Monthly Archives: January 2016

Brooklyn – movie review

Brooklyn had limited release in 2005, and it is such an excellent film that it is now playing in more theaters that when it first premiered.  We give it our highest rating of 5 Stars.

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Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish woman in the  1950s who takes the leap to emigrate alone to America. She settles in Brooklyn, where there is a large Irish community. Despite being surrounded by other Irish Immigrants, she is lonely and homesick.

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This is a beautiful story about her struggle to find out who she is, and what it really means to be home.  Saoirse Ronan has received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for playing the lead role of Eilis Lacey.

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All the actors in Brooklyn give excellent performances. Emory Cohen is Tony, an Italian-American young man who is smitten with this shy Irish girl and would like very much like to be her boyfriend.

Eve Macklin and Nora Jane Noone play two other Irish girls who have been in Brooklyn longer and work on trying to teach the naive Eilis the ways of America. Their scenes are funny and charming.

People relate to  this film since it speaks to them personally. Everyone knows what it is like  to feel lonely and to not be sure that you will ever truly fit in anywhere. Saoirse Ronan is the perfect actor for this role. Her character has a combination of innocence and hidden inner strength that will make audiences fall in love with her.

 

 

 

 

The Boy Scouts Nuclear War Song

They’re rioting in Africa,

They’re starving in Spain.

There’s hurricanes in Florida,

And Texas needs rain.

The whole World is sweltering with hate and mistrust.

And I don’t like anybody very much.

But we can be thankful and tranquil and proud,

we have not been hit by that mushroom-shaped cloud.

But all of us know that one lucky day,

Someone will set the spark off,

And we’ll all be blown away.

 

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Editor’s note – This was a popular song in the Connecticut Boy Scout camp Tokowam in the summer of 1965.It sounds funnier when you sing it by a campfire and you are too young to grasp the true meaning. Lucky for us the World has learned from its mistakes and the threat of nuclear war  anywhere in Earth is long gone.

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 Be sure to read all our Nostalgic Stories.

The Girl From Greiz and Her New Trabant by Gregory Farrell

When a beautiful, tall German girl by the name of Dagmar Juettmann was 21 years old, world-changing events were happening in Berlin. Relations between East and West Berlin were improving. Many travel restriction had been lifted and there were even rumors that the Berlin Wall itself would be torn down.

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But Dagmar didn’t live in Berlin. She was hundreds of kilometers away in the town of Greiz, deep in the heart of East Germany. Dagmar found the events in Berlin to be an annoying distraction. She was focused on two major events in her own life. The first was working hard to pass her Accounting exams. Good jobs were hard to come by in East Germany, and getting her degree was essential. Dagmar was furious that all the other students wanted to talk about was Berlin and The Wall. She needed to study.

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The second life-changing event Dagmar was anticipating was getting a brand new Trabant. It was the only car available to East Germans of her family’s economic status and there was a 5 year waiting list.

West Germans made fun of the Trabant. West Germans had the Porsche, the Mercedes and even the Volkswagen, and they ridiculed the poor little  Trabant.

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There was a lot to ridicule about the Trabant. The car has a 2 cylinder engine that only produces 26 horsepower. Safety features  are non-existent. Rumors were that the body of the Tarbant was made out of painted cardboard. This was not true, but the body was made of a flimsy material composed of resin and cotton.  To top everything off, the gas tank of the car was on top of the engine. It was as if the designers had been trying to design a car with the most possible potential of catching on fire.

Still, Dagmar wanted that car. A Trabant would mean freedom and independence. With her new Accounting degree, a job  and a Trabant she would finally become an independent woman – at least as independent as anyone in Greiz East Germany could hope to be.

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The week Dagmar passed her Accounting exams with high marks, World events came crashing down to ruin her life. The Berlin Wall was torn down and the people of East and West Germany rejoiced. Dagmar knew that this was theoretically wonderful news, but like many East Germans she was scared of what it would mean for her personally.  What would happen to the economy in East Germany? Would all the communist East German companies collapse, unable to compete with the West? Would there be any jobs for a person with high marks in Accounting from an East German college? Dagmar was despondent.

Just as she was worrying about her future, her father came into her room with a big smile.  “I heard from the factory!” he said. “Your brand-new Trabant is ready to pick up. It is my graduation gift to you. I waited for it for 5 years and now it’s ready!”

Dagmar didn’t want the car. She knew it would be worthless when people could get a West German car. She wanted to tell her father she didn’t want the gift, but she just could not disappoint him. He had waited 5 years to give her this gift and it would be cruel not to accept it.

When Dagmar and her father got the Trabant she was feeling a little better. After all, it was shiny and new. It was fun to drive and it did mean she could go where she wanted.

As soon as she dropped her father back home, Dagmar took off in the Trabant to show it to all her friends. Despite the tiny engine, she was determined to see just how fast she could go.

Dagmar had only been driving the Trabant for about 1 hour when she took a corner too fast and the tires slid. She scraped the side of the car into a stone wall, and a rock punched a hole through the side of the car.

Dagmar knew she couldn’t tell her father. She spent the rest of the day diving the car all around Greiz to every place that might possibly be able to fix the hole. But they all wanted a huge amount of money.

Finally towards the end of the day Dagmar found a garage mechanic who took pity on her. She explained in tears about the accident and how she wanted to hide it from her father. The mechanic said that the hole had not structurally damaged the car. It would still drive just fine. He said the hole didn’t really have to be fixed, it just had to look like it was fixed.

He took some sort tape, covered up the hole and painted over the tape. He was a real artist. When he was done the car look as good as new. Of course, if you were to touch that spot, your finger would have punched a hole in the tape.

When the paint dried, Dagmar drove home very slowly. She was still worried about what the changes in Germany would mean to her future,  but she felt that, like the problem with the Trabant, somehow things would work out.

Editors Note: – I met Dagmar after communism had fallen and Germany was reunited. Dagmar has a good job in the Finance department of the Dutch chemical company Akzo-Nobel in Dusseldorf. Whenever possible she hires other people from Greiz.

Dagmar kept the Trabant.  Once Trabants were no longer being produced, they became collectors items.  Car buffs from all over the world wanted to own what was considered to be the “worst car ever made”.  Dagmar eventually sold the Trabant for many times more than her father had paid for it. She never told her father about the hole in the car covered with painted tape.

 

My 600 Pound Life – Television and medicine at its worst

One glimpse at My 600 Pound Life on the TLC Network, is enough to get many people hooked to watch the rest of the series. While the show is meant to be inspirational, it ends up demonstrating both American Television and American Medicine at their worst.

The series profiles people who tip the scales at 600 pounds AND UP! Many of the are so large that they can no longer even move out of bed.

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In many of the shows the person is taken to a hospital and treated by the surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan. He treats the people physically. He performs gastric bypass surgery, and sometimes even slices off whole slabs of fat.

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That is the problem. The main approach of the treatment is to try  to address the physical condition. As with many treatments in  American health care system , the underlying physiological cause is never even mentioned.

In one recent show there was a woman who was 760 pounds. She had not moved out of bed in over a year. Doctor Nowzaradan did gastric bypass, pumped her full of fluids and even had a team of very muscular men try to lift her to stand on her feet for 1 second.

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We were supposed to be inspired  when after four months she got down to 500 pounds and stood for 1 second with the help of some weight lifters.

However, it would be a mistake to be inspired by this type of so called “success”. Statistics show that most people of this size quickly gain back all the weight they have lost.  The reason, of course, is that the no one has addressed the underlying mental health crisis of these people.

The people and all  the members of their family need psychological help much more than surgery. If someone is too large to even get out of bed for years, that means that  someone else is bringing that person food, and carrying away the feces and cleaning the urine.  Basically there is a person committing suicide by eating him or herself to death and there are people around that person helping to enable that slow and  horrible death.

The show is popular for the same reason that freak shows once were. It gives the public something awful to look at and makes ordinary dull lives seem great by comparison.

But these are not freaks. These are people in deep physiological pain, who are getting the wrong kind of help. They and their loved ones need months, if not years, of treatment from psychiatrists and psychologists. It needs to be done privately and with dignity.  Don’t parade them around for the Television audience to stare at.

Show some respect TLC.

 

The Gallaghers back and crazier than ever

America’s favorite White Trash family has returned in Season 6 of Showtime’s Shameless, and from the fist episode it is better than ever. While the Gallagher clan has many notorious members; the two driving forces of the plot have always been the lives of  Frank Gallagher (played by William H. Macy) and his daughter Fiona (played by Emmy Rossum).

Emily 2Fiona’s goal in life has always been to prove to everyone, especially herself, that she is completely different than her father. However, as her character has developed, it becomes increasingly obvious that  she and Frank, in fact, are much more alike than Fiona would ever admit.

Like Frank, Fiona struggles with drug and alcohol dependence. However, unlike Frank, she tries to fight these forces, while Frank embraces them willingly.

 Fiona Gallagher is beautiful, smart and sexy. However she is also reckless, wild and self-destructive.  She may no longer be addicted to drugs, but she is certainly an adrenaline junkie who craves crazy sex with crazy men in crazy places. Emma Rossum has appeared topless or naked in many many episodes.  Her fabulously beautiful body sometimes distracts critics from mentioning what an astoundingly superb actor she is.

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It is impossible to imagine  anyone but Emmy Rossum in the role of Fiona Gallagher. Shameless without Emmy Rossum would be like trying to have The Sopranos without James Gandolfini.

We look forward to seeing how the character of Fiona continues to develop. We also look forward to following the career of Emmy Rossum in whatever acting challenges she takes on in the future.