All posts by Editor East Coast Stories

Quicksand – Sweden mass shooting mystery

Quicksand on Netflix is a chilling series about a fictional mass shooting at a high school in Sweden.   It is a combination mystery, courtroom drama and psychological study. Hanna Ardéhn is high school senior Maja, who is either a mass murderer or a wrongly accused hero and victim.  We first see Maja at the scene of the shooting, covered in blood, and shivering in a state of shock. But there is a high-powered rifle by her side and Maja is the only survivor. Maja is charged with murder and taken into custody.

Felix Sandman & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand
Felix Sandman & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand

Quicksand is told in flashbacks of the events leading up to the shooting, and culminates in the murder trial. It is the best crime drama we have seen since The Night of. It is fascinating to see the legal and police procedures in Sweden, which are similar to but still have major differences to those of The United States.

Ella Rappich & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand
Ella Rappich & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand

The key to the mystery is Sebastian (Felix Sandman), the handsome, incredibly wealthy high school senior who changed Maja’s life when he suddenly took an interest in her. She was immediately propelled into a world she never previously dreamed of. Wild parties, vacations on a huge yacht in the Mediterranean and acceptance into what used to be called “the in crowd”. Sebastian simply takes his family’s wealth and superiority for granted. His personal car for driving to high school is a brand new Porsche.  

David Denick & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand
David Denick & Hanna Ardehn in Quicksand

We know from the beginning of Quicksand that Sebastian is the mass shooter and that Maja killed him. The police have charged Maja with being an accomplice who helped plan and then participated in the killings. Maja herself is in such a state of shock that she cannot remember exactly what happened that day. Awaiting trial she desperately ties to piece together the events of her past that lead to the violent conclusion.

William Spetz is Samir in Quicksand
William Spetz is Samir in Quicksand

Samir (William Spetz) is another high school senior. He is an Iraqi immigrant, and a top student. Samir is good friends with Maja, who is also an excellent student. Samir warns of the dark side to Sebastian. Samir has seen firsthand that Sebastian is a drug-abusing immigrant-hater.

Quicksand is riveting to watch and the acting is superb. Ella Rappich is Amanda, Maja’s best friend and confidant. David Dencik is Peder, Maja’s defense attorney who is trying to obtain the facts to win the case while at the same time keeping Maja from going completely catatonic.

Hanna Adrehn as Maja in "Quicksand"
Hanna Adrehn as Maja in “Quicksand”

Due to the nature of the crime, Maja is kept in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. Quicksand  (Swedish title Storst av allt) is so well filmed that the feeling of prison claustrophobia is palpable to the audience. Maja is not allowed a cell phone or watch and intensely feels the pressure of having no idea what time it is. When told she will be able to meet with her lawyer in 3 hours, she sits on the floor with her back to the wall and counts off the seconds and continually calculates how much longer she must wait

Be sure to read all our movie & T.V. reviews

We rate Quicksand 5 Stars *****

The Day I made Carol Channing Laugh

Years ago, I shared a laugh with Carol Channing in New York. I was walking down 56th Street towards 5th Avenue. As I turned the corner I almost bumped into Carol Channing coming out of Harry Winston, which is one of the premier jewelry stores in the world. Even then, Carol Channing looked ancient. She was holding onto the arm of a large muscular man who was obviously a chauffeur walking her to the car. It was also obvious that she was so frail she would have fallen over if she was not holding onto the chauffeur’s arm.

Despite this, Carol Channing was “dressed to the nines”, wearing full makeup, and a huge amount of jewelry. When we almost ran into each other I found myself face to face with Carol Channing no more than 1 foot away. Somehow, instead of just saying “excuse me” I decided to take a chance. I looked at Carol Channing and said,

“Visiting your best friends Ms Channing?”

Carol Channing on stage in Hello Dolly
Carol Channing on stage in Hello Dolly

Other celebrities might have been annoyed at having a fan dare to speak to them directly, but not Carol Channing.  She laughed, and her whole countenance changed. Her face lit up in a smile and she stood up straighter.

Carol Channing reached out and gently touched me on the shoulder and said, “Thanks for remembering sweetie.”

Then, without another word, Caron Channing and the chauffeur moved down the block, and I went on to my appointment on 5th avenue.

Carol Channing, of course, was the original singer of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. This was before Marilyn Monroe performed the song. It was decades before Madonna paid a tribute to the song with the video and song Material Girl. That’s why it was perfect to see this icon visiting a jewelry store. Where else would one expect to find Carol Channing?

Marilyn Monroe performing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend".
Marilyn Monroe performing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.

Carol Channing never had the beauty of a Marilyn Monroe or the voice of Madonna, but there was something that drew audiences to her. The sheer vibrant enthusiasm of Carol Channing made every performance an event. Audiences loved Carol Channing, especially in New York.

Madonna performing "Material Girl"
Madonna performing “Material Girl”

In addition to movie and Television appearances, Carol Channing performed in literally thousands of stage musicals and comedies. Hello Dolly was perhaps her best known and best loved. Carol Channing continued to perform late into her life. In one of her final Hello Dolly performances, Carol Channing had to do the entire musical while onstage in a wheelchair. Her performance was still terrific and the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Unlike many other celebrities Carol Channing never let her success go to her head and was always willing to make fun of herself. She once performed a duet of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend with Miss Piggy on The Muppets.

Carol Channing performs "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" with Miss Piggy on The Muppets
Carol Channing performs “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” with Miss Piggy on The Muppets

Carol Channing died on January 15, 2019, just shy of her 98th birthday. Thousands of fans throughout the world remember her for her movie and stage work. However, I will always remember Carol Channing for the smile and laugh she shared just with me.

I always found it odd that Carol Channing said , “thanks for remembering”, like somehow the word had forgotten her. There is no chance that fans will ever forget the vibrant unique talent of Carol Channing.

Be sure to read The Real Dick Clark

read Whitney Houston Gave Me A Private Concert

Traitors – Spies, Sex & Murder in Post- World War II London

Traitors on Netflix is a perfect spy series where sex, murder and lies are all part of the great game of world espionage. Emma Appleton stars as Feef Symonds a beautiful upper-class young British woman who is recruited by the Americans to spy on her own government. Seduced by the excitement, Feef soon learns that her actions can end the lives of real people, including herself.

Emma Appleton as the spy Feef in "Traitors"
Emma Appleton as the spy Feef in “Traitors”

Michael Stuhlbarg is the American spymaster Rowe, who is a zealot about destroying the beginnings of Communism in the U.K. Rowe is convinced that the new British Socialist government was put into power by the Russians and is being controlled by them.  Rowe is so intense in his beliefs that we are never sure if he is a strategic genius or a dangerous lunatic.

Michael Stuhbarg is the spymaster Rowe in "Traitors"
Michael Stuhbarg is the spymaster Rowe in “Traitors”

Brandon P. Bell is Jackson, Rowe’s American colored driver. (The term African-American did not yet exist). Jackson’s only goal is to earn as much money as he can and Rowe has access to cash. For envelopes full of money, Jackson will silently eliminate problems, or even bodies. As the series progresses, however, we see that Jackson is much more complex than people realize. His greatest asset in the spy world is that everyone underestimates him.

Brandon P. Bell is Jackson in "Traitors"
Brandon P. Bell is Jackson in “Traitors”

A communist threat in post war England was not just something Americans imagined. The Soviet Union was determined to spread its workers revolt worldwide.

Traitors was a joint collaboration between Netflix and U.K. Channel 4, and the British slant really shows. In fact, that is the one part of the series that gets to be a little too much. The Americans are crude violent zealots, while the British, even the British Communists, are multifaceted and sensitive.

Traitors glosses over why the Americans ran their own intelligence operations without consulting the British. It is a historic fact that during this time period any secrets the Americans told the U.K. government immediately found their way to the Soviet Union. The American OSS was not being paranoid when it decided to spy on the U.K. government to stop the leaks.

In real life, it was British class arrogance that allowed the U.K. government to become infiltrated by Communists. The British took it for granted that members of the upper classes who had graduated from Oxford or Cambridge would naturally be completely loyal to The Crown.

"Kim" Philby who the British never suspected as a spy because he came from the upper class
“Kim” Philby who the British never suspected as a spy because he came from the upper class

In fact, the Soviet Union had cleverly recruited to Communism students who were from “the best” families in England, and who would be well placed in government after graduation. The most successful of these was Kim Philby who was actually working for the Soviet Union while he was head of all counterintelligence in the U.K. He was not discovered until 1963, and even then escaped to the Soviet Union before British Authorities could arrest him.

Keeley Hawes as Priscilla in 'Traitors"
Keeley Hawes as Priscilla in ‘Traitors”

Traitors ignores these historic facts, but Traitors is not trying to be a historical documentary. Traitors is an exciting adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat trying to guess who is really a traitor, and who is just an innocent victim. Emma Appleton is perfect as the sensuous, fragile yet dangerous Feef. Keeley Hawes is wonderful as Priscilla, a high ranking government bureaucrat who feels that women must downplay and hide their own sexuality in order to rise through the ranks in a government dominated by men.

Like all great spy stories, Traitors has plots within plots and people are never exactly who they seem. This combined with the action, eroticism and mystery make it a “must-see series.”

We rate Traitors Five Stars *****

Read – Will Season 3 of The Crown Dare Mention Northern Ireland?

Read all our T.V. & Movie reviews

My Mother was A World War II Codebreaker

My mother was a naval counterintelligence officer during World War II, something no one would have suspected of this tiny woman with bright dyed-blond hair. (Her whole life she insisted that the hair color was natural). 

America was in World War II when Elsie White graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University. She immediately joined the Navy and after a 3 month training course was commissioned an Ensign. Regular Navy officers derisively called these new Ensigns the “90 day wonders”.

Elsie White marries Jack Farrell during World War II
Elsie White marries Jack Farrell during World War II

Elsie did not start her military career with an exciting assignment. Like most women who joined up, she was relegated to back-office work. Elsie worked in New York City processing Navy payroll. That’s when she noticed something odd about a certain Admiral’s paycheck. It looked to her like the Navy was paying the Admiral the wrong amount. Her supervisors were not interested, but Elsie worked on her own time to research the back reports. Sure enough, Elsie was able to prove that the Navy had been under-paying the Admiral for years. The Navy owed the Admiral thousands of dollars, and Elsie saw to it that he was reimbursed in his next paycheck.

No one would ever suspect that the 1950s house wife was once a secret code-breaker during World War II
No one would ever suspect that the 1950s house wife was once a secret code-breaker during World War II

The Admiral took the time to find out who had discovered the error and gotten him his money. About a month later Elise received a formal invitation to join the Admiral and his officers for lunch aboard the Admiral’s ship.  It was a thrilling experience for Elise, but she never thought anything would come of it. The next day she was back at work in the payroll office.

But the Admiral had not forgotten about the tiny Ensign. The Admiral realized that someone as intelligent, detail oriented and persistent as Elsie would be perfect in the counterintelligence branch of the Navy.

A blurry old photo of Elsie White's commission as a United States Navy Ensign September 21, 1943
A blurry old photo of Elsie White’s commission as a United States Navy Ensign September 21, 1943

Soon Elsie was ensconced deep in the sub-basement of a building on Church Street in New York City. She was the newly appointed officer in charge of a team of Navy code breakers. Just to get to work was no small task. Two Marine guards checked ID’s at the entrance of the building. Two more Marines guarded the elevator to the sub-basement. In the sub-basement itself, 4 fully armed Marines stood ready

During one inspection, Elsie was given a formal reprimand for not wearing a fully loaded .45 caliber side-arm per regulations. She did not want to admit that she could barely lift the weapon, much less hold it out straight to aim at anyone.

Elsie may not have been proficient at combat, but she was good at solving puzzles, which is how she approached codes. While the British were busy cracking the German code and its Enigma machine, the Japanese codes presented a much different problem to the Americans. Instead of having 1 code, the Japanese had numerous codes which they changed continuously. Teams of Americans in the Pacific and in the U.S. were given stacks of Japanese codes to crack.

Elsie’s New York code breaking group was an odd assortment of misfits. Most were quiet introverts and a few were alcoholics who smuggled flask bottles of gin into the underground lair. The Navy tolerated all these oddballs, as long and they broke codes. And break codes they did.

Elsie recalled one mousy woman who worked at a back desk and had never spoken to anyone in the unit. One night the mousy woman came up to Elsie and whispered in an respectful tone, “I am sorry to disturb you Ensign, but I think I just broke this code.” It turned out that the little mouse had, in fact, broken the code.

No one knew of Elsie’s wartime adventures until 20 years after World War II had ended. That’s how long all Navy officers in code breaking units were required to keep silent about their duties. As far as most people knew, she had been processing payrolls her whole time in the Navy.

The other day I walked by the office building on Church Street in New York which had once been the site of the secret Navy code breaking unit. Nothing from its outward appearance would every lead anyone to guess its secret past. Much in the same way, no one would ever have guessed that Elsie White Farrell, the tiny blonde mom in her blue Buick station wagon had once worked in the sub-basement serving her country during war.

Be sure to read all our Nostalgic Stories.

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“Billions” uses The Holocaust as a joke. This is a disgrace.

In its Chickentown episode, Billions uses The Holocaust as a trivial punchline to refer to the  killing of chickens. It is disgraceful that the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis is so trivialized that it is compared to the death of chickens. Has American culture really gotten to the point where anything, no matter how horrible, is simply fodder for stupid humor?

Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-204480 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1103
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for “scientific” experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-204480 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1103

It is bad enough that the United States has growing numbers of neo-Nazis and White Supremacists who insist that The Holocaust never actually happened. This Billions episode may indicate that there are even more people who know The Holocaust happened, but simply don’t care. Sadly there has been no protest against Billions. The only fan reaction on the internet was that the Billions Chickentown episode was not very good compared to the normal high quality of Billions.

Protestors claiming The Holocaust never actually happened.
Protestors claiming The Holocaust never actually happened.

In the Billions Chickentown episode, trader “Dollar Bill” (played by the aptly named Kelly AuCoin) needs chicken prices to rise or Axe Capital will lose a fortune. However, there is an oversupply of chickens and the price is going to plummet. Dollar Bill calls Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and announces he has found a “final solution” to the overabundance of chickens. After the phone call Bobby asks, “Did he just say what I think he said? Is he talking about a Chicken Holocaust?”

Kelly AuCoin is Dollar Bill on Billions.
Kelly AuCoin is Dollar Bill on Billions.

Sure enough, Dollar Bill’s plan is to smuggle a diseased chicken into the stock of healthy chickens, thereby poisoning thousands of birds. Bobby Axelrod ends this idiotic idea. The entire episode was not very good and the comic use of the word Holocaust by the Jewish Bobby Axelrod does not ring true.

Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod in BILLIONS (Season 3, Episode 02, "The Wrong Maria Gonzalez"). - Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: BILLIONS_302_1419.R.jpg
Damian Lewis as Bobby “Axe” Axelrod in BILLIONS (Season 3, Episode 02, “The Wrong Maria Gonzalez”). – Photo: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: BILLIONS_302_1419.R.jpg

We hope that in the future Billions goes back to its usual superb writing and does not trivialize something as tragic in human history as The Holocaust.

The Inventor – Out for blood in Silicon Valley

The Inventor – out for blood in Silicon Valley – is a fascinating HBO documentary about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the scam artist who was once praised on the cover of Fortune Magazine as the next Steve Jobs. In addition to losing millions of dollars of investor’s money, Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos, actually put people’s lives at risk by marketing a blood testing machine that gave false results to patients.

Older men found Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, irresistible.
Older men found Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, irresistible.

Elizabeth Holmes is a type of genius. She was able to identify a real problem in the healthcare system that people desperately wanted fixed, and she offered them a solution. Anyone who has ever had a blood test knows that they are expensive and that the technicians take large quantities of blood from a vein to do even a simple test. Consequently many people risk their own health by avoiding blood tests completely.

Former Secretary of State Charles Schultz, who still believes in Elizabeth Holmes
Former Secretary of State Charles Schultz, who still believes in Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes claimed she had invented a machine that could perform 200 blood tests with a single drop of blood, at a fraction of the cost that Quest or LabCorp charged. It was a revolution in the medical field.

The Theranos blood testing machine
The Theranos blood testing machine

However, the real genius of Elizabeth Holmes was her ability to promote herself. She was especially adept at attracting the attention of older, powerful men. Former Secretary of State George Schultz, was one of her most ardent supporters.

Elizabeth Holmes demonstrates how a tiny droop of blood is all that is needed for 200 tests.
Elizabeth Holmes demonstrates how a tiny droop of blood is all that is needed for 200 tests.

Elizabeth Holmes has incredibly huge blue eyes, porcelain pale skin, a husky voice with an intense manner of speaking. She always dresses in black, trying to present herself as the female Steve Jobs. All of this enabled Elizabeth Holmes to attract a cult-like following of employees and investors.

Theranos was set up in Silicon Valley and the company got to work building the blood testing machine. It was beautiful. The only problem was that after millions of dollars and thousands of hours of testing, the doctors, engineers and computer scientists could not get the machine to work properly. Tests were wrong, blood got spilled, machine parts broke.

The Theranos headquarters when the company was valued at $6 billion
The Theranos headquarters when the company was valued at $6 billion

Elizabeth Holmes reported none of this to her investors. In fact, she stated that the machines worked perfectly. They were put in place in Walgreens stores and blood tests were begun on real patients.

The Inventor – out for Blood in Silicon Valley is a fascinating study of the whole disaster. Elizabeth Holmes is not presented as an evil character, but as a complex, possibly mentally unbalanced semi-genius who actually believes her own lies. It seems she truly thought that if she said something enough, it could actual happen.

Tyler Schultz & Erika Cheung, the whistle blowers who brought down Theranos
Tyler Schultz & Erika Cheung, the whistle blowers who brought down Theranos

Ironically it was Tyler Schultz, the grandson of Charles Schultz, who brought down Theranos. By that time the Silicon Valley start-up was valued at more than $6 billion and Tyler Schultz worked in the labs. He saw that Theranos was giving false medical information to patients. False data that could possibly result in a patient death. Tyler Schultz along with fellow lab worker Erika Cheung became whistle blowers. Tyler went to the Wall Street Journal and Erika to the Food and Drug Administration.

They were both immediately sued and put through Hell by Theranos lawyers. Legal fees for Tyler Schultz were over $500,000. His parents had to drain their personal savings and mortgage their house to help him pay the legal fees. Tyler’s grandfather, former Secretary of State Charles Schultz to this day, still believes that Elizabeth Holmes is an honest woman.

Elizabeth Holmes on the cover of Fortune
Elizabeth Holmes on the cover of Fortune

The Inventor – out for Blood in Silicon Valley shows the dangers of blindly believing in the hype of every wannabe tech genius. Just wearing black clothes and having a flashy presentation does not make someone a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

In the end Theranos want bankrupt and all the employees lost their jobs. The investors lost all their money and Elizabeth Holmes and other executives are being sued. The only good news is that no one got killed by the Theranos “miracle” machine. As my grandfather used to say, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

We rate The Inventor – out for Blood in Silicon Valley 5 Stars *****

Be sure to read all our T.V. Reviews.

The Peek A Boo Cat

At an early Spring cookout, Susan recently lost a game of Peek A Boo with a large Ragdoll cat.  The Ragdoll showed up at the picnic table and sat at a bench across from Susan, just like he was a person invited to the cookout. Ragdoll looked at Susan lovingly with his deep blue eyes and gave a gentle meow. He moved his head whenever Susan moved hers, mimicking her every motion.

The Peek-a-Boo Cat
The Peek-a-Boo Cat

Susan decided to see if she could teach the cat to play Peek A Boo. Susan looked under the table, and the Ragdoll cat looked under the table. Susan then looked over the table and Ragdoll looked at Susan over the table. The 13 pound black-and-white kitty had instantly mastered the game of Peek A Boo as well as any toddler.

Susan once again looked under the table and the cat looked under the table. Susan looked over the table and Ragdoll kitty looked over the table. Susan then looked under the table and the kitty made his move.

The rule of cats is "Love them. Respect Them. Never, ever trust them."
The rule of cats is “Love them. Respect Them. Never, ever trust them.”

While Susan was looking under the table, the Ragdoll took advantage of the fact that Susan’s eyes were not on the picnic table. The cat jumped up on the table and snatched Susan’s grilled chicken off her plate. Carrying the chicken in its mouth, the Ragdoll cat sprinted off to the woods, at an amazingly fast speed considering the cat’s large size.

Susan had forgotten the prime rule of dealing with cats. “Love them. Respect them. Never ever trust them.”

Too tempting for the Peek-a-Boo cat.
Too tempting for the Peek-a-Boo cat.

Twenty minutes later, the Ragdoll cat emerged from the woods and jumped up onto the bench next to Susan. The cat purred loudly and rubbed his head gently against Susan. Kitty was a gracious winner in the game of Peek- A Boo.

Born in East LA – Cheech Marin’s 1987 Comedy about Immigration

Born in East LAis a 31 year-old comedy about the Mexican Border that feels like it was filmed today.  Cheech Marin is Rudy, and American-born Los Angeles native, who gets thrown out of the United States simply because he looks Mexican. 

Cheech Marin trapped in Mexico in "Born in East LA"
Cheech Marin trapped in Mexico in “Born in East LA”

Rudy has to pick up someone at a factory near the border and he mistakenly leaves his wallet at home. The factory is raided by immigration agents and Rudy is arrested with all the Mexicans. Since he has no identification and can’t reach his mother or sister by phone, he is put on the bus back to Mexico with the rest of the factory workers.

Daniel Stern in" Born in East LA"
Daniel Stern in” Born in East LA”

 Once in Mexico, Rudy’s troubles are just beginning. Rudy speaks no Spanish, and without his wallet he has no money or identification. Rudy ends up working for Jimmy (Daniel Stern), a sleazy American who owns a bar and pool hall in Tijuana. If Rudy can earn enough money, he will be able to pay a “coyote” to sneak him across the border back to LA.

Born in East LA is played for laughs, but it has a serious side to it as well. Rudy falls in love with Dolores, (Kamala Lopez) who is working 3 jobs 7 days a week, also trying to earn enough money to come to America.

The acting in Born in East LA is terrific. Cheech Marin shows a more serious side than in most of his films. Kamala Lopez is great as the hard –working but vulnerable Dolores. Daniel Stern brings a wonderful complexity to the role of Jimmy, who himself is lonely and trapped in Mexico.

Cheech Marin & Kamala Lopez in "Born in East LA"
Cheech Marin & Kamala Lopez in “Born in East LA”

Of course, being a Cheech Marin film, there is also a lot of comedy. One of the jobs Rudy gets in Mexico is teaching people how to “fit in” when the get to LA, and not look like immigrants. He does this by showing them how to speak very loudly, use a lot of slang and walk with an arrogant swagger.

Neith Hunter in "Born in East LA"
Neith Hunter in “Born in East LA”

Neith Hunter has a short but memorable part as Marcie, an incredibly sexy woman walking through East Los Angeles to Rudy’s garage. When Rudy can’t find her he goes to the local park and asks, “Hey – has anyone seen a girl with red hair in a green dress?” Every male in the park immediately points in the direction Marcie was walking.

In 31 years not much has changed in the strange relationship between the American economy and its illegal Mexican workforce. In Born in East LA, 100% of the factory’s production workers are illegal immigrants. After the Immigration raid, the factory has to close for the day. On the deportation bus to Mexico, Rudy asks one of the Mexican’s what happens next. With a bored look, the Mexican replies, “Once we get to Mexico, we figure out a way to come back in time for work on Monday.”

Stanley Kubrick Predicted why the Boeing 737 Max kills people.

The crashes of the Boeing 737 Max jet were predicted in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. In the film, HAL the computer comes to believe that the humans on board are a danger to the mission, and begins killing them. Unlike HAL, The computer system on the Boeing 737 Max is not purposely killing people, but it does believe that human beings are dangerous to the success of the mission. Consequently, the automatic pilot on the Boeing 737 Max ignores the commands of the pilots and even overrides them.

Aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes both took place when the computer system of the Boeing 737 Max forced the plane to dive into the ground while the pilots were desperately using all their strength to try to get the plane to climb. The computer ignored the climb commands and people died.

Dave shutting down HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Dave shutting down HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Boeing initially stated there was no problem with the 737 Max, and later came out and admitted that a “slight software fix” might be requited. This understatement reminds us of what HAL the computer said in 2001: A Space Odyssey after it killed all but 1 person on the spaceship.

“I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be all right again. I feel much better now. I really do.”

Somehow we can picture the automatic pilot system of the Boeing 737 Max making the same statement.

The cockpit of a Boeing 737 Max
The cockpit of a Boeing 737 Max

Poor Pilot Training is another issue that Boeing management has blamed for the crash. They are partially right about that. We previously pointed out the lack of pilot training in our post 8 Reasons You Should Be Afraid To Fly. However, the biggest problem with the automatic pilot system on the Boeing 737 Max is that it is a hugely complex procedure just to turn the thing off.

The Ethiopian Airlines pilot only had a total of 200 flying hours.
The Ethiopian Airlines pilot only had a total of 200 flying hours.

Any factory manager knows that one of the keys to safety is to have a highly visible and easy -to-use Kill Switch located next to any machine that might malfunction. There is no Kill Switch to turn off a malfunctioning autopilot on the Boeing 737 Max. Pilots must execute a complex set of computer commands to turn the system off, even if the autopilot is flying the plane into the ground. If the pilots are not experts in these programming steps, there is no way for them to take back control of the aircraft.

Airplane designers know less than they think they do.
Airplane designers know less than they think they do.

The fact that you should never turn human control 100% over to computers has been a standard warning in science fiction books and films for decades. The Terminator, War Games, I Robot and countless others have focused on the unintended consequences of ceding control to machines. Yet Boeing, Airbus and other jet manufactures are working to steadily make pilots unnecessary. Some airlines have been pushing the FAA for rules to take the first step by eliminating rules requiring a copilot.

Would you feel comfortable in traffic next to a driverless 80,000 pound truck?
Would you feel comfortable in traffic next to a driverless 80,000 pound truck?

On the ground things are no better. Google is working on developing a driver-less tractor trailer. Imagine an 80,000 pound tractor trailer loaded with dangerous chemicals roaring down the highway with no driver. What could possibly go wrong?

When 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968 speculation about malfunctioning computers causing human deaths was an interesting futuristic speculation. Now is is all too real.

Read our article. 8 Reasons You Should Be Afraid to Fly

Read The Chemical 9/11

Read Dusty Cars – a 9/11 Story

I Think We’re Alone Now – Peter Dinklage & Elle Fanning’s Independent Film

I Think We’re Alone Now stars Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as two lonely people caught in a world where everyone else has suddenly died from a mysterious illness. Trapped together, they must learn to cope with the new reality.

Peter Dinklage & Elle Fanning joke around on the set of I Think We're Alone Now.
Peter Dinklage & Elle Fanning joke around on the set of I Think We’re Alone Now.

Peter Dinklage is Del, a library worker from a small town in the Northwest. Alone in the town where everyone else has died, Del lives a Zen-like existence, caring for the town and preserving the memories of the people.

Peter Dinklage in "I Think We're Alone Now."
Peter Dinklage in “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

One by one, Del goes to each house in town, removes and buries the bodies, cleans the house and retrieves any personal photographs. Del then brings the photos back to the library and careful catalogues them. Why he does this is never exactly clear. However, it appears that he is trying to form a connection with the townspeople that he never really had when they were alive.

Elle Fanning & Peter Dinklage in "I Think We're Alone Now."
Elle Fanning & Peter Dinklage in “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Del’s routing is shattered by the arrival of a feisty young woman named Grace (Elle Fanning). Del should be thrilled to find another human being, yet he does not quite trust Grace. She is very reticent about saying anything about where she came from, or what is going on in the world beyond the little town. All we know is that she has strange scars on her neck which she uses her long hair to hide from Del.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is Violet in "I Think We're Alone Now."
Charlotte Gainsbourg is Violet in “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Despite their differences, Del and Grace come to depend on each other and slowly share their feelings. At one point, Grace asks Del if he was lonely in the town by himself. Del responds that he was more lonely when the town was completely full of living people and yet he was completely alone. (Who among us has not had that feeling of despair while being alone in a crowd of happy people?)

Paul Giamatti is Patrick in "I Think We're Alone Now."
Paul Giamatti is Patrick in “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

I Think We’re Alone Now is a great independent film with a surprise ending. There are only 4 actors in I Think We’re Alone Now, yet the acting is so good that the movie is riveting.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is Violet and Paul Giamatti is Patrick. To say who they are or how they appear in the film would be giving away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Charlotte Gainsbourg and Paul Giamatti both give superb performances.

We give I Think We’re Alone Now the highest rating of Five Stars *****
Be sure to read all stories about Peter Dinklage

See all our movie reviews.

Modern Farmer- What Baby Boomers watched before cartoons

Modern Farmer is the T.V. show that taught Baby Boomers from the cities and suburbs all they ever learned about farming. Modern Farmer was on at 6:30 am Saturday mornings and the cartoons did not begin until 7AM. Kids sat through Modern Farmer because they did not want to take a chance of missing even a second of the precious Saturday cartoons.

Baby Boomers watched Modern Farmer every Saturday before cartoons started.
Baby Boomers watched Modern Farmer every Saturday before cartoons started.

When Baby Boomers were kids there was no way to instantly get a cartoon. No “on demand” channels, no VCRs or DVDs. Not even an internet. If you missed a cartoon you wanted to see, you had missed it forever.

Therefore, Baby Boomers got up extra early every Saturday and watched Modern Farmer while waiting for the cartoons. Modern Farmer was not a cartoon, and was not even a kids’ show. It was a public service documentary designed to instruct farmers about all the most recent technological advances in American Farming. Modern Farming showed how harvesters and combines worked. It demonstrated the importance of rotating crops, and the most efficient methods of irrigation. It had films of real American farms producing the vast supply of food that is one of the country’s greatest strengths.

Modern Farmer showed Baby Boomers the complex world of where food comes from
Modern Farmer showed Baby Boomers the complex world of where food comes from

Modern Farming was not designed to be a show to teach kids, but teach kids it did. Children have amazing absorbent minds, and millions of children throughout the United States learned about farming while waiting for cartoons.

Ironically, I remember a lot more about Modern Farming than I do about the Saturday cartoons. To this day, I have a tremendous respect for American farmers and the complexity of their profession, all thanks to Modern Farmer.

The impact of Modern Farmer should have lessons for today’s T.V. producers. Children are much smarter than producer think, and kids have an amazing capacity to learn. Teaching them something worthwhile is up to us.

So what ever happened to Modern Farmer? It actually never went away. Various versions of the show are popular throughout the world. German Farmer, Japanese Farmer and Korean Farmer have all been made.

Farm Sim is a popular computer game where you try to run your own farm without going bankrupt.
Farm Sim is a popular computer game where you try to run your own farm without going bankrupt.

There are even many video farming games where kids can get a feel for how hard it is to run a farm.

Very few Baby Boomers ever became real farmers. Food production in the United States is so efficient that the number of farmers has been decreasing for decades. However, Modern Farmer did teach a whole generation of kids that food does not just magically appear on the table. It gave them an appreciation for a complex and fascinating world just a few miles away from the cities and suburbs.

Be sure to read all our Nostalgic stories.

The Book of Answers – Information before Google.

Before Google existed, the fastest way to get an answer was to call the New York Public Library Telephone Reference Service. It has been operating 9 hours a day 6 days a week since 1968. The Book of Answers is a fascinating summary of the most interesting answers and questions fielded by the service.

The Book of Answers
The Book of Answers

Unlike Google or Wikipedia, the NY Public Library goes to great lengths to make sure that the answers they give are accurate. The Library’s answers are not influenced by what most people “think” the answer should be. What goes into Google or Wikipedia is not the truth, but rather what Stephen Colbert refers to as truthiness. That is, something that people think is true because it sounds true.

What percentage is each color in a bag of M&Ms?
What percentage is each color in a bag of M&Ms?

The Book of Answers has a section devoted to correcting misconceptions people have on a number if items. These include items such as:

  • Despite what most people believe Poinsettias are not poisonous.  Despite this fact every Christmas season every local T.V. station runs at least one story warning people about poisonous Poinsettias.
  • Panama Hats are not made in Panama. They are and have always been made in Ecuador.
  • Abraham Lincoln was not the first President born in a log cabin. Andrew Jackson was actually the first.
The New York Public Library's main Reading Room.
The New York Public Library’s main Reading Room.

There are also some fascinating but lesser known facts about a huge variety of subjects.

  • New Zealand was the first nation to give women the vote in 1893. Switzerland did not allow women to vote until 1971.
  • The most common color candy in a bag of M&Ms is Brown composing 30% of the candies. Red, Yellow are 20% each and Green, Orange & Tan are 10% each.
  • The covering on the end of a shoelace is an “aglet”.
  • The metal hoop that supports a lampshade is a “harp.”

The Book of Answers was written by Barbara Berliner with Melinda Corey and George Ochoa. The Book of Answers was published in 1990 at which time Barbara Berliner was the head of the New York Public Library’s Telephone Reference Service.  It is nice to know that despite Google and Wikipedia, this service still exists.  

Women did not get the vote in Switzerland until 1971.
Women did not get the vote in Switzerland until 1971.

There strict rules the Reference librarians must follow before they can answer any questions. There are:

  • Librarians are not allowed to guess about any answers. They must have a verified source for the answer or else truthfully state that the answer is “We don’t know”. In that case the library will try to find the answer and call you back at a later time.
  • Librarians will not give you the answers to any contest that is still open. In other words, you can’t use them to cheat on a quiz show or radio contest.
  • They won’t give you the answer to the impossible questions such as “what is the meaning of life?” or “why does anyone watch The Kardashians?

You can still find this little gem of a book on Amazon, and it is a lot of fun to browse through. After all, in this confusing world don’t we all really need to have “The Book of Answers?”

Be sure to rad What’s New On The Blog.

See all our Book Reviews

The Green Book – a feel-good movie but a complete lie

The Green Book is a “feel good” movie that also happens to be a complete lie about race relations in America. It is supposedly the true story of pianist Don Shirley’s 1962 tour of the Deep South where he played for all-White audiences. Fearing for his safety, Don Shirley recruited tough guy Tony “Lip” Vallelonga to be his chauffeur.  Though completely opposite personalities, they come to understand and respect each other, leading to a life-long friendship.

Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali in "The Green Book"
Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali in “The Green Book”

Mahershala Ali is perfect as Don Shirley, as is Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip. The action is exciting and well filmed, and audiences leave the theater feeling uplifted. However, The Green Book has been widely criticized by African Americans, especially Spike Lee, because Hollywood’s portrayal of the 1962 tour does not match what really happened. Here is a list of the major flaws with The Green Book.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was distributed by Esso gas stations.
The Negro Motorist Green Book was distributed by Esso gas stations.

Don Shirley was not playing for White Audiences in the South. It was a tour of historically African American colleges in the South and the audiences were African American. The whole scene of Shirley playing for rich White folks in a private home and then being told he could not use the bathroom never happened. It was a pivotal plot point in The Green Book but was a complete Hollywood fabrication.

Don Shirley
Don Shirley

Don Shirley was not estranged from his family. He had a close relationship with his siblings, nephews and nieces his entire life. Writers Nick Vallelonga (Tony’s son), Peter Farrelly and Brian Currie are all White. They did not contact Shirley’s family while making The Green Book. Nick Vallelonga has openly admitted that he did not even know that any of Don Shirley’s family still existed. Instead, The Green Book portrays Don Shirley as a lonely, isolated man who is “saved” by being invited to dinner with the Vallelonga family. In fact, some members of Don Shirley’s family actually attended many of his concerts in the South.

Spike Lee does not think The Green Book should have won Best Picture.
Spike Lee does not think The Green Book should have won Best Picture.

The Green Book pretends that racial profiling by police officers only happens in the South. The Green Book has several scenes where Don and Tony are roughed up by Southern policemen who seem to automatically hate all African Americans or Italians. Then when they are returning home, as soon as they cross the Mason-Dixon Line the police become friendly helpers. A police officer points out that their rear tire is flat, and then stays with them to direct traffic around the car in a raging blizzard. Following the logic of The Green Book, relations between the police and the African American community in the Northern city of Chicago must be excellent.

Nick Vallelonga
Nick Vallelonga

The Green Book gives the impression that racial tensions are somehow relegated to the past. After all, the Deep South no longer has legalized segregation and even the police forces are now integrated. Most people today don’t even realize that there actually was something called The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was a guide to what hotels and dining establishments African American’s were allowed to use in the South. The fact that this legalized racism no longer exists makes audiences feel good about how much progress has been made.  Spike Lee has stated that The Green Book gives a false sense of progress, and is a feel-good movie on race relations designed for an old audience. Spike Lee may have a point. At the theater where we saw The Green Book, the average age of the audience was about 67.

Linda Cardellini & Viggo Mortensen in "The Green Book"
Linda Cardellini & Viggo Mortensen in “The Green Book”

The Green Book is a “White Savior” Story. Tony Lip has to teach Don Shirley how to stand up for himself and be tough. Time after time in The Green Book, Tony saves Don from problems brought about by Don’s timid nature, or his own stupidity of going places without bringing Tony along to protect him. This is repeated so often in the film that you begin to wonder how Don Shirley actually survived in the world before he met his White Protector. Hollywood has a long history of making “White Savior” films. These include The Blind Side, Dangerous Minds, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. The mark of a White Savior movie is that its focus is about how heroic the White person is to be helping the unfortunate African American who would be lost without the savior. The main star is the White character, with the African Americans playing only supporting roles.

This may be a little bit of a hard judgment for The Green Book. After all, Don Shirley is portrayed as being immensely more talented, educated and literate than Tony Lip. In fact, the most amusing parts of The Green Book are when Don Shirley helps the almost illiterate Tony write beautiful love letters to Tony’s wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini). Don Shirley’s letters are so elaborate and romantic that Dolores begins reading them to her jealous friends.

Tony "Lip" Vallelonga
Tony “Lip” Vallelonga

Overall, The Green Book is an enjoyable film to watch, but don’t fool yourself into believing that you are seeing an actual portrayal of history. We can’t help thinking that it would have been so much better if the writers had taken the time to fully research the events and get input from Don Shirley’s family. It is true that despite their different backgrounds Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga did become lifelong friends. It would be fascinating to know what really happened when the toured the Deep South 57 years ago.

The Thin Man movies – when drunks were funny

In 1934,  a “B” movie titled The Thin Man premiered. Audiences loved it so much, it spawned 5 Thin Man sequels which were given top  “A” billing. The Thin Man movies are still fun to watch, but the first thing modern viewers notice  is how much public attitudes towards alcohol changed, even during the course of the series.

William Powell & Myrna Loy in "The Thin Man"

William Powell & Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man”

William Powell stars as the heavy drinking private detective Nick Charles. He is helped in all his capers by his beautiful upper class wife Nora (Myrna Loy).  As The Thin Man series progresses, we learn that Nora fell in love with Nick partly because she found his world of crime and adventure so much more exciting than her sterile existence as a wealthy socialite.

The beautiful Myrna Loy

The beautiful Myrna Loy

Having people from different social classes fall in love was a popular theme in the 1930s. Most people today do not realize that Blondie was originally a showgirl (which is why she is so well-endowed). Dagwood came from a wealthy family, and it was considered shocking that he would actually marry such a “loose woman”. The Blondie comic strip first appeared in 1930 and Dagwood was disowned by his family when he married Blondie. He was forced to get a job for the first time in his life. That is why Dagwood is such an inept employee.

Blondie was a showgirl and Dagwood from a wealthy family.

Blondie was a showgirl and Dagwood from a wealthy family.

 In The Thin Man movies, Nora is beautiful, intelligent and madly in love with Nick. They were a very modern couple for the 1930s. They treated each other as equals, solved crimes together and were never jealous.

Then there was the drinking. Nick is shown drinking in almost every scene of the original The Thin Man. It is considered an amusing quirk of his personality.

Blondie in French 1931-1931. The mismatched couple was popular world wide

Blondie in French 1931-1931. The mismatched couple was popular world wide

The 6 Thin Man movies went from 1934-1947, with Nick drinking less alcohol in each film until he eventually gives up drinking completely. Being a drunk was no longer socially acceptable in American society.

Still, The Thin Man movies are fun to watch and are very cleverly written. The finale of every Thin Man Movie is when Nick and Nora gather all the murder suspects into a single room and reveal exactly who the murderer is. This format has been followed in countless movies and T.V. shows ever since.

So for for some fun, watch The Thin Man movies and see a modern lovely couple solve crimes 84 years ago. And what the heck, have a few drinks while you watch.



The Orville fans demand “Bring Back Alara!” – did Halston Sage have an affair with Seth MacFarlane?

The Orville fans are furious that Alara (played by Halston Sage) left the show early in Season 2. Rumors are that she had an affair with creator Seth MacFarlane, and that when the affair ended Seth MacFarlane threw Halston Sage off The Orville.

Did Seth MacFarlane & Halston Sage have an affair?
Did Seth MacFarlane & Halston Sage have an affair?

Rumors of an affair between Seth MacFarlane and Halston Sage are ridiculous. The rumors started because Haltson Sage’s character (Alara) on The Orville has semi-romantic feelings for Seth MacFarlane’s character (Captain Ed Mercer). Somehow internet gossip took this plot line and turned it into a real affair between Seth McFarlane and Halston Sage.

Halston Sage as Alara on The Orville
Halston Sage as Alara on The Orville

However, internet rumors aside, we are unhappy about Halston Sage leaving The Orville. Alara was the most interesting person on The Orville crew.

Alara grew up on the planet Xelayan, whose gravity is many times that of Earth. Therefore, she is tremendously strong despite being a petite young woman. Shy and unassuming, Alara is uncomfortable with the fact that she has super strength compared to those around her. It causes particular issues in her love life, since the young men she dates just can’t get used to a girlfriend stronger then they are. That is why Alara falls for Captain Mercer, who is completely self-assured and natural when interacting with Alara.

Jessica Szohr replaces Halston Sage in Season 2 of The Orville
Jessica Szohr replaces Halston Sage in Season 2 of The Orville

In Season 2 of The Orville, Haslton Sage is replaced by Jessica Szhor, who plays Talla, another Xelayan. Unfortunately, the Talla character is just not as interesting as Alara. Talla is brash and almost arrogant about her super-strength. It makes for a much less interesting plot line.

We are hoping that all of this is just a prelude for Halston Sage returning to The Orville as Alara in another capacity. With the current Me Too Movement it might have seemed inappropriate for the Captain of The Orville to have a romantic relationship with a young female junior officer under his command.

The Orville fans want Halston Sage back
The Orville fans want Halston Sage back

Perhaps Alara will return to The Orville as an ambassador from her home planet. In this way she would no longer be under the command of Captain Mercer and they would be free to finally act on their feelings for each other.

In any case, we at East Coast Stories are big fans of Halston Sage. We join the growing group of people shouting to the writers of The Orville “Bring Back Alara”!

Be sure to read all our T.V. & Movie reviews.

Mary Shelley – the sad story of the woman who wrote Frankenstein

Mary Shelley stars Elle Fanning as the woman who wrote Frankenstein in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. The first addition of Frankenstein in 1818 was published anonymously, since the publisher did not believe the public would take a female author seriously.

Douglas Booth & Elle Fanning in "Mary Shelley"
Douglas Booth & Elle Fanning in “Mary Shelley”

Women in 1818 were supposed to admire great works of literature, not actually write any. Lord Byron (excellently played by Tom Sturridge) openly admits that he wants the women in his life to be intelligent enough to see how clever he is, but not so smart as to be able to challenge any of his ideas.

Mary Woolstonecraft Godwin Shelly, author of "Frankenstein"
Mary Woolstonecraft Godwin Shelly, author of “Frankenstein”

Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin to a radical literary family, Mary had an unusual upbringing to say the least. Her mother had been an outspoken feminist who died shortly after Mary was born. Mary’s father William (played by Stephen Dillane) educated Mary and her half-sister Claire (Bel Powley) in English literature, Greek and Latin.

Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth & Tom Storridge in "Mary Shelley"
Bel Powley, Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth & Tom Sturridge in “Mary Shelley”

However, just being an intellectual does not pay the bills or put food on the table. At the age of 16 Mary runs off with the 21 year old Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). It is obvious to anyone but a 16 year old that Percy is what today we would call a poser and a lech. Percy Shelley is already married, and makes almost no money from his poems. He lives entirely on his father’s money, and when his father cuts him off, Mary and Percy are impoverished. To make matters worse, Mary’s younger half sister Claire has also run off with them and become the under aged mistress of Lord Byron.

The first edition of Frankenstein did not have Mary Shelly's name as the author.
The first edition of Frankenstein did not have Mary Shelly’s name as the author.

Mary Shelley is a excellent film, and shows how the monster in Frankenstein was the manifestation of all the miseries in Mary’s existence brought to life. By the age of 18 Mary had known more sorrow than most people ever have to face in a lifetime. Mary Godwin had been treated horribly by a man she trusted, lived in poverty and had her beautiful baby die.

Elle Fanning poses for a picture with a fan at the premier of "Mary Shelley"
Elle Fanning poses for a picture with a fan at the premier of “Mary Shelley”

The “monster” in Frankenstein was actually Mary Goodwin herself. From the moment the monster is born it is treated badly. It searches for love and kindness and instead is met with violence and misunderstanding.

The film Mary Shelley somehow did not get much attention when it was released, but is well worth watching. It is a psychological drama that is also an excellent “period piece”. Elle Fanning is perfect as Mary Shelley, with a combination of intelligence, vulnerability and iron will. Once you see the film Mary Shelley it will change your view of Frankenstein forever.

We Rate Mary Shelley 5 Stars *****

Be sure to read all our movie reviews.

Read about Elle Fanning in The Beguiled -Civil War Sex but no slaves.

Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) – a fun French Comedy

Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) is a wonderful French television comedy series now showing on Netflix. ASK is a Paris talent agency, struggling to make money while managing the careers, insecurities and giant egos of the actors they represent. Each of the characters is unique and interesting. It is great to see a series that is not about cops, lawyers or doctors. Call My Agent is broadcast in the original French with English subtitles. This is much better than if Netflix had dubbed the series. It allows us to hear the real voices and French is such a beautiful and expressive language. (Of course, the correct translation of Dix Pour Cent is “Ten Percent” not “Call My Agent”. Ten Percent refers to the fee talent agencies take for managing actors’ careers.

Liliane Rovere, Camille Cottin, Thibault de Montalembert & Gregory Montel in "Call My Agent" (Dix Pour Cent).
Liliane Rovere, Camille Cottin, Thibault de Montalembert & Gregory Montel in “Call My Agent” (Dix Pour Cent).

The agents at ASK each have unique personalities and completely different methods for handling their clients.Mathias (played by Thibault de Montalembert) is all business and at first seems completely motivated by money. He is very smooth but completely insincere. But there is a hidden side to Mathias, who has a very complex personal life.

Fanny Sidney & Cecile de France in "Call My Agent" (Dix Pour Cent).
Fanny Sidney & Cecile de France in “Call My Agent” (Dix Pour Cent).

Agent Gabriel (Gregory Montel) is the exact opposite. Gabriel truly cares for the well-being of his clients, which makes life very difficult for Gabriel. His great weakness is that he has a tendency to fall madly in love with every actress he represents.

In the opening episode, Gabriel’s premier client Cecile de France is excited that she will be the lead actress in an American Western directed by Quentin Tarantino. She has been taking English lessons and even horseback riding lessons to prepare for the part. Then Gabriel receives devastating news. Tarantino has decided not to cast Cecile de France because she is too old. It becomes Gabriel’s job to find a way to tell a beautiful, talented, dynamic woman that she is now considered “too old”.

Camille Cottin is Andre in "Call My Agent" (Dix Pour Cent).
Camille Cottin is Andre in “Call My Agent” (Dix Pour Cent).

Andrea (Camille Cottin) is a passionate, excitable force at the agency. She wants ASK to be more than a money-making machine. She wants her clients be part of great films they will all be proud of. Andrea also happens to be best friends with Gabriel. Together they must often team up to thwart the plans of Mathias, who cares nothing for integrity or the clients. Sexually, Andrea prefers the company of women. This creates a problems when the government tax auditor comes to review ASK’s books. It turns out the woman is someone whose advances Andrea had once spurned.

Liliiane (Arlette Azemar) is the oldest agent, and has been around the film business forever. Liliane has seen it all before and consequently does not get as upset at small setbacks as the young partners do. Lovingly referred to as the “Old Lady” of the firm, Liliane takes a more relaxed attitude, and even brings her little dog to work each day. Liliane has also been around long enough to know all the secrets of everyone in the French film industry.

Laure Calamy is Naomie in "Call My Agent" (Dix pour Cent)
Laure Calamy is Naomie in “Call My Agent” (Dix pour Cent)

The agent’s personal assistants in Call My Agent also each have their own story lines. Fanny Sidney is Camille, who is secretly the illegitimate daughter of one of the firm’s partners. Laure Calamy is Noemie who tries to hide the fact that she is desperately in love with Mathias. Nicholas Maury is Herve, who endangers the firm’s reputation by showing confidential movie scripts to a deliveryman he is trying to pick up.

Stefi Celma is Sofia in "Call My Agent" (Dix pour Cent).
Stefi Celma is Sofia in “Call My Agent” (Dix pour Cent).

Steli Celma is Sofia, the firm’s receptionist, who is also an actress, and Gabriel agrees to be her agent. Sofia is of mixed race, and Gabriel soon finds that racial prejudice is rampant in the French film industry. Directors openly tell him that Sofia is “too dark” for most roles but “not black enough” for others.

Nicholas Maury is Herve in "Call My Agent" (Dix Pour Cent)
Nicholas Maury is Herve in “Call My Agent” (Dix Pour Cent)

Call My Agent is a terrific series where you truly care about each character. You may find yourself binge-watching it.

We give Call My Agent 5 Stars *****

Be sure to read all our T.V. & Movie Reviews.

Everything Wrong With “The Deuce” – Sex, Corruption & Money in NYC 1971-1978

The Deuce is the HBO series that is supposed to be a realistic look at 42nd street in the 1970s. While fun to watch, it has a lot of factual errors that make it more fantasy than reality. Here are just a few of the errors:

The prostitutes in The Deuce are too beautiful, too clean and too well spoken. Movie and T.V. producers have a long history of glamorizing prostitution. The most extreme example of this was Julia Roberts as a Street Walker in Pretty Woman. Her character was gorgeous, well-spoken and had no pimp,  drug addictions or venereal diseases. The Deuce on the other hand, pretends to portray the “dark side” of prostitution but has been cleaned things up so much that it makes the business look exciting instead of disgusting. Like many so called “gritty” shows about prostitutes, The Deuce could not resist showing beautiful naked women as often as possible. Consequently, The Deuce, ends up sanitizing the entire business of the virtual enslavement of young women as sex workers.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in "The Deuce".
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Deuce”.

The Deuce pretends that violent crime in New York was limited to 42nd Street. Season 1 of The Deuce takes place from 1971-1972. Season 2 of The Deuce happens in 1977-1978.  In those time periods, violent crime was rampant throughout New York City. In 1972 there were 2,026 murders in New York City compared to 290 in 2017. In other words, the murder rate in NYC during the time of The Deuce was almost 600% higher than it is now! Anyone watching The Deuce would think that crime on 42nd street was completely due to lazy and corrupt cops. In fact, the NYC police force in the 1970s was simply overwhelmed by crime in every neighborhood in New York.

Times Square 1970s
Times Square 1970s

The real reason the Mafia was interested in X-Rated movies is never mentioned in The Deuce. The Mafia actually did not care if X-rated films were profitable or not. For the Mafia, the most important aspect of companies making X-rated movies is that they were legal businesses that could file tax returns. The Mob needed someplace to hide all the profits from their illegal businesses. Organized crime bosses feared the IRS more than anything else. The Mafia bosses needed “legitimate business interests” that could explain how they afforded their cars, homes, boats and mistresses. The X-rated film industry provided the perfect cover. That is why in 1972 the X-Rated Deep Throat declared on tax returns gross box office sales of $600 million. In that same year The Godfather took in box office receipts of $133 million. No one knows how much the real box office sales were for Deep Throat. The $600 million figure was a way for the Mob to legally declare its income from drugs, gambling, extortion and prostitution.

Did "Deep Throat" really make more money than "The Godfather?"
Did “Deep Throat” really make more money than “The Godfather?”

The Deuce pretends that Mafia involvement in the porn industry is limited to New York City. At the end of Season 2 of the The Deuce, two of the main characters escape the grip of Organized Crime by simply going to California.  Ex-prostitute, turned porn star Lori (Emily Meade), begins a beautiful new life in the Sunshine of Los Angeles. Wearing a lovely white dress, she steps out of the airport into the arms of her rich, handsome, sports car-driving new boyfriend. By leaving New York Lori has escaped cold, dirt, her pimp, and the Mob. It is an idiotic ending. Emily Meade, of course, is also one of the actresses who is far too beautiful to be playing a street prostitute. Her character also has no drug problem or STDs. Eileen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is able to get Mob-free financing from an investor in California.

Emily Meade in "The Deuce"
Emily Meade in “The Deuce”

Eileen also has a happy California ending. Her first X-rated production (Red) was almost completely Mafia financed and as a result she got almost no profit from it. (Mainly because her idiot producer, played by James Franco, sold more than 100% of the movie to 2 different Mafia Capos.)

James Franco in "The Deuce".
James Franco in “The Deuce”.

However, at the end of Season 2 of The Deuce it is implied that Eileen will be able to get future “clean” money from California investors. She will continue to make the films in New York, but the money will come from legitimate California sources.  This scenario is absurd. People in Mafia-controlled businesses do not simply “walk away” and tell the mob bosses that they have found different investors. The 2 New York Capos who financed Red are certainly not going to let Eileen continue to make films in New York without their involvement.  Organized Crime is a world-wide phenomenon. The Deuce implying that the mob is not involved in the California porn industry is ridiculous.  By the way, all the Linda Lovelace scenes in Deep Throat were filmed in Florida.

Despite all its flaws, The Deuce is an interesting and well-acted series. People not old enough to have seen Times Square in the 1970s probably think The Deuce is making things look worse than they really were. In fact, The Deuce is considerably understating the sleaze and dirt of the old Times Square. In the 1970s no one would have believed that in the future Time Square would have been filled with tourists and their small children posing for photos with cartoon characters.

Times Square today
Times Square today

The Deuce  Season 3 is planned for this year. Apparently the time-line of The Deuce will jump to 1980s. This is when the combination of AIDS, cocaine-fueled gang violence and soaring real-estate prices kills or forces out of Times Square all the people who used to call it home. Season 3 of The Deuce will probably be rather depressing. The chance of gay bar owner Paul (Chris Coy) living through the AIDS epidemic seems very slight.

Chris Coy in "The Deuce."
Chris Coy in “The Deuce.”

Of course, the biggest change to the entire porn industry actually  occurred in the 1990s with the arrival of the internet. Once the internet really got going, no one ever had to physically venture out of the house to view porn. The difficult part now is trying to avoid pornographic images.  Prostitution and sex trafficking, of course, still exist but the internet has helped it become more hidden from the general public.

Finally, no one ever called 42nd Street “The Deuce”. It has always simply been known as” 42nd Street” or “Times Square”.

The Deuce does its best to try to recreate a time and place that many New Yorkers would rather just forget. The Deuce fails in  some aspects but is still an intriguing show.

Donald Trump to Marry Nancy Pelosi

Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi announced today that they are secret lovers, and that they will be married as soon as possible.  This means that President Trump needs to divorce Melania Trump, before he can make Nancy Pelosi his fourth wife. Ms. Pelosi will also need to divorce her husband Paul Pelosi.

President Trump tweeted today:


Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi announce their engagement.

Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi announce their engagement.

The Pinchbeck News first broke the story over the weekend forcing Trump & Pelosi to go public. Pinchbeck News Editor, Bog Brummagem revealed that the paper has received an explicit tape of naked Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi in the act of having “adult relations” in the back of the presidential limo. Speculation is that the Secret Service taped the episode as retaliation for not getting paid during the government shutdown.

When asked if he would make the tape available for public viewing, Editor Brummagem responded,

I just can’t do that to the American public. As Editor I had to sit through the whole tape, but I would not want to subject another human being to that. I am not sure I will ever fully recover.”

Melania & Donald Trump after announcing their divorce.

Melania & Donald Trump after announcing their divorce.

Psychologists have stated that having a sexual relationship develop between Trump and Pelosi is not as unusual as it might sound.  People of the opposite sex who work together in times of great stress often find themselves sexually attracted to each other; often unwillingly. This sexual attraction can be especially strong when the two people intensely dislike each other. The stress builds up continually and sex is the natural release. Even the two people involved find it hard to comprehend.

Secret lovers Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi .

Secret lovers Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi .

It has been a closely guarded secret in Washington that one of the main reasons for the long government shutdown was because Trump and Pelosi needed the shutdown as an excuse to keep seeing each other. They had actually worked out a compromise during their first meeting, but wanted a way to continue their romantic assignations.

Peolsi and Trump made the  announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, despite the freeing cold that left reporters shivering. Walking away the 2 lovers could be seen holding hands and blowing kisses to each other.

Asked how their different political philosophies would impact their personal relationship, Ms. Pelosi replies, “There will never be a barrier between us. That wall will just never get built.”

IO – Beauty & Courage on a post-apocalyptic Earth

IO on Netflix is the story of a young woman’s will to survive on Earth long after everyone else has fled to a space station orbiting Jupiter’s moon Io. Though technically a Science Fiction film, Io is more a psychological study of the personal choices  that make us who we are.  Margaret Qualley gives a perfect performance as “Sam” Walden, a research scientist trying to find a way for life to continue on Earth. She is carrying on the work of her father, Doctor Henry Walden (Danny Huston) who vocally tried to persuade people not to leave earth.

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in "Io".

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in “Io”.

The Earth has been ravaged by events that have left most of the atmosphere poisonous. Small pockets of clean air survive on mountaintops, one of which is where Sam has her laboratory.  She is trying to develop a vaccine which will allow animals and people to breathe the noxious air below. Every day she broadcasts on the radio her father’s speeches, just in case there is anyone left out there to listen. The sacrifice of her research is especially hard for Sam, since she has a boyfriend on the Io space station, who constantly sends messages to her.

Danny Huston in "Io".

Danny Huston in “Io”.

Out of the sky appears a balloon carrying Micha (Anthony Mackie), who has heard the broadcasts and has  come to meet Sam’s father. Micha tells her there is one last shuttle leaving for Io and that they could use the balloon to get to the shuttle. Of course, leaving would mean abandoning the research and giving up all hope of saving life on Earth.

Margaret Qualley in "Io".

Margaret Qualley in “Io”.

We loved this independent film, although Io only got a 42% favorable rating from Netflix viewers. Perhaps the low ratings were because Io has no fast action sequences or dramatic long speeches. There are just people trying to make decisions in situations no one should ever have to face. They are conflicted and unsure what to do, which is exactly how people would really behave in an emergency. There are only 3 actors in the entire movie, and yet they are able to hold our attention and have us care about them.

Io director Jonathan Helpert

Io director Jonathan Helpert

Sam’s last name Walden, or course, refers to Henry David Thoreau’s book about the 2 years he spent living a simple lonely life in Walden Pond Massachusetts. Directed by Johnathan Helpert,  Io is able to capture the beautiful yet lonely existence of a completely independent life.

Io had similarities to Thoreau's "Walden"

Io had similarities to Thoreau’s “Walden”

“FYRE – The Greatest Party That Never Happened” – The Supermodel Scam

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened shows the disastrous results when people blindly follow the advice of Kendall Jenner, Supermodels and other social media “Influencers.” The best thing that can be said of the 2017 Fyre Festival in The Bahamas is that nobody got killed or seriously injured. Rich Millennials paid thousands of dollars to attend an exclusive music festival on a private tropical island, where they would be served gourmet food, frolic with supermodels and sleep in luxury accommodations.

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

Fyre was supposed to be a Woodstock for arrogant wealthy posers who thought they were just too good to mingle with the unwashed masses who attend all those “non-exclusive” rock festivals. Over 3,000 bought tickets with the “VIP Package” costing as much as $12,000. They expected a time in poser Heaven.

The "gourmet food" served at FYRE

The “gourmet food” served at FYRE

What they got was a trip to Hell, with no music and no supermodels. The gourmet food was water and soggy cheese sandwiches. The luxury accommodations were rain-soaked mattresses inside ripped tents that looked like they belonged in a refugee camp. No electricity, no toilets, no transportation, no security, no medical facilities.   The Festival was cancelled after 1 day and no one got a refund.  People were forced to find their own way back to the airport and try to somehow get home.

The "Luxury accommodations" at the Fyre Festival

The “Luxury accommodations” at the Fyre Festival

The Netflix documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened shows in fascinating detail exactly how all this happened.  It all began with internet promoter Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule.  They had zero experience in setting up a concert, but they were experts in internet promotion and raising money. They were able to get venture capitalists to invest millions of dollars just on the idea of Fyre.

Kendal Jenner received $250,000 to promote Fyre, while the Bahamian workers laborers never got paid

Kendal Jenner received $250,000 to promote Fyre, while the Bahamian workers laborers never got paid

The initial money was spent to fly Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid and other models to the Bahamas for a promotional shoot. Instead, it ended up being a wild multi-day party with no direction and very little filming.  Some of the professional models were astonished and even shocked. Paying for professional top models is very expensive. Consequently, these women are accustomed to doing very well organized,fast photo shoots that waste no time. Billy McFarland, on the other hand, was throwing away huge amounts of his investors’ money paying models just to play on the beach.

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

The promotional shoot should have been a tip off that Billy McFarland really didn’t know what he was doing, but the investors did not seem to notice. The models posted pictures of the beach party on their professional internet accounts, and talk of the upcoming Fyre Festival went viral. What people did not know was that the models and other internet “influencers” were being paid to continually send out postings to promote the festival.  Kendal Jenner was paid $250,000 just to talk about how great the Fyre Festival was going to be. None of the Influencers disclosed that they were being paid for these posts. In addition, there was an entire agency of paid internet professionals working day and night promoting the festival on-line.

(By the way, East Coast Stories never takes any money from anyone. If we give something a good review, it is because we actually liked it).

The FYRE logo was everywhere on social media before the disastrous festival

The FYRE logo was everywhere on social media before the disastrous festival

Investors thought Billy McFarland was a genius. The Fyre Festival sold out with over 3,000 tickets. The only problem was there was no festival. Everyone was working on doing the promotion and no one was actually setting up a festival. There was not enough money left to give people anything close to what had been promised. But the people hired by Billy McFarland tried.

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

Somehow, Billy McFarland was able to inspire a group of very dedicated hard working people to try to set up the physical project. In addition to the people who bought tickets to Fyre, many of the people who worked for the project got very hurt financially. Hundreds of Bahamian laborers spent weeks building stages and infrastructure and never got paid a penny. One local caterer ended up spending $50,000 of her own money to buy food supplies and  pay her workers. All her money was lost.

In the end, Billy McFarland went to jail for fraud and his investors lost all their money. How Ja Rule escaped going to jail is still a mystery. Most of  the people who worked on the project lost money, lost jobs and reputations. People who bought tickets to the festival went home with nothing and were happy to get away uninjured.

For one group, however the Fyre Festival was a complete success. That is the group of Supermodels and Internet influencers that started the whole hype to begin with. Models and internet influencers have learned long ago that, whatever the project, they are always selling a fantasy not reality.

Unlike those gullible enough to believe their posts, Supermodels and Influencers know the difference between the internet and real life. That’s why in real life they follow the motto, always get paid up-front, and don’t do any work until the check clears.”

Frozen Walt Disney, P&G Satan Worshipers &Pop Rocks Murder

Frozen Walt Disney, Proctor & Gamble Satan Worshipers and the Pop Rocks Murder of Mikey  are the the top 3 corporate rumors that never die. Here are the details.

Walt Disney’s Body is Frozen in stasis in a secret room in Epcot Center. He will be brought back to life once a cure for his lung cancer is found. The Disney family hates this rumor, but the more they deny it the more widespread it becomes. This rumor gets quite elaborate. Walt Disney wants to be brought back to life in the far future, when he will rule most of Florida as the benevolent head of a Utopian society.

Walt Disney wanted to create a perfect society.

Walt Disney wanted to create a perfect society.

This part of the rumor originated from the fact that Walt Disney did want Disney World and Epcot center to become more than just amusements parks. Disney wanted Disney World and Epcot Center to be just small parts of a wonderful planned community, with excellent schools and housing, good jobs and happy people. Walt Disney was a believer in the possibility of a Utopian society, but he did not want to be the dictator of it.

Is Walt Disney frozen under Epcot Center?

Is Walt Disney frozen under Epcot Center?

Proctor & Gamble is run by Satan worshipers. For 140 years, Proctor & Gamble’s corporate logo had been a Man in the Moon, looking at stars. No one paid any attention to this until 1980 when, for reasons unknown, people began to take a close look at the symbol. The P&L logo did, in fact, have a number of aspects that looked amazingly Satanic.

Is P&G's old Logo Satanic?

Is P&G’s old Logo Satanic?

The Man in the Moon appears to have a horn on the top of his head and at the bottom of his face. There are also what appears to be an inverted 666 hidden in the beard.  Certain Christian groups began boycotting P&G products. The rumors grew and grew and became even more specific. Rumors surfaced that the President of P&G had appeared on the Sally Jessy Raphael Show and Phil Donahue and openly stated on national television at he was a Satan worshiper. It made no difference to the rumor mill that any fact checker could quickly disprove this claim. Proctor & Gamble redesigned the Man on the Moon logo to make him look less Satanic, but it did no good.

P&G paid millions of dollars to design a new logo.

P&G paid millions of dollars to design a new logo.

Finally Proctor & Gamble paid millions of dollars to a design a new logo. The result is that the logo now is just a blue circle with “P&G” in the middle. (Millions of dollars? Amazing. Greenwich Village is full of artists, any one of which would have done the job for about $50.) An interesting side note is that in 1995 Amway had to pay P&G $19 million when it was discovered that Amway was spreading the Satanic worship rumors about P&G.

General Foods’ Pop Rocks candy killed Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials. “Mikey Likes It” was a hugely popular 1972 T.V. commercial for Life Cereal starring actor John Gilchrist as “Mikey” a boy who is hard to please. In 1979 rumors began that General Foods’ Pop Rocks had killed lovable little Mikey.

Did Pop Rocks kill Mikey from the Live Cereal commercials?

Did Pop Rocks kill Mikey from the Live Cereal commercials?

Pop Rocks is a sugary candy with carbonate bubbles trapped inside. When you eat it the candy dissolves and the candy “pops” in your mouth. The rumor began that Mikey had swallowed 5 bags of Pop Rocks then drank a Coke. The Pop Rocks exploded in Mikey’s stomach and killed him. Sales of Pop Rocks plummeted and stores took them off the shelves.  The General Foods senior management jumped into action to quell this rumor. They hired John Gilchrist and had a news conference showing he was still alive. It didn’t work.

Will Pop Rocks really explode in your stomach and kill you?

Will Pop Rocks really explode in your stomach and kill you?

The problem was that John Gilchrist was 7 years older than he had been in the Life Cereal commercial, and no one believed it was the same kid. The Mikey Murder rumors doubled. General Foods was now also accused of trying to cover up Mikey’s death by hiring someone pretending to be Mikey.

John Gilchrist (Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials) alive and healthy today.

John Gilchrist (Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials) alive and healthy today.

In the end, this rumor never was stopped and Pop Rocks were discontinued. General Foods had to throw out more than $35 Million of Pop Rocks inventory. However, you can still get Pop Rocks on the internet. Of course, what everybody does when they get Pop Rocks now is to swallow as many as they can and then drink a Coke. No one has died yet.

Trump allows Coast Guard to pay workers by selling seized drugs.

During the government shutdown, members of the Coast Guard will supplement their income by selling the illegal drugs they have confiscated. Members of the Coast Guard are not receiving paychecks since they are officially part of the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Military. However, the Coast Guard has, in its warehouses, millions of dollars of illegal drugs that it has seized from criminal cartels on the high seas.

The Coast Guard will sell seized illegal drugs to raise money.

The Coast Guard will sell seized illegal drugs to raise money.

President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order allowing Coast Guard base commanders to sell these drugs to Americans on a “first come first serve” basis. High quality Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroin will soon be available. Check the Coast Guard website for times and prices of the sale.  Coast Guard officers will then use the money from the drug sales to pay the regular salaries of the men and women of the Coast Guard so that they can, in turn, feed their families.

The annual turkey pardon will no longer happen. Good meat is not to be wasted.

The annual turkey pardon will no longer happen. Good meat is not to be wasted.

The Trump Administration has announced that it is considering continuing the practice even after the government shutdown has ended. Today President Trump Tweeted that,

 “Through my brilliance I have invented a way for the money-losing Coast Guard to finally become a profitable business! Money that used to go to Mexican Drug Cartels will now be used to feed Americans! No One Else But me would have thought of this!”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that the next step is to allow the TSA to sell all the items it confiscates from travelers at airports. Ms. Sanders stated that,

“The money received from the sale of confiscated guns alone would probably be enough to pay for TSA workers’ salaries. After all, they are barely making above minimum wage anyway.”

You can move to the front of the line by tipping a TSA agent $20

You can move to the front of the line by tipping a TSA agent $20

The Trump Administration is also considering allowing TSA workers to accept tips from travelers. In this way, the government could legally pay the TSA employees less than minimum wage.

“It would also speed up the line for wealthier travelers“, said Jared Kushner in a phone interview. “Why should important people have to wait behind the riffraff in a security line? Slip the TSA worker a $20 bill and move to the front of the line. Tip $50 and skip security completely. “

These moves for the Coast Guard and the TSA are part of an overall strategy which Trump calls “Make America Pay Again.” The ultra-conservative wing of Republican Party wants every individual department of the Federal government to become a money making business. By 2020 the Republicans plan to roll out the following money making schemes:

  • No more free parking for Congresspeople, the Senators or White House Press. Parking Meters will be installed at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
  • There will be a $200 fee for every question a reporter asks at a Press Conference.
  • President Trump will give no more free interviews on television. A $250,000 up-front payment from a network will be required.
  • At the end of State Dinners at the White House, everyone will receive an itemized bill with a 25% gratuity included.
  • The Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House will no longer be pardoned. That’s good meat that shouldn’t be wasted.

National Zoo will be allowed to hunt and eat the other animals.

Wolves at Washington’s National Zoo will be allowed to hunt and eat the other animals.

  • All of the animal enclosures at the National Zoo will be combined and meals for the animals will be eliminated. Visitors will then get to see a true wildlife experience. The predator animals such as the wolves would hunt, kill and eat smaller weaker animals.
  • Old Faithful at Yellowstone will be tapped. The geothermal power would then be sold to businesses in the new Yellowstone Industrial Complex.
  • The Press seating in Air Force One will be eliminated and replaced by paid Passenger Seats open to the highest bidder.
  • The Food and Drug Administration will be eliminated entirely. People who want certification of food or drug safety should be willing to pay private companies to do this for them.
  • All government vehicles including Air Force Jets, Army Tanks and Navy Aircraft Carriers will have corporate advertising on them.

Trojan Condoms will soon be advertising on the Washington Monument

Trojan Condoms will soon be advertising on the Washington Monument

  • Corporate Logos will also be allowed on national monuments. Trojan Condoms has already put in a very high bid for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian Museum will be selling all its exhibits and converting the museum into condos

The Smithsonian Museum will be selling all its exhibits and converting the museum into condos.

  • The “World’s Biggest Garage Sale” will be held on the National Mall. This will get rid of all that old junk in the Smithsonian Museum and reap tidy profit.
  • The empty space in what used to be the Smithsonian Institute will be turned into Luxury apartments and condominiums.

The government is looking for input from the general public. If you have any ideas of your own on how to Make America Pay Again, please let us know.

Vice- A Funny Farce or a Disgusting Insult?

Vice is an amusing political farce, or a vicious attack on an American patriot. It all depends on your preexisting opinion of Dick Cheney. Christian Bale does an amazing job at capturing the voice, mannerisms and physical appearance of Dick Cheney. However, Vice is always meant to show a caricature of Dick Cheney rather than the real person.

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in "Vice"

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in “Vice”

The funniest part of Vice is the “alternate ending”. Dick Cheney does not become Vice President, but instead stays in the private sector, gets himself into fantastic physical condition and travels the world entering Iron Man competitions. Unfortunately, Vice often cannot decide if it wants to be a serious biography or a spoof. It does not work when a film swings back and forth between these two genres.

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in "Vice"

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in “Vice”

Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld as a wisecracking, somewhat crude individual. However, Steve Carell never is able to accurately portray the absolute arrogance of Rumsfeld which ended up making enemies of both Republicans and Democrats. It is also odd that Vice did not use the most infamous of all Rumsfeld quotes. In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld was asked how long the Iraq War would last. With complete confidence, Rumsfeld replied,

“I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that”.

Vice follows Dick Cheney’s rise from a drunken college dropout to the man who ended up being the most powerful Vice President in American history. However, we never learn how Cheney was able to accomplish this. There are large gaps in Vice. We see Dick Cheney as a low level nobody in the Nixon White House. The next time Vice shows Cheney, he has already been Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush and head of Halliburton. In a film about Dick Cheney’s rise to power, why did Vice skip the time period in which Cheney actually rose to power?

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in "Vice"

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in “Vice”

Sam Rockwell plays President George W. Bush as a complete buffoon, who never notices that he has handed over all his power to Vice President Cheney. Many people have this opinion. An opposing view is that Cheney and Bush were in complete alignment on their political views and that Bush used Cheney to his maximum potential. In any case, President George W. Bush is almost a complete non-entity in Vice, and only appears in 3 scenes.

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in "Vice".

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in “Vice”.

The most interesting sub-plot in Vice is the battle over gay marriage between Dick Cheney’s daughters. Mary Cheney (played by Alison Pill) is a lesbian married to a woman. Liz Cheney (played by Lily Rabe) took a strong anti-gay marriage stance when running for the House of Representatives. Liz Cheney won her House seat, but lost the love and respect of her sister forever. We wish that this had been more fleshed out and had been made as a serious stand-alone film. Is Liz Cheney really morally against gay marriage, or did she just take this stand because it was what was required to win in Wyoming?

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in "Vice"

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in “Vice”

Amy Adams is excellent as Lynne Cheney the wife who demands early in the marriage that Dick turn his life around or she will be gone.

Vice is fun, but it would have been more interesting to see an actual balanced biography rather than a spoof. Perhaps it is still too early for this to happen. Dick Cheney remains such a polarizing figure that it may be decades before any type of neutral treatment is possible.

Thousands of intelligent, ambitious and ruthless people have come to Washington seeking power, but very few of them ever achieve it. Vice never really shows us how Dick Cheney was able to rise to the top while most of the power-seekers remain low level bureaucrats. Like so much in his life, the wizardry that brought Dick Cheney to the pinnacle of power remains a closely guarded secret.

You – A Stalker’s Love Story

Fans of Dexter will love the series YouCan a dangerous stalker really find true love in Soho New York? Penn Badgley is Joe Goldberg, a book store manager who experiences love at first sight when a beautiful young woman walks into his store.

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in "You"

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in “You”

Beck (Elizabeth Lail) is a struggling young writer who is the perfect woman for Joe. She shares his love of literature and old books, and has a wonderful sense of humor. Joe and Beck have a flirty conversation in the bookstore and she pays by credit card so that Joe will know her full name and address. Obviously she wants to see Joe again.

However, Joe has already moved past the mere dating stage. He has decided that Beck will be the love of his life and he wants to do everything he can to assure that will happen.  This is when we see that that there is a dark side to this unassuming book store geek.

YOU - Season 1, Episode 2 Penn Badgley and Lou Taylor Pucci star in Lifetime’s new series YOU, Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT. Photo by Courtesy of Lifetime Copyright 2018

YOU – Season 1, Episode 2
Penn Badgley and Lou Taylor Pucci star in Lifetime’s new series YOU, Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT.
Photo by Courtesy of Lifetime
Copyright 2018

Joe becomes a full scale physical and electronic stalker, and unfortunately Beck has been very lax at password protecting her information. Joe also decides to “improve” Beck’s life by saving her from her bad boyfriends and girlfriends.  It is unclear just how far Joe will go to implement his plans. Is he just a little weird, or is there actual violent potential?

The writing and acting in You is excellent. The same way that Dexter got us to cheer for a serial killer, You has us rooting for a Stalker.  We like Joe Goldberg, since his motivations and insights are real. Beck does have a narcissistic boyfriend who takes Beck for granted, and her girlfriends are no better.  Beck’s  “friends” are all rich girls who treat Beck like a poor step-sister. They consider her attempts to be a writer an unrealistic waste of time.

Beck is a nickname. Her real name is Guinevere, like King Arthur’s wife. This is very appropriate, since Joe sees himself as an ancient Knight, protecting the beautiful Guinevere from the dangers of the world.  However, the questions is now much is Joe really willing to do to protect Guinevere? Is he willing to kill for his true love?

Lou Taylor Pucci is Benji, who is Beck’s current boyfriend and the man Joe must get out of the way if he wants to win Beck’s heart. Benji is a total jerk. Great looking, rich and conceited, he only uses Beck for quick and meaningless “hook-ups”.  Lou Taylor Pucci is perfect at  playing the kind of guy that all other guys instantly hate.

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in "You"

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in “You”

Shay Mitchell is Beck’s friend Peach Salinger, who wants Beck around as long as Beck is unsuccessful and subservient. Peach is wealthy, incredibility beautiful and also connected to the New York publishing community. (Yes, she is related to J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye.) Despite this, Peach does nothing to help Beck. Peach likes Beck as a struggling writer; not a successful one.

Peach is the biggest threat to Joe’s happiness. Being a natural predator herself, Peach sees right through Joe’s nice guy routine. Peach senses there is a  danger to Joe that Beck is to naive to notice. Peach makes it her mission in life to beat Joe at his own game.

You was originally on the Lifetime Channel and now can be seen on Netflix. Take a look, and we think you will immediately be drawn in to the exciting world of You.

The Death of Stalin – a Funny Movie about an Evil Man

The Death of Stalin is a farce about the struggle for power in the Soviet Union after the death one of the most evil men that ever existed. It is hilarious, as long as you don’t concentrate too much on the fact that the events were real.

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

The year is 1953 and the people of the Soviet Union live under the constant threat that anyone at any time might suddenly be taken away by the Secret Police. Joseph Stalin has executed by the thousands his perceived enemies -real or imagined.

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

It does not sound like this could make a comedy film, but somehow, The Death of Stalin actually works. It shows in a comedic way the absurd lengths people will go to in order to avoid doing anything that may even slightly displease Stalin.

Andrea Riseborough & Steve Buscemi in "The Death of Stalin"

Simon Russell Beale, Andrea Riseborough & Steve Buscemi in “The Death of Stalin”

The Death of Stalin opens up with a beautiful classical music concert which is being broadcast on the radio. Stalin is in his dacha enjoying the broadcast. He calls the concert hall and tells them he liked the recital so much that he will be sending men over to the concert hall to pick up a copy of the recording.

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

The problem is that while the concert was being broadcast it was not actually being recorded.  Of course, no one dares tell Stalin that. The only solution is for the musicians to immediately perform the entire concert again from the beginning and record it. Half the audience had already left, and the conductor points out that the acoustics will be bad in a half-empty hall.  The concert hall manager is forced to literally drag workers off the street to fill the hall.

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

Steve Buscemi is Nikita Khrushchev, who has worked out a system to make sure he always pleases  Stalin. In The Death of Stalin, Khrushchev comes home after a night of heavy drinking with Stalin. Before Khrushchev goes to sleep, he writes down exactly which jokes and subjects Stalin did or did not like that night. Khrushchev  would review these notes before his next visit with Stalin as if he was studying for an exam. In real  life, Khrushchev actually did this, which only shows that even the highest level people in the Soviet Union depended completely on keeping Stalin happy.

Khrushchev wanted to make sweeping changes to the Soviet Union, like releasing thousands of prisoners from the gulags, and removing restrictions on writers. However, if Stalin ever found out about these plans, then Khrushchev himself would have been sent to a gulag.

When Stalin suddenly dies, you would think it would be a time for celebration. Instead there is open panic. Beriya (Simon Russell Beale), the head of the Secret Police, plans to replace Stalin and begins arresting and executing  anyone who gets in his way.

Caught in the middle of all this is the beautiful concert pianist Maria (Olga Kurylenko). She wants to make a stand and  writes a letter directly criticizing Stalin. Khrushchev feels protective of Maria, since at one time she had given piano lessons to Khrushchev’s niece. Khrushchev must go to extreme lengths to keep the naive, idealistic Maria from being executed.

Throughout The Death of Stalin, all of the actors use their real accents. You are always aware of who they really are, which is part of the point. They are are doing an absurd spoof of a period in time which is almost too terrible to be shown literally.

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

One of our favorite actors in The Death of Stalin is Jason Isaacs who plays Field Marshal Zhukov, head of the Soviet Army. Zhukov is the one man who is not afraid of Stalin. The real Zhukov was one of the toughest men that ever walked the Earth, and the one man Stalin was afraid to have arrested. Stalin considered Zhukov a rival, but Zhukov was so popular with the rank and file for the Soviet Army that Stalin never dared touch him.

Khrushchev and Zhukov have a mutual hatred of Beriya, and plan to eliminate that monster. Beriya may control the State Security Forces, but Zhukov has the entire Soviet Army.

Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov. Theoretically he is second in command after Stalin. However he is a weak individual easily manipulated by the stronger men around him.

1936 file photo shows Joseph Stalin holding his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalin. Svetlana defected in 1967 and settled in the U.S., dealing the Kremlin a very public and bitter humiliation. (AP Photo/File)

1936 file photo shows Joseph Stalin holding his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva Stalin. Svetlana defected in 1967 and settled in the U.S., dealing the Kremlin a very public and bitter humiliation. (AP Photo/File)

Andrea Riseborough is Stalin’a daughter Svetlana. It takes her a while to understand how much danger she is in once he father dies. No one looking to take the top leadership wants anyone with the name Stalin around anymore.

By the end of The Death of Stalin you will be laughing, while at the same time thinking, “I really shouldn’t be laughing at this.”

Derry Girls – A Northern Ireland Comedy during The Troubles

Derry Girls on Netflix is a comedy about a group of Irish Catholic school girls in Northern Ireland during the violent period known as “The Troubles”.  It may seem odd to have a situation-comedy set during one of the darkest periods of a country’s history, but the show is brilliant and hilarious.

Derry Girls Stars (L-R) Dylan Llewellyn as James, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell as Michelle, Saoirse Jackson as Erin, Louise Harland as Orla and Nicola Coughlan as Clare.

Derry Girls Stars (L-R) Dylan Llewellyn as James, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell as Michelle, Saoirse Jackson as Erin, Louise Harland as Orla and Nicola Coughlan as Clare.

Derry Girls was created and written by Lisa McGee and every episode is great. The occupation of Londonderry by the British Army is always in the background, but it is not the main focus of the girls’ lives. Derry Girls shows how young people tend to live in their own special world of adventures, petty jealousies and enduring friendships, no matter what is going on in the adult world.

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in "Derry Girls

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in “Derry Girls”

In one episode, the girls find a little dog and convince themselves that it is their old dog risen from the dead. They are even able to persuade a young naive priest that this miracle must be investigated. It is only the school principal who notices that this “miracle” investigation happens to be taking place on the same day that the girls would otherwise be taking a difficult history exam that none of the girls had studied for.

Lisa McGee - writer and creator of Derry Girls.

Lisa McGee – writer and creator of Derry Girls.

In an especially moving episode, the girls are at school doing a silly dance for a talent show. Unbeknownst to them, a deadly bomb has just exploded in another part of Londonderry. The juxtaposition of joy and tragedy highlights the complexity of growing up during The Troubles.

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

The cast of Derry Girls is wonderful. Siobhan McSweeney is Sister Michael, the school principal whose dry sense of humor is one of the highlights of every episode.  She has developed such a fan base of her own that  entire websites have sprung up devoted to quotes from Sister Michael.

Jamie-Lee O'Donnell poses with a fan.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell poses with a fan.

Dylan Llewellyn is James, an English cousin who has been forced to move in with his Irish relatives in Derry. James has to attend the girls Catholic school, since it would be too physically dangerous for an English boy to attend school with the Irish Catholic boys. He eventually becomes accepted by the girls and fits in to their group.

Ian McElhinney is Granda Joe whose main joys in life seem to be tormenting his son in law, and hating the Protestants.

Louisa Harland is Orla, a likable but somewhat crazy schoolgirl who may be the world’s worst dancer.  Saoirse-Monica Jackson is Erin, who realizes that the main problem in Derry is that everyone knows everything about everybody else all the time.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell plays Michelle, one of our favorite characters in Derry Girls.  Michelle is the trouble maker of the group. Her friends never seem to learn that any idea Michelle comes up with is bound to get them all in trouble.

Nicola Coughlan is Claire, the tiniest member of the group, who is perpetually worried and who  holds a secret not revealed until the last episode.

Derry Girls has become very popular in the United States. However, many Americans watch the show with the subtitles tuned on, since they find the Northern Irish accents just too hard to follow. We urge Americans not to use the subtitles, and you will be amazed at how quickly your ear becomes accustomed to the language and slang. Constantly reading the subtitles can make you miss the subtle nuances in tone and dialect that are a part of the presentation.

Derry Girls is a breath of fresh air in a land of look-alike comedies. We loved it.

Is “High Maintenance” actually an anti-drug show?

HBO’s High Maintenance took on a distinctly anti-drug vibe in the last episode of Season 2. The Guy (Ben Sinclair)  is revealed to be a loser with no friends and nothing in his life except drugs. In High Maintenance’s Googie episode The Guy has a broken arm and as result he is forced temporarily outsource the drug business to an Uber Driver (Abdulla Saeed).

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

A series of events happen to The Guy that reveal his life is really at a dead end and is  going nowhere.  The Guy goes to a restaurant where he is recognized by a fellow he once knew at college. (Interestingly, The Guy actually went to Vassar class of 2006, which makes The Guy about 33 years old. This is one of the few pieces of personal information we ever learn about The Guy.) As The Guy sits alone at the bar, he sees that his old buddy is now a successful entrepreneur sharing business stories with a table full  of other successful people.

With his days off, the Guy has no friends he can call to spend time with and nothing to occupy himself except take psychedelic mushrooms. When The Guy finally leaves his apartment, he wanders aimlessly  around, looking like the type of crazy person all New Yorkers instinctively know to avoid. When The Guy tries to helps a little girl get her ball back, the girl’s mother immediately takes the girl and runs away.

Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair the writers & creators of High Maintenance

Did Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld put an anti-drug message into a show where the hero is a drug delivery-man? Is the High Maintenance Googie episode warning us that drugs are not really as cool as they seem?

Sinclair at the "underground weed party" for the press.

Abdullah Saeed & Ben Sinclair at the “underground weed party” for the press.

The Guy at first seems t have a terrific life, but it is really all fake. There are a lot of people who are friendly with him, but he has no actual friends. All the friendly people are his drug customers, who don’t even know his name. The Guy lives hand to mouth, and at any minute could end up doing long jail time. Personal possession of marijuana may be semi-legal, but dealing marijuana still carries a jail sentence. The Guy must lie to his father about what he does for a living. His girlfriend cannot even be  bothered to visit him in the hospital when he breaks his arm. His girlfriend ends up leaving him and Season 2  ends with The Guy all alone.

Every episode of High Maintenance is terrific. Season 3 of High Maintenance premiers on January 20, 2019. It will be interesting to see if any of the anti-drug theme continues, or if the Googie episode was a one time event. Either way we want only good things to happen to The Guy in the future.

The “Endless Summer” Movie – Beauty and Innocence in 1966

In 1966, the documentary Endless Summer premiered, and America fell in love with surfing. What strikes us most about Endless Summer is the pure innocence of the film. Two surfers travel around the world looking for the perfect wave, yet there were no security concerns. No hours in  long lines at airports, no sub-machine gun carrying guards in public spaces. Has the world really changed that much since 1966, or were the surfers living in a fantasy world even then?

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

Endless Summer stars surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August, and is filmed and narrated by Bruce Brown. It was a low budget documentary, but it still holds up as a beautiful film. Bruce Brown was able to get some incredible surfing footage, especially considering that he was working with a hand-held camera. Much of the time, Bruce Brown is on a surfboard himself while he is filming Mike and Robert.

Michale Hyson in 1966 - Everybody wanted to be that cool.

Michale Hyson in 1966 – Everybody wanted to be that cool.

The 3 young men literally travel the world looking for the perfect wave. They visit Africa, Tahiti, California and Hawaii. They do, in fact, find the perfect wave in South Africa. They find a deserted beach, that had medium sized waves that come in at a perfect angle for long rides. Mike and Robert are able to surf on a single wave for over 45 minutes. And every wave at this South African beach is exactly like the one before.

Only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Teenagers throughout the world wanted to be cool, and in 1966 nothing was cooler than an American surfer. The Beach Boys had released the album Surfin’ Safari in 1962 and it was a smash hit. Their publicity agents hid the fact that only 1 of the Beach Boys actually knew how to surf.

Robert Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

Michael Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

Endless Summer in 1966  was pure escapism.  Dreaming about spending your life searching for the perfect wave was a way for people to forget about what was really going on in the world.  President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963, American troops were in Vietnam, the Soviet Union was at the height of its power and racial tensions were growing.

Bruce Brown - a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

Bruce Brown – a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

In fact, in South Africa Nelson Mandela was in prison at the same time the surfers were riding the Perfect Wave not many miles away. Mandel would remain in prison for another 25 years after the surfers left South Africa.

Only a handful of surfers in the world are qualified to ride the big waves

Only a handful of surfers in the world are qualified to ride the big waves

So take a look at Endless Summer and see it for the beautiful film it is. However don’t get overtaken by nostalgia and believe that was the way the World was in 1966. Rather, Endless Summer is a glimpse into how everyone wanted the world to be. Beautiful people riding perfect waves on clean empty beaches. A never-ending paradise in a world that is always sunny and full of love and adventure.

Mister Baseball – Tom Selleck’s best movie

The 1992 film Mister Baseball stars Tom Selleck as Jack Elliot, a major league baseball player who is sent off to play in Japan. There Jack acts like the stereotypical Ugly American. Jack is loud, condescending and thinks that Japan has nothing for him. Slowly he comes to the realization that the Japanese do have something to teach him about baseball, and more importantly, about life.

Tom Selleck in "Mister Baseball"

Tom Selleck in “Mister Baseball”

Mister Baseball is a fascinating look at sports and everyday life in Japan. The Japanese love the American game of baseball, but they play it very much with a Japanese style. Teamwork and harmony are valued more than individual “showboat” behavior, something which does not fit with Jack’s style.

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

Of course, there is a reason that Jack was demoted from the American Major Leagues and sent to play in Japan. A onetime home-run leader, his batting average had dropped and no American team wanted him. However, the Japanese manager Uchiyama (Ken Takakura) feels he can break Jack’s bad habits and make him a better baseball player than ever. If only Jack will listen.

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

Even if you are not really into “sports movies” we think you will like Mister Baseball. It is actually more about interpersonal behavior than about baseball. All of the characters and actors are terrific.  Aya Takanachi is Hiroko, the beautiful advertising executive who is assigned to help Jack film Japanese T.V. commercials. Hiroko refuses to be treated like the bimbos Jack liked in America. Hiroko is soft spoken and polite, but Jack soon discovers that she is also as tough as a bar of steel.

Toshi Shioya is Yoji, who has been assigned as Jack’s translator, is a master diplomat. Yoji helps make Jack popular in Japan, by purposely mis-translating most of what Jack says. Yoji translates Jack’s rude comments about Japan so that they come out as poetic compliments.

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

Dennis Haysbert is Max “Hammer” Dubois, a fellow American ballplayer who has been on the Japanese team for a number of years. The Hammer is as big and powerful as Jack, and takes the time to explain how things really are for foreign athletes working in Japan.

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

Mister Baseball is a fun movie to watch. There are conflicts but no violence. In some ways, Mister Baseball is like the Rocky of Baseball.

How The Kennedy Curse Started in Ireland

The curse on the Kennedy family originated in New Ross Ireland during the Great Potato Famine. The time was 1849 and whole families in Ireland were starving. People were doing whatever they could to escape to America.

Is there really a Kennedy Curse?

Is there really a Kennedy Curse?

The biggest problem was that most Irish did not even have enough money to pay for a ticket to America. The Irish came up with an ingenious solution. The people of a particular town or village would put in all their money and give it to one family to go to America. There would be enough money for that family to buy tickets and find lodging in the United States.

New Ross Ireland

New Ross Ireland

In return for this initial gift, that first family had to make a binding pledge. The pledge was that when the family was settled in America, it would send back to Ireland 1/2 of its earnings each month forever.

Robert, Jackie & Ted at President Kennedy's funeral

Robert, Jackie & Ted at President Kennedy’s funeral

The wages the first family sent back to Ireland would then be used to buy tickets to America for a second family. Then there would be two families sending money back to Ireland each month. Then three, then four, and so on.

Irish in Boston 1849

Irish in Boston 1849

This scheme actually worked throughout many parts of Ireland. Sometimes whole villages, and even small towns were able to eventually get 100% of their population to America. Over the course of 10 years almost 2 million Irish came to America. Of course, the success of any one town all depends on the success and the honesty of that first family. If that first family did not send any money back there would be no funds left to send a second family.

In 1849, the people of New Ross selected Patrick Kennedy and his wife Bridget Murphy Kennedy to be the lucky ones to make the trip to the United States. Patrick Kennedy was a skilled cooper (barrel maker), a craft that was in demand in America.

The Kennedy family sailed to Boston, where Patrick did find work and the Kennedy family thrived. Of course, everyone knows that  the descendants of Patrick and Bridget went on to become the most famous political family  in American history.  What is lesser known is that Patrick and Bridget Kennedy broke their pledge to the people of New Ross Ireland. The Kennedys never sent one penny back to Ireland. Days, weeks and finally years went by and the people of New Ross never got the money they were promised.

The people of New Ross did not forgive or forget. A group of  people of New Ross held a secret ceremony, with rituals that dated back hundreds of years before Christianity had come to Ireland. They put a curse on Patrick and Bridget Kennedy and all their decedents for all time.

Will the Kennedy Curse even end?

Will the Kennedy Curse ever end?

Is this legend real? The Kennedys themselves certainly believe in a family curse.  In a televised speech about Chappaquiddick, Senator Ted Kennedy questioned, “whether some terrible curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys”.

Even when members of the Kennedy family mention the curse, they never speak about why there is a curse. Somehow that has been lost to history or purposely buried in family stories passed down through the generations.

In modern times we no longer believe in zombies or witches or ancient family curses. But then again, none of us can truly imaging the pure hatred of the cold and starving people of New Ross Ireland 170 years ago.

Old people “Mall Walkers” – America’s Greatest Athletes

America’s greatest athletes are those old people that walk in the malls at 7am every morning. You can see them in every mall in the United States, walking fast in their brightly colored track suits and spotlessly clean jogging shoes. Some of them even build up enough of a sweat that they have to remove the warm-up jacket, revealing the sleeveless muscle shirt underneath.

Old "mall walkers" stretch before their daily work out.

Old “mall walkers” stretch before their daily work out.

Of course, we are conditioned to admire 20 year old Olympic athletes and professional sports stars, but there is a lot to be said for those old mall walkers. They have to overcome obstacles  and traps that no professional sports figure has to face. They must walk by the delicious aroma from the  Cinnabon booth at the food court and resist the temptation to stop the workout and instead eat a 2,000 calorie breakfast.

A true mall walking athlete never uses the escalator.

A true mall walking athlete never uses the escalator.

They climb up and down the mall stairs while the empty escalators are just begging the old folks to use them.

Stopping at the Cinnabon booth is just one of the many temptations faced by mall walkers

Stopping at the Cinnabon booth is just one of the many temptations faced by mall walkers

As the young workers arrive at the mall, the old mall walkers must weave in an out of these groups of slow-moving “young people”, and put up with the smirks and not so hidden laughter directed at the old mall walkers.

A 2,000 calorie breakfast can quickly destroy the benefits of the mall walk.

A 2,000 calorie breakfast can quickly destroy the benefits of the mall walk.

Yes, the old mall walkers get neither fame nor fortune, but I respect  them. They have had to swallow their pride and admit that their ancient bodies can no longer tolerate jogging in the outdoor winter cold or broiling summer heat. So they have moved indoors to the constant temperature of the malls, and slowed their once-rapid running pace to a more reasonable walk.

lasting friendships are formed between mall walkers

lasting friendships are formed between mall walkers

Despite this compromise with Old Man Time their daily mall workout is their way of snubbing their nosed at Old Age and telling the rest of the World, “we’re still here, and don’t you forget it. Now get out of the way!”

Mall walking can help turn back time.

Mall walking can help turn back time.

Mall walkers are living proof of the old saying that, “you can’t turn back the clock, but nothing says you can’t wind it up again.”

Mall walkers enjoying the journey.

Mall walkers enjoying the journey.

These old folks are not trying to win a race, or get a medal or impress anyone.  That is why you see them laughing and joking with friends while they circle the same mall at the same time every day. They have reached a stage in life where they realize that enjoying the journey and cherishing the moment is more important than the actual destination. We could all learn something from these great athletes.

East Coast Stories Eliminates Advertising!

East Coast Stories has eliminated all advertising on the website, in order to improve the enjoyment of our readers. We know how much you hate those distracting ads, so we have taken steps to remove them all.

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East Coast Stories protects your privacy.

East Coast Stories protects your privacy.

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East Coast Stories publishes all comments except for hate speech, spam comments or obscenities

East Coast Stories publishes all comments except for hate speech, spam comments or obscenities.

We Print all comments except for Spam Comments, Obscene language or Hate mail.  That is why it takes about 24 hours between the time you submit a comment and when you see it on our website.  Some people are frustrated by this lag. However, this process improves the quality of the reading experience for everyone coming to East Coast Stories.

There are Hundreds and Hundreds of  Reviews and Stories to read, so take your time and browse through the whole site.

East Coast Stories keeps spam off its website

East Coast Stories keeps spam off its website

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I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore – A Quirky Comedy

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is the perfect movie if you feel that rude, nasty people have taken over the world and that being a good person is no longer valued in our society. Melanie Lynskey stars as Ruth, a sensitive nurse trying to survive in an insensitive world. Just when it seems that everyday life cannot get any worse, Ruth comes home to find that her house has been broken into and all her things stolen.  The police are no help and seem to simply blame Ruth for not having better locks on her house.

Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

But Ruth has a secret weapon. Her stolen computer has as tracking device built into it, and Ruth discovers that her computer is in another house just a few miles away. Ruth triumphantly brings this news to Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams). She is shocked to discover that the detective cannot just drive over and arrest the thief. There is no search warrant and a convoluted system to try to get one. A bigger issue is that Detective Bendix is going through an emotional crisis of his own and is much more concerned about his upcoming divorce than anything as insignificant as a stolen laptop.

I Don't Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore - a dark comedy with a violent streak.

I Don’t Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore – a dark comedy with a violent streak.

Ruth decides to take action on her own and enlists the help of Tony (Elijah Wood), an introverted geek. Together they surprise the people with the stolen laptop and demand it back. They barge in, act tough and successfully intimidate the people into giving the  computer back.

Gary Anthony Williams in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Gary Anthony Williams in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

This is when I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore starts to take a very dark comedic turn. It turns out the people with the stolen computer did not know it was stolen, and bought it at a flee market. Ruth and Tony decide to track down the real thieves and bring them to justice.

Christine Woods as a bored housewife in "I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore"

Christine Woods as a bored housewife in “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”

The problem is that the real thieves are a group of dangerous, violent professional criminals. Ruth and Tony, on the other hand, are simply two average suburbanites pretending to be tough. Tony carries around nunchucks and a throwing star. However, the only thing he knows about real fighting is what he has seen in movies and video games.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is hilarious and the acting of all the characters is superb. The plot has a number of unexpected convoluted twists, mixing farce, comedy and action. You want Ruth and Tony to succeed at their idiotic plans.

In one scene, they decide to pretend to be police, but they need badges. Their solution is to purchase boxes of a kids’ cereal that has inside it a free “junior detective badge.” Christine Woods plays a wealthy housewife who lets herself be interviewed by these two “detectives”. She knows immediately that they are not real cops, but she is so bored that she is happy to let these two strangers into her house and pass the afternoon with them.

We will warn you, however, that the film turns more and more violent as it progresses, although still in a comic way. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is definitely not a kids’ movie.

I Don’t Feel At Home Alone In This World Anymore is fun because it never gets “preachy” or tries to take itself too seriously. It is just a comedy about two lonely, sensitive  geeks trying for once to stand up to the so-called real world.

Escape At Dannemora – A Riveting Prison-Break Series

Showtime’s Escape At  Dannemora is an exciting mini-series based on the true story of an escape from an upstate New York prison. It takes pace at the Clinton Correctional facility, which  is a bleak, cold version of Hell, located in the Village of Dannemora, New York. Convicted murders are sent to this frozen wasteland to serve life sentences far out of sight from the civilized people of the world.

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

In 2015, two murders escaped from this prison with the help of a middle-aged  female prison employee. We are not spoiling the series, since this fact is known from the first scene of Escape At Dannemora. The plot then takes us back in time and details exactly what happened.

Ben Stiller behind the scenes on Escape at Dannemora (Episode 4). -Photo: Christopher Saunders/Showtime

Ben Stiller behind the scenes on Escape at Dannemora (Episode 4). -Photo: Christopher Saunders/Showtime

The cast is one of the best ensembles of actors that ever worked together. Escape At Dannemora is directed by Ben Stiller, in a complete switch from his usual comedic work. His direction is amazing, with the ability to show the loneliness and desperation at the  prison with the sweep of a singe camera shot. Somehow, Ben Stiller was able to get permission to film at the actual prison where the escape took place.

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro is Richard Matt,  one of the murderers who is the the mastermind of the escape plan. Richard is tough enough to have the respect of the other prisoners, but clever enough to win favors from the guards and civilian workers at the prison. Richard is a talented artist, and paints beautiful pictures and portraits as gifts for the guards.

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

David Morse is prison Guard Glen Palmer, who knows that his real job is simply to make sure that nothing violent ever happens at the prison. He is willing to make deals with “boss cons” and even use his tremendous physical  strength to smack some prisoners around when needed.

Paul Dano is David Sweat, a cop killer and the second member of the escape plan. He is young and not too bright, but he has developed a sexual relationship with civilian worker Tilly Mitchell (Patricia Arquette). David is using this relationship only to get extra food. It is Richard who realizes that they may be able to manipulate Tilly into helping them escape.

Escape At Dannemora is a story of the loneliness and desperation of the people who polite society does not want to think about. The Guards and Civilian workers are as much prisoners as are the actual inmates.  The Guards and Civilian workers spend their lives in confined areas outnumbered by dangerous violent men. A combination of boredom  and fear permeate all aspects of their lives.

The inmates have to look out at the vast woods of upstate New York knowing that this will be the only view they will see for the rest of their lives. This situation leads to a slow, inevitable build up of pressure that eventually must explode.

Translating English into English in Brazil for Fun and Profit

I once spent a 15 hour day getting paid to translate English into English in Sao Paulo Brazil. Or to be more accurate, I was translating Manchester English into American English for the benefit of a Brazilian audience.

It was fun but exhausting. I am an American consultant and was in Sao Paulo to help an English company buy a Brazilian factory. I don’t speak Portuguese and neither did the English team. Theoretically, that should not have been a problem, since all of the Brazilians at the meeting were fluent in English. The problem was that the people from the English company were all from Manchester, with accents that made Austin Powers sound like he was a reporter for the BBC.

Austin Powers speaks "Manchester" not "American

Austin Powers speaks “Manchester” not “American”

I arrived first, and was drinking coffee with the Brazilian bankers when the group from Manchester arrived. Nat, the leader of the Manchester team, stood at the front of the conference table and began his introductory speech. He was five minutes into his prepared remarks when one of the Brazilian bankers turned to me and asked, “What language is that man speaking?”

Sao Paulo Brazil - a modern business city

Sao Paulo Brazil – a modern business city

It soon became obvious that none of the Brazilians could understand anything Nat was saying. It was also obvious that Nat was furious about this. He had been brought up in working class semi-poverty in Manchester, and had risen through the ranks to become a self-made successful business owner. However, he was very self-conscious about his upbringing and lack of education. He thought the Brazilians could understand him, but were just making fun of the way he spoke.

Manchester England

Manchester England

I was able to calm Nat down and convince him not to let the whole deal fall apart due to a language problem. So for next 15 hours, Nat and his team would speak in Manchester English and I would repeat the words in American English for the benefit of the Brazilians. Luckily, I did not have to translate in the other direction. The Brazilians spoke English with the straight BBC type accents they had learned in school, and the people from Manchester could understand them perfectly.

Working class Manchester

Working class Manchester

As the meeting dragged on, the Manchester folks decided it would be fun to test how well I really could understand Northern English accents. They started speaking faster and faster and using more and more slang, trying to see if I would get “my Y-fronts in a twist.”  I had spent a lot of time working in Manchester and at first could not be fooled. Finally, they were able to stump me when one of their team,a young woman from Burnley,  spoke so fast and  turned on her her slang full tilt until  I had to admit I could not understand a word of that she had said.

George Bernard Shaw's opinion of the English and American languages

George Bernard Shaw’s opinion of the English and American languages

The conference turned out to be a success and Nat bought the Brazilian factory. It has its own local Brazilian management, so the language issue going forward is not going to be a problem. The papers were signed, everyone was happy. As they say in Manchester, and Bob’s your Uncle.”

There Is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch – My Day as Milton Friedman’s Bodyguard

I  once spent a day as a bodyguard for Professor Milton Friedman, the Economist best known for saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. I was a young Economics major at Duke University. I was assigned with some other Economics majors to escort Milton Friedman when he came to Duke to give a speech.  In theory, we were there to show Milton Friedman around campus, but the reality was that we were acting as his bodyguards.

The 'dangerous radical", Economist Milton Friedman

The “dangerous radical”, Economist Milton Friedman

The Duke crowd was very hostile towards Milton Friedman. Students who were not Economics majors  thought of Friedman as a horrible person who hated poor people and wanted to keep the poor from getting the “free” services they deserved. When Milton Friedman  gave his speech, more than one student attempted to jump onto the stage to disrupt the proceedings, and had to be carried out by Security.

Milton Friedman's best selling book of essays.

Milton Friedman’s best selling book of essays.

Milton Friedman handled all this commotion with charm, politeness and a bemused attitude towards his detractors. He patiently explained that he was not against anyone. He was for “precision of language” and “personal freedom”. He had come to national attention by telling government officials to stop calling subsidized lunch programs “free.” Hence the phrase, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Dr. Friedman repeatedly pointed out that the lunch was not free, but was actually being paid for by people other than the people who were eating the lunch. The government was actually taking money from some people in the form of higher taxes, and giving it to other people in the form of food.

Milton Friedman was against all tariffs

Milton Friedman was against all tariffs

Friedman went on to explain was that he was not necessarily against these subsidized lunches. Citizens may decide that it actually benefits society as a whole to make sure that poor children have enough to eat. This could help these children do better in their classes which will lead them to be more productive members of society later in life. Such a decision may be the right thing to do. Just don’t pretend that it has no cost.

However, don’t dare call Milton Friedman a Conservative. He thought that marijuana should be legal nation-wide. Friedman considered  America’s “War On Drugs” a huge waste of money that was actually a “War On Freedom”. He also thought there should be zero tariffs world-wide

Milton Friedman thought America's "War On Drugs" was idiotic.

Milton Friedman thought America’s “War On Drugs” was idiotic.

This type of Libertarian  Economic analysis is heard often today, but at the time, many considered his pronouncements radical and even dangerous. In person, Milton Friedman was about the least radical looking person you would ever see. When I met him, he was a small, soft spoken middle-aged man, who needed to stand on a box to see over the podium when he gave  his “radical” speech.

Milton Friedman was against corporations giving any money to charity

Milton Friedman was against corporations giving any money to charity

Milton Friedman had a lot of ideas that most people still have trouble accepting. For example, he believed that corporations should not give any money to charity. He felt that companies have no right to give away money that actually belongs to the stockholders. If a company has extra cash and cannot come up with a good investment, then the company should return that money to the stockholders as a dividend. When the stockholders receive the money then they can decide how to spend their own money. They may want to give it to charity or they may not want to. In any case, the shareholders should have the personal freedom to decide what to do with their money.

At the end of a long day, we all escorted Milton Friedman back to the tiny Economics building at Duke. (Minuscule compared to the enormous facilities Duke provided for Chemistry, Law and Medicine.  In those days, most Duke students looked down on the pursuits  of Business or Economics ).

In the 1970s a lot of Duke University students were hostile towards Business & Economics.

In the 1970s a lot of Duke University students were hostile towards Business & Economics.

The Economics building had a coffee room where Milton Friedman graciously spent time chatting with the Economics students while he waited for the car which would take him to the airport.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is free coffee.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is free coffee.

By the big coffee pot in the Economics building, there was a jar where people were supposed to put in 25 cents whenever they had cup of coffee. (Obviously there has been a lot of inflation since then).  Over the pot one of the Economics Professors had put up a large typed sign. It reminded people to put in 25 cents, and complained that the majority of people were taking coffee and depositing nothing. The sign stated, “As Milton Friedman says there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Underneath the typed sign, someone had scrawled in magic marker, “But there is free coffee!” Milton Friedman laughed at the graffiti as he took his cup of coffee. I don’t remember if he put 25 cents in the jar, but I don’t think he did.

When Cars Were Beautiful and Had Giant Fins

When I was a boy, cars were beautiful pieces of rolling sculpture, with giant fins, gleaming chrome and massive engines. Even the wheels were works of art. Huge whitewall tires framed bright metallic hubcaps, that were intricate wire spokes, tiny wings or other imaginative designs.

Mustang Sally

Mustang Sally

Cars were not just machines enabling people to get around. They were expressions of who people were. Americans loved their cars and even wrote songs about them. Songs like Little GTO, Mustang Sally, Hot Rod Lincoln, Hey Little Cobra and Little Deuce Coupe. Even songs that did not have car names in the titles, revolved around cars. The Beach Boys, Fun Fun Fun is a song most people remember for the lyrics (Till her Daddy Takes the T-Bird Away).

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1956 Ford Thunderbird

Of course, these cars were death traps. Despite the incredibly powerful engines, there were no air bags, no padded dashboards, and for a long time not even any seat belts. When seat belts did become standard equipment, they were simple lap belts and most people did not buckle them.

No one is ever going to write a song about a Toyota Prius.

No one is ever going to write a song about a Toyota Prius.

Cars today are much safer, but along the way have lost all sense or personality and individuality. No one is ever going to write a song about a Ford Focus or a Toyota Prius. And for the most part, colors have disappeared. Today 57% of all cars in America are either White, Black or Grey.

Classic Pink Cadillac

Classic Pink Cadillac

People need to get back their sense of adventure and style. Don’t be afraid to show some color and individuality and get that muscle car you know you actually want.  If you are of a “certain age”, maybe you think people will be saying you are having a mid-life crisis.  Don’t worry about what those boring folks say. You won’t be able to hear them anyway over the roar of your engine.

Is Catheter Ablation Surgery right for you? My personal story may help you decide

I had Catheter Ablation Surgery about 9 months ago on Valentine’s Day. (That’s right, a heart operation on Valentine’s Day). It worked for me and stopped my chronic AFib episodes.  I am very nervous about saying that, since I don’t want to jinx anything by actually proclaiming victory. Statistics show that only about 50% of people have their AFib cured with one Catheter Ablation Surgery, and there is an 80% cure rate for those who undergo 2 surgeries. Here are some facts and pointers from the patient’s point of view that may help you decide whether or not to have Catheter Ablation Surgery. I am NOT a doctor, so what I am giving you is a personal view from my side of the operating table. If you are having AFib issues make sure to get medical advice from a real doctor.

Detail of Catheter Ablation surgery.

Detail of Catheter Ablation surgery.

Having chronic AFIB does not mean you did anything wrong. Like many people with AFib I was annoyed that my heart had decided to betray me. After all, I had given my heart everything it could desire. I have never smoked, I don’t drink alcohol, I am thin and I exercise regularly. I even gave up caffeine and everything with high sodium. Still, my heart would periodically go into prolonged AFib. If you have ever had one of these episodes, you know how frightening they are. It feels like you are dying from a heart attack.

The catheter is inserted in the groin and sent through the veins into the heart

The catheter is inserted in the groin and sent through the veins into the heart

The older you get the more frequent AFib becomes. I never had a problem until I was about 50. Then I had my first AFib episode. It only lasted about a minute but it scared the Hell out of me. As I continued to age, the episodes became more frequent and longer.

There are many excellent medications that can control AFib but the success rate varies tremendously between people. For some people the medications work just fine and they never even have to consider Cather Ablation Surgery. For me, the medications worked for a few years and then became less and less effective as I got older. Eventually they did not work at all.

Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, Morristown New Jersey

Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, Morristown New Jersey

AFib often happens when you are just relaxing or even sleeping. The times your heart goes into AFIb seems counter-intuitive. Most people assume that heart problems will occur when the heart is under stress. For people with chronic AFIB it is often just the opposite. I would run 6 miles and feel great. Then I might be relaxing watching T.V. and my heart would suddenly start going crazy, by speeding up and beating irregularly. It is sort of like a car with a bad transmission. The worst AFib episodes would happen when my body was trying to “change gears” from regular mode to relaxed or sleeping mode.  I finally decided to have Catheter Ablation Surgery when it became impossible for me to sleep. I got to the point where just lying flat would send my heart into AFib. I would have to walk around the house or watch T.V. until my heart went back to normal rhythm. Then I would try to go to sleep sitting upright in a chair. Over the months, I got to know exactly what television shows were on at 3AM.

Chronic AFib is caused by bad electric signals coming from the wrong part of the heart. For reasons unknown, some people have hearts that have a tendency to develop spots that send out these errant signals. If you have this condition, as you get older your heart develops more and more of these areas.  Exercise, diet or even meditation is not going to stop this from happening.

Because it is a physical condition, you can’t “think” AFib away. If you have chronic AFib, then you have probably also encountered numerous well-meaning friends giving you all sorts of advice on how to relax. They think this will cure you. Friends never seem to understand that it is precisely when chronic AFib suffers are the most relaxed that the  heart is most likely to go into one of its crazy episodes.

Doctor Timothy Mahoney

Doctor Timothy Mahoney

In Catheter Ablation Surgery the Electrophysiologist locates and burns the spots causing the bad electrical signals. Once these burns scar over,  the errant  signals stop. The first time I heard that it petrified me. “Scarring my heart to make it better?” It sounded to me like when brain surgeons of the last century  thought a lobotomy was the solution to help the mentally disturbed. This is why I would not even consider Catheter Ablation Surgery for many years. However, as I read more and more about the operation and the success rates I began to have more trust.

You still have to eat healthy after Catheter Ablation surgery

You still have to eat healthy after Catheter Ablation surgery

With chronic AFib, you need  to face your own lack of knowledge. I am NOT a doctor and I had an excellent Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist telling me that Catheter Ablation Surgery was the best possibility for fixing my condition. I looked at their years of education, training, surgical experience and skills and had to admit that they knew many, many things that I did not. I finally realized that I could do no more on my own. I decided it was time to trust these experts to put me to sleep and go into my heart.

Choosing the right surgeon and hospital for Cather Ablation Surgery is very important. You want a doctor and an institute that specializes in the field.  I was lucky enough to get Doctor Timothy Mahoney (Cardiology, Electrophysiology) at the Morristown New Jersey Medical Center Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute. He performs 2 Catheter Ablation Surgeries per day. The Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute itself is amazing. It is brand new and the lobby looks like a luxury hotel. It has the best equipment, technicians and surgeons.  Wherever you live, make sure that you choose a surgeon and a hospital that does a lot of Catheter Ablation Surgeries.

You will have to go through many tests and procedures in the weeks BEFORE your Catheter Ablation surgery. This is to make sure that you are healthy enough for surgery and that there are no other issues with your heart which will cause problems. When I went for tests, there was one patient who unfortunately was told that his heart muscles were so weak that he could not possibly  be the candidate for any type of heart surgery.

Surgeons call Catheter Ablation surgery “non-invasive”, but that’s not how it feels from the patient’s point of view. If this is “non-invasive”, then all I can say is that I feel sorry for people who have actual invasive surgery.  The surgeon  makes 2 incisions in the groin, and feeds catheters all the way from your groin into your heart. Of course, you are asleep for all of this, so it is not as scary as it sounds.

Catheter Ablation Surgery takes between 3 to 5 hours. It is a long surgery but you have no sense of time when it happens. The anesthesia is injected into a vein and you are asleep withing 15 seconds. The next thing I remembered was someone saying “take a deep breath” when it was time to wake up.

A final pre-op test leaves some “burping” side effects. The heart is hidden behind the stomach, so one of the last tests is to insert a tube down your esophagus into the stomach. Then an ultrasound device is inserted into the stomach to get a final real time picture of the heart. (You are also put asleep for this procedure.)  This test is to make sure there are not any unforeseen problems that would complicate surgery. This procedure can have a lot of side effects that last many months. Some people experience a sore throat (I did not). Most people find that their stomach may be sore for a few weeks. To help the stomach heal you will be given stomach medicine for a few weeks. Many people find that they burp a lot more than they used to, even months after this procedure. Even 9 months after the procedure I still get these burps once and a while. Patients feel embarrassed to mention this to a doctor, since they think it is somehow their own fault. These burps are a perfectly normal side effect and very common.

Bring someone with you to the hospital! Don’t try to do it on your own. You need someone you can count on to stay with you the whole day. Bring a spouse, partner, friend or grown child. In my case, my wife Susan was with me all day. You need your special someone to help you navigate through the system and to listed to what the doctors and nurses say. You will be too groggy, distracted or upset to completely understand all the instructions being given to you.

You are in for a Long, Long day. Before the actual surgery, there is paperwork, pre-op tests,  and preparation. You will be wheeled from place to place, have tubes and needles stuck into you and spend most of your time in a cold hospital gown. All this happens before the actual Catheter Ablation Surgery. In my case, I got to the hospital at 7am and my surgery began at 4PM. I was done about 7PM.

You are only in the hospital for 1 night. In my case, the hospital was so full that there were no rooms, so I spent the night in the recovery ward. I was not actually sleepy. After all, I had been sleeping for many hours as part of the surgery. It is interesting the things you hear in a hospital recovery ward overnight.  The nurses try to speak quietly, but I was so bored I eavesdropped on every conversation. They spent a lot of time gossiping about another nurse, who they claimed always walks around trying to look busy, but who does not actually help anyone.

You will need help getting home. Don’t kid yourself, they may call it non-invasive, but someone was just inside your heart. You are going to be exhausted. Too weak to drive yourself home, or even Uber by yourself.

You should rest at home for 1 week before going back to work.  You will be very tired. This is perfectly normal and does not mean that anything is wrong with you.

You may be very sore from just lying on the operating room table. My right shoulder was very sore and weak and I had trouble lifting it for a day or two. This is a normal side effect and you may experience body aches and pains from having been immobile for so long.

Do not lift more than 10 pounds for a month after Catheter Ablation Surgery

Do not lift more than 10 pounds for a month after Catheter Ablation Surgery

Do not lift anything heavier then 10 pounds for a month. This is so that you do not rip open the wounds where the surgeon made incisions in your groin. This instruction is very hard to follow. It is amazing how many things weigh more than 10 pounds.  Don’t rip open your wounds by doing something stupid like lifting a heavy bag of groceries, a Thanksgiving turkey or a full garbage can. It does not matter if you are an Olympic weightlifter and can normally lift hundreds of pounds with ease. You have to give these wounds time to heal.

Do not run for at least 1 month after Catheter Ablation Surgery.

Do not run for at least 1 month after Catheter Ablation Surgery.

Do not Run for a full month. This is also to keep the groin wounds from ripping open. Running and even standing for long periods of time put a lit of strain on this area.

Ask your doctor about the type of adhesive used in the bandages. Some people are allergic to the type of adhesive used in the bandages that cover the groin incisions. I happened to be one of them. This allergic reaction can leave you with very painful blisters. Find out ahead of time if there are any alternative adhesives available.

You will have AFib for a few months after your surgery. Sometimes this will be even worse than the AFib you experienced before. This is also perfectly normal but is very hard to accept. The AFib episodes do not go away until the parts of the heart burned by the surgeon have scarred over. Even though you know ahead of time that this is going to happen it is psychologically very stressful.  You will be asking yourself “what was the point of all that pain and effort if the AFib is still there?” With successful surgery, these episodes will gradually disappear, and in many cases go away forever. Part of the process is that your heart has to re-train itself not to go into AFib.

Catheter Ablation Surgery does not fix any other cardio problems. For example, if you had high blood pressure or high cholesterol before the surgery, the surgery does nothing to change that. Just because your heart now no longer goes into AFib does not mean you can go wild and load up on cream fill doughnuts every morning. You still have to take care of yourself, eat heart-healthy and exercise.

A happy heart

A happy heart

So, that’s my patient’s-view story of Catheter Ablation Surgery. I hope it gives you some useful information.  Remember always that if you have heart problems there are lots of people who care and who can help you. Be well and be happy.

Russian Subway Dogs – Beautiful & Clever

In Russia, it is common to see dogs riding the subways on their own. Russians love these canines and never throw them off. Riding the subways is the reward Russian dogs earned for their great sacrifices during World War II. During the War, Russian dogs were used to destroy German tanks. The dogs had magnetic bombs strapped to their bodies and were trained to run at full speed at a German tank. When the dog got close to the tank, the magnetic bomb automatically detonated, killing the dog and destroying the tank.  Dogs were also used for tracking, search and rescue. In desperate situations dogs were killed and the dog meat used to feed starving Russians.

Russian Commuters are used to some of the fellow commuters being dogs.

Russian Commuters are used to some of the fellow commuters being dogs.

Modern people in American and Western Europe are horrified when they hear of this World War II cruelly towards Russian dogs. However, it is impossible for these modern  people to even imagine what World War II was like for the Russians. Approximately 15% of the entire Russian population died in the War, when the death toll was counted not in thousands but in millions.

Russian dog sleeps in the subway.

Russian dog sleeps in the subway.

Russians had always loved dogs, and they vowed that after the war they would repay all Russian dogs with absolute freedom. Hence the rise of the Russian subway dogs.  These clever canines have learned to navigate the complex systems. They use them to avoid the cold and even to commute from the suburbs to the cities.

Soviet Soldier in World War II preparing a bomb dog

Soviet Soldier in World War II preparing a bomb dog

When the dog commuters get  to the city  the use clever tricks to get food. Dogs have learned to work in teams when they see a person get food from a street vendor. One dog will sneak up behind the person and bark loudly just as the person gets the food. The startled person usually jumps and drops the food. Then a second dog waiting in front of the person grabs the food from the street and runs off with it. The barking dog then follows the dog in front and the two meet up to share the food. If only humans could work with such precision teamwork.

Soviet combat soldier in World War II with his dog.

Soviet combat soldier in World War II with his dog.

So if you are ever in a Moscow subway, don’t be surprised if a dog climbs up onto the seat next to you like it owns the place. Remember that Russian dogs shed blood to earn their seats on the subway. The Russian people have not forgotten.

Russians used dogs to attack German tanks in World War II

Russians used dogs to attack German tanks in World War II

Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) – The Dutch Racist Christmas Tradition

This time of year, white Dutch men in blackface parade around the streets of The Netherlands in a Christmas tradition that the Dutch insist is not racist. The men are portraying Zwarte Piet, who is the loyal servant of Sinterklaas, the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus. These parades have existed for more than 150 years and the Dutch are very proud of them.

Sinterklaas & men dressed as Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas & men dressed as Zwarte Piet

Tradition has it that Zwarte Piet was a valued and well-paid servant (not a slave) of Sinterklaas. In fact, Zwarte Piet is often portrayed as being far more intelligent than the absent minded Sinterklaas. Zwarte Piet was a Moor, which is why the Dutch wear blackface. Zwarte Piet is not considered an object of ridicule but a hero. In legend, he once gave gold coins to poor young women so that they would not have to sell themselves as prostitutes to survive. Zwarte Piet is also the enforcer for Sinterklaas. He gives good children candy and presents, but hits the bad ones with a broom. This is why in some parades, Zwarte Piet is seen carrying a broom.

Young Dutch women protesting Zwarte Piet

Young Dutch women protesting Zwarte Piet

The problem is that the Dutch simply don’t understand how racist it looks to the rest of the world to have white men dancing around the streets in blackface. The Dutch are a very logical society and their rationale is that Black Pete cannot possibly be racist since the Dutch did not intend for him to be a racist symbol. The Dutch will further explain that Zwarte Piet is in fact a hero, and the men in blackface are actually praising this ancient Moor.

Some Dutch have begun reducing the amount of blackface on Zwarte Piet

Some Dutch have begun reducing the amount of blackface on Zwarte Piet

However, as the economy has become more global, many people of African ancestry have moved to The Netherlands due to its welcoming business climate. People of African ancestry are shocked and offended by Zwarte Piet, and are frustrated that the white Dutch people just don’t understand the problem. The fact that Zwarte Piet appears dressed as a clown makes him seem even more of an object of ridicule. In  fact, Zwarte Piet is actually dressed in the traditional outfit of a servant to a wealthy noble.

Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer in 1927" Jolson never considered himself racist.

Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer” in 1927. Jolson never considered himself racist.

Protests have erupted in The Netherlands this year over Zwarte Piet. However, over 90% of the Dutch do not consider Zwarte Piet a racist symbol and do not see what all the fuss is about. In some parades, Zwarte Piet performers have tried to reduce the tension by wearing less blackface makeup. They somehow feel that a Brown Pete might be less offensive than a Black Pete. However, this was like throwing gasoline on  a fire.

White Americans in modern day using blackface to post a mock lynching on-line

White Americans in modern day using blackface to post a mock lynching on-line

The Zwarte Piet controversy in The Netherlands is a perfect example of two groups talking past each other instead of with each other. For an outsider, the solution to the problem seems very simple. Have Zwarte Piet played by someone of African ancestry. If no one is available for the parade, then have a white actor play Piet, without blackface. The protesters are not objecting to the legend of Zwarte Piet. What they are objecting to is modern-day White Men wearing blackface.

The use of blackface in America has such horrible historic connotations that blackface anywhere in the world is considered an open declaration of racist intent. The Dutch argue that this is not fair for them to have to change their tradition due to American racism.

As protesters have said “Racisme is Niet Gezelligheid” Roughly translated this means “Racism is not harmony”. Gezelligheid (harmony or coziness) is the highest goal of the people of the Netherlands. It is what every Dutch family, company and the society as a whole strive for. If the Dutch want to acheive true Gezelligheid then it is time to put the blackface makeup away forever.

Annoying Women Who Harm The Careers of All Women

 There are certain types of women who hurt the career-advancement chances for all the other women. Let’s face it, women have enough challenges at work without being sabotaged from within their own ranks.  Here is a list of the worst offenders

The Crier – also known as the Damsel in Distress This is the woman who breaks down and cries hysterically at work when under pressure. We are not talking about someone who has had  an actual breakdown. No, this is the woman who deliberately turns on the fake waterworks as a tactic to avoid doing any difficult assignments. This tactic is much less common than it used to be since it only works if the woman’s boss is a man. Usually a man that finds her physically attractive and who can’t resist rushing in to save the “damsel in distress” by doing her work for her. A female boss, on the other hand, will not put up with a crier, and the crier may soon find herself as an unemployed damsel in distress.

The Damsel in Distress at work.

The Damsel in Distress at work.

The “Crier” hurts all working women since (even though it is totally unfair) her actions reflect badly on all the other women in the office. When The Crier turns on the tears there is always some male joker who quips “that’s why women don’t belong here”, or quotes Tom Hanks by saying “There’s no crying in baseball!”  When a male worker does something idiotic, no one ever says, “that’s why we shouldn’t hire men”.  Male workers are judged on their individual attributes. However, all the female workers are blamed for the bad behavior of any one female employee.

Men can't resist rescuing a Damsel in Distress

Men can’t resist rescuing a Damsel in Distress

The Woman Hater – This type of woman is very hard to understand, but unfortunately also very common on the workplace. She is friendly and helpful to all the men in the office, but for some unknown reason goes out of her way to sabotage the careers of any other woman she works with. She offers no help to the other women, spreads vicious rumors about them and never misses an opportunity to talk down the accomplishments of the women she works with. Somehow she considers all other women as threats that need to be eliminated in order for her to thrive.  There is probably some deep-seated Freudian reason why she does this, but we have yet to figure that out.

Some women spread lies about other women in the office. Why do they do that?

Some women spread lies about other women in the office. Why do they do that?

The World’s Only Mother – This is the first- time mother who suddenly acts like she is the only working woman in the world ever to have a baby. She wants to get special privileges, time off and working conditions that are totally beyond the company’s standard policies or legal requirements. By the way, she showed absolutely zero interest in the company’s maternity policies when other women in the office were pregnant. No, she wants special rules just for her. The most well know and outrageous example of this was Marissa Mayer.  She was a new mother when she became head of Yahoo, and had a special nursery room built next to her executive office so that she could bring her baby to work every day. Marissa Mayer did that at the same time she banned all Yahoo employees from doing any work remotely.

Marissa Mayer bringing her baby to work at Yahoo.

Marissa Mayer bringing her baby to work at Yahoo.

This new policy was a slap in the face to all the low and mid-level working mothers who relied on sometimes working remotely so that they could take care of a sick child.  Working remotely had allowed Yahoo employees to  work if a baby sitter did not show up or if the day care center unexpectedly closed. Those lower lever Yahoo women did not get private nurseries next to their cubicles. They had to choose between taking care of their kids, or missing a day’s pay.

Marissa Mayer's private nursery.

Marissa Mayer’s private nursery.

Yahoo was acquired by Verizon in 2017.  Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was ousted, but got a severance package of approximately $260 million. And all the other working moms who used to work for Yahoo? We are sure that Marissa will share her severance pay with them any day now. Any day.  Of course, the issue of top executives getting golden parachutes while the lower ranks get no severance is not unique to women.  However, the burden of childcare does still fall disproportionately on working women.  It only makes matters worse when the women who achieve the  top ranks ignore the child-care needs of the women who work below them.

The Glass Ceiling still exists in America.

The Glass Ceiling still exists in America.

There has been a huge amount of reporting about how most women have still not broken through the “glass ceiling”. For that ceiling to be shattered forever is going to take a group effort, and the realization that certain types of selfish behavior by some women  hurt all women.

Invisible Murder – a fascinating Danish Crime Novel

Invisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis is a novel of crime, terrorism and racism in modern Denmark.  Most people do not think of Denmark as a hotbed of crime. However, beneath the surface of safe and polite Danish society are the problems of mass immigration, right-wing nationalists, and terrorist infiltrators.

Invisible Murder, a Danish crime novel.

Invisible Murder, a Danish crime novel.

The  plot begins in Hungary, where Sandor, a young Roma (Gypsy) man is working hard at his studies to become a lawyer. Despite doing brilliantly on his oral exam, his professor fails him. The professor makes it quite clear that the Roma are not welcome in Hungary in any profession.  Sandor is forced to leave law school and return to the Roma slum he came from, only to discover that his younger brother Tamas has stupidly gotten involved with Roma mobsters while Sandor was in law school.

Roma people protesting against discrimination

Roma people protesting against discrimination

The mobsters had sent Tamas to Denmark on an illegal assignment and have not heard from him since. The mobsters tell Sandor that he must go to Denmark to finish the mission, or else the mob will take revenge on Sandor’s mother and sister. The more Sandor learns, the more he suspects that his brother’s “mission” is to sell terrorists a powerful weapon to use in Denmark.

Agnete Friis & Lene Kaaberbol, authors of "Invisible Murder"

Agnete Friis & Lene Kaaberbol, authors of “Invisible Murder”

Lene Kaaberbol and Agnente Friis are masterful story tellers. You don’t need any pre-knowledge of Denmark’s society or political events to follow the plot and enjoy the action. Invisible Murder shows what happens when a little country finds itself unwillingly at the crossroads of opposing and sometimes violent ideologies. The Danish police are professional, efficient and need to be multilingual just to keep up with the various groups they must monitor and protect.

Beautiful Denmark, the location of "Invisible Murder".

Beautiful Denmark, the location of “Invisible Murder”.

In the middle of all this are the Roma people, who for centuries have been outcasts throughout Europe as they travel on the outskirts of society. Sandor finds himself very much in the middle. Police are always suspicious of him because he is Roma. At the same time, because of his education and way of speaking he is not trusted as a “real Roma” by his own people.  He wants to save his brother, but at the same time prevent mass destruction in Denmark. This is an almost impossible task.

Tiny Denmark surrounded by more powerful neighbors

Tiny Denmark surrounded by more powerful neighbors

Invisible Murder is an exciting read. A modern mystery novel with an international twist.

Alone in Berlin – 2 Old Germans Who Stood Up To Hitler

Alone in Berlin is the true story of middle-aged couple Anna (Emma Thompson) and Otto (Brendan Gleeson) who tried to oppose Adolf Hitler. In was an incredible act of bravery in Nazi Germany, but Anna and Otto felt they had nothing left  to lose, since their only son had already been killed in combat.

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in "Alone in Berlin"

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in “Alone in Berlin”

It is hard for us in the modern era to understand how difficult it was to oppose Hitler within Germany. There was no free press, no cellphones and no internet on which to post anonymous comments against the government. The couple hand-wrote postcards critical of Hitler and the government and secretly left them in public buildings where people could find and read them.

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

When the postcards began to show up, Germans who found them were petrified. They knew it was dangerous even to read something like this. People who found the cards were afraid that the police had placed the cards as a trap to test German’s loyalty. Distributing anything critical of Hitler was considered treason and was a death penalty offense.

Daniel Bruhl in "Alone in Berlin".

Daniel Bruhl in “Alone in Berlin”.

However, Otto and Anna were relentless and soon had placed more than 100 cards throughout Berlin. When people began turning the cards into the police, the SS Officers and high ranking Police officials were furious. They needed to catch the anti-Hitler writers and punish them as an example to other dissenters.

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

Police Inspector Escherich (Daniel Bruhl) thinks it will be easy to catch these traitors, but they are far cleverer than he imagines. There are no fingerprints on the postcards, no witnesses, and no clear pattern of where they are distributed. What he does not know is that Anna and Otto are hiding in plain sight. No one really pays attention to an ordinary looking middle-aged couple. The Police and SS did not have  that profile in mind when they think of a resistance fighter.

Otto & Elise Hampel - true German Heros

Otto & Elise Hampel – true German Heroes

Anna and Otto know their small gesture cannot stop Hitler. However, Otto is a master machinist and he likens their post cards to putting sand in the German war machine. He says that a little sand will not destroy the gears of a machine. However, if the movement catches on, more and more people will throw sand in the gears, and perhaps the terror of the Nazis will grind to a halt.

Hans Fallada - author of the book Alone in Berlin

Hans Fallada – author of the book Alone in Berlin

The Film Alone in Berlin is from the novel by Hans Fallada. The real people were named Otto and Elise Hampel, and they actually did place cards around Berlin just as in the movie.

Berlin at the end of World War II

Berlin at the end of World War II

Of course, we all know that Hitler was not stopped by resistance from within.  However, the bravery of the Hampels can still be admired all these decades later. We also know from history that there were many thousands of Germans who hated Hitler but who were simply too afraid to say anything, much less take any action. Alone in Berlin is the story of two  old people who showed true bravery in the face of absolute evil.

My Dinner With Herve – The last interview with Herve Villechaize

The HBO Original movie My Dinner With Herve, stars Peter Dinklage as Herve Villechaize, the French actor best know for his role as Tattoo on Fantasy Island. The dinner takes place shortly before Herve’s suicide, as Herve attempts to reveal the truth about of his life.

Jamie Dornan & Peter Dinklage in "My Dinner With Herve"

Jamie Dornan & Peter Dinklage in “My Dinner With Herve”

Herve is being interviewed by Danny Tate, (Jamie Dornan), an Irish journalist who was told to write a short funny piece basically ridiculing Herve Villechaize. However, Herve is having none of that. Herve knows the world treats him as a joke. Herve decides to take control of the interview himself and give the journalist the story of a lifetime.

My Dinner With Herve takes us on a wild ride through the sad and tumultuous life of Herve Villechaize. Throughout the movie, we are never quite sure exactly what parts of the story are true and which are myths created by Herve himself. The movie is based on the actual wild evening Herve spent with Sacha Gervasi, who wrote and directed  My Dinner With Herve.

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

Herve decides to open up to this particular journalist since he recognizes a kindred spirit. Danny Tate is a recovering alcoholic who is at a low point in his own personal life and career. The only reason he was assigned to interview Herve is because none of the other reporters wanted to waste their time with such as has-been.

Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack in The Man With The Golden Gun

Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack in The Man With The Golden Gun

Herve Villechaize came from a wealthy French family.  His mother always was ashamed that Herve was a dwarf, and never showed any kind of love.  Herve’s father was a doctor, who kept trying to cure Herve’s dwarfism. While Herve just wanted to spend time and play with his dad, the father was constantly subjecting Herve to experimental and painful quack medical treatments.

Peter Dinklage & Andy Garcia in "My Dinner With Herve"

Peter Dinklage & Andy Garcia in “My Dinner With Herve”

How exactly Herve became a star is still a mystery. In My Dinner With Herve, he simply shows up in Hollywood, threatens talent agent Marty Rothstein (David Strathaim) with a knife, and thereby gets himself a top agent. Of course, this is a myth made up by Herve himself.

Herve Villechaize’s rise and fall was chronicled in the tabloids. Herve was cast as Nick Nack in the James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun, and overnight he became world-famous. However, the money did not last long. His whole life, Herve was a womanizer and spent money like water. He was down t his last penny when he was cast on Fantasy Island, at a salary of $35,000 per week. Unfortunately, Herve’s own self destructive behavior ruined it all.  Drinking, wild parties, a marriage and a divorce, and temper tantrums on the set. Like many other Hollywood stars before and since, Herve Villechaize threw it all away.

My Dinner With Herve, takes place many years after Herve’s tabloid heyday, yet he is still trying to come to grips with the mistakes of his past. The acting and casting in My Dinner With Herve are wonderful. Every part is played to perfection.  Jamie Dornan brings a wonderful complexity to the role of Danny Tate.  Danny comes to realize how hypocritical it is for him to criticize celebrities in his articles, while his own personal life is such a complete mess. Andy Garcia becomes Ricardo Montalban in looks an mannerisms to the point where it seems like Ricardo Montalban was somehow reincarnated for the movie.

Of course , New Jersey native Peter Dinklage is perfect has Herve. We had the pleasure of seeing Peter Dinklage in person in Basking Ridge New Jersey when he helped his mother and brother raise money for the Somerset Hills Chorus. Peter Dinklage brings a powerful presence to any role he is in. My Dinner with Herve is one of his best performances.

When Men Wore Business Suits to Cut the Grass

When I was a boy in Stamford Connecticut, it was common to see old men mowing their lawns and doing other outdoor work, while wearing tattered business suits, white dress shirts and black wing-tipped business shoes. These men had grown up during the Great Depression, and to them wasting anything was considered an actual sin.

Adults wore old suits and white shirts to work in the yard. Kids could be more casual

Adults wore old suits and white shirts to work in the yard. Kids could be more casual

People dressed very formally to go to work. There was no such thing as “business casual”; not even the occasional “casual Friday.” When people’s formal business clothing got too worn and frayed to wear to work, the suits did not get thrown out. These old suits, shirts, and dress shoes, became the outfits men would wear while working in the yard, painting their house or fixing the gutters.

Even the Three Stooges wore suits and ties while working as plumbers

Even the Three Stooges wore suits and ties while working as plumbers

As children, we used to secretly laugh at these old guys toiling in the Summer Sun wearing white dress shirts, black socks and black wing tips. If it got too hot, some of the old guys would doff an old formal business hat, the kind you see in Humphrey Bogart movies.

Of course, we kids could not even imagine what the pain and hunger of the Great Depression had been like. The idea of not have enough food in America was beyond our  comprehension.

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

All of the old men had come out of poverty many decades before and the United States was prospering as never before. The old guys all could have afforded to simply throw out the old suits. They could afford to hire other people to mow the laws, paint houses or rake the leaves, but they did not. It was a matter of pride for people of that generation to never pay someone else to do something you could do yourself.

leftover rice became rice pudding

leftover rice became rice pudding

The women who grew up in the Great Depression had the same mindset. My Grandmother was a fantastic cook, yet she never threw anything out.  If she made rice one day, the extra rice never went in the garbage. It became rice stuffing or part of chicken and rice soup, or even rice pudding. Not a single grain was wasted.

Before the days of Business Casual"

Before the days of Business Casual”

Almost all of the Great Depression generation is gone now. Frugality has given away to conspicuous consumption. In my Grandparents day, people were taught to never show off how much money they had. In fact, to the people of that generation one of the rudest things someone could do was to ask someone else how much money they made. If you did that, the immediate response would be, “none of your business.”

As a kid, I made fun of these old folks. Now, looking back, I realize that their way of life had real value. Never wasting anything and never buying more than you need might be a happier way to live. The 2008 housing crash and subsequent financial crisis would not have happened if people had not bought homes that were many times more than they could actually afford. People of my Grandparents generation would never have done that. There is also real value in never showing off how much money you have and never asking anyone else about their financial situation. Living like that you learn to view people based on their core values, not their relative wealth.

The company where I work went to business casual long ago, and yet I still have a closet full of suits. Some are good enough to wear out to dinner or parties. Quite a few are rather worn and tattered but I have never gotten around to throwing them out.  I just can’t put the old suits in the garbage without thinking about how upset that would have made my Grandparents. This time of year, my yard is full of sticks and leaves that need raking. It seems to me that one of my old suits would be the perfect outfit for that. Perhaps with a pair of worn-out black leather shoes.

Kidding – if Mister Rogers was on the edge of insanity.

In Showtime’s Kidding, Jim Carrey plays “Mr. Pickles”, who is exactly like Mister Rogers except that Mister Pickles is on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. Kidding is a wonderful series, and explores what it is like to try to be a truly good person in a violent and unfair world.

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in "KIdding"

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in “KIdding”

For a long time life was perfect for Jeff Piccirillo (Mr. Pickles). He had a children’s show loved by the world. He and his beautiful wife Jill (Judy Greer) had twin sons. Then the unthinkable happens. A stoplight malfunctions. His wife and children are in a horrific car accident and one of the boys is killed.

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in "Kidding"

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in “Kidding”

How does a family recover from that? In the real world, many families never recover. Jeff and his wife separate, and the remaining child, William (Cole Allen), begins acting out in school and hanging around with older troublemakers.

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of "Kidding"

Judy Greer, Jim Carrey & Catherine Keener at the premier of “Kidding”

While all this is going on, Jeff must still be the happy Mr. Pickles to the world. He has to show up to work every day and sing happy songs to adoring children and parents who love him. And the truth of it all is that Jeff (Jim Carrey) actually is a good person who believes the world can be a wonderful place.

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey's cancer-patient girlfriend in "Kidding"

Ginger Gonzaga plays Jim Carrey’s cancer-patient girlfriend in “Kidding”

Jeff wants to use his own tragedy as a learning experience for children. He does a wonderful, gentle episode talking to kids about death, but the production company won’t allow that episode on the air. The production company is controlled by Jeff’s father Sebastian (Frank Langella). Unlike the gentle Jeff, Sebastian is a nasty son of a bitch who is more interested in the money than the message.

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Instead of trying to help his son, Sebastian wants to replace him with an animated Mr. Pickles. A cartoon character would never get depressed or try to introduce messages that would make the sponsors uncomfortable. The real Fred Rogers made sure to never commercialize Mister Rogers. Unfortunately Sebastian has turned Mr. Pickles into a money making machine, with advertisers and product tie-ins to toys and kids food.

The cast in Kidding is terrific. Judy Greer is wonderful as the wife who can no longer take being married to “America’s saint.” She no longer wants to try to be forgiving and happy all the time. She hates the driver who smashed into her car, and thinks it is not natural that Jeff tries to find “meaning” in every event.

Catherine Keener is Jeff’s sister Deirdre. She loves Jeff, but still agrees with her father that Jeff needs to be replaced. It does not help that her own personal life is a mess, with her husband Scott (Bernard White) leading a double life.

Cole Allen (William) is perfect as the troubled surviving twin son. Most shows do not know how to properly portray kids just entering their teens. Most shows either have the parts played by people in their 30s, or else the lines are like nothing a real kid would say. Kids and teenagers don’t handle tragedies the same way adults do. They tend to shut down, act out or both. Cole Allen has remarkable acting skills even at his early age.

Ginger Gonzaga is Vivian, a beautiful cancer patient who Jeff befriends while he is touring a hospital as Mr. Pickles. The two quickly become passionate lovers, but others question if the relationship is healthy. Has Jeff really fallen in love or has he purposely chosen a woman who he knows will not be on this Earth for very long? Is Jeff so afraid of losing another loved one that he went out of his way to pick someone who he knew ahead of time he is going to lose?  Vivian herself is aware of this situation and questions the relationship. However, she and Jeff are kindred spirits who can show each other their deepest fears and emotions.

Kidding is a wonderful show. It is a dark comedy without ever getting too dark or too silly. Jim Carrey plays Jeff as complex and conflicted individual who we want good things to happen to.

  • We give Kidding 4 Stars **** The only reason we did not give it our highest rating of 5 stars is that it has a couple of raunchy sex scenes that the series would be better off without. Some of the gay sex jokes are a little much and don’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the show.
  • Be sure to read all our T.V. & Movie Reviews.

4 Movies Trump Needs to See To Make him a Better Person

There are 4 movies that Donald Trump needs to watch, in order to make him a more knowledgeable and compassionate human being.

Lincoln – This film stars Danial Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, and chronicles Lincoln’s  fight to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in The United States. Lincoln’s great fear was that even after the Civil War ended slavery would continue in the Southern States and that former slaves who had escaped to the North would have to be returned to slavery. Three years after Lincoln’s assassination, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, which made all people born in the United States citizens. This was required so that former slaves would not exist in a netherworld where they were called “free”but did not have the rights of citizens.  It is this Fourteenth Amendment that Trump erroneously believes he can eliminate with the stroke of a pen. Trump still does not understand The Constitution and seems to think he was elected King rather than President.

Abraham Lincoln was afraid slavery would continue even after the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln was afraid slavery would continue even after the Civil War

The movie Lincoln shows that it was the Republican Party which pushed for the freedom of slaves and the rights for dignity of all people. It is sad and painful that this compassionate Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln has now degenerated into a grotesque mob of haters that welcomes gun-toting, bomb throwing Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists.

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in "A Beautiful Mind"

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in “A Beautiful Mind”

A Beautiful Mind stars Russell Crowe as John Nash, Princeton’s mathematical genius.  Nash proved mathematically  that the best solutions to conflicts are ones where all sides do what is best for the group as a whole. This solution also ends up being the best solution for each individual participant. Trump continues to approach every negotiation with the long-ago reputed Zero Sum Theory. Trump believes that the only way the United States can get anything worthwhile is to take it from someone else. This has led to the disastrous policy of ever increasing tariffs, which simply raises prices and destroys wealth in The United States and throughout the world.

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in "Fail Safe"

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe”

Fail Safe –is a film about nuclear war starring Henry Fonda and Larry Hagman. Donald Trump has often threatened to launch nuclear weapons, completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands of people who would die as a result. Trump also seems to think there would be zero risk to Americans if he were to attack another country with nuclear weapons. In Fail Safe, a glitch in a computer circuit erroneously sends a coded message to American B52 bombers telling them to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. There is a desperate scramble to try to prevent the attack. The Soviet Union vows immediate retaliatory strikes. Mr. Trump should learn from Fail Safe that there no such thing as playing with nuclear weapons. A nuclear strike is not a lawsuit against a business rival (for which Donald Trump is famous). Killing hundreds of thousands with the most destructive weapons ever devised is not a game. Once the nuclear bombs begin there is no way to predict when they will stop.

Max von Sydow in "Voyage of the Damned"

Max von Sydow in “Voyage of the Damned”

Voyage of the Dammed is based on the 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis ocean liner which was taking Jews out of Nazi Germany. When the world was criticizing the Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany, Hitler played a clever political game. Hitler authorized 937 Jews to leave Germany on the MS St. Louis. The problem was that other countries did not want these refugees. The ocean liner went to Cuba but was denied entry. The ship  then turned to the United States hoping for sanctuary. Instead of helping the fleeing Jews,  America sent out destroyers to meet the ship and threatened to sink the MS St. Louis if it tried to enter American waters. Hitler loved this. It validated the Nazi view that Jews were a “problem people” that no one wanted. The MS St. Louis had to wander around the Atlantic until finally The United Kingdom, Belgium and France agreed to each take a portion of the Jewish refugees. About 400 ended up in The United Kingdom. Of the remaining 537 who went to France, Belgium and The Netherlands, most were rounded up and sent to concentration camps when Germany later invaded those countries. Many of the people died in the camps. All would have survived if The United States had welcomed these pour souls instead of chasing them away with destroyers. Today Donald Trump is sending armed troops to chase away desperate people fleeing persecution in Guatemala and other countries. These woman and children will be no match for U.S. soldier’s guns. But when they are turned back is it really a proud day for America? Are we proud the United States sent the Jews of the MS St. Louis back to concentration camps?

Maybe if Donald Trump watches these it will give him a little historical perspective on how Presidential power should be used.  We don’t think so, but in these desperate times, anything is worth a try.

The 4 Best Thanksgiving Movies & T.V. Episodes

Here is our list of the 4 Best Movies & T.V. Episodes with Thanksgiving Themes.

Planes Train and Automobiles. This 1987 movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy continues to hold up as one of the funniest and most moving Thanksgiving films ever made. Steve Martin is Neal Page, a Chicago executive willing to do anything to get back home to Chicago in time for his family Thanksgiving. That is, Neal is willing to do anything except actually be nice to the people around him and notice that he is not the only person in America trying to get home. His nasty attitude makes him his own worst enemy and constantly sabotages his chances of getting home for Thanksgiving. Neal is helped by the happy, optimistic and somewhat crazy salesman Del Griffith, perfectly played by John Candy.

Steve Martin & John Candy in "Planes Trains and Automobiles"

Steve Martin & John Candy in “Planes Trains and Automobiles”

Del makes friends wherever he goes, and never gets angry or lashes out when things go wrong. One the other hand, Neil is so self-centered that he never once stops to wonder why Del is spending so much effort to help a stranger make it home. When Del’s secret is finally revealed it still brings tears to our eyes. John Candy’s performance in this scene is incredibly moving.

Unfortunately, John Candy died in 1994 at the age of 43. His performance in Planes Trains and Automobiles demonstrates that he had the talent to become a truly great dramatic actor. The word lost this talented Canadian far too soon.

Frank Bonner and Gordon Jump in "WKRP in Cincinnati" "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"

Frank Bonner and Gordon Jump in “WKRP in Cincinnati” “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”

WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Bombs Episode 1978, has been replayed on T.V. every Thanksgiving for the past 39 years, but is still funny. It is hard to believe there is anyone in America who has not seen it. The WKRP sales manager Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner) and station owner Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump) hatch a plot to give a Thanksgiving surprise to the people of Cincinnati. What they don’t tell anyone is that the surprise consists of the release of live turkeys from a blimp over a crowd of unsuspecting Cincinnati citizens. While wild turkeys are beautiful in flight, domestic farm turkeys are too fat to ever get off the ground. Herb and Mr. Carlson release 100 farm turkeys from the blimp expecting them to soar though the sky. Instead they plummet to the ground like 20 pound bombs, smashing windshields, and causing the waiting crowd to run for cover.

Richard Sanders in "WKRP in Cincinnati"

Richard Sanders in “WKRP in Cincinnati”

The funniest part of the episode is Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) reporting the event on the radio exactly like it is the 1937 Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst New Jersey. Richard Sanders does a perfect impression of radio reporter Herbert Morrison, who broke down on air while reporting the Hindenburg crash.

BEWITCHED - "Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember" - Airdate: November 23, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY;DICK YORK

BEWITCHED – “Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember” – Airdate: November 23, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY;DICK YORK

Bewitched – Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember (1967), where the entire family is transported back to the original Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving through a magic spell. Darin (Dick York) is so worried that the Pilgrims will figure out that Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) is a witch that he fails to pay attention his own behavior. Darin’s use of modern language and slang quickly gets him branded as a witch. Bewitched was a silly, fun show with an ensemble cast of actors that truly enjoyed with each other. Dick York eventually had to leave the show; unable to work due to severe back problems. Actors in those days did not get paid the enormous sums they make today, and Dick York had real financial problems later in life. Despite his health and financial problems he never complained, and spent huge amount of time working tirelessly to help the homeless.

Rocky – Most people do not think of Rocky as a Thanksgiving movie, but Rocky is a film that shows the dark side of Thanksgiving. Rocky is not really a boxing film. Rocky  is a movie about lonely people trying desperately to prove  that they actually matter in the world. When Paulie (Burt Young) ruins Thanksgiving dinner, Adrian (Talia Shire) tells Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) how upset that made her. Rocky, responds, “to you its Thanksgiving. To me its Thursday.”

To many people Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year. People who are alone and desperate see television and movies over and over emphasize that everyone else in America is spending the day with loving friends and family. No wonder that Thanksgiving has one of the highest suicide rates of the year.

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

Rocky is not about winning a boxing match. Rocky is about Rocky, Adrian, and Micky (Burgess Meredith) all winning their self respect. Paulie never does quite get his self respect, but he does have Adrian and Rocky continue to  stand by him, despite his faults.

You may notice that we don’t have any new shows on this list. Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but we really fell that these old shows captured the true spirit of the holiday.

We at East Coast Stories wish our readers a happy Thanksgiving. If like , Rocky you find that the day is not Thanksgiving but just another Thursday, don’t despair. There are thousands of people who feel just like you. Things will get better.

“The Dutch bring their own water” – Why the Dutch are the most hated tourists in Europe

“The Dutch even bring their own water” is an expression Europeans use to complain about the Dutch tendency to  vacation in  other countries and yet never spend a penny. The Dutch often travel outside The Netherlands in campers and carry all their own food and water with them. This means that when they get to another country they don’t have to spend any money. Nothing  for hotels or food. They don’t even buy a bottle of water. In fact, other Europeans wonder why the Dutch even bother to travel outside The Netherlands in the first place.

Dutch campers make the Dutch the most hated tourists in Europe

Dutch campers make the Dutch the most hated tourists in Europe

The expression The Dutch even bring their own wateris, of course, an exaggeration by frustrated European shopkeepers and hoteliers However, it does reflect a real frustration with Dutch “tourists”.

In a survey of what nationalities tip, the Dutch don't even make the list.

In a survey of what nationalities tip, the Dutch don’t even make the list.

Americans, on the other hand, are loved in Europe.  This comes as a surprise to most Americans, who have heard so many tales of rude French and Italians. It all boils down to money – Americans spend it and the Dutch don’t.

Americans tip big in Europe. American's don't consider Euro coins "real" money.

Americans tip big in Europe. American’s don’t consider Euro coins “real” money.

American tourists can’t speak the languages, don’t understand the culture or the cuisine, but they make up for all that with the habit of spending big. Plus Americans, do something most Europeans either skimp on  or skip completely – Americans Tip. In fact, the advent of the Euro hugely increased the amount Americans leave for tips. Euro coins don’t seem like real money to Americans ,so they give them away like they are worthless. It is not at all unusual to see an American give a handful of Euro coins to an amazed and happy European waiter as a tip.

Copper wire was created by 2 Dutchmen fighting over a penny

Copper wire was created by 2 Dutchmen fighting over a penny

The Dutch, on the other hand, are not at all insulted by their reputation for being cheap. In fact it is a  source of national pride. A popular joke in The Netherlands is,

  • “How was copper wire invented?”
  • The answer is “Two Dutchmen fighting over a penny”

That joke is hundreds of years old and the Dutch tell it proudly. The Dutch have always been careful with money. It is one of the things that allowed them to survive and thrive, despite being a tiny country with a small population.

The Iron Bank on "Game of Thrones" is supposed to represent the bankers of The Netherlands

The Iron Bank on “Game of Thrones” is supposed to represent the bankers of The Netherlands

In 1776 the  French King gave money to the American Patriots during the American Revolution. In contrast, the Dutch government had no interest in giving any money to the Americans. However, the Dutch bankers loaned large amounts of money at 5% interest to the Americans. In fact, the Dutch were loaning money to the British at the same time. The Dutch are such good bankers that they were able to successfully get full repayment on both these sets of loans.  On the T.V. series Game of Thrones, Braavos represents The Netherlands. Braavos is clever enough to stay out of all the wars, yet make money by loaning gold to all sides.

So if you are ever  in Europe and you hear someone say “The Dutch even bring their own water”, don’t feel badly for the Dutch. Other Europeans may mean it as an insult, but the Dutch take it as a compliment.