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9 Duke University Rumors, Truths & Embarrassments

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

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

Duke University, which is designed to look like Princeton

Duke University, which is designed to look like Princeton

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

Princeton University, which refused to change its name to Duke

Princeton University, which refused to change its name to Duke

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

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

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

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

UNC fans express their feelings towards Duke

UNC fans express their feelings towards Duke

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

The gorgeous Doris Duke

The gorgeous Doris Duke

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

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

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

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

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

Duke Rice diet participants

Duke Rice diet participants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

Brendan Frasier & Dominic West in Season 3 of The Affair

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

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

Final Seinfield goodbyes -1998

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

Joshua Johnson & Catalina Sandino Moreno in The Affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

The Dog Killer National Lampoon Cover

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

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

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

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

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

Doug Kenney & Henry Beard

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

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

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

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

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

National Lampoon's Nixon cover

National Lampoon’s Nixon cover

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

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

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

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

People continue to copy National Lampoon

People continue to copy National Lampoon

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

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

Secret City – An Australian Spy/Diplomatic Thriller

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

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in "Secret City"

Anna Torv is journalist Harriet Dunkley in “Secret City”

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

Alice Chaston from Secret City

Alice Chaston from Secret City

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

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

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

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

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

Jacki Weaver in Secret City

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

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

Damon Herriman & Anna Torv in Secret City

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

Canberra Australia

Canberra Australia

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

               “Sir William he, snug s a flea,

               Lay all this time a snoring,

               Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay warm,

               In bed with Mr. Loring.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


French Fry Fun Facts for July 4th

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

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

The Average American eats 14 pounds of French Fries per year

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

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

Thomas Jefferson served French Fries at the White House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

IAGO, a fascinating novel by David Snodin

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

Iago still fascinates people

Iago still fascinates people

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

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

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

David Snodin author of IAGO

David Snodin author of IAGO

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

9 Top Songs About Death, Killers & Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Harrison & John Lennon joking around

George Harrison & John Lennon joking around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Heads made "Psycho Killer" a hit.

Talking Heads made “Psycho Killer” a hit.

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

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

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

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

Sarah McLachlan the beautiful angel who sings "Angel"

Sarah McLachlan the beautiful angel who sings “Angel”

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

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

Roadies Prepares For Season 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Goodman's character came back to life in Rosanne

John Goodman’s character came back to life in Rosanne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Earl Jones in "The Great White Hope"

James Earl Jones in “The Great White Hope”

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

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

Hattie McClay & Jack Johnson 1909

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organization chart at even a small restaurant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Silence Of The Soup – My True Crime Confession

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

New York Windows

New York Windows

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

No one is impressed by the size of your speakers

No one is impressed by the size of your speakers

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

Throbbing base music at 3am

Throbbing base music at 3am

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

Man arrested for soup can crime

Man arrested for soup can crime

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

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

French onion soup - the perfect stealth weapon

French onion soup – the perfect stealth weapon

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

Broken window quiets a noisy neighbor

Broken window quiets a noisy neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

Sweetbitter – discovering life through the sensuality of gourmet dining

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

Ella Purnell as Tess in Sweetbitter

Ella Purnell as Tess in Sweetbitter

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

Paul Sparks in Sweetbitter

Paul Sparks in Sweetbitter

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

Catlin Fitzgerald, who plays Simone on Sweetbitter

Catlin Fitzgerald, who plays Simone on Sweetbitter

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

Stephanie Danler, the creator of Sweetbitter

Stephanie Danler, the creator of Sweetbitter

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

Barry – the assassin we love

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

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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

Bill Hader as the contract killer "Barry"

Bill Hader as the contract killer “Barry”

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

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

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

Stephen Root who arranges murders in "Barry"

Stephen Root who arranges murders in “Barry”

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

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in "Barry"

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in “Barry”

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

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

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

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

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

Counterpart – a terrific Sci-Fi/spy thriller

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

Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

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

J.K. Simmonds in Starz "Counterpart"

J.K. Simmonds in Starz “Counterpart”

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

Olivia Williams as Emily in "Counterpart"

Olivia Williams as Emily in “Counterpart”

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

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

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

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

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

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

Sarah Bolger

Sarah Bolger

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

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

Babylon Berlin- A Wild Detective Series in 1929 Germany

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

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

Liv Lisa Fries in Babylon Berlin

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

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

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

Severija Janusauskaite is Countess Sorokina in Babylon Berlin

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

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

Peter Kurth in Babylon Berlin

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

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

Communists & police clash in Babylon Berlin

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

Everything She Forgot – A Brilliant Mystery/Action Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Ballantyne - author of Everything She Forgot

Lisa Ballantyne – author of Everything She Forgot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike McGrady, the real force behind Naked Came The Stranger

Mike McGrady, the real force behind Naked Came The Stranger

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

Lyle Stuart - publisher of Naked Came The Stranger

Lyle Stuart – publisher of Naked Came The Stranger

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

The real authors of Naked Came The Stranger

The real authors of Naked Came The Stranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosie O'Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

Rosie O’Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

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

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

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

SMILF pay homage to the German film Run Lola Run

SMILF pays homage to the German film Run Lola Run

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

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

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

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

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

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

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

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

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

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

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

We recommend SMILF as one of the best new shows.

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

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

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

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

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

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

Gulen relaxes at home, safe in Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Depp will play an over the top President Erdowin

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

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

Turkish news reporter Tijen Karas

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

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

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

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

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

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

Erdowan & Gulen waging a battle for Turkey on 2 continents

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

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

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

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

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

Good Will On Earth And Peace To Men.

Do not try to harm Gulen.

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

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

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

Happy New Year to the brave people of Turkey.

“The Crown” Insults Jackie Kennedy

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

Jodi Balfor as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

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

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The Crown" writer Peter Morgan

“The Crown” writer Peter Morgan

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

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

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

ILL Behaviour – The comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping

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

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

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

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

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

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Orville – better than Star Trek Next Generation

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

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

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

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

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

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

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

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

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

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

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

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

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

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

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

So have fun watching The Orville. We certainly did.

Lady Bird – The Best Independent Film Of The Year

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

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

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

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

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

Odeya Rush

Odeya Rush

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

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother – the movie explained

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

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in “Mother”

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in “Mother”

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

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

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in “Mother”

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

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

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

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

Who remembers Potato Guns? Who Wants one?

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

The Potato Gun

The Potato Gun

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

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

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

Food Fight in Animal House

Food Fight in Animal House

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

The complete Potato Gun

The complete Potato Gun

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

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

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

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

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

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

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

A working Potato Gun

A working Potato Gun

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

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

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

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ford's River Rouge plant. Now closed

Ford’s River Rouge plant. Now closed

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

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

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

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

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

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

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

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

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

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

Ansel Elgort is "Baby" in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort is “Baby” in Baby Driver

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

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

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

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

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

Sterling Archer the world's greatest secret agent

Sterling Archer the world’s greatest secret agent

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

Archer & Lana

Archer & Lana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sterling Archer with tiger friend

Sterling Archer with tiger friend

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

How To Archer

How To Archer

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

Baywatch – raunchy and silly and we loved it

The new Baywatch movie is a raunchy, silly comedy based on a cheesy old T.V. show, and we loved it. Come on, don’t be such a snob. When you go to see Baywatch, you know you aren’t going to be seeing Hamlet. Baywatch has action, comedy, an easy-to-follow plot, and beautiful women and men running around  in skimpy bathing suits on a gorgeous beach. Who could ask for more?

Alexandra Daddario & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Alexandra Daddario & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

In other words, Baywatch is pure mindless escapism. With all the troubles and bad news in the world today, that is exactly what audiences need once and a while. Escapist movies have a long cinematic tradition. During The Great Depression, audiences flocked to see musicals about super wealthy people with yachts and mansions. During World War II, comedies were very popular. Winston Churchill would periodically block out the war by locking himself away for a few hours to watch a Marx Brothers film.

Kelly Rohrbach who plays C.J. In Baywatch

Kelly Rohrbach who plays C.J. In Baywatch

With the current news filled with nothing but terrorism, wars and bickering politicians, people need mindless entertainment more than ever. Baywatch fits that bill perfectly. Of course, be warned that Baywatch is not a kids’ movie. There are a lot of sexual jokes and extensive male nudity. That’s right, we said male nudity.  Female nudity has been on screen in main-stream movies even since Tarzan And His Mate in 1934. However, the penis has been taboo, except in hard core X-Rated films. Baywatch, on the other hand uses the male appendage as a comic tool (pun intended). Baywatch  has a hilarious scene in a morgue in which a corpse’s private parts play a prominent role.

Jon Bass & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Jon Bass & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

The cast of Baywatch does a fantastic job with the script. It is obvious that the actors really had fun making the movie, and enjoyed each other’s company. Be sure to stay for the extra scenes after the closing credits, to see the out-takes and on-set jokes.

Dwayne Johnson and Pamela Anderson in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson and Pamela Anderson in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson stars as  Mitch Buchannon, the head lifeguard who is not content with just saving people from drowning. He and his team of incredibly   gorgeous fellow lifeguards decide to go undercover to discover who is selling drugs that are so prevalent, bags of crack are washing up on the beach.  Dwayne Johnson, who at one time was the professional wrestler “The Rock”, has become well known as a respected comic actor. He also has the reputation of being one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.

Dwayne Johnson ans David Hasselhoff in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson ans David Hasselhoff in Baywatch

Alexandra Daddario is Summer Quinn,and Kelly Rohrbach is C.J. These two lifeguards  perform heroic rescues, fight bad guys, and solve crimes all while looking stunningly beautiful in every situation.

Zac Efron & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Zac Efron & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Zac Efron is Matt Brody, an ex-Olympic gold medal swimmer who thinks he is way too good to be just a lifeguard.  It is obvious that his character is based on Ryan Lochte, the American swimmer who made a fool of himself at the Rio Olympics. Ryan Lochte, was the idiot who got drunk, vandalized a Rio gas station, and then claimed he had been robbed when he was forced to pay for the damages. Despite winning swimming medals, Ryan Lochte ended up being hated and ridiculed by his fellow Olympians. Zac Efron plays the part perfectly.

Ryan Lochte was the inspiration for Zac Efron's character in Baywatch

Ryan Lochte was the inspiration for Zac Efron’s character in Baywatch

Jon Bass is Ronnie, the only lifeguard who has what might be considered a “normal” body. He got on the lifeguard team, because he always  gives 100%, even though his body is no match for the Supermen and Superwomen physiques of the people around him.  This, of course, makes him one of the most likable characters in Baywatch. Ronnie is hopelessly in love with C.J. who is obviously completely out of his league. However, there is more to C.J. than meets the eye and she is also in love with Ronnie. This is an old and corny sub-plot, but it still works.

Of course, no Baywatch movie would be complete without cameo appearances from David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. They both still look great. Apparently all that swimming really does keep a body  in shape.

So stop feeling guilty and go to see Baywatch. Let your mind take a break for a few hours.

The Lost Book Of The Grail – a fascinating novel of an age-old quest

The Lost Book Of The Grail by Charlie Lovett is a fascinating novel about a modern day hunt for the Holy Grail. Instead of a quest by chivalrous  knights, the searchers are a group of introverted bibliophiles from rural England. However, they  might just have the exact set of skills to succeed, where thousands of others have failed over the centuries.

Charlie Lovett author of The Lost Book Of The Grail

Charlie Lovett author of The Lost Book Of The Grail

The unlikely  hero of The Lost Book Of The Grail is Professor Arthur Prescott, a man who would prefer living in an earlier century. Arthur teaches as little as possible, and spends all his free time in Barchester Cathedral’s  medieval library, studying the ancient manuscripts. Arthur believes the books hold the secret to the location of the Holy Grail, which Arthur has been fascinated with since he was a little boy.

The Holy Grail - The cup from which Jesus drank at The Last Supper

The Holy Grail – The cup from which Jesus drank at The Last Supper

Arthur is a very likeable fellow, but definitely suffers from OCD. His life is completely structured in a series of routines, which revolve around the library and the cathedral.  He attends Evensong at the cathedral each night, walks the grounds of the church with the minister each morning, and once a week meets with a group of fellow book lovers. That is Arthur’s whole life.

Then Arthur’s entire world is changed with the arrival of a beautiful young American woman named Bethany. She is the opposite to Arthur in every way. Bethany is extroverted, well-traveled, computer savvy, and makes friends easily. Arthur is both fascinated by and petrified of Bethany.

The Monty Python crew searches for The Holy Grail

The Monty Python crew searches for The Holy Grail

You see, Bethany is there to destroy what Arthur loves most. Bethany has come to “digitize” the ancient books in the cathedral’s library. That is, copy them into a computer database. There are also rumors that once that is completed, the library will be selling the original  manuscripts for much needed funding.

Arthur comes up with a wild idea of how to save the library and the cathedral. He believes the secret to the location of Holy Grail is hidden in coded messages in the library’s books. If he can find them before Bethany completes her work the Cathedral would become so precious a landmark that nothing would ever have to be sold. As ridiculous as this idea is, we readers desperately want Arthur and his team of bibliophiles to succeed.

Indiana Jones finds The Holy Grail

Indiana Jones finds The Holy Grail

There have been many stories of quests  for the Holy Grail, from Indiana Jones to Monty Python. However, The Lost Book Of The Grail is one of the best. Charlie Lovett is an excellent writer, and brings to life characters who are flawed yet heroic. Arthur Prescott’s search is not just for the Holy Grail, but also to find out who he really is. Despite his life revolving around a church and a holy object, Arthur is himself an atheist. When Bethany points out this inconsistency, Arthur responds,

Just because I don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean I don’t want to.And it doesn’t mean I can’t find comfort in routine and in connecting myself through those words and this space to a hundred generations who have come before me here.”

We recommend The Lost Book Of the Grail, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Goose Family in Park with little goslings

Parks are not just for people. This beautiful goose family is enjoying the day after a long cold spring.

Goose Family in Park

Goose Family in Park

These little down-covered goslings will grow at amazing speed. By the end of the Summer they will be the same size as their giant parents. When Winter starts they will fly south as part of an aerodynamic-shaped V, soaring through the air for a trip of thousands of miles. The goslings are completely unaware of the amazing course their lives will take . Today the little goslings are content to wander through the grass, knowing that they are safe and protected by their watchful parents.

The Lost City Of Z – the best movie most people didn’t see

The Lost City of Z is the best movie in 2017 which most people didn’t see. The cinematography is  stunningly beautiful and the plot is moving and thoughtful. Filmed in the Amazon jungle, it is the story of a British explorer, whose main discovery is about his inner self.

Charlie Hunnam as explorer Percival Fawcett

Charlie Hunnam as explorer Percival Fawcett

The Lost City of Z is the true story of Percival Fawcett, a British Army officer whose life is going nowhere in 1905. Advancement in the British Army was still very dependent upon social status, and unfortunately Percival’s father had been a drunk and a disgrace to the service.

Henry Costin & Charlie Hunnam in "The Lost City Of Z"

Henry Costin & Charlie Hunnam in “The Lost City Of Z”

Desperate to make a name for himself, Percival (played by Charlie Hunnam) agrees to lead an expedition to explore the length of the Amazon river. Amazingly, even by 1905, no European had yet traversed the complete length of the river. Percival really has no interest in the Amazon or the natives who live in the jungle around it, but he does think the trip will make him famous and help his career.

Percival Fawcett finds the South American natives to be kind and intelligent

Percival Fawcett finds the South American natives to be kind and intelligent

Percival is lucky enough to have an excellent team including Herny Costin (played by Robert Pattison) as his tough-as-nails second in command. The trip is excruciatingly exhausting  and dangerous and it changes the men profoundly. Their main discovery is that the South American Indians are not the “savages” the British had assumed. Despite being almost naked, these natives are intelligent, resourceful and kind. The explorers admire the way the natives are able to use the jungle to provide food, clothing and shelter, whereas the British almost starve to death despite bringing food supplies with them.

Fawcett and his team do find the end of the Amazon, and also discover a few pieces of ancient pottery. They hear stories from the natives that there was once a huge and advanced city in the jungle, that could rival the great European cities.

Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett

Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett

When Percival Fawcett returns to England he is hailed as a great explorer and becomes world famous. Despite achieving his dream, the victory is bittersweet. His statements that the South American natives are highly intelligent people are ridiculed. No one but other members of his team believe there is a Lost City of Z waiting to be discovered in the jungle. Percival Fawcett dedicates the rest of his life to finding the city and returns to the Amazon 2 more times.

The Lost City Of Z ambitiously covers the period from 1905-1925, including World War I. It is in many ways a “period piece” showing how difficult it is for even the most intelligent people to rise above the norms of their times. Percival’s wife Nina (played by Sienna Miller) helps him to do all the research and raise the funds for his expeditions. She excitedly wants to join him on his expeditions. Despite his advanced views about the South American natives, Percival still believes that the “proper place” for a British wife is at home. Percival absolutely refuses to let Nina come to South America.

Although it is a wonderful film, The Lost City Of Z did not bring in a big box office, making only  about $12.7 million in theaters in the U.S.  It was a direct theatrical release from Amazon, which is a completely new venture for the company. Apparently Amazon knows how to make a great film for the theaters, but has not yet mastered how to promote a theatrical release.

We highly recommend The Lost City Of Z. If it you cannot find it in the theaters there is no doubt it will be available on Amazon.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – a beautiful Iranian vampire on a skateboard

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night  is about beautiful Iranian vampire who stalks men at night while cruising on her skateboard and wearing a burka. (We are not making this up). It is a terrific independent film that combines elements of Sin City, Dracula,  and High Plains Drifter

Sheila Vand as the vampire

Sheila Vand as the vampire

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is filmed in black & white and the actors all speak Farsi (Persian). They live in Bad City (paying homage to Sin City) which is filled with repugnant violent characters who peddle drugs and abuse women. The hero of the story is Arash (played by Arash Marandi) who is trying to work hard and lead a good life, despite the evil all around him.

Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi and Masuka the cat

Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi and Masuka the cat

Then into the town comes a strange and beautiful girl who appears only at night. Despite being a “girl alone at night” she is completely unafraid of the men in the town.  This is because she is a vampire, who feeds on the men who disrespect women. No one is aware of her actions as she strikes only single targets late at night.

Arash Marandi & Sheila Vand

Arash Marandi & Sheila Vand

Arash almost becomes one of her victims when he staggers home drunk one night after a party. He becomes lost in the city and runs into the girl. However, she can see that he is somehow different than the other men in Bad City. She takes care of him and, of course, Arash falls in love. Arash makes it his mission to find out who this girl really is, and to win her love.

Ana Lily Amirpour the writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Ana Lily Amirpour the writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was written and directed by Lily Amirpour an Iranian-American film maker from California. She could have made the movie in English and in color, but it is so much cooler in Farsi and black & white. The whole idea is that A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night takes place in a fantasy world. The strange language (for most of us) and the film noir imagery  give A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night a complete “other worldly” feel. It also has a fantastic sound track which adds to the overall experience.

We loved A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It is great to see a film where the writer/director has taken a real chance and where it all fits together perfectly.

John Wick Chapter 2 – Humorous over-the-top violence and great acting

Saying  that you don’t like John Wick Chapter 2 because it is too violent, is like saying you don’t like the ocean because it is too wet. The violence in John Wick Chapter 2 is meant to be so over-the-top that it can’t possibly be taken seriously.  In many parts of the movie, the theater audiences laugh or break into cheers after a particularly absurd fight scene.

Keanu Reeves & Lawrence Fishburne joke around on the set of "John Wick Chapter 2"

Keanu Reeves & Lawrence Fishburne joke around on the set of “John Wick Chapter 2”

Keanu Reeves is perfect reprising his role as John Wick, the world’s most deadly assassin. John Wick is forced out of retirement to assassinate a Mafia princess (beautifully played by Italian film star Claudia Gerini). She is, of course, one of the world’s most protected people, surrounded by  hundreds of bodyguards that Wick must fight.

Claudia Gerini is the Mafia princess in "John Wick" chapter 2

Claudia Gerini is the Mafia princess in “John Wick” chapter 2

As in the original John Wick movie there are terrific scenes at The Continental, which is a hotel for professional assassins. At The Continental you can order guns, knives and bullet proof suits and have them delivered directly to your room. Ian McShane is the upper class manager of The Continental who provides every service a successful killer could desire.

Ian McShane as the man who runs The Continental in "John Wick Chapter 2"

Ian McShane as the man who runs The Continental in “John Wick Chapter 2”

The casting in John Wick Chapter 2 is excellent as are the locations. The film was beautifully shot at interesting locations in New York and Rome. Many of the fight scenes are in modern museums, or ancient Roman ruins.

Ruby Rose as the silent killer Ares in "John Wick Chapter 2"

Ruby Rose as the silent killer Ares in “John Wick Chapter 2”

Lawrence Fishburne is The Bowery King, who controls an army of homeless beggars throughout New York as a well-armed intelligence gathering network.  After seeing John Wick Chapter 2 you may look differently at the homeless people on the streets of New York.  Is it possible that they really have Uzis under those filthy blankets?

Common does a perfect performance in John Wick Chapter 2

Common does a perfect performance in John Wick Chapter 2

Ruby Rose is wonderful as the deaf-mute killer Ares. Ruby Rose is having an incredible acting year, with major roes in Resident Evil-the Final Chapter, and The Return of Xander Cage. Three key roles in three motion pictures in one year is an amazing accomplishment and must have been exhausting, since each one is a physically demanding action part.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known by his rap and stage name “Common”, excellently plays the Mafia bodyguard Cassian. Although he and Wick are friends, they are now on opposite sides of a deadly battle.

John Wick Chapter 2 is a fun movie if you are in the right mood for mindless entertainment.  Be aware that it  is rated R for violence. We literally lost count of how many people get killed in the movie, but it had to be well over a hundred.  However, we were in the right mood and thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  We eagerly await John Wick Chapter 3.

Riverdale – Archie Comics in an Alternate Universe

Baby Boomers who see Riverdale on the CW network will feel like they have entered into an alternate universe. Murder, intrigue and illicit sex have made their way into the Archie Comics town of Riverdale. Archie himself has been transformed from a goofy geek into a major hunk who shows off his six-pack abs every chance he gets.

Classic Archie joke

Classic Archie joke

Despite these changes, Riverdale is actually a good show with an interesting plot and excellent acting. We are just  not sure why the producers chose to base the show on a comic book that first came out in 1941.  The target audience for Riverdale is about 50 years younger than anyone who actually  remembers the classic Archie Comics.

KJ Apa as Archie, showing off his abs

KJ Apa as Archie, showing off his abs

KJ Apa is Archie, who like in the comics, is continually caught in the middle between Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes). Both Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes really nail their characters. It is not easy to play a comic book character without going “over the top”, but both of these fine actors resist that temptation, and play the characters straight. Like in the comics, we always feel sorry for Betty, who despite being nice and beautiful is relegated to the “just friends” category by Archie.

Lili Reinhart perfect as Betty

Lili Reinhart perfect as Betty

Archie himself is the biggest change from the comics. He is a bulked-up football star, who has an illicit sexual affair with a beautiful young teacher. What happened to the nerdy guy from the comics, who never quite got what was going on?  What made the original Archie great was that he was not cool.

Camila Mendes & Lili Reinhart

Camila Mendes & Lili Reinhart

Archie was the average high school guy that kids could identify with. Archie was not a star athlete, or brilliant student. He did have a car, but it was a rattling piece of junk (as opposed to rich Reggie’s sports car).

The real Archie definitely did not have the body of a hunk

The real Archie definitely did not have the body of a hunk

In Riverale, Archie and his friends investigate what might or might not be a murder. To say much more would be to give away the mystery. Riverdale is actually a good show and teenage viewers will like it. Older viewers of a “certain age” can also have fun taking a look, just to see how times have changed in the sleepy, likable town. Still, Baby Boomers may get a twinge of nostalgic sadness seeing Riverdale.

The original Riverdale in Archie comics was a fantasy even when it was created in 1941. It was a place where nothing bad ever happened. No one ever got hurt, got sick,  changed or grew older.  Kids could read these comics and retreat from the “real world” that was being forced onto them. The CW network’s Riverdale is an interesting place, but if given a choice, we would still choose to live in the original Riverdale from the Archie comics. Let’s face it; the real world is highly overrated.

Split – classic horror intertwined with mystery and psychological drama

Split is the story of three teenage girls kidnapped by a  dangerous psychopath with multiple personalities.  Some of the personalities are kind, some stupid and some dangerous. All of the personalities are afraid of “the monster” which will be unleashed on the girls.

James McAvoy & Anya Taylor-Joy in "Split"

James McAvoy & Anya Taylor-Joy in “Split”

James McAvoy gives a masterful performance as the kidnapper, who becomes increasingly strange and dangerous as the film progresses. Intertwined with the classic horror elements, are themes of mystery and psychological drama.

Jessica Sula & Haley Lu Richardson in "Split"

Jessica Sula & Haley Lu Richardson in “Split”

The three girls kidnapped come from a privileged suburban background, and are completely unprepared for the violence and degradation they are suddenly thrust into.  Their natural tendency is to simply freeze from panic. This is, in fact, the normal response when everyday people are confronted with unexpected violence.   Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson are perfect as two young women trying to cope with a situation beyond their comprehension.

Anya Taylor-Joy in "Split"

Anya Taylor-Joy in “Split”

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Casey Cooke, the third kidnap victim.  Her background is far different from the other girls. She has had a childhood of sexual abuse, and holds a deep inner shame that she never fought back. Casey is determined that this time will be different.  Anya Taylor-Joy is a fantastic actor, and we noted her skills when she starred in The Witch.

Izzie Coffey plays an abused little girl in Split

Izzie Coffey plays an abused little girl in Split

Izzie Coffey plays 6 year old Casey. In flashbacks we see what she was subjected to, and understand why the teenage Casey is considered “strange” by the other girls. Her damaged childhood is a key to the plot of the film.  As a little girl, Casey was far too small to fight back. Can the teenage Casey now summon the strength and the will?

Betty Buckley as psychiatrist Karen Fletcher in "Split"

Betty Buckley as psychiatrist Karen Fletcher in “Split”

Betty Buckley is Psychiatrist Karen Fletcher who has been treating the multiple personalities of the kidnapper for years. So far, he has been able to successfully hide the violent and evil parts of himself from her. However, she knows there is something she is just not seeing. Something about “the monster”

Director M. Night Shyamalan has created a terrific horror film, with less gore and more mystery than most films of the genre.  It is exciting throughout, with a moving subtext touching on the issue of female vulnerability in a male-dominated world.

Monsieur Verdoux – Charlie Chaplin as a talkative murderer

In 1947 Charlie Chaplin shocked movie audiences by playing a talkative serial killer in the film Monsieur Verdoux.  It was completely against type for the man famous for playing the lovable little tramp in silent movies.

Martha Raye & Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux

Martha Raye & Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux is a very dark comedy in which Charlie Chaplin plays a man who successively marries, then murders,  women so that he can steal their assets. His only redeeming quality is that he is using the money to support his real wife, who is suffering from polio. She thinks he is just a kind successful businessman who travels a lot for work.

Serial killer Henri Desire Landru - he was convicted and sent to the guillotine

Serial killer Henri Desire Landru – he was convicted and sent to the guillotine

Monsieur Verdoux was based on the real-life serial killer Henri Desire Landru. In France between 1914 and 1919, he married then killed 11 women.  Due to World War I, there were thousands of widows in France who were easy prey for Landru. He went undiscovered for a long time, since he would destroy the victims in an oven.

Some of the murder victims of Henri Desire Landru

Some of the murder victims of Henri Desire Landru

It is hard to understand why Charlie Chaplin thought this subject would make a good comedy. However, Monsieur Verdoux does have some amusing parts. The funniest person in the film is Martha Raye, who plays Annabella, one of the unsuspecting women Monsieur Verdoux has married. Unlike the other women, Annabella is basically indestructible. No matter what he tries Monsieur Verdoux simply cannot kill Annabella, but does succeed in almost poisoning  himself.

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp we all know and love

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp we all know and love

Audiences in 1947 did not like Monsieur Verdoux.  World War II has just ended. After years of war and millions of deaths, people wanted to see Chaplin in a light comedy.  No one wanted to be reminded of death and destruction and evil people in the world.

Charlie Chaplin & Marilyn Nash in Monsieur Verdoux

Charlie Chaplin & Marilyn Nash in Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux himself tries to defend his action by saying that what he is doing is nothing compared to the millions killed in war. Marilyn Nash plays a young woman who is lifted out a poverty by marring a weapons manufacturer. These anti-war themes seem grafted into and out of place in the movie.

Even watching the film today, it tends to fall flat. We can see what Chaplin was trying to accomplish, but it just does not come across. In order for the comedy to work, you have to like and root for Monsieur Verdoux. However, we  could not get over the fact that in the film, he does kill many of the woman and burn their bodies in an incinerator.  It would have been much funnier if Monsieur Verdoux was an unsuccessful murderer.  If all of his “wives” were as indestructible as Martha Raye, audience might have cheered for the bumbling little man trying to be a criminal. Instead, they were shocked to see that Charlie Chaplin had turned the lovable little tramp into a bad guy.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox who wrote" "Laugh and the World laugh with you; weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has troubles enough of its own."

Ella Wheeler Wilcox who wrote” “Laugh and the World laughs with you; weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has troubles enough of its own.”

Still, Monsieur Verdoux is a film worth seeing for two reasons. First of all, you get to hear Chaplin speak, which is unusual in itself. More importantly, it gives us a glimpse into the man that Chaplin usually kept hidden from the world. Like many comedians, Charlie Chaplin had a dark side which looked at the world as a place or cruelty and evil. Seeing him as the little tramp, audiences would never guess the depths of his depression. As the character Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin takes off the smiling mask and lets people see the pain beneath.  Chaplin should have realized that no one wanted to see that. He should have remembered the lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem Solitude.

“Laugh and the World laughs with you, weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has trouble enough of its own.”

Lovelace – the sad story behind the star of Deep Throat

Lovelace is the sad story of Linda Boreman, better known as “Linda Lovelace” from the infamous Deep Throat movie.  Based on her book Ordeal, it details how she was forced into adult films and prostitution by her abusive husband Chuck Traynor.  Linda later became a spokeswoman against pornography and for for women’s rights.

Peter Sarsgaard & Amanda Seyfried in "Lovelace"

Peter Sarsgaard & Amanda Seyfried in “Lovelace”

Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) came from a strict Catholic family that was shamed  when she had a child out of wedlock. After that, Linda’s parents became completely over-protective and monitored every aspect of her life. Linda rebelled by marrying Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) the dominating owner of a sleazy topless bar. At first, it seems like life with Chuck will be exciting and fun. However, when Chuck runs into financial problems, he forces Linda into prostitution. After that, the adult film industry actually seems like a step up.

Sharon Stone in "Lovelace"

Sharon Stone in “Lovelace”

Sharon Stone plays Linda’s mother Dorothy. Sharon Stone does such a good job as this uptight cruel woman that we honestly did not realize this was the same actress from Basic Instinct.

Robert Patrick as the devastated father of a porn star in "Lovelace"

Robert Patrick as the devastated father of a porn star in “Lovelace”

Robert Patrick is John Boreman, who is completely devastated when his daughter becomes a porn star.

Linda Lovelace & Chuck Traynor

Linda Lovelace & Chuck Traynor

Deep Throat was a cultural phenomena in 1972. It was a porn film that somehow crossed over and attracted mainstream audiences. It was also one of the first porn films available on video tape which meant that people could see it without having to “be seen”. Supposedly Deep Throat made $600 million dollars. For her staring role, Linda Lovelace was paid $1,250.

One of the aspects only lightly touched on in Lovelace, is organized crime’s involvement in the pornographic film industry. Porn films are sleazy, but they are legal. Therefore, the mob funnels the profits from its illegal activities into those films. There is no way that Deep Throat actually grossed $600 million. The Oscar winning Best Picture in 1972 was The French Connection. It had a domestic gross box office of $51 million.

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace. Here the publisher of Ordeal has her take a lie detector test to make sure her story is true. She passed the test.

Amanda Seyfried was perfect as Linda Lovelace. Amanda took a real risk with her career on Lovelace, since prior to this Amanda has always played the sweet innocent girl. Peter Sarsgaard, as always, puts in a powerful performance. He is one of America’s best actors and continually challenges himself with new roles in independent films.

We recommend Lovelace, but be warned that it has strong sexual content. Parts of Lovelace are difficult to watch, with the graphic depiction of the abuses Linda was subjected to.

20th Century Women- a quirky comedy with excellent acting

20th Century Women is a wonderful film where Hollywood finally lets a middle aged woman be the star. Annette Bening gives a perfect performance as Dorothea Fields, a single mother trying to raise her teenage son amidst the turbulent changes of the 1970s.

Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women

Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Annette Bening,  Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women

If you ever get the feeling that real life has no plot, and that you don’t know what you are doing, then you will sympathize with Dorothea. She wants to be the perfect mom, have a fulfilling life, and make everyone around her happy and enlightened. She is a failure at all of these goals, but she never stops trying. You can’t help falling in love with Dorothea.

Elle Fanning as the rebellious teen Julie in 20th Century Women

Elle Fanning as the rebellious teen Julie in 20th Century Women

Dorothea and her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) live in a big old house surrounded by odd characters. There is William (Billy Crudup) a combination hippie/carpenter/car mechanic. Greta Gerwig plays Abbie, a sensitive artist, trying to cope with cervical cancer. The next door neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) is a rebellious teenager who spends most of her time at Dorothea’s house.

Annette Bening & Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women

Annette Bening & Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women

Somehow this odd mix of people becomes a family of sorts, helping each other through trials and changes in their own lives. Jamie never comes out and says he wishes he was in a “normal” family, but you know he has thought about it.

If you are expecting a structured plot and a lot of action then 20th Century Women is not the movie for you. 20th Century Women is more like real life than a movie. Things just happen to people. Sometimes they cope well and sometimes they don’t.

We loved 20th Century Women. Ever character is memorable and every actor gives a great performance.

Patriots Day – a tribute to the people of Boston

Patriots Day was so moving, that when the film was over, a number of people in the theater were openly crying.  The final scenes in the film are interviews with the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Some of these people had lost limbs and others mourned the death of loved ones.  All of the victims spoke of hope and courage and love. Not a single one had a message of hatred or revenge.

Boston Marathon bombing - April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon bombing – April 15, 2013

We had not actually planned on seeing Patriots Day. We we going to watch another movie, but when we got to theater the projector showing our movie was broken. Patriots Day was the only other movie playing at the same time, so we got tickets for it.  The reason we did not plan on seeing Patriots Day was that we were afraid that it would  be too exploitative. After all, the Boston Marathon bombing was on April 15, 2013. It seemed too soon to make a movie about it. The wounds were perhaps too fresh to be reopened.

Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) and Dzhokhar (right)

Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) and his brother  Dzhokhar (right)

However, Patriots Day is not at all exploitative. It follows the events of the bombing and brings to life the tension,  terror and courage of the people of Boston. Like many Americans, we were aware of the basic facts, but did not know all of the details.

The courage of many individuals was amazing. There was Dun Meng (played by Jimmy O. Yang). He is a young  Chinese businessman living in Boston, who was car-jacked by the bombers at gunpoint. After being driven around and threatened repeatedly, he was able to escape from the car and call the police. Most people would have been paralyzed with fear, but somehow Dun Meng had the nerve to open the door and run, when six inches away sat a man with a gun.

Little Martin Richards (circled in blue) who was killed in the bomb blast. The man in the white hat is the bomber, and the bomb is seen lower right

Little Martin Richard (circled in blue) who was killed in the bomb blast. The man in the white hat is the bomber, and the bomb is seen lower right

Sean Collier (played by Jake Picking) was an MIT police officer killed by the bombers who were trying to get his gun. Despite being shot multiple times, he never gave up the gun and the bombers had to flee without it.

There was one very shocking act after the bombing. The younger bomber’s college roommates recognized his picture on T.V. Instead of immediately calling the police to say they knew the bomber, they hid items from his dorm room that would have implicated him in the crime. They later received between 3 and 6 years in prison for obstructing the investigation. That does not seem nearly a long enough punishment.

Marl Wahlberg in Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day

Patriots Day could have been improved slightly by focusing less on Mark Wahlberg.  He plays Tommy Saunders, a fictional  character who is a compilation of numerous  Boston Police officers. The problem with combining all those officers into one character is that it made him too much of a Superman.  In the movie, Tommy Saunders was at the finish line when the bombs went off. He also met with Dun Meng, and helped the FBI and was at two separate shootouts with the bombers.  The movie would have been better if the director had used a number of different actors, instead of making this such a star vehicle for Mark Wahlberg.

However, in total, Patriots Day is a great film. It is much too intense for children, and be warned that even many adults will find parts hard to watch.  The film intersperses actual news and surveillance camera footage into the movie, so at some points you feel as if you are watching the events in real time.

Patriots Day is a tribute to all the people of Boston, and they deserve it.

HBO’s “The Young Pope” is so bad it’s a sin

The Young Pope commits the worst sin any T.V. show can make. It is boring. The dullness beings with the opening credits of the first episode, which take 6 minutes to roll by while the New Pope walks in silent slow motion past scowling Cardinals and Nuns. After that, the “action” never really begins. It feels like the whole show is in slow motion, with one interminably long scene after another.

Jude Law as The Young Pope

Jude Law as The Young Pope

The basic concept of The Young Pope is good. The Cardinals select what they think will be a “telegenic puppet” as pope. The old guard at the Vatican thinks they will be able to maintain control of the Roman Catholic Church through this puppet. However, the young pope turns out to be completely uncontrollable, and moves the Church in unexpected directions.Sounds exciting doesn’t it? It should have been. However, the terrible writing and the monotone line delivery by Jude Law (the pope) make the show almost  unwatchable.

Silvio Orlando as Cardinal Voiello

Silvio Orlando as Cardinal Voiello

The bad guy in the series is Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) who tries unsuccessfully to control the pope. He is a ridiculous stereotype of an evil church figure. He has lustful thought about a naked statue in the pope’s chambers. He is ugly. The makeup people  gave this character an ugly facial mole that is so large it should be credited as it’s own character.  By making this Cardinal bad in every way, the writers have made him very uninteresting. The best bad guys are the most complex and multi-faceted.

The worst character is the Young Pope himself. For one thing, it is inconceivable that this person ever would have been elected pope under any circumstances.  He is supposed to be  47 year-old American Lenny Belardo. (Despite being played by English actor Jude law, who sounds very British in this role).

Lenny Belardo would never have risen in the ranks of the Catholic Church. He is rude to everyone around him, does not seem at all pious, hates being near the general public and has no political skills.

The Catholic Church is one of the world’s oldest and most complex  political institutions. To move up in the ranks takes tremendous skill.  You have to be able to smoothly work with everyone from local parishioners to Bishops to Archbishops and  Cardinals. You have to be able to impress everyone along the way with your skills without ever outwardly seeming ambitious. (Since church officials are supposed to be “humble”).  Lenny Belardo has  none of these abilities . He never would have made it to Monsignor, much less pope.

Live By Night – Ben Affleck’s disappointing gangster film

Live By Night is a disjointed gangster film that is a lot of different movies all mashed together with no main plot. Elle Fanning is superb, but unfortunately her character is only in the movie for about 15 minutes.  Ben Affleck seems to think that just having a lot of Tommy-gun shootouts, car crashes and goons in fancy suits makes a good gangster film.  However, the audience also has to know enough about a character to care who gets killed.

It feels like Live by Night is a series of short movies that don’t really connect to each other. In this 2 hour film, there are at least  5 different plots. As a result, the movie does not spend enough time on any of them. As soon as the audience starts to get interested in one subject, Live By Night suddenly switches gears and goes in a different direction.  Just for fun, let’s list the plots in order of appearance.

  • Ben Affleck is Boston native Joe Coughlin, the son of the Assistant Police Commissioner.  Joe goes off the fight in World War I and comes home violent and disillusioned. He therefore turns to crime. The jaded WWI vet idea  has been done much better in other venues, most recently in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
Emma Gould & Ben Affleck looking bored in "Live By Night".

Emma Gould & Ben Affleck looking as  bored as the audience  in “Live By Night”.

  • Joe Coughlin becomes a Boston gangster. The Irish and Italian mobs are at war, and Joe is being recruited by both sides. At the same time, he is having an affair with the Irish mobster’s girlfriend Sienna (played by Emma Gould).  This is compete plagiarism of the plot of Miller’s Crossing.
Ben Affleck in one of his gangster suits in "Live By Night"

Ben Affleck in one of his gangster suits in “Live By Night”

  • Just when you get set to watch the rest of the Miller’s Crossing remake, Live By Night suddenly changes venues to Florida. It becomes a love story with Joe seducing the beautiful sister of the Cuban crime boss who controls the rum business. Zoe Saldana is Graciela, who says she has no interest in Joe, then immediately goes to bed with him.  Their love story is completely rushed and the two of them seem to have no on-screen chemistry.
Zoe Saldana & Ben Affleck in "Live by Night"

Zoe Saldana & Ben Affleck in “Live by Night”

  • Then, out of nowhere, the KKK shows up and Joe becomes a freedom fighter. He is no longer a murdering gangster, but actually a guy who is really just providing good jobs  for African and Cuban Americans. Apparently this is not a gangster film but actually a story about civil rights in the 1930s. Joe makes a number of pious speeches about giving hard working people a break.  However, these lectures  all fall flat when we know that he is a ruthless killer who has never felt a second of remorse for anyone he murdered.
Elle Fanning in "Live By Night"

Elle Fanning in “Live By Night”

  • The final and most interesting foe which Joe has to face is the young Evangelical preacher Loretta Figgis (Elle Fanning) . She is a “fallen woman” who has come back to Florida to fight the evils of Liquor, Drugs and Gambling. Of course, these are all the industries that make money for Joe Coughlin. He finds that she is much tougher than anyone he has fought before. If he simply kills Loretta it will only make her a martyr and the backlash will destroy his empire. Joe also likes and admires Loretta very much. Despite her past, there is a pure an innocent beauty about her. She is probably the only person Joe has ever met who is completely honest and who wants nothing for herself. She genuinely believes in her cause.

Live By Night should have skipped the other plot lines and focused entirely on the contest between the gangster and the beautiful evangelical preacher.  There is one wonderful scene in the movie where Joe Coughlin and Loretta meet by chance in a cafe, and Loretta honestly shares her deepest thoughts with Joe. He realizes that Loretta is something he has never known existed before. A genuinely good person.

However, we see Loretta for only a fraction of the film. The rest of Live by Night is filled up with car chases and exceedingly long gun battles. There is so much machine gun fire between guys wearing fancy suits that it quickly becomes impossible to tell who is who. They just become anonymous gangsters that we don’t care about.

We know that Ben Affleck can make a great movie. Unfortunately Live by Night is not one of them.

THE DOSSIER – a 1984 novel with an eerie similarity to Trump’s “dossier”

The Dossier is a 1984 novel where secrets about a major political figure are contained in a hidden dossier. Today there are reports that Trump’s secrets are tucked away in a dossier held by the Russians.  The Dossier was written by Pierre Salinger and Leonard Gross. Pierre Salinger was well-versed in political intrigue, having been President Kennedy’s press secretary.  The main character of The Dossier is Andre Kohl, the news chief of a U.S. T.V. network. Of course, Andre is a thinly disguised version of Salinger himself.

Street mural spoofing the Putin-Trump "Bromance"

Street mural spoofing the Putin-Trump “Bromance”

The Dossier explores the ethical dilemma  faced by any American  reporter who discovers information that might be damaging to Unites States interests.  How do you weigh the responsibility to show the truth against the potential damage that revealing the truth might cause?

In The Dossier, the French are about to finally elect a President who is very pro-U.S. It seems like he will win by a landslide. He is handsome, well spoken and a war hero. During World War II he was the leader of a French Resistance group.

The Dossier written in 1984

The Dossier written in 1984

However, through his contacts in the intelligence community, Andre begins to hear rumors that there may be a dossier about the French political candidate. Supposedly the dossier contains proof that the candidate was no war hero. In fact, he was actually a Nazi collaborator.

There is a secret war going on to find this dossier. The Soviets want to find and publish it so as to keep a pro-American Frenchman from being elected. The CIA wants to find and destroy all evidence of the dossier. Andre wants the dossier for news purposes, but is not sure what he will do if he actually finds it. Throughout all this, no one is really sure if this mythical dossier really exists.

John Kennedy and Pierre Salinger

John Kennedy and Pierre Salinger

The parallels to the current situation in the United States are amazing. It is rumored that Russia has a dossier containing devastating information about President-elect Trump and are going to use it to blackmail Trump  into favoring Russia in foreign policy. Trump and Russia deny the dossier’s existence. Reporters throughout the world are desperately trying to find the dossier.

The plot of The Dossier is interesting, although the writing is not particularly good.  It has way too many detective novel cliches, and the love story wedged into it is not very romantic or believable.

From a modern perspective, there is also one major flaw in the plot. It is assumed that the dossier has to actually be found to destroy the career of the political candidate. If recent  elections have shown us anything, it is that you do not actually need to have proof of anything  to destroy someone’s reputation.  You simply have to fuel a negative  rumor.

The Soviets could have destroyed the candidate by simply going public with the allegations that the French candidate had been a Nazi collaborator. They then could have truthfully demonstrated that intelligence agencies and news organizations throughout Europe were looking for the dossier.  Even if there was no dossier, the fact that everyone was looking for it would have wrecked the French politician’s career forever.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Dossier is that it demonstrates how much the press and politics have changed since 1984.  Everyone in the book just assumes that the dossier had to be found and verified as real before anything could be revealed to the general public.

In today’s world, no one would wait to find actual proof before releasing a “story”. The days of proof and verification are long  dead. Today the battles are fought with rumors, half-truths, and false news stories. If a real story happens to exist underneath, that is merely coincidence.

The Dossier is still  worth reading for the story and more so for the historical perspective it brings to current events.

Fences – a good play but a mediocre movie

Denzel Washington’s adaptation of Fences turned a good play into a mediocre movie. Ironically, the problem is that he did not change the play  enough. He simply “filmed a play”. Fences does not come across well on the big screen. A small set and extended soliloquies work well on a stage, where an audience feels it is  sharing an intimate moment with the actors. However, on a huge screen, extreme close-ups, long speeches and no movement makes the audience feel bored and claustrophobic. Movies work best when the audience is shown a story instead of just having actors tell a story.

Denzel Washington & Viola Davis in Fences

Denzel Washington & Viola Davis in Fences

Fences is set in  Pittsburgh in 1956 and is the story of Troy  (Denzel Washington), a middle-age garbage man who is bitter with the way his his life has turned out. Supposedly he was a great baseball player in the Negro League, but was too old to make the transition to the Major Leagues when they became desegregated. As the film progresses we learn that this is not exactly the whole truth.

Jovan Adepo as Cory in Fences

Jovan Adepo as Cory in Fences

Almost all of the movie takes place in the backyard. Troy is supposedly building a fence, but spends most of his time lecturing his family and friends about how hard he works and how they are not living their lives properly. The main target of Troy’s wrath is is his son Cory (Jovan Adepo) Cory has the chance to get a football scholarship to college, but Troy is against that.

Denzel Washington and Stephen Henderson in Fences

Denzel Washington and Stephen Henderson in Fences

Troy is not capable of accepting that things have changed for African-Americans. Troy wants Cory to forget about college and instead learn a trade. Throughout Fences, it is never really clear if Troy is just trying to give advice, or if he is jealous that Cory is being given opportunities that Troy never had. The basic plot is good and the acting is superb.  We learn about Troy’s history in bits and pieces, and the more we learn the more complex a character he becomes.

However, you never get over the feeling that you are just watching a videotape of a play. There are far too many long speeches, and it feels like the entire movie is about 15 minutes too long. Fences should have had  scenes showing us what was happening to Troy instead of having Troy talk about them after the fact.

Mykelti Williamson in Fences

Mykelti Williamson in Fences

For example, we hear that Troy complained to the union that all the men lifting up the trashcans were black and all the drivers of the garbage trucks were white. Troy  was then ordered  to come before the bosses of the company. Troy  thought he was going to get fired, but instead he was promoted to be a truck driver.  That would have been a powerful scene to see. However, we don’t see it. We just get Troy standing in the backyard telling us about it.

The movie also drops some plot lines for no reason. When Troy gets promoted to driver, Troy’s friend Jim (Stephen Henderson) asks Troy how he will be able to drive when Troy does not have  driver’s license and does not know how to read.  But Troy becomes a driver with no problem and the issue is never brought up again. So why was it even mentioned in the first place?

Viola Davis plays Troy’s long suffering wife Rose, who faces each day with intense dignity. Mykelti Williamson is Troy’s brain-damaged brother Gabriel and gives an award-worthy performance.

Overall Fences in an interesting film, but could could have been so much better. The writer of the play, August Wilson also did the movie script, but did not live to see the completed film.  Perhaps Denzel Washington felt it would be disrespectful to make too many changes. But film is a different medium than the stage, and requires a different technique for the audience to get the most out of the work.

The Art Forger – book review

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro is a fascinating novel about a beautiful young artist in Boston who makes a Faustian deal  to create and sell a forgery of a world famous masterpiece by Degas. The Art Forger raises the question of what makes a painting valuable. If a forger can create a piece identical to the “masterpiece” then why is the original artist considered great and the forger a pariah?

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

B.A. Shapiro author of The Art Forger

The Art Forger’s plot has intertwining mysteries of the present and past. It is a great detective novel, and also ends up educating the reader about the intricacies of the legal and illegal art world. For example, we learn of the great Dutch forger Hans van Meegeren, who sold forged paintings to the Nazis during World War II.

After the war, van Meegeren was charged with treason, for selling stolen Dutch masterpieces to Nazis. To defend himself, he had to prove the paintings were  actually his forgeries, and the only people he had betrayed were the Nazis. To prove his innocence, he had to reveal his techniques in detail in open court.  For the art world, this may not have been a good thing. Hans van Meegeren’s testimony was like a training manual for up and coming art forgers throughout the world. His methods were so ingenious that they are still followed by all modern forgers.

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Hans van Meegeren on trial for selling stolen paintings to Nazis

Claire Roth is a struggling Boston artist who is given a proposition by the city’s leading gallery owner, Aiden Markel. If Claire will create a forgery of a Degas piece, Aiden will give her a large amount of money and an exclusive show at his gallery for her own works. He is offering her fortune and a high place in the rarefied art society world.  The fact that Claire and Aiden also have an immediate sexual attraction to each other makes the deal irresistible.

Claire creates a wonderful Degas, following Han van Meegeren’s techniques. B.A. Shaprio describes this in fascinating detail which is enjoyable to read, even for those of us who know nothing about art.  Of course, creating a forgery is one thing. Selling it without getting arrested or even killed is quite another.

one of Degas' After The Bath paintings

one of Degas’ After The Bath paintings

Claire soon discovers that when she crosses the line from artist to forger, she enters an environment for which she is completely unprepared. The police, FBI, high society and even some very violent people take a dim view of art forgers. She is, after all, just a poor young woman in Boston, with nothing to protect herself except her vast knowledge of art and her exceptional talent.

We do not want to give too much away, for fear of spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that, we highly recommend The Art Forger, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

6 reasons Channel Awesome Is Great

Channel Awesome is a low budget internet “network” with original shows like The Nostalgic Critic, Some Jerk With A Camera, The Angry Joe Show, The Cinema Snob. As the names indicate, these are not exactly high- budget Hollywood productions, or even independent “artistic”  films. For the most part, the shows on Channel Awesome are people talking into a video camera about things they like and don’t like. Despite that, here are the reasons we think Channel Awesome is great.

  • Channel Awesome directly challenges YouTube. For a long time,  people who  wanted to post videos online and try to make some money found that YouTube was the only game in town. Play by their rules or YouTube pulls your video.  YouTube is famous for taking down videos for “copyright infringement” of a movie, even though it is perfectly legal for a reviewer to show a short clip of a film. Rumors are that major movie studios secretly pay YouTube to delete videos that give bad reviews to a film.
Brad Jones - The Cinema Snob

Brad Jones – The Cinema Snob

  • The shows are so silly they are fun. For example, Brad Jones has a series where he reviews foods. However, Brad is not The Master Chef. Brad is not filming the latest creation in an upscale Soho restaurant.  Instead, Brad reviews foods like The Halloween Burger at Burger King, or the world’s spiciest potato chip.  A lot of his reviews are filmed in his car in the parking lot of whatever fast food place he is reviewing. The honesty of his food reviews  is refreshing. Let’s face it, most Americans eat a lot of their meals at fast food places, and often consume the food in the car. It’s about time we had a show reviewing the junk most of us regularly eat.
Lindsay Ellis- formerly The Nostalgia Chick

Lindsay Ellis- formerly The Nostalgia Chick

  • New Talent gets presented.  Talented, but unknown, actors get to appear in skits or movie spoofs and have their skills seen by thousands of viewers. For example, Malcolm Ray has a recurring  comedy role as the Devil on The Nostalgic Critic. He is joined by Tamara Chambers who has spoofed a number of characters including Wonder Woman.
Malcolm Ray - actor on Channel Awesome famous for playing The Devil

Malcolm Ray – actor on Channel Awesome famous for playing The Devil

  • Channel Awesome gives us all hope of becoming video stars. The shows are so low budget and sometimes so stupid that you just have to say, “Hell I could have done that!” In fact, after some episodes you will be tempted to run down to Best Buy and get your own video camera to start a show. Instead of sitting at a desk reviewing invoices, wouldn’t you like to make money filming yourself eating cheese fries and reviewing them online?
Tamara Chambers - actress on Channel Awesome

Tamara Chambers – actress on Channel Awesome

  • Channel Awesome is an American Success Story. It is great to see a new idea succeed. The three founders, Mike Michaud, Mike Ellis and Bhargav Dronamraju, started the company in  2008 when they all lost their jobs at Circuit City.  The demise of Circuit City turned out to be the push they needed to try doing something new. Creating success out of a failure is, after all, the classic Horatio Alger story. It is made even better by the fact that the internet vehicle  they created now allows many other people to try to succeed at their own dreams.
Doug Walker - The Nostalgia Critic - (formerly That Guy With Glasses)

Doug Walker – The Nostalgia Critic – (formerly That Guy With Glasses)

  • The viewers are a part of the shows. Channel Awesome is still in its infancy and we predict that in 10 years it may have morphed into a major power on the internet. But we love watching it now, when it is still low-budget and ridiculous. The fact that sometimes the people don’t actually know what they are doing  adds to the enjoyment. It makes the people on the shows seem more like our  friends than “celebrities” we are watching.  This must be how audiences felt  in the early days of Television.  Viewers can comment and get a personal response from the actor or show creator. Shows are changed due to viewer’s responses. Its like watching a minor league baseball team. They may not be the best athletes in the world but they are your team.

Editors note: This post was written in January 2017, before the recent allegations of sexual harassment and  unfair business practices at Channel Awesome came to light. While we have no direct knowledge of any of the charges, they are very troubling. It is quite possible that Channel Awesome itself might soon go the way of Weinstein Entertainment.