Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Last Supper – Liberals Kill Right-Wing Wackos

The Last Supper is a dark comedy in which a group of Liberals, fed up with being intimidated and  threatened by right-wingers, begins murdering them. The film was made in 1995, but the political tension makes you realize that nothing has changed in America. The first killing of a Conservative happens as a bizarre accident, but once the Liberals get a taste for blood there is no going back.

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

The Liberals are a group of grad students who live in a big house and once  a week have a fancy dinner and discuss how to fix the world. Like all good murder stories, the first death takes place on a dark and stormy night. On that night, they are joined for dinner by a truck driver named Cody (Bill Paxton). When the discussion turns to politics, Cody becomes more and more heated, spewing right-wing, hatred-filled conspiracy theories. Cody becomes violent, breaking the arm of one Liberal and holding a knife to the throat of another. The Liberals finally fight back and end up killing Cody.

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

At first the Liberals are shocked at what has happened. But then they begin to feel a real sense of power and elation. For the first time in their lives they have actually taken action, instead of just taking about what other people should do to improve the world. Instead of calling the police they decide to hide Cody’s body and start on their own mini-campaign to rid the world of people they perceive as evil.

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

This is where The Last Supper turns into a sort of political version of Arsenic And Old Lace. The Liberals search out right-wingers and one by one invite  them for dinner. After a sumptuous meal, the Conservative is  slipped a glass of poisoned wine.

But once the “revenge of the Liberals” begins there is no stopping it. At first they murder those that are the worst of the worst. They invite to dinner a Reverend (Charles Durning), who believes that AIDS is God’s way of punishing homosexuals, and the faster the homosexuals die the better.  However, as The Last Supper progresses the Liberals begin to kill people who are less and less offensive. One victim is a woman who simply has bad taste in literature.

Murder By Death

Murder By Death

The Last Supper may not sound like a comedy, but it is hilarious. The murders take place in the style of Murder By Death or Clue so that the audience always understands this is a spoof.

Clue

Clue

The Last Supper, also has a cast of terrifically talented actors. The Liberals all have the names of Apostles, although there are not 12 of them Cameron Diaz is “Jude”, but it is never clear who she betrays. Jason Alexander is a slob of a dinner guest whose “crime”is that he just doesn’t care about the environment.

The political tensions and violence make The Last Supper feel like it was filmed yesterday instead of in 1995. Bill Paxton is perfect as Cody the truck driver. There is no doubt that Cody would have been marching with the White Supremacists in Charlottesville. Unfortunately, we now  live in an America where political violence is not just on the movie screen.

The Last Supper is a fantastic movie to see today, since it can be watched on so many levels. It is great as the dark comedy it was intended. However, given today’s political environment it can also be seen as a warning of what can happen, if well meaning intellectuals were to give in to their baser desires for revenge.

As a final bizarre note, there was a violent end to the  movie set itself. Days after The Last Supper was finished, the beautiful old house in which it was filmed burned to the ground.

 

 

Who remembers Potato Guns? Who Wants one?

For some bizarre reason the Baby Boomer generation was obsessed with potatoes. Eating potatoes, dressing up potatoes as people, and even using potatoes as weapons. There was Mister Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, and the consumption of billions of french fries. The weapon, of course, was the Potato Gun, where the bullets were little pieces of potatoes. East Coast Stories recently found a whole case of perfect Potato Guns still in their boxes in the back of an old storeroom of a food company.

The Potato Gun

The Potato Gun

There is a historical reason for this potato obsession. American Baby Boomers were the first full generation in the history of the world that did not have to worry about getting enough to eat. In fact, Americans in the 1950s found that they actually had a surplus of food.

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

Care and Maintenance of The Potato Gun

There was, after all, so much food that Baby Boomers could even play with it.  Food Fights became the rage in high schools and colleges. In what other country on Earth would people waste food by throwing it around?

Food Fight in Animal House

Food Fight in Animal House

Who could ever forget Jon Belushi and the Food Fight in Animal House?

The complete Potato Gun

The complete Potato Gun

The Potato Gun was a toy that a kid would stick into a potato and then load chunks of the potato as “bullets”. Kids would then shoot the potato bullets at each other. Baby Boomer  Bruce Willis actually references the potato gun in the movie Armageddon. Most of the younger viewers obviously had no idea what he was taking about.

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

Immigrants arriving in America. The land of Food

Ironically, the potato was the reason many people even became Americans at all.  During the Irish Potato Famine the Irish immigrated to America by the thousands. Politicians like to talk about people coming to America for the freedom, but that is only partially true.

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

A shipload of immigrants arriving in America

Many immigrants moved to The United States because their families were starving, literally starving, in the Old Country. The dream of thousands who came through Ellis Island was not of political freedom. The immigrants dream was that some day their children would have enough to eat.

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

French fried potatoes, the favorite American food

So finding this case of Potato Guns was like turning a page back in history. What should we do with them? Kids have long since moved on  to more sophisticated computerized games. But possibly there are some curious readers  who would like one of these old-time toys. Dear readers, let us know what you think.

A working Potato Gun

A working Potato Gun

Would you be interested in a free Potato Gun?Just holding one may magically bring you back to a time when sons and daughters of starving immigrants fulfilled their ancestors dreams and had so much food it could even be turned into toys.

Rosewater- a Daily Show joke gets an Iranian jailed as a spy

Rosewater is the true story of Iranian Journalist Maziar Bahari who was jailed as a spy, for skit on The Daily Show. In 2009, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones was in Terhan filming a comedy skit. Jason Jones  sat in a cafe and pretended to be an American spy who was openly asking random Iranian citizens to reveal State secrets. The joke was supposed to be about how inept and amateurish the CIA is.

Maziar Bahari  was an Iranian citizen working for Newsweek magazine. He happened to be at the same cafe, and appeared in The Daily Show skit as a joke. Little did he know that this would  land him in jail charged with treason.

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

The Iranian authorities already had their eyes on Maziar Bahari. He had filmed the riots that had occurred when  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran. Many people considered this election a fraud, and large violent riots occurred. Maziar Bahari had filmed the riots and sent the pictures out to the world.

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Most of Rosewater takes place in the Iranian prison and is the interaction between Maziar, and the man interrogating him. We never learn the interrogator’s name. Maziar thinks of him as “Rosewater”, since the man constantly wears rosewater cologne.

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Rosewater is a fascinating movie and the acting is superb. Even if you know nothing about Iranian politics, it is a terrific psychological prison drama. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Maziar Bahari and is perfect in the role.

At first Maziar believes his imprisonment is  just a misunderstanding, and that he will quickly be able to explain the truth and then be let free. When Rosewater shows Maziar the tape of Maziar talking to American “spy” Jason Jones, Maziar laughs and explains it is just a comedy show. Then he slowly comes to realize that the Iranian authorities do not see anything as a joke, and that Maziar could be in prison for life.

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Kim Bodnia is” Rosewater”, the interrogator. Rosewater does not think of himself as a cruel or evil man. He truly believes himself to be an Iranian patriot protecting the country from dangerous outsiders. He does not physically torture Maziar, and even gives him fruit and tea.

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

The worst part of the imprisonment is that Maziar is kept in solitary confinement and blindfolded for most of the day. In his mind he begins to have conversations with his deceased father (played by Haluk Bilginer) and sister (played by Golshifeth Farahani).

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Unbeknownst to Maziar, huge international pressure was being put on Iran to release him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered the issue over and over again and simply would not let the world forget about Maziar Bahari. The world also fell in love with Maziar’s beautiful pregnant English wife Paola (played by Claire Foy).

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahan

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahari

Rosewater was written and directed by Jon Stewart, who felt terrible that a joke on his show ended up getting a man imprisoned. John Stewart and Executive producer Catherine Farrell made Rosewater a fascinating film that focuses on the human side, rather than becoming too preachy or political.

 

The Macho Days At Ford – Violence, Prostitutes, Alcohol and Bad Cars

I have to laugh at Google going berserk over one sexist memo. When I was at Ford Motor Company, it tolerated and often encouraged workplace violence,  drunkenness, and even prostitution. This was way back in the late 1970s in Dearborn Michigan. (Yes, I am that old.) I was one of a large group of MBAs and Engineers that Ford recruited from top schools all over the country. We were lured there by the fact that the whole Detroit region was promoting what was supposed to be the Detroit “Renascence” (which obviously did not work out as planned) Little did we know that while top management wanted to modernize the whole Ford culture,  Middle Management had no intention of letting go of its beloved macho lifestyle.

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

The Ford Pinto. The worst car of all time.

Our first clue that Ford was not as progressive as it claimed, was the fact that whole departments and even divisions  of the company had no women. None whatsoever.  This lead to a very “frat house” working environment, which was epitomized in the company sponsored events.

My first week on the job our department had a company sponsored trip to a Detroit Tigers game. The company even paid for a bus and all the tickets, food and drinks. However, the first stop of the bus was not at Tiger Stadium. No; the first stop was at a strip club where the entire department got lap dances, while getting thoroughly drunk. (Did I mention there were zero women in our department?)

Even the sexy girl can't make the Ford Fiesta a good car

Even the sexy girl can’t make the Ford Fiesta a good car

After several hours in the strip club, we got back on the bus, joined by one of the women from the strip club. She sidelined as a prostitute, and the department manager awarded  her “services” to the top worker in the department.  We only actually made it to the game for the last few innings. There was so much booze at the game and on the bus, I don’t think anyone even knew if the Tigers won or lost.

At the workplace itself, physical threats were common. The factories themselves were known as dangerous places, but threats were also common among white collar workers. I personally witnessed a division V.P. pick up a desktop computer and throw it at the head of an engineer who had not gotten his calculations completed on time for a key presentation.

Ford's River Rouge plant. Now closed

Ford’s River Rouge plant. Now closed

The division V.P. screamed a string of obscenities, the gist of which was that if the engineer could not get his work done, then there was no point in that engineer even having a computer. Then the V.P picked the heavy computer off the the engineer’s desk and threw it at the engineer’s head.  It missed the engineer’s head by about three inches, and smashed into the wall, destroying the computer. No one reported the incident to Human Resources. It would not have been macho to complain and if you did you would  be ostracized as a wimp.

The Ford Fiesta. One of the reasons Americans switched to cars from Japan.

The Ford Fiesta. One of the reasons Americans switched to cars from Japan.

While Ford’s top management seemed not to be aware of this environment, middle management actually considered it valuable part of the Ford culture, and thought that putting people under as much pressure as possible all the time was the best way to achieve the best results. They seemed not to notice that the effects were exactly the opposite.  In the 1970s Ford produced some of the worst cars ever made, inducing the piece of junk Ford Pinto and the Ford Fiesta. The East German Trabant has the reputation as the world’s worst car, but the Pinto was far worse. After all, there are still a large number of Trabants around, and even Trabant clubs. When was the last time you ever saw a Pinto?

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

Ford Security Thugs beating up a union organizer

No discussion of the old days at Ford would be complete without mentioning the hated Ford Security forces. They were not your normal corporate security guards. The Ford security guards were essentially a private police force, who treated the Ford employees as the enemy, rather than the people they were there to protect. This went back to the 1920’s when Henry Ford used Ford Security as goons to beat up union organizers. In the days of Henry Ford the first, the Ford Security “guards” were often also members of local organized crime gangs. Even decades later the basic attitude of Ford Security had not changed.

If you work late at most companies, when you leave the building the security people wave to you and say a cheery “good night!”. No so at Ford in the 1970s. If you worked late the guards  immediately suspected that you were really there to steal something. If you left by car it was like going through a checkpoint in Baghdad.

Two or more gun-toting goons would come up and shine a flashlight directly in your eyes. You would be made to step out of the vehicle, while the guards searched every part of the car and trunk to see if you were stealing anything. This was how Ford treated the “brightest and best” employees who they had recruited at great expense from all over the country.  Then Human Resources wondered why one by one these new recruits took jobs elsewhere, until after a few years not a single one was left at Ford.

One of the most hated aspects of the Ford Security force was the way it treated the Ford employee’s cars. Ironically, there were not enough parking spaces at the Ford buildings to accommodate all the employees. This forced many employees to park in non-designated spots, or on the grass etc. Instead of setting up remote parking with shuttle buses or some other solution, Ford punished its own employees for the company’s lack of planning.

Ford Security would “sticker” any employee’s car not parked in a designated spot. This sticker was a bright red 1 foot by 1 foot “no parking” placard which Security would glue directly on the driver’s side windshield of the employee’s car.  It was heavy, fast-drying glue. At the end of every working day, many employees would find these bring red placards glued to their windshield. It would take 10 or 15 minuted to scrape one of these stickers off with an ice scraper. Even after the placard was removed the glue left a sticky residue which made everything look blurry when you looked through the windshield. This residue took weeks to wear off.

Top Management was completely unaware of what was really happening at the company. They even thought Ford was making good cars. After all, Ford top management all drove Ford cars, and they loved them. Of course, Top Management was not really driving average Ford cars. All senior management got free top of the line Fords to drive (no Pintos or Fiestas for them), in return for filling out surveys on how the cars performed.

Ford's ironic motto was "Where Quality is Job 1"

Ford’s ironic motto was “Where Quality is Job 1”

Every day, senior management would drive these cars and park in their assigned spaces (no stickers on their windshields.) While these men were  working (all senior managers were men) a team of employees took care of the cars. The cars were washed, the insides cleaned, and the cars filled with gas. If the senior manager reported any problem with the vehicle, then the manager was given a brand new replacement car to drive home. Predictably, the senior managers all truthfully filled out the surveys reporting that all the Ford cars they drove were great.

When Senior Management would leave work, no matter how late the hour, Ford Security men would smile and wave and wish them “good night!”. No flashlights in the eyes, no car searches. Senior Managers drove home happy in the knowledge that they were running a company that made a great product, and all the employees were happy.

The Minus Man – Owen Wilson As A Laid Back Serial Killer

In The Minus Man, Owen Wilson is a laid back serial killer whose good looks and soft voice keep people from ever suspecting that he is a psychopathic monster. The Minus Man premiered 7 years before Dexter, and in many ways is a far superior presentation.

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson is Vann Siegert, who  one day rolls into a sleepy rural town in his old pickup truck and rents a room with a local couple. Vann is handsome and blond with a voice that is so soft and smooth it is almost hypnotic.

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

However, even before he arrives in town, we have already seen Vann commit one murder. Unlike television’s Dexter Morgan, The Minus Man has no “code”. Vann does not search out bad people to kill. There is no logic to who The Minus Man murders. He is a very opportunistic killer, taking advantage of whoever is naive enough to drive with him alone at night.

Owen Wilson is amazing at playing this chilling killer. Audiences used to seeing Owen Wilson in light comedies will be stunned to see him as the bad guy. Owen Wilson is so perfect in The Minus Man that you cannot imagine anyone else playing the part.

Jeanne Garofalo - makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

Jeanne Garofalo – makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

There is no bloodshed or gore in The Minus Man, which only serves to make it more frighting. Vann poisons his victims, and they simply fall into a deep sleep from which there is no awaking. He does not have any feeling of hatred towards the people he kills. In fact, he seems to have no feelings whatsoever about anything. His complete lack of empathy and his inability to connect with anyone or anything is the mark of a true psychopath.

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

The one person to suspect there is a dark side to Vann, is Ferrin (Jeanne Garofalo), who is desperately trying to be his girlfriend. Vann gets a job at the local post office, and Ferrin is thrilled to find herself working next to a gorgeous guy her own age. They begin to date, but the more they see each other the more Ferrin begins to suspect that Vann is just acting the part of a boyfriend instead of really being one. Of course, Dexter was to steal this same theme years later.

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

All of the actors in The Minus Man are superb, which is one of the features that makes it a great film. Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow plays a burned out-drug addict who is unlucky enough to be in a bar where Vann stops in for a drink. Her acting is fantastic, and this was also her acting debut.

Dennis Haysbert is a tough-as-nails police officer who only exists in The Minus Man’s mind. Over and over again, Vann imagines what it will be like when some day he is brought in for questioning for a murder. The fictitious cop is not at all fooled by Vann’s charm or smiles. Is this what Vann really wants? Does he dream of a time when someone will see him for the monster he really is?

Brian Cox is Doug, who rents a room to Vann and treats Vann like a newfound son. However, it turns out that Doug has dark secrets of his own.

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

One of the most frighting aspects of The Minus Man is the fact that we have actually seen this scenario played out over and over again in real life. The general public continues to believe that somehow evil people must be ugly and that a good looking person cannot possible be bad. Take for example, the gorgeous Joran van der Sloot, who murdered at least 2 women (Natalee Holloway and Stephanie Flores Ramirez). Even in prison, he received hundreds of proposals of marriage from young women thrilled by his looks.

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Who can forget Robert Chambers, the “preppie killer” , whose good looks are matched only by his arrogance. He strangled Jennifer Levin to death during sex in Central Park at night, and then had the arrogance to say he was acting in “self-defense”.

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Most recently there is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, whose cute photo was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone was heavily attacked for publishing such a nice looking photo of a terrorist. People who make those criticisms missed the point. The whole reason Rolling Stone published the photo was to show that the eyes are not the window to the soul.  You cannot tell who is good and who is evil just by looking at them. Mother Teresa did not have a beautiful face. Joran van der Sloot does.

The Minus Man is a chilling glimpse into the mind of a psychopath killer. It shows us what is there, and more importantly what is missing in the mind of a killer. We highly recommend The Minus Man.