All posts by Editor East Coast Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Rate Mary Shelley 5 Stars *****

Be sure to read all our movie reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times Square 1970s
Times Square 1970s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times Square today
Times Square today

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump to Marry Nancy Pelosi

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

President Trump tweeted today:


Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi announce their engagement.

Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi announce their engagement.

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

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

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

Melania & Donald Trump after announcing their divorce.

Melania & Donald Trump after announcing their divorce.

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

Secret lovers Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi .

Secret lovers Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi .

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

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

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

IO – Beauty & Courage on a post-apocalyptic Earth

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

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in "Io".

Margaret Qualley & Anthony Mackie in “Io”.

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

Danny Huston in "Io".

Danny Huston in “Io”.

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

Margaret Qualley in "Io".

Margaret Qualley in “Io”.

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

Io director Jonathan Helpert

Io director Jonathan Helpert

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

Io had similarities to Thoreau's "Walden"

Io had similarities to Thoreau’s “Walden”

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

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

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

Supermodels promoting the Fyre Festival

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

The "gourmet food" served at FYRE

The “gourmet food” served at FYRE

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

The "Luxury accommodations" at the Fyre Festival

The “Luxury accommodations” at the Fyre Festival

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

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

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

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

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

Ja Rule & Billy McFarland promoting the FYRE Festival

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

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

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

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

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

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

Billy McFarland went to jail for the FYRE fraud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walt Disney wanted to create a perfect society.

Walt Disney wanted to create a perfect society.

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

Is Walt Disney frozen under Epcot Center?

Is Walt Disney frozen under Epcot Center?

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

Is P&G's old Logo Satanic?

Is P&G’s old Logo Satanic?

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

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

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

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

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

Did Pop Rocks kill Mikey from the Live Cereal commercials?

Did Pop Rocks kill Mikey from the Live Cereal commercials?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trojan Condoms will soon be advertising on the Washington Monument

Trojan Condoms will soon be advertising on the Washington Monument

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

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

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

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

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

Vice- A Funny Farce or a Disgusting Insult?

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

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in "Vice"

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in “Vice”

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

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in "Vice"

Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld in “Vice”

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

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

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

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in "Vice"

Christian Bale & Sam Rockwell in “Vice”

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

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in "Vice".

Alison Pill is Mary Cheney in “Vice”.

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

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in "Vice"

Lily Rabe is Liz Cheney in “Vice”

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

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

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

You – A Stalker’s Love Story

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

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in "You"

Elizabeth Lail & Penn Badgley in “You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in "You"

Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger in “You”

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

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

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

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

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

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

The Death of Stalin movie is not for everyone

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

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

Olga Kuryenko in The Death if Stalin

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

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

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

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

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

Steve Buscemi & Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin

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

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

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

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

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

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

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

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

The real Field Marshal Zhukov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derry Girls – A Northern Ireland Comedy during The Troubles

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

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

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

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

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in "Derry Girls

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael in “Derry Girls”

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

Lisa McGee - writer and creator of Derry Girls.

Lisa McGee – writer and creator of Derry Girls.

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

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

The Catholic section of Londonderry during The Troubles.

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

Jamie-Lee O'Donnell poses with a fan.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell poses with a fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

Ben Sinclair in The Googie episode of High Maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

In 1966 America fell in love with Endless Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

Michael Hynson & Robert August in Endless Summer

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

Bruce Brown - a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

Bruce Brown – a pioneer in the art of filming surfers

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

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

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

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

Mister Baseball – Tom Selleck’s best movie

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

Tom Selleck in "Mister Baseball"

Tom Selleck in “Mister Baseball”

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

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

Tom Selleck & Ken Takakura in Mister Baseball

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

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

Aya Takanachi & Tom Selleck in Mister Baseball

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

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

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

Toshi Shioya is the diplomatic translator in Mister Baseball

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

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

Dennis Haysbert in Mister Baseball

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

How The Kennedy Curse Started in Ireland

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

Is there really a Kennedy Curse?

Is there really a Kennedy Curse?

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

New Ross Ireland

New Ross Ireland

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

Robert, Jackie & Ted at President Kennedy's funeral

Robert, Jackie & Ted at President Kennedy’s funeral

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

Irish in Boston 1849

Irish in Boston 1849

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

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

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

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

Will the Kennedy Curse even end?

Will the Kennedy Curse ever end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A true mall walking athlete never uses the escalator.

A true mall walking athlete never uses the escalator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lasting friendships are formed between mall walkers

lasting friendships are formed between mall walkers

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

Mall walking can help turn back time.

Mall walking can help turn back time.

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

Mall walkers enjoying the journey.

Mall walkers enjoying the journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape At Dannemora – A Riveting Prison-Break Series

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

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & David Morse in Escape At Dannemora

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

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

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

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

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

Patricia Arquette in Escape At Dannemora

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

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

Benicio Del Toro & Paul Dano in Escape At Dannemora

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

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

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

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

Translating English into English in Brazil for Fun and Profit

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

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

Austin Powers speaks "Manchester" not "American

Austin Powers speaks “Manchester” not “American”

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

Sao Paulo Brazil - a modern business city

Sao Paulo Brazil – a modern business city

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

Manchester England

Manchester England

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

Working class Manchester

Working class Manchester

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 'dangerous radical", Economist Milton Friedman

The “dangerous radical”, Economist Milton Friedman

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

Milton Friedman's best selling book of essays.

Milton Friedman’s best selling book of essays.

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

Milton Friedman was against all tariffs

Milton Friedman was against all tariffs

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

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

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

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

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

Milton Friedman was against corporations giving any money to charity

Milton Friedman was against corporations giving any money to charity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Cars Were Beautiful and Had Giant Fins

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

Mustang Sally

Mustang Sally

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

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1956 Ford Thunderbird

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

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

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

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

Classic Pink Cadillac

Classic Pink Cadillac

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

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

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

Detail of Catheter Ablation surgery.

Detail of Catheter Ablation surgery.

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

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

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

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

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

Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, Morristown New Jersey

Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute, Morristown New Jersey

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

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

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

Doctor Timothy Mahoney

Doctor Timothy Mahoney

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

You still have to eat healthy after Catheter Ablation surgery

You still have to eat healthy after Catheter Ablation surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A happy heart

A happy heart

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

Russian Subway Dogs – Beautiful & Clever

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

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

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

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

Russian dog sleeps in the subway.

Russian dog sleeps in the subway.

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

Soviet Soldier in World War II preparing a bomb dog

Soviet Soldier in World War II preparing a bomb dog

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

Soviet combat soldier in World War II with his dog.

Soviet combat soldier in World War II with his dog.

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

Russians used dogs to attack German tanks in World War II

Russians used dogs to attack German tanks in World War II

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

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

Sinterklaas & men dressed as Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas & men dressed as Zwarte Piet

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

Young Dutch women protesting Zwarte Piet

Young Dutch women protesting Zwarte Piet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annoying Women Who Harm The Careers of All Women

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

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

The Damsel in Distress at work.

The Damsel in Distress at work.

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

Men can't resist rescuing a Damsel in Distress

Men can’t resist rescuing a Damsel in Distress

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

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

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

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

Marissa Mayer bringing her baby to work at Yahoo.

Marissa Mayer bringing her baby to work at Yahoo.

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

Marissa Mayer's private nursery.

Marissa Mayer’s private nursery.

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

The Glass Ceiling still exists in America.

The Glass Ceiling still exists in America.

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

Invisible Murder – a fascinating Danish Crime Novel

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

Invisible Murder, a Danish crime novel.

Invisible Murder, a Danish crime novel.

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

Roma people protesting against discrimination

Roma people protesting against discrimination

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Denmark, the location of "Invisible Murder".

Beautiful Denmark, the location of “Invisible Murder”.

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

Tiny Denmark surrounded by more powerful neighbors

Tiny Denmark surrounded by more powerful neighbors

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

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

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

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in "Alone in Berlin"

Brendan Gleeson & Emma Thompson in “Alone in Berlin”

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

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

Adolf Hitler at the height of his power.

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

Daniel Bruhl in "Alone in Berlin".

Daniel Bruhl in “Alone in Berlin”.

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

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

Postcard placed by Otto & Elise Hampel

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

Otto & Elise Hampel - true German Heros

Otto & Elise Hampel – true German Heroes

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

Hans Fallada - author of the book Alone in Berlin

Hans Fallada – author of the book Alone in Berlin

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

Berlin at the end of World War II

Berlin at the end of World War II

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

My Dinner With Herve – The last interview with Herve Villechaize

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

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

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

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

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

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

Herve Villechaize & Sacha Gervasi on a wild night out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Men Wore Business Suits to Cut the Grass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

People who lived through the Great Depression never forgot the hardships

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

leftover rice became rice pudding

leftover rice became rice pudding

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

Before the days of Business Casual"

Before the days of Business Casual”

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

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

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

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

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

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in "KIdding"

Danny Trejo & Jim Carrey in “KIdding”

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

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in "Kidding"

Catherine Keener & Frank Langella in “Kidding”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

Bernard White & Cole Allen on the set of Kidding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in "A Beautiful Mind"

Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly in “A Beautiful Mind”

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

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in "Fail Safe"

Larry Hagman & Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe”

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

Max von Sydow in "Voyage of the Damned"

Max von Sydow in “Voyage of the Damned”

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

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

The 4 Best Thanksgiving Movies & T.V. Episodes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Sanders in "WKRP in Cincinnati"

Richard Sanders in “WKRP in Cincinnati”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch campers make the Dutch the most hated tourists in Europe

Dutch campers make the Dutch the most hated tourists in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copper wire was created by 2 Dutchmen fighting over a penny

Copper wire was created by 2 Dutchmen fighting over a penny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

SPOILER ALERT! We saw Fiona Gallagher’s final episode and it was very disappointing. She loses all her money, does not leave Chicago, and is an emotional wreck. Viewers were left feeling betrayed that this strong woman suddenly let her whole world fall apart just because of some cheating man. Ford (Richard Flood) turns out to be married and Fiona totally goes nuts because of this. The Gallagher family takes revenge on Ford, but this still does not seem like a good final episode for Emma Rossum.  With Fiona still in Chicago viewers will wonder why Fiona just never seems to be in the plots anymore. We feel that if a character leaves a series, then the writers should make the effort to actually write that character out.  Despite this disappointing final episode, we still think Emma Rossum is a major star who we will see in many different venues in the future.

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 possibly 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?