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The old hacks who make The Ex-Press the glorious, old-school rag that it is.

Mob Rule: Part 5

Our anti-hero Jack Kennedy meets mob ruler Meyer Lansky, 'a rodent in golf clothes' who comes on like a Mensch, but is more like a snake on a hot rock -- lightning fast and ready to bite. By John Armstrong Chapter Five Remembering what he’d said at the airport, when we got to the office I took Meyer’s arm as we entered the building. “Let me show you to the executive washroom, Mr. Lansky. You probably want to clean up a bit after the trip.” “Thank God,’ he said. “I’m ready to plotz right here.” Charley and I waited outside the door until he came back out, then escorted him to Frank’s office. The two men said nothing when they saw each other but Frank hurried out from behind his desk and met Meyer for a hug that went on for some time. I once saw a documentary about the Civil War in a history class. It had some silent footage of the reenactment of a battle some 50 years later, with the original participants brought together again, the survivors ...

We’re Doomed! A Star Wars Guide to Canada’s Election

The force of apathy awakens, but if you see it as Darth Harper versus Justin Trudeauwalker, things almost look dramatic From the Sith Lord Mike Duffy's allegiance with Darth Harper to rebel insurgents sporting plaid shirts and carrying a cup of Timmy's in their holsters, the election has turned into a stellar war of ideologies featuring a leader who lives behind a mask By Chris Lackner Now, in a galaxy far, far too close. There. Got your attention? My Star Wars ploy worked? Now stay focused, Canada. When it comes to our election, I know most of you are either bored, indifferent, disgusted – or blissfully unaware it even started. Much like the Death Star, I’m going to blow your mind in one shot. With only months to go before the franchise reboot, we can all agree the space opera is waaaaay more interesting than politics. But what if our election was a Star Wars movie?! (Given the cookie-cutter dialogue of recent debates, it already feels like the election was written ...

Yogi Berra: More than Mr. Malaprop

The late legend was a perennial MVP and one of few good reasons to root for the New York Yankees Sure, Mantle might hit a homer, but he might just as easily strike out. Berra, notorious for swinging at balls so far out of the strike zone they might have been in Poughkeepsie, almost never fanned – just 414 times in 19 seasons, writes Rod Mickleburgh By Rod Mickleburgh A few words on the late, great Lawrence Peter Berra, known to one and all, except Yankee manager Casey Stengel, as  Yogi. The Old Perfessor always referred to him as “my man” or “Mr. Berra.” It was his show of respect for the team’s catcher and long-time clean-up hitter. While others might mock and deride Berra’s squat stature, homely mug and lack of verbal sophistication, wise Casey knew just how key Berra was to the success of the Yankees in those long-ago years when they seemed to win the World Series every year. From behind the plate, he guided the team’s often far from brilliant pitching staff ...

Mob Rule: Part 4

By John Armstrong I was still giving off steam from the shower when Joey hit the buzzer and when I pushed the intercom button on my end, that unmistakable Red Hook honk came over the speaker loud enough to push me into the far wall: “Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight - And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught the Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light. Get outta bed, you sleepyhead.” Try that at 7 a.m. with a full-on dese, dem and dose Brooklyn accent, in a voice that sounded like he’d been gargling with broken lightbulbs and molasses. If Vanessa wanted to hear the real thing, here he was. Crazy Joe Gallo, the one and only. God didn’t dare make two of him. They called him Crazy Joe because to almost everyone in the business, he had to be. This is a guy who not only does business with the moulinyans, he’s friends with them. And when he’s not up in Harlem listening to jazz and smoking reefer with the moolies, ...

Mob Rule: Part 3

Going to the mattresses John Armstrong's novel continues with a quick lesson in mob warfare and an ancient saying that prophecies a turbulent tomorrow     By John Armstrong Vito Genovese is, like my uncle, one of the last of the originals, the men who founded the organization and saved the country when it was ready to go up in flames. Maranzano, Lansky, Siegel, Costello, Anastasia – they were giants, let’s face it. And a good thing they were there, too, or we might all be speaking Russian or Chinese. Personally, I find English hard enough. I found Frank in his office, on the phone, with a dozen soldiers scattered throughout the foyer and gunmen posted around the mezzanine. There were more outside the front doors, young, tight-jawed men with black eyes, hard as stones from the river bottom. For them, this was an opportunity to shine, to be noticed by the higher-ups. It’s hard for a gunsel to make an impression when there’s no shooting going on. Frank ...

It’s not jazz camp ’til I cry

Sleep deprivation and the democratization of the arts Charley Gordon finds his groove at jazz camp but suffers whiplash on re-entry into the real world, where the noise isn't always joyful and the pros are competing for gigs with the wide-eyed amateurs By Charley Gordon LAC MCDONALD, Quebec -- It’s about two hours before the final concert is to begin at the jazz camp. I’ve finished warming up in one of a dozen cabins set in the woods beside Lac McDonald in the Laurentians. I step out and hesitate on the step. There’s a light breeze and but music is everywhere, floating on it. From every cabin comes music — an accidental meshing of saxophones, pianos, guitars, basses, voices, each playing something different yet somehow blending into a complicated melody that has a simple theme: nothing matters but music and all’s right with the world.   This particular jazz camp, run by an organization called Ottawa JazzWorks (disclosure:I’m a former board member), ...

Mob Rule – The story continues

We wrap up Chapter One with a hit of caffe machiatto and a fresh pair of pants, and move on to Chapter Two with some mathematical insights into the numbers racket, and a pretty dame in need of a light. Trouble never looked so pretty, and gang wars never looked so bad. Welcome back to Mob Rule.   By John Armstrong ...Right now the best thing to do is nothing, except keep my ears up. “Anyway, I got nothing for you to do the next while. Why don’t you go amuse yourself for a few hours?” “You think it’s a good idea to go out on the street a half-hour after someone tried to clip us?” He laughed. “That’s what I mean - I was your age, someone took a shot at me, it was like doing pushups in the morning and a couple shots of espresso. Gets the blood moving. We would’ve gone out dancing with two girls on each arm and not come home until breakfast. Ah, to be young and dumb again.” He tapped ash into the dish. “Don’t be so serious, kid. Dead is ...

Fending off the fall chill with lentil, tomato and Tuscan kale soup

When the leaves turn and the sun sinks early, it's time to talk lentils -- the edible pulse that will keep you warm, boost your calcium and create a hearty potage that's good for cardiac health By Louise Crosby September 18, 2015 -- Ok, we’ve had our fun with summer food. The weather is turning cool and it’s time to pay a bit more attention to what we eat. It’s time to talk lentils.   You’ve heard the drill: Whether brown, green or orange, lentils are full of vitamins and fibre, and contain high levels of iron and fat-free protein. They lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and contribute to heart health. We should be eating mountains of them, but let’s face it, unless they’re dressed up with lots of flavour, lentils can be a bit of a slog.   Marco Canora, owner of the New York City restaurant Hearth, shows us the way. His recipe for Lentil Soup with Tomato and Tuscan Kale, from his cookbook A Good Food Day, layers flavour upon flavour ...

Mob Rule – The Bloodbath Begins

Mob Rule: Part One Gang wars are always brutal and bloody, but if you can't take the heat, you best get out of the place where they make the pasta. That's right, if you like your eggs hardboiled and your orange juice on the pulpy side, then John Armstrong's novel is right up your dark alley as he leads us on a continuing journey to the kingdom of Mob Rule. In this opening instalment, shots are fired, someone goes down and someone brushes off their Borsalino to live another day in the gritty city. “If Satan should ever replace God he would find it necessary to assume the attributes of Divinity.” -- Voltaire       By John Armstrong CHAPTER ONE I was already flat on the ground before I heard the bullets. We had just reached the bottom of the steps when Coriolano, my bodyguard, grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me to the sidewalk, then chips of concrete and stone were dancing in the air to the whine of ricochets and the silly sounding ...

Truth is stranger than TIFF

Real-life dramas make their appearance at the Toronto film festival, but sometimes in the movies, facts get in the way of a good story By Jay Stone   TORONTO — Truth occasionally makes an appearance at a Toronto International Film Festival, although usually not in the presence of a movie star (“You were great, Kevin!”) It pops up in a few movies, more or less; not just in documentaries, its natural home, but in the Hollywood versions of real-life stories, usually twisted ever so slightly to make it more interesting, or cinematic, or sellable. Sure, truth is stranger than fiction, but the challenge is to make it more lucrative.   The biggest “true” story at TIFF is Spotlight, the Tom McCarthy version of the real-life expose by the Boston Globe of the scandal of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests (the Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer prize for the story.)   Spotlight — the name of the four-person investigative team at the Globe that ...