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26 January 2008

Remembering Lucy: A Vicious Dog

I suppose those in my neighborhood who remember Lucy think of her as a large vicious dog. I remember her as a dog who didn't take well to teasing. I also used to think of her as a victim, but now I feel that in some ways she was a hero.

I hadn't thought of her for a long time, and only recently, with the attention paid to the escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, did I begin to think of her again. It took me a while to remember her name. It was the revelation that the young men teased the tiger, triggering an aggressive reaction that they surely now regret, that reminded me of Lucy.

Every day on my way home from school, I would make a point to pass her dog run. Her owners lived in the corner house, kitty corner across from my house. Along the dirt sidewalk at the side of the house bordering the street was Lucy's run.

As a puppy Lucy would run with the gamboling, clumsy gait of one whose feet and head were too big for the rest of the package. She was white and black, half German Shepherd and half Husky. At first, she ran with all the puppyish enthusiasm one would and should expect from a family pet.

That soon changed. Even though her owners put up plastic slats so that people couldn't directly see or touch Lucy, the damage had been done and continued to be done. People entertained themselves by kicking Lucy in the face when as a young pup she came with her sweet, excited bark up to the wire mesh fence. They waited until she was close enough, wanting to sniff their hands and meet these new people. They then kicked her in the face and laughed.

Lucy, of course, remembered these people. She grew up to be a big dog with an authoritative bark and a snarl. She didn't wait to bark when she came to the fence; you could hear her rushing up with an angry declaration. Yet when I lifted my voice above hers, greeting her, she quickly changed. She became docile, and instead of barking, she made that grunting sound dogs make when they want to be scratched in just the right place. My hand was small enough to squeeze through the wire mesh.

I always saved part of my lunch for her and she always remembered. On those rare occasions when she darted past her owners and got loose, I never had anything to fear. She would approach with a wide grin, wagging her tail. Even if I didn't have a treat, she would lean against me to be scratched in just the right place. My mother and sister were also not afraid of her even though we weren't particularly friendly with those neighbors.

One day when I was older and (I think) away at college, Lucy got out. There was a pedestrian, a man, and she attacked him. He was not badly hurt, but Lucy was put down. And that is the tragedy dogs and so many animals face: they often suffer for the misdeeds of humans. I do not know if the person she attacked had previously teased her, but it did seem to be a pastime of the boys and men who passed through our neighborhood. Lucy also seemed perfectly capable of differentiating between people. Maybe that scare stopped that pedestrian, and some others, from teasing dogs in the future. Fear will sometimes do that. I know one case in which a dog bite did stop two boys from teasing dogs thereafter. If so, then Lucy died an unfair and unfortunate death, but she died a hero if she prevented even one person from teasing a dog again. And one person certainly has the ability to tease more than one dog, cat or other animal.

I have seen neighbors teasing my own dogs, throwing things, imitating a bark. They do it to get the dogs' attention and make them bark, yet then they complain when the dogs do indeed bark. I used to live in a neighborhood where a man would walk his little Pomeranian and allow it to bark at larger dogs on the other side of the fence. Some dogs, like people, are braver when their opponent is behind bars. All of this teasing agitates the bigger dog, and who knows what might happen in the future? Sometimes the larger dog gets out at the wrong time and the smaller dog ends up dead. I know of one such encounter between a Pomeranian and a large white dog who happened to be off of his chain one day. One shake and the Pomeranian was dead.

In the case of the tiger, Tatiana, both a human and the big cat ended up dead.

If you check with any zoological garden, you'll see that they specifically request that visitors do not tease the animals. On the San Francisco Zoo's own website, there's a whole page devoted to zoo manners.

RESPECT THE ANIMALS! The magnificent animals in the Zoo are wild and possess all their natural instincts. You are a guest in their home. They are sensitive and have feelings. PLEASE don't tap on glass, cross barriers, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to them.

Why should this be necessary?

Because bad things have happened and continue to happen. A baby wallaby was kicked to death at a British zoo. One American zoo records visitor problems that led to the death of animals:

About a dozen [deaths] were traced to moronic visitors.

Among the tricks of such visitors which killed some birds and badly injured some small mammals were the following: Throwing broken glass, poisoned or tainted food, indelible pencils, lighted cigar and cigarette stubs into cages or fenced enclosures, driving pointed sticks through the bars at animals tame enough to come within reach; breaking the bones of birds and mammals with stones, cutting wire fences, bending back the cut threads and frightening the animals so as to drive them into the projecting ends.

Several birds died with fish-hooks in their throats or stomachs. Two boys were caught trying to hook bear cubs with heavy fish-hooks. A gang of boys cut a hole into the wire fence of a grey wolf den, coaxed the parent wolves aside with sausages, and stole two cubs. The stolen cubs were recovered, the boys traced and punished.

And then there was the penguin baby penguin stolen a few years back, certain to die without the special diet and care it required.

I don't feel particularly sorry for the three young men in San Francisco. They were reportedly drunk on vodka in a public place. They were also high on a controlled substance (marijuana). They obviously didn't care too much about the legality of the matter, and they weren't particularly interested in animals. They didn't follow the appropriate behavior for the zoo as described by that particular zoo. One even climbed up on to the exhibit, going where visitors are quite obviously not supposed to roam. If the tiger hadn't attacked, these men would have returned to their car, probably had a few more drinks, and then driven home--endangering people who chose to responsibly spend that Christmas Day sober. If they had been sober, they might have realized a bit sooner the danger they were in and been able to communicate more quickly and effectively.

I am sure they thought themselves amusing. They didn't feel ashamed at their boorish behavior and how it infringed on the enjoyment of other people. They didn't think how being drunk and high might endanger other people. They were thoughtless, and I would guess this wasn't the first time they had behaved in such a manner. I would guess zoos weren't the only place they felt free to tease the animals. Would they have also thought it funny to tease a dog like Lucy? Why not? What was to stop them? Like Lucy, Tatiana was killed when she reacted as one would expect.

Yet perhaps Tatiana was not only a victim of her own instincts, but also the hero. She prevented these men from getting back in their car, getting drunker, driving drunk, and perhaps ruining the day and even the life of another person or animal.

Sometimes Love Isn't Enough - Animal Hoarding Horror in Southern California

Love is a strange thing and so is the human mind. Sometimes a person with a tender heart never learns to say no and against all reason and financial considerations creates just the kind of disaster that person hoped to prevent. Yes, sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind because kindness by itself can kill.

Someone, perhaps in a kindhearted effort to save unwanted pets, collected about 400 animals. Who that someone is, news reports haven't revealed.

Of that number, there were about 200 dogs, 30 cats, 40 chickens and turkeys, 100 goats and sheep, a llama, an emu and a hog. They were left there with no water except for pools of mud. According to reports, dead animals were found in wheelbarrows, cages and in the mud.

Local non-profits, The Gentle Barn and A Wish for Animals, came forward and are leading this rescue mission, beginning on 14 January 2008. Before I heard anything on the news, the message was out on the Internet, in Yahoo! groups and on Craigslist.

The number of animals is almost too much for either of those non-kill animals shelters to handle--alone or together. So there is a call for help--people to foster, people to give money and goods. There is a request for people to save these animals who have suffered the fate of many animals--not intentional cruelty, but the cruelty of neglect.

These animals are victims of a person who is what is now called an animal hoarder. For years there have been jokes about the cat lady and now, there's even a doll. I have known some cat ladies and dog ladies. There even was a man with too many tigers.

Yet to animal welfare and protection groups, these people, known as collectors, have long been a concern. Sometimes, someone well-known and respected from their own ranks falls into the trap of taking on too many animals, not being able to say no and fully believing that they are the only ones who can give these animals the proper care. In small towns or even large urban centers with an understaffed and underfunded animal shelter, confiscating the animals and keeping them until the court case is over--perhaps for as long as a year--can be a financial disaster. It also means less room for the normal annual influx of animals.

At Tufts University, there is a web page that addresses this phenomena, the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. If you've never walked into a property of a hoarder, you might be shocked. I went to a former breed rescue, walking in after most of the dogs had been confiscated and what I noticed first was the smell. Not only did the kennels smell, but the office with the urine-soaked carpet, shiny with not quite cleaned off feces. There were open pits that smelled of urine in the kennels. One held a dead rat. Since then, HARC has photos similar to these on its website.

I have known of three other local non-profit animal rescue operations that had gone bad. HARC calls these the "rescue or shelter" type of hoarder.

I'm not counting the one with the four hundred, located in Lancaster nor the one with St. Bernards or the one with the tigers. It was easy to shrug off the infamous cat ladies, but this is a mental illness, compassion gone wrong. The financial cost to the community is enormous and the suffering of animals is impossible to measure.

Four hundred animals require a lot of love and require a lot of hard cash. If you have something to spare, help insure that the second time around, these animals will really be saved.

ADDENDUM: After I posted this on the blog magazine, Blogcritics.org, someone wrote in with the name of the alleged owner of the dogs, Ivan George Callais.

There are some dogs leftover from 2007 breed rescue cases in Houston and New York that have been divided between collie rescue non-profit organizations.

In Marshall, TX, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued 200 animals, including dogs guinea pigs, bearded dragons and 26 hissing cockroaches.

21 January 2008

Diamonds Are DeBeers' Best Friend

Diamonds are according to Mohs scale the hardest mineral, ranking 10 with talc--that stuff you use as powder, at number one. Yet despite the price that diamonds command, they aren't that rare.

Diamonds as big and blue as the infamous 45.52-carat Hope Diamond are indeed rare, but even the odd red glow that results after it's exposed to ultraviolet light isn't rare. Rather, it's a characteristic of all natural blue diamonds.

There are far rarer stones, some coming from exotic locales like California, yet due to great public relations and marketing, we think of diamonds before color-changing alexandrite, emeralds or the California blue-colored gem benitoite. For that, we can thank DeBeers, a company based in South Africa.

This is not to say that diamonds weren't actually rare from an Occidental point of view at one time. There are no major diamond mines in Europe. For centuries, diamonds were found in India and then Brazil. That was up until the mid-19th century. Diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867. By 1880, Cecil Rhodes created the DeBeers Mining Company to oversee his large holdings of diamond claims in that country and by 1887, the company was the sole owner of the diamond mines in South Africa.

If you're not familiar with the history of South Africa, in the 17th and 18th centuries it was a Dutch possession. They imported slaves from their colonies in Indonesia, Madagascar and India. Great Britain took over the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 as a stop on the ship route to Australia and India. It was returned to the Dutch and then after the Dutch East India Company went into bankruptcy, the British annexed the Cape settlement in 1806 and encouraged British colonization. The Dutch colonists resisted British rule which resulted in the Boer Wars.

DeBeers is thus a remnant of European imperialism, specifically the expansion of British Imperialism. It was under the 1902 Treaty of Vereeniging that granted sovereignty to the UK with certain conditions, including agreeing not to press for native voting rights until self-government was achieved (granted in 1994) and the Boer republics would accept the British monarchy until they were eventually granted self-rule. South Africa would become a union in 1910, then complete independence (1926 and 1931) and finally became a republic in 1961.

Yet DeBeers has a presence in diamond mining in about 25 countries, including Botswana, Nambia and Tanzania. Mining in Botswana is via the company Debswana as a 50-50 joint venture with the government. Nambia and Botswana border South Africa. The British government placed Botswana under its protection after hostilities escalated between the native tribes and the Boers. Namibia was called South West Africa when it was under German control in the 19th century and later came under South African control during World War I. The East African country of Tanzania was a German colony in the 1880s and then became a British mandate in 1919.

Unlike pearls which dropped from being a precious gem to semi-precious when the Japanese (Kokichi Mikimoto and Tokichi Nishikawa) discovered a process to make cultured pearls, diamonds have maintained the image of being rare. DeBeers has been highly successful in convincing Americans that "diamonds are forever" and that after the engagement ring, you can follow that up with an eternity ring and a trilogy ring. Women who, for whatever reason, aren't married, can always buy a right-hand ring. Everyone needs a diamond.

The control that DeBeers maintains over the fine jewelry diamond distribution hasn't been a big secret. Gemologists and rock hounding hobbyists have known it for years. Only recently has legal action been taken against the company and its monopoly over the trade. This diamond cartel has been threatened by discoveries of diamonds in Angola, Canada, Australia and Russia and so far DeBeers has been able to form alliances over the years. It is calculated that DeBeers holds 70 percent of the diamond mines in Africa and 40 percent worldwide.

Yet in 1994, though, the US Department of Justice filed a charge against DeBeers, charging that DeBeers and General Electric had conspired to inflate the prices of industrial diamonds. As a result, DeBeers paid a $10 million fine in 2004.

Although DeBeers has not admitted to any wrongdoing, there's a class-action settlement in the works where people who bought diamond jewelry between 1994 and 2006 can benefit--notice how absolute their control is that it doesn't seem to matter from what store. The settlement will have DeBeers paying out an estimated $295 million. To file for payment, consumers should call 800-760-5431.

How much you can receive, apparently depends upon how much you spent and how many people file a complaint.

Marilyn Monroe sang,"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend,"but in reality diamonds have been DeBeers' friend and DeBeers' hasn't been a particularly good friend to Africa and the miners. In the future, with Australia and Canada entering the diamond market and the sometimes economically-challenged Russia possibly repeating its 1980 and 1990 slip outside of its uneasy alliance with DeBeers, diamonds might not always be as valuable. People may finally realize how common they are and the world diamond market could potentially become more competitive.

15 January 2008

Sondheim on Video - Beyond Burton and Depp

Before Tim Burton and Johnny Depp took on Stephen Sondheim, most of the original Broadway cast of "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," was filmed during their 1982 national tour. George Hearn replaced Len Cariou, but Angela Lansbury is there in her Tony-winning turn as Mrs. Lovett. If I recall correctly from the PBS broadcast, Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett was a bit loopier, like a balmy aunt whom you hope is harmless as compared to Helena Bonham Carter's pensive and pining waif.

If you're intrigued by Sondheim, you might be interested in his other works on video. He wrote the lyrics for the 1957 musical "West Side Story" that went on to become a 1961 movie directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The movie went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars and featured Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn. The book was written by Arthur Laurents and the music by Leonard Bernstein. Among its 10 Oscar wins were Best Supporting Actor for Chakiris and Best Supporting Actress for Moreno, as well as Best Original Film Score. This is available on DVD and VHS.

Sondheim again wrote the lyrics for the 1959 Broadway hit "Gypsy: A Musical Fable," based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artist who was pushed on stage as a back-up plan after her prettier and supposedly more talented sister ran away from their crass, controlling mother. With music by Jule Styne and book by Laurents, this became a 1962 film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden. Russell plays down her own glamorous image to be crass and brassy, with a harsh, throaty voice while Wood's character slowly blooms with confidence.

Russell went on to win a best actress Golden Globe. This version is available on DVD. The 1993 made-for-TV version with Bette Midler and Ed Asner is available on VHS. The legendary Ethel Merman and the pre-TV sitcom Jack Klugman were in the original Broadway cast. CD recordings are available on Amazon. Angela Lansbury, the original Mrs. Lovett, was in the original London cast. Memorable songs include "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You," and "You Gotta Get A Gimmick."

He wrote both the music and the lyrics (book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart) for the 1962 Broadway hit "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," which became a 1966 movie with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford recreating their Broadway roles. Buster Keaton and Phil Silvers were also featured. This is available on DVD. The plot revolves around three neighboring houses. One is a brothel. Another belongs to an elderly man whose children were stolen by pirates. The house in between these two is where Pseudolus, a slave, lives. He schemes to get his freedom while helping his master, Hero, son of the master of the house, find true love with a slave girl who has been promised to a war hero.

The movie changed the plot and cut some songs. Keaton was terminally ill with cancer at the time and this was his last movie role. This musical has been revived with Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg as Pseudolus.

His 1973 Broadway hit, from which the song "Send in the Clowns" came, became the dreadful 1978 "A Little Night Music,", with Elizabeth Taylor, Lesley-Anne Down, and Diana Rigg. This received mixed reviews and was relatively unsuccessful. Taylor provides her own singing (unlike Russell or Wood), which isn't bad since is it more spoken, however the director Hal Prince doesn't elicit the fire that Taylor showed in "Taming of the Shrew" and seems content that this piece about passion and love be rather pastoral. The DVD was recently issued in the summer of 2007.

The original Broadway show won Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Musical, Best Book (Hugh Wheeler) and Best Actress (Glynis Johns). Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, it involves the romantic lives of several couples, with the music set almost entirely in waltz time.

Sondheim's 1994 Passion (book by Lapine), is available as filmed for American Playhouse with the original Broadway cast. Based on the Ettore Scola film , this musical won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book (Lapine), Best Score, Best Actor (Jere Shea), and Best Actress (Donna Murphy). The story takes place in 19th century Italy. A young soldier is in love with a married woman, and when transferred to a remote outpost, becomes the obsessive love object of the commanding officer's ugly niece.

Sondheim's 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George" is on DVD as recorded before a live audience with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters for TV (Showtime and American Playhouse). Patinkin portrays French Pointillist painter George Seurat. The first act revolves around the painting of his famous "Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte." Peters plays his mistress, Dot. Act II takes place 100 years later with Patinkin as Seurat's great grandson and Peters as his grandmother. From this play comes the song "Putting It Together," which later served as the title of a Sondheim musical review, starring Carol Burnett and George Hearn in the Los Angeles 1998 production (DVD).

In 1987, Peters was part of the original Broadway cast for Sondheim's "Into the Woods." With book by Lapine, this musical won several Tony awards including Best Score and Best Book. It basically looks at what happened after happily ever after in several fairy tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstock). The original cast video is available on DVD, taped in 1989 and shown on public television in 1991.

Sondheim's musicals are alive and well on Broadway. If you can't afford pricey tickets, you can still see some great performances on video.

06 January 2008

ACADEMY AWARD ARCHIVES 1930: All Quiet on the Western Front

You might have read Erich Maria Remarque's book, "All Quiet on the Western Front" in high school. First published in German as "Im Westen Nichts Neues" in 1929, the best-selling book by this German World War I veteran was made into a movie of the same name. The movie went on to earn an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.

Adapted by Maxwell Anderson with screenplay by George Abbott, this black and white movie is decidedly anti-war as it follows Paul (Lew Ayres), a young man who is persuaded to join the army by a schoolmaster (Arnold Lucy) only to return home on leave, disillusioned. He hears his old schoolmaster encouraging the young boys to go and fight for the glory of their country. Although he's encouraged to tell the boys the truth, he is reluctant, but finally relents, saying:

I heard you in here reciting that same old stuff, making more iron men, more young heroes. You still think it’s beautiful and sweet to die for your country, don’t you? We used to think you knew.The first bombardment taught us better. It’s dirty and painful to die for your country. When it comes to dying for your country, it’s better not to die at all.

The young boys boo him and don't listen to his words and yet he continues,"...it’s easier to say go out and die than it is to do it. And it’s easier to say it than than to watch it happen."

He hears older men telling him to push on to Paris. Instead of enjoying his leave, he can't wait to go back to his old friends who truly understand the nature of war. When he returns from leave early, he finds all his former comrades gone except the resourceful Kat Katczinksy (Louis Wolheim). The rest of the company are young recruits who have yet to understand what war really is. Paul confides to Kat:

The young men thought I was a coward because I told them we learned that death is stronger than duty to one’s country. The old men said, "Go on. Push on to Paris." It’s not home back there anymore....At least we know what it’s all about out here. There are no lies here.

Kat is injured and dies while Paul is carrying him back. Paul essentially becomes an old man of the company.

Under the direction of Lewis Milestone, this film is neither sentimental nor overly gory. The focus is on the men and their emotions, how watching a man die slowly strips him of the mask of enemy and makes him into just another man and how there is a madness in war and that can infect the men who survive. There are moments when the movie touches on shell shock: a man panics and runs wildly toward the enemy after he's been blinded or when on a quiet day, when Paul reaches out to touch a butterfly and is killed by a sniper.

In the end, Milestone shows us many men marching to war and rows of white crosses, just as other directors would later do to indicate the scope of sacrifice.

Yet by 1930, Adolf Hitler had already published "Mein Kamph" (My Struggle) in 1925 and 1926. The Great Depression had begun that year. In three more years, Hitler would be appointed chancellor.

With that in mind, there's an additional layer of poignancy in this film. Although the technology dates it, this movie still holds up well and, unfortunately, holds just as much meaning as it did in 1929, 11 years after World War I ended and just a decade before Europe would again be engulfed in war.

04 January 2008

DVD REVIEW - The Devil's Backbone

If you've seen Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," you might be interested in his 2001 movie, "El Espinazo del Diablo" or as we know it, "The Devil's Backbone," what he called it the spiritual sequel to "Pan's Labyrinth."

Like "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Devil's Backbone" is set during the Spanish Civil War. This war began in 1936 and ended in 1939, with the victory of the rebels against the Second Spanish Republic government, leading to the establishment of the dictatorship of Nationalist General Francisco Franco. The republicanos or Republicans were supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico. Because of the Soviet support, they were seen as communists and referred to as reds. The supporters of the rebellion, nacionales or Nationalists, had the support Italy and Germany, already united as the European Axis powers. Although Germany would later persecute Catholics, in Spain, the nacionales had the support of the Roman Catholic clergy.

As in "Pan's Labyrinth," the audience is asked to sympathize with the republicanos, war is seen through the eyes of children and a doctor plays a pivotal role. Yet while "Pan's Labyrinth" is an adult fairytale, "The Devil's Backbone" is a ghost story. This isn't a Hollywood fright tale, with screaming and stupid teens. This is a gentle, thoughtful tale, with a logic of its own, a story about impotence, war and revenge.

According to the DVD commentary, del Toro is uncomfortable with writing dialogue. He prefers images. It seems logical then, that the commentary is provided by del Toro and Guillermo Navarro. Del Toro talks about the repetition of images and that this movie is meant to be visual poetry. Navarro's camera operates as another witness, a restless witness, always moving. This affable pair give an entertaining and informative commentary.

The movie begins with images that we don't completely understand and words that set up a mystery.

What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain perhaps. Somthing dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect taped in amber.

The palette is dominated by the steely blue and blue-black of the night contrast the golden fields and light and the friendly blue skies of the day. The colors are deeply saturated like an impressionistic painting and the shadows seem to swallow up faces although there are strikingly dramatic rim shots. The obscuring of faces makes one peer into the darkness, looking for whatever details might be given.

Set in 1939, a young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), is brought by his tutor to an orphanage. Carlos doesn't yet know that his father, a republicano, has been killed. His tutor deserts him there, in the care of the strict but caring head mistress Carmen (Marisa Paredes) and Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi). Casares is in love with Carmen and refuses to return to Argentina although he player tango music on his gramophone. Carmen, widowed, has a physical relationship with one of the former orphans, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), who has returned to work as a handyman. Jacinto is also involved with Conchita (Irene Visedo) who is closer to his age and works in the kitchen. Carlos' main tormentor, the tallest of the orphans, Jaime (Iñigo Garcés), is infatuated with Conchita. Yet Jacinto has a secret. Deeply ashamed of his 15 years at the orphanage, he stays, searching for the gold ingots the republicanos left in the care of Carmen. Jaime was somehow involved in the disappearance of Santi (Junio Valverde), who may or may not be the ghostly figure that Carlos calls "the one who sighs."

The devil's backbone, according to Dr. Casares, is what superstitious villagers call fetuses with spina bifida. If you're not familiar with the developmental birth defect, it is the incomplete closure of embryonic neural tube. The spinal cord is incompletely formed and the vertebrae is not fully formed and remains unfused and open. The spinal cord protrudes through the opening in the bones. In order to provide some money for the orphanage, the doctor plays on the local superstitions; the preserved fetuses are embalmed in spices and rum and the rum is believed to cure various ailments, most importantly impotence.

These incompletely formed children are nobody's children, but according to the doctor, they are the result of poverty and ignorance. Likewise the war produces orphans who belong to no one. Their fathers won't be honored as heroes and they enter into a world of poverty and fear. Perhaps like Jacinto, they will be emotionally crippled, princes without a kingdom and young boys without a family. What could be a more mournful ghost story? Perhaps war and the resulting orphans are "a tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again?"