The Pope makes a sharp attack on capitalism, but forgets the Catholic Church is a leading player…

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Scanning posts on Facebook, one drew my attention, it concerned Pope Francis…and his very open attack on capitalism, quoting a fourth century bishop, calling it the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil”, and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labor for developed countries. Of course what he said at a rally of loyal young devotees was full of indubitable truths…and seemingly good intentions…HOWEVER it was what he didn’t reveal that was interest.
I wonder how many people consider the wealth of the Catholic Church. If we think of it as a business…it has been running considerably longer than McDonalds (created in 1940) or Coca Cola (created 1944) or say Ford Motors (1903)…it has been in existence around two thousand years, and wealth began steadily accumulating during the middle ages, with gold and silver and artifacts. In the Middle ages you could “buy” your way into heaven…rich families could acquire high positions for their sons in the Catholic Church and this reinforced their belief that they would go to heaven and therefore gain salvation. In stark contrast, a peasant had to pay for a child to be christened (this being the initial step to getting to heaven as the people were told that a non-baptised child was barred from heaven); you had to pay to get married and you had to pay to bury someone from your family in holy ground…all nice little earners…along with the sales of relics… pilgrimages (early form of tourism) and Indulgences, which involved getting a certificate…that meant you were pardoned from your sins…If you happened to have some dead relatives, who happened to have misbehaved in their lifetimes, you could also get them pardoned for a “fee”. It seemed the church did a great marketing job, tapping into people’s ignorance and superstitions.
What exactly did the Pope say “Once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.” What wasn’t said was the Vatican has massive investments in the bank of the rich Rothchilds, with the Hambros Bank, with the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich, while in the United States, large investments with the Morgan Bank, the Chase-Manhattan Bank, the First National Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and others. The Vatican obviously relies on shrewd business types as The Vatican has billions of shares in the most powerful international corporations such as Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines, T.W.A. This aside there is the Vatican’s treasure of solid gold, which according to the United Nations World magazine runs into several billion dollars. A large quantity is allegedly lodged in gold ingots with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, while banks in England and Switzerland hording the rest. It is a jaw dropping fact that apparently The Catholic church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner the world wide. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe. Maybe with one of his future speeches in front of thousands of youth, the Pope should give an open statement about the Church’s wealth and financial situation…

Francis H Powell is a writer and author of Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories. Follow him on Twitter @Dreamheadz


Dentist kills a lion and the world turns against him

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Dentists…the pain and agony they inflict on us and we pay for it…Ever seen a film called the Marathon Man…with Dustin Hoffman…? There’s a scene with a dentist…the part played by the late Sir Lawrence Olivier…who wields his dentist tools and inflicts the utmost pain on the character played by Hoffman.
Enter a real life dentist…who has stepped on the world’s stage and for all the wrong reasons…The dentist a man from Minnesota is vilified, verbally crucified, his name dragged around the social media with the utmost contempt. His dentist career seems destined to come to a dramatic halt …This dentist must have made mint, to be able to slaughter big game animals.

On the day he made his kill thousands of animals would have been dispatched in abattoirs, thousands of birds (pheasants) happily flying in the sky, shot for hunter’s pleasure, as well as other animals for the sake of “sport”. On reading the most recent reports on this killing, it turns out this vilified dentist not only killed this beautiful lion, he also inflicted a long and painful death, the lion finally died exhausted and maimed…having being been chased for two days by his pursuers, having been lured from a safe reserve. It has to be said with trophy killing big bucks can be made. Apart from vanity why would any person on this planet want to kill something so beautiful? What is this desire to kill? You often hear the slogan “Man is a hunter”. Since the beginning of time man has had this huge desire to kill animals, as if it is something genetic.

I was brought up in a family in which it was almost a rite of passage that the males took to shooting pheasants. I have never killed a bird…I have caught fish… it’s true, but during my childhood. By the time I had reached eighteen, my ideals concerning animals had been formed.

Hunting pops up in a few of my short stories…particularly “Bugeyes”. Bugeyes is born into an aristocratic family, with a large estate. He is brought up by a gamekeeper, having being rejected by his biological mother, for having…as his name suggests…over-sized eyes. When his curiosity gets the better of him he ventures onto the land of his true parents to try to discover his true origins…having being given some solid hints that he not a gamekeeper’s son. While strolling on the vast estate, he encounters a hunt, led by his brother (this sibling does not have eyes on the same scale as him). His brother is rather cruel and arrogant and for his own amusement sets the dogs on Bugeyes, who give chase…Luckily at the last moment, just before the dogs are about to rip poor Bugeyes apart…he is saved by his gamekeeper “father” .

Human beings don’t value animals and seem intent on destroying many in vast numbers. The number of animals Prince Philip (the man who is found a few steps behind Queen Elizabeth on ceremonial occasions) apparently amounts to 30,000…we are talking deers, rabbits, all types of wild fowl. In two decades his guns have seen to the deaths of 150,000 pheasants. He has been tiger hunting in India and has shot a crocodile. Killing animals is a big part of the British Royals lives…but at the same time they are the figureheads for various wildlife charities…killing yet preserving…

Not everybody seems hell-bent on attacking this “infamous” dentist. You can usually rely on somebody defending the indefensible (apart from the PR company the dentist is paying to put his side of the story across). Ted Nugent (I never really liked his music much anyway) who also happens to be a hunter and gun activist, claims people upset by this lion’s death are in his plain simple words “stupid”. It is the old “hunter’s refrain” of such animals need to be controlled.

If rich people or members of the aristocracy want to pay vast sums of money to go on “space tourist” trips into space… or spend money on yachts the size of football pitches, this is fine… but to go on trophy hunting trips to kill beautiful animals, that is another thing. Killing an animal for your own “pleasure” or gratification is something I really can’t fathom…Sitting next to a lifeless creature, you have managed to place a bullet in…what does it do for the killer…You have to imagine the likes of Prince Philip must be psychologically imbalanced…there must be something psychopathic in his nature…to want to kill such a number of animals.

Next time you visit your dentist…I hope this dentist is not a psychotic animal killer…Sorry if you are a dentist reading this, maybe this man from Minnesota, is far from representative of your profession.
Francis H Powell is the author of Flight of Destiny 22 short stories

Grappling with religion


I don’t know about your upbringing, but a part of mine was to be shunted off to church every Sunday, as well as other key days in the church calendar. This pattern continued up to the age of eighteen, when much to parent’s consternation, I said “no more”. This ritual meant many encounters with Catholic priests, some of whom took to the bottle to counter those long hours of humdrum loneliness, they doubtlessly had to endure. They appeared sometimes to have to fight to hold it together, during the mass, either senility was getting a hold or it was due to the demons of drink. Sometimes with the priest obviously messing up, ripples of giggles from the altar boys or others who picked up their errors were inevitable. Sometimes they were invited to come to lunch after the mass, I remember one who came didn’t seem at all worldly, maybe too immersed in spiritual matters to be concerned about major world events, the goings in world wars.

When I got to eighteen, or perhaps before I began to wonder, what was this religion thing was really about…scan the congregation and you would find many wearing fur coats, as middle class wealth abounded. I remember those drab hymns, obediently and “religiously” sung, but with a lacking of tune, and spirit, compared to the verve of Gospel singers I used to hear when I passed churches in Brixton, London. There was a theatricality about the mass and the ambiance was added to, by the burning of incense. Easter involved lining up and kissing the feet of Jesus. Then there was the strange practice of “confession”…a bit like going to a shrink, except you tell the priest all the bad things you have done…but if you make an act of contrition…all these bad things are washed away…kind of handy really, you can be bad then the slate is wiped clean.

They say “once a Catholic always a Catholic” and maybe there is an element of truth to this, there are many things you can’t get out of your system…so a creative person will infuse it into their work.

All these images have stayed with me. In my story “Gomford” The Reverend Salmon, leads a posse of villagers round a remote village, so as to sprinkle some holy water on the fresh-hold of each house, to try to exorcise a malevolence that has overcome this tight-knit village. The story begins with a young girl arriving with an ugly businessman called Gomford. The businessman is often away and so the male villagers try to take advantage of his absence by seducing the young girl…much to their surprise she agrees to the men’s desires, but leaves them feel both sexually inadequate as well as guilty for cheating on their wives.

The young girl is more than powerful foe for the righteous Reverend Salmon…who concludes the only way to break the girl’s spirit is to dunk her in the water, in the same way such types were dealt with in medieval times. My short stories are full of darkness and fear…could some of this have been caused by all those enforced visits to church and sermons that talked about “Hell” and what would happen if I didn’t follow the Lord. Of course young minds are very susceptible, which is one of my biggest gripes, maybe if religion had not been forced upon me, I might be a church goer these days.

Quite a few preachers appear in my short stories…There is Preacher Moon in Opium, a man given the task of addressing the problems of a town that has slipped into moral decline. He confronts a man called Gecko, a gangster, who much to his consternation finds a more than capable adversary. The preacher is full of pious words and menacing threats, while the gangster Gecko, is far more humane and wise and witty.

In “Cast from Hell”, a man is sent down from Hell, because he is too good. In this story I begin by describing what “Hell” is like. The “devil” is worn out and lacking in ideas and humans are doing his job for him on earth, without a need for him to intervene.

There is no doubt about it…religion rich in imagery and a great source for writers…ask Dan Brown.

Dark and quirky places in Paris

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If you live in Paris, or are on a long visit and have a taste for the dark and quirky side of the city, there is plenty to fulfill your hunger. It is the city known (in previous times) for the use of the guillotine, in fact not far from where I used to live in the fifth district, there was a bar that included a guillotine as part of its decoration. It might seem a rather bizarre form of marketing (bars have to stand out in competition to the many other bars). I’d imagined a guillotine was rather a bulky apparatus, but no…this guillotine was sleek and I suppose very efficient…
Not very far from the bar with the guillotine (it has since been removed, perhaps it made too many punters jumpy, fearful what happen to them if they didn’t pay up at the end of the evening…) is the place where Marie Antoinette was kept before being shunted off to meet the fore-mentioned method of dispatch, the guillotine. The place named La Conciergerie (an infamous place in the reign of terror) were meager to say the least.
Another place I have visited are the Paris catacombs, a place where many skulls and other bones are kept…to form the world’s largest grave…the so called “empire of the dead”. I went there on a “night time” illegal tour. I would not do this again, it is a fascinating place, now smothered in graffiti. If you happen to choose an illegal trip down the catacombs, firstly go with some experts, who have a map and know their way round…secondly if you are spotted by the police, you are liable to a fine.
If you want an above ground safer destination, you could go to the Musée des Arts Forains. The problem is this a private museum…that is not normally open to the public. I was fortunate enough to go last Christmas, when the museum was opened for a short time to the public. It is a museum, which was opened as a labor of love by a man called by Jean Paul Favand. If you visit this museum you feel like you are being transported back in time…into the world of fairgrounds, with old merry-go-rounds. There are many quirky antiques, gathered together by the proprietor, an antiques dealer and actor…who seems to have had an eye for the theatrical…It is like being brought into the a Tim Burton type microcosm. You would need to check the museums website to see if it is possible to visit. It seems to be used as the unusual setting for lavish parties and events. On the day I went, there were musicians, performers and circus acts including the incredible Zaza.
One evening I was the visitor to another rather exclusive and unusual museum in Paris, the Dracula museum. Stuck away in an unlikely setting, you have to walk through rather gloomy surrounding before you reach it. The museum has a garden and among other artifacts of significance to the proprietors , are two graves, ( unoccupied I presume). Contrary to the norm, some of the artefacts have not been tended with loving care and the weather in some cases had done its worst, but no matter. Spread about the garden are objects from previous soirees, goblets left unattended. It was like somebody has chosen to dedicate they garden to the fearful figure of Dracula.
If you have a lust for the darker aspects of life Paris will more than satisfy your needs, it is steeped in history, some it might choose to cover up.

The disappearing generation


I heard the news that the last of my uncles and aunts had passed away. He lived until his eighties and had lived a good life, writing historical books and traveling around the world. However his death reinforced the fact that his generation are fast disappearing. They were quite a remarkable generation, their lives tainted by the second world war. When I think of my uncles I can’t help but admire their bravery and courage. Another of my uncles was in a parachute battalion, during the war, some of his antics are legendary…however it was something I picked up on in his obituary, that stuck in my mind. Once he rescued four people whose cabin cruiser had been upturned; despite a slipped disc, he dived under the boat in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a fifth. Afterwards he lit cigarettes and handed them round to those he had saved. Would people of more recent generations show such bravery…maybe, there was a Matthew James, 30, from Cardiff, who shielded his fiancé from bullets being fired by terrorists in the recent Tunisian terrorist attack. Another of my uncles served on a minesweeper, I suppose this must have been incredibly perilous, but he was quoted as saying “that the best thing about serving on a minesweeper was that he never had to kill anyone.” This quote says a lot about the man…witty, charming and a man with a heart. These days on the news we see stories of the cowardly way people go about killing often innocent people. Setting off a bomb with a mobile phone. You can “eliminate” somebody from the comfort of your office, in front of computer screen by sending a drone. Then we see those cowards of ISIS, killing often innocent defenseless people in cold blood, while hiding their faces. Compare these gutless “people” to the genuine brave people of this disappearing generation. Maybe I don’t hold with some of the values people of my uncle’s generation had, but I do admire their fortitude. They must have been barely out of school, or university when they shunted off to fight a war against Hitler’s Germany. My father had just finished University when the war began. He was a prisoner of for most of the duration of the war. Imagine being in a situation in which you never knew if each day would be your last. I don’t suppose he was in the worse situation, as some prisoners of war…but still his memories of the war must have always played on his mind. Later on he used to have contact with German people who must have asked him… “is this your first time in Germany”? He must have had to explain he had been incarcerated for some years in Germany…he was such an honest man, he wouldn’t have been capable of not telling the truth. It would also be scandalous not to mention the incredible women of this disappearing generation. One of my aunts died a few years ago. She reached a hundred years old…her life could not have been easy, her first husband was killed right at the end of the second world war…a month before it ended, a real cruel twist of fate. She was left to bring up two children and spent a long period of her life a war widow. Her strong spirit was evident to the last. I was lucky enough to take my young son to meet her, watching a one year old and a hundred year old, delight in each other’s presence was a magical moment. She so enjoyed holding my young son, she was reluctant to let him go. My own mother is a few years past the milestone of being ninety. Her life is very restricted, due to her ailing physical condition, but her strong spirit is still very present. Sadly many of her friends and relatives have passed away. Her full set of brothers and sisters have all gone, with my uncles recent passing, but she remains steadfast. She was a smoker for the majority of her life, but had the will power to quit…well a rather unpleasant stay in hospital, may have swayed her. She still staunchly fights for her independence. She maybe comes from a lone of strong willed women, my grandmother was also of this ilk. My grandparents had to endure two world wars. I wonder if this generation are not only diminishing, but also more besides…this great spirit of fortitude they had is diminishing with them…

Killed by the Music Industry !!!


You open your door, take a few steps…waiting for you is a crowd of photographers, with cameras aimed at you, snapping away wildly, the effect of the multitude of flashes, is like strobe lights, blinding you, the noise is excruciating as well . The photographers are like hunters, tracking their prey, they have no feelings for you, they are concerned more about the photos they will be sending off to their editors and to agencies. Your security guards help to usher you to your car, as the photographers continue to circle you, hungry for more photos. Having managed to shut the door of the car, your driver manages to drive away, past the melee. This ritual is the same, day in, day out.

You arrive on stage, the crowd scream in anticipation. You have been drinking heavily, it is all you know to do to dampen your inner pain, well this as well as the cocaine, crack and heroine, you use to counter balance the demons you have been fighting , since your childhood. Rather than sing, you stagger about, the crowd become more and more agitated. The fact that you don’t burst into song, causes some whistle and hiss, previously they were showing their adulation, now they show their contempt. All those happy memories of your early gigs in front of a few hundred people are distant memories, now you have to perform in stadiums packed with fans, the gloss has worn off, you don’t want to be there…in fact you shouldn’t be there, you should be sorting out your head, trying to put some of those demons to bed. Now you are owned by other people, you have contracts to fulfil, they don’t care about you, but they love the success you are having and you are a cash cow.

Even when you are honored, at the top of your profession, something feels shallow. They want you to be clean, if you are too fucked up, you are no good for them, but at the same time they are working you like a mule.
It’s no surprise that so many talented musicians, die before they reach thirty (there is of course the 27 club, featuring Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Amy Winehouse, also died age 27 and is subject to a controversial film. Even if you are not inspired by her music, this film makes fascinating watching, as well as being heart rendering. I wonder what was going through many people’s mind at her funeral? Had some people contributed to her downfall and death? There must have been some guilty consciences…

Like many people she had this destructive streak. If she wasn’t plying herself with drugs, it was alcohol, and her death was put down to alcohol poisoning. Why should we be sad? Every so many generations comes a singer that is exceptional, outstanding or which adjective you choose to use…Amy was one such singer. By the end her life was a circus, she had lost control.

Even in semi-conscious states Amy was put on a plane and sent out to do concerts. There is a slight “Syd and Nancy” feel about Amy and her husband Blake Fielder-Civil. In the film Blake does not across very favorably, with druggy sounding drawl. It was he, who introduced Amy to harder drugs.
Blake is Amy’s partner in this spiraling down to oblivion. Both tortured souls, both kindred spirits…
All the pain Amy has gathered in her mind also adds to her incredible creativity. There is that amazing captivating voice of hers, up with the jazz greats…but there is also the fact that she puts so much of herself into her songs.

She was incredibly volatile, when you see footage of Doors concerts you see these really long rambling solos, by the musicians, who must have wondered when Jim Morrison was going to pick up the microphone and sing. There must have been an incredible unpredictability with Amy.
Some people might live to hundred and pack a lot less than the likes of Jim Morrison or Amy Wine house. Their success ultimately played a big part in their tragic early demise. Maybe people don’t think it this way…but the music industry can kill you.

Article by Francis H Powell
Author of Flight of Destiny, 22 short stories