All posts by Editor East Coast Stories

Why The Dutch Tell Germans, “Go Dig A Hole In The Sand”

“Go Dig A Hole In The Sand!”, is an insult Dutch people sometimes say to Germans. This basically means, “go kill yourself”, and dates all the way back to the end of World War II.  That’s when German prisoners of war were used to dig up the hundreds of thousands of land mines buried on the beaches of Europe. The German POWs were not given any equipment other than long sticks and small shovels. The sticks were used to locate the mines  and the shovels to dig the mines  up.

German Prisoners of War digging for land mines after World War II

German Prisoners of War digging for land mines after World War II

The Allied soldiers guarding the Germans stayed far away, since every so  often  one of the mines would explode killing the German trying to disarm it.

Land mine hidden on a beach

Land mine hidden on a beach. Could you spot it in time?

The big mystery about the  “Go dig a hole in the sand phrase is why do only the Dutch say it? The French, the Poles and the Belgians never yell “Go Dig A Hole In the Sand” at a German, even through the Germans also invaded those countries in World War II. What is it that has caused the Dutch dislike of Germans to be so much more intense than that of other countries also invaded by the Nazis? There are many theories for this. Perhaps it is because The Netherlands was one of the first countries the Nazis invaded and one of the last to be liberated. There is also the fact that after  the Dutch resistance sabotaged a Nazi train shipment of weapons, the Germans stopped all food shipments into The Netherlands. Dutch civilians were at near starvation levels by the end of World War II.

German World War II prisoners of War

German World War II prisoners of War

Of course, some say that part of the Dutch continued hatred of the Germans is a secret self loathing and self-doubt about the actions of the Dutch during World War II. There was a small but active Dutch Nazi Party, whose members actually joined the German Army and fought alongside the Nazis. There were also Dutch woman who during the Nazi occupation were “horizontal collaborators”. That is, there were Dutch women who had sex with German soldiers.

Who betrayed the Dutch girl Anne Frank?

Who betrayed  Anne Frank in The Netherlands?

The Dutch famously hid Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam, but even today the question remains as to “who betrayed  Anne Frank?” Did the Gestapo just happen to discover Anne Frank, or did a Dutch person turn her in? These are things the Dutch do not want to think about, and instead in their anger yell Go dig a hole in the sand!” at young Germans who were born decades after World War II ended.

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

Old Dutch people who were actually alive in World War II think it is a disgrace that the “Go Dig A Hole In The Sand” expression still exists. They will reprimand anyone who dares use it. Having actually lived through the horrors of a war, the old people understand that hatred breeds hatred in a never-ending cycle. They say it is time for the Dutch themselves to dig a hole in the sand and bury their hatred of Germans forever.

 

The Death of Channel Awesome

Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions  that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside,  Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.

Doug Walker - The "Nostalgia Critic" and "That Guy With Glasses"

Doug Walker – The “Nostalgia Critic” and “That Guy With Glasses”

In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned  by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms.  YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright  infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous.  As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise  it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money.  It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise.  Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.

Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm.  The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than  others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.

There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the  videos.  So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome.  However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission.  Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.

Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?

However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.

Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.

Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole.  On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.

Barry – the assassin we love

HBO’s dark comedy Barry stars Bill Hader as a cold blooded assassin who suddenly decides he wants to be an actor. Somehow, we cheer for Barry, the same way we all cheered for the serial killer Dexter.

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

Barry’s life is a series of routine murders until he gets an assignment to kill a would-be actor in Los Angeles. Barry follows his target into an acting class, and suddenly falls in love with the craft of acting. Barry has an epiphany. He will give up assassinations and become an actor himself.

Bill Hader as the contract killer "Barry"

Bill Hader as the contract killer “Barry”

Of course, career changes are always difficult. The crazy and violent Chechens who hired Barry are angry at his lack of loyalty and decide to kill him instead. They soon find out that trying to murder a professional killer with the reflexes of a cat is probably a mistake.

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

The casting in Barry is Perfect.  Henry Winkler is the acting coach, whose love of money far surpasses his love of the theater. He spouts endless cliche’s about the acting craft, while always making sure that every student pays in cash in advance.

Stephen Root who arranges murders in "Barry"

Stephen Root who arranges murders in “Barry”

Sarah Goldberg is fellow acting student Sally, who immediately senses that there is something special about Barry.  Sally is the type of person Barry has never met before. She actually cares about other people and has real emotions, and that fascinates Barry.

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in "Barry"

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in “Barry”

Stephen Root is Monroe Fuches, who negotiates assassinations and handles all the money. Despite being in the business of murder himself, Monroe is a coward. However, with all his flaws, he is the closest thing Barry has to an actual friend.

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in "Barry"

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in “Barry”

Anthony Carrigan & Glen Fleshler play two of the crazy Chechens. Despite their violent occupations, they are still burdened with spoiled children and demanding wives. This role is a real switch for Glen Flechler, who plays a sophisticated Wall Street lawyer in the series Billions.

Barry is a fun series with an ensemble of terrific actors. We give it our highest rating.

Need To Know – the spy in the family

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland is spy novel about a CIA analyst caught between loyalty to family or country, when she discovers that her own husband is a long-time Russian sleeper agent. Vivian Miller , the CIA analyst, has created a sophisticated software program, theoretically allowing her to hack into the computers of suspected Russian control agents.  If the program works, the CIA will be able to see what spies Russia has working in America.

Need To Know

Need To Know

No one at the CIA really expects the computer program to work. Vivian has been tinkering with it for months with no success. Then one day during testing, Vivian is able to hack into the computer of a top level Russian spymaster. This will be the crowning  moment of her career and assure her a promotion.

Inside CIA headquarters

Inside CIA headquarters

Vivian finds a file on the spy master’s computer, with photographs of all the agents he is controlling in America. She is ecstatic until she sees that one of the photos is of her own husband Matt.  They have been married for years and have 3 children. He can’t possibly be a spy for the Russians. But the more she tries to convince herself that Matt is not a spy the more she realizes he is.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

The correct course of action would be for Vivian to immediately notify her superiors. However, she knows that the second she does that, her life as she knows it will be over. Matt will go to jail, possible for life. Vivian will be suspected of being a traitor herself. Even if she is not arrested her career as a trusted CIA agent will be ruined. What will happen to her kids?

In a moment of panic, Vivian deletes Matt’s picture fro the Russian spymaster’s computer. In that one second she realizes that she moved from a woman with a dilemma, to an actual traitor to the United States.

The plot of Need To Know then follows the complex story of what to do next. Vivian realizes that she has dug herself a hole that may lead her to prison for life.   Can she save herself, her family and still be loyal to America? As a computer analyst herself, she understands that it is only a matter of time until both the Russians and the Americans will zero in on her tampering.

"Need To Know" author Karen Cleveland

“Need To Know” author Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland is an excellent writer and Need To Know is her first novel. Karen Cleveland herself is a former CIA analyst (whose husband is not a Russian spy). She has a Masters  degrees from Trinity College in Dublin in international peace studies, and a degree in public policy from Harvard University.

Like John  Le Carrie, Karen Cleveland zeros in on the emotional and personal aspects of spying, rather than political implications. Need To Know is a fast moving novel with an unexpected ending. We look forward to reading Karen Cleveland’s next book.

 

An Eye For Beauty – A Quebec Love Story

An Eye For Beauty is a love story that takes place in Quebec, but is also a love story about Quebec. The breathtaking beauty of the Province of Quebec is as much a character in the film as the actors themselves.  After watching An Eye For Beauty you will want to immediately pack up and move to Quebec. At the very least you will wish you had paid more attention in French class.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in “An Eye For Beauty”

Eric Bruneau stars as Luc,  a French-Canadian architect living in rural Quebec designing incredibly beautiful homes. His life seems perfect. He is surrounded by a group of loving friends. His wife Stephanie (Melanie Thierry) is smart, talented and gorgeous. Then, bit by bit things start to fall apart. Stephanie is slowly falling into a deep depression, and nothing seems to be able to stop it.

"An Eye for Beauty" features beautiful Quebec homes.

“An Eye for Beauty” features beautiful Quebec homes.

Luc is invited to Toronto to be part of a panel of architects judging the work of promising students. Luc realizes he is the “token French-Canadian”, but decides to join the panel anyway. In Toronto he meets Lindsey,  (Melanie Merkowsky) who is running the panel, and the the two of them begin a passionate affair.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Merkowsky in “An Eye For Beauty”

The love scenes in An Eye For Beauty are lovely and erotic, since they are quite natural. In fact, unlike most movies, all the people in An Eye For Beauty are real and complex.  An Eye For Beauty demonstrates that being successful and attractive and well off does not insulate a person from the tragedies of every day life.

Quebec

Quebec

In some ways, the beauty seems like a cruel joke to Luc’s wife Stephanie. She asks herself “how can she possibly not be happy.” She should be ecstatic with the perfect life, yet her depression keeps getting worse.

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in "An Eye For Beauty"

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in “An Eye For Beauty”

Anyone who has ever dealt with someone truly  clinically depressed will realize how accurate Melanie Thierry’s portrayal is. There is often no outside reason for depression, and seeing everyone around you being happy just makes it feel worse.

Skiing in Quebec

Skiing in Quebec

An Eye For Beauty is is French and English, depending upon what part of Canada the people are in and who is speaking. It is interesting that when the French Canadian goes to Toronto he has to speak English to everyone . However,  when Lindsey from Toronto goes to Quebec, she speaks English to everyone, without even attempting a French word. No doubt this double standard in supposedly bi-lingual Canada drives Quebeckers crazy.

An Eye For Beauty is an exquisitely filmed move. There are stunning scenes of rural Quebec with its breathing vistas, wildlife and homes. The love story is real and the tragedies  and heart wrenching. An Eye For Beauty is a film worth watching.

 

4 Favorite Company Lies

Companies lie so often to customers and employees that we don’t even notice it anymore. Here are 4 common corporate lies that are just accepted as a part of everyday life.

“Your Call Is Important To Us.”No it is not. If your call was really important to the company, it would hire more customer service people to answer the phones, and more technical people to solve your problems. Instead, companies have made the conscious decision to let you wait on hold for 20 or 30 minutes rather than spending the money to hire more people to help you.

Your Call is important to us

Your Call is important to us

“We Promote From Within” – This is a lie companies tell to prospective job applicants during the interview process. Most applicants don’t even realize it is a lie. But think about it for a minute. Unless you are interviewing for the lowest position at the company, the fact that the company is interviewing you means that the company decided to look outside the company instead of promoting someone from withing the firm.

The real impact of promoting from within

The real impact of promoting from within

The fact is that companies used to have internal training programs and then promote from within the ranks. However, as competition got more fierce and the demand for short-term profits more intense, most companies dropped these expensive training programs. It is cheaper to raid other companies for talent, than to pay to train people who may or may not stay with the firm.

Huge Bonus Potential

Huge Bonus Potential

“Huge Bonus Potential”- This is one of those statements that isn’t technically a lie. There is always technically a bonus potential.  There is also the potential that we can travel to alternate universes, or even spontaneously combust. However, the actual chances of any of these events occurring is very remote.  The reality is that if you expect to get a bonus, then you better get in writing exactly how that bonus will be calculated and when it will be paid to you.

Mark Zuckerberg explains why privacy is not important

Mark Zuckerberg explains why privacy is not important

“We Protect Your Privacy” – As the recent events at Facebook show, this is the most pervasive lie of all. If you are a customer or an employee, nothing you ever share with a company is private. All companies tell customers they protect customer emails, phone numbers and addresses. However, a large percentage of those same companies turn around and sell that private information. Often, buried in the small print of those annoying “service agreements” is something giving the company legal permission to sell your data. If you are an employee, remember that nothing you do at work is private, at least in the United States. This has been tested in U.S.  courts many times. The company can look at any emails, notes, documents or anything else an employee creates at work.

What we all think at work.

What we all think at work.

Lying is a part of modern corporate life and there is not much that can be done about it. However, at the very least you can recognize that you are being lied to. About the best you can do is to protect yourself from lies as much as possible. If a company gives you poor service, switch to one where your call really is important. Protect your privacy on your own, don’t except a company to do it. Be very cautious about where you keep personal information. Get all bonus details in writing. Realize that the company will probably not promote from within. You need to manage your own career, not count on the company to do it for you. Most important – try to buck the trend of lies upon lies. Tell the truth in everything you do, no matter how painful this is in the short run. You can’t control others, but you can lead a truthful life yourself. Who knows, perhaps telling the truth might catch on  some day.  Probably not.

Red Sparrow – Jennifer Lawerence’s Worst Movie

Even Jennifer Lawrence naked does not make Red Sparrow worth watching. The plot is dull, the acting wooden and the sex scenes amazingly non-erotic. It is also a remake of a low budget 1985 movie called Secret Weapons starring James Franciscus, Linda Hamilton, Gina Davis & Sally Kellerman  The low budget Secret Weapons was actually far better than Red Sparrow.

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence is one of our favorite actresses, so it was a shame to see her in  Red Sparrow, which seemed to have no purpose other than to show Jennifer Lawrence naked as often as possible. She is naked during spy training; naked in hotel rooms, and she is even naked when being tortured. For her whole career, Jennifer Lawrence has fought against taking roles that exploit women. Why she gave in for a piece of junk like Red Sparrow is a mystery.  Either she needed the money (which we doubt), or she actually thought Red Sparrow would be good. Get a new agent to find better scripts Jennifer.

From Russia With Love - 1964

From Russia With Love – 1964

Jennifer Lawrence plays Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova  who breaks her leg in an accident. She is then recruited by her uncle into a spy school. There  they train beautiful young women and men to become seductive “under cover” agents. She is sent on assignment to seduce a CIA agent (Played by Joel Edgerton) and get all his secrets. Of course, she falls in love with him, just like the female Russian spy in  the James Bond movie From Russia With Love.

Boris & Natasha - the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Boris & Natasha – the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Not a single actor in Red Sparrow is actually Russian, and they all use a variety of Russian “accents”. The result is that they all sound like people mimicking Boris and Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

"Secret Weapons" in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

“Secret Weapons” in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

The 1985 film Secret Weapons was far better  with more interesting plot twists and even better acting. (The Soviet Union was still around when Secret Weapons was made.) Unlike Red Sparrow, the spy school in Secret Weapons concentrated on much more than the art of seduction. The Soviet spies were being taught to become undercover Americans. They  were trained to have American accents, and were given false American backgrounds. Their goals were to infiltrate the United States and eventually marry high level government and military officials. Red Sparrow would have been better if it had stuck with the original plot instead of concentrating just on the  sex.

Anna Chapman - the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

Anna Chapman – the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

The 1985 Secret Weapons actually predicted the real Russian plan which Anna Chapman and her fellow spies tried to carry out over 35 years later. Ironically for the modern Russian spies, the seduction worked in reverse. Anna Chapman and her fellow spies completely fell in love with the materialism of the United States. Instead of gathering secrets they apparently spent most of their time buying expensive luxuries  and demanding more money from their spymasters in Moscow. It would have been much more fun if Red Sparrow had been a comedy about Anna Chapman and her inept secret agents.

Jennifer Lawrence has now chosen 2 terrible movies in a row.  The weird and disgusting Mother, followed by the semi-pornographic Red Sparrow. We hope that she gets back on track and that her next film is worthy of her talents.

The Shape Of Water – A Stupid Choice for Best Picture

The Shape Of Water was a stupid choice for best picture. It plagiarizes Splash and The Creature  From the Black Lagoon but is not as good as either of those two classics. The plot was idiotic and the “creature” absurd. The Shape Of Water is reminiscent of 1950s “monster movie porn”. In the 1950s and even early 1960s movies were very tightly censored. Movie producers knew that they could increase ticket sales by revealing as much of a woman’s naked body as they could get past the censors.

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

The solution was what insiders jokingly  called “monster movie porn”. Every monster movie had a beautiful woman and the monster always seemed to attack when that woman was in a nightgown, or a bathing suit, or naked in the bath tub. That way producers could argue that the nudity or implied nudity was “essential to the plot”. In addition, censors tended not to waste much time watching low budget monster movies. The censors main focus was on regulating main stream movies by major studios. Consequently, the cheesy monster movies got away showing a lot more female flesh than  the Feature Films. (Male nudity,  was completely taboo.)

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The Shape of Water pretends to be an intellectual art film about the importance of accepting people of all kinds. However, it manages to get character Sally Hawkins (wonderfully played by Elisa Esposito) naked on screen within the first 5 minutes. The film opens with her alone in her apartment where we see that she is deaf and lonely and poor. Was it really necessary to the plot to then show her naked in the bath tub?

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

The plot of The Shape Of Water was also ridiculous. The U.S. military has a sea creature locked in a secret facility where Sally and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are cleaners. There are armed guards and closed circuit T.V. cameras everywhere. That is, everywhere except the actual room where the creature is kept. The whole point of the security is to guard the creature, but for some reason there is no guard or T.V. camera in the room where the creature is kept. In fact, security in that room is so lax that Sally often eats her lunch in that room with no one being aware of this.

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon plays the evil Agent Strickland, who wants to kill The Creature. Michael Shannon’s trademark is playing “over-the-top” semi-insane authority figures. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of FBI agent Nelson van Alden in Boardwalk Empire. However, in The Shape Of Water he really overdoes it. In one scene, he literally rips off two of his own fingers, throws them away and then continues on his quest to kill The Creature. This really seems like something that belongs in a 1950s drive-in movie horror film and not in The Best Picture Of The Year.

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The ending of The Shape of Water (spoiler alert) is a complete rip off of Splash. At the end of  the 1984 film Splash, Tom Hanks dives into the water after the Mermaid (Daryl Hannah) only to discover that he can actually breathe underwater. At the end of  The Shape Of Water Sally dives into the water after the creature, only to discover that she can breathe underwater.

Daryl Hannah in Splash

Daryl Hannah in Splash

The worst part of The Shape Of Water getting Best Picture is that there were so many wonderful movies in 2017 that would have been better choices.  Ladybird and Get Out were both terrific movies. There was also Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Any one of these would have been a better pick for best picture than The Shape of Water.

Ratings for the Oscars ceremony have been falling for years. This is partly due to the fact that the (pompously named) Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems further and further out of touch with the actual movie-viewing public.

 

7 Best Baby Boomer Toys

As kids, Baby Boomers had the best toys of all time. Here are the top 7 Baby Boomer Toys:

  • Jame Bond’s 007 Briefcase. This was a toy replica of the attache case used by Sean Connery in From Russia With Love. It came complete with a toy gun, dagger,  gold coins, code book and many other spy essentials. It was a huge seller and every Baby Boomer had one. The toy 007 briefcase was one of the first toys directly connected to a movie, and showed Hollywood the tremendous potential of merchandising tie-ins. To this day it is a sore subject with Sean Connery. Merchandising was unheard of, so there was nothing in Sean Connery’s contract giving him any of the profits. Sean Connery did not make a penny from the toy James Bond briefcase. He has unsuccessfully sued many times for a cut of the profits. Friends of Sean Connery have learned never to mention the subject since it will set Sean off on a 25 minute rant.
The James Bond 007 toy briefcase - everything a young spy needs

The James Bond 007 toy briefcase – everything a young spy needs

  • Barbie Doll – A lot of modern women hate this doll, saying that it gave girls an unrealistic and physically impossible view of female beauty. Despite this, Barbie is the best selling doll in history. Over 1 Billion Barbie dolls have been sold since its debut by Mattel in 1959. Of course Barbie is unrealistic. If Barbie was “life sized” she would be 5 feet 9 inches tall, have a 39 inch bust, a 16 inch waist and 33 inch hips. Her shoe size would be 3.  It seems impossible that a real life Barbie would even be able to walk without falling forward. None of this mattered to little girls. For them, Barbie was just a fun toy and they loved her. Barbie also was an independent woman who always had tons of money, nice things and knew how to enjoy life.
Barbie - over 1 billion sold and still selling

Barbie – over 1 billion sold and still selling

  • Green Army Men – These guys don’t get much respect, but every Baby Boomer had hundreds and  sometimes thousands of these guys scattered around the house. For one dollar you could get a huge plastic bag filled with Green Army Men. They weren’t all the same either. Some of the Army men had rifles, some had radios others were throwing hand-grenades. There were soldiers shooting from all different positions. Whoever designed Green Army Men went into tremendous detail on the way the soldiers looked, right down to the details of the uniforms. Green Army Men, played a key roll in the film Toy Story, where they heroically fulfilled any dangerous task assigned to them without question or complaint. Remember that the parents of the Baby Boomers were the ones who had won World War II. In a way the toy Green Army Men were a tribute to those thousands of real soldiers who anonymously fought for freedom before the Baby Boomers were born.
Green Army Men - classic and inexpensive

Green Army Men – classic and inexpensive

  • Easy Bake Oven – This Hasbro invention  was a toy oven that could actually bake cakes, cookies and muffins, using a 100 watt light bulb as the heat source. Unlike a lot of toys, you don’t pretend to do something, you actually do it. You don’t pretend to bake a cake, you really bake one. Some people say that, like many Baby Boomer toys, the Easy Bake Oven reinforced sexual stereotypes. Little girls were given dolls and ovens, while little boys were given toy guns and Army men. This ignores the fact that boys loved the Easy Bake Oven as much as girls.  Parents may have given the Easy Bake Ovens to their daughters, but their sons soon discovered it as well. Many Baby Boomer boys actually learned how to cook by helping their sisters make desserts with an Easy Bake Oven.
Easy Bake Oven - cooking for real with a 100 watt light bulb

Easy Bake Oven – cooking for real with a 100 watt light bulb

  • Astro Base – a decade before people actually landed on the moon, the toy Astro Base accurately predicted what a lunar landing module would look like. In fact, it was even better than the real lunar landing module, since the Astro Base was bright red, and had a crane to gently lower the astronaut to the surface.

 

Astro Base - the first Lunar Landing Module

Astro Base – the first Lunar Landing Module

  • Mr. Machine – was a toy robot introduced by Ideal in 1960. It was made of see-through plastic and had a wind up spring. It was a very interactive toy since you could take it apart and re-assemble it. Boys and girls were fascinated to see how all the gears interconnected to create a moving walking robot. Many Baby Boomer boys and girls who went on to become engineers say that their first introduction to mechanical interactions started with Mr. Machine.
Mr. Machine - fascinating future engineers

Mr. Machine – fascinating future engineers

  • Etch A Sketch – is one of the most frustrating toys of all time. The T.V. commercials showed people creating masterpieces of art on this little box with 2 knobs. Every kid wanted one, and in 1960 the Ohio Art Company made sure that most kids in the United States got an Etch A Sketch.  However, kids soon discovered that there was no way they would ever be able to draw much more than rectangles and squares. Trying to  draw a curved line requires moving both knobs simultaneously, with the precision of a heart surgeon.  However, the best part of Etch A Sketch is that no matter how badly you mess things up you can simply shake the toy and all your mistakes are wiped clean forever. Then once again you can give it a try, knowing that this time for sure you will be successful.  If only real life worked that way.

 

Etch A Sketch showing a picture no kid will ever be able to draw

Etch A Sketch showing a picture no kid will ever be able to draw

Baby Boomers had the best toys because the toys stimulated the imagination. You could be an astronaut, a fashion model, an Engineer, a great chef, a brave soldier, a spy or a world class artist. Unlike today’s video games, you had to make the story yourself – it was not supplied to you.These toys allowed thousands of children to enter a world where anything was possible and all their dreams could come true.

Counterpart – a terrific Sci-Fi/spy thriller

Counterpart on the Starz network is a fantastic  sci-fi/spy story thriller with a fascinating plot and great acting. Counterpart explores the possibilities of what our  lives would be like if just one or two decisions had been different. Haven’t we all wondered what the trajectories of our lives might have been if we had just made one key choice differently?

Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

J.K. Simmonds plays Howard Silk, a low level worker at a secret agency that monitors a portal to a parallel world. Until 30 years ago the two worlds were exactly alike, including all the people, places and events. Each person has a duplicate in the other world. Then one day he is confronted by his counterpart (duplicate) from the other world, who expects Howard to help stop a deadly murderer.

J.K. Simmonds in Starz "Counterpart"

J.K. Simmonds in Starz “Counterpart”

For some unknown reason, 30 years ago the 2 worlds began to diverge. Now, the people in the two worlds are still duplicates, but their lives are different. Sara Serraiocco in our world is an accomplished violinist, but in the other world she is a deadly assassin.

Olivia Williams as Emily in "Counterpart"

Olivia Williams as Emily in “Counterpart”

Counterpart is great because it is much more of a physiological spy mystery than it is a sci-fi series. There are plots within plots and each of the characters are complex individuals. In our world Howard Silk is an unsuccessful career man, but a very good person. In the other world he is quite the opposite. Yet,  in the Ying and Yang of life there is no such things as 100% good or 100% evil. All people are a mixture of both.

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

Olivia Williams is Howard’s wife, Emily,  who is not what she seems in either world. Nazanin Boniadi is Clare,  whose motives are not truly revealed until the final episode. Harry Lloyd is Peter Quayle, a high level spy who ties to keep peace between the two worlds while sill maintaining secrecy and his job.

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in "Counterpart"

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in “Counterpart”

As you can tell, we are purposely trying not to give away too much of the plot. Counterpart is fascinating and beautifully acted.   In one moving episode, the Howard Silk (J.K. Simmonds)  from our world exchanges places with the “other” Howard, and secretly goes to the other world.  There he discovers he has a daughter (played by Sarah Bolger) that he never had in his world. What is worse is that the daughter cannot stand him.

Sarah Bolger

Sarah Bolger

The scenes between Sarah Bolger and J.K. Simmonds are moving and beautiful. Howard tries desperately to reconnect with his estranged daughter, without revealing that he is not actually the father she knew.

Counterpart is a series you will definitely want to binge watch. We give it our highest rating.

 

 

Chuck- The Bayonne Bleeder or the Real Rocky Balboa

Chuck is the story of boxer Chuck Wepner, the real-life inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. In 1975 Chuck Wepner fought Muhammad Ali for 15 rounds, when everyone said   Wepner would never last more than 3. This should have lead to a happy ending, just like the Rocky movie.  However, after the fight  Wepner’s life went on a  path of arrogance, self-destruction and eventually prison.

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

People love the movie character Rocky since he is a humble guy who passionately loves Adrian and never even looks at another woman. That’s not Chuck Wepner. After his fight with Ali, Wepner suddenly had the fame and respect he had never received before, and it went to his head.

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in "Chuck"

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in “Chuck”

Before the Ali fight , Wepner’s nickname had been  the Bayonne  Bleeder, for his tendency to bleed profusely if hit in the face. Although ranked as a “contender”, he was considered a joke in boxing circles.  He could not even make enough money to box full time. Chuck Wepner was a liquor route salesman who happened to pick up  some extra money boxing in clubs and small venues.

In 1975, Muhammad Ali thought he could make a fortune defending his heavyweight title against a White fighter, due to all the racial tension of the times.  Chuck Wepner was the only White fighter ranked in the top 10, and Wepner got the call to fight Ali. Just like the Rocky movie, Ali thought of the fight as a show, but Chuck Wepner trained hard. He even knocked Ali down during the fight.

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

After the fight, Wepner’s new found fame went to his head. He became a jerk, drinking  to excess and cheating on his wife. Then in 1976 the movie Rocky came out and things got 100 times worse. Wepner and his friends  thought he was Rocky, and starting referring to his movie.

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in "Chuck"

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in “Chuck”

Everyone assumed Chuck Wepner had made a fortune from the Rocky movie. However, Wepner had never even met Sylvester Stallone and never got a penny from the film. But Chuck started spending money like he was a wealthy Hollywood film star. He got into using cocaine and then started selling drugs to support his spending habits.

Chuck is a excellent and honest film. Unlike the Rocky movie, Chuck Wepner was fully involved in the production, which makes its honesty that much more remarkable.

Liev Schreiber is perfect as Chuck Wepner. Very few actors would have the physical ability to portray a 6 foot five inch bruiser, and still be able to show him as a complex character. Elizabeth Moss plays Chuck’s long-suffering wife Phyllis who inwardly is actually much tougher that Chuck as she tries to save her family.

Michael Rapaport is Chuck’s brother Don, who turns out to be a real hero when Chuck needs him most. Naomi Watts is Linda, the woman Chuck turns to as his life falls apart. Naomi Watts is so good at portraying Linda, that we never even realized it was Naomi playing the role.

Like the original Rocky movie, Chuck does have a happy ending. However, the redemption does not take place inside the boxing ring but out in the much tougher real world. Wepner finally comes to realize  that he is not Rocky Balboa, or Sylvester Stallone or even the Bayonne Bleeder. He is just Chuck from Bayonne New Jersey with only a small group of friends and family that actually know him and care who is really is. It turns out that when he finally accepts that and learns to return the love they give him it is better than being with all the shallow adoring fans. Maybe that’s not as dramatic as a Hollywood movie ending. Or maybe it is even better.

 

Babylon Berlin- A Wild Detective Series in 1929 Germany

Babylon Berlin on Netflix captures the wild times of the 1929 German capital. Gangsters, party girls, Communists, American Jazz musicians, and Nazis all mingled and fought while the Berlin police force tried to keep some semblance of order. Berlin was a complex mix of personal and political secrets, with no one ever being exactly who they seemed on the surface.

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin is one of the best new series on T.V. and we give it our highest rating. It combines a murder mystery with political drama and a search for stolen Russian gold.  Liv Lisa Fries is Charlotte Ritter, a beautiful young woman with the ridiculous dream of becoming a police homicide detective. She works for the police part-time as a clerk, and has become fascinated with crime investigation.  However, Charlotte has a secret of her own. Like many young women in the post World War I devastation  of Berlin, she is sometimes a part-time prostitute just to make ends meet.  Charlotte attends wild night club parties in Berlin where for the right price men can get something extra.

Volker Bruch stars as Gereon Rath, a straight-laced police Inspector who was sent to Berlin from Cologne Germany,  to find who  in Berlin is blackmailing the Mayor of Cologne. Gereon has secrets of his own. He is a “trembler”, what today we would call someone suffering from severe post-traumatic stress. He had served as a combat soldier in the war and saw his own brother captured and probably killed. However, in 1929 there was no concept of “PTSD”. War veterans who showed  PTSD symptoms such as shaking, were ridiculed as cowards and “tremblers” Gereon controls his shakes with illegal drugs, bringing him into contact with a part of Berlin society a police office is not supposed to touch.

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

Severija Janusauskaite is Russian Countess Svetlana Sorokina.  Once a wealthy Russian aristocrat, she had to flee when the Communists created the Soviet Union. She now makes her living as a night club singer. Her hatred for the Communists has never cooled, but she has a plan for revenge. Only she knows that the vast Sorokina fortune was smuggled out of Russia and into Germany as gold. Her plan is to use her seductive power to recruit the men she needs to get back her family’s gold.

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

Peter Kurth is Detective Bruno Wolter. At first it seems that Bruno is nothing more than a brutal corrupt cop, but we soon discover that he has his own complex moral code. Devastated by the humiliation Germany suffered in the war, he and other ex-military men want to re-arm Germany and bring it to its former glory. He considers himself a true patriot and is capable of great tenderness to his friends and loved ones. His enemies, however, soon discover that his brutality is also matched by a keen intelligence and ruthlessness.

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin is definitely worth binge watching on Netflix. It is in German with English subtitles. This is actually better than seeing a dubbed version. Hearing the real actors speaking German gives the series an authenticity that dubbing would ruin. Babylon Berlin has every aspect required for a great series. The twist and turns are unexpected and the conclusion is great and astonishing.

 

Will Season 3 Of “The Crown” Dare Mention Northern Ireland?

The Crown has so far managed to go through two complete seasons without once touching on Ireland or any Irish political struggles. The Crown has covered events in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eqypt, and even showed Prince Philip visiting Antarctica. However, Ireland has been a taboo subject.  This will be a hard policy to maintain in Season 3 of The Crown , which is already in production.

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Season 2 of The Crown  ended in 1964, which means that the violent period known as The Troubles are just about to begin in Northern Ireland.  It is difficult to see how going forward The Crown will be able to present a series about Queen Elizabeth II and continue to avoid the topic of Ireland.

Below is a quick timeline of Irish events from one perspective, quoted from Gerry Adams’ Book A Farther Shore.

  • 1964 Divis Street Riots in Belfast
  • 1967 Civil Rights Association established in the north.
  • 1968  The Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC- attack civil rights marchers in Derry.
  • 1969 Explosions occur which are initially blamed on the IRA. It subsequently emerges that they are carried out by the unionist paramilitary organization the Ulster Volunteer Force – UVF.
  • 1970 – The siege of St Matthews in The Short Strand in East Belfast and the Falls curfew by the British Army leads to significant support for the IRA.
  • 1971 – The war between the British Army and the IRA intensifies. Internment without trial is introduced.
  • 1972 – Fourteen civilians are killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry when the British Army attacks a civil rights march.
  • 1973 Bomb attacks in London.
A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as "Bloody Sunday" and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland's three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as “Bloody Sunday” and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland’s three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

Season 3 of The Crown will be taking place exactly when all these events occurred. Will The Crown continue to ignore Ireland and instead focus only on the various royal sex scandals? We hope that instead, The Crown will take the riskier approach of trying to show the reaction of  Queen Elizabeth II as a part or her “empire” is being torn apart and its citizens killing each other.

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

It is hard to imagine that The Crown Season 3 will possibly be able to ignore August 27, 1979. That was the day an IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten, who was the great uncle of Prince Charles. He had been a mentor to Charles, who was devastated by his death. On that same day, in an IRA shootout and ambush, the IRA killed 17 British soldiers in Northern Ireland.

Of course, the Queen is forbidden by the Constitution from taking a political stance. However, as we have seen in the first two seasons of The Crown  Queen Elizabeth II is quite determined to have a behind-the-scenes influence on major world events.

What exactly are the views of Queen Elizabeth II in regards to Ireland, Northern Ireland and the various political and paramilitary groups? Did she play any role in bringing  the warring factions together for  the eventual peace process ? Was she aware that the elite British SAS force was  being used as an assassination squad in Northern Ireland to kill suspected members of the IRA with no trial and many times no evidence? Perhaps the producers of The Crown don’t really know and don’t want to take a chance by making wild guesses about such a touchy subject.

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

The Good Friday Agreement was only signed in 1998 and many people in Ireland and the U.K.  have been walking on eggshells ever since, worried that the slightest insult, or misunderstanding could set off events in Northern Ireland. Maybe that is just too much pressure for the writers of The Crown to face.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Tourists  to Ireland and Northern Ireland often quickly find out how hard it is to get the Irish to talk to outsiders about any political subject. Ask about the IRA or the UVF or any events of The Troubles and you will find the Irish quickly and politely change the subject to a nice friendly chat about the weather or local sporting events.

American author William Faulkner famously wrote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Of course, he was not referring to Northern Ireland, but that quote describes perfectly the Irish “situation.”

Every word spoken about Northern Ireland is a potential landmine, which is undoubtedly why The Crown has chosen so far to pretend that Northern Ireland does not exist. Even today, a fight can quickly ensue depending on whether or not you refer to  a particular town in Northern Ireland as  Derry or Londenderry

So will Season 3 of  The Crown dare take on Northern Ireland? Well, no  matter which direction Season 3 of The Crown takes, we know one thing for sure. We will be watching it.

Loving Vincent – The Mystery of Vincent van Gogh’s Death

Loving Vincent is an exquisitely drawn film exploring the final days of Vincent van Gogh, and the mystery of van Gogh’s death.  Don’t dare call it a cartoon. Over 100 original painting’s in the van Gogh style were commissioned for this film. Top tier actors and a fascinating plot make you feel like you have actually stepped inside a van Gogh painting.

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in "Loving Vincent"

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent envelopes the audience in an 1890 world of vibrant colors, emotions and characters that van Gogh was able to capture for all time in his paintings. The plot delves into the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent van Gogh. Most people today simply accept as fact that the emotionally unstable van Gogh committed suicide. However, Loving Vincent shows that van Gogh actually might have been murdered.

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in "Loving Vincent"

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent is the true story of a quest undertaken by Armand Roulen (played by Douglas Booth) to deliver to Vincent van Gogh’s brother the last letter than Vincent ever wrote. Along the way. Roulen discovers that van Gogh’s death may have been more that just a straight forward suicide.

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh died on July 29th, 1980 of a gunshot wound inflicted 2 days earlier. Although van Gogh himself insisted he had tried to kill himself, the physical facts made no sense.  Who shoots himself in the stomach when trying to commit suicide? Was van Gogh trying to protect someone by claiming he had actually shot himself?

The list of murder suspects is long. Today the world reveres Vincent van Gogh as an artistic genius. However, while he was alive, he was considered a crazy trouble maker whose artwork was idiotic and bad.

van Gogh self portrait

van Gogh self portrait

In his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting. He lived off the charity of others. His brother Theo gave Vincent so much money over the years that Theo almost went bankrupt.

Vincent van Gogh’s main patron was Doctor Gachet (played by Jerome Flynn). Doctor Gachet recognized the artistic genius of van Gogh but was also extremely jealous of it. Vincent even lived with the Gachet family for a time, and gave most of his paintings to Dr. Gachet in return for Gachet’s help.

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

However, Dr. Gachet did not like that Vincent was becoming too close to Gachet’s daughter Margaret (played by Saoirse Ronan). Doctor Gachet and Vincent had a huge, almost violent,  argument and Vincent was no longer welcome at the Gachet home. Margaret Gachet never married, and her whole live she proudly displayed in her home, a painting van Gogh had done of her at a piano.

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

Like van Gogh’s paintings themselves, Loving Vincent is not intended to be an exact representation of reality. Vincent van Gogh’s painting were meant to elicit an emotional response. They show the beauty, complexity and hidden colors and feelings in every day scenes that most people take for granted. Loving Vincent shows the beauty and hidden depth of a man who was at the time either ridiculed or overlooked by most people.

Van Gogh’s simple painting of flowers  sold at auction for $109,400,000. Do people really see today what Vincent van Gogh was trying to show them, or are they just interested in a good investment? We wonder what van Gogh would think of the fabulous sums of money rich people are now willing to pay for his paintings. Ironically, van Gogh was never interested in rich people. His painting were not portraits of the wealthy, but views of ordinary people, scenes and events.

Loving Vincent is a wonderful film and we highly recommend it.

 

 

Everything She Forgot – A Brilliant Mystery/Action Novel

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne is a brilliantly written mystery/action novel. A fiery car crash in a blizzard unleashes flashes of memories that have been hidden in a woman’s subconscious since childhood. She embarks on a quest to find the meaning of these memories, and to discover long buried events.

A car crash and fire in a snow storm unleashed hidden memories in

A car crash and fire in a snow storm unleashed hidden memories in Everything She Forgot

Margaret Holloway is a teacher in Northern England, whose world is suddenly changed when she is caught in a multiple car collision in a freak snowstorm.  She is trapped in her car as it catches fire. She is about to burn to death when she is suddenly rescued by a hideous looking giant of a man who then disappears into the night.

In "Everything She Forgot" a woman searches for lost memories of childhood

In “Everything She Forgot” a woman searches for lost memories of childhood

Weeks go by and although Margaret was not hurt physically, she is traumatized by the events. She begins to realize that there is something more going on than just a reaction to the shock of almost getting killed. The fire has brought back long-hidden memories from her childhood, and she searches to recover them.

Lisa Ballantyne - author of Everything She Forgot

Lisa Ballantyne – author of Everything She Forgot

Margaret’s quest takes her into a whole world she had forgotten.  A world that includes Scottish gangsters, family secrets, and a childhood road trip that is a key to why she became a teacher. Above all, there is the nagging feeling than she somehow knows the man who rescued her and that he is the key to everything.

"Everything She Forgot" - A brilliant novel by Lisa Ballantyne

“Everything She Forgot” – A brilliant novel by Lisa Ballantyne

Lisa Ballantyne is a terrific writer. The plot is fascinating and her characters are complex and real. Everything She Forgot is only her second novel, but she has already gained an international reputation.

We highly recommend Everything She Forgot and look forward to reading more from Lisa Ballantyne in the future.

 

Naked Came The Stranger – The 1969 Hoax that became a best selling novel

The 1969 novel Naked Came The Stranger by Penelope Ashe was a hoax written to prove that Americans will read any piece of trash as long as it contains enough sex. The plot made no sense, there was no character development and the writing was awful. However, it was jam-packed with sex scene after sex scene. Add to that the fact that the author was a beautiful woman, and there was a naked woman on the cover, and Naked Came The Stranger was an instant best seller

Naked Came The Stranger the 1969 best selling trash novel that was really a Hoax.

Naked Came The Stranger the 1969 best selling trash novel that was really a Hoax.

In fact, there was no Penelope Ashe. Naked Came The Stranger was written by 24 Newsday journalists and their literary friends  lead by Mike McGrady. They went out of their way to write a bad book. Each of them wrote different parts of the book, and had no discussions with each other about the plot during the writing. This is why the plot seems so disjointed, and the writing styles vary from chapter to chapter. When the first draft was completed Mike McGrady insisted that some of the chapters  be re-done, because then were too well written

Ashe" who pretended to be the author of"Naked Came The Stranger"

Billie Young, AKA “Penelope Ashe” who pretended to be the author of”Naked Came The Stranger”

Once this collection of garbage prose was completed it was time to try to get it published. Everyone agreed that sex novels written by beautiful young women, somehow seem much more titillating than those written by middle-aged men. Billie Young, Mike McGrady’s sister-in-law, therefore agreed to pretend to be the author Penelope Ashe, although she had not written a word.

Mike McGrady, the real force behind Naked Came The Stranger

Mike McGrady, the real force behind Naked Came The Stranger

The next step was to choose a publisher. That was easy. They chose Lyle Stuart, a Fort Lee New Jersey publisher of sleaze books, who was also a Las Vegas casino owner and an overall “colorful” character.  Rumors were that Mr. Stuart might be “connected” to some people. (If you live in New Jersey you know what that phrase means). Lyle Stuart did not question the book’s authenticity. He accepted Billie Young as the author Penelope Ashe.

Lyle Stuart - publisher of Naked Came The Stranger

Lyle Stuart – publisher of Naked Came The Stranger

In fact, Lyle Stuart decided to make a sexy book even sexier. It was Lyle Stuart who decided to put a naked woman on the cover. Of course, there still was some censorship in 1969, so the photo was an “artful” picture showing only a nude young  woman from behind, submissively kneeling on a rug.  The photograph suggests much more than it actually reveals.

The real authors of Naked Came The Stranger

The real authors of Naked Came The Stranger

Lyle Stuart had actually plagiarized the photograph from a Hungarian nudist magazine and did not pay or credit the photographer. Later on when Naked Came The Stranger became a best seller, the Hungarian photographer successfully sued Lyle Stuart, and received payment.

When Naked Came The Stranger was published, it became an instant best seller. Before the end of 1969 it had sold 20,000 copies. At that point, the real authors decided to shame the American public and reveal the truth. They all appeared on The David Frost Show and exposed the hoax.

But the American public was not ashamed of its poor taste in literature. After the revelations on the David Frost Show, sales of Naked Came The Stranger skyrocketed. The book eventually sold over 400,000 copies.

After the book was revealed as a hoax, Americans had the best of both worlds. The could go out and buy Naked Came The Stranger and pretend they were not really just reading it for the sex parts. People could now openly carry a copy of Naked Came The Stranger and say they were just interested in  the hoax and wanted to see just how bad the writing was.

Naked Came the Stranger became the topic of conversations at middle-class suburban cocktail parties throughout 1969 and into the early 1970s. Suburbanites could now openly discuss a raunchy sex book and pretend it was really a literary discussion.

In its own  way, Naked Came The Stranger did reveal quite a lot about American culture in 1969 . Today, Americans can see or read or hear any kind of sexually explicit material instantly on the internet. However, 1969 was a different world. Only 10 years earlier, even such classics as the D.H. Lawrence masterpiece Lady Chatterly’s Lover were still banned throughout the United States. Only a series of long and expensive court cases allowed publishers to begin to print and distribute books that a few years earlier would have landed them in jail.

Released from their Puritanical bonds, Americans were eager to buy and read everything that had been denied to them for so long. If a book like Naked Came The Stranger was released today, it would hardly cause a ripple in the literary community. In 1969 it was a Tsunami.

So remember – books, movies or songs don’t have to be good to be “classic”. What makes something classic is its power to perfectly capture a specific period of time. In 1969, that classic was Naked Came The Stranger.

Cablevision drops Starz and Encore and Cheats Its Customers

Cablevision just dropped the Starz and Encore networks, without any drop in price to Cablevision customers. In fact, this was just one month after Cablevision had actually raised its prices. Less service for a higher price. Starz has some of our favorite shows, including, Outlander, Power and Ash vs Evil Dead, all of which we have reviewed on this blog.

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

This move by Cablevision  is typical of the way that all cable providers continue to behave as if they still have a monopoly and can treat customers any way they want. In fact, cable companies should be bending over backwards to be giving more service to customers and lowering their prices. People no longer need cable companies to get access to shows. Many people are going “unplugged “and getting access through the internet or satellite with no payments to any cable provider.

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

The behavior of Cablevision and other cable providers is reminiscent of the way that Blockbuster once treated its customers. Blockbuster not only charged a lot to rent movies, it also hit up  their customers with ridiculous late fees. You had to physically return a video before the due date, but the system was rigged to maximize the late fees.

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Most people rented movies on Saturday or Sunday, since it was hard to get to Blockbuster during the work week. However, if you rented on a Saturday, the movie was due by Wednesday. If you returned it the next Saturday, you owed as much on late fees as you had paid to rent the movie. In the early days of Blockbuster, they even charged a 50 cent “rewind fee” on tapes. (Remember the days before DVDs when you had to rewind tapes?)

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

While Blockbuster was squeezing their customers for every nickle, Netflix was busy reinventing the business. With Nexflix, customers could get videos at home and keep them as long as they wanted with no late fees. Blockbuster could have beaten Netflix, if Blockbuster had reacted quickly. In the early days, Blockbuster actually had many more titles available than Netflix.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Blockbuster should have eliminated late fees, and started letting people order movies online and shipping them to people’s homes. At the time, Blockbuster had the financial might, the customer base and the video library to be able to wipe out Netflix. However, Blockbuster was so intent on trying to maximize short term profits, that it ignored the anger of its customers.

Towards  the end, Blockbuster finally realized the danger it was in, and did try  to fight back against Netflix. Blockbuster eliminated all late fees, lowered its rental charges and began using the internet. But it was too late. Angry customers had left Blockbuster in droves and they never came back.  Blockbuster went bankrupt and its outlets closed.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Will Cablevision and the other cable providers one day go the way of Blockbuster? They are certainly making the same mistakes as Blockbuster, by arrogantly ignoring competition from new technologies. Some day, perhaps sooner than expected, the idea of paying a company hundreds of dollars a month for video content will seem as as antiquated as dial up internet access.

So our message to Cablevision is simple. Ignore the best interests of you customers and soon they will ignore you. If you think you can last forever, just remember Yahoo, AOL, Tower Records and Blockbuster.

Editor’s note: Since the first  publication of this story, Optimum Online Cablevision has announced that it made a deal with Starz. The Starz Network will be returning to Cablevision, along with Encore. This is planned for the end of February 2018.  Of course, Cablevision is not planning any refund to Cablevision customers for the 2 months they did not have Starz or Encore. Congratulations to the thousands of Cablevision customers who called and emailed Cablevision to demand the return of Starz and Enclore. Customers need to continually remind the large cable companies that the ultimate power lies with the customer.

 

SMILF- Rosie O’Donnell Gives The Best Performances Of Her Career

In Showtime’s series SMILF, Rosie O’Donnell gives the best performances of her career. Her character is “Tutu”, a tough, loud, crazy,  but loving Boston-Irish mother whose entire goal is to make sure that her daughter has a better life than Tutu’s own miserable upbringing. It is the role of a lifetime for Rosie O’Donnell, and she is perfect in the part.

Rosie O'Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

Rosie O’Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

The SMILF (Single Mom I’d Like to F**K) herself is Bridgette Bird, Tutu’s daughter. Brigitte is played by Frankie Shaw, who is also SMILF’s creator  and main writer. Frankie Shaw’s writing  and acting talents are amazing.  SMILF has comedy, pathos, fantasy sequences, and yet the characters are always true to life. Some of the best scenes are the interactions between Tutu and her daughter Brigitte. A scene may begin with the two of them having a screaming argument but end with Tutu gently giving her winter coat to Bridgette and making sure Bridgette does not get cold walking  home. SMILF reflects the hate-love-insane relationship between a mother and daughter when both are strong willed, stubborn, independent women.

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

In many ways Rosie O’Donnell is like the character she plays on SMILF. Rosie’s career and life have had huge ups and downs. The downs are usually because Rosie O’Donnell does something crazy to sabotage herself. For example, Rosie O’Donnell at one point said that she thought there might actually be something to the conspiracy theories claiming that the Bush Administration, not outside terrorists, was responsible for destroying the World Trade Center on 9/11. This idiotic statement got her hated for years, especially in the New York area.

SMILF pay homage to the German film Run Lola Run

SMILF pays homage to the German film Run Lola Run

Rosie O’Donnell also managed to get herself fired from The View, not once but twice. The View is that obnoxious T.V. show where a bunch of very loud women sit around screeching about subjects that they think are interesting.  If you can watch this show for more than 10 minutes you deserve a medal. Rosie simply could not take a back seat to any of the other women, especially Barbra Walters or Whoopi Goldberg. In any difference of opinion Rosie just could not let go of the argument. Apparently when the cameras were off,  there were several occasions where Rosie O’Donnell had to be physically restrained from attacking one or more of the other women back stage.

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). - Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. - Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). – Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. – Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

However, these  very personality flaws are what make Rosie O’Donnell so perfect to play the wild mother in SMILF. In one episode Tutu (Rosie) has a manic episode in whcih she wades into Boston harbor in the middle of winter. She then walks to her local bank to withdraw money. When a concerned bank official points out that she is soaking wet, Tutu calmly and politely points out that as far as she knows there are no rules against withdrawing funds while wearing wet clothing.

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

The apple does not fall far from the tree for Tutu’s daughter Bridgette. This single mom has a very hard life tying to make ends meet on a series of dead-end jobs. However, she does have a wild fantasy life where she imagines what her life should be. In one episode, Bridgette imagines herself as Wonder Woman, complete with the costume and swordplay. Another episode of SMILF is a takeoff on the famous German film Run Lola Run. (If you have never seen Run Lola Run, we highly recommend it). The Run Bridgette Run  episode of SMILF  even has parts where Bridgette’s hair turns bright red, and she starts speakign German. Viewers who had never seen the German original probably wondered what the Hell was going on.

 

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw has taken a real chance in creating the character of Bridgette Bird on SMILF. Bridgette is not perfect at all. She is beautiful, but also very self centered. There are times where Bridgette is unnecessarily cruel to her friends and especially her mother. However, Bridgette’s redeeming quality is that her son Larry (yes she named her son Larry Bird) is always the most important aspect of her life. No matter what other stresses there are, Bridgette never loses her patience with Larry, and always makes sure he is well taken care of.

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

The rest of the cast is also terrific. Rafi Gomez is Rafi, the baby daddy, who has his own struggles with alcoholism and relationships. Connie Britton is Ally, a rich Bostonian who Bridgette works for part time as a handy woman and confidant. Ally shows that even people with lots of money can have crazy lives. Samara Weaving is Nelson Rose, Rafi’s new girlfriend. She is optimistic, cheerful and successful; everything Bridgette is not, and it drives Bridgette crazy. Raven Goodwin plays Bridgette’s best friend Eliza, who is responsible for bringing some sense of sanity into Bridgette’s life. Everyone needs a best friend like Eliza.

We recommend SMILF as one of the best new shows.

Michael Flynn’s Crazy Plot to Kidnap Turkish Dissident Fethullah Gulen – A perfect comedy movie

Michael Flynn’s alleged plot to kidnap Turkish dissident leader Fethullah Gulen reads like a cross between a James Bond novel and a Monty Python skit. Michael Flynn supposedly was willing to risk life imprisonment  for Kidnapping, or even a possible death sentence for Treason, all for the potential of collecting a $15 million bounty the Turkish government has offered on Fethullah Gulen.

Michael Flynn was allegedly willing to commit treason for $15 million

Michael Flynn was allegedly willing to commit treason for $15 million

Normally East Coast Stories reviews movies and books, but the plot of this story is so bizarre, we simply could not resist detailing all the flaws in this moronic plan. It is sort of like revealing  all the plot errors in a really badly written spy novel. Of course, Mr. Flynn denies vehemently the charges, so when Hollywood  make a movie about this, it  will have to use the phrase “inspired by true events”, which is Hollywood’s way of saying, “may or may not be true”

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

Allegedly, the conspirators met at the famed 21 Club in New York to discuss the details of the kidnapping. You don’t have to be criminal mastermind to know that perhaps a crowded restaurant is not the best place to openly plan a Federal crime of the highest magnitude.

To succeed, Flynn would have had to kidnap Fethullah Gulen from Gulen’s  home in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania. This is not just some ordinary American Home. Fethullah Gulen’s house is actually a guarded compound  watched 24 hours a day by teams of FBI agents. All traffic in and out is photographed and the license plates cross-checked against a national database.

Jim Carrey, who will play Michael Flynn in our movie "Kidnapping Gulen"

Jim Carrey, who will play Michael Flynn in our movie “Kidnapping Gulen”

Flynn’s plan was to recruit a team of ex-military people, storm the compound  in Pennsylvania guarded by FBI agents and kidnap Gulen. Flynn’s commando team would then have to somehow get to a private airport and get on to a private jet capable of crossing the Atlantic ocean at the very least.

Johnny Depp will play an over the top President Erdowin

The stupidest part of the plot is that it would probably have been a money loser, even if the Turkish government could have been trusted to actually pay the $15 million. Just the cost of the  the commando team, the jet pilots and the jet itself would have been a lot of money. Then, of course, there are the huge bribes needed for  airport officials, police, government agents, air traffic controllers and customs agents.

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

The chance that not a single person involved would leak the plot  before the event would be  virtually zero. How exactly do you recruit a team of ex-military people and ask them to help you commit treason; hoping  that none of them turns you in to the police? American military men and women are known for their loyalty to the rule of law and something called the Constitution. Flynn assumed he could get an entire team to go against everything they believed in, just for some money. Let’s  face it, if money was the main motivating force in their lives, they would not have chosen the military as a career in the first place.

Turkish actress Naz Elmas will play newscaster Tijen Karas in the movie "Kidnapping Guen"

Turkish actress Naz Elmas will play newscaster Tijen Karas in the movie “Kidnapping Guen”

So, as a movie action/spy story, we have to give Michael Flynn’s idea to kidnap Fethullah Gulen a bad review. However, it might work as a comedy. Jim Carrey would be perfect as Michael Flynn. Jim Carrey has the same skinny goofy looks as Michael Flynn, and is perfect at playing characters who are completely oblivious to how stupid their ideas really are.

Johnny Depp will make the comeback of his career by playing a completely “over-the-top” version of Turkish President Erdowan. It may sound crazy, but Erdowan himself must be a little cracked.  Only an insane Turkish  leader would finance such an attack on its friend The United States. Did Erdowan think the U.S. would just “let it go” if the kidnapping was successful?

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

Of course, a beautiful woman is required to keep the audience’s interest. Here we would cast Turkish actress Naz Elmas to play the newscaster Tijen Karas, who is desperately trying to keep some semblance of professionalism in reporting the events in modern day Turkey.

We are interested in this story because East Coast Stories has a huge readership in Turkey. We are not really sure why.  Perhaps it is because so many of Turkey’s own writers, journalists and even book reviewers have been arrested and jailed for “high treason”. So to all our readers in Turkey –  Remember this. You are not forgotten . We admire the courage you have to read and write and say whatever you want – no matter what the consequences. No doubt in Turkey, our little story making fun of Flynn and Erdowan’s plot to kidnap Gulen would have gotten East Coast Stories shut down and all of us jailed.

In real life, the alleged Flynn plot to kidnap Fethullah Gulen never got off the ground. Perhaps people Flynn spoke to told him how insane the idea was. Of course, in the movie, the kidnapping will go full scale, with explosions car chases, gun fights and beautiful damsels in distress.

The plot will ultimately fail, however, due to one simple fact. Michael Flynn forgot about the fact that the average citizens in rural Pennsylvania are armed to the teeth. Flynn’s group gets past the FBI, only to be defeated by the brave citizens of Saylorsburg Pennsylvanian,  These good citizens simply will not stand for anyone harassing their neighbor Mr. Gulen.

At the end of the movie, the town of Saylorsburg put up a monument to the victory in their town square, with the following poem.

Good Will On Earth And Peace To Men.

Do not try to harm Gulen.

Americans have guns and guns galore. And every day we buy some more

If you send goons to Gulen’s door. American guns will make them sore.

By the way, if any Hollywood produces actually do  make this film, remember that you owe East Coast Stories some big bucks.

Happy New Year to the brave people of Turkey.

 

 

 

 

Hamlet 2 – The Musical sequel to Shakespeare’s classic play

Hamlet 2 is a hilarious 2008  comedy about a high school drama teacher who decides to create a musical sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The fact that every character dies in the original Hamlet is the first obstacle to overcome. Drama teacher Dana Marschz (played by Steve Coogan) has a bizarre solution.  Hamlet 2 uses a time machine, Jesus, and a collection of semi-obscene musical numbers to set everything right.

Steve Coogan as Jesus in "Hamlet 2"

Steve Coogan as Jesus in “Hamlet 2”

The drama students all realize that Mr. Marschz is having some sort of mental breakdown. His marriage is falling apart and his career is a failure. He so desperately wants Hamlet 2 to work, that his students decide to give it their all; knowing that an idea of a sequel to Hamlet is idiotic.

Joseph Julia Soria in “Hamlet 2”

Joseph Julian Soria is Octavio Marquez, the de facto leader of the students. He pretends to be a tough street-wise kid, but actually comes from a wealthy and well-educated family. When the school administrators decide to ban Hamlet 2, Octavio takes this as a chance to become the rebel he has always wanted to be.

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss "Hamlet 2"

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss “Hamlet 2”

Elizabeth Shue plays herself, as a frustrated actress who has left Hollywood due to all the insincerity  the business. However, when she sees the passion behind the attempt to make Hamlet 2, it rekindles her love of acting. Phoebe Strole is student Epiphany, who is a star in Hamlet 2 and one of the main singers, with a beautiful voice. Skylar Astin is Rand, who changes from believing that Mr. Marschz is crazy to  simply believing in Mr. Marschz.

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

One of the best parts of Hamlet 2 is that we actually do get to see the the play. “Incredible” is the only word that describes it. Hamlet 2 is sort of a cross between Jesus Christ Superstar, The Time Machine, and Grease. One of the parents (played by Marco Rodriguez) states it best when he says. “I am at once both horrified yet fascinated”.

Hamlet 2 is a fun, silly movie to watch. It reminds us how important it is to believe in our friends’  ideas, no matter how idiotic  or impossible to achieve their ideas may seem.

“The Crown” Insults Jackie Kennedy

Netflix The Crown portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy as a drug addicted, anorexic idiot who felt completely inferior to Queen Elizabeth. President John F. Kennedy was portrayed as a wife-beating moron who did not know how properly address Royalty and who pumped Jackie full of drugs against her will. The Crown episode “Dear Mrs. Kennedy”  is an insult to the memories of Jack & Jackie Kennedy.

Jodi Balfor as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour gives one of the worst Jackie Kennedy impressions of all time. This South African actress somehow makes the elegant Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy sound like she has a thick New York accent.  In addition, Jodi Balfour does not look like Jackie Kennedy. The real Mrs. Kennedy was slim and elegant. Jodi Balfour simply looked anorexic; like a bread-stick in an evening gown.

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in "The Crown"

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in “The Crown”

Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy was just awful. Michael C. Hall, is best known as the star of Dexter, in which he was perfect.  In The Crown, Michael C. Hall kept trying to do what was supposed to be a Boston Accent. It was not. He also had Jack Kennedy being tongue tied and awkward when speaking to the Royal family. The real Jack Kennedy was never awkward. The real Jack Kennedy was at ease addressing people of any station in life. It was one of his greatest strengths.

.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

U.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

As bad as the acting was, the plot was worse, and completely false. The Dear Mrs. Kennedy Episode of The Crown  takes place just after the Kennedy’s triumphant trip to Paris, during which Jackie Kennedy charmed Charles de Gaulle with her fluent French. In the  actual historical event President Kennedy was thrilled with the way all of France fell in love with  Jackie Kennedy. Charles de Gaulle was notoriously difficult to negotiate with, and Jackie Kennedy smoothed the way for a successful negotiation between the French and the Americans. Jackie Kennedy was more useful than all the ambassadors and State Department professionals put together.

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

However, in The Crown,  the show has President Kennedy  being jealous of Jackie to the point where he physically beats her after the dinner with de Gaulle. It also has Jack Kennedy as a drug addict who gives drugs to Jacqueline to make her perform better at public events.

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

This is such a twisting of facts that it it obscene. President Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease and also had back pain from injuries suffered in World War II. During the War his PT Boat 109 was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. He had to swim miles to shore, dragging a wounded man through the water. This gave him permanent back trouble.  Jack Kennedy took doctor prescribed medications for these ailments. He was not a drug addict. He was a war hero. He did have affairs with many women. However, the idea of Jack Kennedy physically attacking Jacqueline is absurd.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen's Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen’s Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

The real Jacqueline Kennedy took no drugs and was not a heavy drinker. Jackie Kennedy’s father, the strikingly handsome “Black Jack” Bouvier was an alcoholic, and in fact was so inebriated that he could not attend Jacqueline’s wedding to Jack Kennedy. Because of this, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was very careful her whole life not to follow in her father’s footsteps. She never drank to excess and never got into illegal drugs.

"Black Jack" Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

“Black Jack” Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

In The Crown, Jackie Kennedy is at a party high on drugs and alcohol and says insulting things about Queen Elizabeth II. Later in the episode, Jackie begs forgiveness of the Queen in a private meeting, basically grovelling and confessing that Jack Kennedy beats her and gives her drugs.

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfor as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfour as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The Crown is generally an excellent show and fun to watch . However, the Dear Mrs. Kennedy episode is such an inaccurate portrayal of Jack & Jackie Kennedy  that it makes one  question the accuracy of any of the historic figures shown in the series.

"The Crown" writer Peter Morgan

“The Crown” writer Peter Morgan

Is The Crown just a fictional result of British writer Peter Morgan pretending that The United Kingdom is the center of the universe? Many people today argue that  the modern U.K. is a third-rate power and that Queen Elizabeth II is closer to a Disneyland attraction than she is to a World Leader. Her only function is to attract tourists to the U.K., much like the Disney Princesses bringing in the crowds to the theme park.  Is the writer Peter Morgan having The Crown change historical events to make it look like Queen Elizabeth II really was a major world leader at one time?

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

If the writer of The Crown wants to make Queen Elisabeth II seem more interesting and stronger than she really is; that is fine. Just don’t do it by insulting the memory of Jacqueline Kennedy who was one of the strongest women of the century in all the ways that truly matter.  She deserves better than that.

ILL Behaviour – The comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping

ILL Behaviour is the British  comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping now playing on Showtime. As bizarre as this sounds, it is really funny. Tom Riley plays Charlie, who has just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The good news is that chemotherapy has a 94% cure rate for this disease. The bad news is that Charlie refuses chemo and instead decides trying to cure himself using only fruit juices, beet paste and other “natural” medicines.

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Charlie’s Friends Tess (Jessica Regan) and Joel (Chris Geere) decide that they cannot simply stand by and let Charlie die just because he is too pig headed to take chemo. Luckily, Joel is fabulously wealthy. He comes up with a plan to kidnap Charlie, hold him prisoner in a rented castle and pump him full of anti-cancer drugs against his will.

Lizzy Caplan, Chris Geere, Jessica Regan & Tom Riley (seated) in ILL Behaviour

Of course to do this, they will need an actual doctor. In comes Nadia (Lizzy Caplan), an American doctor in England, who also happens to be an alcoholic coke-head in desperate need of money. She agrees to the plot, and the kidnapping is on.

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

ILL Behaviour is a show where  the British understated sense of humor really works perfectly. Even though Joel and Tess have kidnapped Charlie, and hold him in an old castle, they want to make his life “fun.” They even give him an internet Call Of Duty game to play with, unaware that this allows Charlie to contact the other players around the world. When Charlie tells the other players that he is being held in an old castle and being given drugs against his will, the other players think it is just part of the game. “Cool. How do I get to that level?”, is the response from the other players.

Ill Behaviour's Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) - (C) Fudge Park Too LTD - Photographer: Jon Hall

Ill Behaviour’s Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) – (C) Fudge Park Too LTD – Photographer: Jon Hall

As the episodes go on, the plot of ILL Behaviour gets darker and darker. Charlie is married to Kira (Christina Chong) and has two kids. Kira, of course, is very upset that Charlie has disappeared, so Joel keeps going over to “console” her. Kira is beautiful and kind and Charlie starts getting used to the idea of this becoming His family.

ILL Behaviour is not for everyone. Some people may find the humor too dark and the concept too strange. However, we loved it.

 

Second Nature – Ric Flair & Charlotte

Second Nature is the story of professional wrestlers Ric Flair and his daughter” Charlotte”. Second Nature  is a brutally honest look at their professional successes and personal failures in and out of the public spotlight. Many people do not like professional wrestling because it is “fake”. Even the names are fake. Ric Flair’s real name is Ric Fliehr, and Charlotte’s real name is Ashley Fliehr. Ashley chose her stage name since she grew up in Charlotte North Carolina.

Charlotte Flair (real name Ashley Fliehr)

Charlotte Flair (real name Ashley Fliehr)

Like Rodney Dangerfield, professional wrestlers get no respect.However, to be a successful professional wrestler, you have to be a combination of stunt-person, and stage actor. The reaction from the crowd instantly lets you know if your performance is worthwhile. It is great if the crowd loves you or hates you. If the crowd doesn’t care, then you will not last long in the business. And professional wrestling is a business. One that brings in millions of dollars and supports thousands of performers. Circuses may be disappearing, but professional wrestling keeps growing each year.

Ric Flair demonstrates that Old does not mean Weak

Ric Flair demonstrates that Old does not mean Weak

We previously reviewed the early days of Ric Flair in his book  Ric Flair – To Be The Man. However, Second Nature is about the  twilight days of his career and the entry of his daughter Ashley and his son Reid Fliehr into the business. Second Nature is no fluff piece. Ric and Ashley are remarkably open about their personal failings. Ric Flair has been married 4 times and goes into detail about how his professional and personal behavior was the cause of the problems. His travel schedule was so hectic, that during one year of his first marriage, he was only at home for 10 days.

Ric & Reid Flair share a happy moment.

Ric & Reid Flair share a happy moment.

Realizing his prior failures, Ric was determined to be the perfect father to Reid and Ashley. He spent lots of time with them, gave them tons of presents, and never lost his temper. Growing up it seemed like the perfect family. But, of course, it was not. Ric was actually having a long term affair with a good friend of his wife. Ashley was devastated when she found out.

Reid Flair- who his from the world that he was a drug addict

Reid Flair- who hid from the world that he was a drug addict

Reid Fliehr went into professional wrestling and Ashley went to college on a full athletic scholarship for volleyball.  But then things began to fall apart personally for both of them. Reid secretly was a heroin addict. It seems incredible that he could be super athlete “Reid Flair” in the ring, and then  go home and shoot up heroin, but he did. Ric spent thousands of dollars sending Reid to the best rehab centers in the country.

At one point, a rehab  center needed $15,000 immediately and Ric just did not have it on hand. Wrestler Hulk Hogan happened to call Ric that day about an upcoming wrestling event. Hogan could tell that Ric was upset about something and asked what it was. When Ric reluctantly admitted the money problem, Hogan immediately wired $15,000 to Ric Flair. Not as a loan; a gift.

Ric Flair and Charlotte together in the wrestling ring

Ric Flair and Charlotte together in the wrestling ring

Ashley Fliehr had her own personal issues. When her college life seemed to be going perfectly, she one day simply dropped out and moved to Chapel Hill North Carolina to move in with her boyfriend who was a student at UNC.  Even worse was the fact that he was a heavy drug user who abused her mentally and physically. Despite all advice from her parents and every one of her friends, she married the guy. Writing in Second Nature years later, Ashley says she just cannot explain why she did something do stupid.

Second Nature by Ric & Ashley Fliehr with Brian Shields

Second Nature by Ric & Ashley Fliehr with Brian Shields

It would be nice to say that Second Nature has  a  happy ending and everything ends up perfectly. However, Second Nature is a true story and all true-life stories have good and bad aspects. Some parts turn out wonderfully and some parts are tragic and irreversible.

Brian Shields - collaborated with Ric & Askhey Fliehr to create the book Second Nature

Brian Shields – collaborated with Ric & Ashley Fliehr to create the book Second Nature

Despite all the rehab stays and a loving family and girlfriend,  Reid Fliehr died of a drug overdose.  Ric and Ashley both blamed  themselves. Ric asked himself over and over if he had pushed Reid too hard by bringing him into wrestling. Ashely wondered if she had been tied up with her own problems too much to understand what was happening with Reid. The truth, of course, is that sometimes nothing can be done to save a true addict.

It is impossible to read Second Nature without thinking of the Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler. Rourke plays a professional wrestler who is a hero in the ring while his personal life is a complete disaster. In fact, both Ric and Ashley reference the movie several times and worry that it is just a little too close to their own lives. Second Nature was a fascinating, behind the scenes, glimpse into the lives of wrestling “superstars” Brian Shields did a terrific job helping Ric and Askhey Fliehr create Second Nature.

Yes, Professional wrestling is fake. However, never forget that the challenges, joy and pain of the wrestlers themselves is very real.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” – The Sexual Predator’s Christmas Song

Baby It’s Cold Outside is the sexual predator’s Christmas song that gets played this time of year. It is meant to be a romantic duet. But if  you really listen to the words you will see it  is a song saying that sexual harassment is O.K.  It is  the story of a young woman repeating over and over that she wants to leave.  An older, more powerful  man keeps making unwelcome sexual advances while he pressures her to stay. The “romantic” conclusion to the song is that the young woman finally gives in and stays with the man, even though this will completely destroy her reputation with her family and neighbors.

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing "Baby It's Cold Outside". Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Baby It’s Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser for the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. The surprising part is that the original song in the film is sung by Ricardo Montalban and Ester Williams, who are not known as singers.  In that version, Ricardo Montalban gets very “handsy” with Ester Williams. Several times she tries to leave his apartment and every time, he grabs her arm and moves her back onto the couch.

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing "Baby It's Cold Outside", in the film Neptune's Daughter

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, in the film Neptune’s Daughter

The more times we read the lyrics to Baby It’s Cold Outside, the creepier the song seems. Especially  disturbing is the fact that the woman says “Say, what’s in this drink?” right after drinking something the man gives her. It sounds like the guy is using a page right out of Bill Cosby’s playbook. The song has been covered many times, with Dean Martin singing many versions with many different female vocalists. One of Dean Martin’s versions is what you usually hear on the radio.

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

So, here are the complete  lyrics of the duet  Baby It’s Cold Outside, and we have indicated the man and the woman’s parts. Read them and decide for yourself, if this is innocent flirtation, or a creep trying to force a young woman into doing something against her will?

Woman:   I really can’t stay
Man:          but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  I’ve got to go away
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: This evening has been
Man:        been hoping that you’d drop in
Woman: So very nice
Man         I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.
Woman: My mother will start to worry
Man:        Beautiful what’s your hurry?
Woman: My father will be pacing the floor
Man         listen to the fireplace roar
Woman: So really I’d better scurry
Man:        beautiful please don’t hurry
Woman: But maybe just a half a drink more
Man:        put some records on while I pour
Woman: The neighbors might think
Man:        baby, it’s bad out there
Woman: Say what’s in this drink?
Man:        no cabs to be had out there
Woman: I wish I knew how
Man:      your eyes are like starlight now
Woman:  To break this spell
Man:        I‘ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Woman:  I ought to say, no, no, no sir
Man:        mind if I move in closer?
Woman: At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Man:        what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?
Woman: I really can’t stay
Man:       oh baby don’t hold out But baby, it’s cold outside
Woman I simply must go
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  The answer is no
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: Your welcome has been
Man:       how lucky that you dropped in
Woman: So nice and warm
Man:     look out the window at this dawn
Woman: My sister will be suspicious
Man:       gosh your lips look delicious
Woman: My brother will be there at the door
Man:       waves upon the tropical shore
Woman: My maiden aunts mind is vicious
Man:       gosh your lips are delicious
Woman: But maybe just a cigarette more
Man:        never such a blizzard before
Woman: I’ve gotta get home
Man:         but baby, you’d freeze out there
Woman:  Say lend me a coat
Man:          it’s up to your knees out there
Woman:   You’ve really been grand
Man:          i thrill when you touch my hand
Woman:   But don’t you see?
Man:         how can you do this thing to me?
Woman:   There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Man:        think of my lifelong sorrow
Woman: At least there will be plenty implied
Man       if you got pneumonia and died
Woman:  I really can’t stay
Man:      get over that old out
Woman: Baby, it’s cold
Man:        Baby, it’s cold outside
The clear message in this 1949 song is that a woman’s “no” does not really mean “no”. The message to men is that if you simply refuse to let a woman leave, keep giving her drinks, and over and over keep pressuring her for sex, then eventually you will be successful.
Time Magazine's 2017 Person Of The Year, "The Silence Breakers"

Time Magazine’s 2017 Person Of The Year, “The Silence Breakers”

Time Magazine just named The Silence Breakers as their 2017 “Person Of The Year.” Along with the five women whose faces are shown, there is a sixth women on the cover, where we see only her elbow. That unnamed women is meant to represent the thousands of women who have been sexually harassed over the years , but whose stories have never become public. Like the woman in Baby It’s Cold Outside, who is trying over and over to politely get away from a man who simply will not stop grabbing at her.

 So we at East Cost Stories say that  2017  is the year that radio stations should finally stop playing that “Christmas Classic” Baby It’s Cold Outside. Goodbye and good riddance to this song.

The Orville – better than Star Trek Next Generation

The Orville is a high quality Sci-Fi show with good character development and great plots. We were afraid that Seth MacFarlane would give us a one-dimensional low brow Star Trek spoof. Instead, The Orville has high production values, great special effects, and plots that give interesting social commentary.

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Our favorite The Orville is Episode  called Majority Rule, which is a about a planet completely run by social media. Every person of the planet wears a badge showing exactly how many “likes” or “dislikes” they have received in their lives. You career, your social standing, even whether or not you get arrested is entirely dependent on being popular. What is true or real or right no longer matters. All that matters on that planet is being popular. Of course, this is a commentary on America’s current political climate, where truth and facts no longer seem to matter.

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Seth MacFarlane has been able to bring together a great group of actors for the crew of The Orville and each week’s episode has terrific guest stars. Charlize Theron is a traveler from the future who tries to kidnap the crew. Giorgia Whigham stars in The Majority Rule episode.

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes is Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, and  J. Lee is Lieutenant John Lamarr. Malloy and Lamarr enjoy playing jokes and gossiping about the fellow crew members as much as they enjoy piloting The Orville.

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki is the Kelly Grayson, the second in command of the ship, and coincidentally the ex-wife of the commander, Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane). You may remember Adrianne Palicki as the fun contract killer in John Wick. Fortunately, her character’s life expectancy is a lot longer in The Orville.

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

One of the most interesting characters is head of security Alara Kitan (perfectly played by Halston Sage). Despite being young and small, Alara is super strong compared to humans, since she comes from a large planet with  huge gravitational pull. Her super strength intimidates all the young men she tries to date and pretty much ruins any change for a love-life. Halston Sage herself is only 24 years old, and does a remarkable job bringing this character to life.

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

O.K. Star Trek fans brace yourselves. We actually prefer The Orville to Star Trek Next Generation. The crew of The Orville knows how to have fun and consequently the show is fun too. Star Trek Next Generation, and especially Patrick Stewart were just so serious all the time that it got to be ridiculous.

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

We all know that Patrick Stewart is a great Shakespearean actor, who used to have contests with Sir Lawrence Olivier. However, Star Trek Next Generation was NOT Shakespeare and it got to be a little tedious watching Patrick Stewart pretending it was.

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon is Bortus, a macho alien from an all male planet, who lives with his husband on the ship. One of the most moving and serious episodes of The Orville is when Bortus  and his mate  have a baby that turns out to be female, which is a one in a billion chance for that species.  They have to decide whether to accept the child as is and condemn her to a life as an outcast, or else force a sex-change operation on the infant.

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Completing the main cast is Penny Johnson Jerald as Doctor Claire Finn, who is also trying to be a single mother aboard the ship. Of the two jobs, being the doctor is far easier than being the mother. There is also an episode where Claire has one of the weirdest sexual encounters ever shown on regular. T.V. Let’s just say it includes a naked Penny Johnson Jerald, an alien blob and background music that sounds like a cheesy 1970’s porn soundtrack. It is disturbing and hilarious at the same time.

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

So have fun watching The Orville. We certainly did.

Rape & Murder in Hollywood – Virginia Rappe & Fatty Arbuckle

In 1921,  Hollywood film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of the brutal rape and murder of beautiful 26 year old actress Virginia Rappe. Fatty Arbuckle went to trial for manslaughter 3 times, resulting in 2 hung juries and finally an acquittal. Despite the “not guilty” verdict, Fatty Arbuckle’s career was ruined and his life left in shatters.  He died in 1933 of a heart attack at the age of 46. Before the rape allegations, he had been earning $1 million a year; an incredible amount for 1921.

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

But what really happened the night of September 5, 1921 in Fatty Arbuckle’s hotel room, that resulted in the death of Virginia Rappe? The tabloids wrote  that after a wild party filled with drinking illegal booze (it was Prohibition), Fatty went wild and raped Virginia Rappe. His great weight was such that his attack actually caused the Virginia Rappe’s bladder to rupture. She died in horrible agony.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The titillating details of the scandal sold newspapers by the thousands, and the Tabloid Press went into a feeding frenzy attacking Fatty Arbuckle. The public could not get enough. People no longer saw Fatty Arbuckle as the adorable overweight clown. He was now just an oversized sex-crazed monster.

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The truth is that Virginia Rappe did die of a ruptured bladder, but she was not raped and did not even  have sex on the night of the party. Despite her beauty, Virginia Rappe was a very unhealthy young woman. Months of drinking poor quality Prohibition-era liquor had done its damage, as did the several illegal abortions she had undergone. She also had cancer, which is the most likely cause of the rupture that resulted in  her death.

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

However, the truth did not  matter to San Fransisco District Attorney Matthew Brady. He wanted to get elected Governor of California, and the fame surrounding the Arbuckle trial was his ticket to becoming known as the “law & order” candidate who sent a crazed sex maniac to the gas chamber. Brady intimidated witnesses, kept key information from the defense team, and outright lied.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle's ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

The public and press had already decided that Arbuckle was guilty, even before the trial began. Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife  Minta Durfee came to court to show support and testify as to his good character. Her appearance was cut short when someone fired a gun at her outside the courthouse.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The public did not seem to care about the facts of the case. The first fact was that no rape charges were ever even filed, since there was no evidence of any sexual activity. The second fact was that the Hearst newspapers were paying big bucks for the “true stories” of anyone who was at the party or claimed to be. Hearst knew that the headline”actress raped and murdered” sells a lot more papers than “actress dies of cancer.”

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on trial

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle on trial

There was some damning testimony from the Prosecution. An “expert criminologist” was produced, who said he found Arbuckle’s bloody fingerprints all over the wall in  Virginia Rappe’s hotel room. The Defense team, however, brought forth the hotel maid who testified that she had completely cleaned the room days before this so called “criminologist” had ever even been allowed to  examined it. She also stated there  was no blood and no bloody fingerprints on the wall even before she had cleaned the room.

The Hotel Doctor, Arthur Beardslee testified that Virginia Rappe’s injuries were caused by the external force of a large weight on her (like Fatty Arbuckle). In fact, the doctor was really just trying to save his own career and medical license . Early at the party, Virginia Rappe was in extreme pain and Arbuckle  had immediately called the hotel doctor (Beardslee). The doctor’s diagnosis was that “This girl’s just drunk. Let her sleep it off.” Arbuckle followed the doctor’s advice and put her in a separate room while the party continued in the main room. Poor Virginia Rappe died alone and in agony in a hotel room, while a wild party raged a few rooms down.

It took 3 trials, and bit by bit the Defense team was able to bring the true facts to light.  The third jury came in with a Not Guilty verdict, and even wrote a letter of apology to Mr. Arbuckle for all he had been through.

But the stress and financial burden of the trials had been too much. Fatty Arbuckle was never the same again. Even today,  the majority of people who recognize the name “Fatty Arbuckle” identify him as “an old-time movie star who raped and murdered a young woman.”  The Truth has a short lifespan, but really juicy Rumors and Lies live forever.

 

 

 

 

Lady Bird – The Best Independent Film Of The Year

Lady Bird is, without doubt, the best independent film of the year. It stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a Sacramento high school senior discovering who she is and what is really important in life. Unlike most “high school” movies, the characters in Lady Bird all come across as real people coping with real problems.

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

The main dynamic of the film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother Marion (perfectly played by Laurie Metcalf). Lady Bird is trying to be independent, while her mother is constantly trying to help by giving well meaning advice, and more advice and even more advice. The resulting mother-daughter clashes are humorous, and something that every parent will instantly recognize. There is no bad guy in the film. We sympathize with both Lady Bird and her mother, even when their views are in direct opposition.

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

In addition to dealing with an over-protective mother, Lady Bird is facing a number of moral and ethical choices   at school. Like all teenagers, sometimes she makes the right choice and sometimes she does not. Lady Bird attends  a private Catholic school, and it is nice to see a film that does not resort to Catholic stereotypes for cheap laughs. The school is a well run caring place  using modern teaching techniques while trying to maintain the Catholic faith.

Odeya Rush

Odeya Rush

Lady Bird is lucky enough to have a wonderful caring best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who Lady Bird does not appreciate as much as she should, and instead is drawn to a beautiful rich classmate Jenna (Odeya Rush). Again the film Lady Bird avoids using any of the cliches we see in so many movies. Jenna is not a “rich bitch”. She is nice, but simply part of a completely different group.

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

Director Greta Gerwig has done a masterful job of having Lady Bird be an honest, witty and fun film about the challenges faced by young women in today’s world. Despite a very limited release, Lady Bird is one of the top films in the U.S. playing to full houses every night. If you are lucky enough to find Lady Bird playing near you, it is definitely  a film you should experience.

Who Knew?-Things you Didn’t Know About Things You Know Well

Who Knew -by David Hoffman is a little book filled with fun facts about food, entertainment, pop culture and celebrities. Here are just a few examples:

  • “Marilyn Monroe developed her signature walk by hacking off the heel of one shoe.”
Marilyn Monroe's signature walk was because one shoe had no heel.

Marilyn Monroe’s signature walk was because one shoe had no heel.

  • “The punk rock group the Ramones got their name from Paul Ramon, an early stage name used by Paul McCartney- and the pseudonym under which he would often check into hotels during the heyday of the Beatles.”
Paul McCartney's early stage name was Paul Ramon

Paul McCartney’s early stage name was Paul Ramon

  • “People who work at Disneyland are never referred to as employees; rather they are called ‘cast members’. Cast members who work on It’s a Small World refer to it as ‘the asylum’, on the theory that’s where they’ll end up as a result of repeated (over)exposure to the song.

 

"The Asylum" exhibit at Disneyland

“The Asylum” exhibit at Disneyland

  • “One side of the couch that was in the Ricardos’ living room on I Love Lucy was constructed with three inches of additional padding, so Desi Arnaz, when seated would look taller than he actually was.”
Lucy & Ricky Ricardo's couch has a secret

Lucy & Ricky Ricardo’s couch has a secret

  • “One hundred shares of McDonald’s stock purchased for $2,250 when first offered in 1965 has grown to 74,360 shares worth approximately $7 million.”
McDonald's stock was one of the best investments of all time

McDonald’s stock was one of the best investments of all time

Who Knew is a great stocking-stuffer or small Hanukkah gift. Who says facts can’t be fun?

Who Knew? Things You Didn't Know About Things You Know Well author David Hoffman

Who Knew? Things You Didn’t Know About Things You Know Well author David Hoffman

Trump Orders Coal Power For Puerto Rico

President Trump announced today that the the Federal Government will be providing funds to build a major coal-fueled power plant in Puerto Rico. “This project will be huge!,” said the President. “It will simultaneously solve all the power problems in Puerto Rico, while at the same time fulfilling my campaign pledge to help the coal industry. This is an idea that crooked Hillary would never have thought of.”

President Trump announces coal power plant for Puerto Rico

President Trump announces coal power plant for Puerto Rico

When asked about potential pollution of the coal powered plant, Mr. Trump responded, “There will be No pollution! Zero! That is the most brilliant part of my plan. We are going to build the plant on the East Coast of Puerto Rico. The prevailing winds will  blow the smoke off shore, so zero pollution will happen to Puerto Rico.”

Smoke from the Puerto Rico coal fueled power plant will blow towards Haiti

Smoke from the Puerto Rico coal fueled power plant will blow towards Haiti

When asked about  the smoke that drifts to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the President joked, “What can I say? My slogan is American First, not Haiti First.” Haitians are currently calling for a large rally to protest the proposed coal plant.

The announcement was made in the Rose Garden ceremony kicking off “clean coal week”, which is to highlight advances made in coal burning technology. President Trump also announced that the Federal government will be suspending all subsidies to Solar Power and eliminating all research for alternative fuels.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a later news conference stated that “The Puerto Rico Coal -Powered Utility Plant is the first of many projects the Trump Administration has planned to help foreign countries switch to coal power.” Ms. Huckabee Sanders later clarified her remarks saying, “Of course I know that Puerto Rico is not a foreign country. I was speaking of future projects.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends using the phrase "you people" to refer to a black reporter

Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends using the phrase “you people” to refer to a black reporter

President Trump has been growing more defensive at suggestions he has not been doing enough to help Puerto Ricians after the recent hurricanes. In at Tweet at 3am this morning, President Trump stated “I have signed an executive order granting visas for up to 10,000 Puerto Ricians so that they can get temporary status in the United States.”

At 9am this morning, Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press conference stating that “the President’s 3am tweet was of course just a joke. He absolutely understands that people from Puerto Rico are American citizens  and do not need visas.” In an angry exchnage with a reporter from the New York Times, Ms. Huckabee Sanders shouted. “When are you people going to understand when President Trump is joking!” The phrase “you people” created its own set of problems since the New York Times reporter is African American. Ms. Huckabee Sanders later explained that by “you people” she meant reporters.

Coal Powered prick up truck driven by President Trump

Coal Powered prick up truck driven by President Trump

The highlight of Clean Coal week was the unveiling of a coal-powered Ford Pick-up truck whcih President Trump took for a spin, doing “doughnuts” on the White House lawn to the cheers of all the White House staff, (except for the groundskeepers.)

 

 

 

A Legacy Of Spies – cold war lessons for today

John Le Carre’s latest spy thriller A Legacy of Spies takes place during the Cold War but has lessons for today’s world. In fighting evil and terrorism Western democracies never seem to ask, “how much of our human feeling can we dispense with in the name of freedom, would you say, before we cease to feel either human or free?”

A Legacy Of Spies by John Le Carre

A Legacy Of Spies by John Le Carre

In A Legacy Of Spies, an retired British intelligence officer, Peter Guillam, is suddenly pulled in and asked to defend his actions during two top secret operations in East Berlin many decades ago. The grown children of those killed in the operation have somehow gotten hold of previously secret records and are suing the British Government and Peter personally. The British Government is more that happy to throw Peter under the bus, as long as things can be settled quietly and without too much fuss.

Kim Philby - British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Kim Philby – British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

However, the aging spy is not the old fool he pretends to be, and is the keeper of secrets within secrets withing secrets. His only question is which ones, if any,  should he reveal?

The timeline of A Legacy Of Spies switches back and forth between modern England, and Cold War East Germany. In the old days, Peter was a master spy whose good looks and charm made him especially valuable for his ability to recruit and seduce female agents. That is why he was chosen to deal with a beautiful East German, code-named “Tulip”, who has been providing the British with their most valuable information. However, even all these years later, Peter is not sure who was seducing who and if he ever knew the real story of  Tulip.

ohn Le Carre author of A Legacy Of Spies

John Le Carre author of A Legacy Of Spies

John Le Carre, whose real name is David Moore Cornwell takes the long view of espionage, having just celebrated his 86th birthday. Before he was a novelist, David Moore Cornwell himself worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service. In his lifetime there has been the rise and fall of both the Nazi regime and the Soviet empire. His novels seem to always ask the question, that if all evil empires eventually fall, should we allow ourselves to become evil to fight them? Americans, of course, have recently answered “Yes” to that question. Guantanamo prison, NSA surveillance, The Patriot Act and the CIA’s “dark prisons” all show that Americans quickly and easily gave up the freedoms their ancestors had fought for.

But John Le Carre does not give the reader easy answers. The East German regime was evil, and was perfectly willing to shoot it’s own citizens for nothing more than trying to move to West Germany for a better life.

There is also the overriding despondency that many Cold War era British Intelligence agents feel that perhaps everything they did was useless. In John Le Carre’s novels, Bill Haydon is high ranking British spy who, in reality, was a Soviet agent giving all the secrets away. In real life, this person was Harold Adrian Russell “Kim Philby”. From 1945 to 1965 Kim Philby worked for British Intelligence but the entire time was a KGB agent. While the fictional Bill Haydon was punished, the real life Kim Philby escaped to the Soviet Union and was awarded the Medal of Lenin.

Kim Philby - British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Kim Philby – British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Lovers of John Le Carre novels will be happy that in A Legacy of Spies many of the characters they have come to know over the years make an appearance and we find out how their lives turned out. Of course, the ever elusive George Smiley (who may or may not still be alive)  might still  be pulling the strings of the entire intelligence community behind the scenes. Or is that just all the old spies being paranoid?

The Medal Of Lenin given to Soviet Spy Kim Philby

The Medal Of Lenin given to Soviet Spy Kim Philby

At age 86, John Le Carre’s writing is still sharp, complex and fascinating. His characters are always multifaceted individuals trying desperately to be more than pawns in a very dangerous  world.

The 4 Biggest Pet Adoption Mistakes

Here is a list of the biggest pet adoption mistakes you should try to avoid:

  • Assuming that small pets are easier than big pets. Little animals like rabbits, hamsters and even fish can often be a lot harder to take care of than larger animals like dogs and cats. Rabbits, for example, have very delicate digestive systems. Consequently, preparing and giving rabbits the right food is much more difficult than just opening a can of food for a dog or a cat.
Little animals can require more work than big ones

Little animals can require more work than big ones

  • Not giving older animals a chance. Sure, kittens and puppies are cute, but there are a lot of great adult animals at the shelters as well. In fact, there many  advantages in getting an older animal. The older pets are already housebroken, don’t run around the house breaking everything, and are very appreciative of the love you give them. Some people assume that there must be something wrong with the older animals up for adoption. Nothing could be further from the truth. Often the  previous owners had personal circumstances, like moving,  that forced them to give up a pet. Sometimes the previous owner dies and the animal was left all alone.
Older animals make great pets

Older animals make great pets

  • Giving animals the food they want instead of the food they need. Like little kids, animals don’t always know what is best for themselves. Dogs love chocolate, but it is dangerous for them and can even be deadly. Cats love cream, but it is terrible for their digestive systems. Rabbits love carrots (remember Bugs Bunny), but in fact carrots are among the worst foods you can give to a rabbit.
Chocolate is terrible for dogs, even though they love it.

Chocolate is terrible for dogs, even though they love it.

  • Anthropomorphism – This is the act of giving an animal human characteristics it does not really have. As much as we love our animals, they are not human. As a pet owner, it is your responsible to learn the characteristics of that type of animal, and not just assume the reactions are the same as a human. Dogs, for example, want you to take charge. They are descended from wolf packs which have a very rigid social structure. Dogs need an Alpha to follow. Cats will love you, but they will never 100% trust you, and you should never 100% trust a cat. If you leave a piece of food on the table unattended the cat will steal it. You may be able to train a dog not to steal food, but never a cat. Whatever type of pet you decide on, take the time to read up on what the characteristics of that type of animal and breed are. You should adapt to them, not expect them to adapt to you.
Pet dogs still think of themselves as wolves

Pet dogs still think of themselves as wolves

Whatever you do make sure you understand that when you adopt a pet you are taking on the responsibility for another creature’s life.  It will be totally dependent on you to survive. Make sure you live up to that challenge.  However, any real pet lover will tell you that the rewards you get back are a thousand times more than any effort you put out.

Dairy food is actually bad for cats

Dairy food is actually bad for cats

 

The Naked Milk Bath – Claudette Colbert in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

In the 1932 Sign Of The Cross, Claudette Colbert frolicked naked in a milk bath, briefly fully exposing her ample breasts to shocked Depression-era movie audiences. Sign Of The Cross contained a number of fully naked women, almost naked men, and hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Sign Of The Cross was able to get away with showing this much naked flesh, by disguising itself as a “religious movie”.

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Theoretically Sign Of The Cross was about the struggle of the brave Christians being persecuted by the sinful Romans. But director Cecil B. DeMille was no preacher. The real focus of the film is on the decadent Romans, not the pious Christians. As Billy Joel was to say many decades later “sinners are much more fun”. Depression-era movie audiences did not come in from the cold street to see other people suffering. They wanted some fun and titillation and who better to provide that than the wild Romans?

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in "The Sign Of The Cross" 1932

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in “The Sign Of The Cross” 1932

There was no movie censorship in 1932, but that did not mean theaters would show something considered pornographic. However, Cecil B. DeMille came up with the perfect formula for giving people what they wanted, while letting audiences pretend they were not really watching a sex film.

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

Religion was the perfect way to disguise audiences desire to see sex. Sign Of The Cross showed in great detail the gluttony, orgies and sexual depravity of the Roman Empire, while pretending to point out how “bad” this all was. That way movie audiences got the best of both worlds. Audiences were able to see the naked flesh, all the while pretending they were really watching a film about the early struggles of Christianity. Of course, many of the Christian martyrs being sacrificed in the Coliseum just happened to be beautiful naked women.

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Sign Of The Cross was especially shocking for its hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Emperor Nero was played by Charles Laughton who, incredibly for the times, was open about being a homosexual. (The word “gay” would not come into the language for many years.) Emperor Nero is surrounded by well-built slave men who are wearing almost nothing. In other scenes Nero is attended by near-naked young women. Apparently Nero had quite a diverse sexual appetite.

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

But the most famous scene in Sign Of The Cross is Claudette Colbert as Empress Poppaea and her naked milk bath. She does not just lie there passively. Swimming around and exploring herself sexually, there is one quick flash where her nipples are full exposed. Watching the film today, you can still almost hear the gasps from the 1932 movie audiences.

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in "The Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in “The Sign Of The Cross”

Claudette Colbert’s acting actually was actually amazing, considering how non-sexual  the real situation was. The bath Claudette Colbert was in actually was filled with milk. Powdered milk had been mixed with water to give the water a translucent quality. Even Cecil B. DeMille did not dare film the scene in clear water. That would have shown Claudette Colbert completely naked throughout the whole scene.

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in "Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in “Sign Of The Cross”

The powdered milk mixed with water looked great on film, but the hot movie lights quickly turned the milk sour. So while Claudette Colbert was acting sexual and seductive, she was actually breathing in the stench of sour milk the whole time. That’s acting.

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in "Snow White And The Huntsman"

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in “Snow White And The Huntsman”

Of course the “moral authorities” in the United States went berserk. However, the full force of their wrath did not become apparent until 2 years later in 1934 when Tarzan And His Mate was released. In that film, Jane swims completely naked in clear water for a considerable period. As a result of that scene, censorship was born and nudity was out of American films for many many years.

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

However, the Naked Milk Bath never left American cinema. One of the most recent reincarnations was Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna in the PG-13 rated Snow White And The Huntsman. Charlize Theron emerges naked from a milk bath. However, the milk is much thicker and Charlize Theron’s hands strategically cover her breasts. Claudette Colbert’s 1932 Naked Milk Bath was about 100 times sexier.

We recommend Sign of The Cross as a fascinating film to watch. Long before CGI and other special effects, you can be sure that when you see actors wrestling with Lions, they really were wrestling with lions. It is amazing that no one got killed making Sign Of The Cross. Beautiful naked and semi-naked women and men, a cast of thousands, ferocious animals and of course, the most memorable Naked Milk Bath of all time. A true Hollywood classic.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon, is a murder mystery, where the detective is a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Consequently, the hero looks at the world and people in a unique and fascinating way.

Christopher Boone is a high school student in suburban England, and the murder he has chosen to solve is one the police have no interest in. It seems wrong to Christopher that the police have ignored the murder simply because the murder victim happens to be a dog. Wellington was a good dog and Christopher liked him more than he likes most people.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Someone has gruesomely  killed Wellington with a pitch fork, and Christopher decides to solve the crime the way Sherlock Holmes solved the mystery of The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Of course, Sherlock Holmes himself was definitely on the Autistic Spectrum.

Christopher Boone is a wonderful, gentle person trying desperately to get along in a world  he does not fit into. He is a genius at math, puzzles, and game theory, but the emotions and reactions of ordinary people are often beyond his comprehension.

Autistic people prefer this puzzle to the puzzle of human emotions

Autistic people prefer this puzzle to the puzzle of human emotions

His special education teacher, Siobhan, thought it would be good therapy for Christopher to write down his every day thoughts and feelings. Christopher decides to do better than that, and writes a complete book about his search for Wellington’s killer. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is that book.

In attempting to solve the murder of the dog, Christopher inadvertently uncovers the tangles of lies, deception, infidelity and betrayal that have been hidden for so long in this quiet English neighborhood.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time tries to solve the murder of the dog Wellington

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time tries to solve the murder of the dog Wellington

Of course, like most people with Asperger’s Syndrome, Christopher constantly gets off track and focuses exclusively on subjects that fascinate him.  Consequently, in addition to the murder mystery, the book is full of stories about famous puzzles, math problems and game solutions. This sounds like ti might be dull, but it is actually quite fascinating. It is a glimpse into a world that few of us really comprehend.

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

If you have a child or someone close to you with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, you will find The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time touching but also sometime quite sad. We loved the hero Christopher and it is difficult to read about the way he is sometimes treated by people who view him as “strange”.

Saint Christopher - What was his name before he carried Christ?

Saint Christopher – What was his name before he carried Christ?

Christopher also asks many questions that we never even thought of before.  One of them, for example, has to do with Saint Christopher, who was the giant that carried the Christ child across a raging river. The name Christopher literally means “Christ-bearer” or “Christ-carrier”.  In The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Christopher Boone asks the question, “What was Saint Christopher’s name before he carried Christ across the river?”

Sherlock Holmes a detective on The Autistic Spectrum

Sherlock Holmes a detective on The Autistic Spectrum

It is this kind of inquisitive mind that allows Christopher to solve the murder of Wellington and many other mysteries as well. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is one of the best books we have read in a very long time, and we highly recommend it.

 

 

 

Mother – the movie explained

Critics hate the movie Mother because they cannot understand it. So here is an explanation (Spoiler Alert) detailing what this film actually about. Javier Bardem is a very bad writer (The Poet) who has created one perfect character (Jennifer Lawrence) and then can’t craft a good story to put her in. Jennifer Lawrence (Mother) only vaguely understands that she is actually a character in a story and not a real person. She is completely subservient to The Poet  and continues to trust him no matter how bizarre the story gets or how badly The Poet treats her.

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in “Mother”

In the end, The Poet realizes that his story is utter crap, and the entire house and all the characters burn up in a massive explosion. Then Mother re-awakens on a sunny day in her own bed and the story starts again. This is, of course, the story being re-written. This is exactly how the movie began, so we realize that the story has been re-written over and over many times.

The idea of people being characters in a story controlled by someone else has been done often. The Twilight Zone has several episodes like this. Mother, however, takes the concept to the ultimate extreme. It details what happens to our hapless main character, when her existence is controlled by a very bad hack writer. Of course, we love Jennifer Lawrence as the main character. She is beautiful and kind and sweet, so it is painful to watch the terrible ordeals The Poet puts her through.

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of “Mother”

Speaking of painful, Jennifer Lawrence was so dedicated to the film that she continued once action scene even after breaking a rib when an extra fell on her.

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in “Mother”

There are many hints in Mother that this is all just a draft story by a bad author. Here are just a few of the hints:

  • None of the Characters have names. Jenifer Lawrence is simply called “Mother”, and Javier Bardem “The Poet”. As the story progresses, more and more characters appear, but not a single one is given a name.
  • A writer is worshiped. Let’s face it, writers are very bitter that they never become celebrities they way actors do, even when they have written the films that made the actors famous. In Mother, The Poet writes one poem that is so good he becomes a cult hero worshiped by thousands who travel to visit his house as a shrine.

 

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in "Mother"

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in “Mother”

  • There is no world outside the house. All of the action takes place in one beautiful house but outside there is nothing but grass. No farms, no roads, no cars, no buildings. The author  apparently used all his creative energy making the setting of the house and did not have enough imagination to describe a community to go with it.  Even the house itself is not fully constructed,
  • New Characters are brought in awkwardly and with no reason. Ed Harris shows up at the house and later brings his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). The poet simply invites them in to live in the house, which is something no person would do in real life.
  • When the story seems to be going nowhere the author just makes it a violent as possible. This goes on and on to a ridiculous extent. When Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer just show up, the story drags, as it seems to revolve around how to get rid of annoying and unwanted guests.  Then in the last 20 minutes of the movie we get a murder. Then a riot. Then an attack by the army.

 

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

  • When all else fails, a bad author goes for”Gross & Disgusting”. As a grand finale Jennifer Lawrence gives birth to a baby which is then killed and eaten by the crowd worshiping The Poet. At this point in the theater where we saw Mother  several people actually booed. One fellow shouted out “What the F**k”?

So there it is. Mother is a bad story that is supposed to be a bad story. But we actually liked it. If you take the story seriously, you will hate Mother. However, we recommend you watch it as intended. The story of a beautiful and sympathetic charter (Jennifer Lawrence) who is forever trapped in a world being made and re-made by a bad creator.  Despite all this, she still loves The Poet. She has faith that one day, he will finally create for her a perfect world in which she and her baby can live forever.

The Woman In Cabin 10 – murder & mystery on the high seas

Ruth Ware’s The Woman In Cabin 10 is a terrific murder mystery novel with an added twist. The twist is that we are not sure if a murder really took place. The only “witness” is an excitable young woman who was high on  prescription drugs and alcohol when she supposedly heard the murder.

Was Woman In Cabin 10 murdered?

Was Woman In Cabin 10 murdered?

The setting for the “murder” is a small luxury cruise ship at sea. Like Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, this means that the list of suspects is limited to passengers and crew.

"The Woman In Cabin 10". Murder on a luxury cruise ship.

“The Woman In Cabin 10”. Murder on a luxury cruise ship.

The heroine of the story is travel writer Lo Blacklock, who has been given the once in a lifetime  assignment of traveling and reporting on the maiden voyage of the luxury ship Aurora. Unlike the giant cruise liners catering to the masses, the Aurora has only 10 cabins, and is designed to serve an exclusive clientele of billionaires.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10.

Unfortunately, Lo is recovering from a a recent break-in at her London flat, where she was confronted and attacked by the thief.  Ever since that traumatic event,  she has been shaky, and consuming more alcohol than is good for her.

Getting ready for dinner the first night of the cruise, Lo realizes that she has forgotten her mascara. She borrows some from an angry young woman in the #10;  the cabin next door. Many hours later, after a night of eating and drinking, Lo  is in bed when she hears a scream from cabin 10. Going to balcony facing the sea, Lo is sure there is a body in the water.

Norway's Fjords. A perfect murder setting.

Norway’s Fjords. A perfect murder setting.

When Lo reports the crime, she is told that there never was a passenger in Cabin 10, and that none of the crew are missing. Either there is a conspiracy, or the stresses of Lo’s life have become too much to deal with and she has hallucinated the whole event.

The Woman In Cabin 10 shares many similarities with The Girl On The Train. In both stories, the heroine is a fragile but determined woman fighting internal and external demons. We loved The Woman In Cabin 10. Anyone can be a hero when you are strong and confident and trusted by all around you. But what can you do to  summon up courage for an emergency when just making it through every day life is an ordeal?

Ruth Ware. Author of "The Woman In Cabin 10".

Ruth Ware. Author of “The Woman In Cabin 10”.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10. It is a classic mystery story where all the clues are given, but the reader still cannot guess the ending. The setting is also wonderful. A luxury ship sailing the Nordic fjords, where the cliffs are so high that they block the cell phone and internet access that could be used to call for help. Whatever is going on, the frail young Lo Blacklock is definitely on her own. If the murder did not happen, she is going crazy. If she is sane, that means Lo is the only witness to a murder. And the killer is still on the ship.

3 Generations – Elle Fanning as a transgender teen – Good concept but Hallmark Channel” ending

3 Generations stars Elle Fanning as “Ray” a transgender teen.   A good film is almost ruined by a “Hallmark Channel” ending. In real life, people don’t reconcile, prejudices run deep and every problem does not have a solution. On the Hallmark Channel, of course, every complex issue can be resolved within a two hour show. We expected more from a a film tacking the controversial issue of transgender teens

However, despite these flaws, 3 Generations is worth seeing simply for the superb acting of every cast member.   Even though Ray is  part of a very progressive New York City family, Ray’s decision to physically become male puts tremendous stress on the 3 generations of her family living in 1 apartment.

Elle Fanning as a transgender teen in "3 Generations"

Elle Fanning as a transgender teen in “3 Generations”

Elle Fanning gives a masterful performance as Ramona, who never felt comfortable in the body of a girl. Very early in childhood she insisted on being “Ray”, – dressing & behaving as a boy. Now at age 16 she wants to complete the transition with hormone treatments and surgery, to become truly male.

Naomi Watts & Elle Fanning in "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts & Elle Fanning in “3 Generations”

Of course, at age 16 she needs parental consent. This causes anguish for Ray’s mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) Maggie wrestles with what the right decision should be. The pressures on Maggie are made even greater by the fact that she and Ray live with Ray’s grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon). Despite being a lesbian herself, Dolly completely rejects the concept of a transgender teen. Dolly also feels it is necessary to express her opinions as often as possible.

Tate Donovan & Naomi Watts in "3 Generations"

Tate Donovan & Naomi Watts in “3 Generations”

Just when Ray thinks the situation cannot become any more complex, there is a new issue. Even if Maggie does consent for the procedure; that will not be enough.  It turns out that Ray’s father also needs to approve, even though he has not  been around for many years. Ray decides to search out her father and confront him with the fact that “his little girl” is not who he thought.

Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon & Elle Fanning at the premier of "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon & Elle Fanning at the premier of “3 Generations”

Throughout her career Elle Fanning has always played a very feminine “girly-girl”. Recently she was a a fashion model in Neon Demon, and a young seductress in the Civil War drama The Beguiled. Her performance  as Ray demonstrates her range.

Naomi Watts, Sam Trammell & Elle Fanning in "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts, Sam Trammell & Elle Fanning in “3 Generations”

The problem with 3 Generations is that the film went in too much for “feel good” scenes and touching family moments, rather than the stark realities of family conflicts. People are just too understanding of Ray. There is 1 scene in which Ray gets beat up by a bully on the street. However, the injuries are just a black eye.

Aside from that 1 incident, everyone accepts Ramona as “Ray”. School officials, other teens doctors, and eventually all family members all have no problems with the issue. Real transgender teens will say that the world is not quite like that.

The most unbelievable part of 3 Generations is that of Ray’s father Craig (played by Tate Donovan).  Without spoiling the film, let’s just say that his actions are not normal for someone who has a transgender kid they have not seen in 10 years suddenly show up.

Still, we do give 3 Generations Four Stars because the acting is superb, and it does have the courage to look at a “hot button” issue.  3 Generations does show the love that can be the part of the life of a transgender person. However, the film also should have realistically shown the hate that also exists in the world of every transgender individual.

Rememory – murder with a science fiction and psychological twist

We are our memories.  But which of our memories are real and which are simply lies we have created over time to smooth the pain of life? Peter Dinklage stars in Rememory, a murder mystery where deciphering the difference between real and false memories becomes a matter of life and death.

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom in Rememory

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom in Rememory

Peter Dinklage is Sam Bloom, a man who is tormented by memories of the death of his brother in a horrific car crash years earlier. The worst part of the crash is that Sam cannot even remember exactly what happened, including the last words his brother said to him.  Sam seeks out the help of the Rememory machine, a prototype device that can tap into the brain and pull up exact pictures of the past.

The Rememory Machine

The Rememory Machine

The inventor of the Rememory machine is genius scientist Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan). Dr. Dunn genuinely wants to help troubled patients by getting them to delve into past events that shaped their lives. But perhaps the past was never meant to be relived. Perhaps our minds remold the past into a vague nostalgia for a reason.

Evelyne Brochu as the brilliant scientist's bitter mistress in Rememory

Evelyne Brochu as the brilliant scientist’s bitter mistress in Rememory

As Sam tries to rediscover his own past, Dr. Dunn is murdered and the Rememory machine stolen. Sam goes on a quest to find the murderer and recover the machine. Part of his motive is selfish as this is the only way Sam can find out what really happened to his own brother.

Martin Donovan as Dr. Gordon Dunn - inventor of the Rememory device

Martin Donovan as Dr. Gordon Dunn – inventor of the Rememory device

Rememory is brilliantly acted and directed. Written by Michael Vukadinovich and Mark Palansky. Despite some Sci-Fi aspects, it is a psychological drama rather than a sci-fi movie. The emotions and conflicts of the characters are much more important than the machine. Mark Palansky is also the director of Rememory. The beautiful and remote locations emphasize  how the characters have tired to remove themselves from the world and their own pasts.

Michael Vukadinovich, co-author of Rememory

Michael Vukadinovich, co-author of Rememory

Each of the actors in Rememory bring added depth to the story. Julia Ormond is Carolyn Dunn the tormented wife of Dr. Dunn. She loved her husband deeply, but also knows that he was not the perfect genius the world has come to worship.

Julia Ormond stars as Carolyn Dunn in Rememory

Julia Ormond stars as Carolyn Dunn in Rememory

Evelyne Brochu is Wendy, the former mistress of Dr. Dunn, who is bitter and resentful at being treated as second best.  Matt Ellis is Dash Bloom the rock star brother of Sam. Dash died in the car crash long ago, but Sam is slowly able  to remember more and more about Dash.

Matt Ellis is rock star Sam Bloom in Rememory

Matt Ellis is rock star Sam Bloom in Rememory

Rememory has mysteries within mysteries. Who killed Dr. Dunn? What really happened to Dash Bloom? What are the hidden secrets of Dr. Bloom’s patients?

Mark Palansky - Director & co-author of Rememory

Mark Palansky – Director & co-author of Rememory

Google Play is currently offering Rememory for free. We would have gladly paid to watch such a fine film. However,  it was kind of fun to get something for free and then have it turn out to actually be good. Google Play is a new service Google has rolled out to compete with Netflix and Amazon. This may not be good news for Amazon and Netflix, but it is great news for the moving-loving public. The competition will keep prices low and give us more variety.

Wind River- Murder On An Indian Reservation

Wind River is about hunting the killers of a young Arapaho woman found raped and murdered on the reservation in the dead of a  Wyoming Winter. Filmed entirely on the Wind River reservation, it a a gripping and brutal tale of survival and loss. The Wind River reservation is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and has a total of six tribal police officers to patrol it. The only outside help is that In a murder or other major crime, the FBI may send in an agent to investigate.

Jeremy Renner & Gil Birmingham in Wind River

Jeremy Renner & Gil Birmingham in Wind River

In this case, the FBI sends in Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who is originally from Florida and knows nothing about the reservation or the people. She even has to borrow winter clothing simply to keep from freezing to death. However, she is smart enough to enlist the help of local hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) who is an expert.

Kelsey Chow as murder victim Natalie Hanson in Wind River

Kelsey Chow as murder victim Natalie Hanson in Wind River

Unlike many murder mysteries, Wind River lays bare the devastating impact that a murder has on a family and the entire community. Gil Birmingham gives a truly powerful performance as the father of the murdered girl. He and his wife are devastated by the loss. The film focuses not just on finding the killer, but on how the family is going to try to survive.

Elizabeth Olson & Graham Greene in Wind River

Elizabeth Olsen & Graham Greene in Wind River

Unfortunately, the events of the film are not all fiction.  The Wind River reservation does have high unemployment, a high suicide rate, and did have a series of murders. Wind River does not try to give us a poetically stylized version of the noble American Indian stereotype.  A backdrop to the story is a blunt look at modern problems in today’s Native American population.

Jeremy Renner as the hunter Cory Lambert in Wind River

Jeremy Renner as the hunter Cory Lambert in Wind River

Jeremy Renner is the bitter Cory Lambert; a Fish and Game agent, whose job consists of tracking and killing predators on the reservation such as wolves and mountain lions. His own daughter had frozen to death in the snow years earlier, and he is wracked with guilt that he could not save her. Corey’s wife (played by Julia Jones) has never forgiven him.

Julia Jones

Julia Jones

When Corey is now  brought in to help track the murderers of this  young girl, he takes it as a chance for redemption. Everyone on the Reservation  knows that when a hunter like Cory is sent to track men, he has no intention of bringing any of them in alive.

The bitter Winter on Wind River Reservation

The bitter Winter on Wind River Reservation

The brutality of the murderers is matched only by the brutality of the Wyoming Winter, which is almost its own character in Wind River. None of the events could be imagined in Springtime.

Wind River is a beautifully filmed and acted movie. Graham Green gives the perfect performance as the Tribal Police chief, who has seen it all, but who still feels deep pain for the desperation of his people. Kelsey Chow is Natalie, the murder victim. In too many movies, the murdered person is really a forgotten character.  In Wind River, we are reminded that in the real world, the lives that murders snuff out belonged to actual people with hopes and dreams that never got to be fulfilled.

Natasha Leggero – The Key to the Comedic Success of Showtime’s “Dice”

Showtime’s Dice is now in its second season, and is hilarious. A key to the success is the classic “straight man” (or in this case “straight woman”) performance of Natasha Leggero. In Dice, Natasha Leggero plays Carmen, the long-suffering, ever -patient girlfriend of comedian Andrew Dice Clay.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

In Dice, Andrew Dice Clay portrays himself as a down and out comedian whose glory days were 27 years ago. In 1990  Dice’s comedy routine sold out Madison Square Garden. Today living in Las Vegas, he can barely eek out a living telling jokes in the small lounges of casinos. He has not taken this decline in popularity  well, and is constantly cooking up bizarre  schemes to get himself back on top. Of course, Dice’s aggressive “Brooklyn style” personality is his own worst enemy. He refuses to change with the times, no matter how practical or politically correct  that would be.

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). - Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). – Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME – Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

Andrew Dice Clay, of course, is known for his “over the top” crude humor and crazy antics. In Dice, he is able to go into the full scale wild man routine, since his performance is offset by the calm normality  of Carmen (Natasha Leggero) In any comedy team the “straight man” is always underappreciated. Bud Abbott set up the routines for Lou Costello to get the laughs. Part of Lucille Ball’s comedy was the fact that Desi Arnaz was always trying to save Lucy from her own crazy schemes.

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

In Dice, Natasha Leggaro’s role is almost one of audience participation. She is the voice of reason, constantly pointing out what a normal person would do in the circumstance. This makes Dice’s antics even funnier, since he never does the normal,  reasonable thing.

Andrew "Dice" Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

Andrew “Dice” Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

It must take a lot of discipline for Natasha Legarro to remain in character, since she is a great stand up comedian in her own right. Part of her routine is fighting the stereotype that people expect a female comic to be ugly. In one stand up routine a heckler in the crowd yelled out, “Don’t you think you’re too good looking to be a comic?” Natacha’s immediate comeback was “don’t you think you’re too ugly to be speaking to me?” She herself states that good looking female comedians performing for a mostly male audience  are simply “smarter, less molested versions of strippers.”

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

But on Dice, Natasha Leggaro never tries to use  her own comedic style to  upstage Andrew Dice Clay. Her performance is the mark of a true processional. As the calm “straight woman” she sets the stage for Andrew Dice Clay to showcase his unique talents to the fullest.

Natasha Leggero as "Carmen" tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew "Dice"Clay in Showtime's Dice.

Natasha Leggero as “Carmen” tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew “Dice”Clay in Showtime’s Dice.

On Dice, Kevin Corrigan is Dice’s strange side kick and hanger-on named “Milkshake” (whose moniker is never explained.) Kevin Corrigan’s deadpan humor is the perfect foil for Andrew Dice Clay’s blunt style.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

Throughout the show, there is no doubt that Carmen loves Dice and simply accepts that his strange way of doing things is a part of who he is and what makes her love him. There is also no doubt that “Dice” loves Carmen and realizes how lucky he is to have found her. Off screen, Andrew Dice Clay also knows exactly how fortunate he is to have found, in Natasha Leggaro, the perfect match to help bring to life some of the best performances of his career.

 

 

 

 

The Last Supper – Liberals Kill Right-Wing Wackos

The Last Supper is a dark comedy in which a group of Liberals, fed up with being intimidated and  threatened by right-wingers, begins murdering them. The film was made in 1995, but the political tension makes you realize that nothing has changed in America. The first killing of a Conservative happens as a bizarre accident, but once the Liberals get a taste for blood there is no going back.

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

The Liberals are a group of grad students who live in a big house and once  a week have a fancy dinner and discuss how to fix the world. Like all good murder stories, the first death takes place on a dark and stormy night. On that night, they are joined for dinner by a truck driver named Cody (Bill Paxton). When the discussion turns to politics, Cody becomes more and more heated, spewing right-wing, hatred-filled conspiracy theories. Cody becomes violent, breaking the arm of one Liberal and holding a knife to the throat of another. The Liberals finally fight back and end up killing Cody.

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

At first the Liberals are shocked at what has happened. But then they begin to feel a real sense of power and elation. For the first time in their lives they have actually taken action, instead of just taking about what other people should do to improve the world. Instead of calling the police they decide to hide Cody’s body and start on their own mini-campaign to rid the world of people they perceive as evil.

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

This is where The Last Supper turns into a sort of political version of Arsenic And Old Lace. The Liberals search out right-wingers and one by one invite  them for dinner. After a sumptuous meal, the Conservative is  slipped a glass of poisoned wine.

But once the “revenge of the Liberals” begins there is no stopping it. At first they murder those that are the worst of the worst. They invite to dinner a Reverend (Charles Durning), who believes that AIDS is God’s way of punishing homosexuals, and the faster the homosexuals die the better.  However, as The Last Supper progresses the Liberals begin to kill people who are less and less offensive. One victim is a woman who simply has bad taste in literature.

Murder By Death

Murder By Death

The Last Supper may not sound like a comedy, but it is hilarious. The murders take place in the style of Murder By Death or Clue so that the audience always understands this is a spoof.

Clue

Clue

The Last Supper, also has a cast of terrifically talented actors. The Liberals all have the names of Apostles, although there are not 12 of them Cameron Diaz is “Jude”, but it is never clear who she betrays. Jason Alexander is a slob of a dinner guest whose “crime”is that he just doesn’t care about the environment.

The political tensions and violence make The Last Supper feel like it was filmed yesterday instead of in 1995. Bill Paxton is perfect as Cody the truck driver. There is no doubt that Cody would have been marching with the White Supremacists in Charlottesville. Unfortunately, we now  live in an America where political violence is not just on the movie screen.

The Last Supper is a fantastic movie to see today, since it can be watched on so many levels. It is great as the dark comedy it was intended. However, given today’s political environment it can also be seen as a warning of what can happen, if well meaning intellectuals were to give in to their baser desires for revenge.

As a final bizarre note, there was a violent end to the  movie set itself. Days after The Last Supper was finished, the beautiful old house in which it was filmed burned to the ground.

 

 

Who remembers Potato Guns? Who Wants one?

For some bizarre reason the Baby Boomer generation was obsessed with potatoes. Eating potatoes, dressing up potatoes as people, and even using potatoes as weapons. There was Mister Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, and the consumption of billions of french fries. The weapon, of course, was the Potato Gun, where the bullets were little pieces of potatoes. East Coast Stories recently found a whole case of perfect Potato Guns still in their boxes in the back of an old storeroom of a food company.

The Potato Gun

The Potato Gun

There is a historical reason for this potato obsession. American Baby Boomers were the first full generation in the history of the world that did not have to worry about getting enough to eat. In fact, Americans in the 1950s found that they actually had a surplus of food.

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

There was, after all, so much food that Baby Boomers could even play with it.  Food Fights became the rage in high schools and colleges. In what other country on Earth would people waste food by throwing it around?

Food Fight in Animal House

Food Fight in Animal House

Who could ever forget Jon Belushi and the Food Fight in Animal House?

The complete Potato Gun

The complete Potato Gun

The Potato Gun was a toy that a kid would stick into a potato and then load chunks of the potato as “bullets”. Kids would then shoot the potato bullets at each other. Baby Boomer  Bruce Willis actually references the potato gun in the movie Armageddon. Most of the younger viewers obviously had no idea what he was taking about.

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

Ironically, the potato was the reason many people even became Americans at all.  During the Irish Potato Famine the Irish immigrated to America by the thousands. Politicians like to talk about people coming to America for the freedom, but that is only partially true.

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

Many immigrants moved to The United States because their families were starving, literally starving, in the Old Country. The dream of thousands who came through Ellis Island was not of political freedom. The immigrants dream was that some day their children would have enough to eat.

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

So finding this case of Potato Guns was like turning a page back in history. What should we do with them? Kids have long since moved on  to more sophisticated computerized games. But possibly there are some curious readers  who would like one of these old-time toys. Dear readers, let us know what you think.

A working Potato Gun

A working Potato Gun

Would you be interested in a free Potato Gun?Just holding one may magically bring you back to a time when sons and daughters of starving immigrants fulfilled their ancestors dreams and had so much food it could even be turned into toys.

Rosewater- a Daily Show joke gets an Iranian jailed as a spy

Rosewater is the true story of Iranian Journalist Maziar Bahari who was jailed as a spy, for skit on The Daily Show. In 2009, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones was in Terhan filming a comedy skit. Jason Jones  sat in a cafe and pretended to be an American spy who was openly asking random Iranian citizens to reveal State secrets. The joke was supposed to be about how inept and amateurish the CIA is.

Maziar Bahari  was an Iranian citizen working for Newsweek magazine. He happened to be at the same cafe, and appeared in The Daily Show skit as a joke. Little did he know that this would  land him in jail charged with treason.

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

The Iranian authorities already had their eyes on Maziar Bahari. He had filmed the riots that had occurred when  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran. Many people considered this election a fraud, and large violent riots occurred. Maziar Bahari had filmed the riots and sent the pictures out to the world.

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Most of Rosewater takes place in the Iranian prison and is the interaction between Maziar, and the man interrogating him. We never learn the interrogator’s name. Maziar thinks of him as “Rosewater”, since the man constantly wears rosewater cologne.

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Rosewater is a fascinating movie and the acting is superb. Even if you know nothing about Iranian politics, it is a terrific psychological prison drama. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Maziar Bahari and is perfect in the role.

At first Maziar believes his imprisonment is  just a misunderstanding, and that he will quickly be able to explain the truth and then be let free. When Rosewater shows Maziar the tape of Maziar talking to American “spy” Jason Jones, Maziar laughs and explains it is just a comedy show. Then he slowly comes to realize that the Iranian authorities do not see anything as a joke, and that Maziar could be in prison for life.

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Kim Bodnia is” Rosewater”, the interrogator. Rosewater does not think of himself as a cruel or evil man. He truly believes himself to be an Iranian patriot protecting the country from dangerous outsiders. He does not physically torture Maziar, and even gives him fruit and tea.

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

The worst part of the imprisonment is that Maziar is kept in solitary confinement and blindfolded for most of the day. In his mind he begins to have conversations with his deceased father (played by Haluk Bilginer) and sister (played by Golshifeth Farahani).

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Unbeknownst to Maziar, huge international pressure was being put on Iran to release him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered the issue over and over again and simply would not let the world forget about Maziar Bahari. The world also fell in love with Maziar’s beautiful pregnant English wife Paola (played by Claire Foy).

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahan

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahari

Rosewater was written and directed by Jon Stewart, who felt terrible that a joke on his show ended up getting a man imprisoned. John Stewart and Executive producer Catherine Farrell made Rosewater a fascinating film that focuses on the human side, rather than becoming too preachy or political.

 

The Macho Days At Ford – Violence, Prostitutes, Alcohol and Bad Cars

I have to laugh at Google going berserk over one sexist memo. When I was at Ford Motor Company, it tolerated and often encouraged workplace violence,  drunkenness, and even prostitution. This was way back in the late 1970s in Dearborn Michigan. (Yes, I am that old.) I was one of a large group of MBAs and Engineers that Ford recruited from top schools all over the country. We were lured there by the fact that the whole Detroit region was promoting what was supposed to be the Detroit “Renascence” (which obviously did not work out as planned) Little did we know that while top management wanted to modernize the whole Ford culture,  Middle Management had no intention of letting go of its beloved macho lifestyle.

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

Our first clue that Ford was not as progressive as it claimed, was the fact that whole departments and even divisions  of the company had no women. None whatsoever.  This lead to a very “frat house” working environment, which was epitomized in the company sponsored events.

My first week on the job our department had a company sponsored trip to a Detroit Tigers game. The company even paid for a bus and all the tickets, food and drinks. However, the first stop of the bus was not at Tiger Stadium. No; the first stop was at a strip club where the entire department got lap dances, while getting thoroughly drunk. (Did I mention there were zero women in our department?)

Even the sexy girl can't make the Ford Fiesta a good car

Even the sexy girl can’t make the Ford Fiesta a good car

After several hours in the strip club, we got back on the bus, joined by one of the women from the strip club. She sidelined as a prostitute, and the department manager awarded  her “services” to the top worker in the department.  We only actually made it to the game for the last few innings. There was so much booze at the game and on the bus, I don’t think anyone even knew if the Tigers won or lost.

At the workplace itself, physical threats were common. The factories themselves were known as dangerous places, but threats were also common among white collar workers. I personally witnessed a division V.P. pick up a desktop computer and throw it at the head of an engineer who had not gotten his calculations completed on time for a key presentation.

Ford's River Rouge plant. Now closed

Ford’s River Rouge plant. Now closed

The division V.P. screamed a string of obscenities, the gist of which was that if the engineer could not get his work done, then there was no point in that engineer even having a computer. Then the V.P picked the heavy computer off the the engineer’s desk and threw it at the engineer’s head.  It missed the engineer’s head by about three inches, and smashed into the wall, destroying the computer. No one reported the incident to Human Resources. It would not have been macho to complain and if you did you would  be ostracized as a wimp.

The Ford Fiesta. One of the reasons Americans switched to cars from Japan.

The Ford Fiesta. One of the reasons Americans switched to cars from Japan.

While Ford’s top management seemed not to be aware of this environment, middle management actually considered it valuable part of the Ford culture, and thought that putting people under as much pressure as possible all the time was the best way to achieve the best results. They seemed not to notice that the effects were exactly the opposite.  In the 1970s Ford produced some of the worst cars ever made, inducing the piece of junk Ford Pinto and the Ford Fiesta. The East German Trabant has the reputation as the world’s worst car, but the Pinto was far worse. After all, there are still a large number of Trabants around, and even Trabant clubs. When was the last time you ever saw a Pinto?

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

No discussion of the old days at Ford would be complete without mentioning the hated Ford Security forces. They were not your normal corporate security guards. The Ford security guards were essentially a private police force, who treated the Ford employees as the enemy, rather than the people they were there to protect. This went back to the 1920’s when Henry Ford used Ford Security as goons to beat up union organizers. In the days of Henry Ford the first, the Ford Security “guards” were often also members of local organized crime gangs. Even decades later the basic attitude of Ford Security had not changed.

If you work late at most companies, when you leave the building the security people wave to you and say a cheery “good night!”. No so at Ford in the 1970s. If you worked late the guards  immediately suspected that you were really there to steal something. If you left by car it was like going through a checkpoint in Baghdad.

Two or more gun-toting goons would come up and shine a flashlight directly in your eyes. You would be made to step out of the vehicle, while the guards searched every part of the car and trunk to see if you were stealing anything. This was how Ford treated the “brightest and best” employees who they had recruited at great expense from all over the country.  Then Human Resources wondered why one by one these new recruits took jobs elsewhere, until after a few years not a single one was left at Ford.

One of the most hated aspects of the Ford Security force was the way it treated the Ford employee’s cars. Ironically, there were not enough parking spaces at the Ford buildings to accommodate all the employees. This forced many employees to park in non-designated spots, or on the grass etc. Instead of setting up remote parking with shuttle buses or some other solution, Ford punished its own employees for the company’s lack of planning.

Ford Security would “sticker” any employee’s car not parked in a designated spot. This sticker was a bright red 1 foot by 1 foot “no parking” placard which Security would glue directly on the driver’s side windshield of the employee’s car.  It was heavy, fast-drying glue. At the end of every working day, many employees would find these bring red placards glued to their windshield. It would take 10 or 15 minuted to scrape one of these stickers off with an ice scraper. Even after the placard was removed the glue left a sticky residue which made everything look blurry when you looked through the windshield. This residue took weeks to wear off.

Top Management was completely unaware of what was really happening at the company. They even thought Ford was making good cars. After all, Ford top management all drove Ford cars, and they loved them. Of course, Top Management was not really driving average Ford cars. All senior management got free top of the line Fords to drive (no Pintos or Fiestas for them), in return for filling out surveys on how the cars performed.

Ford's ironic motto was "Where Quality is Job 1"

Ford’s ironic motto was “Where Quality is Job 1”

Every day, senior management would drive these cars and park in their assigned spaces (no stickers on their windshields.) While these men were  working (all senior managers were men) a team of employees took care of the cars. The cars were washed, the insides cleaned, and the cars filled with gas. If the senior manager reported any problem with the vehicle, then the manager was given a brand new replacement car to drive home. Predictably, the senior managers all truthfully filled out the surveys reporting that all the Ford cars they drove were great.

When Senior Management would leave work, no matter how late the hour, Ford Security men would smile and wave and wish them “good night!”. No flashlights in the eyes, no car searches. Senior Managers drove home happy in the knowledge that they were running a company that made a great product, and all the employees were happy.

The Minus Man – Owen Wilson As A Laid Back Serial Killer

In The Minus Man, Owen Wilson is a laid back serial killer whose good looks and soft voice keep people from ever suspecting that he is a psychopathic monster. The Minus Man premiered 7 years before Dexter, and in many ways is a far superior presentation.

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson is Vann Siegert, who  one day rolls into a sleepy rural town in his old pickup truck and rents a room with a local couple. Vann is handsome and blond with a voice that is so soft and smooth it is almost hypnotic.

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

However, even before he arrives in town, we have already seen Vann commit one murder. Unlike television’s Dexter Morgan, The Minus Man has no “code”. Vann does not search out bad people to kill. There is no logic to who The Minus Man murders. He is a very opportunistic killer, taking advantage of whoever is naive enough to drive with him alone at night.

Owen Wilson is amazing at playing this chilling killer. Audiences used to seeing Owen Wilson in light comedies will be stunned to see him as the bad guy. Owen Wilson is so perfect in The Minus Man that you cannot imagine anyone else playing the part.

Jeanne Garofalo - makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

Jeanne Garofalo – makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

There is no bloodshed or gore in The Minus Man, which only serves to make it more frighting. Vann poisons his victims, and they simply fall into a deep sleep from which there is no awaking. He does not have any feeling of hatred towards the people he kills. In fact, he seems to have no feelings whatsoever about anything. His complete lack of empathy and his inability to connect with anyone or anything is the mark of a true psychopath.

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

The one person to suspect there is a dark side to Vann, is Ferrin (Jeanne Garofalo), who is desperately trying to be his girlfriend. Vann gets a job at the local post office, and Ferrin is thrilled to find herself working next to a gorgeous guy her own age. They begin to date, but the more they see each other the more Ferrin begins to suspect that Vann is just acting the part of a boyfriend instead of really being one. Of course, Dexter was to steal this same theme years later.

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

All of the actors in The Minus Man are superb, which is one of the features that makes it a great film. Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow plays a burned out-drug addict who is unlucky enough to be in a bar where Vann stops in for a drink. Her acting is fantastic, and this was also her acting debut.

Dennis Haysbert is a tough-as-nails police officer who only exists in The Minus Man’s mind. Over and over again, Vann imagines what it will be like when some day he is brought in for questioning for a murder. The fictitious cop is not at all fooled by Vann’s charm or smiles. Is this what Vann really wants? Does he dream of a time when someone will see him for the monster he really is?

Brian Cox is Doug, who rents a room to Vann and treats Vann like a newfound son. However, it turns out that Doug has dark secrets of his own.

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

One of the most frighting aspects of The Minus Man is the fact that we have actually seen this scenario played out over and over again in real life. The general public continues to believe that somehow evil people must be ugly and that a good looking person cannot possible be bad. Take for example, the gorgeous Joran van der Sloot, who murdered at least 2 women (Natalee Holloway and Stephanie Flores Ramirez). Even in prison, he received hundreds of proposals of marriage from young women thrilled by his looks.

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Who can forget Robert Chambers, the “preppie killer” , whose good looks are matched only by his arrogance. He strangled Jennifer Levin to death during sex in Central Park at night, and then had the arrogance to say he was acting in “self-defense”.

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Most recently there is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, whose cute photo was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone was heavily attacked for publishing such a nice looking photo of a terrorist. People who make those criticisms missed the point. The whole reason Rolling Stone published the photo was to show that the eyes are not the window to the soul.  You cannot tell who is good and who is evil just by looking at them. Mother Teresa did not have a beautiful face. Joran van der Sloot does.

The Minus Man is a chilling glimpse into the mind of a psychopath killer. It shows us what is there, and more importantly what is missing in the mind of a killer. We highly recommend The Minus Man.

Naked Persephone’s Escape From Hades -The Real Cause of Global Warming

Persephone slipped naked from the bed of the sleeping Hades, and ran at full speed past the thousands of shifting, silent Shades of the dead. Heat radiated off her naked sweat-drenched body as she ran. Persephone no longer noticed noticed the heat of the Underworld. It was just one of the many tortures she had to endure six months of the year, like the nightly rape by her so-called “husband” Hades, or the stench of the dead.

Shades of The Underworld

Shades of The Underworld

Persephone knew that the world above was gripped in the cold of Winter. For the six months of each year that Persephone was trapped in  the Underworld, Persephone’s Goddess mother Demeter would weep cold tears and refuse to let the plants bloom. Zeus had decreed that Persephone could spend half the year in the land of the living, but must spend the remainder of the each year trapped in the world of the dead.

Every night, while Hades slept, Persephone ran naked down this same dark cave, past the bubbling pools of scalding water, past the piles of skulls down past the murmuring crowds of demons and monsters.  Over two thousand years ago, Persephone had started her tunnel to the surface. She used human skulls to dig with, and human bones to to shore up the tunnel. Inch by inch foot by foot she dug toward the surface.

Hades on his throne

Hades on his throne

When she first came to the land of the dead,  Persephone thought that a hero might defy Zeus and come to rescue her. Many men had tried and perished. The true hero Heracles had almost succeeded. With Persephone’s help Heracles had captured the three-headed monster god Cerberus, but even Heracles did not have the strength to carry Persephone from the grip of Hades.

Persephone's naked escape from The Underworld

Persephone’s naked escape from The Underworld

In the Underworld there was no way to tell night from day, but over the centuries, Persephone had learned to keep track of time in her head. She had memorized just how long Hades slept each night, and about an hour before he awoke, Persephone would stop her digging and climb back down the tunnel and begin her run back to the bed of the god she hated. Hades, god of the dead, Persephone’s jailer and uncle.

Demons of Hades

Demons of Hades

When Persephone came to the pools of boiling water she would dive in and wash the dirt from her body and hair. The scalding water would have torn the flesh off of a mortal woman, but she was, after all, a goddess. Gods and goddesses live forever, but despite what the humans think, they do feel pain. Each night Persephone endured the agony of a rape by Hades, the choking dirt of the tunnel in her mouth and eyes, and the pain of a bath in boiling hot water. But bathe she must, to wash the dirt from her hair and body, so that Hades would not suspect she was tunneling to escape.

Persephone

Persephone

Persephone arose naked from the steaming bath, with only the silent Shades of the dead to witness her incredible beauty. She had not always been naked in the Underworld. At first, Hades had brought her beautiful dresses and jewels. He had expected her to be a real wife, despite the fact that he had captured her and dragged her into the Underworld against her will. But when it became clear that Persephone would never give herself to Hades willingly, he ripped off her clothing and burned it in a pile. Then he took her by force night after night six months of every year for more than a two thousand years. Persephone was a goddess, but she was no match for the strength of a god.

Goddesses protected Persephone from all harm

Goddesses protected Persephone from all harm after her escape

Persephone stood naked as the hot draft from the fires of the Underworld dried her. Then she slowly walked back and silently slipped into the bed of the god of the dead before he awoke. Only a few minuted later, Hades awoke with a grunt and pulled his massive bulk from the bed. Persephone knew she had cut it too close this time.

She shook with fear that he had discovered her secret, but the god of the dead arose and walked off without so much as looking at her. Off to consort with his dogs and monsters and whatever else occupied his waking hours. Persephone had long since taken any interest in her husband’s actions. Her goal all day every day was to stay out of the god’s way, and hope that her tunnel was not discovered. She often slept during the day, since her nights were occupied with digging.

Persephone knew she was very close to escaping. The ground she tunneled through had changed from rock to clay and finally to dirt. Real dirt, with deep roots of massive trees. Soon she would be free. Persephone lay back down in the  bed and slept, dreaming of her freedom.

Her dream was shattered when Hades picked her up from the bed and threw her down onto the rock floor, screaming that she was lazy to spend all her time sleeping when she should be serving him. It was time to eat and for some unknown reason, Hades always insisted that as his “goddess of the dead” she should have a formal meal with him each day, as their status of King and Queen of the Underworld demanded. Persephone hated meals, remembering that it was the fact that she had eaten one pomegranate seed which had trapped her in The Underworld centuries ago.

Persephone  ate a few pieces of bread and drank some mild wine while Hades consumed massive amounts of roasted meat and guzzled glass after glass of wine. Weird monsters scurried at his feet to eat the pieces of food that fell out of his mouth.

With his appetite sated , Hades let out a loud belch and slumped in his chair for a drunken nap. At that moment Persephone decided that now was the time for her escape. She could not wait wait a second longer. She could not stand another night of this stinking beast on top of her and inside her. She must make her escape now.

Ares God of War

Ares God of War, who defied Zeus’ order to find Persephone

Persephone quietly slipped out of her chair and slowly began walking in the direction of her secret tunnel. She gradually began to increase speed, and as soon as the dining table was out of sight, she began to run at full speed. Persephone made one stop before getting to the tunnel entrance. She reached her hand into a hole between a pile of rocks and took out two objects. The first was her only dress that she had been able to hide from Hades.  The second was a small bundle of precious gems. At least in the bright world above the gems were precious. In the stinking Underworld, diamonds and rubies were common, and of no value to the Shades of the dead.

She then reached into the hole again and took out a small sack of rough cloth, into which she placed the gems and dress. Persephone was going to climb naked, and carry the sack, knowing that if she wore her one dress during the climb  it would get ruined.

The she took off running at full speed again and finally Persephone came to the hidden entrance of the tunnel. She knocked aside the pile of human skulls and bones to reveal her path to freedom.  Carrying her cloth sack and a human thigh bone, Persephone began her climb to freedom.

For hour after hour she climbed upward, all the time afraid she might hear the roar of Hades looking for her. Then when she felt she could climb no more, she reached the top of the tunnel. There was moist dirt and tree roots and she knew the surface could not be far away. She took the human thigh bone and began to dig upward. As she jabbed the thigh bone into the dirt, clumps of dirt flew past her face and fell down the tunnel shaft into the darkness below.

Persephone's escape by Demeter

A Nymph guards Persephone while she sleeps

Then it happened. She jabbed the thigh bone and suddenly it broke through the dirt. Cold fresh air washed over her. She reached up and pulled herself out. Persephone was Free! She crawled away from the hole and onto the snow. Persephone then stood up and with handfuls of snow washed the dirt off her naked body and cleansed her hair. Her body was so hot that the snow turned to steam as cleaned herself.

Then Persephone opened the bag and put on her dress. She took the jewels out of the sack and carefully wove them into her hair. She vowed that she would never be a prisoner again. She was a goddess, and would demand to always be treated as one. Persephone turned North then walked off into the snow.

Persephone longed to journey to Greece to be with her mother Demeter, but Persephone knew that would not be possible.  Soon Hades would discover her escape, and try to drag her back. Greece would be the first place Hades looked. And so, Persephone went further and further North, knowing that Hades hated the cold.

Persephone’s body was still scorching hot within and without. The fires of The Underworld and her own hatred for Hades made her flesh glowing hot, and as she walked though the forest, snow melted and trees caught fire. The heat from her body caused the jewels in her hair to glow so brightly that the cold night sky shimmered.

Humans had long ago stopped worshiping the gods, and no longer even believed they existed. People arrogantly assumed that their own meager actions were causing the world to get warmer, the ice to melt and the sea levels to rise.

Zeus on his throne

Zeus on his throne

When Hades discovered Persephone’s escape, he immediately went to his brother Zeus to demand Zeus set things right. Zeus sent out an order to all the gods and goddesses that they were to find Persephone and capture her. The gods and goddesses ignored Zeus, and in fact, even helped Persephone to hide. None of the gods really liked Hades, and the goddesses actually hated him for having imprisoned one of their own.

And so, the world of the humans got warmer and warmer and the humans never even guessed at the real reason. Year after year the naked escape of Persephone altered the life of humans. Winters ceased to exist. Demeter was thrilled to hear the news of her daughter’s escape. Demeter no longer mourned half the year, and so Winters ended.  Hades himself came out of the Underworld and  wandered the Earth, searching for his escaped bride. His red-hot form scorched the Earth wherever he went, bringing  drought, fires and sandstorms.

Zeus himself periodically erupted in anger that the gods and goddess were defying his order.  In his rage he would cause great storms and lightning. Then he would calm down when he remembered that, after all, Persephone was his daughter. To himself Zeus secretly admitted that he was actually proud of Persephone’s courage and strength. Still, that was no excuse for the gods to ignore his orders, and his angry storms continued.

Hades never recaptured Persephone and burns the ground to this day as he searches for her.  Winters never returned and the world continues to get warmer. The fact that the world of humans and the humans themselves are being harmed is of no great concern to the gods and goddesses.  Perhaps in another two thousand years the earth will start to get colder again. Perhaps Hades will stop searching for his escaped wife, Persephone’s anger will cool and Demeter’s joy will diminish.  Perhaps Zeus will learn to control his anger and massive storms will end. But probably not. Gods and goddesses are not known for having a philosophy of forgive and forget. Only humans are foolish enough to have such weaknesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Carey Grant – the sad secrets of a movie star

Becoming Carey Grant documents the sad life that the movie star kept hidden from the public. It is based on Carey Grant’s own never-published autobiography, and the beautiful home movies he filmed. The world knows him as Carey Grant, but he never really got over being Archibald Leach, the poor cockney boy he once was.

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Archibald Leach was born in 1904 in Bristol England. His parents were poor but extraordinarily beautiful. His mother was petite with long dark hair, and his father was rakishly handsome, sporting a fancy mustache.  However, his parents never seemed to be very happy. When Archie was 11, his mother Elsie went away, supposedly to “visit friends” It was many weeks before Archie figured out that she was never coming back. Soon after that Archie was shipped off to an even poorer section of the city to live with an aunt. Archie’s father moved away, remarried and started a new family.

Carey Grant's mother - Elsie Leach

Carey Grant’s mother – Elsie Leach

It was not until 20 years later, when Archibald Leach had become the famous movie star Carey Grant, that he discovered the truth. His mother had not run away, but had been committed to an insane asylum. Extraordinarily, she was committed only on the word of the husband Elias. He said that she sometimes felt she heard voices, but that she was not a danger to herself or others. The state of mental health medicine was so backward in those days , that instead of trying to treat her with psychotherapy, the “solution” was to   commit her for life.

Carey Grant's father- Elias James Leach

Carey Grant’s father- Elias James Leach

Abandoned by his family, Archibald Leach joined a new “family” by becoming part of a group of performing acrobats touring the vaudeville circuit. That’s why Carey Grant was able to do many of his own stunts in movies. He really was a trained acrobat.

The acrobats got a chance to perform in New York, and Archibald Leach fell in love with America. When it came time for them to return to England, Archibald decided to stay in America. All alone, and with very little money, he headed off to Hollywood, to try to get into the movies.

Carey Grant taking home movies

Carey Grant taking home movies

He was not in the film business very long before the studios decided that Archibald Leach is a terrible name for an actor; and the name “Carey Grant” was decided upon. Carey Grant’s amazing good looks soon got him into many films. In his early films, his parts were mainly just as a handsome prop, but soon his acting talent became apparent and he developed into the movie star we all know and love.

Becoming Carey Grant shows us the side of the movie star few people knew. After being abandoned by his parents, he had difficulty truly trusting anyone. Relationships with women were particularly difficult. Carey Grant was divorced three times. In later life he admitted that his wives were all wonderful women, but that he was always afraid to let them get too close. He naturally assumed that everyone would eventually let you down.

Carey Grant was an established movie star when he discovered that his mother was still alive and in a mental institution. He immediately got he out and set her up in a house in England. He visited his mother throughout his life, but she never moved to America. He always said it was because she would not come. However, the filmmakers speculate that he wanted to keep his two lives completely separate. By then, his mother was the last person in the world who still called him Archie. In America he was the great movie star Carey Grant. In England with his mother, he was still a scared little boy.

Becoming Carey Grant is a fascinating documentary. The details it has of Carey Grant’s life are astounding. For example, Carey Grant was a fan of “LSD therapy” being offered by a psychiatrist in the 1970’s. Unlike most patients who tried this radical treatment, Grant actually found it cathartic.

In the end Carey Grant found fame and fortune, but never true peace of mind. He was never the relaxed self-assured gentleman he played so well on screen. One of Carey Grant’s often repeated sayings was “Everyone wants to be Carey Grant. Even me.” People always laughed whenever Carey Grant said that, but he did not mean it as a joke. He was trying to tell the world that he was not really the perfect man he portrayed. However, people could not accept that. The public wanted Carey Grant to be perfect, and so to please them he was.

 

 

Baby Driver- fast, fantastic, LOUD and perfect. A rock concert on wheels.

Baby Driver is fast, fantastic, LOUD, and perfect! A rock concert on wheels, combined with an action movie, love story and bank heist film. Director Edgar Wright did an amazing job of blending the music and action so that the songs are basically an essential character in the film. Baby Driver is a unique concept, and we give it our highest rating of Five Stars.

Ansel Elgort, Jamie Fox, Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort, Jamie Fox, Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a driver who can outrun any police chase, all while listening to blasting rock music. His beautiful girlfriend is played by Lily James, who we last saw in Pride Prejudice and Zombies. This sweet and innocent couple, is trapped in a world of killers and maniacs controlled by criminal mastermind “Doc” played perfectly by Kevin Spacey.

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Now we know that this plot sounds like hundreds of others, but what makes Baby Driver unique is the way in which Edgar Wright has put it all together with group of talented actors in all the parts. Unlike a lot of action movies, each of the characters has a unique personality and background story that makes them fascinating to watch.

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Doc controls a group of criminals that pulls off  a string of supposedly impossible robberies. The key to their success is Baby, who is the “wheel man” on all the heists. Baby is caught up in this dangerous game, since he has a debt to pay back to Doc. The key to Baby’s driving success is the way he perfectly times  his driving with the songs blasting in his ears. In fact, Baby is actually helpless without his music. However, when the music is blasting, Baby is like a machine, feeling no pressure or doubt.

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

Jamie Fox is “Bats”, whose violent tendencies put the whole crew at risk. Rounding out the crew is an ex-Wall Street executive, (“Buddy” played by Jon Hamm) and his lap dancer girlfriend (“Darling”, played by Eiza Gonzalez).

Ansel Elgort is "Baby" in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort is “Baby” in Baby Driver

The action scenes have to be seen to be appreciated. There is no real way to describe them in print. In one scene Baby is running away fro the police, while the 1971 song Hocus Pocus by the Dutch band Focus is blasting. Baby Boomers will remember this as the “yodeling” rock song. If you are too young to remember this song, check it out – you will love it.

Anyway, during the chase scene, every step, every jump and every gunshot times perfectly with the beat of the music. It must have days for Edgar Wright to film this one scene. That attention to detail is what makes Baby Driver great.

 

 

The New Rules Of Work – an essential book for your career

The New Rules Of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew is an essential must-read if you are serious about your career. Whether you are looking for your first job, or are well along in your career The New Rules Of Work has detailed practical steps to help you succeed.

The New Rules Of Work  “begins at the beginning” with techniques for deciding  what you really want. This may sound silly, but it is amazing how many people charge full speed into a job search without once pausing to examine what kind of career they want or what type of company they want to work for. As a consequence, people often  end up unhappy at work because they simply took the first job offered to them, or made a selection based on salary alone.

The New Rules Of Work

The New Rules Of Work

Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew are the co-founders of TheMuse.com which is devoted to helping people succeed at fulfilling careers. The New Rules Of Work, uses many of The Muse techniques, such as a “Muse grid” to map our your values and align them with an industry and company that is right for you. This is not as “touchy-feely” as it may sound. If you have been in a career for a while you may be tempted to skip this step. However, Alexandra and Kathryn point out that people’s opinions and goals change throughout life, and that their careers should change accordingly.

Alaxandra Cavoulacos & Kathryn Minshew, authors of The New Rules Of Work

Alaxandra Cavoulacos & Kathryn Minshew, authors of The New Rules Of Work

You should not let yourself get locked into a set path based simply on what major you happened to chose when you were 18 years old.  You have grown and developed tremendously since your school days, and you should update your career objectives to reflect who you are now.

The New Rules Of Work has very detailed and practical advice including how to best write a resume and how to get that resume actually looked at by people who do the hiring. Ironically, many of the very tools that were originally designed to help people find jobs are now keeping you from being noticed by hiring managers.

Human Resource directors receive thousands of resumes in response to any job they post on Monster, ZipRecruiter, Carigslist or any other electronic job boards. It is so easy for applicants to submit a resume, that many people simply “point & click”, thereby applying to hundreds of jobs a week, whether they are qualified for the job or not. These people are the “traffic” that gets in your way and keeps Human Resources from even seeing your application. You may be the absolute best individual for a particular position, and still never even get your application viewed.

The New Rules Of Work details techniques for going around the crowds at the massive job boards, and getting directly to the people who do the hiring at companies. The key is to be very selective and to pinpoint particular companies and people to connect with.

The New Rules Of Work is useful even if you already have a good position. Not so long ago, companies took the time to train employees and guide their career paths. Those days are gone. You are responsible for managing your career, and if you don’t you will find yourself falling behind.

The New Rules Of Work even has helpful hints for everyday tasks such as managing emails and dealing with passive-aggressive coworkers. We highly recommend The New Rules Of Work. It is well written and researched and is an invaluable tool for all those serious about their careers. (For full disclosure, we would like  to point out that we received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.)

However, there were a few issues that The New Rules Of Work overlooked. The special needs population was completely ignored. For example, people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a particularly hard time getting through the critical interview phase of the hiring process. In addition, older workers face automated age discrimination on many job sites. It would have been nice if the authors had covered these types of topics.

Still, despite come drawbacks, The New Rules Of Work is an excellent work. In the crowded field of business books, it really stands out.

The Beguiled- Civil War sex but no slaves

The Beguiled is a film of sex and betrayal set in an exclusive girls’ school in  the Civil War South. However, the film has been “whitewashed” to remove slavery from the plot. It is a huge  disappointment that Sophia Coppola completely  left out the character  of a female slave that was in the classic 1971 film.  By doing this, the modern version sidesteps the issue of slavery.

Mae Mercer & Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled in 1971

Mae Mercer & Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled in 1971

In the 1971 The Beguiled, Mae Mercer played the slave Hallie. Some African-Americans thought that Hallie was a token black character with a weak story line.  Instead of dropping that character completely Sophia Coppola should have expanded it. The dynamic, complex and intertwined relationships between educated White women and the female slaves they lived with is one of the most fascinating parts of American history.   In a story about  strong young women of the South under severe pressure, why leave out one of the strongest and most interesting simply because she is Black?

Sophia Coppola a great director but scared to tackle the issue of slavery

Sophia Coppola a great director but too scared to tackle the issue of slavery

Sophia Coppola has said that she did  “not want t brush over such an important topic in a light way,”  She expanded that to say,  “Young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them.” Of course, there is no reason why Sophia Coppola would have to handle slavery in a “light way.” She is the director and could handle it openly and honestly as the subject deserves.

Elle Fanning & Nicole Fanning in The Beguiled

Elle Fanning & Nicole Fanning in The Beguiled

We at East Coast Stories believe it was a huge mistake to leave slaves out of The Beguiled. The “young girls” that Sophia Coppola considers her audience are a lot smarter about race issues in The United States than she gives them credit for. How can we possibly deal with the racial issues of today, if we ignore that slaves were an integral part of America from the beginning?

Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. A face no woman could resist

Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. A face no woman could resist

The basic plot of The Beguiled is that the schoolgirls  find and take in John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier. It is their duty as Southerners to turn him over to the local Confederate patrols. However, McBurney is able to use his good looks and smooth talk to win over the young women one by one.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 24: (L-R) Actors Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst attend "The Beguiled" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 24: (L-R) Actors Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst attend “The Beguiled” photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Beguiled can mean hypnotized, seduced or bewitched. All three meanings apply in this film. The Beguiled is a remake of the classic 1971 film of the same name in which Clint Eastwood played the wounded Union Soldier.

Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) is the headmistress of the dying school. The slaves have all run away and most students and teachers have gone home to escape the war. Miss Farnsworth continues to hold classes and music lessons, despite the fact that smoke from battles can be seen in the distance. Prayer is often accompanied by the sound of cannons.

The one teacher left is Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). It is clear that her background is somehow different than that of the other women. She is used to fancier settings and more revealing clothing. We are never sure if this is because she comes from wealth, or if her background is something more scandalous.

Elle Fanning is Amy, a beautiful young woman with a rebellious streak, who is continually testing how much she can get away with.

This structured, stark world is thrown into chaos by the arrival of McBurney. For McBurney it is if he has arrived in heaven. He has escaped the war and is surrounded by women; each more beautiful than the next. If he had carefully chosen one woman to quietly and cautiously pursue, then heaven it might have remained. However, like a kid in a candy store, McBurney wants it all and ends up finding himself in Hell.

The 1971 version of The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood

The 1971 version of The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood

McBurney works his charm on Miss Danbey, Miss Farnsworth and Amy, instinctively knowing the separate needs of each. Amy wants excitement, Martha Farnsworth needs appreciation and educated courting and Edwina Dabney wants a knight in shining armor to save her. Despite his good looks and charming smile, McBurney is really a callous hunter of vulnerable women. A classic sexual predator.

The phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, is a fitting expression for what happens when the women discover the truth about McBurney and each other. We will not give away the plot other than to say it is exciting, unexpected and chilling.

The casting of the (all white) characters for  in The Beguiled is perfect. Every actor gives a powerful performance. Nicole Kidman is spellbinding. Miss Farnsworth is trying to maintain an icy exterior, yet it is clear that deep passions burn withing her soul. She is tormented between the choices of what is best for her and what is best for the school and the girls she has a duty to protect.

Colin Farrell as Corporal John McBurney has the looks the charm and the arrogance to seduce three women simultaneously while only really loving himself.

Kirsten Dunst is wonderful as the beautiful and mysterious  Edwina Dabney. Director Sophia Coppola made the right choice in never fully revealing Edwina’s background. The mystery only adds to the tension. The 1971 version of  The Beguiled explained Edwina’s background, but it is more effective as a secret.

When Elle Fanning plays Alicia, audiences can see that she has graduated from little girl roles forever. She was superb as the dangerous young seductress, who may or may not truly understand her influence on a man or  the  damage she can do with the games she is playing.

Ooon Lawrence is excellent in The Beguiled

Ooon Lawrence is excellent in The Beguiled

Young Oona Lawrence is Amy, the innocent  child who first discovers wounded Corporal McBurney in the woods. Unlike the adults in the film, Amy wants nothing for herself. Amy’s only motivation is to do what is kind and right.

In total, the The Beguiled was a very good film. If Sophia Coppola had taken the time to bring in complex African-American characters, it could have been a great film. It would have been harder to write and added a level of complexity to the plot, but it would have been worth the effort.

How To Archer a crazy guide by the world’s “greatest” secret agent

Secret agent Sterling Archer barges into other countries knowing nothing about their culture or language. He then proceeds to waste huge amounts of money and kill lots of people. In the end, Archer leaves the country in complete chaos and declares his mission a success. Basically, secret agent Sterling Archer approaches his foreign assignments the same way The United States approaches its own foreign policy

How To Archer is authored by none other than Sterling Archer himself- the world’s “greatest” secret agent.  If you have never heard of Sterling Archer, then obviously you have never watched the animated series Archer on FX. Don’t let the “animated” part fool you. Archer is not for kids. Archer is a combination of James Bond, Austen Powers, and pure insanity, with raunchy humor and plots that are simply bizarre.

Sterling Archer the world's greatest secret agent

Sterling Archer the world’s greatest secret agent

How To Archer, is Sterling Archer’s guide to espionage and life. If you are a fan of the show Archer, you will find this a hilarious little book. If you do not know the show and  read the book you will say, “what’s wrong with this guy?”

Archer & Lana

Archer & Lana

We have to admit a guilty pleasure. We are fans of Archer, and have watched every episode. Archer takes the self-centered, misogynistic attitude of James Bond and multiplies it by a thousand. It is hard to believe that this show is on regular T.V. no matter how late at night it airs.

H. Jon Benjamin is Sterling Archer the world's greatest secret agent

H. Jon Benjamin is Sterling Archer the world’s greatest secret agent

The cast of Archer is terrific. Voice actors often do not get the same recognition as those we actually see, but Archer has some of the best. They bring the animated characters to life.

Aisha Tyler is Lana Kane the world's sexiest secret agent

Aisha Tyler is Lana Kane the world’s sexiest secret agent

H. Jon Benjamin is Sterling Archer, a grown man who still has the mindset of a preppie Lacrosse jock. The love of his life is Lana Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler) Lana is a much better agent that Archer, but basically even more  insane than Archer.

 Unlike James Bond, Sterling Archer has a very “ugly American’s” view of the world. This comes across in How To Archer, when he describes other countries:

“Cote D’Ivorie – I don’t care what it wants to be called. I’m still calling it The Ivory Coast. Cote D’Ivorie sounds like some type of cheese.”

Canada  – I like Quebec because it’s just like being in France, only everyone drives pickup trucks.”

Despite knowing nothing about foreign countries, Archer has an eclectic knowledge of completely useless facts. Like the fact that an Indian Elephant’s ear is shaped like India, while an African Elephant’s ear is shaped like Africa.  Perhaps the strangest fact concerns the roulette wheel. The numbers on a roulette wheel are 00 through 36. If you add them all together you get the Satanic number 666.

Woodhouse on Archer. George Coe recently passed away at the age of 88

George Coe who played Woodhouse on Archer. George Coe recently passed away at the age of 88

No discussion of Archer would be complete without mentioning George Coe, who played Woodhouse the long suffering Valet of Sterling Archer. George Coe recently passed away at the age of 88. Instead of just replacing him with another voice actor, the writers had Woodhouse pass away on the show as well, with a moving tribute.

Sterling Archer with tiger friend

Sterling Archer with tiger friend

So, if you have never watched Archer on FX, and are a fan of spy spoofs, give it a try. Just be aware that this is a very R rated show. If you are already a fan of Archer, then you will love the book How To Archer.

How To Archer

How To Archer

PS: We have no idea who is the actual author of How To Archer. After all, Sterling Archer is an fictional animated character, so someone else had to do the actual writing. It is only fitting that we do not know who. After all, Archer is a secret agent.