Friday, February 27, 2015

Babylonian Creation Myth retold for Modern Times: The Mobsters (1991) (part 2 of 2)

Meyer Lansky (Patrick Dempsey)
Caught between the two bosses fighting for supremacy, Luciano decides that the old way of doing things has to end. Spurred into action when Rothstein is murdered, Luciano plots to kill both bosses, and then set up his new system of governing the criminal underworld. As part of his plan, he convinces Faranzano to let Masseria think that he won their war. After assuring Masseria of his “ultimate victory,” Luciano runs afoul of Faranzano, who scars and almost kills him. Still mindful of his ultimate goal, Luciano murders Masseria and returns to Faranzano.

 Watching Faranzano divide the underworld of New York City into the Five Families, Luciano sees how he can organize the other mobsters effectively into a collective group. After Faranzano declares himself “Boss of Bosses” (Capo di tutti capi), Luciano decides that the wars over who is to be the next boss has to end. Faranzano knows this and sends Mad Dog Coll (Irish) to murder him, only to have Luciano kill him instead.

 After confronting Faranzano, Luciano drops him to the pavement below, killing him. The scene of Luciano holding Faranzano’s body outside a window of a tall building is reminiscent of Marduk using the two halves of Tiamat’s body to form the heavens and the earth. In this scene, Luciano acts as Marduk in recreating his world.

 The final scene has Luciano meeting with the crime bosses from all over the United States. He explains that the underworld will be run nationally by a commission of bosses. The head of the new Commission would be selected by the bosses. Of course, they choose Luciano, who, like Marduk, establishes a new order with himself as the boss.

 Though two seemingly dissimilar stories, “Mobsters” and the Babylonian Creation Epic echo each other. Although Luciano and the formation of the National Commission are history, the movie reimagines their story in mythic terms. The result is the retelling of the "Enuma Ellish" for modern audiences.

 Works Used.
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” U.K. Higher Education Project. 2011. Web. .
Capeci, Jerry, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Mafia, 2nd edition.” Alpha: New York. 2004. Print.
 Cawthorne, Nigel, “Mafia: The History of the Mob.” Arcturus: London. 2012. Print.
 Cicero, Sandra, “A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot.” Llewellyn: Woodbury, MN, 2006. Print.
 Cipollini, Christian, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend.” Strategic Media: Rock Hill, SC. 2014. Print.
 “Mobsters.” Kabankoff, Michael, Dr. Perf. Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsey, Richard Grieco, Costas Mandylor. Universal Studios. 1991 Movie. DVD..
 Siren, Christopher, “The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2003. Web. .
“Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web.
 Smitha, Frank, “Civilization in Mesopotamia.” Macrohistory and World Time Line. 2014. Web. .

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Babylonian Creation Myth retold for Modern Times: The Mobsters (1991) (part 1 of 2)

Rothstein (F. Murray Abraham) and Luciano (Christian Slater)
In the Babylonian Creation Myth (Enuma Ellish), the world is first created by the two original Gods – Apsu of the Sweet Water and Tiamat of the Salt Water. These Gods mingled their waters and gave birth to the next generation of Gods. Chaffing under the rule of Apsu and Tiamat, these “New” Gods decide kill Them. After the murder of Apsu, her mate, Tiamat wages war against Them. In desperation, the leaders of the “New” Gods, Anu, Enlil, and Enki seek out Marduk, the principal God of the Babylonians for his help. He, only, agrees to fight Tiamat, if They will make Him their ruler. Then after defeating Tiamat, Marduk remakes the world from her body, and assumes leadership over all the Gods.

 The Babylonians recited this myth every New Year, reminding themselves of their place in the universe. The subtext of the creation myth is that other peoples (including the Sumerians) ruled Mesopotamia before the coming of the Babylonians. After constant warfare by the others, the Babylonians came to establish law and order in the region. Mesopotamia was then recreated into a Babylonian construct.

 The movie, “Mobsters” (Michael Kabankoff, 1991), tells a similar story. Obviously, it is about the rise of Charles (Lucky) Luciano from a poor Sicilian immigrant to the boss of the new National Commission of the American mob. Although the film purports to depict an historical person and his deeds, the director and writer instead chose to only highlight certain elements of his life, and omit others. Moreover, they also added fictional elements to highlight their plot points. The result was a mythic retelling of Luciano as Marduk.

 At first glance, the pairing of the activities of American mobsters in the 1920s to the Creation Epic of the Babylonians seems absurd. However, there are subtle similarities such as two original bosses ruling the criminal underworld of New York City. Furthermore, the subtext of both are the same – the overthrow of the old order, a period of disarray, and finally the establishment of the new order. The original world that Luciano inhabits is ruled by two Sicilian bosses – Joe Masseria and Salavatore Faranzano. Like Tiamat and Apsu, these two bosses spawn other bosses, who chafe under their rule. Fearing usurpation, Masseria and Faranzano kill off the others first. The war between the two finally ends when Luciano kills them both, and recreates the Mob as his own construct.

 In both stories, ethnicity is stressed since new groups of peoples are moving in to replace the original groups. This is implied in the Babylonian epic with the Gods of the Sumerians becoming ruled by the Gods of the Babylonians. In Luciano’s world, Arnold Rothstein, who is Jewish, is the middle generation of bosses. Like Anu, Rothstein takes the next generation under his wing. He grooms the mixed ethnic group of Luciano, Frank Costello (Sicilian), Meyer Lansky (Russian Jew), and Bugsy Siegel (Ukrainian Jew) to be the future bosses.

Monday, February 16, 2015

SLOTH BEAR: Expand Your Perceptions

Known as the “Unbearlike” Bear, Sloth Bear defies most people’s ideas about Bears. Because of her slow gait and ability to live in trees, Sloth Bear was classified with Sloths. Adding to her slothlike characteristics, She also specializes in eating Termites and Ants. Because She lives in the tropics, Sloth Bear does not hibernate like other Bears.

However, Sloth Bear is from the oldest lineage of True Bears. She diverged from the main lineage of Bears about 6 million years ago. Scientists think that glaciers blocked her passage out of India. In her migration north, Sloth Bear was stopped at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sloth Bear adapted to life in the Tropics by eating fruits and Insects.  By dragging her long front claws, She digs into Termite mounds. When Termites rush outside, Sloth Bear vacuums Them up, with her large mobile lips. In addition, her vacuuming is made easier by the lack of upper incisors in her jaw.

Sloth Bear lives a rich life. Spending time with Her Friends, She howls, roars, squeals, yelps, rattles, and gurgles with Them. Even when She suns Herself in a tree, Sloth Bear buzzes and hums. When She is out and about with Her Family, Sloth Bear Cub rides on Mother’s back. Father Sloth Bear travels with Them as well.

Sloth Bear changes people’s perceptions of Bears. In fact, She asks them to expand their notions of life. Regardless of what people think, Sloth Bear is all Bear, even when She is buzzing in her tree.
sloth bear

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

POLAR BEAR: Power of the Primeval

The largest carnivore on land, huge Polar Bear is well suited for life on the icy tundra. Strong and active, She has better eyesight than most Bears. The soles of her feet are covered with fur to give Her stability on the slippery ice. Polar Bear’s thick white coat traps warm insulating air, and also acts as a solar collector to keep Her warm. In addition, Polar Bear can stand high on her hind legs to scan the Arctic landscape.

Called “Ursus maritimus”, Polar Bear swims the seas like a seal. A fast swimmer, She uses her forepaws as flippers. Swimming from ice floe to ice floe, Polar Bear roams the frozen seas of the Arctic Nations, hunting from Russia to Greenland.

Feeding mainly on Seals, Polar Bear uses guile to hunt Them. She will pretend to be an ice chunk that just happens to drift by Bearded Seal. Not suspecting anything, Bearded Seal will surface next to the “ice chunk”.   Springing into action, Polar Bear lunges and kills Him in a single, powerful bite.

Polar Bear lives in a two-dimension world for sight in the Arctic and one-dimensional one during the long dark winters. For these reasons, She relies greatly on her sense of smell. Because the air is always moving, Polar Bear can smell the molecules of anything distances away.

Among the Inuit and Inupat, Polar Bear is a teacher. Since She showed them how to survive, they call Her “Person inside a bear hide”. With great reverence, they hunt Her, and also respectfully use her corpse.

Face to face with Polar Bear, a person feels her raw, wild power. Living in civilized places, most people rarely experience such power in its fullness. An encounter with Polar Bear is to come face to face with the primeval sense of life. Respect that power, and learn how to survive in your own Arctic wilderness.

polar bear hunting
Polar Bear’s Teachings Also Include:
“We are alone standing here. The only movement is the wind, our constant companion. And it comes, the sudden ghost-like appearance of the white bear moving silently, steadily across the gravel and ice-covered landscape.”   Copyright: “Bears of the World”, Terry Domico.

Monday, February 02, 2015

AMERICAN BLACK BEAR: Expect the Unexpected

The least aggressive of all Bears, Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is also the most prosperous. Having wide-ranging tastes in food, He can thrive in any type of forest. In fact, Black Bear spends much of his year browsing on twigs, buds, and berries. He rounds out his meals with Grubs and Worms. In the fall, however, Black Bear switches to nuts and roots. By feeding on plants and small animals, He is freed from having to hunt Big Game all the time to survive.

Unlike other Bears of the world, Black Bear has expanded his range in modern times. Before the last Ice Age, He migrated from Asia and discovered that the New World was already populated with fierce predators. Black Bear learned to survive by climbing trees and eating fruits. Throughout the years, his intelligence has served Him well. Today, Black Bear can get food from people’s cars. He simply climbs on the roof, and jumps up and down until the roof collapses. The doors pop open, and dinner is served.

Wherever Black Bear lives, He is the keystone species of the region. Because He forages here and there, Black Bear disperses plant seeds throughout the forest. By hunting browsing animals, Black Bear prevents the forest from being overrun. Not only that, He, also, eats large numbers of Colonial Insects.

What Black Bear teaches people is to expect the unexpected. Hungry, He mugs people’s cars for food. A carnivore, Black Bear spends most of his time eating fruits and nuts. Just when people have Him figured out, He does the unexpected by hunting a deer instead of eating berries.
A black bear

Conservation Note: The hunting of American Black Bear is regulated in the United States.

Picture of "Black Bear" by Mary Ann Sterling