All posts by Editor East Coast Stories

Drinking Buddies -Can a man really be “Just Friends” with a beautiful woman?

Drinking Buddies is a clever independent film about 4 people who each seem to be with the wrong partners. The plot revolves around people work at a small craft brewery. It is nice for a change to have a film where the characters are not cops, doctors or lawyers. They are real people with real issues, that need to be solved without car chases, gunfights or dramatic court scenes.

Olivia Wilde & Jake Johnson in "Drinking Buddies"

Olivia Wilde & Jake Johnson in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate (Olivia Wilde) works at Revolution Brewing with her best friend Luke (Jake Johnson). There is no romantic connection, but they love playing practical jokes on each other and telling silly jokes at lunchtime. Every night Kate and Luke go out with the rest of the workers for drinks and food. In fact, Revolution Brewing seems like the kind of place we would all love to work.

Anna Kendrick & Ron Livingston in "Drinking Buddies"

Anna Kendrick & Ron Livingston in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate and Luke both have full time partners. Luke lives with Jill (Anna Kendrick), who is a Special Education teacher with a masters degree.  She is very different than Kate. Jill is shy and introverted, whereas Kate is outgoing to the extreme. Jill never really gets cray while Kate  loves beer perhaps a little too much.

Olivia Wilde & Ron Livingston in "Drinking Buddies"

Olivia Wilde & Ron Livingston in “Drinking Buddies”

Kate’s boyfriend is Chris (Ron Livingston), an intellectual who loves books, nature and hiking. He invites Jill and Luke to spend a weekend with he and Kate at his beautiful cabin in the woods. Don’t worry, Drinking Buddies does not suddenly turn into a horror movie. No killer in a Halloween mask suddenly comes out of the lake. However,it does become obvious that the matching of the couples seems wrong. Jill and Chris want to spend the time hiking and enjoying nature while Kate and Luke are happy to spend all their time drinking beer, staying indoors playing board games and telling stupid jokes.

A badly written movie would have them all simply switch partners at the cabin, but real life is more complicated than that.  Drinking Buddies takes a realistic approach. The weekend ends with relationships supposedly unchanged. However, you can tell that the encounter has altered forever the way they all think about each other.

Could a man really be "just friends" with Olivia Wilde?

Could a man really be “just friends” with Olivia Wilde?

We will not spoil the plot by going any further, other than to say that the ending is beautiful and satisfying.

Some people might find Drinking Buddies too slow-moving. There never is a real action scene. If you are expecting a Hollywood blockbuster type of plot then Drinking Buddies is not for you. However, if you love independent films where the characters are real, then we hope you enjoy Drinking Buddies as much as we did.

Bunny enjoying an October Salad

Five and one half year old Sunshine enjoys a huge salad on a warm October afternoon.

Five year old Sunshine enjoying his salad on a warm October afternoon

Five year old Sunshine enjoying his salad on a warm October afternoon

A  4 pound domestic mixed-breed, he eats many times his weight each week. He came to our home 4 years ago as a rescue rabbit.  Someone had tossed him out the window of a car, but a passerby took him to Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue.

Sunshine seems to have gotten over the traumatic events of his past.

Advice and Consent – A film about a Senate confirmation hearing with Sex, Blackmail and Perjury

Advice and Consent is the 1962 movie about a Senate confirmation hearing where sex, blackmail, and perjury become more important than the technical qualifications of the nominee. Henry Fonda stars as Robert Leffingwell, who has been nominated by the President (Franchot Tone) to be the Secretary of State. He is a controversial pick, and his nomination sets off a no-holds barred fight with both pro and con forces using every dirty trick possible.

Henry Fonda facing a Senate inquiry in Advice and Consent

Henry Fonda facing a Senate inquiry in Advice and Consent

At the time Advice and Consent was released, audiences thought it was an exciting but ridiculously “over the top” piece of fiction. In 1962, the American public still believed in the dignity and decency of its public officials. Of course, that was decades before the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon was offered the role of Vice President  in Advice and Consent, but turned it down. Richard Nixon said Advice and Consent  contained too many obvious errors about how the government actually functions.

However, Advise and Consent does have former Arizona Senator Henry F. Ashurst, who had served 30 years in the Senate. He was 87 years old when Advice and Consent was filmed. Ashurst plays an old Senator who sleeps through most of the proceedings, but who vehemently shouts “Opposed!” whenever something disturbs his slumber.

Advice and Consent shocked 1962 audiences by broaching the subject of homosexuality, and for the first time on the silver screen showing a gay bar. In Advice and Consent, one of the married Senators had a homosexual affair in college, and he is being blackmailed to pressure him to vote in the proper direction.

Charles Laughton & Walter Pidgeon in the 1962 film Advice and Consent

Charles Laughton & Walter Pidgeon in the 1962 film Advice and Consent

The casting in Advice and Consent was a deliberate snub at the McCarthy-era investigations. Many of the actors cast in Advice and Consent had been directly impacted by the Hollywood “black list”. It was also risky to cast Charles Laughton in a film that mentioned homosexuality. Charles Laughton was one of the few actors who were openly gay in 1962.

The 1962 film Advice and Consent was considered exciting fiction that could never actually happen.

The 1962 film Advice and Consent was considered exciting fiction that could never actually happen.

There have been few films that had such an all star cast as Advice and Consent. In addition to Henry Fonda, Advice and Consent features Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford and Betty White. A part was even offered to Martin Luther King Jr. He was to play an Ambassador, even though in 1962 The United States did not actually have any African-American Ambassadors. However, Martin Luther King Jr. felt that appearing in Advice and Consent would take focus away fro his civil rights work.

Clarence Thomas & Brett Kavanaugh

Clarence Thomas & Brett Kavanaugh

Advice and Consent is an excellent film and is fascinating to watch from today’s perspective. One interesting point is that in Advice and Consent, all the really dirty tactics, accusations and  attacks take place out of view of the American public. Unlike today’s televised hearings, in Advice and Consent, the Senators were able to keep the really unsavory working of the government hidden from the general population. Perhaps this was better. As Prince Otto von Bismarck once said, “no one really wants to know how the sausage is made.”

Fiona Gallagher’s Final Season on Shameless

This is Emmy Rossum‘s final season on Showtime’s Shameless as Fiona Gallagher. Shameless will continue, but Fiona Gallagher will be gone forever. The big question is how will Emmy Rossum’s character be written out of Shameless? Are the going to kill off Fiona Gallagher? We don’t think that will happen. After all, Emmy Rossum is leaving on good terms. She simply felt that she had taken the character of Fiona Gallagher as far as she could. Fiona Gallagher has come full circle.

William H. Macy & Emmy Rossum on Shameless

William H. Macy & Emmy Rossum on Shameless

At her low point Fiona Gallagher was an irresponsible  sex-maniac sent to jail on a felony conviction of allowing a child to get into her stash of cocaine.  In her final season, Fiona Gallagher is a successful real estate developer taken seriously by members of the business community.  If the character of Fiona were to continue, the only path would be for her to start spiraling down again, which would be a real backward step. Emma Rossum has made the correct decision that Fiona Gallagher should leave the series when she is on top. Like Jerry Seinfield, Emma Rossum wants fans to remember the character at its best.

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher and Richard Flood as Ford in SHAMELESS (Season 9, Episode 01, "Are You There Shim? It's me, Ian.") - Photo: Chcuk Hodes/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: SHAMELESS_901_5002

Emmy Rossum as Fiona Gallagher and Richard Flood as Ford in SHAMELESS (Season 9, Episode 01, “Are You There Shim? It’s me, Ian.”) – Photo: Chcuk Hodes/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: SHAMELESS_901_5002

We think the most probable way to write Fiona Gallagher out of Shameless, it to have her move to Ireland with her boyfriend Ford (Richard Flood.) There is no way that Fiona Gallagher could remain in Chicago without fans expecting her to periodically do guest appearances on Shameless. We hope this does not happen.  It is always terrible in a series to have old characters suddenly show up for no reason.  We don’t think the writers of Shameless will allow that. The scripts are of too high a quality for such cheap tricks.

Emmy Rossum in The Audrey Hepburn Story

Emmy Rossum in The Audrey Hepburn Story

Although best known for playing an Irish-American Chicago South Sider, Emmy Rossum is, in fact from New York City and Jewish. Born Emmanuelle Grey Rossum on September 12, 1986, she has already had and amazingly diverse career as an actor, director, singer and songwriter.  In fact, Emmy was singing with the New York  Metropolitan Opera’s  Children’s Chorus when she was only 7 years old. In 2000, Emmy Rossum played a young Audrey Hepburn in The Audrey Hepburn Story.

Director, Emmy Rossum, behind the scenes on Shameless (Season 7, episode 4) - Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: shameless_704_2863

Director, Emmy Rossum, behind the scenes on Shameless (Season 7, episode 4) – Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: shameless_704_2863

Emmy Rossum has made the right decision to leave Shameless. The show will continue to be great without her due to the diverse plot lines  of all the other Gallaghers. William H. Macy is always terrific, and in the recent episodes it looks like Frank Gallagher may finally have found his true career calling as a politician. Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is a complex recovering alcoholic. Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) may actually wind up in West Point. Ian (Cameron Monaghan) has to take a new path now that he has realized that he is not really “Gay Jesus”. Debbie (Emma Kenny) has gone from being a mixed-up teen to a strong self sufficient young woman.  In fact, it is hard to believe that one show can pack in so many separate story-lines and still be so good.

The Gallaghers on Shameless

The Gallaghers on Shameless

Emma Rossum has been rather secretive about what she will be doing next. Perhaps it will be a movie, or maybe she will return to New York for some stage work. Whatever she tries next, we are sure it will be a success.

A Simple Favor – Blake Lively & Anna Kendrick’s hilarious dark comedy

A Simple Favor is a terrific comedy which Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively had a ball making. The on-screen chemistry between these these two top tier actors makes A Simple Favor one of the best films of the year.

Anna Kendrick & Blake Lively celebrate the success of A Simple Request

Anna Kendrick & Blake Lively celebrate the success of A Simple Request

Anna Kendrick is meek and mild single mom Stephanie, who is trying to make a living hosting a dull  Vlog showing people how to bake cookies, make friendship bracelets, and other such household hints. Other moms in the neighborhood watch the Vlog just so they can make fun of how bad it is.

Anna Kendrick & Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Anna Kendrick & Blake Lively in A Simple Favor

Stephanie’s world is changed forever when she meets Emily (Blake Lively). Emily is everything Stephanie is not. Emily is tall, blonde, married to a gorgeous writer, and rich. Emily is a successful aggressive career woman with a fantastic fashion sense and exquisite clothing.

Henry Golding & Blake Lively in A Simple Plan

Henry Golding & Blake Lively in A Simple Plan

Stephanie and Emily’s kids play together, so the two moms see each other alot. Emily takes Stephanie under her wing and tries to teach Stephanie to stand up for herself and take charge of her life. The two become best friends and tell each other their deepest desires and secrets.

Henry Golding & Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

Henry Golding & Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor

At the same time, Emily is taking advantage of Stephanie and Stephanie does not even realize she is working as a sort of unpaid nanny.  Stephanie picks up the kids at school, cooks dinners for the the whole family and does the shopping whenever Emily has to work late. Darren (Andrew Rannells) is one of the “moms” in the neighborhood who unlike Stephanie realizes that Emily is a born user of other people.

Bashir Salahuddin is perfect as the police detective in A Simple Favor

Bashir Salahuddin is perfect as the police detective in A Simple Favor

Then Emily just disappears. Emily has supposedly gone on a business trip but then no one hears from her. Stephanie is the only person worried. Emily’s husband and co-workers all say that Emily sometimes disappears for day, weeks or even months. Stephanie decides to turn to her Vlog and ask her viewers to help in the search for Emily.  The Vlog suddenly starts becoming popular, since a missing person search is much more interesting than banking oatmeal-raisin cookies. Most of the Vlog viewers are convinced that Emily is actually dead.

Andrew Rannells is Darren one of the "moms" in A Simple Favor

Andrew Rannells is Darren one of the “moms” in A Simple Favor

While the search is going on, Stephanie  is running Emily’s household, a job that she becomes a little too comfortable with. She has sort of taken over Emily’s life. She cooks meals for Sean (Henry Golding) the gorgeous husband and spends most of her time in Emily’s huge house and even starts wearing  Emily’s clothing.

All this strange behavior brings Stephanie to the attention of police Detective Summervile (Bashir Salahuddin) who is trying to figure just what is really going on in this bizarre suburban world. As he interviews people he realizes that no one is telling him the truth about anything. He just needs to find out which of the lies are dangerous and which are just weird.

A Simple Favor is a fun movie with multiple plot twists, dark humor and a surprise ending. It makes fun of suburban life, but not in a mean way. It is a detective mystery story wrapped in a comedy, and every actor in it is wonderful. You can tell that Blake Lively loved playing the crazy “bad girl”.  Anna Kendrick has a knack for perfect comedic timing.

Night Of Camp David – the 1965 Novel about an insane President

Night Of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel is a 1965 novel about an insane President of the United States. People have been taking a lot about Night Of Camp David, due to the recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times which questions President Donald Trump’s sanity. In 1965, it became a best seller and had people panicking about what would happen if there ever was an insane President.  Reading it today, the most interesting fact is that the “insane” proposals in Night Of Camp David have now become mainstream American policy.

Night Of Camp David - The novel about a crazy President of The United States

Night Of Camp David – The novel about a crazy President of The United States

In Night Of Camp David, President Hollenbach invites a young Senator Jim MacVeigh to spend the evening at the Presidential retreat of Camp David. Once there, the  President reveals to the Senator the President’s plans for the future of America. The more the President talks the more Senator MacVeigh realizes that the President is crazy. In the rest of the book,  Senator and other high-ranking government officials secretly meet to decide what is the best course of action when a President of the United States is insane.

Is President Trump Insane?

Is President Trump Insane?

However, the “proof” that President Hollenbach is insane are some of his plans that don’t sound that crazy today. This fictitious President’s first “crazy” idea was that “the FBI be empowered to impose an automatic tap on all telephones in the country.” Thirty-six years later, in 2001 Congress did enact The Patriot Act, which basically gave the government compete authority to spy on anybody at any time.

The Patriot Act gave the government the right to spy on any American at any time.

The Patriot Act gave the government the right to spy on any American at any time.

The second “crazy” President’s idea in Night Of Camp David, was that the United States, Canada, and Sweden should merge into one country. Not a trade partnership, an actual country. This does actually sound insane until you remember that there is currently a Canadian political party called Quebec Parti 51 which wants Quebec to secede from Canada and become the 51st U.S. State. Maybe getting rid of U.S-Canada tensions by simply making Canada a part of The United States is not such a crazy idea after all. Of course, Sweden remains content to be completely independent.

Quebec Parti 51 wants Quebec to leave Canada and become part of The United States

Quebec Parti 51 wants Quebec to leave Canada and become part of The United States

Some of the parts of Night Of Camp David have an eerie familiarity with today’s current events. Like President Trump, President Hollenbach does not trust his CIA director or lots of  other senior people in his own government.

Many members of President Hollenbach’s government want to get rid of him, but are afraid of the harm that would do to their political party. (Not the country, but the political party). Today number of the “traditional” wing of the Republican party have made exactly the same comments (off the record) about President Trump. They want to dump Trump but do not want to lose the power Trump has brought to the Republican Party.

Seven Days In May - The novel about secret forces trying to take over the United States Government

Seven Days In May – The novel about secret forces trying to take over the United States Government

Fletcher Knebel was also the co-author with Charles W. Bailey II of Seven Days in May. This best selling novel (and later a motion picture), was about an attempted coup d’etat to remove by force a President Of the United States.

Has there already been a successful coup against President Trump?

Has there already been a successful coup against President Trump?

Unlike many countries in the world, the United States has never had a coup, an attempted coup or even the rumors of an attempted coup. That is, of course, until now. The anonymous Trump administration official who wrote the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times is claiming that a successful coup has already taken place. The writer claims that senior government officials are right now running the government the way they think is “best”, completely ignoring President Trump’s explicit instructions. That certainly sounds like a successful takeover of the government.  Even Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II never thought of a plot that convoluted.

Night Of Camp David and Seven Days In May are fascinating books and still worth reading today. However, given today’s political climate you may find yourself a little depressed after reading them. You may end up longing nostalgically for 1965. That was when talk of a crazy President and the takeover of the government by unknown forces were still things listed in the realm of Fiction.

Naked Dutch Windows – the Soul of the Netherlands

Tourists gawk at the naked prostitutes in the ground floor Amsterdam windows and think that explains who the Dutch are. However, the secret of the Dutch can be seen in other naked windows far from Amsterdam; in the windows of the suburbs and countryside. Ordinary Dutch families don’t put curtains on their ground floor windows. Walking down the street at night you can look directly into the well-lit homes and see the families having dinner, or reading, or just sitting in their living rooms.

Dutch prostitutes display themselves in windows

Dutch prostitutes display themselves in windows

No, the Dutch are not exhibitionists, and they are not even the liberals  outsiders think they are. The Dutch are actually quite conservative, while at the same time being immensely practical and business-oriented.

A Typical Dutch Home with no Curtains

A Typical Dutch Home with no Curtains

The curtain-less windows in Dutch homes goes back hundreds of years. There should be nothing going on in a home on the ground floor that needs to be hidden. Some say this began in the days when Calvinism took hold in the Netherlands. No curtains was a way to demonstrate to the  world that nothing sinful was taking place in that home. Even when the Protestant Reformation faded, the practice of no curtains remained. The homes or apartments may be equipped with curtains, but the Dutch don’t actually close them.

Even in the daytime Dutch prostitutes are on sale in windows

Even in the daytime Dutch prostitutes are on sale in windows

But how does that explain the Dutch tolerating prostitutes displaying themselves in windows in Amsterdam?

Johannes Vermeer painting "Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman - The Music Lesson" Notice the lack of curtains

Johannes Vermeer painting “Lady at the Virginal with a Gentleman – The Music Lesson” Notice the lack of curtains

The Dutch are conservative family-oriented people, but they are also immensely practical. Unlike other cultures, the Dutch long ago decided that it was an idiotic waste of time and money to try to eliminate the sex trade. Instead, the Dutch have limited sex workers to specific, safe areas. Tourists gawk at the prostitutes (and possible partake in their offerings). Giant Dutch policeman patrol the district while hiding their distaste  for the whole business.

Dutch Apartments with no closed curtains on lower levels

Dutch Apartments with no closed curtains on lower levels

Meanwhile, far away from the red-light district, Dutch families quietly sit down to diner, in full view of the world. Their naked Dutch windows displaying to passers-by who the Dutch really are .

CQ – A Good Movie about making a bad movie

CQ is a cute, funny film about the making of a really bad movie. Jeremy Davies stars as Paul, a young low level film editor, who suddenly gets promoted to Director when the film’s real Director quits in a huff. This is Paul’s big chance in the film industry, but he has been given an almost impossible task. The cheesy Sci-Fi movie’s script has a terrible ending. Paul has been assigned to re-write and re-film the ending to make the whole movie worth watching. However Paul is stuck with the problem that 90% of the film has already been shot.

Angela Lindvall as "Dragonfly" in CQ

Angela Lindvall as “Dragonfly” in CQ

Paul immediately falls in love with Valentine (Angela Lindvall), the beautiful young actress who is the star of the Sci-Fi movie. She also happens to be charming and friendly and works with Paul to try to make a terrible film good.

Jeremy Davis & Angela Lindvall in "CQ"

Jeremy Davies & Angela Lindvall in “CQ”

The Sci-Fi film is titled Codename Dragonfly. Valentine is “Dragonfly”, a secret agent who lives in a spaceship on top of the Eiffel Tower. Periodically Dragonfly takes her spaceship to the Moon (where there are snowstorms). Paul must somehow turn Codename Dragonfly into a movie which audiences will actually pay to watch.

Paul is the kind of hero we love to root for in a movie. He is soft spoken, nice and unassuming. Until he got promoted to Director, no one really appreciated how hard he worked behind the scenes fixing other peoples’ mistakes. Anyone who has ever worked hard in a company while lazy higher-level people took all the credit will sympathize with Paul.

Gerard Depardieu as a crazy movie director in CQ

Gerard Depardieu as a crazy movie director in CQ

CQ takes place in France and Italy.  Paul and Valentine are two of the few Americans working on the Sci-Fi movie. There are many scenes in which they also seems like the only sane people. The French and Italians continually get into screaming arguments over trivial matters. Gerard Depardieu plays Andreze the crazy ex-Director who tries to sabotage the movie to keep anyone else from “ruining” his vision. This is perfect casting, since the actor Gerard Depardieu is known for being sort of crazy. He recently publicly protested high French taxes by becoming a citizen of Russia of all places.

Massimo Ghini is a womanizing movie producer in "CQ"

Massimo Ghini is a womanizing movie producer in “CQ”

Massimo Ghini is Fabrizio, the producer and film company owner. He is a flamboyant, womanizing Italian who boasts he has become rich by making 36 very profitable low-budget movies. His best characteristic is that he has complete faith in Paul’s ability to turn the movie around, and is very encouraging to Paul.

CQ is code for “Seek You”, since Paul is seeking to win the heart of the woman he loves. The best way he can see to do that is to come up with the perfect ending to make her starring role a success.

Jeremy Davis & Massimo Ghini in "CQ"

Jeremy Davies & Massimo Ghini in “CQ”

CQ is fun to watch and it has no deep meanings, political agendas, violence or gore. It is a wonderful love story for everyone with an object of desire far beyond their grasp.

Mississippi Grind – a losing gambler meets his Mississippi savior

Mississippi Grind on Netflix is the story of a losing gambler and his last chance to set his world right.  Ben Mendelsohn is Gerry, a down-and-outer who owes everybody money. Gerry keeps making things worse by trying to gamble his way out of his debt. Gerry’s world suddenly changes when he meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) at a poker game in Dubuque Iowa. Curtis is everything Gerry is not. Curtis is handsome, well dressed, personable and most of all; a winner.

Ryan Reynolds & Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind

Ryan Reynolds & Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind

Curtis takes Gerry under his wing and Curtis’ luck begins to change. He starts to win. The two gamblers become friends and Curtis forms a wild plan to solve all of Gerry’s problems.  They will drive south on roads following the Mississippi River and stop to gamble at every legal and illegal establishment they know. By the time they reach New Orleans they will be rich.

Of course it is an idiotic idea, but you want them to succeed. Gerry is a self-destructive loser but you can’t help liking him. Curtis, on the other hand, is something of a mystery. No one could possibly be as relaxed and easy going as Curtis pretends to be. As the trip progresses we begin to see his dark side and worry if he is simply leading Gerry on a path of destruction.

Mississippi Grind accurately depicts how true gamblers are driven more by the need for excitement and companionship than they are by the money. Gerry and Curtis will bet on anything. Poker, Blackjack, Roulette, Dog Races and even flipping coins are just some of the things they try. Telling stories about past big wins and losses and famous gamblers they have met are all part of the fun.

Curtis tells one story which perfectly describes the mindset of a pure gambler. He says that a man went to a Los Vegas casino with only $60 in his pocket. He gambled all day and into the night and kept winning until eventually he had $10,000. Then he bet the entire $10,000 on one roll of the dice, and lost it all. As the man left the casino someone asked him “Aren’t you upset that you just lost $10,000?” The gambler smiled and happily replied, “What are you taking about? I only lost $60.”

Alfre Woodard is a cold as ice bookie in Mississippi Grind

Alfre Woodard is a cold as ice bookie in Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind is a fascinating movie, and it is nice to see a “buddy-movie” that is not about cops. The plot is great and the acting superb. Even the actors with small scenes in the film are terrific. Alfre Woodard is a bookie who meets Gerry in a diner and who seems genuinely concerned about Gerry. Then when Gerry admits he does not have the cash to pay his debts, a whole different side to the bookie is revealed.

Sienna Miller in Mississippi Grind

Sienna Miller in Mississippi Grind

Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are Simone and Vanessa; casino waitresses/part time prostitutes who Curtis and Gerry stay with for a short time. Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton make these characters complex and in depth instead of going for the easy stereotype stock characterizations.

Analeigh Tipton & Ben Mendelshon in Mississippi Grind

Analeigh Tipton & Ben Mendelshon in Mississippi Grind

`There is a building tension as Mississippi Grind progresses. Curtis keeps talking about the need to know when to finally quit and walk away from it all. He calls it “Machu Piccu Time.”  This is when you give up the gambling life and go someplace far away and relaxing, never to gamble again. The only question is, will he have the strength to follow his own advice?

BlacKkKlansman – a powerful film of race relations in America – NOT a comedy

BlacKkKansman is a powerful and moving film about race relations. Unfortunately it is being marketed as a light comedy. BlacKkKlansman is the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American Colorado police officer who went undercover to expose the Ku Klux Klan and its violence in the late 1960s & early 1970s.  BlacKkKlansman is a clever film, since it tricks audiences by starting out as a silly comedy, and then slowly becomes more and more serious as the movie progresses.

John David Washington & Laura Harrier in BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington & Laura Harrier in BlacKkKlansman

At first, the whole idea seems ridiculous. How could a black man go under cover in the Ku Klux Klan? It starts with detective Ron Stallworth (perfectly played by John David Washington) answering an ad which is looking for new members in the Ku Klux Klan. Ron thought he would just get some literature in the mail which he could then file in the police records. Instead, he ends up speaking to the head of the local Klan, and getting invited to a meeting.

Adam Driver & John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman

Adam Driver & John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman

Of course, Ron cannot possibly attend the meeting himself, so he sends an undercover White police officer instead. The undercover cop is Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who as the name suggests is Jewish. Flip has to hide this fact, since the Ku Klux Klan hates Jews at least as much as it hates black people. The Klan also hates Catholics, Hindus and Muslims.

John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Adam Driver & Spike Lee at the premier of BlacKkKlansman

John David Washington, Laura Harrier, Adam Driver & Spike Lee at the premier of BlacKkKlansman

Meeting the Klan members is when we begin to get hints that the movie is going in a whole new direction. The Klan members have illegal guns and explosives and plan to use them. Some of the members are active duty Army soldiers and have been stealing explosives from the military.

Topher Grace as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman

Topher Grace as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman also shows the African-American side of this same period in American history. Some aspects of the late 1960s and early 1970s always seem silly. Giant Afros, sequined Bell Bottoms, and people using expressions like “right-on brother.” However, behind this silliness, were serious life-changing issues. As well as reporting on the Ku Klux Klan, Officer Ron Stallworth has been assigned to infiltrate the Black Student Union at the local college, to see if anyone is considering violent action against the police. There he meets and immediately falls in love with Patrice (Laura Harrier), the beautiful head of the Black Student Union. He cannot tell her who he really is, especially when she refers to all police officer as “pigs” and reserves her highest hatred for Black police officers. Ron keeps trying to convince her that the system can be changed for within.

Heather Danielle Heyer - murdered by a neo-Nazi

Heather Danielle Heyer – murdered by a neo-Nazi

The acting in BlacKkKlansman is powerful and comes from some unexpected sources. David Duke is played by Topher Grace, who most people remember best as Eric in That 70s Show. He is frighteningly realistic in the role as David Duke, the national director of the Ku Klux Klan. He is the well-spoken, reasonable face of the Klan. He states openly that his goal is to make the racist views of the Klan more and more acceptable to main stream America, until eventually a White Supremacist can get elected to the White House.

Harry Belafonte in BlacKkKlansman

Harry Belafonte in BlacKkKlansman

The most moving scene in BlacKkKlansman comes from Harry Belafonte, as Mr.Turrentine, an old man who is brought in as a guest speaker to the Black Student Union. He describes in graphic detail an event he witnessed as a young man. A friend of his had been accused of raping a White woman, and a crowd tortured, castrated and lynched the accused man. None of this is shown on screen. We just see the old Mr. Turrentine and hear his words. Somehow that is more powerful and real.

Trump statement about the KKK and David Duke

Trump statement about the KKK and David Duke

BlacKkKlansman is one of the best movies we have seen this year. It is also the most depressing, because there is the overwhelming feeling that things have not gotten better. The movie ends with news footage showing the 2017 Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville Virginia, with gun toting White Supremacists carrying Nazi Flags. The news footage shows James Alex Fields drive his car into the crowd of peaceful counter-protestors, killing Heather Danielle Heyer. The film then switches to President Donald Trump refusing to condemn the White Supremacists and, in fact, stating that many of the Unite the Right group are “good people.”

So, BlacKkKlansman is a film that sneaks up on the audience and takes it in a totally unexpected path. That is part of what makes it so good. We saw BlacKkKlansman in a very crowded theater and yet there was dead silence when the movie ended. The stunned audience filed out quietly with their heads down; ashamed that America’s racial issues have not been solved, and frightened that perhaps they never will be.

Is Kaspersky Spying on You? The U.S. Government Says Yes.

The U.S. government believes that Kapsersky anti-virus software is actually a Russian spy. That is why Kaspersky software has been purged from all U.S. government databases. Best Buy’s Geek Squad has also stopped  using Kaspersky. The allegations are that Kapersky offers free antivirus systems so that it can actually search your computer for anything that may be of interest to the Russian Government.

Young Yeyveny (Eugene) Kapersky in his KGB uniform

Young Yeyveny (Eugene) Kapersky in his KGB uniform

Some people say that if you are not a government agency what does it matter? What do you have on your personal computer that the Russians could possibly want?  The answer is “a lot of things.” With access to your computer, Kaspersky can tell what your credit card numbers are, your bank account information, your 401K passwords. Basically your whole life. If Vladimir Putin ever wanted to launch a full scale cyber  attack on the United States, the data stolen by Kaspersky has already given him all the ammunition he needs. Imagine the chaos if millions of Americans suddenly found their bank accounts and 401ks wiped out and thousands of false items charged to their credit cards. If you don’t think Putin is capable of an unprovoked attack on another country,   just ask any Ukrainian what they think.

Vladimir Putin feels the only way to make Russia stronger is by making the United States weaker.

Vladimir Putin feels the only way to make Russia stronger is by making the United States weaker.

During the days of the Soviet Union, Yevgeny  (Eugene) Kapersky was a member of the KGB. In fact, he was one of the technical professors of what was known as the KGB Higher School.

Is Kapersky protecting you, or attacking you?

Is Kapersky protecting you, or attacking you?

Even if Kaspersky is not  directly stealing data, there is a more subtle way in which Kaspersky can cause tremendous harm. Kaspersky simply does its job selectively. Kaspersky, has been accused of NOT stopping hackers and computer viruses if  the  attack originates in  Russia. Kaspersky does not have to attack you itself. It simply leaves your system open to attack by its Russian friends. It would be like a locksmith installing new locks in your home and then giving copies of the keys to a thief. In this case the thief is the Russian government or a Russian hacker.

Of course, Kaspersly vehemently  denies all of these allegations, and  its website goes into detail defending itself. However, the U.S. Government, Best Buy, Bloomberg Business News, The New York Times and even Rolling Stone Magazine have all warned the public about Kaspersky. Are they all being paranoid? Remember the old expression, “even a paranoid person has some real enemies”.

Internet Trolls are everywhere, but what is the cost of getting rid of them?

Internet Trolls are everywhere, but what is the cost of getting rid of them?

Allegations about Kapersky’s crimes also come from the makers of other antivirus software. They claim that Kapersky has developed its own computer viruses to attack competitors. Of course, these are the same rumors that have been around for decades about McAfee. Many in the I.T. community believe that John McAfee actually invented the World’s first computer virus, and then got rich selling protection against it. John McAfee has even been accused of Rape and Murder. Is Kapersky just a victim of people’s hatred of all large computer companies, or is there a real problem?

East Coast Stories keeps spam off its website

East Coast Stories keeps spam off its website

You will have to make a decision about Kapersky yourself. Thanks for reading East Coast Stories. Stay safe.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee – delightful & fascinating

Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, is a fascinating look at well-known comedians when they are not on stage. Jerry Seinfeld is the perfect host, letting the guests lead the conversation. As the talking meanders during coffee and lunch, the celebrities open up much more about themselves than they ever do on the structured late-night talk shows.

Sarah Jessica Parker & Jerry Seinfeld

Sarah Jessica Parker & Jerry Seinfeld

The setup of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is exactly what the title says. Jerry Seinfeld picks up the celebrity in a car, and the first part of the conversation takes place in the car while they are driving to the coffee shop. However, Jerry Seinfeld does not just use any car. He specifically picks a car that evokes strong emotions for that celebrity. Sarah Jessica Parker was thrilled when Jerry Seinfeld picked her up in an old Ford LTD Station Wagon.  For Sarah Jessica Parker the station wagon brought back fun memories of her childhood, when she would ride in the way way back with the other kids.

Jerry Lewis & Jerry Seinfeld. Notice the mobster's pinky ring on Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis & Jerry Seinfeld. Notice the mobster’s pinky ring on Jerry Lewis

For Jerry Lewis, the car chosen was a Spider sports car, which is exactly the type Jerry Lewis owned when he was a young playboy. Jerry Lewis’ appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was his final interview before his death, yet his mind was still sharp as a tack and he had fascinating stories. Jerry Lewis always wears a gold pinky ring, and he explained that it was given to him by a member of organized crime. Lewis said that in the old days organized crime was very big in the comedy nightclub circuit. Jerry Lewis referred to gangsters as “the boys.” Jerry Lewis explained that if one of “the boys” gave you a pinky ring as a sign of friendship then you better wear it all the time, in order to show respect to that gangster. Once you wore that ring it was a symbol other gangsters recognized, and they would come up to you and ask who gave it to you.

Jay Leno & Jerry Seinfeld

Jay Leno & Jerry Seinfeld

Jay Leno also had a gangster story from when Leno was a young comedian. Leno got a call from one of Frank Sinatra’s assistants asking Leno to perform at Frank Sinatra’s birthday party. Leno told the assistant that unfortunately he was booked at a club in the Catskills for the entire month, and would not be able to make Sinatra’s birthday. The assistant politely thanked Leno and hung up. Ten minutes later, Jay Leno’s agent called with the news, “the Catskills club doesn’t need you anymore.”  Leno got the hint, and ended up performing at Frank Sinatra’s birthday party.

Michael Richards seed the battered van Jerry Seinfeld has chosen for him

Michael Richards seed the battered van Jerry Seinfeld has chosen for him

The Michael Richards interview was perhaps the most revealing. Michael Richard’s, of course, played Kramer on Seinfeld. After the Seinfeld show ended, Richards tried to go back to stand-up comedy, with spectacularly disastrous results. His jokes were not funny. In 2006, he responded to an African –American heckler by unleashing a torrent or screaming racial slurs. It was all captured on a cell phone video and went viral, thus making Richards an instant pariah.  When Michael Richards was on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we wondered if he or Jerry would mention the racial incident, or just ignore it completely.

For quite a while in the interview, Michael Richards was simply doing his shtick and being his character. Then he finally loosened up and got real. He talked  about how ashamed he was of that rant and how he had lost sight of who he really was and the fact that he was supposed to be on stage to bring enjoyment to people . He also thanked Jerry Seinfeld for standing by him during those dark times. Appropriately, the car chosen for Richards was an old Volkswagen van which had been converted into a flatbed delivery vehicle. It was battered and rusted but somehow still chugging along. Just like Michael Richards himself.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is worth a look. Jerry Seinfeld, of course, is at a stage in his career where he no longer has to worry about achieving fame or financial success. He is relaxed and at ease and does Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for the pure love of his craft and his fellow comedians.

Marcella – A British Detective series with a Dark Psychological twist

Marcella on Netflix is a murder mystery, with the added twist that the investigating detective might be a murderer herself. Set in modern-day London, the police are trying to track down a brutal serial killer before the murderer strikes again. Anna Friel is Detective Marcella Backland whose personal life is a disaster. Her husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock) is an ice-cold corporate lawyer who walks out of the marriage to be with his beautiful and wealthy mistress. Shortly after that, his mistress turns up murdered in the same  style of the serial killer that Marcella is tracking. Is it coincidence, or did Marcella just find a perfect way to kill her husband’s mistress and get away with it?

Nicholas Pinnock & Anna Friel in "Marcella"

Nicholas Pinnock & Anna Friel in “Marcella”

No one suspects Marcella, and even she does not know if she is the murderer. For years, Marcella has been hiding the fact that she suffers periodic blackouts when she is under extreme stress. Minutes and sometimes even hours are simply missing from her memory. As the story progresses, Marcella is investigating all the murders, while at the same time doing all she can to cover up any connection she might have to her husband’s mistress.

Ray Panthaki & Anna Friel in Marcella

Ray Panthaki & Anna Friel in Marcella

The plot and acting in Marcella are fantastic. Ray Panthaki is Detective Inspector Rav Sangha, who is not happy that Marcella has been forced onto his team. The fact that Marcella is often investigating on her own without keeping him informed only confirms his suspicions that there is something not quite right about Marcella.

London, UK. Nina Sosanya at The Sky Arts Awards at the Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London on Sunday 7 June 2015. Ref: LMK392 -51429-080615 Vivienne Vincent/Landmark Media. WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.

London, UK. Nina Sosanya at The Sky Arts Awards at the Savoy Hotel, The Strand, London on Sunday 7 June 2015.Ref: LMK392 -51429-080615
Vivienne Vincent/Landmark Media. WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.

Nina Sosanya is Detective Chief Inspector Laura Porter, who is trying to keep the investigations on track despite the conflicting personalities of all her officers.

Anna Friel washes off blood in Marcella

Anna Friel washes off blood in Marcella

Marcella is one of those addictive series that is perfect for binge watching. It has 3 complete seasons on Netflix, and once you start watching it you will find it hard to stop. We Marcella our highest rating.

9 Duke University Rumors, Truths & Embarrassments

Here are  9 Duke University Rumors, Truths and Embarrassments. We will leave it to you to figure out which is which.

James B. Duke actually wanted to donate his money to Princeton University, but Princeton refused to rename itself “Duke”. However, Durham North Carolina’s Trinity College was happy to accept the endowment and rename itself Duke University.  The “official” version is that James B. Duke donated the funds without strings attached, and that the board of trustees “insisted” that Trinity be renamed Duke.

Duke University, which is designed to look like Princeton

Duke University, which is designed to look like Princeton

Duke was built to try to look as old as the Ivy League colleges. This included making the steps out of soft sandstone so that they would wear down quickly and look like they had been there for a hundred years or more.  However, the steps wore down so quickly that many had to be replaced by hard cement, which certainly did not look Ivy League.

Princeton University, which refused to change its name to Duke

Princeton University, which refused to change its name to Duke

Duke continues to have an inferiority complex against the Ivy League schools. Duke is often referred to as “the Harvard of the South”. Anyone from Duke hates that expression and does not consider it a compliment. If you use that expression a Duke person will immediately say, “Duke is NOT the Harvard of the South. Harvard is the Duke of the North.” When movies are shown on Duke’s  campus, if Harvard University happens to appear in a film, Duke students will boo and hiss.

Duke fans yell as Clemson's K.J. McDaniels inbounds the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham.

Duke fans yell as Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels inbounds the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham.

Basketball was not invented at Duke but outrageously crazy basketball fan behavior was. There was a time in the distant past when basketball fans observed a certain etiquette, such as remaining silent when a player from an opposing team had a foul shot. Duke fans at Cameron Stadium ended all that. It was Duke fans that began the practice of screaming and waving banners to distract the opposing players during foul shots. Duke basketball fans also go to the trouble of finding out as much embarrassing personal information about the opposing players as possible. At one game, the opposing team had a player who had once been arrested for stealing a car.  Each time that player had a foul shot, every Duke fan in Cameron Stadium took out car keys and jingled them. That player missed every shot.

UNC fans express their feelings towards Duke

UNC fans express their feelings towards Duke

The “Four Q” cheer was invented at Duke. The cheerleaders repeat four times, “Give me a Q.” Then the cheerleaders ask, “what does it spell?”. The Duke crowd screams “FOUR Q!”. (Say it real fast and see what it sounds like.).

The gorgeous Doris Duke

The gorgeous Doris Duke

There is a stone wall around Duke’s “women’s campus” that is three feet above ground and 9 feet underground. At the time it was built the East Campus was for women only and the men were on the West Campus. An old alumnus donated a large amount of money, with the proviso that some of it had to be used to build a 12 foot wall around the women’s campus in order to keep the men and women separate. Duke took the money and built the 12 foot wall. Nine feet of it is underground, while above ground is an artistically lovely stone wall that looks like it belongs in New England.

American Tobacco Company gave free packs of cigarettes to immigrants arriving at Ellis Island

American Tobacco Company gave free packs of cigarettes to immigrants arriving at Ellis Island

James B. Duke hugely increased the sales of the American Tobacco company by having the company hand out free cigarettes packs to immigrants on Ellis Island. It was a stroke of marketing genius. Cigarette smokers are notoriously fickle and usually change brands many times over the course of a lifetime. Duke stationed men exactly where immigrants came out after having been cleared at Ellis Island. The American Tobacco men would give the immigrants a warm greeting and say “welcome to America”, and give each one a free pack of cigarettes. Later marketing studies showed that the immigrants were so impressed with getting something for free on the first day in America that almost 100% of them never switched to another cigarette brand. It is unclear if the immigrant children were given free cigarette packs as well as the adults. However, we have a strong feeling they were.

Southerners do not consider Duke a real Southern School, since most of the professors and students are actually Northerners. In fact UNC students have bumper stickers making fun of “Dook”, which is a dig at the way Northerners pronounce Duke. A real Southerner pronounces it “Duue_uke”, somehow stretching it out to a two syllable word.

Duke Rice diet participants

Duke Rice diet participants

In the 1970’s the Duke Medical Center was best known for the Rice Diet. Morbidly obese people from all over the country flocked to Duke for Doctor Walter Kempner’s rice diet. They would stuff themselves with huge amounts of white rice, thinking that this would somehow make them lose weight. Apparently none of them ever saw a Sumo Wrestler.  Comedian Buddy Hackett came to Duke for 2 weeks every year. When he was not  at the Duke Medical Center, Buddy Hackett was usually at the Dope Shop (the basement hamburger stand) wolfing down hamburgers, and buying food for crowds of students. So the Duke Medical Center, which is now famous for heart transplants and other amazing procedures, was once just home of a fad diet

Buddy Hackett, who never lost an ounce on the Duke Rice Diet

Buddy Hackett, who never lost an ounce on the Duke Rice Diet

Some of these are true and some are just rumors. How much to you really know about Duke University?

The Naked Sun- Isaac Asimov’s Erotic Sci-Fi Mystery

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov was the first Science Fiction book I ever bought . It had a beautiful naked woman on the cover, which was why I bought it.  I was in middle school, and the library was having a used book sale. I could not believe the school had an erotic book for sale. I grabbed it and quickly paid, half expecting the ancient librarian to snatch it out of my hand and slap my face. Instead, she simply took my money and moved on to the next customer.

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov - the original erotic cover

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov – the original erotic cover

Of course, the woman on the cover of The Naked Sun was not completely nude. A couple of key parts were strategically covered by stars. However, to a  a boy in middle school in those days, this was still incredibly exciting, even with the stars.

The Naked Sun author Isaac Asimov

The Naked Sun author Isaac Asimov

The Naked Sun was not the smutty sex book I was expecting. However, it did turn out to be a terrific story, and turned me on to the wonderful universe of Science Fiction writing. Of course, Isaac Asimov was one of the best science fiction writers of all time. Although The Naked Sun was released in 1957, its story still resonates today.

People on the internet, completely ignoring the real people next to them

People on the internet, completely ignoring the real people next to them

The Naked Sun is a murder mystery that takes place on the planet Solaria, and the investigating detective is from Earth. The main suspect is Gladia, the beautiful widow of the murder victim. On Solaria, the main form of communication is “Viewing” where people contact each other through devices allowing them to see and hear each other remotely. Remember that The Naked Sun was written decades before the internet or Skype.

Twilight Zone to get social commentary past T.V. censors

Rod Serling used The Twilight Zone to get social commentary past T.V. censors

Asimov’s predictions of how such viewing devices would change human behavior were amazingly accurate. In The Naked Sun, people prefer Viewing to any actual face -to-face meetings. People will be very open and even intimate while viewing, yet feel awkward and shy in real physical meetings. This prediction came true. Take a look at any Starbucks, and you will see people having “relationships” on their cell phones or laptops, while completely ignoring the real humans  sitting right next to them.

Star Wars was actually about the religious awaking of Luke Skywalker

Star Wars was actually about the religious awaking of Luke Skywalker

There is actual nudity in The Naked Sun. The detective Elijah first interviews Gladia on the viewing device, and she is completely relaxed about changing clothing while speaking with him. He is shocked to find that she does not consider it at all inappropriate for a stranger to see her naked. However, later when they actually meet in person, she is covered head to toe, including long gloves. The Naked Sun accurately predicted our strange modern world where people act completely different on the internet than they do in “real life”. In some ways in The Naked Sun, Earth is 1957, while Solarnia is Earth of The Future.

Science Fiction has never gotten the respect given to other genres. In some ways this has been its greatest strength. Censors never took science fiction seriously and consequently did not pay that much attention to it. Rod Serling was able to use the The Twilight Zone to explore social and moral issues that television censors would have banned in “serious” dramas. Star Wars was actually about a religious awaking in Luke Skywalker, who comes to believe in an invisible  “force” which connects all living entities in the universe. In  Half A Life, Soviet author Kirill Bulychev was able to criticize the Soviet Union, without getting himself thrown into a gulag.

So take a look at the classics of science fiction, even if the last time you read science fiction stories was when you were a kid. You may find that now that you are an adult you find a new and deeper meaning to these adventures. The Naked Sun is a good book to start with. By the way, even after these years, the woman on the cover of The Naked Sun Still looks great.

The Affair Season 4- Dull, repetitive, not worth watching

The Affair should have ended the series after Season 3. Brandon Frazier’s character as the friendly prison guard (John Gunther), turned sadistic stalker was perfect. This double twist became a triple twist when it was revealed that Gunther was actually the loving father of an autistic boy and the true attempted assassin was revealed.

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

However, with the exception of Seinfield, television producers just cannot walk away from a franchise while it still has a chance to make more money. So The Affair went on to Season 4 with new characters, new locations and new plot lines. They are all awful.

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

One of the problems with The Affair Season 4 is that half of the characters have  moved to California. The hallmark of the prior seasons of The Affair was that it was definitely an East Coast show. The Affair perfectly captured the real-life tension between the local Montauk Long Island residents and the wealthy New York City people who come out for the summer. The locals hate the pushy condescending New Yorkers, but have to suck up to them, since the New Yorkers provide all the money for the community. When the Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson) and Noah Solloway (Dominic West) affair was revealed, it was more than just a private matter. The entire Montauk community took sides, because the affair was between a New Yorker and a local. Alison was quickly branded a “slut” by the other locals. Noah was ridiculed by the New Yorkers because he had slept “below his station”. If he had conducted a discrete affair with a professional woman back in New York City, his marriage would probably not have ended. However, he had slept with a local waitress in a vacation town so small they had no chance of keeping it secret.

Maura Tierney, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson & Joshua Johnson in The Affair

Maura Tierney, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson & Joshua Johnson in The Affair

Season 4 of The Affair tries to be bi-coastal, and like all bi-coastal relationships, it  just doesn’t work. The various plot lines are disjointed and uninteresting.  Helen Solloway (Maura Tierney) and the kids have moved to Los Angeles, and Noah has taken a teaching job at a local school to be near them. It is ridiculous that a Charter School would hire a teacher who has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for manslaughter. Noah Solloway’s conviction was big news in the tabloid press. Are we supposed to believe that the kid’s parents’ are OK with a murderer teaching their children?

Noah and Helen fight constantly about who gets to spend time with the kids. This is not an exciting plot. It is just a divorced couple’s squabble that you can hear from any divorced couple anywhere in the country.

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

The plot on the East Coast is not any more interesting that that in Los Angeles. Alison is working at center trying to help people with PTSD. Cole Lockhart (Joshua Jackson) is now a successful businessman, while his wife Luisa (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is worried she might be deported since she is an illegal immigrant. All you have to do is turn on the news to see 100 more interesting stories about illegal immigrants  than the Luisa immigration issue being forced into The Affair.

Another problem with Season 4 of The Affair is that No One Is Having An Affair! There are just a lot of family squabbles and arguments between married or divorced people. The first three seasons of The Affair had the sexual excitement of reckless behavior taken to the extreme. This was followed by the devastating consequences of the affair, which destroyed whole families, careers and a life. In Season 4 of The Affair, on the other hand, Noah, Cole and Alison are all so reasonable and centered that it is just dull.

There is supposed to be a mystery, which apparently will be dragged out through Season 4. Someone has disappeared (probably Alison, but it could be Luisa). Cole and Noah are working together in Montauk to find her. This scenario seems very forced. Are we really supposed to believe that Noah and Cole are now capable of working together as mature adults, even though Cole believes Noah killed Cole’s brother? This plot line just seems like something a hack T.V. writer came up with after running out of ideas.

Dominic West as Noah and Sanaa Lathan as Janelle in The Affair (Season 4, Episode 1). -Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME -Photo ID: The Affair_401_0931

Dominic West as Noah and Sanaa Lathan as Janelle in The Affair (Season 4, Episode 1). -Photo: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME -Photo ID: The Affair_401_0931

There are some new sub-characters that have been forced into the West Coast plot, but they all seem like rejects from other T.V. shows. The students at Noah’s school are sassy and speak and act the way no real High School kids speak or act. The Principal is an angry African American (Sanna Lathan) who feels she has to always act formally and never lose control. It angers her that  her son  always wears a hoodie in class and speaks “ghetto” even though he is intelligent and well educated.  Could this portrayal of African Americans in education possibly be any more condescending? When did The Affair turn into an after school special about race in American education?

On the East Coast, Alison seems to be heading towards a sexual relationship with a veteran who helps other vets suffering from PTSD (Ramon Rodriguez).  But who really cares? Neither of them are married and there is a complete lack of on-screen chemistry or excitement between them.

It is a shame to see how much The Affair has gone downhill. We loved the first three seasons of The Affair, but recommend you skip Season 4.

A Stupid and Futile Gesture – The Rise and Fall of National Lampoon

A Stupid and Futile Gesture on Netflix is the fascinating story of the meteoric rise and tragic crash of National Lampoon; the magazine that changed American humor and culture forever.  National Lampoon created Animal House, Caddyshack, the Chevy Chase Vacation movies, and of course, one of the best humor magazines ever published. Saturday Night Live was started by people who were lured away from National Lampoon. Lorne Michaels still gets credit for being a creative genius, but all he did was take the actors and writers of The National Lampoon Radio Hour and offer them more money to come to NBC and start Saturday Night Live.

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

Will Forte plays Doug Kenney, and Domhnall Gleeson plays Henry Beard, the two co-founders of National Lampoon. Doug and Henry ran the Harvard Lampoon, and did not want the fun to stop when they graduated.  Henry Beard had been accepted to Columbia Law School, but somehow Doug Kenney was able to convince him to forego law school and join Doug’s quest to start National Lampoon. It was a ridiculous idea.  They had no money, no business experience, and had never managed anything other than a college magazine. Every publisher turned them down, except a company whose only “major” publication was Weight Watcher’s Magazine.

Will Forte & Domhnall Gleeson in "A Stupid & Futile Gesture"

Will Forte & Domhnall Gleeson in “A Stupid & Futile Gesture”

A Stupid and Futile Gesture captures the wild 1970’s. National Lampoon Magazine was based in New York City and was able to attract a group of hugely talented, somewhat insane  writers, artists and actors. They were fueled by caffeine, cocaine, alcohol and creative genius.

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

National Lampoon Magazine spoofed American culture. The magazine started at a perfect time, since to many it appeared that “traditional” America had gone crazy. The Vietnam War was a disaster, there was social and racial unrest, crime rates were rising and drug use was skyrocketing. In the true tradition of comedy, National Lampoon made fun of it all.

National Lampoon's High School Yearbook Parody- its best selling issue ever.

National Lampoon’s High School Yearbook Parody- its best selling issue ever.

Nothing was sacred to National Lampoon. Perhaps its most famous cover was the one where a nice but worried looking dog has a gun held to its head. In bold letters, the cover says, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

National Lampoon had nudity, dirty jokes, political satire and very dark humor. In one issue there was an advertisement that was a spoof of the Save The Children Foundation.  The advertisement was for Lieutenant William Calley’s Kill The Children Foundation. Of course, Lieutenant Calley was the man whose unit murdered 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre.

National Lampoon's Nixon cover

National Lampoon’s Nixon cover

Doug Kenney and Henry Beard were ready for anything, except the tremendous success of National Lampoon. As National Lampoon grew, so did the hours and the pressure. They went from being a couple of guys having fun at a college magazine, to being men who had to run a major national publication, a radio show and various movie ventures. Doug tried to cope by using more and more drugs. Henry just wanted out.

The publication company was contractually obligated to offer Doug and Henry a payout based on the magazine’s profits. The profits were by then so large that the bonuses would be a major cash drain on the company, to the point of actually threatening the survival of National Lampoon. Doug and Henry insisted on taking the payout in a lump sum, instead of spreading it out over a number of years like the publication company wanted.

What happened next is accurately portrayed in A Stupid and Futile Gesture, although many viewers will probably assume it was an exaggeration for the movie. Henry Beard took his payout check and immediacy cleaned out his desk.  He then stood in the main room of the magazine and said to the writers and artists, “Goodbye and F*** You.”. Henry Beard then left National Lampoon and never came back.

Doug Kenney stayed on and tried to run everything himself. Neither Doug nor Henry every shared a penny of their bonuses with any of the writers, artists, actors or anyone else who had helped create National Lampoon.

People continue to copy National Lampoon

People continue to copy National Lampoon

Doug Kenney could not run it all alone. Even when Henry had been there, Doug had never been very steady, sometimes disappearing for months at a time. Eventually he just had to get away and he took off to Hawaii.  What happened next is still a mystery. Did he get clean of drugs in Hawaii, or did he fall further into drug dependence? All we know for sure is that he went out for a hike one day, went off a tall cliff and died. To this day, people argue about whether he committed suicide or simply fell.

Henry Beard is often asked whether Doug jumped from the cliff or fell.  Henry always give the same dark humorous answer. Henry says, “Doug probably fell off the cliff while looking for a place to jump.” Some people might find that a sick joke, but it is exactly the type of humor Doug Kenney would have laughed at.

8 Reasons YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID TO FLY

There are many reasons you should be afraid to fly. Here are the top 8.

A plane can drop from the sky like a rock. Jet aircraft weigh thousands of pounds. The only thing keeping the jet in the sky is the flow of the air over the top of the wings. This creates what is known as “lift”. In order to have lift a lot of things have to be just perfect. The plane has to have sufficient speed, the plane has to be positioned correctly and the flaps set correctly. If a pilot makes a mistake, lift can be lost and the plane simply falls from the sky. This is exactly what happened to Colgan Air Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo in 2009 which had so little air speed that it dropped like a rock and killed all  48 people on board. The pilot Marvin Resnlow and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw misread the signals from the  aircraft, took the wrong steps and lost lift. They were unfamiliar with the aircraft and did not know that the shaking of the control stick was the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400‘s stall warning. Neither knew what this signal meant and therefore did not increase air speed when required. Colgan Air gave Rebecca Shaw so little flight time each month that she had to work in a Starbucks the rest of the time just to be able to pay her rent.

Both doomed Colgan Air Flight 3407. Both were killed in the crash

Marvin Renslow & Rebecca Shaw, pilot & co-pilot of . Both doomed Colgan Air Flight 3407. Both were killed in the crash

Pilots don’t have as much flying experience as they used to. In the Golden Age of Pan Am & TWA, pilots had a huge number of flying hours. Virtually all commercial pilots were ex-military pilots with many many hours in the air. There were fewer pilots than today but each one was incredibly experienced.  Now airlines like to have as many pilots as possible and give each one as few flying hours as possible. This keeps salaries and benefits low. Even pilots coming in from the military don’t have as many flying hours as they used to. The military has cut back on flying time in order to save costs. Military pilots have been complaining abut this for at least a decade.

Flight from Colombia to New York ran out of fuel and crashed

Flight from Colombia to New York ran out of fuel and crashed

Planes carry dangerously low levels of fuel. Fuel is heavy and the heavier a plane is the more expensive it is to fly. Pilots don’t even talk about how many gallons of jet fuel they have. They always speak of it in terms of weight. The most cost-efficient thing for an airline is to have a plane arrive at its destination with almost no fuel left in the tanks. Even jets crossing the Atlantic or Pacific are only given the minimum fuel required to make the trip. However, there have been many instances where the calculations were wrong. Planes ran out of fuel and crashed as a result. Headwinds and air-traffic delays can add unanticipated hours the trip. In 1990, an Avianca Flight 52  from Bogota Colombia to New York’s JFK airport ran out of fuel on its final approach and this fully loaded 707 crashed. Think about that the next time you are in a jet endlessly circling an airport

The Sky has never been more crowed with air traffic. Population growth, cheap air fares and a booming economy have all led to a giant increase in air travel. The entire Northeast from New York to Boston is basically a traffic jam in the sky. This mathematically increases the probability that two planes will collide.

Cory Lidle

Cory Lidle

Air Traffic Control Systems are falling apart and antiquated. Every U.S. administration says it is going to allocate funds to totally replace aging computers, radar and radio systems that make up the air traffic control system. Then other priorities come along and the money never gets approved. Glitches in the system constantly cause delayed flights and near-accidents in the air. It is no longer a question of if people are going to die because of a breakdown of the air traffic control system. It is just a matter of when.

Cory Lidle plane crash

Cory Lidle plane crash

Amateur Pilots in congested air lanes are a danger to everyone. Letting amateur pilots fly Piper Cubs in the same air space and at the same airports  as Jumbo Jets is like letting a child ride a tricycle on the New Jersey Turnpike during rush hour.  In 2006, the baseball player Cory Lidle died when he crashed a small plane into the side of a building in Manhattan while taking a flying lesson. That’s right, he was taking a flying lesson and the instructor let him fly over the most densely populated city in the United States, at a level that was lower than the buildings. Because of that accident (in whcih the flight instructor, Tyler Stanger,  also died), planes are no longer permitted to fly over Manhattan. However, people sill fly little planes and take lessons in the crowded skies over the densely populated areas all around Manhattan. It is just a matter of time until an amateur in a small prop plane hits a 747 loaded with people.

Planes are too crowded to evacuate quickly in an emergency

Planes are too crowded to evacuate quickly in an emergency

Big Jets are too crowded to be safely evacuated in the event of an emergency. If a jet does make a crash landing, people need to get out fast, before smoke and fire engulf the plane. Every wasted second can cost a human life. However, modern jet designs have made it harder than ever to get people out quickly. Aisles are narrower and seats are closer together then ever before, making it hard for people to move. In addition, the overhead bins are full of luggage and do not lock during an emergency. In emergency evacuations people do not run out quickly. Instead, they fight for their carry-on luggage and clog the exits with their suitcases.

Osama Bin Laden, his step mother Sana Bin Laden, and the family private jet

Osama Bin Laden, his step mother Sana Bin Laden, and the family private jet

Terrorists can easily use private jet airports. This is an issue virtually unknown to the general flying public. If you fly from Newark, or Kennedy, or LaGuardia, you will be subjected to security screening worthy of anyone in a prison. However, just 20 miles away in Teterboro Airport, wealthy people walk onto private jets with no security check at all. They could be carrying guns, or even bombs and there is no security inspection of the passengers, their carry-on bags or their checked luggage. This is true at any of the U.S. airports exclusively handling private jets.

near miss incidents in the air are very common as the sky becomes more crowded

near miss incidents in the air are very common as the sky becomes more crowded

There is a real social class arrogance. Since a private jet can cost as much as $50 million, the assumption is that anyone that wealthy could not possibly be a terrorist. However, you can lease a private jet, or part of a private jet for rates that run as low as 2 or 3 times First Class airfare on commercial carriers. This then allows you full access to walk in and get on the jet with no security check. It is idiotic to assume that terrorists don’t have enough money to do this. Osama Bin Laden came from a very wealthy family that actually does own a private jet. Many terrorist organizations have millions of dollars in funding with more than enough money to get a private jet. These private jet airports have fences and maximum security to keep anyone from breaking in from the outside. However, a terrorist with  the money to lease or buy a jet can just drive through the main gate and be waived in as a full member of the club. If you think terrorist organizations have not already thought of this- think again. Ironically, Teterboro Airport is owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which is the same entity that operates Newark Airport. They are giving body scans to old grandmas at Newark Airport, while 20 miles away in Teterboro terrorists can walk onto a private jet fully armed.

If we have made you scared to fly GOOD!. Nothing will change if the flying public continues to think flying is safe. The biggest problem is that the flying public has gotten the air travel system it deserves. Any time a choice needs to be made the general public just wants air travel cheaper and cheaper. As a consequence, we have a system with badly trained pilots, antiquated air traffic control systems, overcrowded planes and lax security. To make the air travel system truly safe is going to cost lots and lots and lots of money. Air travel needs to be much more expensive than it is, and the government needs to spend huge amounts of money fixing the entire system.  No one wants to hear this but it needs to be said. There also need to be regulations making airlines carry more fuel, increase aisle width and have devices that lock the luggage racks during emergencies. All of this will cost  millions, and airlines will have to raise ticket prices. There also needs to be a regulation requiring passenger screening for private jets, even if the people own the jets. Just being rich doesn’t make you automatically good.

Will any of the changes required to make air travel safer happen? We don’t think so. We just hope you remember this story the next time there is a major airplane disaster.

Secret City – An Australian Spy/Diplomatic Thriller

Secret City (now on Netflix) is a fascinating diplomatic/spy series filmed in Australia’s capital city of CanberraAnna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley, who is trying to find the truth in a complex web of lies involving escalating conflicts  between  China and The United States, with Australia caught in the middle.

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in "Secret City"

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in “Secret City”

It begins when  young Australian protestor Sabine Hobbs (wonderfully played by Alice Chaston) sets herself on fire in China to protest China’s treatment of Tibet. She does not die, and for some unknown reason, the Chinese make the political blunder of holding her prisoner instead of sending her back home to Australia. This sets off a wave of anti-Chinese demonstrations in Australia. The Americans intend to take full advantage of this and press the Australian Navy to join them in military exercises close to the Chinese coast.

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Secret City is a fascinating look at the complexities of Australian politics, which most foreigners do not understand at all. Australia finds itself in an almost impossible situation. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, whereas The United States is Australia’s strongest military ally. The government of Australia wants to be friends with both, but is constantly being pressed to choose one side or the other.

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in "Secret City"

Daniel Wylie as Defense Minister Mal Paxton in “Secret City”

Daniel Wylie is the new defense minister Mel Paxton. He is from the Labor Party and wants to keep Australia’s employment rate high and its defense spending low. The best way to do this is to maintain good relations with China. However, there are events in his past that make it possible he is actually being blackmailed into this stance by the Chinese.

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver is Attorney General Catriona Bailey. She wants maximum power for herself and a complete alliance with the Americans against the Chinese. Minister Bailey wants the country to enact something called the “Safe Australia Act”. This would give the Australian government the power to arrest any journalist who published something “not in the national interest”. Of course, she would have complete power to decide what is and is not in Australia’s “national interest”.

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

In the middle of all of this is political reporter Harriet Dunkley who in trying to discover the truth begins to realize that there might be no truth at all . Everyone she meets is lying to her. The only question is whose lies are doing the most harm.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Australia

Harriet’s personal life is as much a mess as her personal life. Her ex-husband Kim divorced her when he decided to go the trans-gender route and become a woman. Damon Herriman is perfect as Kim, who still cares deeply for Harriet and tries to protect her whenever possible. Kim is an Australian intelligence officer with access to most, but not all, of the city’s secrets. Even Kim never knows the whole truth.

In Secret City, Australia’s capital of Canberra is almost a character itself. For outsiders, Canberra is vastly different than the pictures one is normally used to seeing of Sydney.  Unlike Sydney, Canberra is cold and has a somewhat sterile quality. All of the buildings are new and spotlessly clean, but somehow seem lifeless and foreboding. Of course, Secret City filmed them this way to add to the tension,. However, it is quite effective.

I

Boston-New York Hatred, the Sexy New York Mistress and Babe Ruth

The people of Boston and New York City have hated each other since the founding of The United States. In fact, Boston and New York hate each other because of the founding of the United States. The people of Boston wanted independence from the British, whereas most of the people of New York did not. The City of New York has always revolved around business and trade. This makes sense. It was founded as New Amsterdam by the Dutch, a culture that thrives on trade even today.

British General William Howe. The man who lost the Revolutionary War to the Americans

British General William Howe. The man who lost the Revolutionary War to the Americans

In 1776 New Yorkers had no interest in joining Bostonians in a revolt against America’s largest trading partner. The idea of losing lucrative export-import contracts horrified New York business tycoons. That is why New Yorkers welcomed with open arms the British Red Coats who arrived in the thousands to put down the upstart American Colonies.

One of the most welcoming New Yorkers was the beautiful, 25 year old  Mrs. Elizabeth Lloyd Loring.  She quickly became the mistress of British General Howe, the commander of all British forces in American. People in Boston spoke about Elizabeth Loring in terms too obscene to be printed here. However, in retrospect the American Patriots should have praised the sexual skills of Mrs. Loring. She is possibly the single individual most directly responsible for the British losing the American Revolution. Sadly there is no painting of Mrs. Loring.

Make no mistake about it. The Americans did not win the revolution, the British lost it. The British had superior land and naval forces, better training, better weapons, and plenty of money to buy food supplies, horses and anything else they required.

However, unlike the Americans, General William Howe took a gentleman’s approach to war. If not for that, the Americans would have lost the revolution in the first year. The first winter of the American Revolution, George Washington’s forces were totally defeated. They were nothing more than a disheveled mob of starving, cold men marching through New Jersey trying to get to Pennsylvania where they could hide.

General Howe’s officers begged him to lead a winter attack on Washington’s troops and wipe out the last of the American Army. Historians have no doubt that such an attack would have been successful and the American Revolution would have ended up as nothing more than a footnote in British history book.

However, General Howe had no intention of leaving the warm New York bed of Elisabeth Loring, in order to tramp through the frozen wilderness of New Jersey. Howe informed his shocked officers to return with their men to spend the winter in New York City. The pursuit of Washington could wait until Spring.

William Howe had no intention of ending the war too quickly. It never even occurred to him that it was possible to lose. He knew that he could crush the Americans whenever he desired. However, what he desired that Winter was to continue to be entertained day and night by the New York Loyalists, who patriotically supported the British king. General Howe controlled the money of an entire army, and could use it for whatever purchases he thought the army needed. New York business families fawned over Howe constantly, trying to win his favor for lucrative army contracts. Business families entertained Howe all day and Elizabeth Loring entertained him all night. While all this was going on, the people of Boston were having trouble enough  getting supplies and food due to the British blockade. No wonder the Bostonians hated the New Yorkers.

As the war dragged on, the American Patriot Francis Hopkinson (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) could not resist turning the Howe-Loring affair into what for the day was a scandalous poem. The author, Francis Hopkinson was the representative from New Jersey at the Continental Congress.

               “Sir William he, snug s a flea,

               Lay all this time a snoring,

               Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm,

               In bed with Mr. Loring.”

 You would think that when the American Patriots won the revolution after many years of fighting that Boston would finally have its revenge on New York. However, this was not to be.

When the Americans won the revolution, there was one final event that sealed forever the hatred of Bostonians towards New York. When the United States Constitution was finally ratified, the Capital of The United States became New York City (in 1789). Boston was not even considered.

Babe Ruth was a Boston Red Sox player until being traded to the New York Yankees in 1920

Babe Ruth was a Boston Red Sox player until being traded to the New York Yankees in 1920

This was not the last time New York City was to take something from Boston. In 1920, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth, of course, went on to become the greatest baseball player of a generation, and the Yankees won World Series after World Series. Not only did Harry Frazee trade Babe Ruth to New York, the trade took place because of New York. You see, Harry Frazee had no interest in baseball. His goal in life was to have a successful Broadway play. He was in love with the New York theater, Broadway and all the temptations of New York’s nightlife.

Boston Red Sox fans show what they think of the New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox fans show what they think of the New York Yankees

Harry Frazee thought of The Boston Red Sox as nothing more than a piggy bank to finance his Broadway musicals. Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 plus $300,000 in loans. This was was a incredible amount of money in 1920. Frazee spent all the money trying to come up with a hit Broadway show. Despite many attempts, Frazee never had a successful play in New York. The Boston Red Sox went 86 years after the Babe Ruth trade before Boston won a World Series. In that same period, The New York Yankees won 26 World Series.

So if you are ever in Boston and are stupid enough to wear a New York Yankees T-shirt, you may find some Southie screaming obscenities at you. Don’t take it personally. This is just part of a long American tradition.

 

French Fry Fun Facts for July 4th

Here are some fun facts about French Fries. What could be more American on July 4th?

  • The average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year. So if you are not eating that much someone else is eating more.
The Average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year

The Average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year

Thomas Jefferson once served French Fries at a White House diplomatic dinner.

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

  • Until 1930 Americans all referred to the food as “French Fried Potatoes”. Then people just started calling them “French Fries. No one knows why.
In the UK & Ireland, French Fries are Chips and Potato Chips are Crisps

In the UK & Ireland, French Fries are Chips and Potato Chips are Crisps

  • In many parts of the world French Fries are known as American Fries. Of course, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, people call them Chips. This continues to confuse American tourists who think people are talking about potato chips.  (Potato Chips are called Crisps).
1 of every 5 meals in American restaurants comes with French Fries

1 of every 5 meals in American restaurants comes with French Fries

  • One out of every 5 meals served in American restaurants has French Fries as a side dish.
  • French Fries come in varieties with and without the potato skins. The French Fries with the potato skins still on are actually better for you; since taking off the potato skin loses important vitamins. (Of course, if you think French Fries are a health food, you need to study up on nutrition.)
  • There are over 10,000 different varieties of potatoes, but almost all French Fries are made from the Russet Potato.

So enjoy America’s independence with some French Fries. If anyone criticizes your culinary choice, just tell them you are following in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson.

I IAGO – a novel about Shakespeare’s most fascinating villain

I IAGO by David Snodin is a novel about Shakespeare’s most fascinating villain, after the events of Othello. Iago was stabbed and imprisoned at the end of Othello, but he did not die.  The events in I Iago take place many years later when Iago is secretly  returned to Venice for questioning.

Shakespeare created many evil characters, but what makes Iago so interesting is the way in which Iago carried out his evil plans. Iago never acted directly. Instead, Iago was able to get inside other people’s heads and sow the suspicion, mistrust and hatred which eventually lead to violence. If Iago lived in modern times, he would no doubt be working   on the internet anonymously posting hate speech messages day and night just to see the results.

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

David Snodin’s Iago is a fascinating novel which give us a glimpse into every day life in Venice in 1520. Though Venice was supposedly an enlightened democracy, the class distinctions were rigidly enforced. Venice in 1520 was fantastically wealthy and prosperous, yet threatened on all sides by the Turks and the French. The Chief Inquisitor of Venice is both fascinated and frightened of Iago. Over the years the name Iago has become a rallying cry for those who would bring down the established order in Venice. The Inquisitor wants to find out how Iago is able to so thoroughly control other people.

Iago still fascinates people

Iago still fascinates people

Iago remains the complex villain of the story, while the hero is a young Venetian named Gentile Stornello. He is  from a low level but noble family, and is the cousin of the late Desdemona. Gentile is a well educated, likable boy of 15 whose only goal in life is to catch the eye of a beautiful girl he has seen around Venice.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Through a series of unfortunate events Gentile is falsely accused of murder, and is thrown into a cell with Iago. The tough and clever Iago decides to use Gentile to help him escape. Along the way, Iago becomes a sort of evil mentor to Gentile by teaching him all the underhanded, treacherous and violent ways for a man to get what he really wants from life.

David Snodin author of IAGO

David Snodin author of IAGO

I `Iago by David Snodin is a brilliantly written novel. It fleshed out the character and motivation of Iago, while still  remaining true to Shakespeare’s concept for the man.

9 Top Songs About Death, Killers & Suicide

Most songs are about Love, but the topics of Death, Murderer and Suicide  are also surprisingly popular. Here are the Top 9 Death, Murder & Suicide Songs

Ring Around the Rosie was first sung in Europe in 1350 and is about the Bubonic Plague that killed over 25% of the population. The words describe the symptoms and eventual death of someone with the Bubonic Plague (Black Death). A red rash (Rosie Ring) appears around the neck of the plague victim. Then the person has uncontrollable sneezing (Achoo Achoo). Then the person falls down dead.   Posies are bunches of flowers that were put in the pockets of the dead to try to keep the corpses from stinking too much. Put this all together and we get the charming children song that kids still sing today.

          “Ring Around the Rosie, A Pocked Full of Posie, Achoo Achoo, We all fall down.”

(Often today, the words have been changes from “Achoo, Achoo” to Ashes, Ashes”)

The Kids' song Ring Around The Roise is really about the Bubonic Plague

The Kids’ song Ring Around The Roise is really about the Bubonic Plague

Fire and Rain written by James Taylor in 1970 is about a man grieving for his lover (Suzanne) who died in a plane crash. Fire and Rain took on a whole new meaning after the 9/11 terrorist attack when James Taylor sang it to the families of fallen police and firefighters.

James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" took on a who new meaning after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” took on a who new meaning after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer released by The Beatles in 1969 is a catchy, darkly comic tune about a serial killer bashing people’s heads in with a silver hammer. Maxwell is a medical student who never seems to get caught for his crimes. Perhaps he is still practicing medicine in some British Hospital even today.

George Harrison & John Lennon joking around

George Harrison & John Lennon joking around

Riders On The Storm released by The Doors in 1971 is about a hitchhiker, who murders anyone who foolish enough to pick him up. Jim Morrison was totally obsessed with death and to this day people argue about whether Morrison died of an accidental overdose or if he committed suicide. Riders On The Storm is about the real hitchhiker serial killer Billy Cook who murdered 6 people between 1950 and 1951.

Riders on the Storm was just one of The Doors songs about death

Riders on the Storm was just one of The Doors songs about death

Last Kiss is a heart wrenching song about a girl killed in a car crash while her boyfriend is driving. The singer is the boyfriend who holds his dying girlfriend in his arms while the rain pours down on the accident scene. Most people today know the 1999 version released by Pearl Jam. However Last Kiss was written by Wayne Cochran who released it in 1961. He was never able to have a hit with his own version, but J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers made it to the number 2 song in the country in 1964.

Last Kiss is about a young woman who dies in a car wreck

Last Kiss is about a young woman who dies in a car wreck

I’ll Be Missing You released by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans in 1997 as a tribute to the murdered rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace). I’ll Be Missing You uses the melody from Sting’s Every Breath You Take. Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997 in a drive-by shooting. His murder has never been solved. It is generally assumed that the Notorious B.I.G. murder was part of the ongoing East Coast/West Coast hip hop/rapper war. Many in the African-American community are furious that this murder and other murders of the East Coast/West Coast war remain unsolved. They argue that if the people being murdered were middle class white businessmen the police response would have been much more extensive.

Notorious B.I.G. whose murder was never solved. Some say the police did not try very hard to find the killer.

Notorious B.I.G. whose murder was never solved. Some say the police did not try very hard to find the killer.

Psycho Killer – performed by Talking Heads in 1975 and has a very catchy beat despite being about a killer. However, unlike Maxwell’s Silver Hammer there is nothing comic about the song. Talking Heads denies it was about the Son Of Sam killer but it has eerie similarities.

Talking Heads made "Psycho Killer" a hit.

Talking Heads made “Psycho Killer” a hit.

The A Team by Ed Sheeran in 2011 is about a crack-addicted prostitute slowly dying from malnutrition, cold and drugs. There is debate about whether or not the woman actually dies at the end of the song. Some say “it’s too cold out for angels to fly” means she is dead but it’s too cold for the angels to come for her soul. Other people argue the verse just means it’s too cold for the woman go outside and turn another trick.  However, the three last words of the song are “Angels to die.” An amazing number of people who love this song think it is just a nice-sounding ballad and have no idea what it is about. One of the strangest experiences we ever had was being at a Taylor Swift concert in New Jersey where Ed Sheeran was the warm-up act. When Ed Sheeran sang The A Team; crowds of 13 year old girls happily cheered and smiled and sang along knowing all the words. Did the girls or their parents understand the song is about a dying crack-whore? The title The A Team stands for the fact that the amount of drugs the woman has constitutes a Class A Felony.

"The A Team" by Ed Sheeran is a about a dying crack whore yet little girls sing along to it

“The A Team” by Ed Sheeran is a about a dying crack whore yet little girls sing along to it

Angel by Sarah McLachlan. Most people incorrectly think the title of this 1991 song is In The Arms Of The Angel. It is about the heroin overdose death of Jonathan Melvoin of Smashing Pumpkins. Sarah McLachlan’s  hauntingly beautiful voice makes the listener hope that perhaps Jonathan Melvoin  really did find peace at last. The last words of Angel are, “You’re in the arms of the angel; may you find some comfort here.”

Sarah McLachlan the beautiful angel who sings "Angel"

Sarah McLachlan the beautiful angel who sings “Angel”

So that is the list of the top death, murder & suicide songs that have made it into popular culture. In researching the list we found that these subjects are, in fact, hugely covered in popular music and have been for centuries. There were many more than we could put into one article. They range from Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife about a mob hit man to the western ballad The Streets of  Laredo, about a cowboy killed in a gun fight. There is even the hit Leader Of The Pack with death by motorcycle accident.

Yes, Love still has the most number of songs, but Death has also inspired some very fine music itself.

Roadies Prepares For Season 2

Writers for Roadies are preparing for Season 2 with Phil Valentine (Ron White) as the main star.  Of course, Phil died in Season 1 of Roadies, which presents a problem. However bringing dead T.V. characters back to life has been done as recently as Rosanne, and as far back as Dallas. The ratings for Season 1 of Roadies were bad, but the fan base was fiercely loyal and Phil was by far the most popular character. Roadies producers believe that the show could be hugely popular with some minor changes in focus.  The dull, proper Englishman Reg Whitehead (Rafe Spall) is out of the show completely. The main star will be the trash-talking, gun-toting Phil. He will be louder and crazier than ever.

Ron White, left, and Imogen Poots star in Showtime's Roadies.

Ron White, left, and Imogen Poots star in Showtime’s Roadies.

Kelly Ann (Imogene Poots) will still be in, but with new, more exciting, love interests. The producers are still undecided about Luke Wilson’s character Bill Hanson. His laid back demeanor can be amusing, but it can also get rather dull.

Luke Wilsom May or may not be back for Season 2 of Roadies

Luke Wilsom May or may not be back for Season 2 of Roadies

So how is the dead Phil going to be resurrected in Season 2 of Roadies? Here are the current options the Roadies writers are considering:

John Goodman's character came back to life in Rosanne

John Goodman’s character came back to life in Rosanne

Phil’s Death on Roadies was all a dream. This is the time-honored television tradition starting with the September 26, 1986 episode of Dallas in which Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) reappeared in a shower scene. Bobby Ewing had been dead for an entire season and his wife Pam (Victoria Principal) had even remarried. In the final episode of September 26, 1986 Dallas, it is revealed that Bobby’s death and in fact the entire season had just been Pam’s dream. Resurrecting Phil from Roadies would be much easier than bringing Bobby Ewing back to life. Phil died towards the end of Season 1 of Roadies, so most of the plot lines and character development could be left intact.

Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) comes back to life in Dallas

Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) comes back to life in Dallas

Phil’s death and funeral were an elaborate spoof which Phil arranged to teach the neophyte Roadies the importance of not taking life for granted. This could actually work, especially because of the bizarre Roadies Season 1 Finale in which Phil’s body was propped upright and all of the Roadies had to hug the dead body. This was the worst episode of Roadies Season 1, as you could clearly see Ron White breathing. Using the elaborate spoof option also means that all of the plot lines can be left as they were.

Imogene Poots will have a new love interest in Season 2 of Roadies

Imogene Poots will have a new love interest in Season 2 of Roadies

Phil did die, but his identical twin will be in Roadies Season 2. Phil’s twin is also a road manager and will, of course, be played by Ron White. However, behind-the-scenes gossip is that only 1 producer and 1 writer like this option. Everyone else on Roadies, including Ron White hates the idea of an identical twin.

As we have said before, Roadies is a frustrating show to watch because it never seems to live up to its full potential. The best part of the entire Roadies series was when Phil (Ron White) gave a beautiful speech about his time with the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. Phil immediately went from being a caricature and became a complex individual that the audience felt deeply about. Then the very next episode Roadies had Phil die of a heart attack. In the process, Roadies lost a huge percentage of its viewers.

In Season 2, Roadies has a chance to become the truly great show it was always meant to be.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor – a beautiful film about the life of Mister Rogers

Won’t You  Be My Neighbor is a beautiful documentary about Fred Rogers, from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who had a completely new vision for children’s television. Fred Rogers was disgusted with fact that commercial television’s children’s shows were violent or stupid and treated kids as idiots. Mister Rogers wanted a show that would actually communicate with children and talk to them about important issues in their lives.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" - a must-see movie

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” – a must-see movie

Despite having no training in T.V.  Fred Rogers was able to get a show on Pittsburgh Public Television. It was low budget, slow moving and kids loved it. The station did not realize how popular it was until one day they ran a promotion allowing kids and parents to come in and meet Fred Rogers personally. Lines of kids and parents stretched down the block like it was a Hollywood premier. Mister Rogers became the first Public Television star.

Mister Rogers believed in actively working t make the world a better place.

Mister Rogers believed in actively working t make the world a better place.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor has some amazing footage of Fred Rogers. In 1969, President Nixon wanted to get rid of all government funding to Public Television and instead use the money for the Vietnam War. Senator John Pastore held public hearings about the cut, which Senator Pastore was very much in favor of. Won’t You Be My Neighbor shows Fred Rogers appearing before a very hostile, rude and confrontational Senate panel. Instead of responding with anger, Mister Rogers calmly discusses the importance of treating children with love and respect, and Mister Rogers even reads the words of one of the songs he sings on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers’ words deeply move Senator Pastore who says, “that was beautiful” and the Senator recommends granting $20 Million to Public television.

Children loved Mr. Rogers

Children loved Mr. Rogers

Despite its appearance,  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a very structured show and actors had to stick strictly to the script. Fred Rogers had very specific ideas he wanted to teach to children. Most importantly he wanted to make sure kids understood the difference between fantasy and reality. Part of each show, the Magic Trolley would travel into the Land Of Make Believe.  That fantasy world was full of puppets and other special characters, but Mister Rogers himself never appeared in the Land Of Make Believe. Fred Rogers was very upset about reports of kids jumping out of windows thinking they could fly like Superman. He wanted to use Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to teach kids about what is real and what is not.

Mister Rogers also spoke directly on the show to children about very difficult subjects. After the Robert Kennedy assassination,  Mister Rogers  Neighborhood discussed death. There were shows about divorce and acceptance of other people. Mister Rogers was retired when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Fred Rogers came out of retirement and did a special show to help sooth the fears of children throughout the country.

There is really no one on the air like Fred Rogers today. As the country and the World become more polarized, his message of love and understanding can easily get lost amid the shouting and hatred. Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003. He is survived by his wife and children. At his memorial service protestors showed up across the street carrying signs that read “God Hates Fags”. One of the mourners walked across the street and asked if they were claiming Fred Rogers was gay. (He was not.) The protestor replied that they did not think Mister Rogers was gay, but that they hated him because he tolerated gays.

Protesters at Mister Rogers Funeral

Protesters at Mister Rogers Funeral

Fred Rogers was a profoundly religious man whose view of Christianity was diametrically opposed to that of the protestors. Fred Rogers believed in a God of love and acceptance. Mister Rogers believed that the good people of the World can persevere and win against hatred, violence and stupidity. Fred Rogers believed that the real message of God is and has always been a message of Love.

On Chesil Beach – love before the sexual revolution

On Chesil Beach is a beautiful, yet sad, film about a young English couple struggling with intimacy. It is a wonderful movie with humor, mystery, and pathos, set in 1962 England just before the sexual revolution takes hold. Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are trying to have a romantic wedding night in a very unromantic location. They are in a stuffy, cold hotel on a rocky beach, where the other guests are all senior citizens. The staff and guests of the hotel seem to treat Florence and Edward as the one source of entertainment in this dreary location.

Billy Howle & Saoirse Ronan in "On Chesil Beach"

Billy Howle & Saoirse Ronan in “On Chesil Beach”

Through flashbacks we see how Edward  and Florence met and fell in love back when they were both brilliant university students. It turns out they both have very complex family situations. Edward’s mother Marjorie (Ann-Marie Duff) is a talented artist who suffered a traumatic brain injury. To most of the world she seem crazy, yet Florence is able to connect with her. This makes Edward love Florence even more.

Anne-Marie Duff as Marjorie Mayhew, Edward Mayhew's mother, in "On Chesil Beach." (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Bleecker Street)

Anne-Marie Duff as Marjorie Mayhew, Edward Mayhew’s mother, in “On Chesil Beach.” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Bleecker Street)

Florence’s father Geoffrey (Samuel West) seems like a stuffy, yet polite, British middle class family man. However, there are brief intense flashes of anger that make one wonder what he is really capable of.

Despite their deep connection, Florence and Edward do not know each other at all sexually. Both of them are virgins on their wedding night and both are petrified. For them to really succeed in their marriage, they must be willing to be honest and understanding with each other in ways they have never known before.

Ian McEwan & Saoirse Ronan

Ian McEwan & Saoirse Ronan

The acting  On Chesil Beach is wonderful. We come to deeply care for both Florence and Edward and hope that true love really can conquer all. Based on the novel by Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach is able to keep in the film all the complexities of the characters that were evident in the novel.

Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle are amazing actors, as are all of the supporting characters, right down to the smallest roles. As you can tell, we are trying to write the review in such a way as to not give away too much of the plot. We will say that it is a deeply moving film and we highly recommend On Chesil Beach.

The Great White Hope – the movie about the boxer Trump just pardoned

The Great White Hope is a film about Jack Johnson, who in 1908 became first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion. In May 2018,  Jack Johnson was posthumously pardoned by President Trump for the federal crime of “transporting a woman across State lines for immoral purposes”.

James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope"

James Earl Jones in “The Great White Hope”

The Great White Hope is a terrific 1970 movie starring James Earl Jones as Jack Johnson. It is probably hard for you to imagine that today’s rather obese James Earl Jones once played the world’s top athlete.  However, in 1970, James Earl Jones was in such great shape for the film that reporters commonly asked Jones if he had ever been a boxer himself. (The answer is no – James Earl Jones was just a dedicated actor who got himself in the best physical shape of his life in order to perform the role to perfection).  The Great White Hope was a Broadway play before it was a movie, and James Earl Jones had also starred in the theatrical production.  For some unknown reason, The Great White Hope calls the heavyweight champ Jack Jefferson instead of Jack Johnson, although everyone knew who the movie was really about.

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

In 1908, being the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion was a much bigger deal than it is today. There were not multiple titles, there was no Ultimate Fighting champ, and no one pushing to ban the sport. The average citizen followed boxing with the same passion that people today follow football, basketball, soccer and baseball.

Unlike other sports of the day, boxing in 1908 was fully integrated. This is an amazing fact, when you consider that Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play major league baseball and that was not until 1947. However, for its entire history, the heavyweight boxing champions had always been White.  From John L. Sullivan in 1882 all the way to 1908 , the heavyweight champs were White men whose accomplishments sports writers spoke of with awe.

President Trump pardons Jack Johnson the first African American heavyweight boxing champ.

President Trump pardons Jack Johnson the first African American heavyweight boxing champ.

Then came Jack Johnson, nicknamed the “Galveston Giant” who won the crown. Of course, there was open racism, but boxing is one of those sports where the winner is absolutely clear. Many White people hated Jack Johnson, but had to grudgingly admit he was the best boxer in the world. Sports writers, fans and boxing promoters started searching for what became known as “The Great White Hope.” Promoters were under pressure to find some White boxer who could beat Jack Johnson.

Then Jack Johnson went one step too far. He married a White woman and had affairs with several other White women. That was when the government charged him with violating the Mann Act, a Federal law forbidding the transportation of a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. The Mann Act was designed as a law to prosecute pimps. It was never intended to be a way to prosecute a man who happens to drive with his girlfriend over a state border.

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

Jack Johnson fled the Unites States and for 7 years lived in Europe continuing to box and defend his World Championship.

The Great White Hope chronicles this exciting period in history, and James Earl Jones is perfect in the lead role. Jane Alexander plays the White girlfriend who eventually becomes Jack’s wife, and  who is naïve enough to think they can somehow have a normal life. Chester Morris is Pop Weaver, Jack’s manager & promoter who is making a fortune on the fights, but who actually cares about Jack as a person.

So what actually happened to the real Jack Johnson? On April 5, 1915 Jack Johnson lost the heavyweight title to White boxer Jess Willard, in Havana Cuba in the 26th round. Fights were much longer than they are today. The match had been scheduled to last 45 rounds! Even though that match was 103 years ago, fight fans still argue about whether or not Jack Johnson took a dive. Johnson always said he never took dive. He pointed out that no one who planned to take a dive would let themselves take a beating for 26 rounds before going down.

In May of 2018, President Donald Trump officially pardoned Jack Johnson of the Mann Act charges. This is long overdue, but a posthumous pardon always has a hollow ring to it. Jack Johnson died in a car crash on June 10, 1946 at the age of 68. It would have been nice if one of the prior Presidents had pardoned the champ while Johnson was still alive.

The 1970 film The Great White Hope still holds up as a good movie to watch today. If you are interested in the fascinating story of the man who Trump just pardoned, we recommend the film.

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix – Like an evening with old friends

Watching the Nexflix special – Steve Martin & Martin Short – An Evening You will Forget For the Rest Of Your Life, is like spending an enjoyable time with old friends. After all, the viewing public has known these two comedians since the 1970s. The Netflix comedy special is terrific. They tell jokes, Steve Martin plays the banjo expertly and Martin Short has a beautiful singing voice. (Who knew?). It is also obvious that these two guys really like each other as people.

Chevy Chase, Steve Martin & Martin Short in "The Three Amigos"

Chevy Chase, Steve Martin & Martin Short in “The Three Amigos”

They first met on the 1986 movie The Three Amigos in which Chevy Chase was the third Amigo. At the time, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase were much bigger stars than Martin Short. Despite this, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase insisted that the studio give equal billing to Martin Short – a kindness he never forgot. Of course, Steve and Chevy could not let the new guy off without a little practical joke. At the premier of the film  the studio told the 3 stars to all wear their complete Three Amigos costumes, and they all agreed. Then Steve Martin and Chevy Chase secretly decided to wear tuxedos to the premier and not tell Martin Short. On the night of the premier, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase looked like sophisticated Hollywood stars in their tuxedos, while Martin Short looked ridiculous in a huge sombrero and skintight toreador pants.

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix

Steve Martin & Martin Short on Netflix

These are the types of stories they tell in Steve Martin & Martin ShortAn Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life. They show childhood photos, and talk about their early days in showbiz as well as doing somewhat raunchy jokes. The comedy switches back and forth between the two, each testing what type of comedy the audience likes the best.

Steve Martin as King Tut on "Saturday Night Live"

Steve Martin as King Tut on “Saturday Night Live”

The Steve Martin & Martin Short Netflix special is not very long. Like all great performers they know when to leave the stage with the audience begging for more.

4 Mistakes in “Sweetbitter” – fantasy versus real restaurant work

We love Sweetbitter, but it has some obvious errors that any New York restaurant worker will feel obliged to point out. Here are the top 4.

  • Tess (Ella Purnell) is able to afford a huge apartment in Brooklyn, even though she is only a trainee-server in a restaurant. She is actually able to walk to the  Brooklyn apartment from the Manhattan restaurant, which would make the apartment a prime location. Sweetbitter takes place in 2006, but even then, such an apartment would be an impossible dream for a restaurant worker. Supposedly Tess shares it with one other person, although he is never there. So Tess, in fact, has an apartment all to herself. In real life, people who work in Manhattan restaurants often have to commute an hour or more by subway to work. The apartments they live in are shared with 5 or 6 other people. Restaurant workers simply can’t compete economically for apartments. The good Manhattan and Brooklyn apartments are occupied by investment bankers, bond traders and hedge fund managers.
Average commutes to work in different parts of New York city.

Average commutes to work in different parts of New York city.

  • In Sweetbitter, the restaurant owner, Howard (Paul Sparks), leaves the restaurant each night before the workers, and lets them all stay behind to have as many free drinks as they want. In real life, alcohol theft by employees is one of the biggest problems for any restaurant owner. Some owners might serve drinks to the employees on very special occasions for a job well done. However, owners never let employees drink as much as they want every night. And restaurant owners are never the first to leave. Real restaurant owners don’t leave until everything of value, especially the booze, is safely locked away. Real owners are the last ones out, lock the doors and set the alarms.
Free drinks to employees is a sure way to bankrupt a restaurant.

Free drinks to employees is a sure way to bankrupt a restaurant.

No owner leaves a restaurant until everyone is out and the doors are locked

No owner leaves a restaurant until everyone is out and the doors are locked

  • In Sweetbitter, Tess (Ella Purnell) and Simone (Catlin Fitzgerald) have way too much time to “chat”. They spend a lot of time in the wine cellar or kitchen gossiping about the guests, other workers, or gourmet food. Real restaurant work is an exhausting rush during every second of every shift with no time to to gossip. The days end with aching feet and sore backs rather than free drinks.
Organization chart at even a small restaurant.

Organization chart at even a small restaurant.

  • Sweetbitter mostly ignores the rigid cast system in the restaurant world. Perhaps no workplace environment is more stratified than that of a gourmet restaurant.  In the kitchen alone there will be an Executive Chef a Sous Chef, a Salad Chef, a Pastry Chef, a Grill Chef, and various other cooks, cleaners and dishwashers. There is a bitter rivalry between all of them as everyone is trying to move up to the next level. Then there is the  overt hatred between the kitchen staff and the servers. The kitchen staff, especially the chefs, see the waiters and waitress as lazy people who have an easy job and take credit with the customers  for all the hard work of the chefs.  Sweetbitter touches on this only slightly, when we see the flash of anger from the Sous Chef when Tess drops a plate full of food. In a real restaurant, if you make an enemy of a chef, you will not last long. Every restaurant owner knows that it is easy to find another server, while good chefs are worth their weight in gold.

Sweetbitter is fun to watch, but it is a fantasy version of living in New York and working in a restaurant. If anyone goes to work in a New York restaurant thinking it will be like Sweetbitter, then that person is in for a rude awaking.  Sweetbitter is no more like  real restaurant work than the Harry Potter stories are about life in a real Scottish boarding school. The writer, Stephanie Danler, actually did work in a New York restaurant while getting her MFA degree. Therefore, either she knows she has written a fantasy, or else she has nostalgically  forgotten  what it was really like.

Quotes About Money – 13 Best

13 best money quotes

  • “A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own” – Clare Booth Luce
Clare Boothe Luce on money

Clare Boothe Luce on money

  • “Money, like vodka, turns a person into an eccentric.” – Anton Chekhov

  • “Greed, for lack of better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” – Michael Douglas as  Gordon Gekko in Wall Street
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

  • “You know that money you’ve been saving for a rainy day? Well guess what – It’s raining.”Richard Gere as a high-priced defense attorney in “ Primal Fear” explaining  what he tells clients when he shows them his bill.
Richard Gere as a high priced criminal defense attorney in Primal Fear

Richard Gere as a high priced criminal defense attorney in Primal Fear

  • “It’s not the principal of the thing-it’s the money.” – Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde - who knew how to enjoy money

Oscar Wilde – who knew how to enjoy money

  • “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” – Milton Friedman
Professor Milton Friedman

Professor Milton Friedman

  • “The State pretends to pay us and we pretend to work” – joke in the USSR about how Communism really worked.
Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin

  • “If you have to ask how much it costs you can’t afford it.” – J.P. Morgan
J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan

George Washington the father of the country

George Washington the father of the country

  • “There is no practice more dangerous than that of borrowing money” – George Washington
Yogi Berra - gone but never forgotten

Yogi Berra – gone but never forgotten

  • “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore” – Yogi Berra
Senator Everett Dirksen

Senator Everett Dirksen

  • “ A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” – Everett Dirksen
Margret Thatcher who people lived or hated

Margret Thatcher who people lived or hated

  • The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money – Margaret Thatcher
Bo Derek in "10"

Bo Derek in “10”

  • Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping” – Bo Derek

A Good Man In Africa – Sean Connery’s 1994 Comedy

A Good Man in Africa shows that Sean Connery (best known as James Bond) can be terrific in a silly comedy. He plays one of the few sane people in the film, setting up the jokes so that the other actors can “go big”.  The film take place in the fictional African country of Kinjanja, and revolves around the lives of British diplomats who have no interest in the country other than how much they can personally get out of it. Colin Friels plays Morgan Leafy, a lower level diplomat who spends his time bedding as many women as possible, when he is not drinking to excess.

Sean Connery in A Good Man in Africa (1994) Directed by Bruce Beresford

Sean Connery in A Good Man in Africa (1994)
Directed by Bruce Beresford

John Lithgow is the British Ambassador Arthur Franshawe, who hates being posted to Africa and wants only to get reassigned to a “good” diplomatic post. When he meets with the President of Kinjanja (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) the Ambassador condescendingly talks about how violent Africa is. The President responds by pointing out that while Africa remained peaceful, Europe had 2 World Wars, The Holocaust and a Russian Revolution.

John Lithgow as a pompous British ambassador in "A Good Man in Africa"

John Lithgow as a pompous British ambassador in “A Good Man in Africa”

In the middle of all this is the Scottish Doctor Alex Murray (Sean Connery). Unlike the British diplomats, Dr. Murray spends his days treating patients and doing as much he can to help everyone. The Africans have given him the ultimate compliment of referring to him as a “good man”. Through a series of comic events, low level diplomat Morgan Leafy ends up spending a lot of time with Dr. Murray. As this happens, Morgan gradually comes to compare his own life with that of Dr. Murray, and Morgan realizes how useless his own lifestyle is. Morgan belatedly decides to try to become a good man himself.

Louis Gossett Jr. in "A Good Man in Africa"

Louis Gossett Jr. in “A Good Man in Africa”

In a comic way, A Good Man in Africa points out African issues that still exist today. Western counties still condescendingly look down on African countries, and see them as only potential sources of raw material. In A Good Man in Africa the main mission of the British diplomats is to get an oil contract signed before the Americans can offer a better deal.  Diana Rigg plays the Ambassador’s wife, who is completely bored with the whole diplomatic scene and who realizes that the Ambassador is an idiot.

A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA, Sean Connery, Colin Friels, 1994. ©Gramercy Pictures

A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA, Sean Connery, Colin Friels, 1994. ©Gramercy Pictures

Jackie Mofokeng plays Hazel, the African girlfriend of Morgan. Her subplot shows that the British diplomats, despite being posted in Africa are basically latent racists. Although Hazel is an intelligent and beautiful young woman, Morgan never brings her to any embassy parties, or even out to any nice restaurants where they might be seen by other diplomats.

A Good Man in Africa did not get good reviews when it premiered. Reviewers were disappointed that it was not as serious as the novel by William Boyd, on which it is based. However, we liked it. It is meant to be watched and enjoyed as a comedy, not as a “social message film”.  It has slapstick scenes, silly sexual innuendos, and people getting into ridiculous situations. One reviewer complained that John Lithgow’s British accent was “ridiculously exaggerated”. That reviewer missed the point that Lithgow was playing a caricature of a pompous British boor in a foreign country.

A Good Man in Africa, is fun to watch, yet it still gets you to think about what it really  means to be a “good man”.

The Silence Of The Soup – My True Crime Confession

I hereby confess that I committed a crime  in New York with a can of French Onion Soup. I don’t feel badly about my crime. In fact, it makes me smile every time I think of it.  I was sound asleep in my apartment with no thoughts of committing a crime, when at 3AM I was jolted awake by the sound of throbbing music shaking the whole building.  The pounding of the base went on and  on and it was impossible to sleep.

New York Windows

New York Windows

I got up, got dressed and left my apartment to search for the sound. As soon as I went into the hallway, I was immediately accosted by a large muscular  tenant demanding to know if that was my music.  I let him listen at my door to prove the sound was not emanating from my apartment. Satisfied, the large man stormed off searching every floor of the building to try to find the sound.  But unlike the large tenant, I soon came to realize that the sound was coming from outside the building.  The back stairwell of my building had frosted windows, which the landlord had illegally nailed shut. Through these windows I could clearly hear the throbbing sounds  from outside.I went back to my apartment, got a hammer, and returned to the back stairs. I used the hammer to pull out the nails and open one of the windows.

No one is impressed by the size of your speakers

No one is impressed by the size of your speakers

In another building across the street, almost a block away, I saw an amazing site.  In an upper story apartment  there were two 5 foot tall stereo speakers , facing outward. They were sitting  in an open window, blasting their sounds to the entire neighborhood.  From other apartment windows up and down the block, people were screaming obscenities and yelling for the music to be turned off. There was a man in the apartment with the speakers and he seemed completely oblivious to the screams of his neighbors. The man was standing looking out the window while drinking tea (or maybe coffee) from a porcelain cup.  He had a smile on his face, like all the world was enjoying his music. I could see all this clearly, since every light in his apartment was on, and he had no curtains.

Throbbing base music at 3am

Throbbing base music at 3am

No one, including me, called the police.  Crime in New York was very high in those days, and everyone knew the police were not going to respond to a call about loud music. I decided it was time for direct action. I returned to my apartment and got a carton of eggs. Perhaps if I could throw an egg and hit one of the speakers the smiling man would get the hint that 3AM was not the time to share your tunes with the world.

Man arrested for soup can crime

Man arrested for soup can crime

I stood in the window of the back stairwell and tossed one egg after another with no luck. No matter what I did, I could not throw one far enough to hit the other building. One by one the eggs fell onto the empty street below.

I returned to my apartment defeated. The throbbing music continued and sleep remained impossible. Then, on the shelf over the stove, I saw the solution. A can of French Onion soup. Unlike an egg, a can of soup would have enough weight for me to throw it an entire block. If I could toss the can in a wide arc, it may just be able to knock a speaker off the windowsill, and back into the smiling man’s apartment. That would surely convince him that it was time to turn off the music.

French onion soup - the perfect stealth weapon

French onion soup – the perfect stealth weapon

Throwing a can of soup to an upper window a city block away is quite an athletic feat. Doing that while hitting a target the side of a stereo speaker required the accuracy of a major league baseball pitcher.

Broken window quiets a noisy neighbor

Broken window quiets a noisy neighbor

I took a running start and threw the French Onion soup can with all my might. It  went in a high fast arc, right to the apartment. It almost hit the speaker, but it was sailing too far to the left.  It missed the speakers, but did hit the window just left of the speakers.  The soup can was moving  with  such force that it shattered the glass and flew into the smiling man’s apartment.  Shocked at this turn of events, I ran out of the stairwell and back to my apartment before the smiling man could turn and get a glimpse of me. Less than a minute after I returned to my apartment, the throbbing music stopped, never to return.

Does this story have a moral? That’s hard to say. Is it about vigilante justice, annoying neighbors, or simply the impulsive passions of youth? This incident took place may years ago and I don’t think I could make that shot with the can again if I tried a hundred times.

Today I  am much more mature. I would not throw a can of of soup. I might call the police hoping they would take action. More likely, I would probably  just put up with the noise trying to turn the other cheek and not let the rudeness of others bother  me.  These are the mature adult things to do.

But back then I was not a mature adult. I was young and strong and there was no middle ground to any of my feelings. I either passionately  loved or hated whatever was around. I hated the smiling man with the teacup  and his  loud music.  I felt that justice had been served when his window  got smashed. Today that kind of fury and passion seems as far away as the forgotten sound from the smiling man’s speakers.  Today there is just the silence of the soup. Life is a lot easier without that type of instant anger. Still, there are times I miss the instant strength, clarity and sense of purpose that once could be summoned on a moments notice.

Perhaps the best moral of the story is quote from  Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who in 1931 said, “youth is the most beautiful thing in this world – and what a pity it has to be wasted on children.”

Sweetbitter – discovering life through the sensuality of gourmet dining

 Sweetbitter on Starz, is a wonderful new series where the lives of the characters are as varied and fascinating as the food in the gourmet restaurant they work in. Sweetbitter is also about the sensual awaking of Tess (Ella Purnell), a naive  23 year old who has moved alone to New York to experience who she really is. We mean sensual not in the sexual sense, but in the sense of truly feeling all the possibilities that life has to offer.

Ella Purnell as Tess in Sweetbitter

Ella Purnell as Tess in Sweetbitter

Howard (Paul Sparks) is the owner of the restaurant and the kind of boss that everyone wishes they could have. For Howard, it is not enough for the restaurant to be profitable. Howard is a teacher and mentor to all the employees, and wants them to understand the beauty, history and uniqueness of all the food and wine they serve. Patrons are not “customers”, they are “guests”.  Of course, no one runs a successful gourmet restaurant without being tough as nails under  a smooth exterior. Any worker who talks back to Howard or disrespects a guest will quickly come to regret that mistake.

Paul Sparks in Sweetbitter

Paul Sparks in Sweetbitter

Catlin Fitzgerald is Simone,who understands everything about wine, food and people.  Simone carries herself with an almost Zen-like calmness. The mystery is why with all those talents is  she nothing more than a server in a restaurant? However, for some reason, while Simone has a perfect taste for food and wine the same cannot be said for the men in her life.

Catlin Fitzgerald, who plays Simone on Sweetbitter

Catlin Fitzgerald, who plays Simone on Sweetbitter

Sweetbitter is based on the novel by Stephanie Danler, who is also the writer of the T.V. series. Sweetbitter comes from  Stephanie Danler’s own experiences. She wrote Sweetbitter while she was a waitress at New York’s Union Square Cafe while getting her MFA degree at The New School. Stephanie Danler insists that Tess in Sweetbitter is not supposed to be her.  One the other hand, Stephanie Danler does  have a remarkable physical resemblance to Catlin Fitzgerald who plays Simone.  We wonder if that casting is really just coincidence?

Stephanie Danler, the creator of Sweetbitter

Stephanie Danler, the creator of Sweetbitter

Sweetbitter is a wonderful series that captures that special time of life where everything is new and exciting, but at the same time frighting.

Marlo Thomas in “That Girl” – The First Feminist on T.V.

Marlo Thomas was the first T.V. feminist in the 1966 show That Girl on ABC. That Girl was a revolutionary show since it was about a single young career woman (Ann Marie) alone in New York. This was 4 years before the appearance of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS. Marlo Thomas had to fight the ABC executives every step of the way to keep the main character in That Girl on track as a career woman. Until That Girl every woman on television was a wife and mother or maybe some main male character’s girlfriend.

Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

That Girl is about Anne Marie (Marlo Thomas), who moves to New York City with the goal of being a professional actress. Her goal is not to find a man, or to be an actress until she gets married. Her goal is to be an actress.

Ted Bessell as Donald Hollinger in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell as Donald Hollinger in “That Girl”

However, the T.V. executives insisted that the main character in That Girl must have a boyfriend. They simply refused to make the show without that. Therefore, Ted Bessell was cast as Ann Marie’s boyfriend Donald Hollinger. Although Ted Bessell is a good actor, it is obvious that his character was forced into the That Girl plots. There is simply no on-screen romantic chemistry between Marlo Thomas and Ted Bessell. In his appearances on That Girl he seems more like a family friend or an order brother than a boyfriend.

Ted Bessell & Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell & Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

From the very beginning Marlo Thomas said That Girl would never have a marriage episode. Marlo Thomas told the writers that she would quit the show if they ever handed her a That Girl with a wedding scene. The final episode of That Girl does have Ann Marie getting engaged. Marlo Thomas is still angry about that.  She thinks it would have been much more poignant to have her character break up with the boyfriend and remain in New York completely alone. However when the final episode aired in 1971, ABC was not quite ready for that.

Ruth Buzzi & Marlo Thomas in "That Girl"

Ruth Buzzi & Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”

That girl had a terrific group of supporting actors, such as Bernie Kopell and Ruth Buzzi who would go on to huge television success.

Ted Bessell, Marlo Thomas and Bernie Kopell in "That Girl"

Ted Bessell, Marlo Thomas and Bernie Kopell in “That Girl”

So, if you get a chance, take a look at  That Girl. While by today’s standards That Girl may just seem like a silly T.V. sitcom, it was actually the beginning of a feminist revolution.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) -The Hidden Epidemic- Facts You Need to Know

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious  and debilitating mental health problem in which people fixate on imagined body flaws to the point where the individuals sometime commit suicide rather than face another day.  Body Dysmorphic Disorder  impacts over 5 million people in The United States, yet is is not as well known as other mental health problems.   Here are the facts you need to know:

BDD is different for men and women – Women with BDD usually fixate on the appearance of their face.  Men will often, although not always, fixate on the size and muscle tone of their bodies.

BDD is a serious life-threatening mental illness.  People do not understand the severity of BDD.  After all, none of us are completely happy with the way we look.  However, people with BDD have taken this to such an extreme that their lives become impossible to live normally.  They may become afraid to leave the house for fear that people are staring and taking about how ugly they are.  They are afraid to pass a mirror, or else sit for hours staring into a mirror crying. When they come to the conclusion that their “flaw” will never disappear, they may actually kill themselves.

Marilyn Monroe suffered from BDD and eventually committed suicide

Marilyn Monroe suffered from BDD and eventually committed suicide

Many celebrities have suffered from BDD. This includes, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Michelle Geller.  Marilyn was unhappy most of her life and eventually committed suicide.  Andy Warhol was convinced that his nose was bright red, although it was not.  He went so far as to have a plastic surgeon sand his nose. Many people with BDD will undergo unnecessary and often dangerous plastic surgery. These surgeries  do not fix BDD, since the problem is psychological. No matter how successful the surgery, people with BDD will still consider themselves ugly.

Andy Warhol had severe BDD.

Andy Warhol had severe BDD.

People with BDD do not look sick. In fact they may look great. Because there is nothing actually physically wrong with people with BDD and because they are so concerned with their appearance, they often look very attractive. If someone has  anorexia,  the extreme weight loss is obvious to friends and family who then try to get help for that that person. However, people with Body Dysmorphia look and are physically healthy.

People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder hide the condition. In our society, we make fun of people we consider vain.  People with BDD don’t want to be considered “vain” or “weird”, so they tell people that everything is fine.

Sarah Michelle Geller had suffered from BDD for many years.

Sarah Michelle Geller has suffered from BDD for many years.

People with BDD will never believe you when you tell them they look good . Once someone with Body Dysmorphic Disorder focuses on a “flaw” nothing you say will be able to dissuade the person that the flaw does not exist.  Telling them to forget about it won’t work. This would be like telling someone with a broken leg to just get up and start walking.

People with BDD will take extreme, dangerous steps to try to correct an imagined flaw.  Women who see imagines blemishes on their face may begin to scratch at them trying to remove them. This can eventually cause rips in the skin and real scars. Men may take huge, life-threatening amounts of steroids or other drugs trying to achieve an impossibly large physique.

BDD and OCD are not the same. Although BDD and OCD have many similar characteristics they are not the same. BDD is a very specific obsession and is often misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists as OCD.   This is a problem, since the treatments are different.

The girl in the mirror will never look good enough for someone with BDD

The girl in the mirror will never look good enough for someone with BDD

Successful treatment is possible but the feeling never goes away completely. People with Body Dysmorphic disorder can lead healthy, happy lives, but there will be periodic relapses.  In some ways it is like an addiction. There is no such thing as an ex-addict or an ex-alcoholic. People with those issues will say that the problem is always lurking in the background. BDD is the same. It can be handled with mental health professional treatment, but it must always be actively guarded against. One of the best books ever written about what it is like to have mental illness is I Don’t Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz. In this book of poetry, Samantha Schutz writes:

                                        I am in a house.

                                       I am in one room, and my anxiety is in another.

                                      It’s close. I can feel it. I can go to it.

                                     But I won’t.

Those courageous words demonstrate clearly the years long lonely struggle people with mental illness face.

Most psychiatrists or psychologists do not specialize in Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Therefore, it is important that if you or someone you love needs help you find the right treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask doctors how much they know about BDD, and if they have treated anyone with this condition before.

Hopefully this article has been helpful. Please look up more about this condition. If we have gotten even one person with Body Dyrmorphic Disorder to seek help, then  we will consider this blog a success.

Meeks Cutoff – People either love or hate this Independent film

Meeks Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt, is a realistic, gripping drama about the struggle for survival on the 1849 Oregon Trail. It is not fair to call this film a Western, since it has none of the Hollywood clichés usually associated with that genre. It follows a group of settlers trying to cross the high plains by wagon, as they slowly realize that they might not survive the trip.

The settlers are guided by Steven Meek (perfectly played by Bruce Greenwood), who looks like an expert  guide. He is completely self-confident, has the long hair, beard and buckskin jacket associated with pioneer scouts. Meek loves entertaining everyone with tails of his past adventures.

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

However, the settlers have endured weeks of wandering and are running low on food and water. They are quickly coming to the conclusion that despite his bravado, Meek has no idea what he is doing or where they are.

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in "Meeks Cutoff"

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in “Meeks Cutoff”

Kelly Reichardt’s direction and filming are wonderful. You can feel the thirst and exhaustion of these travelers. There is no background music and at times there is no sound other than the repetitive scraping of an ungreased wagon wheel.

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

There is a panic when the group discovers they are being followed by a Cayuse Indian (brilliantly played by Rod Rondeaux). Meek and the other men capture the Indian. Meek wants to kill him immediately before he can alert other “savages”. However Meek is faced down by Emily Tetherow (wonderfully portrayed by Michelle Williams). Her argument is not that it would be immoral to kill the Indian. Instead, she points out that since the Indian is alive, he must know where water is.

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

No one, including Meek can speak the Indian’s language. In fact, it is only Meek’s guess that the Indian is a Cayuse. However, they give the Indian a good blanket and try their best to demonstrate that they will give him another blanket in payment if he leads them to water.

The Indian gets the idea, and begins leading the little wagon train, while Meek closely watches him. It is unclear if they are being lead to water, or an ambush.

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Moviegoers tend to either love of hate films by Kelly Reichardt, with no in between. People who hate Kelly Reichardt films find them too slow moving and are frustrated that they many times have no conclusion. Often her movies seem to just stop at a certain point. It can seem like the movies simply end whenever Kelly Reichardt happens to run out of film.

However, we are in the group of people who love Kelly Reichardt movies. The subject material is always fascinating. In stressful situations the characters behave like real people rather than Hollywood action heroes. As for the way Kelly Reichardt ends movies, as frustrating as that is, this is one of the things that make her films so realistic. In real life you don’t get all the answers, see poetic justice, or find out what happened to everyone. The endings of Kelly Reichardt films are what makes people continue to discuss and debate the films years after having seen them.

The Sympathizer – A Viet Cong Spy in America

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a fascinating novel about a Viet Cong spy who was an aide to a general in the South Vietnamese army. The spy is writing this memoir from his prison cell as a confession, although it is not clear whose prison he is in. Did the Americans discover the aide and convict him as a spy, or did the communists arrest him as an anti-revolutionary for being too close to the Americans?

The final American evacuation of Saigon.

The final American evacuation of Saigon.

It begins just as the Americans are evacuating Saigon. The communists order the spy to accompany the general when  general flees to The United States. It may seem there is no point in this. After all, the communists had won the Viet Nam war, so who cares about a fleeing losing general? However, the communists were very worried that the South Vietnamese who fled to America would join together and try to re-invade Vietnam. Therefore,  the spy was sent to discover what plots were being hatched in America.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

However, the spy soon discovers that America for Vietnamese refugees is far stranger than anything he could have imagined. For one thing, there was really no place where they fit in. He finds that that,

” The majority of Americans regarded us with ambivalence, if not outright distaste, we being living reminders of their stinging defeat. We threatened the sanctity and symmetry of a white and black America whose yin and yang racial politics left no room for any other color…”

Thus begins a communist’s spy’s strange travels through the maze of American society and politics. The Sympathizer is wonderfully written and won both a Pulitzer Prize and an Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence In Fiction.

Viet Thanh Nguyen himself was born in Vietnam but grew up in America. His writing captures the odd absurdities related to the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese refugee experience. In some ways The Sympathizer treats the Vietnam war the way Joseph Heller treated World War II  in Catch-22. He points the weird and humorous experiences without minimizing the overall tragedy and violence.

Tourists in 2018 in Vietnam having a fun time exploring Viet Cong tunnels from the war

Tourists in 2018 in Vietnam having a fun time exploring Viet Cong tunnels from the war

The Sympathizer points out that the final American retreat from Vietnam was such a farce it is almost impossible to believe. On April 28, 1975 President Gerald Ford gave the order for the final American evacuation of Vietnam. Previously  all field commanders had been given secret orders that the signal for this would be when American Armed Forces Radio played Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. As soon as that was played all American forces were to get out of the country as fast as possible.

However, when the final order came from President Ford, no one at the radio station could find a copy of the record.  Finally, someone was able to locate a Tennessee Ernie Ford version of White Christmas and that was played. American commanders in the field were totally confused since almost no one had ever heard this version, and no one was sure if this was the evacuation signal or not.  This event actually happened. As hard as Americans would like to forget the Vietnam War, the entire war seemed to be nothing but one mistake like this after another.

The Sympathizer switches back and forth between flashbacks of the war and Vietnamese  life in post-war America. Both venues are fascinating.

There have been a huge number of books and movies about the Vietnam War. However, The Sympathizer is one of the few from the point of view of the Vietnamese who fled to America at the end of the war.

Unlike other immigrant groups who came to America, the Vietnamese never ended up having a large political impact. Well-meaning American charitable organizations helped Vietnamese find housing and jobs all over the United States. While this seems nice, it also meant that the Vietnamese were spread too thin to be politically important anywhere. Compare this to the Irish immigrants of an earlier century, who stayed in large numbers in New York City. This allowed the Irish to eventually dominate the New York City police force, create a political machine and get many Irish-American mayors elected. Later Italian immigrants became a political force in New York and New Jersey. To this day, Italian-Americans are the largest ethnic group in New Jersey and have major political influence.

As The Sympathizer progresses, the Communist Spy (who does not mention his own name). Begins to realize that the Communist takeover of South Vietnam may not be the paradise he had dreamed of. As more and more Vietnamese refugees arrive in America, he hears stories of the atrocities that the new Communist rulers are imposing back in Vietnam. The spy also begins to see the psychological toll the relocation to a new land is having on the refugees. A man who was a General in the South Vietnamese Army is now just a liquor store manager. Another brave man who was a decorated Special Forces Captain now pumps gas all day and gets drunk each night. The Spy knows that these men fought against Communism, but he still feels sorry for their loss of dignity.

The Spy admits that his great strength as a human is also his greatest weakness as a spy. He has the ability to see all sides of every issue. This a wonderful attitude for a philosopher, but dangerous  one for a man who is supposed to be a Communist zealot.

We highly recommend The Sympathizer, and hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

Land mine hidden on a beach

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

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

German World War II prisoners of War

German World War II prisoners of War

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

Who betrayed the Dutch girl Anne Frank?

Who betrayed  Anne Frank in The Netherlands?

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

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

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

The Death of Channel Awesome

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

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

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

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry – the assassin we love

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

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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

Bill Hader as the contract killer "Barry"

Bill Hader as the contract killer “Barry”

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

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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

Stephen Root who arranges murders in "Barry"

Stephen Root who arranges murders in “Barry”

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

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in "Barry"

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in “Barry”

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

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

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

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

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

Need To Know – the spy in the family

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

Need To Know

Need To Know

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

Inside CIA headquarters

Inside CIA headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Need To Know" author Karen Cleveland

“Need To Know” author Karen Cleveland

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

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

An Eye For Beauty – A Quebec Love Story

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

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

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

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

"An Eye for Beauty" features beautiful Quebec homes.

“An Eye for Beauty” features beautiful Quebec homes.

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

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

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

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

Quebec

Quebec

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

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in "An Eye For Beauty"

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in “An Eye For Beauty”

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

Skiing in Quebec

Skiing in Quebec

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

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

4 Favorite Company Lies

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

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

Your Call is important to us

Your Call is important to us

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

The real impact of promoting from within

The real impact of promoting from within

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

Huge Bonus Potential

Huge Bonus Potential

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

Mark Zuckerberg explains why privacy is not important

Mark Zuckerberg explains why privacy is not important

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

What we all think at work.

What we all think at work.

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

Red Sparrow – Jennifer Lawerence’s Worst Movie

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

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

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

From Russia With Love - 1964

From Russia With Love – 1964

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shape Of Water – A Stupid Choice for Best Picture

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

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

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

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

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

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

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

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

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

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

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

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

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

Daryl Hannah in Splash

Daryl Hannah in Splash

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

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

7 Best Baby Boomer Toys

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

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

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

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

Barbie – over 1 billion sold and still selling

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

Green Army Men – classic and inexpensive

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

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

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

Astro Base – the first Lunar Landing Module

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

Mr. Machine – fascinating future engineers

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

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

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

Counterpart – a terrific Sci-Fi/spy thriller

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

Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

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

J.K. Simmonds in Starz "Counterpart"

J.K. Simmonds in Starz “Counterpart”

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

Olivia Williams as Emily in "Counterpart"

Olivia Williams as Emily in “Counterpart”

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

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

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

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

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

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

Sarah Bolger

Sarah Bolger

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

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

Chuck- The Bayonne Bleeder or the Real Rocky Balboa

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

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

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

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in "Chuck"

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in “Chuck”

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

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

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

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

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in "Chuck"

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in “Chuck”

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

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

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

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

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

Babylon Berlin- A Wild Detective Series in 1929 Germany

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

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

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

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

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

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

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

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

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

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

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

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

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

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

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

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

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

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

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

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

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

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

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