Monthly Archives: April 2017

“All Our Wrong Todays” – why don’t we live like The Jetsons?

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is a Sci-Fi novel that explains why we don’t live like the Jetsons. Let’s face it, by this time we were supposed to have flying cars, world peace, Moon Colonies and teleportation machines. What happened to the future that the 1964 World’s Fair promised the Baby Boomers?

What happened to the future The Jetsons promised us?

What happened to the future The Jetsons promised us?

Tom Barren, the hero of All Our Wrong Todays is the man who ruined the future for all of us. It turns out that the utopian future really did happen.  Things were going smoothly right up to the point where time travel was invented. That’s when Tom travels to the past, and in a matter of seconds, unintentionally changes human history. When Tom returns to the “present” he finds it has become the messed up  world we live in today. Oh, by the way, his actions also destroyed the time machine, so there is no way he can go back and undo the damage he created.

The 1964 World's Fair promised us a perfect future

The 1964 World’s Fair promised us a perfect future

There have been many time-travel novels, but All Our Wrong Today’s is one of the best. Instead of getting hung up on technical jargon, Elan Mastai delves more into the psychological and ethical issues of experimenting with technology of unlimited power.

When Tom comes back from the past into our “wrong today”, at first all he sees is how technologically backward we are. Then he begins to realize that his  own life has improved. He has merged with the person he is in this new time line.

What really happened when the World's Fair ended

What really happened when the World’s Fair ended

In his own time, Tom was a screw-up only child. In our world, he is a rich and famous architect, with a wonderful sister. Tom also meets a woman and falls in love. Tom realizes   that the technology of his world had muted the senses of people. Our world may be harsh and often terrible, but it also allows people to truly feel every experience.  But is it right for Tom to continue in this false world that was created by accident? Shouldn’t he try to change time back? Is there any way he can get the best of both worlds and merge the two realities?

Elan Mastai author of All Our Wrong Todays

Elan Mastai author of All Our Wrong Todays

We don’t want to reveal too much of the plot for fear of ruining the exciting twists and turns of All Our Wrong Todays. Suffice it to say that Elan Mastai is a brilliant writer who brings all the characters of these fictional time-lines to life. We look forward to reading more by this gifted author.

Girl In Disguise – the woman who saved Lincoln

Girl In Disguise by Greer Macallister is a historical novel which begins in 1856, and is the story of America’s first female private detective. Kate Warne was a real person who worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and who interacted directly with many of the most famous people in American history, including Abraham Lincoln.

Girl In Disguise - a terrific historical novel

Girl In Disguise – a terrific historical novel

Immediately after Abraham Lincoln was elected President,  his life was in  danger. In those days, the government provided no security protection for Presidential candidates or even for the President-elect. There were grave doubts about whether or not Lincoln could make it to Washington alive for his inauguration. Lincoln ended up traveling to Washington in disguise as a invalid, his extreme height hidden by the fact that he was in a wheelchair. Kate Warne traveled with Lincoln as his sister, pushing the wheelchair and handling all of the travel arrangements. Despite this, the name of Kate Warne is virtually unknown in American history.

Greer Macallister author of Girl In Disguise

Greer Macallister author of Girl In Disguise

Girl In Disguise is a terrific novel that brings this fascinating period in American history to life. Greer Macallister shows what it was like for a woman in 1856 trying to make a living in what was very much a man’s profession. At first, no one takes Kate Warne seriously, and everyone assumes that Allan Pinkerton must be sleeping with Kate. (He was not.) However, Kate is quickly able to show her usefulness in the field of private investigation.

Abraham Lincoln's life was in danger even before he became president

Abraham Lincoln’s life was in danger even before he became president

The fact that no one could imagine a woman as a detective is exactly what made her so effective. She could go under cover as a shop girl, a rich socialite, or even a “lady of the evening”.  Men made a lot of assumptions about Kate, but they never suspected she was a detective.

Kate Warne America's first female private detective

Kate Warne America’s first female private detective

Kate Warne’s usefulness to Abraham Lincoln did not end after Lincoln successfully made it to Washington. During the Civil War, Washington was full of Southern spies, and Kate worked undercover to help ferret them out.

Political cartoon lampooning Lincoln for sneaking into Washington in disguise

Political cartoon lampooning Lincoln for sneaking into Washington in disguise

Kate Warne eventually started the woman’s division of the Pinkerton Detective agency and hired a number of female  operatives of various backgrounds, who themselves became great detectives.  Despite Kate Warne’s contribution to the security of the United States, she never got the recognition  she deserved. Her whole life, behind her back, people whispered that the only “work” she really did at the Pinkerton Detective Agency was being Allan Pinkerton’s mistress. There were no medals and no state funeral for Kate Warne when she died of a sudden illness in 1868. She was quietly laid to rest in the Pinkerton family plot. Her name was misspelled on her tombstone.

 

 

 

Get Out – A Horror Movie, Comedy, Racial Commentary

Get Out is a combination Horror Movie, Comedy, and Documentary on American Race Relations. It sounds like an odd mix, but Get Out makes this a wonderful combination for a great movie. Producer/Director Jordan Peel has taken some old genres and mixed them together in a unique way to come up with an entirely new blend. Parts of Get Out are scary as Hell while other parts are uproariously funny. Mixed into all of this is the way Get Out makes us think about the odd sate of race relations in the United States.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Walsh, a young African-American with a beautiful White, wealthy girlfriend named Rose Armitage. Their life is great until they decide to leave the city and spend the weekend in the country  with Rose’s parents. This is where you expect the movie to take the traditional route of having the parents be prejudice. Instead, Get Out goes in the opposite direction. Some of the funniest parts of the film are the scenes where Rose’s parents desperately try to show they are not prejudice. The father (played by Bradley Whitford) constantly talks about how much he liked Barack Obama. Then he makes things worse by trying to talk using what the middle-aged White man thinks is black slang. Rose, of course, is dying from embarrassment.

Betty Gabriel as the creepy maid in Get Out

Betty Gabriel as the creepy maid in Get Out

The Horror part of the film begins when Chris meets the other African Americans associated with the Armitage family. The family is very wealthy and has a black gardener (Walter) and a black maid (Georgina). Of course, Mr. Armitage points out how well Walter and Georgina  are paid and that he respects them very much. Still, there is something very creepy about the two. Georgina always seems to be in a daze, and the very muscular Walter is constantly giving hostel looks to Chris.

Without giving anything away, we will say that Get Out does get very bloody and scary as it progresses. There is a reason why Walter and Georgina are so weird, and it is more frighting than can be imagined. Get Out is one of the few movies, where the audience will laugh one second and scream the next.

Milton "Lil Rel" Howery in Get Out

Milton “Lil Rel” Howery in Get Out

As the weekend gets stranger and stranger, Chris keeps calling his friend Rod in the city, to describe how weird everyone is. Rod (perfectly played by Milton “Lil Rel” Howery), is a TSA worker, and not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. He comes up with the bizarre (and totally incorrect) theory that these rich White people must have captured the African Americans in the community to make them sex slaves. His “proof” is that one young American American man in the community is married to an older White woman. Rod even goes to the police with his allegations assuming that he will be treated with respect as a “fellow law enforcement officer.” Rod is oblivious to the fact than no one in the United States has any respect for the TSA, and the police laugh him out of the building.

The acting throughout Get Out is perfect. Allison Williams is wonderful  as Rose,  the rich beautiful young White woman, who simply takes her privileged place in society for granted. In one scene, she is driving with Chris and accidentally hits a deer.  When the police arrive at the accident the White police officer immediately asks to see Chris’ identification even though Rose had already explained that she was the driver.

Chris meekly gets his I.D. to show to the police, but then Rose steps in.  She calmly refuses to let Chris show the identification to the police and explains to the police office that the police have no right whatsoever to ask to see Chris’s identification. The police officer eventually backs down.  As the police officer walks away, Rose flashes a gorgeous smile and cheerily thanks the officer for his help.

To Rose, police officers are servants working for her. To Chris, police are a force to be afraid of and never to challenge. Despite the fact that this scene comes in a Horror/Comedy movie, it is one of the best examples ever on film of the different attitudes that White and African Americans have towards law enforcement officers.  Allison Williams is best known for her role as Marnie on the HBO series Girls.

Get Out is not at all preachy about race relations. It is a fun Horror/Comedy film that happens to have a racial component to it.  The ending of Get Out is exciting and totally unexpected. There are twists within twists and the audience was clapping at the end of the film.

 

 

Happy Birthday Saoirse Ronan

East Coast Stories would like to wish a happy 23rd birthday to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. Despite her young age, Saoiese Ronan is one of the best actors in a generation. She is also one of the hardest working. In just the past year, Saoirse starred in the film Brooklyn, and the Broadway play The Crucible.

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

While some actors settle for playing the same type over and over, Saoirse Ronan continually hones her skills in small independent firms playing a wide variety of characters. Saoirse is especially known for her ability to instantly don any type of accent. In fact, the film Brooklyn was one of the few movies where Saoirse actually used her real accent, which is a beautiful Irish brogue.

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

In the independent film How I live Now, Saoirse played an American teenager. Not only did she perfectly capture the American accent, she nailed the sarcastic, condescending attitude of a certain type of overly-privileged American teen. In the quirky comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel , Saoirse Ronan was a baker of fine pastries. Saoirse said that the most difficult part of the film was that she actually had to learn how to make pastries.

Despite the Irish Brogue, Saoirse Ronan is a true East Coast girl, having been born in The Bronx, while her Irish parents were living there. Her parents moved back to Ireland when she was little, but she still holds dual American-Irish citizenship.

So from all of us at East Coast Stories Happy Birthday Saoirse! We look forward to watching all of your future performances.

 

Cool – The Most Dangerous Four Letter Word

Cool is the most dangerous four letter word in the English language. How many thousands of stupid decisions have people made in the never-ending quest to be considered “cool”?  People abuse drugs or alcohol, start smoking cigarettes or drive cars drunk partly so that they can be cool.

Smoking is so Cool

Smoking is so Cool

Somehow cool has maintained a hold over the American psyche, long after other slang words have lost their mystique and died an ignominious death. No one wants to be “groovy” or “boss” or “outta sight” or even “hep”.  In fact, anyone even using those expressions would most likely be laughed out of the room. Yet Cool remains the king.

That's right - I'm Cool!

That’s right – I’m Cool!

The worst part of trying to be cool is not what you do, but what you don’t do. The cool-seekers dissociate themselves from anyone considered un-cool. Loving family, good teachers and childhood friends are all abandoned when it becomes obvious that they are not cool.

At least he walked away

At least he walked away

Sometimes, years in the future, the cool-seekers realize that they have abandoned the best people in their lives. Of course by that time, it it often too late. Those good friends and family  are gone, forever.

What can we say?

What can we say?

So maybe it’s time for Cool to finally exit the stage and go the way of “groovy”. What will be left without people trying to be cool? Maybe, a world where everyone can be happy with who they really are.

So Cool

So Cool

 

A Hero Of France

A Hero Of France by Alan Furst is a novel of the dark days of France in the winter of 1941, when the Nazis controlled Europe  and the Allies were losing the war.  Mathieu is a leader in the French Resistance, trying to help downed British pilots escape back to England.

A Hero Of France by Alan Furst

A Hero Of France by Alan Furst

A Hero of France is the latest in a series of novels by Alan Furst about the French  Resistance. Although the characters are fictional, the facts about the war and the Resistance are well documented. The bravery of the French resistance is truly remarkable.

Hitler in Paris 1940

Hitler in Paris 1940

A Hero Of France shows how the people in the French Resistance were not young trained soldiers, which makes their bravely more remarkable.  Before the war Mathieu owed a small newspaper. Now in German Occupied Paris, his resistance cell consists of people he hopes the Nazis will not suspect as a threat. His Resistance “organization” consists of an elderly professor, a young high school girl, a bar owner, a woman who sells religious statues and an assortment of petty criminals. This is the group that has to try to outsmart German Military Intelligence, French Police, and various French paid informers.

Germany captures Paris while The United States remains neutral

Germany captures Paris while The United States remains neutral

Most people today have the wrong impression of French Resistance “fighters”. In fact, fighting was not the primary function of the French Resistance, for the simple reason that it was suicidal. The Nazis had a brutal system of reprisals. If any German soldier was killed in Occupied Paris, the Germans would immediately gather a minimum of 10 random French citizens and execute them.

Alan Furst, Author of A Hero Of France

Alan Furst, Author of A Hero Of France

A Hero Of France shows what the French Resistance really did in World War II. They saved downed airmen, hid escaped Allied POWs, and gathered intelligence about German troop movements.  Much of this was directed from London by British Intelligence, with which the French Resistance groups had a very tense relationship. On the one hand the French needed the supplies and money the British provided. On the other hand, it was quite obvious that British Intelligence considered the French Resistance groups as expendable commodities.

French woman with German soldier. Maybe she is a collaborator, maybe she is a spy working for the French Resistance

French woman with German soldier. Maybe she is a collaborator, maybe she is a spy working for the French Resistance

The British view was that if the French Resistance could be of help to the war that was good, but if French people got killed in the process it was no big loss. After all they were not “real” soldiers anyway.  However, Mathieu does care about the people in the group. He wants the Allies to win the war, but he also wants all the people in his Resistance cell to still be alive when that happens.

A Hero Of France is an excellent novel and we highly recommend it. It is a tribute the small group of civilians who stood alone in France against the might of the Nazis, while Americans stayed neutral and safe an ocean away.

 

 

Kong Skull Island- A combination of Apocalypse Now and Moby Dick set to rock music

The new Kong Skull Island movie is a combination of Apocalypse Now and Moby Dick, with a fantastic 1960’s & 1970’s soundtrack and wild action scenes. It is far better than any of the modern remakes of the  classic 1933 King Kong and even has  has some improvements.

Brie Larson in Kong Skull Island

Brie Larson in Kong Skull Island

For one thing, the female lead is a war correspondent/photo-journalist instead of a “damsel in distress”. In all other King Kong movies, including the 1933 original, the female lead does nothing but look beautiful and scream constantly.  In Kong Skull Island Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson) never screams. She is an integral part of the action scenes, rather than being relegated to just watching the men do the action.

Tian Jing in Kong Skull Island

Tian Jing in Kong Skull Island

In fact, there is no damsel in distress in the movie. Tian Jing plays San, a shy scientist on the expedition, who ends up being excellent in combat when the time comes to fight.

Samuel L. Jackson as a modern day Captain Ahab who treats Kong as the White Whale

Samuel L. Jackson as a modern day Captain Ahab who treats Kong as the White Whale

Samuel L. Jackson is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard but he really plays the role of Captain Ahab. Kong Skull Island takes place just at the end of the Vietnam war, and Packard is filled with rage that all the sacrifices he and his men have made have been for nothing. When he gets a chance to lead a military escort to Skull Island, he lets the full force of his anger out on the wild and innocent King Kong.

In  Moby Dick, written in 1851, Herman Melville understood this kind of rage when he described Captain Ahab by saying:

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down.”

The final resting place for Captain Ahab and all his hatred

The final resting place for Captain Ahab and all his hatred

Kong Skull Island also has a very Apocalypse Now vibe to it. There are helicopter assaults over a jungle, while rock music blasts from the choppers. The solders eagerly follow into battle a leader that, in their hearts, they know to be insane.

One of the best characters in Kong Skull Island is Lieutenant Hank Marlow, perfectly played by John C. Reilly. Marlow was a World War II pilot who was shot down on Skull Island and has been living there for over 30 years. Marlow lives peacefully with the natives, and has come to accept the power and beauty of Kong and the island.

John C. Reilly as a pilot trapped on Skull Island since World War II

John C. Reilly as a pilot trapped on Skull Island since World War II

Marlow’s main goal in life is to find a way to get back to his true love –  the woman he married in Chicago just before he shipped off to war. When this  new expedition arrives on the island Marlow realizes he might be able to finally get home.  However, first he has to guide the expedition and keep them all from getting killed.  Even though Marlow has seen the same violence of war that Packard has, Marlow’s motivating force in life is  love rather than hate.

The unstoppable King Kong

The unstoppable King Kong

Kong Skull Island is a fun movie that can be watched on many levels. Teenagers will love the action, while adults will understand that the film also has some deeper meaning as well. Be warned that it may be a little too intense for small kids. Along with the action scenes comes a huge body count.