Clayton” writer/director, Tony Gilroy. This is his first time directing and he scored a nomination, so, congrats! Speaking of writing, was also delighted to see the ladies make such a strong showing in the Best Original Screenplay category. Not only did “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody score an expected nomination, but so did former “Six Feet Under” scribe Nancy Oliver for “Lars and the Real Girl” and Tamara Jenkins for the hysterical “The Savages”!

And speaking of “The Savages”, I was totally shocked to see the always-amazing Laura Linney score her third Oscar nomination for her work in this film. She is hilarious, desperate, heartbreaking and sometimes all in the same scene. This was a surprise nomination, but man, does she deserve it!

The same goes for Johnny Depp’s all-singing performance in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and Viggo Mortensen’s iconic Russian gangster in “Eastern Promises”. These guys were both awesome!

Best Actor Nominee Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”
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Kudos also to double nominee Cate Blanchett — Best Actress for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and Supporting Actress for “I’m Not There” — I really think she is the one to beat for her mercurial turn as Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ masterful “I’m Not There”. And if she wins, it would be Blanchett’s second Oscar for playing a real-life celebrity, after winning a Supporting Actress Oscar a couple years ago for playing Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator”. Kind of funny…

And finally, though I am still stewing over the incomprehensible omission of Eddie Vedder’s towering “Rise” from “Into the Wild” in the Best Original Song category, I was thrilled to see the amazing duo from “Once” score a well-deserved nomination for the soulful “Falling Slowly”.

Best Animated Feature Nominee “Persepolis”
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If you haven’t seen “Once” yet, stop reading now and go rent it immediately…it is wow…out of this world amazing. Seriously, I cannot wait to see those shaggy hippies dueting on the Oscar stage come showtime…well, you know, if there is a show this year…

So, for now, here are the Oscar nominees in most of the major categories. For a complete list of this year’s nominees, check out the Academy’s fancy new homepage at: Oscar.com

BEST PICTURE

“Atonement”

“Juno”

“Michael Clayton”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

BEST DIRECTOR

Paul Thomas Anderson – “There Will Be Blood”

Joel & Ethan Coen – “No Country for Old Men”

Tony Gilroy – “Michael Clayton”

Jason Reitman – “Juno”

Julian Schnabel – “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

BEST ACTOR

George Clooney – “Michael Clayton”

Daniel Day Lewis – “There Will Be Blood”

Johnny Depp – “Sweeney Todd”

Tommy Lee Jones – “In the Valley of Elah”

Viggo Mortensen – “Eastern Promises”

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett – “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”

Julie Christie – “Away From Her”

Marion Cotillard – “La Vie en Rose”

Laura Linney – “The Savages”

Ellen Page – “Juno”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Casey Affleck – “The Assassination of Jesse James…”

Javier Bardem – “No Country for Old Men”

Hal Holbrook – “Into the Wild”

Philip Seymour Hoffman – “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Tom Wilkinson – “Michael Clayton”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett – “I’m Not There”

Ruby Dee – “American Gangster”

Saoirse Ronan – “Atonement”

Amy Ryan – “Gone Baby Gone”

Tilda Swinton – “Michael Clayton”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Diablo Cody – “Juno”

Nancy Oliver – “Lars and the Real Girl”

Tony Gilroy – “Michael Clayton”

Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava & Jim Capobiano – “Ratatouille”

Tamara Jenkins – “The Savages”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Christopher Hampton – “Atonement”

Sarah Polley – “Away From Her”

Ronald Harwood – “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – “No Country for Old Men”

Paul Thomas Anderson – “There Will Be Blood”

BEST ANIMATED FILM

“Persepolis”

“Ratatouille”

“Surf’s Up”

BEST FOREIGN FILM

“Beaufort” – Israel

“The Counterfeiters” – Austria

“Katyn” – Poland

“Mogol” – Kazakhstan

“12” – Russia

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“Atonement”

“The Kite Runner”

“Michael Clayton”

“Ratatouille”

“3:10 to Yuma”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Falling Slowly” – “Once”

“Happy Working Song” – “Enchanted”

“So Close” – “Enchanted”

“That’s How You Know” – “Enchanted”

“Raise It Up” – “August Rush”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“The Assassination of Jesse James…”

“Atonement”

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

“Across the Universe”

“Atonement”

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”

“La Vie en Rose”

“Sweeney Todd”

BEST ART DIRECTION

“American Gangster”

“Atonement”

“The Golden Compass”

“Sweeney Todd”

“There Will Be Blood”

BEST MAKE-UP

“La Vie en Rose”

“Norbit”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

BEST EDITING

“The Bourne Ultimatum”

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

“Into the Wild”

“No Country for Old Men”

“There Will Be Blood”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“No End in Sight”

“Operation Homecoming…”

“Sicko”

“Taxi to the Dark Side”

“War/Dance”

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday, Dr. King

Had he not be felled by assassin James Earl Ray’s fateful shot in Memphis on April 4, 1968, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 79 years old today.

So, in honor of this truly iconic American’s birthday, we decided to finally post some of the many pictures we took this past August at the amazing National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis.

Lorraine Motel, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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Housed in the beautifully preserved shell of the historic Lorraine Motel — the site of Dr. King’s assassination — the museum does not allow cameras of any kind inside, so though we have no pictures of the powerfully moving contents of the museum , trust me when I say that this place is really something special.

Stepping inside, you are immediately transported back in time through a series of photos, videos and dazzling interactive displays to the darkest days of the pre-Civil-Rights-era South. Everywhere you look there are letters, pictures and actual items from the era.

One display, centered around a carefully preserved segregated lunch counter (from a diner somewhere in North Carolina) incorporates real-life documentary footage on a screen overhead. The hateful racial epithets hurled your way as you stand at the counter are bone-chilling, and I can tell you I heard more than one grown man reduced to tears.

The balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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But perhaps the most moving of the interactive displays on the main floor is a scale replica of the Birmingham, Alabama city bus where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat.

Stepping onto the bus, the first thing you see is the haunting life-size figure of Rosa Parks sitting up front. You are encouraged to sit nearby and then, almost immediately, the lights dim and a light pops on over your head as the seat beneath you vibrates jarringly to life. It was so startling that I almost hit my head jumping out of my seat.

And then, a light pops on over the bust of the driver up front and he loudly orders you to move to the back of the bus. If you refuse, he gets angrier and louder until finally a soothing female voice comes over the PA system to tell you that had you not moved by then, you would have been arrested and thrown in jail. I know it sounds kind of gimmicky, but the effect is chilling.

But the real goosebumps come towards the end of the self-guided tour as you begin to follow a winding ramp upstairs. Everywhere you look are timelines and beautiful displays detailing — hour by hour and sometimes, minute-by-minute — Dr. King’s schedule leading up to that tragic day in April, 1968.

A view of the balcony @ the Lorraine Motel, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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And then, with Mahalia Jackson’s voice ringing in the distance, you suddenly find yourself on the second floor of the Lorraine Motel, standing between two glassed-in motel rooms used by Dr. King and his supporters the day of the assassination.

Inside, everything is left as it was that day, cigarettes in an ashtray, newspapers on the bed, food wrappers on the table, it literally looks and feels like someone is still staying there. And then you notice the window between the two motel rooms. Moving closer and peering outside, you can actually see the balcony where Dr. King was shot and died.

The effect of seeing the balcony up close was so powerful, I actually gasped. And trust me, gasping was a relatively calm reaction compared to other visitors nearby. But who can blame them…I mean, this is no interactive display, this is the real place where real history unfolded in all its gory detail and…wow…you just wanna break down and cry. It’s insane…

“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” gate @ Civil Rights Museum, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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Collecting our thoughts and grabbing some Kleenex from Christine’s purse, we then headed back downstairs to the second part of the museum across the street. Just behind a striking iron gate (pictured above) incorporating a memorable section from Dr. King’s final “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, you walk down a long, subterranean hallway.

Overhead, footage of Dr. King’s funeral is accompanied by stirring quotes from politicians, world leaders, well-known actors and even just regular folks. I actually wish we could have spent more time soaking all this up, but the museum was closing, so we had to move through there pretty quickly.

The Boarding House where James Earl Ray slept, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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Upstairs, you realize for the first time that this portion of the museum is housed inside the actual boarding house (above) where Dr. King’s killer, James Earl Ray, stayed in the hours before the assassination.

Here too, Ray’s room is preserved exactly as it was when he was there. And though the room itself is glassed-in, even from a distance, you can see the window from which Ray took aim and fired upon Dr. King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel across the street.

The thing that really creeped me out is how close the Lorraine is from the boarding house, I mean, even a lousy marksman could have made that shot. And staring out that window at the balcony with the wreath is just…wow…

MLK memorial wreath, Lorraine Motel, Memphis (August 16, 2007)
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The rest of this second wing of the museum is dedicated to an in-depth examination of the assassination. There are compelling displays about the trial, detailed police reports on the shooting, court documents, and one wall is entirely devoted to conspiracy theories about the assassination. I was dying to spend more time here, but since we were practically escorted from the building due to the hour, a deeper examination of this room will have to wait for next time.

But the final display of the museum is perhaps the most moving of all. As you leave the building, you are reminded of the legacy of Dr. King through clips of modern-day political activists like Bono, Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson and even Oprah Winfrey. Here again, I found myself moved to tears, but in a good way. I’m not kidding, it was pretty inspiring stuff…

And so, on what would have been his 79th birthday, here’s hoping that the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King lives on. Happy birthday, Dr. K!

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