Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Fun Side of Cancer

After 20 years as a top salesman at a major company Stewart got laid off.  After 5 months with no prospects and no interviews he decided to get a full physical while he was still on Cobra. That’s when he found out that the lump in the middle of his back was actually melanoma.

The good part was that the operation to have it removed was not as bad as he thought, although it did leave a large hole in his back covered by bandages. During the healing process, he had to sleep on his stomach, and be careful when sitting in a high-backed chair.

The wound was still painful but healing when Stewart got a call for a job interview for a sales position. The company said that the salespeople they were looking for should be “aggressive”, “driven” and above all “enthusiastic”. Stewart knew he would be perfect for it.

When Stewart arrived for the interview, he was a little worried, since everyone in the place was about half his age, including his prospective boss, Mike. However,  once they got talking it was like they were old friends.  Mike was impressed with Stewart’s background. He even liked the fact that Stewart had been  out of work for so long. Mike assumed correctly that this would just make Stewart more eager to prove himself on the job.

The only thing Stewart did not mention was the cancer. He was already worried about being the old guy in the office. He definitely did not want to be the old sick guy.  In retrospect, it might have been better if Stewart had made mention of his recent surgery.

On the way out the door, Mike gave Stewart a big smile and said, “I am sure you will be hearing from us real soon.” Then to finish the interview on a really upbeat note, he gave Stewart a friendly slap on the back – exactly on the top of the healing wound.

Incredible  pain shot through Steward’s body. In a completely involuntary reaction he screamed out at the top of his lungs.

“AHHHHHG!”

Everyone in the entire office stopped what they were doing and stared at Stewart.  He needed to make a split second decision as to what to do next. He did not make a wise choice.

Instead of simply explaining  to Mike abut the operation, Stewart, being a salesman, tried to turn his outburst into a positive event.

Stewart decided to shout at the top of his lungs a second time,

“AHHHHHG” I LOVE THIS JOB! I WANT THIS JOB!”

It was a risky move to make, and unfortunately it did not pay off.  The entire office continued to stare at him with open mouths. Mike slowly edged away, with a look of fear in his eyes.

Stewart left the interview and never did hear back from that company.  Apparently the people doing the hiring decided there was a difference between Enthusiastic and Insane.

Epilogue: – 3 months later Stewart did get a job at another company, whee he still works today.

 

The Age of Adaline – movie review

If you had the chance to live forever, would you? Before you answer “yes” know that there is a catch. All the people around you would continue to age. Your friends, family, lovers and colleagues would grow old and die. You would be left alone; not just once, but over and over.  Would it reach a point that the continual losses become so painful that you would not want to risk forming any new attachments with anyone?

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This is what happens to Adaline Bowman in The Age of Adaline. She begins life in 1906 in San Francisco just after San Francisco Earthquake. She ages like any other person until she is 29 years old. A freak  lightning strike does something that alters her metabolism and stops the normal aging process.

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Adaline is played by Blake Lively who gives a superb performance as a woman who yearns for love, yet has learned to keep her emoticons under control at all times. She dare not give into her feelings; for that would risk people discovering her secret. Afraid of becoming a medical freak or a government experiment,  Adaline is forced to take on a new identity time after time. Blake Lively has captured the essence of Adaline perfectly.  Although physically a young woman, she has many of the social manners of a woman born in 1906.

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Harrison Ford portrays a man who had fallen in love with Adaline in the 1960’s, and was devastated when she suddenly disappeared.  Then by chance meets her again in 2015 and sees that  she has not aged a day.  He does not believe her story that she is actually not the Adaline he knew but Adaline’s daughter. Harrison Ford has one  of the best performances of his career,  as a man tortured by the seemingly impossible reappearance of his mysterious lover who he had lost half a lifetime ago.  He still loves Adaline, but his life has moved on and he has been married to a wonderful woman for 40 years.

This is a beautiful movie about time, aging and lost chances.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy – book review

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy is a book of very personal poems by Samantha Schutz that describes her  struggle with debilitating panic attacks and anxiety disorder.  The poems are so personal that at times the reader feels guilty seeing them. Ms. Schultz has allowed us a glimpse at her soul in its most vulnerable and painful periods.

Any kind of mental disorder impacts a person in two ways. There is the actual problem itself, and then there is the overwhelming guilt that it is really “all in your head.” Unlike a broken arm or a cut knee, a mental problem is something people feel ashamed of having. In one poem Samantha describes her guilt as follows:

This is not supposed to be how things turned out

There were steps taken, expectations –

a specialized kindergarten and elementary school,

a prestigious private high school

complete with a kilt and knee socks,

summer study programs disguised as camp

This is not

how things are supposed to be.

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Samantha seeks traditional  help.  A series of different therapists and psychiatrists prescribe  a series of different medications. We are reminded that unlike other fields of medicine; psychiatry still seems to be very much “hit or miss”. Many of the poems are about the effects of the various drugs.

Being a beautiful young woman, there are also a series of men in her life. Instead of helping, they often just make her life more complicated and stressful. One poem entitled I crave broken men states:

When I try to save other people

am I trying to save myself?

Am I covering up for my lack of strength by putting people back together?

I am tired.

I want someone to save me –

build an intricate web

and place it beneath me in case I fall.

 

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The story does have a happy ending. Samantha is able to dig herself out of her depression and move away from her anxiety.  Despite all the input from therapists and psychiatrists and well-meaning friends, it seems that this is something Samantha has done on her own.

It is not that the panic and anxiety are suddenly gone. It is more that Samantha has created techniques to not let them rule her life. In the final poem of the book Samantha states

I am in a house

I am in one room

and my anxiety is in another.

It’s close.

I can feel it.

I can go to it.

But I won’t.

It took real courage for Samantha Schutz to write this book and open herself like this to the world.

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War Is Good For Economy

War is good for the economy”, are words I heard spoken the other day on a financial news program by a so-called “pundit”. The first time I encountered that phrase was 43 years ago when I was an idealistic young student volunteer on the disastrous Presidential campaign of George McGovern.

McGovern’s campaign headquarters was a 3 story building on K Street in Washington. It was crowded day and night with eager young people who truly believed he actually had a chance to win. McGovern had made pronouncements on many subjects, but the reason all the students wanted him to win was because he was the candidate who was going to end the war in Vietnam.

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This was long before the days of e-mail, so all communications came in via regular “snail-mail”. Thousands of letters for and against McGovern flooded the headquarters each day. We volunteers sat at a long table and sorted through the mail.  Like the other volunteers my job was to read as many letters as I could, and see which ones required a response and which ones did not.

It was pure chance that one of the most moving letters I have ever read in my life happened to be opened by me. It was written by a military wife. Her husband was an Army Major who had recently been killed in Vietnam.

The woman had enclosed in her letter a newspaper clipping. It was an opinion piece someone had written explaining how the war in Vietnam was “good for the economy.” Even worse, the opinion piece pointed out that the Vietnam War was really not very costly in terms of lives, since more Americans died in automobile accidents each year than in Vietnam. The opinion piece concluded that this was a small cost compared to the benefit that the war gave to the economy in terns of the defense industry jobs it  created.

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The Major’s widow wrote that as the wife of a career military man she had always known that her husband might someday die in battle. She said she had accepted long ago that he might die defending his country, or protecting the freedom of others, or to save his fellow soldiers.

However, she said she could never accept that her beloved husband had died simply because it was “good for the economy.” She went on to say that she and her husband had been married for almost 20 years and that she had loved him very much.  I just knew that she must have been crying when she wrote those words.

I don’t know what became of the letter. I don’t know if it ever got to Senator McGovern or if anyone ever wrote her a response. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I did not respond to the Major’s wife personally.  I should have written and told her how moved I was by her story. I wish that I had thanked her for the sacrifice she and her husband had made. But I never contacted her. I passed along the letter to someone higher up, and assumed it would be taken care of.  Now that I am much much older, I realize that there are some things you just need to do yourself.

The U.S. has had many wars since Vietnam. We are at war right now. There is a lot of political debate about where and when and if  the U.S. should go to war. I will not try to influence the political opinions of my readers.

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There are many valid reasons why a nation may engage in combat. But never forget that the soldiers on the battlefield are real people with families that love them very much.  If we are going to risk those precious lives, it needs to be for a better reason than it is “good for the economy.”

 

Flatliners – movie review

Flatliners is a 25 year old movie that is notable for the fact that it features a group of young actors that all went on to become major stars. The young actors are Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon and Billy Baldwin.

They are medical students in New York City, who become obsessed for the search for life after death.  With modern medicine there have been a number of patients who have been revived after being “clinically dead” for several minutes on an operating table. Many of these people report out-of body experiences where they temporarily glimpse Heaven or even God.

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The students want to test this for themselves. They set up an operating table in a secret location and they they each take turns at being “killed” and then revived. They do this by using drugs to stop the heart and then after being “dead” for several minutes using a defibrillator to start the heart again.  They each take turn over a series of nights, and see amazing visions while “dead”.

However, that is only the beginning of the story. They each begin to have horrible visions. The visions are twisted and evil versions of the wonderful things they saw while dead.  Are these visions hallucinations that are the result of brain damage from the procedure? Or have actual evil entities followed back from the dead? We will not ruin the ending of the movie, but it is exciting and unexpected.

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The plot of this movie is great and the the acting is terrific. You can see that each of these actors was already a major talent 25 years ago.

However, the big problem with this movie is the cinematography. Director Joel Schumacher is known for using bizarre lighting techniques and Flatliners is no exception.

For some reason, he chose to shoot most of the scenes in almost compete darkness. It makes Godfather II look like it is brightly lit.

The lack of light in the movie is so extreme that it actually distracts from the film. In many scenes it is almost impossible to see what is going on. We can understand  using low lights in some of the scary situations, but in some parts of the movie it makes no sense.

For example, when the medical students are in a dissection class, there is so little light that you can hardly see the operating table. In real life, an operating room is the most brightly light part of the hospital; precisely so that the surgeons can see what they are doing.

However, despite the distracting lighting, this classic film is still worth taking a look at. It has great actors working with a great script.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

The Regular Show – cartoon review

The Regular Show on the Cartoon Network can be described as Wild, Strange,  Crazy or Retro. The one word which cannot describe it, however, is “Regular”. A quick description of the characters will show you what we mean.

The star of the show is a  Blue Jay named Mordecai. He works and lives at a park with his friend Rigby, who is a Raccoon.  Their boss is a living gumball machine named Benson. Mordecai’s girlfriend is a cloud who walks and talks. She turns into a thunderstorm when she gets angry.

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These are great, imaginative cartoons, and are only 15 minutes each. Kids will like this show, but it also has a large following of adult viewers.  The reason for this is that many of the plots are actually geared toward older viewers. There is nothing inappropriate for kids. It is just that many of the jokes are actually funnier if you are old enough to get all the references.

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For example,  one episode entitled Format Wars II, has an epic batter between monsters that represent all the different entertainment formats.  The monster Laser Disc battles DVD for supremacy.  Just when it seems DVD will win, Internet shows up with tremendous power to crush them both. However,  Laser Disc and DVD team up and find out that Internet can be easily defeated by simply interfering with its connection. There is even a reference to Format Wars I in which the hero 8-Track was killed.

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The shows are cleverly written and well animated. There is one episode that spoofs the totally over-the-top action found in Japanese Anime and the animation for that 1 episode was changed to look exactly like the what is seen in Anime.

The show never talks down to the audience and is fun for both kids and adults. The creators of the show set up each episode with as strange a premise as possible and then run with it.  (For example, when an Alien from Party Horse Planet lands on Earth.)

The show has actually been around since 2010 and has quite a cult following. However, you don’t have to have seen the prior episodes to enjoy the show. So, the next time you want to have 15 minutes of weird fun, turn on The Regular Show.

We rate this Cartoon Four Stars ****

 

Unfriended – movie review

Unfriended is a film with a new take on the horror movie genre, and turns out  out to be a low budget hit. The events of the movie are all on line, and bring the consequences of cyber bullying to their ultimate extreme.

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The movie revolves around the on-line chat of a group of high school kids. They are all very tech-savvy, so they communicate simultaneously via Skype, text messages, phone calls and various other links built into their computers.

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They are having typical  inane teenage chatter, until they notice that an internet troll has joined their group. No matter what technical steps they take, there seems to be no way to get rid of this unwanted visitor.

The troll also has a sick sense of humor. It claims to be Laura Barns; a girl from their high school who recently committed suicide after an disturbing video of her was posted on-line. This would-be “ghost” is back  to find out exactly who posted the video of Laura Barnes (played by Heather Sossaman) and take revenge.

The teenagers don’t believe for a minute that they are speaking to a ghost. However, they do understand that they are being attacked by a very real internet bully who has far more technical knowledge than all of them put together.

This bully starts attacking them in the same way Laura was attacked. The bully starts releasing to the group intimate truths about each of them.

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The main couple in the film are Blaire (played by Shelley Hennig) and Matt (played by Matthew Bohrer). They seem like a couple of real nice high school kids – until “Laura” starts releasing things about them which the couple never thought would be revealed.

This movie is great. It combines  traditional horror movie scares and sudden plot  twists, with the new and very real threat of being attacked on-line.

No one can watch this film without remembering that there have been a number of tragic cases of teenagers who have killed themselves after having been humiliated on-line.  In the old days, a bully was someone who came up and attacked you physically in a schoolyard.As bad as that was, at least you knew exactly who your attacker was.

In our new, on-line world, you can be attacked by anyone anywhere, even if you are just sitting at home just  trying to enjoy yourself on the computer. The worst part is that the attacker is a faceless anonymous force you cannot even strike back at. Sometimes the anonymous attacker is actually someone you had thought of as a Friend.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

Girl Coming In For A Landing – book review

Girl Coming In For A Landing is a wonderful book of poems by April Halprin Wayland, with illustrations by Elaine Clayton. It is subtitled “a novel in poems” since the poems describe one complete school year in the life of one young girl.

The girl is at that early stage in life where every experience is new and filled with emotions. Later in life it is easy for us forget just how dramatic the life of a young person actually is.

The schoolgirl who is the subject of the book,  is also working on developing her talent as a writer and poet. April Halprin Wayland’s poems give some of the best descriptions I have ever read about what it is like to be a writer. Her poem entitled simply, “Writing Poetry” describes the process as;

     “In the middle of the night

       I turn on my light

     then slowly peel

     off layers of me

     with the press of each key.”

These are poems of every day in the life of an ordinary girl, that remind us that no life is ordinary to the person actually living it.

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A poem entitled “It Was Nice Kissing You” describes the devastating moment when the girl realizes the boy she is crazy about does not feel the same way about her.

  “Good-bye,’

I said.

It was nice kissing you.’

I just knew that all the space in the world

wouldn’t be enough for him

and as close as he could ever come

would never

be close enough for me.”

The illustrations by Elaine Clayton fit in perfectly with the poems. They are a combination of doodles and fantasy drawings that express the full range of jumbled emotions running through the girl’s mind.

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This is a beautiful book that reminds the reader of the vulnerability of those early school days. As we get older, we put up walls to protect us from potential emotional hurt. This book makes the reader remember that while those walls do their job, they also seal out some of the joy of life.

 

 

 

 

    

The Original Naked Swim – Tarzan & Jane in 1934

In 1934, Maureen O’Sullivan shocked  movie audiences by appearing completely naked on the Big Screen. This was no quick flash where you were not certain what you had seen. She was swimming naked for almost 4 minutes in Tarzan and His Mate.

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It turns out that there are stories withing stories surrounding this scene.  For one thing, the woman swimming naked was not actually Maureen O’Sullivan.

Tarzan 21It turns out that it was actually an Olympic swimmer by the name of Josephine McKim.

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Audiences should  have been tipped off by the incredible  amount of time the couple spends underwater and how well they both swim. Johny Weismuller (Tarzan) was also an Olympic swimmer. Of course, the audience was probably too stunned by the nudity to be paying attention to the couple’s  swimming skills.

1934 audiences were astounded that Jane was obviously completely nude

1934 audiences were astounded that Jane was obviously completely nude

But Maureen O’Sullivan herself is no prude in the film. She spends a good deal of time wearing a very revealing loincloth that would have been considered obscene if not for the prior nude swimming episode.

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It is not clear exactly how individual audience members felt, but it is clear how the “moral authorities” of the day reacted. The Catholic Legion Of Decency condemned the film and

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various State agencies spoke of pulling it from the theaters.  What finally happened is that there ended up being 3 versions of the film in circulation simultaneously.  In what were considered the most conservative parts of the country, the film had Jane swimming fully clothed. In most parts of the country, she was topless. In a few select theaters (mostly in New York City) the totally naked swimming scene was left in the film in its entirety.

Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan and His Mate

Maureen O’Sullivan in Tarzan and His Mate

Somehow, with all the focus on the swimming scene, the parts of the movie with Jane running around in her loincloth got left in all the versions.

Tarzan and His Mate perform an underwater ballet with Jane naked

Tarzan and His Mate perform an underwater ballet with Jane naked

However, the Moral Authorities were not satisfied. This film lead to increased censorship of movies in the U.S. and it was decades before audiences saw this much flesh on screen again.

Tarzan and Jane in a romantic moment in Tarzan and His Mate

Tarzan and Jane in a romantic moment in Tarzan and His Mate

Viewing the movie from a modern perspective, the naked swimming scene still holds up as being  beautiful and artistic. The only unrealistic part of the scene, in fact, is that Tarzan himself is not naked.  It makes no sense that in the middle of the jungle Tarzan would swim with a loincloth on, while his mate cavorted nude. However, male nudity was completely taboo in 1934. Even today there remains a double standard about male versus female nudity, which many actresses have complained about.

Jane and Tarzan in 1934

Jane and Tarzan in 1934

So if you want to see what was the talk of the country in 1934, take a look at Tarzan and His Mate. Most of the movie is silly, but the swimming scene is still great.

 

 

 

The Beaver – movie review

The Beaver is a 2011  serious film about a man in the depths of overwhelming depression, and the devastating impact that this has on his family.  However, for some reason the movie studio decided to advertise this film as a “Fun Comedy”.

Mel Gibson plays Walter Black, a man who is the chief executive of a toy company, has a wonderful family, yet for some unknown reason is clinically depressed. He has seen psychiatrists and is taking medications, but his symptoms just get worse and worse.  He gets to the point where he communicates with no one at work or at home, and spends as much of the time as he can sleeping. As a consequence, his company and his family are both in ruins.

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Walter then finds a hand puppet of a beaver in a dumpster. He begins wearing it and communicating with everyone though the puppet. Walter lies and tells people this is his psychiatrist’s idea.

This is the point in the movie where we as the audience expect the film to turn into a comedy.  Like when Jim Carrey finds The Mask. However, the movie never becomes a comedy.

The Beaver is an alternate personality for Walter. The Beaver is aggressive and driven, but also cruel and domineering. The Beaver now takes charge and Walter has no voice at all.

Jodie Foster plays Walter’s wife Meridith. She reacts exactly the way any person would whose spouse is sinking into insanity. She is worried for Walter but also is  scared of him; and of the impact he is having on their children.

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In addition to the main plot, there is an even more interesting sub-plot with Walter’s teenage son Peter (excellently played by Anton Yelchin). He is a brilliant student, who is worried that he will go crazy like his father when he gets older.

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Peter forms a connection with Nora, a girl in his senior  class.  Nora is a star athlete, cheerleader and class valedictorian.  She is the type of person that is supposed to be wonderfully  happy in High School – except that she is not.  Nora has dark secrets of her own, and this is what binds Nora and Peter together. Nora is played by Jennifer Lawrence. The Beaver came out  before The Hunger Games, so Jennifer Lawrence  was not yet a household name. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in this film, as she is in all her roles.

We watched The Beaver thinking that it was going to be a stupid comedy that we could write a funny article about. Instead it turned out to be a detailed study of Depression and Schizophrenia. It was like a weird independent film that somehow a major studio got tricked into making.

We do recommend this movie, as long as you go into it knowing what you are getting into. It is not a movie for kids to see.  Because of the beaver puppet, the studio marketed it as if it were a kids film. It is the first time we have seen Mel Gibson play anything this serious since his early work in The Year of Living Dangerously.

We give this movie 3 Stars ***

 

 

Lost River – Movie Review

Lost River is a disturbing, but beautifully crafted film by Ryan Gosling. It is about a  fictional decaying city named Lost River. It was filmed on location in Detroit. Somehow, knowing that makes the the movie more poignant.  The empty factories, abandoned houses and deserted office buildings were not sets created for the movie, but are scenes of modern-day Detroit.

However, unlike Detroit, Lost River is not decaying due to the collapse of the auto industry. The town of Lost River is suffering from a curse. Decades ago, a dam was built, which created a lake  that flooded large sections of the city.  Entire streets and even a dinosaur amusement park are under the lake. Local myth has it that the curse will be lifted if anyone is brave enough to dive in the lake and recover a piece of the submerged city.

Anyone with any  intelligence or skills has long ago left Lost River. The people who remain are the poor  trying to scratch  out whatever living they can;  and various evil people who prey on the poor.

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Saoirse Ronan plays “Rat”, a young woman who has stayed in the city only to take care of her grandmother who refuses to leave.  Her best friend and next door neighbor is “Bones” (played by Iain De Caestecker).  “Bones” is trying to survive by ripping copper pipes out of abandoned buildings and selling them for scrap.

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His scavenging brings him into direct conflict with “Bully”, the film’s villain, who has declared that all the copper in abandoned buildings belongs to him. Bully is excellently played by Matt Smith. Bully is not huge or muscular, but the fact that he is completely insane makes him truly frighting.

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At least Bully is honest about being a predator on the weak. However, there is a second class of predators.  These are the few remaining wealthy people who have an underground club for “performance art” that is actually a place where attractive, poor young women degrade themselves for the amusement of the onlookers.

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“Billy” (played by Christina Hendricks ) who is the mother or Bones is forced to perform at this club, in order to earn enough money to keep their house from being repossessed by the bank.  She is lead into this situation  by a banker who pretends he is actually helping her by giving her the job.

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The banker, Dave Played by Ben Mendelson, is undoubtedly one of the strangest people you will see in any movie. He sets up these sadistic fantastic clubs in every city he visits in his banking career. We can only hope that  this is not what actual executives do when they leave the bank at night.

Most reviewers did not like this movie, and we have some mixed feelings about it.  In the U.S. there are some decaying towns and  parts of certain cities where the only people left are the very poor and the people who take advantage of them.  We think the movie would have been better if had focused on real people like that in real situations.

Instead, the film “went off the deep end” trying to be overly artistic by creating strange characters and bizarre situations.  Most of the characters were so unreal that the writers did not even bother to give them real names.  After all, the main characters are named “Rat”, and “Bones”, while the bad guy, of course, is named “Bully.”

However, we will give Ryan Gosling credit for making an exciting film. As strange as these characters are, you need to know what is going to happen to them. Is there a way out for these people, or are they simply doomed?

We do recommend this film. It is exciting to watch, although we will warn you that some of the scenes are disturbing.  It is certainly a movie you will never forget.

We give this film Four Stars ****

 

 

 

Prejudice against Italian-Americans

If you think that prejudice against Italian-Americans is something from 30 years ago think again. Stereotypes about and discrimination against Italians is alive and well in America, especially as you get further away from the East Coast. This is a story of a true event from six months ago in Bloomington Indiana.

I had a business client which had asked me to look for ways to improve their profits. An analysis of their their financial statements showed that their shipping costs were way out of control.

I brought in a shipping expert named Tony Romano from New Jersey to make a presentation to the company. Tony has a successful company that uses  a sophisticated computer system to assign freight to the most cost efficient trucking firms and routes. His initial analysis showed he could save the client over $3 million per year.

Tony flew from New Jersey to Indiana to to give his detailed presentation on exactly how much money he could save for the client.

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But there was a problem. The people in Indiana didn’t like the way he looked.

The first issue was Tony’s suit. He wanted to make a good impression so he had worn a dark suit. Tony is a real computer geek and I had never before seen him wear anything other than jeans and a flannel shirt. But for this occasion he had on a very nicely tailored black suit and a gold tie.

There was also a problem with how he had gotten to Blooming from the airport in Indianapolis. Tony had never been there before, so he was afraid of renting a car and then getting lost. He was going to take a cab from the airport, but that turned out to be very expensive, since they charge by the mile. Tony was able to negotiate a flat rate with a limo driver at the airport. Not only was it less than half the cost of the cab, it also was a better ride. The limo was a beautiful shiny black Cadillac.

Tony arrived at the client’s offices and gave a fantastic presentation,  He gave a computerized demonstration of exactly how he could save the company $3 million in shipping  When it was over,  I expected the client to ask how soon they could get started. Instead, they gave a very cool “thank you” to Tony and said they would get back to him sometime in the future.

I stayed behind to meet with the client and get their impressions. I was shocked at what they said.

The head of the company said “There is no way we are getting into bed with the New Jersey Mafia.”

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I thought at first that he was joking, but he was not. After he made his comments, the rest of the people in the room piled on and gave their comments. They were all convinced that Tony was a mobster. To them the evidence was clear.As they stated it, Tony Romano was definitely in organized crime because:

  1.  He is from  New Jersey.
  2. He is Italian-American.
  3. He is familiar with the trucking business.
  4. He wears a dark suit.
  5. He arrived in a black limo.

Nothing I said could convince the people in Indiana that Tony was not a mobster.  Apparently they had made up their mind about him as soon as he stepped out of the limo in his black suit. They had not listened to a single word of his presentation. They even refused to keep a copy of his presentation.

So the Indiana company continues to spend $3 million more per year on freight than it has to, simply because management has seen too many movies.

So if you happen to be Italian-American from the great state of New Jersey, you may want to be careful about making any Soprano jokes. To a large number of people in the country, you are not just another American who likes watching mob shows.  You are the mobster.

 

 

Lakeview Terrace – movie review

In the 2008 film Lakeview Terrace,  the gifted actor Samuel L. Jackson gives one of the best performances of his career.  Samuel L. Jackson portrays Abel Turner, a Los Angeles Police Officer.  Able patrols one of the most dangerous parts of the city but lives far away in a beautiful suburb. Able is a widower raising two teenage children. He is a loving but very tough father.

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Then a young, mixed-race couple moves in next door to Samuel. They try very hard to get along with Able, but he is a difficult neighbor, to say the least. For one thing, he has bright security lights all around his home that shine all night long. When they ask him to readjust the one shining into their bedroom, Able always seems to politely find an excuse to put that chore off until a later date.

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Able does not hide very well that he just doesn’t like the idea of mixed race couples. He gets along fine with people of all different races in the neighborhood, but he just does not seem to like the idea of a White man with an African-American woman.

Patrick Wilson plays Chris Mattson, the white neighbor. He tries every tactic he can to win over Able, but none of them seem to work. Kerry Washington plays his wife Lisa, who makes no secret of the fact that she thinks Able is too strict with his kids.

Then things start happening to the Mattsons. Their air conditioner is vandalized. Then someone breaks into the garage and slashes the car tires.  Able lectures them that this is why he has security lights and an alarm system. He warns them not to think everything is safe just because they are in the suburbs.  The Mattsons are convinced that Able himself is doing the damage, but there is no proof.

This is an exciting movie with a combination of mystery and racial tension. It reminds us that racism works in all directions.  The mystery part of the movie is officer Able Turner himself. Is he a nasty, dangerous person? Or – is he just a single father who is overprotective of his home and children, due to fact that he sees so much violence in his day-to-day job as a police officer? As the movie progresses, you will find yourself changing your opinion of Able several times.

By the way, the name Lakeview Terrace also happens to be the name of the street where the Rodney King beating took place.  This, of course,  is the movie’s not so subtle  way of reminding us that the factor of race always plays a part in relationships in the U.S.

We will not give away any more of the plot, and this is a movie worth watching. Samuel L. Jackson has been in a huge number of films, but this is one of his best.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

 

 

Fragments – movie review

Fragments is a 2008 movie, which focuses on the psychological impact that witnessing a violent event has on the lives of ordinary people. The film begins in a busy diner in a rural town on a lovely summer’s day.  Each of the people are concerned with events in their own lives. A father is having lunch with his teenage daughter and her friend. A man at the lunch counter is reading pamphlets about how to deal with his cancer. The waitress is calling her daughter on a cell phone. Just the every day lives of everyday people, which  might not seem exciting, yet are very important to the people involved.

Then a man enters the diner and randomly starts shooting people.

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We are not giving away the movie to tell you this, since the movie is not really about the shooting. It is about what happens to the survivors after the event.  At first it seems like they are all fine. In the hospital, a psychologist tries to talk to each of them individually about dealing with the stress and its after-effects. However, none of them feel the need to talk. They all feel there had been no lasting impact on them.

The survivors discover that , there is world of difference between seeing violence on T.V. and actually being part of a violent event in real life. Each of the people has been dramatically impacted by what they saw, although many of them do not realize it. What they saw begins to change their behavior and how they interact with the world and other people.

There is also a mystery in the film of exactly what really did happen in the diner. We don’t see the actual event as it happens. We only see fragments of it through the selected memories of the survivors. In some cases, the memories of the different survivors do not match exactly.

This movie has an all-star cast of incredibly talented actors. Forrest Whitaker plays the man with cancer. In an ironic twist, people keep telling him how lucky he is to have survived the shooting.

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Kate Beckinsale does a fantastic portrayal of the waitress. She is wracked with guilt that she was unable to call the police during the shootings. She had spent so long talking to her daughter that her cell phone battery was dead when the shootings began.

Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutchenson are the surviving teenagers.  After the event, one turns to religion and the other simply stops speaking to anyone.

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The violence has a ripple effect throughout the community impacting even people who were not at the diner. The local doctor (played by Guy Pearce), cannot get over the fact that he was unable to save any of the victims. As a small town doctor, he was simply not equipped to handle a mass shooting.

This an excellent, poignant film. After you see it, you will probably look at news stories differently. The next time you turn on the T.V. and watch a report about some killings, you will find yourself coming to the realization that the individuals involved are actually Real People.

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

 

Alicia von Rittberg on Game of Thrones

The press agent for actress Alicia von Rittberg confirmed to East Coast Stories today that she will be playing a major role on the new season of Game of Thrones. Fans were disappointed that she was not in last season.  He also confirmed rumors that Alicia von Rittberg will appear nude in some of the episodes.

This will be the first time Alicia von Rittberg has ever done a nude scene, a fact that some of her fans find hard to believe.

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Alicia von Rittberg played the young German Girl Emma in the World War II movie Fury. 

Exactly what role Alicia von Rittberg will play on Game of Thrones has not been announced, however her agent hinted that she will play a major  character who has extraordinary magical powers.

Of course Game of Thrones is no stranger to female nudity.

The beautiful Emilia Clarke has appeared nude many times times in the series. She is better known as Dany Daenerys, or “The Mother of Dragons”. She will be in for some competition from Alicia von Rittberg.

 

5 April Fools Stories people believed

April Fools Day is a really  strange tradition. The idea is to get someone to believe a ridiculous story and then let them know it was an April Fools prank.  The best April Fools pranks are ones where people later  say to themselves, “how could I have been dumb enough to believe that? Individuals are not the only ones who get fooled. Often major news organizations get tricked into airing ridiculous stories that they should have realized were too stupid to be true. Below are 5 items that were originally intended as April Fools jokes, but which major networks and newspapers ended up publishing as actual news events.

1. A woman successfully sued The McDonald Corporation in a paternity suit, claiming that Ronald McDonald was the father of her child.  The LA Times printed this joke story several years ago on April 1, and got almost a thousand letters and e-mails from people who believed it.  One couple even offered to adopt the child when it was born.

2. In Game of Thrones, the person who ends up as the King of the Iron Throne is the mute Giant Hodor. Many separate internet sources jokingly reported that the producers of the popular series decided to break with the books and go with this unexpected ending. Some local T.V. stations aired this story not realizing it was an April Fools joke.

3. In the new X-Files series it will be revealed that Scully is actually an Alien herself and has been leading Mulder off track all these years. A producer of the new series said this as a joke simply because he was tired of people asking him to reveal plot details.  Entertainment Tonight believed the rumor and did a whole exclusive around it. They even went on to say that Mulder and Scully will finally have a romantic encounter and have a half human half alien child that will get its own spin off series.

4. Vanna White is crazy in love with Pat Sajak and has been stalking him for years. She has been known to make threatening statements like, “If I can’t have Pat, then nobody will.” Pat Sajak is so worried about this that he obtained a gun permit, and often has a gun under his jacket while filming the show. This ridiculous story was picked up by Variety and printed as fact.

5. Steve Jobs is still alive, and has been working undercover at Google. He has been simultaneously stealing Google secrets, and also influencing Google to make idiotic investments. He was the one who convinced the company to come out with Google Glasses.  Industry sources say Jobs wanted to go undercover at Microsoft but it was too dangerous. It is well known that Bill Gates has given “shoot to kill”orders to all his security people if they ever see anyone who even looks like Steve Jobs. This “Jobs is Alive” rumor started as an April Fools joke, but now cannot be stopped. The conspiracy theory people are so sure Jobs is alive that they don’t believe it is a joke.

So, dear readers, let us know if you have heard any other April Fools stories that got mistaken for the real thing. And don’t believe everything you read.