Monthly Archives: June 2015

Naked In the Woods

Michelle slipped into the pond and felt the tingle of the cool water on her naked body. It had taken three hours of rough hiking for  Michelle to get to her secret place in the woods.

Michelle had found it by accident at the beginning of the summer, when she had gone off-trail in search of rare plants. The hikes were part of the research for her PhD dissertation in Botany. Her dissertation had the unexciting title “The encroachment of invasive species on the natural ecosystem of upstate New York and the negative impact on the water supply  to New York City”

marriage 1Michelle had been very proud of the first draft and was devastated at the criticism leveled by her PhD adviser Dr. Paul Coelho.

“It’s a little dry Michelle,” Dr. Coelho had said. “You have statistics and graphs, but you need to really feel the subject. To be a real botanist you have to understand that these plants are alive and vulnerable. You have to be in touch with them and love them. You have to be willing to be naked and vulnerable in the woods like they are.”

Michelle was both  insulted and alarmed. She did not like Dr. Coelho’s talk about being naked. Was this the stodgy old Professor’s attempt to seduce his young student?  Yuck!

The day after Dr. Coelho’s lecture, Michelle went further upstate and further into the woods than she had ever been before. She had her thick jeans and heavy hiking boots on. Strapped to her was the large and heavy backpack with the vials for the plant and water samples she would take.

By the time Michelle happened upon the pond, she was exhausted, hot and sweaty.  She put down her backpack and lay on the warm dirt next to the pond. She let her hand dangle in the water, and the pond  felt cool and tempting.

Looking around to see that she was entirely alone, Michelle made an impulsive decision.

“Well, if he wants me naked that’s what he is going to get, “she said out loud

Michelle took off her dusty boots and socks;  her jeans her flannel shirt and stood there wearing nothing but her bra and panties.  She was about to dive in wearing those, but then decided she did not want to be hiking home in a soggy bra and panties. She slipped them off, hung them on a tree branch and stood in the woods completely nude.

As she stood there naked, she was suddenly afraid at how vulnerable she was.  Michelle was not large or muscular and had no weapons. She was small and soft and had no real way to defend herself against anything that choose to attack her. “Like the plants,” she thought.

Michelle almost put her clothing back on, but the cool water looked too inviting for her to chicken out now.  She slipped into the pond and felt  the wonderful sensation of it enveloping her.  It was as if she was the only person in the world.

She stood naked in the water and rested her hands on a tree branch that was just above her head.  Her breasts peaked out of the water and the Sun felt warm on them while the cool water played around her thighs and between her legs.

Michelle stayed that way for a long time, in an almost trance-like meditative state.

After that first time, Michelle came back to her secret spot every week. Her PhD dissertation progressed throughout the Summer, and Dr. Coelho was very pleased with the results. She never told him about her naked visits to the pond. She never told anyone. Somehow that would spoil it.

Finally,  Fall came and it got too cold to go into the water. Winter came, and Michelle continued to visit the pond each week. The pond froze, some plants died and the trees went into their long nap.

But Michelle knew that when Summer returned she would be back. Naked and soft and vulnerable, yet somehow unafraid of the harsh World beyond the woods.

 

Ted 2 – movie review

We were not expecting Ted 2 to be very good. After all, it is a sequel and one of the leads from the first movie (Mila Kunas) is not in the film. It turns out that Ted 2 is great! In fact, we liked it better than the original. It has the same raunchy comedy as Ted, but with a new twist and new jokes. It is not simply a re-hash of the first movie. It even had a a beautiful original song.

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The movie takes place a few years after the original and starts with Ted marrying his girlfriend Tami-Lynn (played to perfection by Jessica Barth). They then find their marriage is deemed  invalid since Ted in not legally considered a person.

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The real surprise in the movie is Amanda Seyfried.  She plays a young lawyer (Samatha) who takes up Ted’s case to prove he is a person. She is beautiful and funny. Amanda even gets a chance to demonstrate her amazing singing voice.  At one point, she sings Mean Old Moon, an original song composed for the movie by Seth MacFarlane and Walter Murphy. It could very well win Best Original Song at this year’s Oscars. That is something we certainly did not expect from this type of comedy.

Amenda Seyfried is s even a good sport about having the movie tease her about her astoundingly large eyes. Ted keeps referring to her as Gollum. For the record, we find Amanda Seyfried’s eyes to be beautiful.

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There are a lot of funny celebrity appearances in the movie as well. The best is that of the Boston Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady. Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby. However, since a Teddy Bear has no male appendage, that leaves a problem.

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To solve the issue,  Ted and John  (Mark Wahlberg) decide to sneak into Tom Brady’s house while he is sleeping to try to “extract” some of his sperm.  Tom Brady plays himself in the movie and is great.

Who knew Tom Brady could act? Apparently he got a lot of acting experience when he was repeatedly telling the NFL investigators he knew nothing about those deflated footballs.

Even the side jokes in the film are good. There is a running joke abut how no matter what innocent question you try to Google, you get directed to a porn site. There is even a cameo by  Liam Neeson as a man petrified of what will happen to him if he buys Trix cereal. (He is paranoid since he is an adult and “Trix are for Kids.”)

This movie is raunchy and fun. Do NOT bring your kids to it, no matter how mature you think they are. If you see the film, be sure to wait through all the credits at the end, since there is a short scene after all of them that is worth seeing.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

Ray Donovan on Showtime – a Parade of Stereotypes

The Showtime series Ray Donovan should win a special Emmy award for having the largest number of offensive ethnic and racial stereotypes. That, combined with the wooden acting of the lead character (played by Liev Schreiber) makes the show almost unwatchable. Of course, the show is about to enter its third season, so a lot of people must actually like it.

The best thing that can be said of this show is that it is an equal opportunity offender. It is insulting not only to Irish-Americans, but also to Jews and  African-Americans. This show has so many stereotypes, it actually becomes fun to start counting them up as you go along. Let’s see how many we can find.

  • The family comes from Boston. Ray Donovan is the story of an extended Irish-American family in Los Angeles. But of course, like all other Irish-American’s in the United States they actually originally lived in Boston. In fact, in  the series, there don’t seem to be any Irish-American’s who were actually born on the West Coast

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  • The entire family speaks with Boston accents, or at least what the actors think are Boston accents. This is one of the weirdest parts of the show since the some of the actors do a good job with the accents and some don’t. Perhaps the strangest accent is that of Paula Malcomson who plays Abby Donovan. This actress is actually from Northern Ireland, but for some reason seems to be doing some sort of exaggerated New Jersey accent.

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  • One or more of the brothers were sexually abused by priests. The sexual abuse problems in the Catholic Church are a real problem that should not be taken lightly. That’s why it is particularly offensive to have them used as a plot device for a T.V show.

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  • Mickey Donovan is a cheap imitation of Whitey Bulger.  Jon Voight plays the grandfather Mickey Donovan. He is a Boston mobster who is allowed to get away with a lot of illegal activities, including murder, since he is being protected by the FBI. Of course, this is exactly a copy of the real-life Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.

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  • The African-American who lives next door to Ray Donovan is a rap singer.
    This neighbor wears gold chains, speaks with an exaggerated “ghetto” accent, and of course plays loud thumping music day and night.
  • The African-American neighbor is adopting a boy whose real mother is an African-American crack addict.  This boy is also a rap singer and calls himself “Marvin Gaye Washington.” The crack addicted mother is convinced to give her son up for adoption in return for enough money to allow her to buy more drugs.
  • African American prostitutes are in abundance in the show. That’s right, Showtime has chosen not to show any of the wealthy African-American doctors, lawyers, or businesspeople in L.A. Instead the African-American community is portrayed as consisting of rap singers and crack-whores.
  • Ray Donovan’s Jewish business partner is a tiny cowardly man who is only interested in money.  Peter Jacobson plays Ray’s business partner Lee Drexler. While Ray is out kicking ass, threatening people and solving problem’s, Lee’s main function seems to be whining about the firm not making enough money.  This is the age-old stereotype of the Jew as a money grubbing wimp. Not tough  enough to handle his own problems, he needs to rely on the tough Irish guy when the going gets rough.

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  • Ray’s Jewish boss is a neurotic hypocritical millionaire who uses a lot of Yiddish and Hebrew phrases. Elliott Gould plays Ezra Goldman, a man who worships the memory of his deceased wife even though he kept a mistress while the wife was alive. This, of course, is the personification of the stereotype of “Jewish guilt”.

We could go on and on, but you get the idea. There is not a single character in this show who comes across as someone you might actually meet in real life.  Real people are complex, multifaceted individuals. You cannot predict how they will act simply based on their religion or ethnic background.

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The so called “mystery” of the series is why Ray Donovan wants nothing to do with his own father Mickey (Played by Jon Voight). Even this plot line is not original.  A much more interesting mystery is why Jon Voight’s real daughter Angelina Jolie refuses to have anything  to do with him and even changed her name to avoid all association.

We rate this show two Stars **

 

 

 

 

A World War II Wedding

Elise White & John (Jack) Farrell

Elise White & John (Jack) Farrell

During World War II it was required that all all members of the military wear their uniforms at all times. That is why the wedding photos of my parents have them in uniform. My father as an Army Private and my mother as a Navel officer. (That’s right, she was the higher rank).

My mother was able to get special permission from an Admiral to be allowed to wear a wedding dress for the short ceremony. However, as soon as that was over she had to immediately get back into uniform.

And where did they fight the war? – in New York City. That’s right, New York. My father was in medical school, and the Army drafted the entire school and assigned them to keep taking classes. Many students, including my father, had been trying to quit medical school to join the Army so that they could fight in the war. However, the top brass in the Army decided that they needed new doctors a lot more than they needed new riflemen.  The Army solved this problem by simply drafting the entire medical school.  His whole life, Jack Farrell felt guilty about spending the war in school, even though he had been given no choice.

My mother, Elsie White, was actually the one with the exciting wartime career. She joined the Navy and due to her aptitude with symbols and puzzles, was assigned to a a secret code breaking unit.  It was in the sub-basement of a building on Church Street in New York. To even get to it, you had to go past Marine guards, down a long elevator ride to the sub-basement; through a steel door and past another set of Marines.

Once you got past security, you entered a long windowless room filled with rows of desks. There, men and women from all different backgrounds worked trying to break the numerous Japanese and German navel codes. Elise was the ranking officer, so she had the desk at the front and was in charge of the group.

In the back there was a tiny, shy woman who never spoke to anyone other than to say “good morning” and “good night.” The other people in the group thought of her like a little skittish mouse. One day Elise was sitting at the officer’s desk and the shy mouse woman came up and spoke to her in a voice so faint it was almost a whisper. “Excuse me mam. I think I just broke the Japanese code.”

It turned out that the little mouse-woman had broken a major Japanese Navel code  As a result, the mouse-woman got a promotion and the entire unit received a commendation.

On the same day they got their commendation, my mother also got an official reprimand letter, for not wearing her .45 caliber automatic while on duty. Fully loaded, it weighed 10 pounds, and she kept it locked in the desk instead of wearing it.  Her logic was that if the enemy got past the two sets of Marines, down the elevator and through the steel door, she was not going to be able to stop them. The Navy, of course, did not agree with this logic and the reprimand stayed in her file.

It was more that 25 years after the war before my mother was legally allowed to tell us any of these stories. That’s how secret her work had been. As children, my sisters and I still had a hard time believing her war stories. We saw a tiny 95 pound woman puttering around the house. We just could not picture her as the Officer of The Day, sitting at the front desk of the code breaking unit with a loaded .45 caliber strapped to her side.

 

King School Class of 1971

It seems impossibly long ago. In fact,  44 years ago. Rapidly closing in on a half a century. Yet somehow I remember everything from King School in Stamford Connecticut much more clearly than many events that have taken place since. The events of those years make a lasting impression on a person.

In fact,  I have written a number of stories on  this very blog about my time at King. If you click on the links below you can read some of them.

  • The Last Connecticut Gentleman is about  the real Merritt K. Sawyer. At school he was a feared tyrant. But I knew him out of school in quite a different context. (By the way, as our English teacher, Mr. Sawyer would have hated that I began the prior sentence with the word “but.”).
  • Running For Cake is the story of our wresting coach Aaron Hess (Woody) and his quest to turn us into Spartans.
  • Guns In The Attic is the story of one of my fellow classmates and the strange and wonderful air force in his attic.
  • Mr. Yang and the Electrical Banana is about our math teacher Jackson Yang and his struggle to make sense out of the incomprehensible lyrics of Donovan Leitch.

Of course, there are many other people and events that come to mind whenever I think about King. There was our Senior English teacher Mr. John Savin Hoffecker, whose love for teaching  was so great that  he gave up a successful law career in the South to teach English in Connecticut.  Savin felt that no class was complete unless he had told us a story about his days in the Old South. I don’t remember many of the books we read in that class, but I do  remember every one of his stories.

There was Malcolm Wilmott who taught Earth Science and who had been a race car driver  in England before becoming a teacher. He was always frustrated with being the person assigned to ferry students around in the school’s underpowered Volkswagen bus.

A number of people from King have written comments to this blog about  the King School stories, and I would love to hear from more. I was looking at the King website on line today and saw that it has changed tremendously, yet somehow remained the same.  It is now co-ed and combined with Low Heywood Thomas.  Some of the physical attributes of the place have changed, but the sheer youthful exuberance of the students remains the same.

When I graduated from King I was happy to leave. It was time to move on and find new adventures. Frankly, having gone there since sixth grade I was tired of the place. But now, when I look through the old yearbook I remember it for what a unique experience it really was.

In the movie Radio Days Woody Allen spoke about how he can still remember the old-time radio voices, but as he get older each year they seem to get a little fainter. I find just the opposite. As I get older, my memories of King seem to get stronger.

Now that I am as old as the most senior teachers were, I can somehow look back at the school with a different perspective and see it in its entirety.

 

 

 

Leaving Berlin – book review

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Cannon is a spy thriller taking place in the complex world of 1949 Berlin. Although post-war Germany was not yet officially split into two separate countries, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies is at its height. Berlin is full of spies from all sides, and is a dangerous place. People sometimes just disappear into the night, never to be seen again.

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Dropped into this world as an unwilling spy is Alex Meier, a German Jewish writer who had fled from Nazi Germany to the United States, in order to escape the concentration camps. He was living as a successful writer in California until he refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee which suspected him of being a communist. Since Alex is technically still a German citizen, he is deported from the U.S.  back to Germany.

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This is where the story begins. All parts of eastern Germany and East Berlin are controlled by the Soviet Union. The East German leaders are glad to welcome a famous communist writer who stood up to the American government.

What the East Germans do not know is that Alex no longer considers himself a German or a communist. He thinks of himself as an American and desperately wants to return to California and his family there. That is why he agrees to spy for the Americans.

What Alex soon discovers is that Germany is just as dangerous for him now as when he fled from the Nazis.  In fact ,in many ways it is more dangerous since it has become even more difficult to tell the good from the bad.

Berlin 10In post war East Germany there are not really any good guys. There are just different levels of bad. There are East German secret police, Soviet agents and, of course, ex-Nazis. The Americans are really no better, since they are much more interested in the information Alex can discover than in Alex’s safety.

The book is very well written and you do not have to be well versed in History to enjoy it. The main story is not about politics, but about moral choices and what people will and will not do to survive.

We highly recommend this book.

Body Heat – movie review

With the temperature shooting up, now is the perfect time to see the 1981 thriller Body Heat, which takes place in a small town in southern Florida in the middle of a sourcing hot Summer.  In fact, the heat  is almost like a character itself. J.A. Preston plays detective Oscar Grace, who notes that the heat makes people do crazy things. He says “it makes them feel like the old rules don’t apply.”

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William Hurt plays Ned Racine, a not very talented lawyer with a sleazy clientele.  Ned is too lazy to do well in his profession. His main goal in life is to try to sleep with every good looking woman he meets. Due to his own natural charm and good looks, Ned does very well with that goal.

Ned’s total life is changed by Matty Walker (played by Kathleen Turner). She is the sexy wife of a rich older man who is away on business most of the time. Ned and Matty begin a passionate affair with very erotic love scenes in the sweltering Florida nights.

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The two lovers decide that a quick fling is not enough. They want it all. They want a life together, and all the money as well. Since Matty had signed a prenuptial agreement there is only one way to get what they want – murder her husband.

We will not give away any more of the plot other than to say that it is very complex with a totally unexpected ending.  It is a terrific movie with great performances.

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Mickey Rourke plays a career arsonist who tries to talk Ned out of his criminal  plans.  He warns Ned that, “in any crime you’ve got 50 ways to fuck up. If you can think of 25 of them you’re a genius. And you ain’t no genius.”

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Ted Danson is the county prosecutor who keeps Ned as a friend, mainly because Ned’s life is so much more interesting than his own.  Of course, having a prosecutor as a friend is tempting fate if you happen to be planning a murder.

This is an erotic, well written and exciting movie which is fun to watch on a hot summer night.

We give this movie Four Stars ****

The Real Candy Crush – The Port Chester New York Life Savers Factory

Have you ever wondered how Life Savers Candy is made? It is actually a fascinating process.  Long ago I worked at the Life Savers factory in Port Chester New York.  It was an old place even then. It was built just after the 1930 World’s Fair where Life Savers Candy  had been a huge hit.

In the center of the factory was a gigantic brass kettle about the size of a homeowner’s garage. The kettle is where Life Savers are cooked. That’s right; cooked. All the ingredients for the candy are put in the kettle and heated and mixed until it is almost at a boil. (You don’t want to burn it.)

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Then, when the consistency is just right, whistles blow and lights flash in the plant to warn the workers that the kettle is about to tip. A gigantic crane lifts and tips the kettle and the molten candy pours out  onto gigantic steel slides. The molten candy then slowly oozes down to the spinning machines.

The spinning machines take the molten candy and spin it into candy  “ropes”. Then comes the part that people find the most strange. Everyone always asks, “How do they punch the holes in Life Savers?” The answer is, “They don’t”.

There is no hole punched in a Life Saver. Instead, the candy rope is wrapped around a steel tube. The rope is then cut and the two ends of the rope are pressed together. Since the candy is still warm, the two ends melt into each other and a Life Saver is born.

All this is done by machine, and is almost too fast for the eye to see.  Thousands of Life Savers a minute are being turned from candy rope into little circles with holes in the middle. They come out of the machine still warm. The Life Savers then travel on moving belts all over the factory while they cool off enough to be put into packages.

Like most of the workers, I once and a while took a warm Life Saver off the belt to see what it tastes like.  It tastes great!

Now comes the Candy Crush part. The process of manufacturing Life Savers is a race against time. The whole process only works when the candy mix is still warm. From the second the big brass kettle tips the molten candy onto the slide, the candy is cooling off.

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The candy mixture keeps cooling and getting harder, until eventually it is so hard the machines can’t work with it any more. At this point the production process stops and “reclaim” begins.

On the metal slides there are now giant chunks of hard candy that cooled before they could be turned into Life Savers. Some are  four or five feet long. The workers use special clean tools to pick up and move all these giant pieces of candy into a room with the fancy name of “The Reclaim Room”.

The Reclaim Room is where these big blocks of candy get chopped into smaller pieces. Once the pieces are small enough, they can be added back into the big brass kettle, and re-melted for the next batch.

You probably think that the blocks of candy get chopped up by a specially designed machine – Nope. The scientific method Life Savers used was a guy we used to call Big Al.

Big Al was one of the happiest people I ever met. He loved his job. Every day, his job was to go into the reclaim room with a sledge hammer and smash the big chunks of candy into little bits.  His job kept him in fantastic physical shape, and it took out all his aggressions.

Al would walk into the room with his sledge hammer and just go berserk. No one was allowed to be in the Reclaim Room when Al was there. It was just too dangerous. He would charge around the room swinging  his sledgehammer, until the candy chunks had been reduced to fine powder.

Outside the Reclaim Room Al was the nicest guy in the World. Whatever anger or disappointment or frustration he had,  he worked out by smashing candy with that sledgehammer.

When Al was finished, other workers came to the Reclaim Room and shoveled the candy powder back into the big brass kettle, to be re-melted and start the whole process again.

So that’s how Life Savers are made. At least, that’s how they used to be made. The Port Chester Life Savers plant closed years ago. The operations became too old-fashioned and the manufacturing was moved to a giant automated  factory in Puerto Rico.

The red brick Life Savers factory by the Port Chester train station got converted into condominiums. The giant Life Savers signs in front of the factory were donated to the city for a museum.  The big brass kettle was sold for scrap metal.

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And what happened to the people who worked at the Port Chester Life Savers factory? They went out with a sense of pride. Even after the announcement that the plant would be closed, they continued to work hard and put out a quality product. The production and quality levels in the last month were as high as they had ever been.

On the last day of production, Big Al did something he had never done before. He turned over his sledgehammer and  let each worker take a turn in the Reclaim Room smashing up the giant chunks of candy.  One by one, workers entered the room, smashed the candy for a while, and came out with a smile.

At the end of the day, the lights were tuned off and one of the last of the old-time candy factories became a part of history. Of course, Life Savers Candy is still around and still tastes great. I heard that the Puerto Rico plant has a special machine that reclaims the candy and a completely revised production process. No big brass kettle, no Big Al with a sledge hammer, no rushing to spin the candy ropes before they can cool.

I am sure the new plant is amazingly efficient. Still, I remember with nostalgic fondness the old Port Chester Life Savers Plant where making the candy was just as much fun as eating it.

 

Impact Pricing – book review

Impact Pricing by Mark Stiving is a well written, easy to read guide for businesses trying to decide what prices to set for their products or services. Dr. Stiving demonstrates that despite pricing being one the key factors in business success or failure, many companies have no clear strategy for setting prices.

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The author points out that most companies simply use a “Cost Plus” method for determining what prices to charge.  The company calculates how much it costs to make its product, adds the profit margin it would like to receive and that equals the price.

Impact Pricing notes that this old fashioned Cost Plus method makes no sense. The only thing that matters is how much the product is worth to the customer. Mark Stiving advocates what he calls “Value Based Pricing.”  After all, the customers really don’t care how much it costs a company to make a product. What they care about is the value of the product to them.

Of course, trying to figure out what the value is to a customer is easier said than done. Much of the book describes in detail various methodologies to do just that. Continue reading

Hunger – movie review

Most Americans don’t know who Bobby Sands was. However, mentioning his name anywhere in Ireland or the UK, will provoke an  immediate emotional reaction reaction. He is considered either a martyr or a terrorist. There is no such thing as a neutral opinion

Hunger is a movie that is so real and moving it is difficult to watch. It is the true story of Bobby Sands, the IRA member,  during his 66 day hunger strike in 1981 in a North Ireland prison.

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The background of the movie is that of  the conflicting ideologies between the IRA and the British government. The IRA members consider themselves a patriotic Irish army fighting against a repressive regime. As such, they want to be treated as prisoners of war and had been, until Margaret Thatcher removed the “Special Status” category for IRA prisoners.

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The film does not take any political stance. It’s focus is on the daily life inside the prison. The IRA members have made a decision to go on a hunger strike one at a time until the Special Status is reinstated.  This film is the close up study of someone who is willing to die for a cause in one of the most painful ways possible.

This movie has some of the best performances we have ever seen on film. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, and put his own life at risk for this part. No special effects wee used, and Michael Fassbender went from 170 pounds down to 132 pounds during the making of the movie.

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One of the longest and most memorable scenes in the film is the discussion by Bobby Sands and the prison priest when Bobby announces his intention to begin his hunger strike. The priest, excellently played by Liam Cunningham, tries every tactic he can to make Bobby change his mind.

The priest tries the political argument that the British government will never back down. He tries the theological approach, pointing out that Bobby would be committing suicide; which the Catholic church considers a mortal sin.

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For every argument Bobby has an answer. Despite the dark nature of their subject matter, these two men debate back and forth  with  Irish banter, including  jokes and off-subject stories to lighten the mood. At some points they seem like two friends in a pub discussing a disputed goal in a football match. Then they come back to the real subject and you remember that they are debating whether one of them should starve himself to death.

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The movie also focuses on one of the prison guards. It shows the psychological toll on him of the constant tension inside and outside the prison. In the prison, the guard treats the prisoners brutally and outside the prison,  the guard’s life is constantly at risk. He does not dare start his car without first looking under it so make sure the IRA has not placed a bomb on it during the night. The guard is played by Stuart Graham. His acting skills are amazing. His part has virtually no words, so the tension and pressure in his life are shown completely with body language.

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This is an incredible film that you will long remember.

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

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The Girl On The Train – book review

Have you ever glanced out the window of a train and wondered about the lives of the people in the houses that pass by? The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins the story of a young woman named Rachel, who does just that as she takes the boring daily train commute to and from  London.

Rachel is in many ways a damaged individual. Her husband left her for a more attractive woman, her  career is a disaster and she drinks excessively. The daily train ride is her escape. Not only does it give  her a sense of routine and normalcy, it also allows her a surreptitious glance into a life she wishes she had.

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Every day her train passes by the house of  a “perfect”couple. From her train window, she can see the house and backyard  of a wonderful  young couple, who are obviously in love.  The man is strong and handsome, and the woman is petite and beautiful.

On the commute home each day, Rachel often sees the young couple outside having dinner in the  back yard. They laugh and smile while they drink glasses of wine. They have the life Rachel wishes she had.  Rachel likes them so much, she makes up a whole life for them. She gives them names, and guesses at what their occupations are.  She begins to feel like she actually knows them.

Then one day Rachel’s fantasy is shattered. Rachel looks out the train window and sees the beautiful woman in the  backyard passionately kissing a man who is not her husband. After that,  things go from bad to worse. The next week, the young woman Rachel has been watching disappears, and the husband is suspected by the police of possibly being a murderer.

Rachel tries to help and tell the police about the “other man”. Of course, Rachel is considered just some alcoholic crack-pot not worth listening to.  Not satisfied with that, Rachel starts on the very dangerous quest to launce her own investigation into the beautiful woman’s disappearance.

It may seem like I have given away too much of the plot. However, this is only the beginning. The Girl On the Train is a complex thriller from start to finish with many more characters and situations than I have touched on.

This is author Paula Hawkins’ first thriller. She worked for fifteen years as a journalist before becoming a fiction writer. Her journalistic background can be seen in the attention to detail she puts into the story. You don’t feel like you are reading a work of fiction . All the characters come across as complex real individuals.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. It will leave you wondering whether you really know anything about the people around you. I can guarantee that once you have read this, you will never look out a train window the same way again.