Monthly Archives: January 2015

Dancer In The Dark – movie review

Dancer In The Dark is a film by Danish director Lars von Trier, who also directed Dogville. Like the movie Dogville, it explores the darker side of life in small town America.  The story revolves around the struggles of young Czechoslovakian mother names Selma,  who is working in a factory town in Washington State.  She lives in a trailer with her  12 year-old son, and works long hours at a dangerous factory job. The most distinguishing feature of Selma is her incredible thick and ugly glasses.

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But there is more to Selma than it first appears. She actually has 2 secret lives. Her first secret  is that she is slowly going blind and is hiding that  fact from everyone around her.  Her second secret is that she spends much of her time in a fantasy world of Hollywood musicals.

As she struggles through her tedious days she imagines she is in a musical. The film has a number of bizarre song and dance sequences, all of which take place in Selma’s imagination.  Selma is played by Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork Guomundsdottir.

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The actors in this film are excellent.  They are part of a group of dedicated actors who are seen in mainstream movies, but who also always take the time to try new things in independent and experimental films.

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David Morse plays Bil Houston, a local cop who lives next door to Selma. He has secrets of his own. His charming wife (played by Cara Seymour) is spending money far faster than he can earn it, and he cannot bring himself to confront her.  He contemplates doing something very evil just to get the money he needs.

Both Dogville and Dancer In The Dark,  both destroy the American myth that somehow life is simpler and people are better in a small town.  We do not want to give away much more of the plot other than to say that the people of the town are faced with very tough moral choices. Some of them choose the good path and some do not.

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Of of the best performances in the film is by Siobhan Fallon who plays Brenda, a guard in the death-row section of the local prison. The tortured emotions of her character are so real it can bring an audience to tears.  Siobhan Fallon is a character actor you may remember from Men In Black, where her  husband’s body is taken over by the space monster. (By the way, Siobhan is a Gallic name, which is pronounced Sha-von).

This movie has some weird parts, but don’t turn it off half way through. The dramatic ending will be one you always remember.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

When I Met a Sadistic Killer

Have you ever met a murderer? I did, and it was only two days before he committed a disgustingly brutal murder.  The thing I remember most about him was that he was just so quiet. I know that sounds like such a cliche. How many times on the news have we all seen stories about a psycho-killer where the neighbors all say “but he was so quiet.”

His name  is Mark Masters and when I met him he was trying to become a professional photographer. The actual way he made a living was by driving a tow truck and doing various odd-jobs, but his dream was to be a photographer.

I worked  at American Healthcare Manufacturing, a  privately held company in New Jersey. The owner had hired Mark to prepare a new brochure for the company. The owner said it was because he wanted to give Mark a break. The real real reason was that Mark was willing to do the job for less than half the price anyone else had offered.

The photo shoot was to take place after-hours so as not to interfere with the regular business. It was not one of those exciting photo shoots with beautiful models in skimpy outfits. In fact, there were no people being photographed at all.

American Healthcare made products for hospitals.  The products were items such as surgical gloves, gauze bandages, wound dressing kits, etc. The brochure was just going to be pictures of these products, with the prices listed underneath.  It was not exactly Vogue magazine.

Somehow I got chosen to be the one to stay late to help the photographer. Mark came in and we set up everything in the big conference room. We covered the table with a green cloth and arranged the various products on the table.  Mark set up his camera equipment without saying a word.

It was really boring, since it was just Mark and I alone in the building.  I tried to get him involved in a conversation, but I could not get him to talk about anything. It was like his mind was somewhere else completely. He spoke so softly that I had to strain to hear him.

He did not initiate any conversations, and when asked a question, would only answer with a whispered “Yes” or “No”.

The whole photo shoot only took about two hours, but it was so uncomfortable being around him that it felt like it took days.  When he finally packed up his cameras and left I was glad to get back home, where people actually spoke.

Two days later, I was in the office when Brian, our sales manager, came in.

“Remember that guy who took pictures  for the brochure?” asked Brian.

“Yea sure. Why?”

“He killed his mother-in-law.  He strangled her. Then he cut off her hands and tried to flush them down the toilet.  Supposedly they all lived together and had been having arguments about who would get the house. He cut off her hands to make sure she did not get her hands on the house even after she died.”

I was shocked. I had been next to this guy for hours in a completely empty building in an isolated office park just two days before. Brian thought that was really funny. Brian has a weird sense of humor.  It did not seem amusing to me.

It’s hard to know what sort of lesson to draw from this. The only one I can think of  is that you never really know what is going on in another person’s soul.

When I do work late these days, I make sure there are a lot of other people in the building. I also find myself inadvertently checking out where the nearest exits are. Just in case.

 

 

The Uninvited – movie review

The Uninvited is a terrific 2009 horror/mystery movie.  If getting it on DVD, make sure you get the right movie, since there have been a number of different  films with this exact title.

We say it is a mystery/thriller, since it combines elements of both styles.  The story  revolves around 15 year old Anna (perfectly played by Emily Browning).  Anna had a mental breakdown and was committed to an institution after her invalid mother tragically died in a fire 10 months earlier. Anna has now recovered and is returning home for the first time since the accident.

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Anna receives a double shock when she gets home. The first shock is that her father (played by David Strathairn) has a girlfriend who has now moved into the house. The second shock is that the girlfriend (played by Elizabeth Banks) is the nurse who had been caring for Anna’s mother.

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Our favorite character in the movie is Anna’s older and wiser an sister Alex (played by Arielle Kebbel). She is a wonderful older sister, who confides in and looks after Anna.

Alex also has a razor sharp wit.  When describing the relationship between their father and his girlfriend, Alex says. “After Mom died, Dad needed someone to console him.  She has been consoling him three times a night.”

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The mystery part of the film comes into play when Anna and Alex decide to investigate the girlfriend’s background to see if their mother’s death was really an accident.  The horror part of the film is that Anna is capable of seeing grotesque visions of dead people, and she has to try to find out what they are trying to tell her.

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What makes this film great is the complex way in which the mystery unfolds. Some horror films have very simplistic plots and some mystery movies are not scary enough. The Uninvited combines a great complex plot of a mystery plus the chills and gore of a horror movie. The title itself is a double entendre.  The “uninvited” can be the visions of dead people, or Dad’s new girlfriend, both of which Anna and Alex would like gone from their home.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

 

 

More Alicia von Rittberg

Alicia von Rittberg, the German actress  who played Emma in the movie Fury, continues to be the most searched item on our blog. People want to know more about her.  Exactly what is it that makes the readers so interested in her?  Well, of course, there is the obvious appeal of her physical beauty. However, we think it is more than just that.  She created a sensation at the London Premier of Fury with her  astoundingly  low cut gown.

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The press loved her for that, but that also loved her for the fact that she was wiling to give long and cheerful interviews to whoever asked, despite the fact that English is not her first language.

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In the interviews, Alicia comes across as charming and unassuming. She  walked down the line of reporters and photographers and, as she did so, she shook hands and introduced herself. She always said, “Hi. I’m Alicia.” She does not think of herself as a “Star”, and therefore thinks she still needs to tell the reporters who she is.

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Her natural innocence is why she was so good at portraying Emma in Fury. The movie’s director got a lot of criticism for including that character in such a brutal war film.  However, his obvious intention was to show the juxtaposition of innocence and beauty against the brutal realities of war. Alicia was able to bring that character to life perfectly, despite not saying a word of English in the film.

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In the German film Barbara, she has a very small part in which she plays the girlfriend of a boy who has attempted suicide by jumping off a roof.  Although the doctors say his injuries have healed completely, she insists that there is some sort of brain damage since his personality has changed.

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Alicia’s American fans will be surprised to see her playing a character that is more tough and less innocent than the Emma character in Fury.

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We look forward to seeing her in many more films in the next few years.

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From the interest she had generated on this blog,  we can tell that she has many fans eagerly searching to see what she will be in next.

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She has been around on German T.V. for quite some time, and now the rest of the world is waiting to see what  comes next.

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For more stories of celebrities you may be interested in please

 

 

Dogville – movie review

Dogville is about moral choices in a small rural town in the midst of the Great Depression. What make the town unusual, is that it has in it a would-be writer and moral philosopher named Tom (Played by Paul Bettany).  He has weekly meetings during which he discusses values and choices in life. The whole town always attends, not because they are interested in the discussions, but basically because there is really nothing else to do in Dogville.

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Then one evening, all their theories get a real-life test. A beautiful stranger named Grace (wonderfully played by Nicole Kidman comes into town. She in on the run from dangerous gangsters, who have offered a large reward for her capture.

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The townspeople have to decide whether to take the risk of hiding her, or to turn her in and collect the money. They take the high road and decide to give her sanctuary. That is the happy ending at which most movies would stop.  However, for Dogville it is just the beginning.

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Grace is so happy at being accepted by the town that she starts helping out wherever she can. At first the people are reluctant to accept any favors. Then, they grow to like the help. But after a while they start to expect more and more and even begin to treat Grace as a sort of town slave.

This movie is in a format that some viewers will find difficult to watch. For one thing it is 3 hours long.  Also, it is not so much a movie as a filmed play. It takes place on a stage with no scenery and almost no stage props.

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Despite these drawbacks it is a film worth seeing. It has an all-stat cast, including   Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, and James CaanIt is a pleasure to watch truly gifted actors practice their craft.

However, what makes the entire film worthwhile its it’s ending. We will not give anything away other than to say it is dramatic and unexpected.  You will be happy you watched the full 3 hours to get to it.

We give this movie 4 Stars ****

 

 

 

The First Real Snow of 2015

The first real snowfall of 2015 arrived silently last night.

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We awoke to find sunshine gleaming off the soft powder.

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No car or animal tracks have yet touched it.

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With all the worries about traffic and how the snow will impact the commute,  sometimes it is nice to just stop and see how beautiful it really is.

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“The woods are lovely dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Robert Frost

 

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This fellow is happy to be safe and warm inside on a cold Winter day.

 

Final Cut -movie review

Final Cut is a 2010 science fiction  film starring Robin Williams.  In the movie, technology has advanced to the point where people can have microchips implanted which record every moment of their life. When people die, a person known as a “Cutter” takes selected memories from the microchip and creates a film to be viewed by the deceased’s loved ones.

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Robin Williams plays Alan Hackman, who is renowned for being the best Cutter in the business. However, being a Cutter takes a tremendous psychological toll on a person. As the title implies, the person’s job is to “cut” all the bad, boring and embarrassing parts from the deceased’s memo chip.  What is left is a perfect idolized selection of memories for the loved ones to view.

Alan takes on the jobs that even other Cutters refuse. He edits the memories of some people that were truly evil in life.  He eliminates all record  embezzlement, infidelity, or even child abuse. The “memories” that are left are those of a perfect individual who never really existed.

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Not all society agrees with the new technology. A violent group of religious extremists is trying to end the program, saying that only God has the right to see through other people’s eyes. This group is lead by an ex-cutter named Fletcher (excellently played by Jim Caviezel).

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Mira Sorvino is Della, Alan’s girlfriend.  She understands that Alan has no real life of his own, but instead spends his time viewing life through the eyes of others. She tries desperately to get him to participate in life, instead of just  being a perpetual voyeur.

This film is very moving, and brings up a lot of moral questions about technology and what it is used for.  When we get to the point where 100% of everything we do is recorded, do we lose our humanity along with our privacy? Does anyone really have the right to view a stranger’s most private moments, even after that stranger has died?

The film is made even more poignant  by the fact that Robin Williams committed suicide last year.  He was  both a brilliant comedian and great dramatic actor.  You can’t help  wondering during the film that if  towards the end of his own life Robin Williams  worried about how he would be remembered.  He has been remembered quite well. Everyone he ever worked with has said that not only was he brilliant, but that he was a genuinely caring and honest human being. No memory chip needs to be edited to remember or miss him.

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We Rate this movie 4 stars ****

Bronx Windows

The following is a true story as told by Patrick Flynn, who grew up in the Bronx.

I wasn’t a bad kid. No worse than any other kid growing up in the Bronx.  I was in a Catholic middle school about 20 blocks from my apartment building.  I always walked the long way home. Instead of going on the regular streets with the stores, I went out of my way to walk by a large factory.

The factory was an old-fashioned red brick building with hundreds of windows.   I was never really sure what they made in the factory, but to a kid like me it seemed exciting. Machine noises and whistles came from inside the building, and large tractor trailers pulled in and out of the loading docks day and night.

I mentioned one day to my dad that I might want to work there when I grew up, and it surprised me when he got angry. “I’m not paying extra money to send you to Catholic school so that you can end up in a Bronx factory. You’re going to go to college like I should’ve.” That was the end of that conversation. My father was not the type of man you argued with.

There was a chain link fence around the factory but there was a hole in it large enough for me to slip through. The property just inside  the fence had a lot of large  piles of dirt. I would climb up on them and pretend I was climbing mountains. Sometimes I would get piece of cardboard and try to slide down the dirt pile like I was on a sled.

One day I climbed up a dirt pile and at the top there was a rock just about the size of a baseball. I can’t really explain why, but for some reason I suddenly wanted to see if I could throw it far enough to hit one of the building’s windows.  I had nothing against the factory. I loved that factory.  I just wanted to see if I could hit the window.

I stood on top of the dirt pile. I threw the rock, and to my amazement it sailed out of my hand and shattered a window on the second story of the factory. I didn’t get any time to admire my handiwork, since right after the window shattered I heard someone yell. I turned around and far down the street on the other side of the fence was a New York City Policeman. He was on foot. In those days, there were still foot-Patrolmen in The Bronx.

I ran as fast as I could to the hole in the fence and made my way through. The cop was running towards me, but I was able to duck in and out of narrow places he was too big to fit through.  It felt like he chased me for hours, but in retrospect, I realize it was only about 5 minutes before he gave up.

I did not go back to my apartment right away. I hid in an alley for a long time to make sure the cop was gone.  Also, I had to wait until I stopped panting and sweating. I needed to go into my apartment like nothing unusual had happened that day so that my parents would not get suspicious.

I was feeling pretty smug about myself by the time I got home. I was calm and ready to just walk into the apartment.  I opened the apartment door, and sitting at the kitchen table were my parents drinking coffee. There was a plate of cookies in the middle of the table too, which was unusual. My parents were using the good cups and plates since they had a guest.  Sitting at the table calmly having coffee with them was the Policeman who had chased me.

As I came through the door, the Policeman got up, shook hands with my father; tipped his hat to my mother and left.  I hated to see him go. I was much more afraid of what my parents would do than I ever was of the police.

Now days the police patrol in cars with all sorts of radio and computer equipment that supposedly keeps them connected with what is happening.  But when I was a kid in The Bronx the police kept connected a different way. They walked on the streets and knew the people. They knew where people lived and knew the names of their kids. No computer can ever replace that.

I won’t say how my parent’s punished me. Let’s just say it was appropriate. My father did get his wish. I went to college. However, I still was fascinated with factories and machines, so I ended up studying Engineering.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to that Policeman. I wonder if he ever understood just how good he was at his job.  He and the other beat cops never acted like they were patrolling an area.  They were simply part of the community.  They always took the time to shake hands, and they always tipped their hats to the ladies.

 

Barbara – movie review

Barbara is an excellent German movie about the life of a doctor in rural East Germany in 1980. Nina Hoss plays Barbara, a doctor who is under suspicion by the Secret Police, since she has applied for permission to move out of East Germany.  In retaliation, the government transferred her from a top hospital in East Berlin, to a rural hospital. In addition to surveillance by the Secret Police, she has to deal with suspicions that the local rural hospital staff have for a big city outsider.

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The movie is in German with English subtitles, but this does not take away from the film. It is much better than dubbing, since you get to hear the real actors voices.

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Ronald Zehrfeld is Andre, another doctor in the hospital.  He openly admits that in addition to his medical duties, part of his job is to send a regular report about her to the Secret Police. Barbara takes this as no more than a minor annoyance, since this sort of thing was common practice in East Germany.  She finds that in addition to being a government informant Andre is also a good and caring doctor.

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Jasna Fritzi Bauer plays Stella, a young woman who is repeatedly brought to the hospital for injuries sustained when trying to escape from East Germany. It is left to the audience to decide if Stella is a brave young woman, or simply an insane person.

Alicia von Rittberg is Anna, the girlfriend of a young man recovering from a suicide attempt. She is the one who notices that he somehow seems like a different person now and wonders if there is a medical explanation.

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The movie has an excellent plot and wonderful acting. It intertwines political intrigue with medical drama and daily life. It shows that people’s lives do not take place in  a vacuum. Barbara wants to get out of East Germany, but at the same time does not want to abandon her patients.  The Communist Party officials have given her the official party line that, “the workers and farmers have paid for your education and now it is time to give something back.”  When she tells this to Andre he notes in a matter of fact tone, “that is not entirely incorrect.”

The film shows that political and personal decisions are always intertwined and that choices in life are never simple.

We give this movie Five Stars *****

 

 

Martin Luther King Day – The Most Racially Segregated Day of The Year

The great racial division in the United States is never more on display than it is on Martin Luther King Day. Instead of being a holiday that brings us together in celebration of MLK’s life, it is a day on which the facade of racial harmony is removed.

Most government offices are closed, whereas almost all private businesses remain open. Instead of closing, private businesses tell their employees to use one of their personal days or floating holidays if they want to take Martin Luther King Day off.

This results in the most racially segregated day of the year.  All of the African-American employees take the day off, while the other employees do not. This leads to a very strange scene if you happen to be a  commuter. Normally there is a racial mix on mass transit for the morning commute. However, on the morning of Martin Luther King  Day the buses, trains and subways are 100% White, Asian and Hispanic. Even the conductors and bus drivers are White, Asian and Hispanic, since their African-American counterparts have taken the day off.

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It is very sad that the feeling among most non-African- Americans is that Martin Luther King day is not “our” holiday. It is “their” holiday. People don’t actually come out and say this in public, but they do come very close to saying it. Commuters are annoyed that the trains run on a “modified holiday schedule”. This means that there are fewer trains and it takes longer to get to work. When the conductors explain this, I have often heard commuters say, “God Damn, that’s annoying . It’s not like it’s a real holiday.”

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Even the schools are segregated on Martin Luther King Day. For example, in New Jersey, the public schools in the predominantly African-American towns are closed, while those in the other towns are not. In the schools that remain open, African-American parents keep their kids home on Martin Luther King  day, while all the other kids go in.

Americans of all races handle the divide on this day in the worst possible way. We ignore it.  Politicians hold events and and press conferences on Martin Luther King  day and pretend it is a day being celebrated by all.

Let’s face it. Differences and issues exist. Problems need to be solved and taboo subjects need to be discussed.  How can Americans of all races really celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. if we don’t engage in meaningful discussion?

Lets talk with each other. Not To each other, or At each other, but With each other. There is a lot of work to be done and it will never be accomplished if we ignore the issues. Then maybe some day we will be able to truly celebrate Martin Luther King Day together.

Readers of this story also enjoyed our essay, The Real Arthur Ashe

 

 

Taken 3 – movie review

Taken 3 is proof that Hollywood will churn out sequel after sequel of a movie, no matter how awful, as long as it is still turning a profit. That’s only to be expected. After all, the movie studios are in business to make money.

What is disappointing, however, is that the movie-going public continues to watch this nonsense.  Taken 3 was the top grossing movie in the country last week.

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Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, and ex-special forces guy, who is framed for the murder of his ex-wife (Played by Famke Janssen). Mills escapes from the police, and then searches for his wife’s real killer. Mills is pursued by a clever police detective (played by Forest Whitaker).

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A far superior movie with a similar plot is The Fugitive from 1993 starring Harrison Ford as the wrongly-convicted man and Tommy Lee Jones as the U.S. Marshall chasing him.

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Whereas The Fugitive relied on character development and plot twists, the plot in Taken 3 is simply an excuse to have a lot of car chases and gun fights. In The Fugitive, Harrison Ford came across as a real man trying to survive.

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In Taken 3;  Liam Neeson is more like a super-hero who can single-handedly fight off legions of bad guys who all have automatic weapons.  Of course, the bad guys are Russian and have all the cliche Russian bad-guy characteristics.  They have Russian prison tattoos, wear leather jacket, and when off-duty relax in hot tubs with beautiful women. They might as well have come straight out of a James Bond movie.

In addition to finding the real killer, Neeson’s character wants to make sure that the evil Russians do not harm his daughter Kim (Played by Maggie Grace). She is an excellent actress, but unfortunately her character does not get to do much besides tell everyone her father is innocent, and wait for bad guys to attack her so that her father can kill them.

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We will not give away any more of the plot, but there is one scene that is so ridiculous we just have to mention it.  Even though he is on the run, Mills wants to meet Kim in person to discuss things. He knows that she always buys a juice drink at the same convenience store each day.

He leaves a note on a bottle of the juice telling her to drink it immediately.  He has put something in the drink that makes her feel sick when she is in school and she had to go to the bathroom. He then meets her in the bathroom and gives her the antidote. He did all this so that he could meet her in the bathroom to  talk. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to just leave a note on the juice bottle that said “meet me in the bathroom at school?”

We understand why Liam Neeson made this movie. He reportedly got paid $20 million for this sequel compared to the $1 million he made for the original.  Not many people would  walk away from a pay check that big.

If you enjoy lots of car chases, machine gun fire and freeway crashes, then you might like this film. However, if you have any interest in plot or characters, this is not the movie for you.

We give this movie 2 Stars **

 

 

Flight- movie review

Flight stars Denzel Washington as airline Captain “Whip” Whitaker. He is a fantastic pilot with an outstanding flight record going all the way back to his days as a Navy pilot. He also happens to be an alcoholic and a cocaine user.

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This is not giving anything of the movie away. The opening scene is of Captain Whitaker and Flight Attendant Marquez (played by the beautiful Nadine Velaquez) in bed together drinking and snorting coke. This is a mere 2 hours before Whitaker is to pilot a flight from Orlando to Atlanta.

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The flight has terrible turbulence and a major mechanical malfunction causing the plane to go into a nose dive. Captain Whitaker, through fantastic piloting skills, is able to crash land the plane. He is a hero, until the blood tests from the hospital show the presence of the alcohol and coke. (Again, we are not giving anything away, this is all shown in the trailer for the movie.)

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This movie was OK, but not great. The scenes in the airplane are terrific, but they are only at the very beginning of the movie. After that, the movie seems to devolve into an after school anti-substance abuse special. In the hospital, Whitaker happens to meet a recovering heroine addict named Nicole (played by Kelly Reilly), and begins a relationship with her.  However, while Nadine has accepted that she is an addict and is working hard to stay clean, Whitaker does not think he has a problem. The fact that he was able to land the plane only reenforces in his mind that he is OK.

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An  interesting sub-plot is the legal side to the story. The airline pilots union has hired a top attorney to defend Whitaker and keep him a hero in the public’s mind. This includes trying to make sure the hospital blood report never gets released. The attorney is excellently played by Don Cheadle, who is the star of Showtime’s House of Lies. This is an actor who always has a superb performance whatever he is in.

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Whatever you do, don’t see this movie if you are about to take an airplane flight soon. And for pilots we have a little advice as well. Don’t eat a powdered doughnut right before you have to fly. If any passengers happen to see a little white frosting on your upper lip and refuse to get on the plane, you will know they have seen Flight.

We give this movie Three Stars ***

 

 

Penn Station on any given Wednesday

One of or readers for some reason has fond memories of Penn station, and asked for some pictures.

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Why, we don’t know. Penn Station has the charming habit of only announcing the track and opening the doors to the track 5 minutes before departure. This forces the commuters to have to fight just to be able to board before the train leaves.

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It is a ridiculous system since the train is on the track far in advance. The system could easily be changed to allow allow people a more leisurely  and civilized start to their commute home. Still, the pushing and shoving is just a time-honored part of the full New York experience.

 

 

Murder Party – movie review

Murder Party is an independent film that was produced on a “micro-budget”. It is a combination horror movie/dark comedy. It has no major stars, no fancy special effects and was filmed in a warehouse in Brooklyn. It is terrific.  The plot is great and the acting superb.

The main character (excellently played by Chris Sharp) is a lonely guy whose  boring job is to write parking tickets all day long.  He lives alone in a tiny apartment with his cat.  When he picks up a piece of trash on the street he finds it is a invitation that Halloween night to a “Murder Party.”  Excited at being able to go to a Halloween party, he dresses up as a knight in a costume he makes out of cardboard. He is so happy he even bakes a raisin cake to give to the hosts of the party.

However, when he arrives, he discovers that the party is exactly what the invitation says.  The hosts are a group of artists  who are planning on murdering him and filming it in the name of art. One of them notes that “The invitation said ‘murder party’ on it. We didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to show up.”

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The poor Cardboard Knight is captured and tied up, and the artists argue about exactly what form of death would be the most artistic. This is where the “dark comedy” part of the film comes into play. The “artists” have no feeling whatsoever for the man they are about to kill, but they do have feeling for each other. The vehemently hate each other.

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Apparently there is a $3,000 grant at stake for the best artist, and each of them is willing to do anything to prove they are better than the others.

As the audience, we really sympathize with the Cardboard Knight. The film’s director (Jeremy Saulnier) has used the “average guy” technique that Hitchcock used in mystery and horror films. (This was, in fact, Jeremy Saulnier’s directing debut.)  The Cardboard Knight is an average guy who is suddenly thrown into a bizarre set of circumstances with strange and dangerous people. We desperately want this poor guy to survive.

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The Cardboard Knight’s first chance comes when one of the artists eats the cake he brought and it turns out she is deathly allergic to raisins. Chaos ensures giving the Knight his chance.

We will not give away any more of the plot other than to say it gets more and more bizarre and violent.  The film is gory and bloody, in the true style of all horror movies that take place on Halloween night.

The best part of the film is the way the artists are portrayed as pretentious self-centered idiots. In the New York artistic community there are certainly a number of very talented and creative people.  However for each person like that there are at least ten no-talent hacks who pompously call themselves “artists”. The people at this party are those people, but with chainsaws and machetes.

We especially liked Stacey Rock (who dressed as the Daryl Hanna character from the movie  Blade Runner.) She is crazy and violent, and never misses an opportunity to point out what bad artists the others are compared to her. An interesting point is that we never actually see any of their artwork. There is also real question about whether of not the artistic grant money actually exists.

Independent film buffs will love this movie. It is the Nostalgia Critic’s favorite horror movie.  (If you don’t know who the Nostalgia Critic is, stay tuned. We are going to be going a review of him).

Murder Party shows that a good director, good actors and an interesting idea can still be combined to make a good movie with almost no money.

We Rate this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unbroken – movie review

In the theater where we saw Unbroken, the audience loved it so much that there was spontaneous applause at the end of the film.  It is brilliantly directed by Angelina Jolie.

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It is the inspiring true story of the life of Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) and his endurance through incredible hardships. The film actually tells 3 different parts of his life. The first part shows his rise from a skinny kid to an athlete who ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics on the same track team with Jessie Owens. Zamperini was hoping to also run in the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo. Of course, War II ended that dream, and instead Zamperini’s trip to Japan turned out to be as part of a bomber crew.

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When the bomber crashes in the Pacific Zamperini and two other men endure 47 days at sea in an open life raft. Eventually he is captured an thrown into prisoner of war camp near Tokyo.

Angelina Jolie’s directing is amazing. The film has huge panoramic scenes such as bombing runs or Olympic events. It also has close dramatic scenes with nothing but the 3 men in the raft. Very few directors could shoot both types of scenes and make the audience feel that they are 100% real.

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The prison camp itself is run by a corporal named Miyaui who the prisoners have nicknamed “The Bird” due to his strange and erratic behavior.  It may seem odd to an American audience that a mere corporal would be in charge of so many prisoners. However, it should be remembered that under the code by which Japanese soldiers and sailors lived in World War II it was considered dishonorable to ever surrender.  Allied prisoners of war were considered to be dishonorable men not deserving respect, due to the fact that they had surrendered. Hence, their care was given to a mere Corporal.

Corporal Miyaui is the most fascinating character in the entire movie. At one point he tells Zamperini that they should have been friends since they are both strong, but that he cannot be friends with an enemy of Japan. Miyaui understands that he cannot allow any of the prisoners to appear strong if he is to maintain control of the camp. He makes it his personal mission to break Zamperini.  His technique is to be totally unpredictable. You never know what will suddenly set him off. At one moment he seems reasonable and then will suddenly turn into a violet madman.

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What is incredible about this amazing performance is that it is from someone who is not an actor.  Corporal Miyaui is played by Takamasha Ishihara, who is a rock & roll star in Japan.  This is his first acting gig, and he only learned English a few years ago, so that he could sing some songs in English. The fact that he speaks English with a very thick Japanese accent only make his portrayal seem more true to life.

We give this movie our highest rating of Five Stars *****

 

 

 

 

Silent Flames On Cold Water

One of my clearest memories from childhood is of a cold October night when I stood helpless on the shore  with two hundred other people and watched a beautiful sailing yacht burn.

I lived in Connecticut near a large boat marina. Yachts from all over the world would would come in and tie up to the dock. As a kid, I didn’t  think about the incredible amounts of money they must have cost, or what type of people could afford them.  I was struck more by the pure beauty of the vessels.

It was a cold dark night and my father came into my room and said he had seen fire trucks going towards the marina. He and I got into his old Buick Le Sabre with giant tail fins and raced to see what was going on.

When we got to the docks, we could see two fire trucks and a lot of people standing around, but at first we could not locate the fire. Then we saw that everyone was staring at a beautiful  wooden two-masted sailing vessel with teak decks. It seemed to be somehow glowing in the dark.

The boat was not a racing vessel, but one meant for comfortable luxurious sailing.  It had a large cabin with large windows, instead of little port holes. Through the widows we could clearly see the flames as they burned the inside of the yacht.

It was an odd sensation, since there was no sound at all from the fire. The boat was locked up tight and the windows were very thick and strong. They were meant to withstand the pounding of heavy seas, but instead were holding back a fire.

No one knew the who the owners of the yacht were. They had sailed in from another state and a limousine had picked them up at the dock. No one knew how to contact them.

I asked my dad why the firemen did not break the windows and start pouring water on the fire. He explained that if they smashed the windows, oxygen would rush in to feed the fire and make it much worse. The firemen were hoping the fire would run out of oxygen and stop itself.

But oxygen must have been getting into the cabin from some sort of opening, since the fire showed no sign of letting up. Then my father pointed out the real problem. Against all the rules of the marina, the owners of this boat had left it tied up to the gas dock.  This burning vessel was tied to a dock with tanks that held thousands of gallons of gas and diesel fuel.  If the flames spread from the boat to the gas dock, the entire marina and all the other yachts in it could go up in flames. No amount of hosing down the gas dock would be able to stop the disaster.

It was only a matter of time until the fire in the cabin would get powerful enough to break through the windows and start the gas dock on fire. There was only one thing to do.

The marina’s launch pulled up to the burning yacht and and man tied a rope to the cleat at the bow of the yacht. Then another man untied the ropes holding the yacht to the gas dock. It was an incredibly dangerous act. If the flames had burst through the yacht cabin at that moment and hit the gas dock, both of those men would have died instantly.

The launch  towed the burning yacht into the center of the harbor away from all the other boats. Then the launch raced  away from the danger as quickly as possible.  The town had no fireboat, so there was nothing left to do now but watch the yacht burn.

No more than five minutes after the launch had towed the yacht away from the gas dock, there was the sound of shattering glass and the flames broke through the windows. My father was right about the oxygen feeding the fire. As soon ad the windows broke, the fire tripled in size and for the first time we could hear the roar of the flames.

Even in those days, a solid wooden yacht was rare. Fiberglass is so much easier to maintain. The wood hull and the teak decks burned quickly. The flames shot up the two masts. The crowd on the shore was silent as the vessel died. There were no shouts of “Wow!” or “Look at that!” A yacht like that is something of a moving piece of art. Real sailors feel a boat that beautiful is somehow alive.

The yacht burned down to the waterline, and the crowd started to leave. My father and I got into the giant car and drove home.  We did not feel like speaking on the ride back. It was as if we had just attended a funeral. This was long before the days of cell phones with cameras, so there are no videos or pictures to record this event. The Buick Le Sabre with the giant fins in no more, and even my father is gone. But somehow the memory of that night still burns as brightly as silent flames on the cold water.

 

 

 

 

 

I

Into The Woods – movie review by Gregory Farrell

Into The Woods has been playing in theaters for three weeks. However, it is so popular that the showings have been sold out and today is the first day we were able to get tickets. It turned out that  Into The Woods was worth the wait.

It is a movie adaptation of a Broadway musical and combines a number of well known fairy tales into a single story. The film intertwines the tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and Beanstalk, as well as throwing in a witch and her evil spells.

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There is a baker and his wife who cannot have a child due to an old curse. The Witch (excellently played by Meryl Streep) tells them  that the curse can be removed but she needs certain items to make a magic potion. This is a clever plot device which sends them into the woods and brings them into contact with all the fairy-tale characters, since each one has an object they need. (By the way, in case you did not  know, Meryl is from just around the corner in Bernardsville New Jersey, and went to Bernardsville High School)

This is a fun movie that both children and adults will love. It is a long film, being almost two hours. This is due partially to the fact that just when you think a tale is resolved, there is a plot twist to make it a little different than the original story.

Be warned that it is a musical, and some viewers are not big fans of musicals. The story is told mostly through songs and the characters are singing for about 90% of the film.  This takes a bit of getting used to for the first few minutes of the film but then it comes to seem perfectly natural.

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The movie has an all star cast and it is fun to see which well-known stars have good voices and which to not. Anna Kendrick (known for her role in Up In The Air) plays Cinderella and has a wonderful singing voice, as does Meryl Streep.

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The only role which is a little disappointing is that of Johnny Depp, who plays the Big Bad Wolf. His singing voice leaves a lot to be desired. In addition, the words of his song are a little disturbing.  He sings a song to Little Red Riding Hood (excellently played by Lilla Crawford). In the play, Little Red Riding Hood is portrayed  by a woman in her twenties. The wolf’s song has a lot of sexual innuendos where it is obvious that the wolf is interested in her body for more than just food. In the Broadway musical the song seemed funny, but in the movie, the wolf is singing it to a little girl; which just seems creepy. He comes across more like a pedophile than a wolf.

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Rapuzel is played by the beautiful MacKenzie Mauzy. In this version of the story, the witch has locked her away in the tower not as punishment, but to protect her from the evils and dangers of the world. Of course, she falls in love with a young prince, and wants to go out and experience life, even if it means facing danger. Rapunzel and the Witch sing what is the most beautiful song in the movie. It has the age-old theme of a young woman’s desire to live her own life, versus a mother’s wish to protect her.

This is a fun film that you will enjoy.

We rate this movie four stars ****

 

 

The Naked Swim – Chapter 4

“She performs naked Satanic rituals at night and  believes herself to be a witch? She told you that directly?” asked Dr. Eli  Epstein

“No Eli. Not directly. In fact, she states that people started rumors about her when she was a kid. She denies having anything to do with witchcraft. But what about the dead child and the evidence against her? It’s all very damning; wouldn’t you say?”, answered Spencer.

Dr. Eli Epstein and Dr. Spencer Casey were in deep conversation in Dr. Epstein’s  office.  It was exactly what you thought a psychiatrist’s office would look like. There were very comfortable chairs and sofas in soothing colors.  There were paintings on the walls of vast open landscapes in the spring. In the background there was soft classical music playing at a volume so low that your ears barely even registered that it was there. The entire room was carefully designed to make nervous patients feel at ease.

Eli leaned back in his big chair and stroked his grey beard thoughtfully. “It is very interesting that you used the religious term ‘damning’. The witch, especially the female witch is a very powerful symbol in Western Religion. The mere accusation used to get women killed.  Now, of course, the accusation that someone thinks she is witch is enough to label the woman as crazy. Remember that woman from Delaware who was running for Senate? She got labeled as crazy because in high school she once dated a guy who was interested in witchcraft. She even had to have a T.V. commercial that said, “I am not a witch.”

“Let’s stay focused on Jeanne here Eli. What about all the evidence against her in the death of her child?”

“What evidence Spencer? The toddler wandered out of the house on a very cold day while the mother-Jeanne- was asleep. He got lost in the woods and wandered further and further away until he died of exposure. That was the official cause of death after all. The mother is overwhelmed by grief and has never been the same since.”

“You’re forgetting about how the child was found. He has laying down on a tree stump surrounded by little sticks arranged in weird little symbols. What about that?”, said Spencer.

“I have been thinking a lot about that,” responded Eli. “Do you know that when people die of exposure the bodies always look very peaceful?  They get more and more tired as their body loses heat, until finally they just lay down and fall asleep and never wake up.  That is what the child did. He was curled up in a fetal position on a large flat tree stump. He was sucking his thumb.”

“Wow. You have really been looking into this Eli,” responded Spencer in a very surprised tone.  “But what about the sticks?”

“OK Spencer. Let’s suppose that Jeanne really did practice witchcraft. By the way, witchcraft and Satan worship are two completely  different things. She would have taught her son all sorts of ways to protect himself from danger, including arranging sticks in way to ward off the evil spirits. You told me that Jeanne said her child loved going into the woods and gathering sticks. You asked for my professional opinion and here it is. You can accept it or not. It’s just my opinion. I don’t think anyone killed little Jason. I think he wandered off outside on a February day to play in the woods and ended up getting lost and died.”

“But what about all the footprints in the snow?” answered Spencer. “If the boy just got lost and died why didn’t Jeanne just tell that to the police instead of a story about his being kidnapped by a Satanic cult?”

“Because she believes the story Jason. In her mind she believes it one hundred percent. As you know my practice specializes in grief. Grief and guilt do strange things to the human mind.  Your girlfriend Jeanne made a tragic mistake that ended up killing her only child. She fell asleep without shutting the door completely. Her child woke up and got out of the house while she was still asleep. Jeanne’s mind can’t accept that mistake. As a protective mechanism her mind has made up the story of a kidnapping cult so that she does not have to face her own tragic error.”

“Where do you think the footprints in the snow came from?” asked Spencer.

“From Jeanne, of course. It probably did not snow until after the child wandered off. When Jeanne woke up she frantically realized the boy was gone. She went outside to look for him and saw the snow. In her panic she probably couldn’t find her own boots so she put on a pair of her husband’s. She ran around frantically for a long time searching. That’s why there were so many prints.”

“And she doesn’t even remember doing this?” asked Spencer.

” Their is no grief in the world more devastating than that which comes from having  made a mistake that killed your own child.  And it happens all the time, in an instant. Parents back the SUV out of the garage and don’t see the child playing  behind it. People leave a window open and the baby crawls out of it. Toddlers stick a butter knife into an uncovered electrical outlet. It happens all the time Spencer.”

Spencer and Eli sat in silence for a long time. Finally Spencer stood up and they shook hands. “Thanks Eli. What can I do to help her?”

“Just be there Spencer. That’s all you can do. Her mind will tell her the truth eventually, but not until she has healed enough to be ready. Don’t try to force it on her.”

Spencer left the building and slowly walked back to his apartment. That morning Jeanne had packed her bag and said she was going back to Canada. His little apartment was somehow going to seem way too big with Jeanne gone.

He opened the door and there was Jeanne. He went over and sat next to her.

They sat there in the dark apartment not touching and not looking at each other for a full ten minutes without saying a word.

Finally, Jeanne said softly. “I’ve lied to you alot.”

“I know.”

“No. I mean I lie all the time about everything. Who I was, what I’ve done, even who I can be. It’s mostly lies with maybe some truth mixed in. Sometimes I don’t even remember what’s a lie and what isn’t. Sometimes I am not really sure what’s actually happened in my life and what hasn’t. ”

Spencer turned and looked at her and said, “I will help you find out Jeanne. I love you. The real you. You’re not crazy and you’re not a killer. The truth is that I’m your lover and you are mine.  When you are ready to find the truth, I will be there with you.”

Jeanne turned her head and looked at Spencer like she was seeing him for the first time. “I trapped you. Do you know that?  I knew you were a doctor and I wanted that and I set up the whole naked swim to trap you. I wanted to get away from my life and get a whole new one with a rich doctor. Do you still love me now?”

“Yes.  I still love you. Don’t you think I wanted to be trapped?”, said Spencer as he stroked her hair.

“I want to talk about the rest. I want to talk about the cold and little Jason. I will. I will. But not now. Right now I am just so tired.” Jeanne put her head on Spencer’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Just then she said, “Remember when I told you about how strong my ex-husband Billy was?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“You’re stronger. In everything that matters, you’re so much stronger.” Then Jeanne fell into a deep sleep, as Spencer watched over her.

 

 

 

 

Je Suis Charlie

What can we really say about people who would murder cartoonists because they think that’s what an all powerful and loving God wants?

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East Cost Stories is published from Basking Ridge New Jersey, which was the home of 17 people who died on September 11, 2001 because they happened to work in the World Trade Center.

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The oldest part of Basking Ridge is a section called Liberty Corner. It is named that since George Washington and his troops spent so much time here.” Liberty”, of course, is a French word.

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In fact, the American revolution would never have succeed without French support.  The very ideas of Liberty and Equality which we all think of as “American” are actually French.

I wish I could draw cartoons, but I don’t have that ability. So for this blog, I have just downloaded a few from the web, created by people with greater skills than mine.

All of the the people of Liberty Corner today are saying, “Je Suis Charlie.”

The Naked Swim – Chapter 3

Jeanne was completely naked, sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor surrounded by a circle of lit candles.  The apartment was completely dark except for the light from the candles. The beautiful blue dress Jeanne had worn to the disastrous dinner with Karen was hung neatly in the closet. It looked like she had drawn on the wooden floor  with chalk. It was too dark to see what exactly what she had drawn.

“What are you doing?” asked Spencer gently.

“Praying. I am praying for my murdered little boy, ” answered Jeanne without looking up, She continued to rock gently back and forth and she seemed to be either chanting or praying softly.

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“Let me help you though this Jeanne. I am a doctor. We study extreme grief in medical school.”

“Yea. Well studying  grief is not exactly the same thing as having grief, is it doctor? You can tell your sister she won. She found my weakest point and she stuck the knife right into it. You can tell her the crazy Canadian chick will be leaving tomorrow.”

Spencer stepped over the candles and sat down on the floor next to Jeanne. He put his arms around her and said. “That’s not what I want. I love you and I want you here with me. I told my sister that if she can’t accept that then I don’t want her in my life until she does.”

Jeanne smiled slightly and looked into Spencer’s eyes. “She told you all of the shit they say about me on the internet didn’t she?”

“Karen said a lot of strange nonsense. I told her I was not going to believe it and walked out of the restaurant. By the way, I stuck her with the whole dinner bill.”

Jeanne stood up and stretched. Then she walked over the the bed and lay down. She patted the mattress and said. “Come next to me Spencer. Lay back and let me tell you everything there is to know about Jeanne Sedola. Just lay back, close your eyes and listen without interrupting”

Spencer lay down and Jeanne started her story. She talked in a gently soothing voice, as if she were telling a bedtime story to a child.

“I was never smart. Not like you and your sister. You probably got straight As to be able to get into a good college and then medical school. I was lucky if I could get a C. But even though I was struggling, the other girls in the school were jealous  of me. You see, I was pretty, very pretty and that made them hate me. Of course, the boys all were nice since they wanted to fuck me. They were nice until they found out I wouldn’t do anything with them. Then they hated me too.

It was very rural where I grew up. Vancouver Island  is as different from Manhattan as you can imagine. I used to go hiking in the woods alone alot. I had no friends, my mother was not married, and she was basically an alcoholic. So I went into the woods alone whenever I could. I loved seeing the animals. Once I even saw a wolf. I wasn’t scared of him. I just thought he was beautiful.

I even went into the woods at night. I would bring a lantern and a book to read. I just wanted to get out of our little house where my mother would drink and  watch T.V. until she passed out.

Then the rumors started at school. Kids had seen me going into the woods at night and they started a rumor that I was a witch.”

Spencer could not help interrupting. “A witch? Come on Jeanne, this isn’t 1600. No one believes crap like that.”

“That’s what I thought, ” said Jeanne. “But you can’t believe how cruel kids in a small rural town can be.  No one actually believed I was a witch. What they did believe was that I was a crazy chick who thought she was a witch. People started taping pictures of witches to my locker. The Assistant Principal even called me in to ask if I would like to see a psychologist. You see, even the adults believed the rumor that I was crazy and thought myself to be a witch. Then it all stopped.”

“How?” asked Spencer. “How did it all stop?

“I met Billy. He was a commercial fisherman. He was older than me, and I met him down on the dock one day. He was real nice to me. He was big, real big and incredibly strong.”

Jeanne saw a frown on Spencer’s face, so Jeanne said. “Don’t get jealous Spencer. You are very strong for a doctor. But Billy hauls nets and traps and ropes in the freezing cold all day every day year after year. It’s like his body is made out of steel. Even the other fishermen are a little afraid of him.

So anyway, Billy and I started dating and people stopped saying bad things about me. I think he went around town and warned people to shut up, but I can’t be sure. All I know is that as soon as I became his girl, I was suddenly safe. I was with him as often as I could be. He would put his huge arm around me as we walked, and my head barely made it up to his shoulders. I wasn’t the crazy Witch Girl anymore. I was Billy’s girl and everyone treated me with respect.”

Jeanne lay back in the bed, and closed her eyes. Spencer though she was asleep, and put a blanket on her. Then, still with her eyes closed she continued her story.

“I graduated from high school- just barely.  I got a job at the fish factory and continued to see Billy, whenever he was not out on his boat. I bet for a heart surgeon like you that sounds like a pretty boring life, eh?”

“No,” replied Spencer gently. “It sounds like a nice life. What happened to it?”

“Well, I got careless, an so I got pregnant.  I was just 18. Billy insisted we get married, so we did and I became Jeanne Sedola.”

For the fist time it occurred to Spencer that he did not know Jeanne’s maiden name.

“What were you before you were Mrs. Sedola?”

“Eastman, Jeanne Eastman. I should have kept that name. I like it better. I guess I should  change it back, but there’s a lot of paperwork. Anyway, Billy and I got married and 9 months later Baby Jason was born.”

Jeanne’s eyes started to fill up with tears at the mention of the baby. She lay quietly for a long time and then she continued.

“I moved into Billy’s place which was a tiny little house by the woods, way out of town. He never had a big place since he spent so much time on his boat. I quit my job at the factory. I wasn’t earning much and it would have cost me more to pay someone to watch the baby than I could make at work.

Billy was out on the boat fishing more than ever. He wanted to make as much money as possible now that he was a father. It was a solid boat and he could stay out at sea for a long time if he had to. So I was alone with Jason most of the time. Totally alone. ”

“That must have been rough on you,” said Spencer.

“No. I liked it. It was even more fun when Jason became a toddler.  I would take him for trips into the woods and he loved it. He would watch the birds, and pick up little sticks. He was a real outdoors-man.  He was strong and healthy too-like his father Billy.

Then one cold day in February, Jason had I were both indoors. It was too cold to go for a walk. Billy was down at the docks working on his boat’s engine. I played little games with Jason in the house, then put him down for a nap. He fell asleep quickly, so I took a nap too.

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I woke up about an hour later because I was shivering with the cold. The door to the house was wide open and Jason was not in his bed. I thought that somehow he must have woken up, gotten the door open and wandered outside.

I panicked. It was so cold, and the ground was covered in deep snow. There were footprints in the snow, but they were from adults not a child’s.”

“Adults? Like more than one?” asked Spencer.

“The police said it was four or possibly five people. I called the police, I called Billy, I even called my Mom. They had search parties going before it even got dark. The RCMP even brought in dogs and a helicopter.”

“The RCMP?” asked Spencer.

“Royal Canadian M outed Police. They never gave up never.” Jeanne suddenly sat up in bed and had a frightened look in her eyes, like she was back there on that day. Then she looked down and realized that her breasts were still exposed. Suddenly embarrassed, she got up and pulled on a T-Shirt.  She paced the apartment room for almost five minutes, working up the courage to say what came next.

“They found his body deep in the woods. He was laid out on a tree stump. The RCMP said there were symbols  and  markings all around. Little Jason had been killed in some sort of Satanic ritual.  I never went to see the place. I never even looked at the pictures.” Then Jeanne just stood in the middle of the room sobbing.

Spencer walked over and enveloped her in a hug. “That’s the most horrible thing I ever heard.” He knew as a doctor that he should be able to say something more comforting, but he just could not think of what it could be. What could he possibly say or do to help sooth that sort of anguish? So Spencer just stood there for a long time holding Jeanne in his arms. Finally he lead her over the to bed. Jeanne was exhausted from telling the story and she fell into a deep sleep.

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The next day at  the hospital, Jason’s sister Karen insisted on having lunch with Jason as always, even though he was still furious with her. Jason told the who story of the little boy’s murder. “So big sister. I hope you are really proud of yourself for making Jeanne re-live the worst period of her life.”

Karen was afraid she may lose her brother forever, but she knew she had to ask, “Did Jeanne tell you the rest of it?”

“The rest?” asked Spencer. “Jeanne did tell me at breakfast this morning, that  they never found the murders. It is still an open case That must make it even worse for her.”

Karen looked Spencer in the eyes and gently rested her hand on his. “Did she tell you that she is still the main suspect for the murder?”

“What? That’s absurd! There were multiple people. Multiple footprints. The body was miles away.”

“Spencer. Listen to me. The were multiple footprints but they were all the same boots.  Like someone had walked back and forth many times to make it look like there was more than one person. The police also said there was something odd about the footprints. Like a small light person wearing boots too big. The police think maybe Jeanne was wearing her husband’s boots to confuse the police.”

“It sounds to me like the police were just too damn lazy to do their job,” said Spencer angrily.  “And what about all the Satanic stuff?”

“Did she tell you she is a witch? asked Karen”

“She’s not a witch God Damn it!” said Spencer so loudly that some of the other people in the hospital cafeteria looked over. Then he lowered his voice. “Kids made up that rumor when she was in high school, and it stuck.”

“It’s not a rumor Spence. The police said her house was crammed full of books on witchcraft. She had books on spells and potions and ritual sacrifices.  Even her husband finally admitted that Jeanne practiced witchcraft daily and took the child into the woods to teach the boy spells. Her husband said she used to gather plants from the woods and cook up some sort of potion. She would rub it all over the baby’s body each night. She said it would make him invincible to pain of sickness. It would even keep him warm in a freezing Canadian forest.”

“Where are you getting this shit!”, yelled Spencer. “From anonymous posts on the internet?”

“From the Canadian police Spence. I called and spoke to the Inspector on the case.  He was real interested to find out that Jeanne had left the country. We spoke for a long time.”

“That’s it!” said Spencer. “I and leaving.” He stormed out of the cafeteria, and down the halls of the hospital. He was so upset at his sister he could not think straight.

Spencer paced the halls and kept going over and over in his mind the horrible things Karen had said. But what upset Spencer even more was what he remembered from the night before. He remembered coming into his apartment and finding Jeanne naked in a circle of candles chanting. The burned down candles and the symbols on the floor were still there the next morning. Spencer had taken a a picture of it all and had then looked up on the internet what it meant.  Jeanne had said she was praying, but that was only a sort of half truth. The chants, symbol writing  and  candles were something else.

Something only a witch would do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naked Swim Chapter 2

Jeanne was completely naked; doing exercises on  a pink Yoga mat. Spencer always hated waking up early but this morning he was glad he did. When he sat up in bed and looked across his small apartment the first thing he saw was Jeanne.

Spencer thought about saying something clever, but he did not want to do anything that might make her stop. It was  an incredibly erotic scene. By the time Jeanne was finished her toned body was glistening with sweat.

Jeanne stood up and walked over to the bed. Spencer reached out to her naked breasts but she step back just far enough to be slightly out of reach, and laughed.

“Don’t you have an early shift at the hospital today, doctor Casey? teased Jeanne.

“We have time.” pleased Spencer.

“No we do not. No quickies for this girl.”

Jeanne stayed out of reach but showed no signs of putting any clothing on. Finally she said. “Well-  we both do have to take showers and it would be a shame to waste all that water by taking them separately.”

“What happened to that shy Canadian girl I met on vacation?” teased Spencer.

“Oh she’s still here. She just happens to be going into the shower right now. Care to join me?”

Spencer jumped out of bed, and stumbled on the clothing scattered across  the apartment floor, as he chased Jeanne into the shower.

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Later that day, Spencer was in the cafeteria of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital having lunch with his sister Karen.

Karen had been the Financial Administrator at the hospital for a long time. She was the type of no-nonsense woman that even the top doctors were afraid to cross.

“I can’t believe you brought her back from vacation. That is the one thing I specifically warned you not to do.”

“What do you have against her Karen? You haven’t even met her yet. You don’t know anything about her.”

“Either do you! That’s my point. A pretty girl flashed a little flesh and you believe anything she says. You guys all think below the waist.” Then Karen stood up an kissed him on the cheek. Well, thanks for lunch little brother.  I have to get back to working on next year’s budget. The government is cutting our funding again.”

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Spencer sighed as Karen walked away. He was still certain that Jeanne would win Karen over the moment they met.

Karen Casey went back to her office, sat down at her large desk and pushed all the budget papers aside. She decided to work on a more important project. Karen turned on her computer and started typing furiously on the keyboard. She was going to find out exactly who this Jeanne Sedola of Vancouver Island Canada really was.

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Nine hours later Karen and Spencer were once again  sharing a meal. However, this time it was  in a very fancy French restaurant and Jeanne was with them. Karen had invited them both, saying she wanted to “get to know” Jeanne.

Karen’s real plan, however, was to expose Jeanne for the little gold-digging tramp she really was in front of Spencer. With any luck, the little slut would be back on a plane to the Great White North by the end of the week.

Karen had a detailed plan of which the expensive restaurant was  just  a part. Karen would show Spencer that Jeanne was just  an uneducated hick. She would not know how to dress or act or order in a four star New York restaurant. Spencer would see how inappropriate Jeanne would be as a doctor’s wife.

Then Karen would hammer home the fact that it was totally impractical for Jeanne to remain in New York. She could not legally get a job, and it takes years for anyone to get a green card. She would be a drag on Spencer’s already limited income.  Also, as Spencer started doing more surgery, he would be at the hospital more and more. Jeanne would have nothing to do but hang around a cramped apartment all day every day. By the end of the dinner, Karen knew that both Jeanne and Spencer would see it was time to end this vacation romance. If none of those tactics worked, Karen was prepared to use the “nuclear option.”

The dinner was not working out as Karen had planned. Karen had arrived first and was seated at the table having her second glass of wine when Jeanne and Spencer arrived. Spencer was wearing a baggy grey suit that was so wrinkled it looked like he had stored wrapped in a ball inside a plastic bag.

Jeanne, on the other hand, was wearing a brand new, gorgeous blue dress, and spiked black heels.  Her luxurious brown hair flowed halfway down her back. As she appeared, every male head in the restaurant turned to look at her. When she and Spencer walked towards the table, the way Jeanne moved made it  obvious she she was not wearing a bra.

Karen stood up and she and Jeanne did the obligatory “air kisses”.

“Jeanne, how nice to finally meet you. What a beautiful dress. Did you have it with you on vacation?”

“Oh no. I got it today in Soho while Spencer was on call at the hospital.”

Karen knew she had her opening. Jeanne was already spending a lot of money that neither she nor Spence could afford.  This is perfect.  Karen knew from personal experience that most relationships break up because of money problems.

“Soho. Really?”, said Karen. “That must have cost a fortune.”

“Oh no, it was free,” answered Jeanne sweetly. “There’s a new place called Charline’ s that was looking for what they called a combination of salesgirls and models. We get the clothing to wear and then try to push it on the tourists. I get a salary and commission. We are supposed to wear the clothing off-hours too and then tell people all about the store when they ask about the outfits.

“UN-fucking believable”. Thought Karen. “But-but what about work permits and visas?” stammered Karen.

“The store is paying me under the table for now, and is also working on getting me all the work papers.”

Karen was thinking about possibly getting rid of Jeanne by calling the IRS.  Then the waiter arrived at the table.  This was the part of the plan where Jeanne was supposed to make a fool of herself ordering. After all, Canadians think High Cuisine  is when you put brown gravy on Fries.  Then Jeanne started speaking to the waiter in fluent French.

Karen was furious at herself for forgetting about Canadian’s and French.  She knew that Jeanne was probably speaking French with some absurd accent, but since Karen only spoke English there was no way to know.

“Isn’t she great?”, said Spencer, with a broad smile.

The dinner progressed, and the food was excellent. Karen was on her fourth glass of wine by the time the main course arrive, and her speech was starting to slur slightly. Spencer and Jeanne sat very close to each other, and kept whispering cute little secrets to each other and giggling.

But Karen knew, she just knew that Jeanne was bad news for her little brother. Karen realized it was time to stop pussyfooting around and bring out the nuclear weapons.  Karen leaned in towards  Jeanne and sweetly said,

“So Jeanne; Spence tells me you are recently divorced. That must be rough for you.”

Jeanne was not fooled for a minute. She had sized up Karen an an enemy within five minutes of meeting her.  She was not fooled by the fake smile. All through the salad course, Karen had been peppering her with supposedly innocent questions. Jeanne remembered from High School being taught about the Spanish Inquisition.  She felt like this must have been what it was like. “Where did you go to school? Are your parents still alive? Have you thought about going on to college?” Karen’s questions went on and on. With the divorce question, Jeanne decided it was time to strike back.

“Yes, going through the divorce has been rough,” answered Jeanne cheerfully.  “But it must have been so much rougher for you. Spencer tells me that your husband ran off to Europe with some young nurse from your hospital, and that he even stole money from the company where he worked. That must have been devastating for you. It’s like something you would see on a T.V. soap opera. I feel so badly for you. You are such a nice person.”

Jeanne gave a sparking sympathetic smile as the said this. Karen looked down at her own steak knife and for a fraction of a second seriously considered stabbing Jeanne in the chest.

“This is so great,” beamed Spencer. “I just knew the two of you would become friends”. He was genuinely happy, and completely oblivious to the War which was taking place in front of his eyes between the two women he loved.

Over dessert and coffee Spencer finally took over the conversation. He spoke in detail about the fact that he had been allowed to assist in a heart valve replacement surgery that day. It was a delicate procedure and the Chief Surgeon had praised his performance.

Karen had been quiet while Spencer described the surgery in detail. When he was done with his story she quietly said,

“Kids?”

“What was that?” asked Spencer.

“Kids!” repeated Karen louder than was necessary. “I was asking Jeanne if she has any kids. She was married for five years. It’s a normal friendly question from one female to another.” Karen realized that she was drunk and that she was appearing to be a little aggressive.  But Karen was not going to miss asking the one question to which she already knew the answer.  Karen had spent three hours on the computer researching Jeanne and now was the time to spring the trap.

“One,” answered Jeanne, looking very pale as she said it. “Little Jason. Such a sweet boy. Strong and  happy with a big smile and a cute laugh.”

After a minute’s silence, Spencer said. “That’s wonderful Jeanne. When do I get to meet him?”

Tears rolled down Jeanne’s cheeks as she answered, “I wish you could honey. He is gone. Almost a year now. Buried on a beautiful  hill. You can see the water in the distance from his grave.”

Karen almost felt sorry for Jeanne but it was too late to stop now. Time to move in for the kill.  “What were the circumstances of his death?” asked Karen.

Jeanne flashed Karen a look of pure hatred. Jeanne knew that Karen must have read all the stories on the internet. All these thousands of mile way and there was no escape. There never would be.

“Circumstances?”, said Jeanne. “Sitting here in a warm restaurant in the middle of a large city, you could not possibly understand the circumstances of a boy’s death in the  frigid woods on an isolated Island. ‘Bizarre, sadistic and ritualistic.’ Those were the words the reporters used most often to describe the circumstances of my little boy’s death.”

Spencer was too stunned to talk, and even Karen was silent. Jeanne got up from the table and walked quickly out of the restaurant. Every man in the room watched her leave. If anything, the tears rolling down her face made her even more beautiful.

Spencer was about to follow her, but Karen placer her hand on his arm and said. “Sit down Spence. You need to know the truth. I spent the afternoon researching Jeanne. Let me tell you what the people in Vancouver Island call her, and what they say really happened to  her little boy.

Spencer wanted to follow Jeanne, but a part of him needed to know what Karen had to say. He knew how people could say hurtful things and he wanted to be prepared for what people might say about his new lover. So Spencer sat down and decided he was prepared to hear the worst.

He was not prepared. Nothing could have prepared him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gambler – movie reivew

The Gambler stars Mark Wahlberg as a university professor (Jim Bennett) who has a secret life as a high stakes self-destructive Blackjack player.  He is a good player, but whenever he wins he just keeps betting more and more until he loses. This leaves him heavily in debt to a number of very dangerous gamblers and loan sharks.

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The film has an excellent cast full of top notch talent. John Goodman plays the loan shark “Frank”, who tries to mentor JIm about how to change his life, while at the same time casually pointing out that he will kill Jim and everyone he loves if the money is not paid back.

The movie does have some exciting gambling scenes, but overall the film falls flat. The problem is that Jim does not seem to have any redeeming qualities that make him worth caring about.  There is no valid reason for him to be so self destructive.  He comes from a very wealthy family and  has a well paying job as an English Associate  Professor. He is also  great looking, healthy, drives a fancy car and has a beautiful young student falling in love with him.

Given all the advantages Jim has in life, he does not come across as the “cool guy with a tortured soul” that the film makers obviously intended him to be. Instead, throughout the film, he just seems to be a spoiled whiner.

The only reason we are given for his behavior is that he has had the disappointment of not becoming the great writer he thought he would be. Instead; he wrote one mediocre novel and teaches literature to a group of students who don’t really care about it. We are all supposed to feel real  sorry for him because of that, but the guy is such a jerk we just can’t. Most people in this world would consider themselves incredibly fortunate if the worst thing that ever happened to them was that they did not get recognized as America’s greatest writer.

Jessica Lang plays Jim’s wealthy mother who he finally goes to for money when trouble reaches its  peek. She has given him money for these types of problems many times before, but tells him this is the last time. Despite getting a huge amount of money from her, he is nothing but sullen and cruel to her.  Even though  he is supposed to be the hero of the film, we found ourselves half wishing that she would tell him to get lost and leave him to face the consequences.

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There also seems to be no real chemistry with the love interest in the film. Jim is pursued by his student Amy (played by the beautiful Brie Larson). We first see her in a scene that demonstrates that in addition to being an all around bad person, Jim is also a terrible teacher. He tells a lecture hall full of his students that they are all terrible writers except for Amy who is at genius level. No college in the country would put up with a teacher like this for more than a couple of weeks, but we are supposed to believe he is an Associate Professor.

The actors all did a good job with the material they were given. However, the main character is such a self-centered, spoiled man-child that we just can’t like him the way the producers want us to.

We give this movie 3 Stars ***

 

A Strong Iraqi Woman

The pain was unbearable. Doctor Kayoosh Radi stood in the ICU and looked down at her beautiful child Anshu. The 9 year old seemed so small in the bed. There were so many tubes and wires connected to him that he almost looked like a robot.

Despite the cold of the room she was sweating. Kayoosh’s heart was beating so fast that her face had flushed  red. Tears streamed down her eyes an she sobbed uncontrollably.  She still could not believe this. How could a 9 year old healthy skinny boy have a heart attack? Of course,  she knew the answer, but did not want to think about it.

She forced herself to look at the readings on the machines and she knew Anshu could possibly die tonight.  Kayoosh had seen many dead children in Baghdad. None of them looked this  pretty. The bodies were usually horribly mutilated from the bombs or bullets from whatever group happened to be doing the killing that day. Early in her career, she had hardened herself to feel no emotion at the sight.

But this was not Baghdad. This was not supposed to happen here. This was Greenwich Connecticut, where she had always felt comfortable and at peace and safe.

The Chief of Cardiology, Dr. Aaron Gold came into the room and spoke softly to Kayoosh.

“I will perform the operation myself Kay; first thing tomorrow morning. His vital signs need to improve before we can do the operation.  We will find out exactly what happened to Anshu and fix it. There is nothing you can do here. By the way, Ryan called. He is still stuck at O’Hare airport with that blizzard. He said to tell you he will be home as soon as he can get a flight.”

Ryan was usually the one who helped Kayoosh through everything. He was the one who had saved her from the horrors of Iraq. Ryan O’Brien had come to Baghdad with a group  of other journalists to report on how the medical establishment was surviving the constant deluge of civilian casualties. Kayoosh noticed him immediately.

He was tall, muscular and towered over the other people in the crowded halls of the Baghdad hospital. He was incredibly handsome, but what she noticed the most was the way he spoke to the patients in the hospital.  Unlike the other reporters, he actually cared about what would happen to the injured. The other reporters only wanted to get a quick soundbite and then get back to the bar of the hotel. Ryan stayed after the other reporters left, and spent the whole day helping to carry stretchers, empty trash and sometimes just hold hands with grieving family members.

Kayoosh liked everything about him – except his name. It was such a stupid name. What kind of parents would give their child a rhyming name? Ryan O’Brien; it just sounded ridiculous.  Ryan came back to the hospital again and again to “interview” her. She knew it was just an excuse to talk to her, but she liked it. So they had their “interviews” over coffee, over lunch and finally at dinner.

For a Westerner Ryan knew an incredible amount about what was going on in Iraq. Not only was he a reporter, but he came from a very wealthy family with political connections. He knew things that even top Iraqi officials had not yet heard.

One night over dinner, he looked at her earnestly and said, “Kayoosh, you need to think about leaving Iraq. The country is being split among religious and sectarian lines. You are a Christian and a woman doctor. There are groups who hate you just for being Christian and others who hate you just for being an educated woman. This is not the Iraq you grew up in. Don’t make the same mistake your father made. Please get out.”

Kayoosh shuddered at the mention of her father. He had been a wonderful well-liked man who had raised her alone when her mother died in childbirth.  He had been so happy at the fall of Sadam and he loved the American liberators. Then he had made the mistake of openly criticizing the corruption of the new Iraqi government. He was proud of his ability to speak English and gave a lengthy interview to a British T.V. crew, detailing the corruption in the new government. Three days later, as he drank coffee at an outdoor cafe, a black SUV jumped the curb and crushed him as he sat. The driver of the SUV was not charged. The police ruled it a car accident. The driver just happened to be a Captain in the Security Force who was promoted to Major a week after the “accident.”

But Kayoosh refused to leave. She thought that the fact that she never made any type of political or religious statement would protect her. All she did was try to heal people of all religious groups and ranks.

It was not enough.

Things seemed to get better. The violence died down and the streets had once again filled up with people. The Baghdad hospital emergency room had reverted back to  the normal inflow of people with cuts and scrapes, heart palpitations and appendicitis. No more victims of snipers and bombs.

Then one day Kayoosh was deep in the center of the hospital picking up a set of X-Rays from the lab, when a car pulled up to the emergency room door. Two men jumped out shouted a slogan and threw a hand grenade into the room. They drove off seconds before the grenade exploded.

Kayoosh ran back to the emergency room and saw the carnage. As she stood there an old woman started screaming at her. It took Kayoosh a few seconds to understand that the woman was shouting, “Your fault! It’s your fault! You were the one they wanted! Your fault!” Other people in the room said that the two men had shouted something about it being an affront to God for a Christian woman to be a doctor. No one could remember exactly what they said.

Kayoosh simply went catatonic. She could not move. She stood motionless and speechless in the center of the destroyed emergency room for over an hour. Some people screamed at her and others tried to give comfort. Doctors and nurses finally just ignored her and walked past her like a statue while they treated the wounded.

Kayoosh was still standing there when Ryan came into the hospital. Without saying a word he picked her up and carried her out of the hospital as easily as if she were made of feathers. He put her in a car and took her back to his hotel. He laid her gently on the bed and pulled a comforter over her. She  remembered his whispering, “You have done all that you can. I will take care of you now.”

Kayoosh lay back and slept. For the first time since being a child she felt completely and utterly safe. Ryan was so big and so strong, and the bed was so soft. Kayoosh slept deeply and dreamed  of a picnic she once had with her father on a beautiful Iraq spring day.

Kayoosh slept for almost twenty hours. When she awoke, Ryan was sitting in a chair by her bed and had a tray of breakfast for her. Over strong coffee and sweet pastry, he asked her to be his wife and she said yes.

Ryan used his family’s political connections to get Kayoosh a  Visa. Things were getting worse and worse in Iraq and people were scrambling to get out. It took all the family’s pull (and quite a few donations to various political campaigns) but the Visa was obtained.

Then came their life in Greenwich Connecticut. It was like nothing Kayoosh could have imagined. The accents and the people and the climate seemed so strange. There was so much wealth and food and fine cars. There were no soldiers patrolling with M-16s. No check points or pat-downs.

Ryan said she did not have to work but Kayoosh insisted that whatever it took she would pass the qualifications to practice medicine in America. At first it was humiliating. She had to prove herself all over again. She had to take tests and courses and board exams and training, just to prove to the Americans that she was a real doctor. But her skill and professionalism impressed the Americans and eventually she was on the staff at Greenwich hospital.

He mentor was old Doctor Gold. He became her best friend and a sort of father figure. She knew that back in Iraq she would not have dared to associate with a Jew.  It would have been too dangerous for both of them.  Kayoosh was not even sure of there were any Jews left in Iraq. She realized that Doctor Gold was the first Jew she had ever actually met.

When Anshu was born it was the happiest day of Kayoosh’s life. Ryan had wanted to name the baby “Andy”, but Kayoosh insisted that he at least get an Iraqi first name. After all, his last name was going to be O’Brien.

Kayoosh went home and sat on the bed in Anshu’s room. His shelves were crammed with all sorts of American football items. There were pictures famous players, sports magazines, and 3 footballs. Anshu worshiped his father Ryan and wanted to be the muscular star athlete that Ryan had always been.

But little Anshu was built more like his mother. He was small and delicately framed. He would never be a linebacker or even a quarterback. Kayoosh had always known that when Anshu got older she would have to gently  explain that even if Anshu exercised every day for the rest of his life he would never be on the New England Patriots.  Kayoosh started to weep as she realized that there may not be a rest of his life. He could die tonight or on the operating table tomorrow morning.

“I killed him didn’t I?” said Ryan quietly.

Kayoosh looked up and saw her husband standing  in the doorway of the room, looking very haggard.

“I thought you were stuck in Chicago,” said Kayoosh flatly.

“There was a break in the weather and they got some planes out.”

Ryan sat on the bed next to Kayoosh. He took her hand and looked directly into her eyes. “Tell me the truth Kay. Tell me medically exactly what happened.  Don’t lie to me. Not you. Did I kill our boy?”

Kayoosh used all her strength and transformed herself into her medical persona. She used the same neutral tone and even voice she used to use with parents back in Baghdad hospital. “The fracture that Anshu sustained when the two of you were playing football in the backyard two months ago was very severe. It was a thigh bone. That is one of the largest bones in the body. The fracture of such a major bone can cause complications.”

“But he was fine,” said Ryan hopefully. “Kids bones heal fast. That’s what all the doctors said. Anshu didn’t even have a limp after the cast come off. He was fine. He was fine.”  Ryan kept saying “He was fine” over and over again like some sort of mantra that would make everything better.

Kayoosh continued in her professional tone. “With a major bone fracture a tiny splinter of bone can get into the bloodstream. It can circulate through the body thousands of time without problems, but then one day it can catch on something vital. In Anshu’s case a splinter caught on a valve in his heart.”

“It was my fault.” said Ryan. “I should have known he was too small to play with that roughly. I pushed him too hard. I killed our boy.”

Ryan lay down on the bed.  His large body could barely fit on the boy’s mattress.  For the first time since she had know him, Ryan looked weak.

Kayoosh stood up and pulled a blanked over Ryan. She bent down and gently took off his shoes. The she said soothingly. “I will take care of us now. Tomorrow Dr. Gold will operate on Anshu and with microsurgery repair the tear the bone splinter made. Then over the coming weeks they will filter every drop of blood in Anshu’s body and remove any other bone splinters that might exist.”

Ryan looked up with a sort of pleading in his eyes. “Tell me the truth Kay. This type of operation – the surgery and the filtering- does it always work? Can they really do the repair and get rid of any other bone splinters?”

“It sounds a lot more complicated that it is, ” Kayoosh lied. “With modern techniques and an an advanced hospital like Greenwich, it is almost a routine procedure.”

Ryan fell into an exhausted sleep while Kayoosh sat in a chair wide awake. “I will take care of us now,” she whispered.  “It is my turn to be the strong one again. You and Anshu will need all my strength to get through this.”

Kayoosh looked at the clock and knew that she would not sleep that night. In two more hours she would take a shower and go back to the hospital to observe the operation on her son.  She would not allow herself to cry any more. She had been too weak for too long. It was time for her to be once again what she really was. A strong Iraqi woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fracture – movie review

Fracture is a 2007 thriller starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.  Hopkins, plays Ted Crawford;  a wealthy businessman with a genius level I.Q. who is married to a much younger unfaithful wife. Crawford has a plan to kill his wife and get away with it. However, just getting away with murder is not enough for an ego of his size. He wants to shoot his wife while the police surround the house; give a signed confession to the police, and still  get away with it.

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Ryan Gosling is Willy Beachum;  a very successful assistant district attorney with a 97% conviction rate. Willy  has already landed a plush job at a major corporate law firm, which will propel him into the highest income bracket. The new job will get him everything he ever wanted. This includes a beautiful girlfriend (played by Rosamund Pike). She has let him know in no uncertain terms that she is interested in  a high-powered corporate lawyer, but not in a low paid assistant district attorney

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All he has to do is complete this one last case against Crawford. It seems open and shut, complete with witnesses and a signed confession. What could possibly go wrong?

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Willy has a very personal reason for  needing to get a conviction.  The case has become so high profile that if Crawford walks free, Willy will be branded as in incompetent loser. His new law firm has made it very clear that if he loses such an easy case, they will withdraw their offer of employment.

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But Willy  has forgotten that Crawford is a real genius –  not just a guy who thinks he is smart; but an actual genius.  The title “Fracture” comes from a story Crawford tells Willie. Crawford grew up on a farm and one of his chores was to hold eggs up to the light to find any imperfections and see where an egg might fracture. The problems was that Crawford examined every detail so closely he could find an imperfection in every egg and see exactly where it would crack.

The story is Crawford’s devious way of saying he knows Willie’s imperfections as well. He knows the fatal flaw that is Willie’s weakness. Crawford loves the challenge of going up against the city’s best prosecutor.  Crawford wants to not only get away with murder but to humiliate Willie in the process.

We will not tell you much more about the plot, other than to say it is excellent. It has multiple twists and turns and we did not guess the ending.

We rate this movie 5 stars *****

The Future of Days Past – the 1964 World’s Fair and our 2064 predictions.

On this first day of 2015, it is natural to think of the future. What will happen in 2015? What will the world be like by 2020?  Many people are worried about the economy, terrorists threats, Ebola outbreaks, wars in the Middle East or elsewhere.

But I remember a time when Americans did not worry about the future. We yearned for it. The Future was going to be a magical period when America technology and know-how  had solved all of the world problems. In the future everyone would be happy, live in peach and have all the comforts they needed.

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We knew all of these things about the future since it was presented to us on a scale never seen before or since – at the 1964 New York’s World’s Fair. I was only a kid, but my family loved it so much we returned to the Fair  over and over again along with hundreds of thousands of others.

The Fair was a complete miniature city built in Queens. Countries from all over the world had pavilions. But the most exciting exhibits were those of the American corporations. IBM, General Motors, Ford, Disney, AT&T all had large buildings where inside you could travel through time into the Future to see what it would be like.

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However, now that I look back, what strikes me the most is how incredibly wrong all the predictions were.  The things they predicted did not happen at all, and the futurists completely missed the major events that have shaped our world in the 50 years since the Fair.

On this New Year’s Day I thought it might be fun to list all the major trends that the future predictors missed, and then try to come up with out own (and hopefully more accurate) predictions for the next 50 years.

  • The changing role of women in society was completely missed at the 1964 World’s Fair. Many pavilions showed homes of the future, with amazing gadgets, but the home always included a housewife. The idea that the structure of the family in the future might change was not considered in any of the hundreds of scenarios shown in the various exhibits.
  • The  impact of people on the environment was completely ignored. Nowhere was this more evident than in the General Motor’s exhibit. It had a complete working model of how GM was going to “improve” the lives of the people of South America. The model showed a giant machine creating a multi-lane highway through the Amazon rain forest. The front part of the machine chopped down the trees. The middle part of the machine ground up the trees and pressed them into wooden bricks. The back of the machine pressed these bricks into  the ground and paved them over to create a 6 lane highway. When it was all done the “useless” jungle had been replaced by a beneficial highway.

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  • Bigger is better was the theme of almost every exhibitor of the Fair. In the IBM pavilion the entire audience was lifted thorough the air in their seats up into a giant egg shaped building. There we saw a movie about how gigantic super computers of the future would solve any and all problems. The trend of personal computers, calculators and cell phones was never even thought of. The true future of computers would come not in giant buildings owned by IBM or AT&T, but in little garages owned by people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

So now that we have made fun of the Futurists of 1964, let’s go out on a limb and try to predict what the world will be like in 2064. Historians of that time may read this blog and make fun of these predictions, but let’s give ti a try.

  • The term “going to work” will cease to have any meaning. This change could happen very quickly. Even now, people waste time and resources traveling to a location they do not have to.  With computer technology, it  will become increasingly possible to work from home. Traveling to a specific location for work will be something that happens rarely for special events or social occasions.
  • For most people the employer/employee relationship will cease. Most people will not have a single “employer”. They will have certain skills and use those skills for multiple groups throughout the year.  As noted above, most people will do this from their homes. The term “job” will have no meaning for most people.
  • Most low level service jobs will disappear. Even now we can see the trend. There are far fewer bank tellers than there used to be  since we have cash machines. People can now do their own check-outs at grocery stores. Soon there will be no counter people at fast food restaurants. You can punch your order into the screen on the counter just as well as the person at the counter.
  • Cash, Credit Cards and Debit Cards will completely disappear, as will most physical banks. All transactions can be done on your mobile phone. There is no need for a piece of plastic with the same information, and no need for paper currency or coins.
  • Oil will no longer be the source of the world’s energy. What it will be replaced by we cannot say, but the days of burning petroleum for  fuel will come to an end. Petroleum has amazing unique  chemical properties which can be used in medical and other applications. Even today many scientists state how ridiculousness it is that we burn such a unique and one time gift of the Earth.  In the future people will shudder when they look back at how we used oil, the same way we look back at people who used Giant Redwood trees for firewood.

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  • The social order of the world will change. This is the toughest part to predict. In 1964, we Americans had no doubt that whatever the future was like, The United States would be in charge of it. The best we can say now is that there will be changes that seem completely unimaginable now.  One event happened at the 1964 World’s Fair which I can still see as clearly as if it happened yesterday. We went to the Japanese Pavilion and outside it were the flags of the United States and Japan flying side by side. My father stood there for a long time looking up at the flags, with an astonished expression on his face.  He kept saying, “Will you look at that. I never thought to see that.” He was from the World War II generation, and it was incredible to him that Japan and the United States had become the best of friends. Perhaps in future, Israel and Iran will become great economic partners. The major economic powers in the world could be the countries in central Africa. In our part of the world the balance of power might shift from North American to South America.

WORLDS FAIR 5

  • People will not change. People will continue to be smart and stupid and kind and violent and selfish and generous all at the same time.  Nothing in technology will change human nature. Our biggest hope for the future is that people will be able to win against themselves. Although there have been many terrible things that have happened since 1964, the world was in fact better then it was in the proceeding 100 years. In the period 1864-1964 there were two World Wars and a Holocaust. Millions of people died. In the 100 years before 1864 slavery existed in America, and took a major Civil War to end. The world actually  has been getting better, although at such a slow pace it is hard for us to see.

When the 1964 World’s Fair was over I was heartbroken that they tore it all down. All that’s left is a park in Queens with the Unisphere and the New York State Pavilion. The magnificent buildings of General Motors, Ford, IBM, and AT&T were all reduced to rubble.  The giant dinosaurs of Sinclare Dino-land were moved away.

There is one pavilion you can still see. It was the Disney exhibit that was so popular it was moved intact to Disney World in Florida. Tiny robot children sang about the joy and hope of the future which we all believed without question in 1964.  Today you can still visit Florida and hear them sing,

“It’s a world of laughter, a world of cheer. It’s a world of hope, it’s a world of fear. There’s so much that we share, it is time we’re aware- It’s a small, small world.”