Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 on East Coast Stories. A Year To Remember

On this last day of 2014 we want to thank all our readers. It was a big year for us, and we thought it would be fun to look back at the highlights on the blog in 2014.

  • The most popular post of 2014 was our review of the movie Fury, a World War II action film staring Brad Pit.  The review got a huge response from readers and continues to get new views each day. Part of the reason for the response was people (mostly guys) searching for information about Alicia von Rittberg the beautiful young German actress in the film.
  • The worst movie of 2014 was without a doubt A Million Ways to Die In The West. The hardest part of writing that review was to try to find words to describe just how awful a movie it was.
  • Our readers asked for more reviews of independent films and we complied. This lead us to one of the strangest movies we have ever seen – Under The Skin– staring Scarlett Johansson.
  • One of the best movies of the year had such a limited release it was almost impossible to find in theaters. The quirky comedy Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth getting on DVD. Another great film this year was Maleficent a creative re-telling of Sleeping Beauty
  • In our book reviews section we were thrilled that Ted Scofield,  the author of Eat What You Kill read the review and took the time to personally write a comment thanking us for the review.
  • In Fiction Stories our readers favorite was Passing For Normal, the story of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome struggling to fit in at Goldman Sachs. Coming in a close second was The Naked Swim the story of a doctor who meets a beautiful Canadian woman while on vacation.
  • Our Non-Fiction stories continue to be very popular with readers. Every one of them is completely true. On this New Year’s Eve you may want to take another look at an encounter with  The Real Dick Clark –  a man who for decades was synonymous with New Year’s celebrations.  Since New Year’s Eve is a time to remember things and people past, you may also want to read about The Real Whitney Houston, and what it was like to hear her singing not for the crowd; but for herself.


  • Our original photographs   have been well received even though they are taken with a small inexpensive  camera. We try to take scenes of interesting events in ordinary life.  (On the blog we also have interesting photos downloaded from the web, but the only ones listed in our Photographs section are our own originals).  The photograph above was taken by us on the Path Train, with the permission of the young man pictured. To get the full effect you have to realize that he is a very muscular 6ft 4 inches.


  • The sketch above is by the Gentle Woman’s daughter, who ended up marrying an artist.

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  • The picture of the Bunny “Sunshine” above won an award, and somehow he looks like he knows it.

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  • The fuzzy picture above was taken of Taylor Swift when she performed at an outdoor concert in New Jersey.  It was over 100 degrees with 80% humidity. The picture shows her hair matted and her body dripping with sweat. Unbeknownst to the crowd there had been “substantiated ” terrorist threats made against the gathering. Taylor did know,  and performed anyway despite the threats and the weather. We revealed this on the blog in The Real Taylor Swift.

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  • The picture above is of the Lyons Trans station in NJ. The story of Dusty Cars tells of the 17 people who took the train from that station in September 11, 2001 and never returned.

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In all our stories, essays, photographs and even reviews, we have tried to show the humor, pain, absurdity and beauty of every-day life.



We truly wish all of you a wonderful 2015. Remember in the upcoming year that when things get bad and it seems like more than you can take, just tell yourself, “Someday this will make a great story.”

– Gregory Francis Farrell and Adam Faiella Farrell.

The Bad Popes – book review

The Bad Popes by E.R Chamberlin was first published in 1969, then re-issued by Barnes & Nobel in 1993. I got a copy very inexpensively from the bargain bin in Barnes and Nobel, and it turns out to be a fascinating read. It is a non-fiction work about the worst popes in history.

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There have been a lot of bad popes through the centuries, but Chamberlain focuses on some of the incredibly bad leaders of the Roman Catholic Church from the period 900-1535.   A bad pope in those days was a lot more of a problem for the people in Europe than it would be today, simply because of the tremendous power of the Catholic Church at that time.

For one thing, the Church directly owned or controlled land consisting of the center 1/3 of Italy (the “Papal States”). The church had an actual army with thousands of men who were well equipped, well trained soldiers.  In addition, the Church had tremendous influence over all the Catholic kingdoms of Europe. Kings and Queens needed papal approval for coronations, and annulments.

The Church also had tremendous economic power even outside the Papal States. Throughout Europe, the Catholic Church owned vast estates, business, breweries and vineyards. Cardinals were referred to as “Princes of the Church”, and they were princes in every real sense . Cardinals were wealthy and powerful men running vast business enterprises. They were also intensely jealous of each other and were always scheming for ways to get more power usually by taking it from a competing Cardinal.

So a pope had to be able to expertly run a vast international organization with religious, military and economic power. A good pope could help provide peace, economic prosperity and spiritual comfort to millions.

A bad pope was a disaster, not just for the Church, but for the millions of ordinary people who lived under its control. It might seem that electing a truly holy man as pope would be the best solution. In 1294 the Cardinals, fed up with the corruption and in-fighting in the Church did just that. Instead of picking a Cardinal, they elected as pope a man who was a devout Benedictine monk who lived an austere life of prayer. The monk became Pope Celestine V and Christens throughout the world rejoiced.

Their joy was short-lived. The monk was totally out of his depth as pope. His life of prayer had not taught him anything about how to run one of the largest economic and military organizations  that ever existed in the world. He was naive and easily tricked by various power groups wishing to manipulate him. Corruption and in-fighting was worse than ever and he soon became hated throughout Europe. He was, however, intelligent enough to recognize that he was not the right man for the job, and humble enough not  to have any use for the power. He became the first pope in history to resign. He returned to his life as a monk and happily lived out the rest of his life in quiet prayer and meditation.

Unfortunately, other bad popes did everything they could to hold on to the title and to gain ever more power for themselves.  Kings and the Cardinals loyal to them got very involved in the election of new popes. At one point the Catholic church even had 3 popes  simultaneously,  with  3 different  Cardinals claiming to be pope. The Cardinals split among country lines and there was a “pope” in Italy, one in Spain, and one in France all protected by various armies and all issuing conflicting decrees and proclamations.

Probably the most famous bad pope was Rodrigo Borgia who became Pope Alexander VI who ruled from 1492-1503 . He had children who he appointed as Cardinals, had enemies murdered, and stole every ounce of gold he could find. He and his sons were so lustful, vicious and corrupt, that Showtime turned it into a series. The Borgias were know for having orgies, having enemies “disappear”. They even sold papal pardons for even the most violent of crimes if the price was high enough.

The Bad Popes is a well written and well documented book. It makes fascinating reading about parts of history the Catholic Church would like very much to forget about.

Evanna Lynch – What ever became of Luna Lovegood?

Who is Evanna Lynch?  Many Americans still do not recognize this actress’s name, but they certainly recognize her face, and the character she is most famous for. Evanna Lynch played the quirky and fun Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies.

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Many thousands of Harry Potter fans feel that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) should have married the always interesting Luna Lovegood  instead of the incredibly boring Ginny Weasley (played by Bonnie Wright).  The Luna character was a breath of fresh air when the Harry Potter movies starting getting very dark and depressing. Luna had magic powers that were even greater than Harry’s, but she also thought that magic and life itself should be fun.

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But who is Evanna Lynch when she stops being Luna? It turns out she is every bit as interesting and strong-willed as her character. (By the way, the long blond hair in the films was not a wig. (Below is a picture of Evanna from behind)

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The 23 year-old Evanna grew up in Ireland where she still spends most of her time. She is fluent in Gaelic and French and continues to act, although not yet in any roles as famous as Luna.

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Evanna has used her fame to bring attention to and raise money for a number of charitable causes.  She publicly disclosed that she had suffered from Anorexia Nervosa when she was younger. She then used that disclosure to help draw attention to and public understanding of this disorder.

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Evanna’s main love is animals, especially cats, and she raises money for the humane treatment of animals of all kinds.

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Evanna could have used her sudden fame to try to make as much money for herself as possible. Instead she has used it to help those around her.

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The picture above is Evanna ready to run in the Goal Mile, an annual charitable running race throughout Ireland and parts of the UK.

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So; the little Irish girl who first played Luna Lovegood when she was  only 14 years old, has turned into a beautiful young woman who spends her time and fame to help those in need.

It turns out that there is magic in this world after all.

The Impossible -movie review

Ten years ago today, one of the most devastating natural disasters in human history took place.  A 9.0 magnitude earthquake on the ocean floor caused a Tsunami which hit Indonesia, Thailand, Sri, Lanka, India and other countries with devastating force. By the time it was over approximately 230,000 people were dead and hundreds of thousands of others injured or missing. Entire families, villages and towns were destroyed. Those of us who live half way around the world and only saw it on television will never truly understand just how awful this event was.

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A 2012 movie, The Impossible is a true account of one western family which happened to be in a Thai resort on Christmas vacation when the tsunami hit.  The filming is amazing and the viewer can really feel the impact of the wave. But this is not some “Hollywood disaster movie.” Every character comes across  as real and every death as tragic and heart wrenching.

Naomi Watts is the mother (Maria) who is severely injured during the wave. Getting caught up in a tsunami is not at all like being in a big surf wave. A tsunami is full of sharp and dangerous objects.  Pieces of wood, cement, houses and even cars can at any moment stab or crush you.

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Ewan McGregor plays the father (Henry) who is separated from Maria and the rest  in the wave and desperately tries to save himself while at the same time searching for his family.

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Unlike fake disaster movies, this one shows the real chaos and complete randomness that happens in real-life emergencies. For example, one of the heroes of the film is an old but muscular Thai man who has the build of a fisherman. Without saying a word, he picks up the injured Maria and carries her to the hospital at a run. He is only in the film for a few minutes and Maria never gets his name and is too weak to even thank him. The fisherman drops her off at the hospital and runs back towards the water looking for more injured people.  We never see him after that or find out what happened to him.

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The only criticism reviewers have had of this film is that it focuses too much on this western family and not enough on the Thais. In fact, the producers even Anglicized the family. The real family was from Spain and the producers have replaced the dark haired Maria Belon with the blonde “Maria Bennett” (Naomi Watts).

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Despite this flaw, this is an excellent movie. There is no way for a human to comprehend the true tragedy of 230,000 people killed in a single day without focusing on what it means to lose just one. By concentrating on the real story of one family in one place the movie has brought home to viewers this incomprehensible event.

We give this movie our highest rating of five stars *****

Bringing Up Baby – movie review

Bringing Up Baby is a 1938 romantic comedy starring Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn. “Baby”, it turns out, is not a human child, but a young tame leopard.

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Carey Grant is plays a very steady, somewhat dull paleontologist named David Huxley. He is trying to secure a large donation for the museum at which he works. Katherine Hepburn plays scatter-brained socialite Susan Vance, who David meets while in pursuit of his potential philanthropist. Susan is a complete klutz who, through a series of slapstick mishaps, makes David look crazy in front of the very man he is trying to get money from.

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It sounds like it should be a fun movie, but it has a lot of flaws. Surprisingly, it has some parts which were completely  accepted by audiences in 1938, but which modern viewers will consider offensive .

The most shocking moment comes early in the film. When told that there is a wealthy patron who is considering donating $1 million to the museum, Carey Grant says,  “Well, that’s very White of him.”

Later in the film Susan and David go to the home of her rich aunt. There is an Irish gardener who works there.  Because he is Irish, he is portrayed as a comic drunk, with bottles of liquor hidden all over his estate. The actor also has an absolutely terrible fake Irish accent. This portrayal of the Irish as drunkards was quite common in movies of that period, and persisted even into later movies and television shows.

Interestingly, this movie happens to be the first time the modern usage of the word “gay” appears on film. At the Aunt’s estate, there is a scene in which Grant and  Hepburn get their clothing soaking wet. They take showers to clean off  and then change into bathrobes. (Separate showers – this is 1938 after all).  However, Hepburn changes into the man’s bathrobe, which leaves only a frilly pink robe for Grant to wear.

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When the Aunt asks Grant why he is wearing that robe, a frustrated Grant shouts, “Maybe I just went Gay!” It is amazing that this scene got past the censors in 1938, considering how taboo the entire subject of homosexuality was at the time. Perhaps it was allowed since much of the 1938 audience would not yet be sure how the term “gay” was being used. Up until that point the term only meant “happy”. Only people “in the know” in 1938 were familiar with this new phrase.

Bringing Up Baby was not a box office success in 1938. It was 32 year-old Katherine Hepburn’s fist attempt at comedy and it was the wrong type of comedy for her. The comedy in this movie is slapstick, with Hepburn and Grant falling over and smashing into things alot. Hepburn’s character comes across  as attractive and likable, but sort of crazy and not too bright.

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Katherine Hepburn, of course, would go on to to a whole string of successful  romantic comedies, but always where she played the strong, intelligent woman who the audience loved to cheer for. She never again made the mistake of trying to portray herself as a ditz.

Comedy does not translate as well from one generation to the next they way drama does. If we were to rate this movie from today’s point of view we would only give it  2 stars. However, this movie is interesting to see, if for no other reason than to glance back at what American audiences were laughing at 76 years ago.

We rate this movie 3 Stars ***

The Interview – The Real movie review

Merry Christmas to all our East Coast Story Readers!

Well; after all the fuss we finally got to see The Interview. Just a couple of days ago we did a post about having to guess at how good the movie would have been since Sony said it would not release it. Now with the urging of the U.S. government Sony released the move on line and to a few select theaters.  With all the pre-release publicity it will probably end up being the most successful on-line movie of all time.

So forgetting about all the political ramifications; what did we think of the movie?

It was really funny. Crude and somewhat gross in parts but very funny. Some of the funniest parts occur even before the team gets to North Korea. Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rappaport. Aaron is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism whose career has somehow taken a wrong turn. He is the producer of an idiotic T.V. talk show (Skylark Tonight) which panders to the lowest possible intelligence level of the viewing audience. His fellow Columbia alumni consider him a complete sell-out.


The on-screen star of Skylark Tonight is David Sklyark (perfectly played by James Franco). Davis is as stupid as Aaron is brilliant. David actually believes he is a real journalist.

James Franco is funny, but Seth Rogan really makes the movie. He is hilarious as he tries to  explain even the simplest facts of the world to the T.V. star.  The interplay between Rogan and Franco are the best parts of the film.

Aaron is so fed up with the show that he threatens to leave unless they get some real news interviews. In response, David Skylark finds out that Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show and challenges Aaron to get that interview.

As we all know from the trailer, Kim Jong-un agrees to the interview, and the CIA convinces Aaron and David to try to kill Kim Jong-un.


Kim Jong-un (played by Randall Park) turns out to be  a cigar smoking, Margaretta drinking letch who loves to listen to Katie Perry music. In fact he is so much fun that David has second thoughts about trying to kill him. Aaron, of course, is not so easily fooled.

We will not give away what happens other than to say that as the movie progresses it gets more violent and the humor becomes cruder.  Still, it does end up having a surprise ending which is hard to do in a comedy.


We should also mention the wonderful performance of Diana Bang who plays Sook, the North Korean official who sets up the interview. She plays a True Believer in the North Korean system, but who also has a strong but suppressed sexuality.

You should definitely see this movie, since everyone will be talking about it. Be warned that it is not for children.  If it was not for the political drama surrounding the film we probably would have given it 3 stars. However, now only giving it 3 seems somehow un-American. After all, isn’t being able to watch whatever crude comedy We choose exactly what free speech is all about?

We give this movie Four Stars ****

The Interview – movie review

There is no doubt in our minds that Sony Pictures will eventually release The Interview and that it will be a huge blockbuster due to all the political events surrounding it.

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As we all know by now, a group calling itself The Guardians of Peace hacked into Sony in retaliation for the movie. As we write this blog tonight, the internet in all of North Korea is completely down in what looks like a counter-attack from the United States. After all, President Obama did promise a “Proportional Response.”

But here’s a question some very smart geeks have starred to ask. What if North Korea didn’t do it?  Apparently this was a very sophisticated attack and North Korea has never before shown any real talent with computers.

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What if another country that does have a sophisticated I.T. capability is the real attacker and the U.S. has been completely fooled.  This would make a better plot than the actual movie. However, that seems far fetched. The U.S government has said it is 100% sure that attack was the work of North Korea. (Sort of like the way it was 100% sure there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. )

It would certainly make a great movie if a “frienenemy” of the U.S. (like Russia or Pakistan) created the Guardians of Peace and then successfully blamed North Korea for the attack.

But this is a blog that reviews movies, rather than makes political prognostications, so lets get on with the review.

INTERVIEW 2From what we have seen so far the movie looks pretty funny. Seth Rogen and James Franco play two T.V. “Journalists” that do nothing but fluff pieces about celebrities, cute pets, etc.  Then they have a chance to interview Kim Jong-un the cult-like leader of North Korea. A CIA agent approaches the journalists and proposes they assassinate Kim Jong-Un. This Agent Lacey is played by the very attractive Lizzy Caplan who is best known for her many naked scenes in Masters of Sex.

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The humor of the movie revolves around the fact that the would-be assassins are completely incompetent.

So in this review, without having actually seen the movie, we have to try to decide one point. Is the movie actually funny?

The first thing to look at is subject matter.  The North Koreans say that any movie about trying to kill a real person cannot be considered a comedy. They do actually have a point. Suppose, for example, that an Iranian film company made a comedy about 2 very stupid suicide bombers whose mission is to come to America and blow up the U.S. Supreme Court with all the justices inside.  No matter how idiotic the bombers or how many sexy actresses were in the film, would the American public shrug this off as “Just a stupid comedy”?

Sony, of course, could have avoided the entire issue by just using a fictitious country. This was done in the George Clooney drama Syriana. Anyone who knows the Middle easily can tell that the fictitious “Syriana” is actually Saudia Arabia; but the political problem was avoided by using a fake name.

The other point is that maybe the movie when it is finally released will turn out to be not very funny after all. We still remember how terrible A Million Ways To Die In the West was. The trailer was hilarious, but the full length movie was so bad it was physically painful to watch. Some of the leaked e-mails from the hackers show Sony executives trashing The Interview saying it is not at all funny.

A truly bizarre twist would be if it turns out Sony hacked itself just to get unprecedented publicity for a truly bad film. (Remember conspiracy theorists, you heard it here first).

In the end, it will probably turn out that everything is just as it seems. The movie is really funny, and North Korea did attack Sony. One thing is for sure throughout history. The thing every dictator hates about all else is to be made fun of. In a totalitarian state comedians are the first people eliminated. For proof of that read what happened to the comedian in our true story Gamal And The Jews- A First Hand Account Of When President Nasser Expelled the Jews From Egypt.

We will say that we are going to see The Interview movie the first chance we get, however it gets released.

Until then, for the second time in our reviewing career we are going to have to give a movie

Five Question Marks ?????

(The first Five Question Mark Review was for The Scarlett Johansson movie Under The Skin which was so weird that we gave it Five Question Marks even after we saw it.)

Paranormal Activity 5 – movie review

The original 2007 horror movie Paranormal Activity was an independent film success story. It was produced on a low budget, presented at a film festival and picked up by a major studio (Paramount).

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It was so low budget that the actress who stared in the film (Katie Featherstone) was only paid $500 for the whole movie. The entire movie was filmed in the producer’s own house so that they would not have to pay for any location.

It was the story of a young couple in a upper middle class suburban neighborhood who feel strange unexplained  things are happening  in their house at night. The husband sets up a series of cameras on motion detectors and discovers that it is his wife herself that seems to go into some sort pf demonic possession each night.

The original Paranormal Activity was an excellent film, with very scary scenes and characters you cared about. But there was one problem.  The film became a huge commercial success and made a tremendous profit. That success was the problem. Hollywood could just not resist the temptation to keep cranking our sequels to Paranormal Activity as long as the sequels could turn a profit.

Some of the sequels were pretty good. However, as in most sequels they got progressively worse and more formula driven. The other problem in it is that due to the high body count in the Paranormal Activity films it is hard to bring back any of the original characters since they get killed along the way.

This  brings us to Paranormal Activity 5;  the latest release in the franchise. Apparently the studio was trying to do something new, and possibly get a whole new demographic for its viewing audience.  Instead of having the events take place in an upper middle class white suburb, they take place in a working class Hispanic neighborhood.

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That would have been fine, except that instead of using a realistic working class Hispanic family, the movie has ridiculously stereotyped characters. It was like the producers had a contest to see how many Hispanic stock characters they could use.  Just to name a few:

  1. Almost everyone speaks English with a Spanish accent even though they have lived in the U.S. their whole lives.
  2. The whole neighborhood is celebrating a high school graduation like it is the most amazing event that ever happened. They treat it as if the kid has won the Nobel prize.
  3. There is an Abuela who only speaks Spanish. She is, of course, Catholic, but in a cult worship sort of way and tries to get rid of the evil spirits using eggs. (This weird egg waiving scene is never explained. Are demons somehow allergic to dairy products?)
  4. When the kids discover where the witches have their coven, they do not call the police even though they have plenty of video evidence of wrongdoing. No, being Hispanic, they instead go to the local gang leader for help. He, of course, has a shotgun and an M-16 readily available in the truck of his car and a big goon by his side.

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But the biggest problem with the movie is that the main characters are so stupid you want to shout at the screen. It is as if they guys from Dumb and Dumber stepped into a horror film.

The movie revolves around two friends just our of high school who for some unexplained reason are filming everything they do with a video camera. They do every stupid thing characters do in horror films. An old lady is murdered in her apartment, so they decide to break into the apartment at night and look around. When they find a trap door to a basement filled with evil images and skulls, they decide to explore. When one of them is bitten and begins to have problems they consult an electronic game instead of a doctor.  After a while you begin to realize why the neighborhood was celebrating their High School graduation. It really was a miracle that either of these guys graduated from anything.

You really do get the feeling that the director was not even trying that hard and in some way is even showing the audience that he realizes how bad the film is. In one scene a character walks in front of a bookshelf filled with DVDs. If you look closely you will see that every one is a horror movie.

There is a cameo by Katie Featherstone, and her short scene is the best part of the movie. We just hope she got paid more that $500 this time.

We give this movie 2 stars **

The Facebook Page of Dorian Grey

As he did every evening, Dorian sat in a darkened room with the only light coming from the glow of his computer screen.  His latest posts on Facebook were better than ever. Business was great, he was involved with a beautiful model and every investment he put money into soared in value.

The pictures were wonderful too. He looked great at the charity ball next to Koneia; his girlfriend who as always looked ravishingly beautiful.

If only it were all true.

Ten years ago he had actually looked this way. (OK – he admitted to himself -15 years ago). There had even been short period in his life where he did have a model as a girlfriend.

Dorian had started his Facebook page when everything in his real life was getting better every day. He had just been promoted, he had a fashion model girlfriend (Sandra) and all the chances he took in the futures market paid off.

Dorian was so happy he wanted to tell the world about it. He started his page and posted pictures of himself and Sandra at a cocktail party in Soho. He bought a new Mercedes and posted a picture of that. Dorian even felt and looked great. He had hired a personal trainer and religiously followed the trainers instructions. Dorian got those six-pack ab muscles he thought were not really possible. A shirtless picture of Dorian working out with weights also went up on the Facebook page. He got hundreds of Friend requests and he accepted them all. He got more every day and they loved him. Life was perfect.

Until it wasn’t.

It started out small. Some of his futures investments turned down, and he made the novice investor’s mistake of “doubling down” to make up for losses. He would make back the losses when the market turned up again. But it didn’t turn up so he just lost money faster than ever.

Then Sandra left him to try to be an actress in Hollywood. She told him she loved him but she had to think of her career.

He could have recovered from any of this until the day the Wall Street law firm told him they were not going to promote him to partner. The firm had a strict  “up or out” policy. Dorian had to leave to make room for the new blood coming in. He was able to get a job at another less prestigious law firm, but the salary was less than half what he had earned before.

Dorian knew he should have reported each of these events on his Facebook page when they happened. But he loved the Facebook Dorian so much  he just could not bear to hurt him.

When Sandra left, instead of announcing it to his “friends”, he invented Koneia. Being a lawyer, he did it in a way to make sure he did not get sued. Koneia’s picture was really a composite of internet photos of 23 different models he had downloaded. Dorian discovered he had a real computer talent and created the beautiful Koneia.

The real Dorian traded in his Mercedes for a Toyota to save money. The Facebook Dorian got a Ferrari. The real Dorian spent the days doing research on tax law cases. The Facebook Dorian argued cases at the World Court in The Hague.

Of course, the real Dorian got older and a little heaver each year. Long gone was the personal trainer and the six-pack abs were distant memory.  Still; Dorian loved that shirtless picture. After all – it had been real once.

The real Dorian stared at the screen and knew it was finally time to kill the Facebook Dorian. It was far too late to explain to all his on-line “friends” that he had been lying to them for years. He knew, of course that they had been lying to him too. Many times people posted how they had seen Dorian and Koneia at a restaurant. Sometimes people even claimed to have  had dinner with them. Still; it was too late and too embarrassing to show the world the real Dorian Grey.

Dorian went through all the steps to delete his Facebook profile.  All he had to do was press the “Enter” key one more time and Facebook Dorian would be dead forever. The real Dorian liked the idea of doing it that way. No explanation and no warning. Facebook Dorian would just disappear and thousands of friends would wonder what had become of him and start internet rumors about it. Dorian’s legend would live forever.

The real Dorian just could not hit the final keystroke. He had almost done it hundreds of times before, but could not finish the job.  He knew deep in his soul that if he killed Facebook Dorian then he would die too. The Facebook life was the only real part of his existence.  All day long as Dorian researched obscure tax law rulings and wrote boring summaries, he looked forward to getting home and adding to the exciting life of his Facebook self. Where would he travel next? Would he stay faithful to Koneia? Should they travel to China next or India? How could his real life of tax rulings and dinners alone possibly compete with that?

Dorian turned away from the the computer got into bed. Just before he turned off the light on his night-table , he smiled. He had reached a decision on what to do next.  It was time for him to marry Koneia. The wedding would be a lavish event in Thailand. It would be held on the beach and the posted pictures would show the two of them kissing while brilliant sunshine illuminated Koneia’s long white dress. His friends would all be so happy.

Dorian fell asleep as the computer screen glowed on the desk in the corner of the room. The other Dorian Grey never slept. As the real Dorian slept alone, the Facebook Dorian got ten new Friend requests.

Exodus Gods and Kings – movie review

Exodus Gods and Kings opened last weekend in both D3 and regular wide screen. We were a little wary of seeing another Hollywood Biblical Epoch this year. The last Bible movie we saw was Noah which was so bad we gave it our lowest rating of 1 Star.

However, Exodus Gods and Kings turned out to be excellent. It is, of course, the story of Moses confronting the Pharaoh of Egypt and demanding that the Jews be set free. Much of the film is spent on the back story of the relationship between Moses and Ramesses II (The Pharaoh).  They grew up together almost as brothers with Ramesses destined to become Pharaoh and Moses becoming the head general of the Egyptian army.  The Hebrews are slaves and are treated cruelly as they build pyramids.

Exodus 5Quite by accident, Moses discovers that he is actually Jewish, which causes him to question his whole existence, and the treatment of the Hebrew slaves.

Interestingly, although this version has been used in a number of movie and T.V. versions of Moses, this is not really what it says in The Bible. In fact, The Bible is rather vague on exactly how Moses grew up. The Bible does say that Ramesses II sister had adopted Moses as a baby.  So it is possible that Moses and Ramesses II grew up as brothers. It just never actually says that. The Bible does say that Ramesses II sister was completely aware from the beginning that Moses was Jewish. It never says when or if she ever told Moses. So again the film version is one possible interpretation of the story.

In the film, Ramesses II banishes Moses when Ramesses II finds out Moses is a Hebrew. In The Bible, Moses flees Egypt after killing an Egyptian for mistreating some Hebrew slaves.

Still, despite the differences between The Bible and the film, the movie is still very good. The director (Ridley Scott) has made all the characters much more complex and believable than  in prior film  versions.

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Joel Edgerton plays Ramesses II and is perfect in the role. Ramses II is incredulous when Moses tells him to free the slaves because “God” has commanded it. How could any Pharaoh possibly take this seriously? The Pharaohs truly believed themselves to be gods. What right did a mortal like Moses have to be threatening the god Pharaoh, even if they did grow up as brothers?

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Christian Bale also portrays Moses differently than we have seen Moses before. He is nothing like the swaggering Charlton Heston version of Moses.  The Moses in this film is humble and very unsure of himself. He does not feel capable of being the leader of the Jews and does not want to take on the responsibility.

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When Moses is in exile from Egypt he is taken in by a simple sheep herding community and marries the beautiful Zipporah. She is played by Maria Valverde who brings true emotion to her role. When Moses has a vision and says he must leave to free the slaves of Egypt, Zipporah is angry and does not understand. “What kind of God asks a man to leave his family?” she asks.

This brings up one of the factors that makes this movie different than so many previous Bible films. This film shows God as the true “Old Testament God”. Biblical scholars have often noted how the New Testament God is all about love and kindness and mercy, where the Old Testament God is a vengeful killer who doles out horrible punishments to those who disobey.

When Pharaoh refuses to free the Hebrews; God unleashes the Plagues on Egypt. Rivers turn to blood.  Frogs, gnats and locusts invade and people get horrible boils on there skin. In this film, Moses is very upset with God about this. After all, the Jews are still in Egypt and are being hurt by the plagues just as much as the Egyptians. Many viewers (and readers of the Bible) have also noted that it seems very unfair that the average Egyptian should have to suffer for the Pharaoh’s actions.  It is not like an ordinary Egyptian could tell the Pharaoh what to do. Why doesn’t God just use His power to transport the Jews out of Egypt without killing thousands of innocents?

One of the strengths of the film is that it does not shy away from such questions. It is Passover that finally convinces the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews. Death comes to the first born male in every household that does not have lamb’s blood on its door. Only the Jewish families have been warned ahead of time, so all the Egyptian first born males  die while the Jewish men and boys are safe.

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Ramesses II baby is among those who die on Passover.  When Ramesses II then finally  frees the Jews he asks the question which many Biblical scholars have asked for centuries, “What kind of God kills children?”


The Pharaoh’s wife is played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. Her character is not concerned with the larger struggles between Moses and Pharaoh. All she wants is to keep her baby safe.

No matter what your religious beliefs, you will find this an excellent film.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

Hunter’s Ridge 18th Holiday Party

That’s right,  Saturday was the 18th annual Hunter’s Ridge Holiday party.  It was held at the newly renovated mansion of Jackie and Peter Blank.

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while Jackie and Sharon welcomed guests. This was Martin & Juliet’s first Hunter’s Ridge holiday party.

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Camera-shy Susan says hello while Sam acts surprised.

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The Three Amigos.

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Discussing the details of the “Neighborhood Watch”.

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The inquiring photographer.

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Alicia von Rittberg

Alicia von Rittberg is a beautiful young German actress who we predict will be a major star. We make this prediction due to a simple matter of statistics. In one of our movie reviews we mentioned Alicia’s role as Emma in Fury. That one mention caused our Fury review to get more hits than all our other posts combined.

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This made us very curious to see what all the excitement was about.

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The first thing we found was that Alicia had caused a sensation at the premier of the film by wearing a dress with what can only be described as a very daring neckline.

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Turns out that she is an amazingly accomplished and versatile 21 year old.   Alicia speaks German, Italian and English. She also plays the piano and dances ballet. While not yet that well known in the U.S. she has been in a huge number of German films and TV shows. We recently reviewed on this blog Barbara, in which Alicia von Rittberg plays a key part. We gave Barbara our highest rating of five stars,

Her next major film is going to be Our Kind Of Traitor which will be released in 2015. This movie is based on the John le Carre novel of the same name. We are looking forward to this release since this is one of our favorite books. It is about a powerful Russian mafia figure who decides to tell the British government  everything he knows about international money laundering in return for protection for his family.

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His main concern is for his beautiful young daughter (who  will be played by Alicia von Rittberg). It is a role perfect for her.

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Let’s face it, so far most of the people who are searching on for  Alicia von Rittberg right now are young men just interested in the way she looks.

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We  predict that very soon, American audiences will discover that there is an extremely accomplished actor behind that beautiful smile.


For profiles of other celebrities you might be interested in. please see our stories:



Also, be sure to post a comment if there are any specific actresses or actors you would like us to profile in upcoming stories.



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Thanks for reading.

Please post your comments to our website!

The Automat on Tax Day

How many readers out there still remember The Automat? It was a restaurant in New York where you never had to bother interacting with anyone. There were just rows and rows of machines filled with different kinds of food. You just put coins in, opened a little window and got what you wanted. You could  get anything from a Salisbury steak to a slice of apple pie.

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Of course,there were actual people preparing the food. But they were on the other side of the machines filing up the little windows. You did not have to see them or make fake polite conversation or even nod to them. That make it the perfect restaurant for New York.

By the time I was frequenting The Automat it was long past its glory days. It had become a very sleazy place whose main attraction was that it was open 24 hours.

What I remember most was a time I was there at 2AM. There were only about 10 people in the restaurant and they were spread out as far away as possible  from each other. It was completely silent with not even any annoying background music.

At one very large round table sat a middle aged woman with grey hair. The table was completely filled with stacks of papers and tax forms. She was pounding away furiously on a small calculator.  Along with the papers and tax forms, her table was littered with empty coffee cups. I could not help counting the cups to see how much caffeine she had ingested. I counted 15 empty coffee cups.

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Then without any warning the woman jumped up from her chair, threw a stack of papers into the air and started screaming at the top of her lungs, “It doesn’t balance! It doesn’t balance!”

Since it was New York City, none of the people at any of the other tables paid the slightest attention to her. No employees emerged from behind the machines, and people did not even look up from their own food to glance at her. She continued screaming for about four minutes and then sat back down with a big sigh and began once again pounding on her calculator.

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I finished my own food and left The Automat.  As I left, I realized that it was the morning of April 15 – Tax Day.  The caffeine charged woman still had about 22 hours to balance her taxes and get them filed before the Midnight deadline.

I always wondered if she got the figures to balance. I don’t think so.

Hide and Seek movie review

Hide and Seek is a 2005 mystery/thriller/horror movie starring Robert De Niro and an 11 year old  Dakota Fanning.

De Niro is David Callaway, a successful wealthy New York City physiologist. One night at 2:05 am his beautiful wife commits suicide. His little daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) awakens just in time to witness her mother’s bloody body.

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Emily becomes so withdrawn that she is almost catatonic. David decides that the best thing to do is to move them both to a completely new environment with no bad memories. They move upstate to a very large house in a rural town. It seems nice at first but a lot of the neighbors seem a little strange. Then bizarre events start to happen.

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OK, so far it seems like this will be a run of the mill horror flick. But what makes this movie great is that the audience is never exactly sure which direction the film is going to take.  Odd and destructive things start happening in the house usually at 2:05 am (exactly when the mother died). When David asks little Emily what is causing them, she keeps saying all the destruction is being done by her friend “Charley.”

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This is where it becomes a mystery movie. Is Charley going to turn out to be an evil spirit in a haunted house, or is he really one of the creepy neighbors who keep showing up at odd times? Or  is there a psychological explanation whereby Emily is acting out destructively due to the trauma of witnessing her mother’s death?

This film is worth watching just to see how amazingly talented an actor Dakota Fanning was even at an early age.  Many of the scenes in the movie contain only Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning yet are riveting to watch.  He is trying to use all his skills as a psychotherapist to  decode exactly what is going on in his daughter’s mind. At the same time he is as tormented as any father would be in this situation.

We will not give away any more of the movie other than to say that it has many turns and twists and that the ending is unexpected.

We give this movie our highest rating of 5 stars *****

A Separation – movie review

A Separation is a 2011 Iranian movie which won the “Best Foreign Language Film” Academy award in 2012. It takes place entirely in Iran with Iranian actors and an Iranian director. The language is in Persian with English subtitles.

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For Americans watching it it fascinating to see  everyday life for a ordinary family in Iran.  What strikes an American watcher immediately is that the United States plays no part in the film.  America is never mentioned and has no role in the family’s life.

The story is about a couple which is going through a divorce. The wife Simin (played by Lelia Hatami) has gotten a well-paying job in Europe. She wants her husband and daughter to move to Europe with her.  Her husband Nadir (played by Sahab Hosseini) refuses to go since he does not want to leave behind his aging father who has Alzheimer’s Disease. The father lives with them in a small apartment.

Nadir has a low level job at a bank and earns much less than his wife. Simin does not understand why her husband will not put the father in a nursing home and make the move to Europe. But Nadir cannot bear to abandon his father even though Simin insists on a divorce if Nadir does not move with her.

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The couple cannot reconcile and a divorce means that their young daughter will have to choose which parent see wants to live with. This is when we get to see what Family Court is like in Iran. Western watcher will be surprised at how similar it is to U.S. Family Court.  It is crowded and stressful for both sides. The overworked judge is legitimately trying to make a determination on what is best for the child.

As in real life, just when you think things cannot get any more stressful for this family, they do. The family has hired a woman to come in for a few hours each day and watch over the ailing father. She is pregnant and her husband is out of work, so she has taken this part time job without her husband’s knowledge.

Nadir does not think she is taking proper care of the father. Without giving away too much of the plot we will say that there is in incident where the woman is injured. Nadir claims she simply slipped and she says she was pushed.  This gets the whole family involved in new set of Iranian courts and involved with the woman’s unemployed husband who is a violent hothead.

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This is an amazingly well done film. You have empathy for all the characters. The movie does not take sides. It simply presents each of the characters as in-depth multifaceted people. It has tension and drama and even mystery. There are some parts where different characters give conflicting stories of the same events and the audience is left to decide who is telling the truth.

Many people do not like watching movies with subtitles, but in this case it works in the film’s favor. Dubbing this movie would ruin  it. To understand the people you need to hear their real voices and their real language.

This is the type of film you will think about long after you have seen it. You will defiantly come away from the film realizing that the people in Iran are real individuals with lives maybe not as different from yours as you once believed.

Cocktails With Jesus

The following is a true story as told to the Editor of East Coast Stories. The names have been changed at the request of the storyteller.

It was Peggy’s first year teaching at Saint John’s elementary school. In fact, it was Peggy’s first year teaching anywhere.  As the newest and youngest teacher, Peggy got stuck with the job of directing the  Christmas play. The experienced teachers were smart enough to avoid that assignment.

It took up a huge amount of time and by the time it was done Peggy felt  it was more stressful than directing a Broadway show.  This was the first year the school was doing a play.  The Administration wanted it to be  big fund raiser for the school.

Peggy got called in to a meeting with the Assistant Principal Sister Mary Connor. The school was technically run by old  Monsignor Ryan, but everyone knew the real power was with Sister Connor.

Sister Connor explained that the school was going to sell very expensive tickets (tax deductible) to the parents. Sister Connor leaned across the desk and drilled her steely blue eyes into Peggy.

“This is our chance to finally get this school out of debt. As the play’s director, your  main job is to  figure out  how how to get as many children in the play as possible. The only reason parents are going to buy a ticket is to see their own children in the play.  So the more children  you can cram into the play the more tickets sold. Don’t worry about whether the child  can act or even if the part makes any sense. Are we clear on that Miss Cantello?”

“Yes Sister. You can count on me.”

“Let us hope so,” responded Sister Connor with a nod but no smile. There were teachers who had been at the school for 10 years who claimed they had never once seen Sister Connor smile.  Her face seemed frozen in a sort of perpetual scowl. Even the parents were afraid of her.

Peggy was a math teacher and approached the problem like an equation. What was the maximum number of roles you could squeeze into the story of Mary and Joseph being turned away from the Inn and ending up in the manger?

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At first it seemed easy. Kids could play Mary, Joseph, the 3 Kings and maybe 3 innkeepers turning them away. But that was only 8 parts. Then Peggy realized she could also have kids play animals. They could have a mule, a horse and 3 lambs. Then she threw in the Little Drummer Boy. (Not actually in the Bible, but it brought the total to 14). Then for good measure she added 6  shepherds  Then she was stuck. there was no way the school would sell enough tickets with only 20 kids in the play.

Finally Peggy broke down and called her mother for help. Mom was delighted to help.

“You have to stop thinking like a Math teacher dear,” said Mom. “Stop being so logical.  All the parents think their children are little angels. So dress them up as such and pack the stage with angels. I bet you could cram at least 20 little angels on the stage. Then put another 20 angels  coming down the aisles. And don’t forget the tall kids.”

“What about the tall kids?”

“Of course you have them stand in the back as stars in the sky”

Peggy had to admit that her mom’s ideas were brilliant.  As the weeks went along the play really started shaping up. Ticket sales were brisk and lots of parents volunteered to make  costumes. It seemed like nothing could go wrong now.

The costumes were made. The parts had been cast. The rehearsals had gone well and 100% of the tickets had been sold. Everyone was happy.

Except for little Maureen O’Toole. She had been cast as one of the Innkeepers who turn Mary and Joseph away. She was very upset about that. No matter how many times Peggy explained it was just a pretend play, little Maureen did not like the idea of turning them away. She cried hysterically during every rehearsal when  she had to say there was “No room at Inn.” Peggy wanted to just take her out of the play, but Sister Connor explained that was impossible. Little Maureen’s father was the Chief of Police, the school  wanted to make sure little Maureen got a prominent part in the play.

The night of the play came, and every seat in the auditorium was filled. Sister Connor was standing by a wall near the front with her usual scowl. Then the lights went down, a hush fell over the crowd and the play started.

For an elementary school play it went along fairly smoothly. The kids did not stumble over their lines too badly and most of the children stood in the correct locations.

Then came the part Peggy was most worried about. Mary and Joseph went to the First Inn (made of cardboard) and were turned away. Then they went to the Second Inn and were turned away.  The Third Inn was the one where the Innkeeper was little Maureen.

Maureen came to the Inn door with tears in her eyes and said clearly, “There is no Room at the inn.” Peggy gave a sigh of relief. Then little Maureen added in a very loud voice, “But won’t you come in and have some cocktails?”

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The kids and the parents froze. Then the silence was broken by sudden laughter from the front of the auditorium. Peggy looked up and saw that Sister Conner was smiling and laughing hysterically. Soon she was joined by the entire audience.

When the laughter died down, the two children playing Mary and Joseph were smart enough not to go into the Inn for cocktails, but proceeded to the Manger, to complete the rest of the play.  Little Maureen waved goodbye to them and went back thorough the cardboard door and off stage.

On Monday morning, Peggy was called into Sister Connor’s office.

“That was quite and interesting twist to the Christmas Story Miss Cantello,” said Sister Connor, with an actual smile.

“I can explain sister.”

“No need. The parents loved it. Especially Chief O’Toole. He complemented you on bringing little Maureen ‘out of her shell’. By the way Miss Cantello. This was such a fund raising success that we have decided to do an Easter play as well. Naturally, you will be the director. ”

Peggy Cantello was at Saint John’s school for another 3 years and then went to teach in public school. The whole time she was at Saint John’s she directed two fund raising plays per year, but none was an memorable as the first. “Little Maureen” is now grown up and in high school. She is looking forward to college and is considering majoring in Drama.

North Dallas 40 – movie review

This week we are reviewing the 1979 classic football movie North Dallas 40. Some people write this off as just another 70s raunchy comedy, but the film is more than that.  It stars Nick Nolte as an aging receiver Phil Elliott on on the fictitious team “North Dallas”. (Which is obviously supposed to the the Dallas Cowboys, but the movie’s producers did not want to get sued).


Elliot is at the end of his career but is willing to do “whatever it takes” to remain in professional football just a few more years. The “whatever it takes” part is what puts this movie a cut above other sports comedy films. It  shows how the football players are  pumped full of pain killers and other drugs constantly just to keep them going.

It also shows how the owners of the team use their own players against one another.  The owners use some underlying racial tensions to keep team adrenalin high. The owners are also using Elliott to try to coerce a new young player to start taking the drugs. The new player refuses to do permanent damage to his body by playing injured. He is afraid to take pain killers that will make his body so numb he cannot tell when he is dangerously hurt. The coaches keep telling the young player that it is  OK. Then they hint that he can always be replaced by old Elliott who will take the drugs and do whatever is necessary for the team.

What is amazing about this 35  year old movie is that nothing has really changed in the NFL. Of course, the league claims things are different now; but are they really? If we forget about the funny 1970s hair styles in the film, the teams do not seem that much different today.

At one point Elliot points out  the reality of the NFL. He states that the players are not the team. The owners and the corporations are the team. The players are just the equipment. The players are just things to be depreciated and then written off.

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One of the best performances in the film is given by the legendary professional football player John Matuszak. He gives an impassioned speech at one point stating that it can’t just be a business. To him it still needs to be a sport. Sadly John Matuszak himself died at the age of 49 due to an accidental overdose of prescription pain killers. John was in almost continual back pain from injuries he suffered during his years in the sport.

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The beautiful Dayle Haddon plays Elliott’s new girlfriend Charlotte. She is very intelligent and completely different than the football groupies Elliott is accustomed to. She questions the entire football scene and tells Elliott he is more important than the game.

Now that football season is in full swing, you may want to check out this movie.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

Getting A Life

Edgar looked out the train window as the tiny houses near the tracks passed by. When he had e-mailed his bosses in Europe of his decision, they could not  understand why he had quit. How could they? Unless the rode the train, how could they?

It had gotten to where Edgar did not even think of the days as days. It was not like he ever saw the Sun. Up at 5am, when it was still dark. Eating a quick breakfast while everyone else in the house was asleep.  Driving the  mini-van 10 minutes to the train station.

In the old days the train ride itself was a peaceful interlude. Now, like everyone else on the train, each morning Edgar typed furiously into his iPhone trying to answer the hundreds of e-mails from Europe which had piled up during his nighttime. But he never caught up. People could send him e-mails faster than he could possibly respond.

It was just getting light when Edgar got to the office. But his office was in the basement of the building and he was at his desk before the sun rose fully. It was a private office and had a lovely faux window. The window had a little curtain and behind the curtain a frosted lighted glass that sort of looked like a real window. However, if you examined it closely, there was nothing behind the glass but  a wall. As far as support staff went it was a good office, but like all support staff it was in the basement.

Sales & Marketing went out to lunch most days , but the support departments always stayed behind to man the phones and computers. They ordered lunch in and ate at their desks.

When Edgar finished the day it was usually  dark. Still, he would walk  to the train home feeling guilty that he had not finished everything.

It all changed one day when Edgar started looking out the train window on the ride home, instead of working on his iPhone. He could see into the windows of the houses. People were having dinner together, or watching T.V. or playing with their kids. They had lives.  He stared looking out the train window every day on the ride home. There were real things happening. People were going to evening mass. One family was barbecuing in the backyard despite the fact that it was Winter and they all had their coats on.  Edgar realized that these people all had lives and he did not.

Along with the rest of his department, Edgar started going in on Saturdays to try and catch up. The company had been cutting back people in the support groups to save money, but had not reduced any of the work. The people who were left had to work more and more.  One clever woman in the office said she felt like Alice in Wonderland. “I have to run as fast as I can just to stay in the same place.” Edgar wished he felt that good. He was running as fast as he could and still getting more behind each day.

Whenever he got home his kids were already asleep and sometimes his wife was too. He often had dinner alone and it struck him that he had all three of his meals alone every day except Sunday.  One day a week to have a life and usually he was too tired that day to do anything.

Edgar had avoided talking to his wife Keri about what he wanted. When he finally told her he was going to quit and had no idea what he was going to to next she surprised him by saying calmly, “It’s about time. They were killing you.”

Edgar had quit and left early. It was strange to be on the train home when it was still daylight.  He could see people jogging in parks while other people walked dogs.

The train pulled in and Keri and the kids were waiting at the station for him. Keri had driven him to the train that morning and said they would go out to dinner as a family when he got home. Keri was smiling and Kevin and Eva were jumping up and down saying “Daddy!, Daddy!”

Edgar stepped  off the train and walked towards his Life.

The Naked Swim

“I went topless on the beach this morning,” whispered Jeanne shyly  at breakfast. With her Canadian accent she pronounced “top” like “tope”.

The way she said it in such a timid way it  made Spencer smile. It also made him picture what she must have looked like on the beach. Jeanne was 23 years old and beautiful. She had long brown hair, green eyes and a figure that was athletic yet voluptuous.  He had met her on his first  day at the Caribbean resort and had made a point of timing his breakfasts so that he would “just happen” to be in the buffet line when she was.

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