The Common Denominator

A PieceThe following is a riddle. There were three different TV and film presentations shown between 1967 and 1977 that shared one thing in common. Two of the presentations are from the iconic Batman and Star Trek series of the 1960s, while the final one formed the third entry of a disconnected three-film series from the 1970s. See if you can guess their common denominator before I reveal the answer at the end of this article.

In 1967, one of the Batman TV show’s most iconic episodes first aired. In it, the Dynamic Duo (Adam West and Burt Ward) met the Green Hornet and Kato (Van Williams and Bruce Lee) for the first time in series canon, but the second time overall. The pairs first met in one of Batman’s iconic wall climbing scenes in which the Green Hornet and Kato made a cameo appearance, but that meeting was not recognized in later episodes.

In the following year, the original Star Trek series aired one of its most memorable episodes. In it, Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) found themselves at wit’s end on a planet where the populace imitated 1920s gangland Chicago. The episode featured actors Vic Tayback and Anthony Caruso, and every scene was well-chewed by all performers in a giddy display of sheer escapism. Humorously, it was shown that Captain Kirk–a man able to handle a complex spacecraft–was absolutely incapable of operating a car equipped with a manual transmission.


Nine years later, another famous team appeared in their final cinematic team-up (as of this writing). One of the actors was Sidney Poitier, one of the great cinematic groundbreakers of the 1950s and 1960s. The other performer was Bill Cosby. Returning to the universally celebrated and free-of-accusations Mr. Poitier, he remains a world-renowned actor, film director, author, and diplomat. He previously teamed with his co-star in the comedies Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let’s Do It Again (1975), with those two films standing as the first two of a three-film series. In the duo’s third and final comedic film, they played a pair of thieves caught between the authorities and the underworld, with school children complicating their efforts.

Time’s up! Have you figured out the common denominator? All of the unnamed productions above share the same name: “A Piece of the Action.”

All the best,
-Keith V.

 


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New York Fact-O-Gram #5

USS TurnerThis is the story of the USS Turner (vessel designation DD-648), a World War II-era United States Navy destroyer. The Turner was nearly 350 feet long, weighed about 1600 tons, and she was armed with torpedoes, depth charges, and a plethora of guns. The Turner was a newly launched warship when it entered WWII in June 1943. Less than a year later, her flaming hulk would sink to the bottom of New York Harbor. How the ship came to meet such a fate in a place far removed from enemy fire remains a point of debate among many.

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Dark Intelligence

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There are certain names that are inseparable from America’s history of ingenuity. Names such as Ford, Bell, Morse, Salk, and Edison are commonly known as belonging to several of America’s brightest lights. However, there are many others—comparatively unknown others—who also catalyzed America’s march toward greatness, and I fault America’s primary, middle, and high schools for not exposing the contributions of those undeservedly obscure creative geniuses. A number of those relatively unknown inventive wonders were black, and I believe that knowledge of their achievements can only help to dispel the myth of mental inferiority that hounds people of African descent.

I’ve lost track of how many times good, solid business decision-making on my part was attributed to instinctive behavior or luck, or followed by a question such as, “You didn’t really plan for that, did you?” Yes, I’ve lost it a few times and responded with smart-alecky comments such as, “No, the programming fairy waved its magic wand and put in all 32,000 lines of code,” or my favorite retort, “If not me, who? You?” Unfortunately, it’s the same thing in pro sports. When a black player executes a good play it’s often chalked up to “natural ability,” but let the same action be performed by a non-black player and it often becomes “a smart, heads-up play.” Just listen to any team sporting event and you will likely hear such comments.

It’s clear there exists a bigoted perception that you can take the darkies out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the darkies. Sadly, statements to that effect were made to me (and to other black workers) directly and repeatedly by a few extremely biased people of other races, all of whom had something to gain by demeaning the skills and talents of their black co-workers. Actions, beliefs, and comments reflecting an unwavering conviction in the inferiority of black people are largely rooted in misinformation or absolute ignorance, thus it is education—as in the truth, not that which is politically expedient—that is one of the keys to resolving America’s racial ills.

I must stress that I am not advocating the inclusion of the “first African-American to…” as historical information to be dispensed in America’s classrooms. I believe that disseminating such knowledge in a general classroom setting would mean the first of every racial and ethnic group would then have to be listed in milestone fashion for even the most minor of achievements. It must be understood that “the first” in America tends to wear a white face simply due to America’s slowly-fading culture of racial exclusion (the reduction of which greatly angers White Nationalists) and the fact Caucasians still outnumber every other group here in America. Accordingly, as far as “the first” of most creative efforts is concerned, “the first” is mostly white. C’est la vie. The past is indelible; it is something we can neither change nor forget. Instead, we can only go forward with the lessons taught to us by history.

The exposure of America’s youth to the significant achievements of a wider range of creative Americans will open their minds to the comprehension and acceptance of African descendants (such as those in this link) as beings possessed of enormous creativity and intelligence. It’s either that or we continue to please bigots everywhere by perpetuating ignorance and celebrating intolerance.

Let’s disappoint the bigots.


All the best,
-Keith V.


 

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“Black Lightning” Keeps It Real

“Black Lightning” is the CW network’s latest superhero offering, and it’s like nothing seen before on broadcast television. Unlike other CW shows based on characters from DC Comics, the show features a predominantly black cast, and it has a grittiness and a level of sheer, brutal violence that is normally seen on the streamed productions from DC’s primary rival, Marvel Entertainment. In surpassing Marvel’s efforts, it accurately reflects many cruel realities that I am very familiar with. Continue reading

Becoming Me

Sunrise.In keeping with my pledge to give more of “me” as a human being in my articles, I present to you another chapter in the life story of yours truly. This is as accurate a recollection I can give without obtaining permissions from certain persons and business entities, thus no names are provided. I must also note that this memoir contains no defamatory comments whatsoever. In an era of slanted recollections and libelous novelizations, this is a “no-hate autobiography.” Continue reading

President Oprah?

Hope and fear masks.“Will she or won’t she?” That was the question posed by many Americans in early January after a rumored presidential bid by Oprah Winfrey spread like wildfire. News outlets, pundits, and everyday people on America’s streets were either abuzz with excitement or trembling with fear by the prospect of a President Oprah Winfrey. As of this writing, the question of a presidential run by Oprah Winfrey remains unanswered. All we have is speculation and rumor at this point, not confirmed facts. Yet, despite the lack of verified information regarding this issue, fears about the transformation of America to a socialist nation under a dreaded “President Oprah” continue to race fast and thick online. However, such concerns about a shift to a socialistic model largely ignored two elements of importance: the conditions through which socialism thrives, and the American system of laws and government that would oppose it.

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New York Fact-O-Gram #4

The Current Madison Square Garden.

The Current Madison Square Garden.
(By Rich Mitchell.)

Most people outside New York City know that Madison Square Garden is the name of the city’s premier indoor sports facility. However, most don’t know that the Madison Square Garden of today is neither the original venue nor is it in the location of the original. Amazingly, the current Madison Square Garden is actually the fourth structure to bear the iconic name of the most storied sports and entertainment facility ever to exist here in my native New York City. Continue reading