January 15, 2015
The Imitation Game: How Alan Turing (who?) Won WW II
By Jocelyn Noveck (AP)
‘Tis clearly the season for Oscar-worthy performances by British actors playing mathematical geniuses facing daunting personal odds.
Sound overly specific? Consider: A few weeks ago we had “The Theory of Everything,” starring Eddie Redmayne as the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking. And now we have Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game” as Alan Turing, the man chiefly responsible for cracking the vaunted Enigma code used by the Germans in World War II.
But even though Turing literally changed the course of history — Winston Churchill said he’d made the greatest single contribution to the Allied victory — and, by the way, ALSO created one of the first modern computers, you may well have never heard of him.
That would be reason enough to applaud the arrival of “The Imitation Game,” directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore based on a 1983 book by Andrew Hodges. But though it often feels like your basic high-brow British biopic, the film also happens to boast impeccable acting, especially by Cumberbatch, who masterfully captures the jittery, nervy brilliance of a man whose mind could bring down an enemy yet couldn’t process simple human interactions.
Was Turing autistic, or did he have Asperger’s syndrome? Who knows — today we’d probably say he was “on the spectrum.” He’s a man who can’t coherently answer whether he wants a sandwich for lunch. At the same time, he’s conceiving a machine that will somehow defeat the Germans’ own cipher machine, the Enigma, which uses code that changes every 24 hours, rendering traditional decrypting methods useless.
Knightley, Cumberbatch & Allen Leech in ‘Game’
As we learn about this painful duality in Turing’s life, we also learn he was gay, in an era when homosexual activity was criminalized in Britain. After the war, he was prosecuted for indecency. Given a choice of “chemical castration” or prison, he chose the former. He committed suicide at 41, a cyanide-laced apple by his bedside.
Oddly, though, the film addresses Turing’s death only with a quick line in the postscript, and no word on the method. It’s a strange omission — particularly given that Turing was said to have been fascinated by the “Snow White” story.
We begin after the war, with the police investigating a mysterious break-in at Turing’s home and wondering what this fellow’s about (they don’t yet know about his role in the war). Soon we flash back to 1939, and younger Turing’s job interview with the commander running the secret codebreaking program (a nicely crusty Charles Dance). Given Turing’s dreadful personal skills, it doesn’t go well.
But he’s hired, and immediately starts alienating his colleagues, especially the charismatic Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode, excellent and also perhaps the best-looking mathematician ever portrayed onscreen). (Well, at least until Keira Knightley makes her entrance in this film.)
Turing is ridiculed for insisting on building his machine, taking up time and money while soldiers are dying. Denied funding, he makes a direct plea to Churchill, who puts him in charge. That’s when he hires Joan Clarke (an appealing Knightley), the only woman on the team and his eventual fiancee.
Still, things go badly, until an offhand remark by a woman in a bar makes Turing realize a way to speed up the machine’s activity. Eureka!
The story gets more interesting as the team realizes it must keep its huge breakthrough a secret, lest the Nazis figure it out and change their code. They enter into a painful calculus: Which information can be used, and hence which lives saved?
There are surely numerous narrative shortcuts taken here. There’s also one of those slogan-type lines that seems far too tongue-trippingly clunky to be uttered by one character, let alone two: “Sometimes it’s the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
But there’s truth to it. Turing’s story is indeed hard to imagine. Thanks to Cumberbatch’s committed performance, a lot more people will know it. Three and a half stars out of four. PG-13
This film is playing at the Carmike in Hickory and all over this area.
Healing Center Utilizes Native
Practices To Positive Effect
By SARAH GROTHJAN
The Daily News
Longview, WA(AP) Colby James isn’t afraid to talk about his storied past of addiction. He isn’t afraid to face it either.
On a chilly, overcast afternoon, James joined at least 20 others to engage in a sweat lodge hosted by Raven House Healing, a Castle Rock-based center that teaches shamanic studies. The center helps troubled youth—particularly native youth—by reconnecting them to native traditions.
Before the ceremony began, James bantered with friends. A fire roared not far from the opening of the sweat lodge, a humble structure made from interlaced tree branches and covered with a number of blankets.
Lava rocks were heated in the center of the fire. Once the sweat began, the rocks—glowing red—were transported one by one by pitch fork from the fire to a pit in the center of the lodge.
When it was time, James and others stripped down to shorts and bare chests. Women donned loose gowns. For some, it was their first time sweating. Others were more familiar with the tradition.
``I was 14 when I did my first (sweat lodge),’’ said James, beads of sweat drying on his forehead. He’d just exited the lodge at the end of the sweat, which lasted several hours. The lodge can heat up to as much as 150 degrees during the purification ceremony.
Saturday’s event had four rounds. At the start of each, two fire tenders cajoled rocks from the fire before brushing them with a cedar branch and placing them inside. The rocks, fresh from the fire, turned up the heat with each new round.
Songs chanted in Lakota were audible from outside the lodge, as were multiple hoots and hollers.
``When you hear those sounds, it means we’ve done our job very good because it’s very warm in there,’’ said Crystal Lorensen of Longview, who worked as one of the two fire tenders at Saturday’s lodge.
James, who lives on the Swinomish Reservation on Puget Sound, has participated in a number of lodges. He began regularly attending them when he was 16 years old, sweating ``at least a couple times a week,’’ he said.
For James, it’s more than something fun to do. The 19-year-old admitted he has struggled with addiction, and the sweats are a way for him to heal.
``I’m not afraid to admit it now, but last time I got sober is when I was 16, and that’s when I was doing sweats regularly, and it helped a lot,’’ he said. ``It’s a good healthy activity to do while you’re sober.’’
James said the lodges are helpful in maintaining his sobriety.
``I didn’t really go to (sweat lodge) while I was using because it’s kind of disrespectful,’’ he said. “This is like a ceremonial-type activity. When I was using, it kind of kept me away. When I’m sober and everything, it’s fun. It’s a good way to help you want to stay sober.’’
Sweat lodges—and experiences like James’—are an integral component to the work accomplished at Raven House Healing. Using traditional ceremonies to help troubled youth is an important component of the center, which was started by Kyle Ward in 1980. Ward, who is of Metis, Red River French Canadian, Walla Walla and Cherokee decent, said he’s been working as a healer for most of his life.
``I’ve been practicing as a practitioner all my life since I was a teenager, so (Raven House) just kind of evolved out of that,’’ he said.
A sweat lodge is prepared
Ward, 59, said he began counseling others when he was just 12 years old. However, it wasn’t until about eight years ago that Ward introduced sweat lodges.
``That’s when I really got my rights and privileges (to hold ceremonies),’’ he said, noting that the knowledge was passed down from the elders. The teachings go back thousands of years, he said, and anyone can participate in the ceremony, regardless of whether they are seeking counseling at the center.
Molly Henry, sweat lodge head woman, described the lodges as a healing and purification ceremony.
``You can come to the lodge and pray on (a problem) and basically give it away, give it away to the stones and ask for healing in return,’’ she explained.
But sweat lodges are only part of the equation at Raven House Healing. Vision quests, pow wows and other ceremonies such as the sacred sun dance are all part of the healing process, and Raven House—located on 10 acres of land 4 miles east of Castle Rock—hopes to add to what they can offer native youth.
For now, Henry said the center accepts one to two people each month, working with them on a weekly or monthly basis.
``We can only help youth to a certain extent when we don’t have a place to offer them to stay,’’ she said. ``It’s kind of the difference between an inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. So far the only thing we’ve been able to do is outpatient treatment.’’
With more funding, however, could accept more people and offer the treatment daily, Henry said. The center has set up a Go Fund Me page to accept donations. They also hope to achieve nonprofit status in a matter of months. With additional funding, they hope to create a place youth can stay for treatment.
``It’ll be a more in-depth healing experience because they’ll be able to be on the land, and we’ll be able to work with them on a daily basis instead of a weekly or monthly basis,’’ Henry explained.
She added that once the nonprofit status is granted, the center will change its name to the Loowit Center for Traditional Healing.
``We wanted to give it a separate title to designate a new organization we’re trying to create,’’ Henry said.
At the end of Saturday’s ceremony, James redressed, wiping sweat from his forehead. For James, the event is a source of healing, and he believes more native youth can benefit from it.
``It’s a good way to pray for yourself and your life,’’ he mused.
He said the sweats can sometimes be draining, but that they offer him a sense of relief from life’s stressors.
``It just gives me a whole new perspective on life,’’ he said. ``Hearing people talk while we’re sitting in there. Just like ... I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s a good feeling.’’
Policeman Reunites With Baby He Rescued In 1963
By NANCY CAMBRIA
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis (AP) Toni DiPina has been trying to solve the mystery of her unknown family since she was abandoned as a baby.
The reality is DiPina, at 51, still has no clue where she came from. She does not know why one or both of her parents abandoned her at 9 months on May 26, 1963, on a vacant lot in St. Louis. No one has ever come forward. Not then and not in 2008 when the Post-Dispatch first wrote extensively about her.
For decades, the only details she had from a day she was too young to remember came from a typewritten police report based on details provided by St. Louis police Officer George Leuckel. After the baby was discovered by two boys around 5:30 p.m., Leuckel was called to the lot off Bell Avenue, an ailing area that used to be the city’s most exclusive neighborhood, Vandeventer Place, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
He found a baby in a blue-checked dress with a pink sweater and cap sitting on a pink blanket amid weeds and rusting cars and appliances dumped on the lot.
The report chronicled the basics: The baby seemed well cared for. There were no witnesses. No one knew the child. Doctors at City Hospital No. 2 estimated her age at 9 months. Officers canvassed the neighborhood but found no leads. Leuckel and a city social worker drove the child to an emergency foster home on Hodiamont Avenue on the western edge of the city.
But what Leuckel’s report did not convey was the connection forged that day between a white man in his 20s who had grown up in Catholic orphanages, and a black baby also destined to walk the world as an orphan.
This month, some 50 years after they first locked eyes on the lot, the two reunited for the first time.
If things had been different, if race didn’t matter, Leuckel and his wife might have adopted DiPina. Instead, she learned, Leuckel prayed for her. Again and again.
George Lueckel & Toni DiPina
Here is George Leuckel’s memory of the day he found the baby, the details that did not make it into the official reports:
He parked his cruiser in front of the sole house on Bell Avenue. He walked up a circular drive that used to be lined with mansions. It was eerily quiet. The baby was in a tiny clearing, sitting upright on the blanket. He knew immediately by the way she was dressed she had been cared for.
Leuckel looked around and found no one. Only weeds, woods and debris. He had a creepy sensation that someone was hiding and watching him to make sure the baby was found.
The baby stared quietly at Leuckel. She did not cry.
At the city hospital where he took her to be evaluated, the baby clutched him and would not let Leuckel go when a nurse approached. At the police station, he typed reports with the girl in one arm, until his sergeant ordered him to put her down.
Leuckel and his three sisters had grown up in St. Louis Catholic orphanages after their parents divorced and his mother became destitute. He knew what it was like to grow up without parents.
Leuckel said he floated the possibility of adopting the child. He and his wife, Barbara, already had three daughters, and another on the way. But the real issue wasn’t money or living space. It was 1963 in deeply segregated St. Louis.
``The thought had crossed my mind to take her home, but there was no way you could do that back then.’’
Leuckel didn’t know the baby’s name, nor the name she was given in foster care, Antoinette Baker. But his memory of her never faded.
Some 25 years later at a charity auction, Leuckel spotted a print of a girl walking on a trail flanked by towering trees and populated by gazing forest animals. A translucent angel in a flowing dress, standing nearly as tall as the trees, walked just behind the girl. The angel’s arms were outstretched to guide the girl forward. The print was $75.
By then, the Leuckels had five daughters. One of them—named, by coincidence, Toni—was born with developmental disabilities and required constant care. Leuckel had taken early retirement in 1982 to care for his grown daughter full time. The family could not afford a $75 painting. But he told his wife it reassured him that the baby he found on the lot had a guardian angel, so they bought it.
For the next 20 years he whispered a prayer each time he passed the print hanging in his home. Thousands of prayers repeated for that baby.
One of the few positive influences in DiPina’s early life was reading Maya Angelou, her literary hero, whom she resembles. There was also church and a Sunday school teacher who took her to cultural events that gave her a break from abusive foster homes. After she aged out of the system in the early 1980s, she was at times homeless.
But she had odd strokes of luck. In 1987, for example, she answered a classified ad for a nanny for five boys in central Massachusetts. She applied and prayed. The family hired her. They paid her airfare to Boston and gave her use of a red Jeep and free time to take college classes. That opened the door to a new life in New England: a college degree, a career, family and the decision to become a pastor.
In 2008, while she was finishing seminary near Boston, DiPina read a Post-Dispatch story about a newborn boy abandoned and found alive in grass clippings in a Dumpster in the city’s West End. As in DiPina’s case, no relatives came forward. The city family court declared the child abandoned, and he was placed in foster care. DiPina told her story to a reporter as a way to urge the baby’s relatives to claim him. She wanted the child to know his ancestry, the knowledge she yearned for herself.
The Post-Dispatch chronicled DiPina’s graduation from seminary. Before the ceremony, DiPina prayed with her family for the abandoned baby, and for his mother to come forward.
``Give her the strength to seek help, Lord. She needs help, and you know it,’’ began the story in the Post-Dispatch.
While researching that story, a reporter learned that Leuckel was living near St. Louis and called him. When he heard the baby he found more than 40 years ago was alive and graduating seminary in Boston, he knew his prayers had been answered.
The Post-Dispatch story on DiPina ran in June 2008. No blood relatives came forward. Nor did any relatives claim the newborn abandoned in the West End.
DiPina went on with life in Massachusetts. The baby she prayed for was soon adopted by a local family. He is now in elementary school.
DiPina is now a grandmother. She wrote a documentary on Sarah Collins Rudolph, the lone survivor of the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. She is an ordained minister with United Church of Christ and leads a congregation in Northbridge, Mass.
Last year, she decided to try again to solve the mystery of her past. She shared her story on Facebook. She consulted a St. Louis private detective. She tracked down one of the boys who found her on the lot; he now lives in California. She tried to run her DNA through state and federal crime computer records to find a match but was told it couldn’t be done.
And she made her first call to the Leuckels, who immediately welcomed a visit. The reunion happened Jan. 3 in the Leuckels’ Oakville condominium during a pouring rainstorm. DiPina sat with Leuckel, now 79, his wife, Barbara and their daughter Toni, near the print of the guardian angel hanging in the dining room.
Leuckel and DiPina happily recounted their lives. Leuckel recalled the details of finding DiPina: her checked dress, the blanket, the weeds and eerie silence, the feeling of being watched, the bond, like a father telling a daughter the story about the day she was born.
Then Leuckel told her about the prayers he whispered for her to the angel in the framed print. DiPina smiled and said she always knew she had a guardian angel.
``You know, George, you’re like the oldest person who knows me,’’ she said.
In the early 1980s, the Leuckels had a family portrait taken that still hangs in their living room. It shows the proud parents surrounded by their daughters, then ages 8 to 24. At the time, the family was living in Florissant. DiPina was in or likely on her way to Massachusetts.
``Well, if it had been in different times,’’ Leuckel told her, ``You might have been in that picture.’’
While in St. Louis, DiPina had other people and places to visit from her childhood, some with good memories, some not. As she drove her rental car away into the rain, the mystery of her abandonment continued. But she was certain of one true thing: All her life she had a guardian named George, who prayed to an angel to help guide her on her path.