Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Legacy Of Spies – cold war lessons for today

John Le Carre’s latest spy thriller A Legacy of Spies takes place during the Cold War but has lessons for today’s world. In fighting evil and terrorism Western democracies never seem to ask, “how much of our human feeling can we dispense with in the name of freedom, would you say, before we cease to feel either human or free?”

A Legacy Of Spies by John Le Carre

A Legacy Of Spies by John Le Carre

In A Legacy Of Spies, an retired British intelligence officer, Peter Guillam, is suddenly pulled in and asked to defend his actions during two top secret operations in East Berlin many decades ago. The grown children of those killed in the operation have somehow gotten hold of previously secret records and are suing the British Government and Peter personally. The British Government is more that happy to throw Peter under the bus, as long as things can be settled quietly and without too much fuss.

Kim Philby - British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Kim Philby – British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

However, the aging spy is not the old fool he pretends to be, and is the keeper of secrets within secrets withing secrets. His only question is which ones, if any,  should he reveal?

The timeline of A Legacy Of Spies switches back and forth between modern England, and Cold War East Germany. In the old days, Peter was a master spy whose good looks and charm made him especially valuable for his ability to recruit and seduce female agents. That is why he was chosen to deal with a beautiful East German, code-named “Tulip”, who has been providing the British with their most valuable information. However, even all these years later, Peter is not sure who was seducing who and if he ever knew the real story of  Tulip.

ohn Le Carre author of A Legacy Of Spies

John Le Carre author of A Legacy Of Spies

John Le Carre, whose real name is David Moore Cornwell takes the long view of espionage, having just celebrated his 86th birthday. Before he was a novelist, David Moore Cornwell himself worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service. In his lifetime there has been the rise and fall of both the Nazi regime and the Soviet empire. His novels seem to always ask the question, that if all evil empires eventually fall, should we allow ourselves to become evil to fight them? Americans, of course, have recently answered “Yes” to that question. Guantanamo prison, NSA surveillance, The Patriot Act and the CIA’s “dark prisons” all show that Americans quickly and easily gave up the freedoms their ancestors had fought for.

But John Le Carre does not give the reader easy answers. The East German regime was evil, and was perfectly willing to shoot it’s own citizens for nothing more than trying to move to West Germany for a better life.

There is also the overriding despondency that many Cold War era British Intelligence agents feel that perhaps everything they did was useless. In John Le Carre’s novels, Bill Haydon is high ranking British spy who, in reality, was a Soviet agent giving all the secrets away. In real life, this person was Harold Adrian Russell “Kim Philby”. From 1945 to 1965 Kim Philby worked for British Intelligence but the entire time was a KGB agent. While the fictional Bill Haydon was punished, the real life Kim Philby escaped to the Soviet Union and was awarded the Medal of Lenin.

Kim Philby - British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Kim Philby – British Intelligence officer who was actually a KGB agent

Lovers of John Le Carre novels will be happy that in A Legacy of Spies many of the characters they have come to know over the years make an appearance and we find out how their lives turned out. Of course, the ever elusive George Smiley (who may or may not still be alive)  might still  be pulling the strings of the entire intelligence community behind the scenes. Or is that just all the old spies being paranoid?

The Medal Of Lenin given to Soviet Spy Kim Philby

The Medal Of Lenin given to Soviet Spy Kim Philby

At age 86, John Le Carre’s writing is still sharp, complex and fascinating. His characters are always multifaceted individuals trying desperately to be more than pawns in a very dangerous  world.

The 4 Biggest Pet Adoption Mistakes

Here is a list of the biggest pet adoption mistakes you should try to avoid:

  • Assuming that small pets are easier than big pets. Little animals like rabbits, hamsters and even fish can often be a lot harder to take care of than larger animals like dogs and cats. Rabbits, for example, have very delicate digestive systems. Consequently, preparing and giving rabbits the right food is much more difficult than just opening a can of food for a dog or a cat.
Little animals can require more work than big ones

Little animals can require more work than big ones

  • Not giving older animals a chance. Sure, kittens and puppies are cute, but there are a lot of great adult animals at the shelters as well. In fact, there many  advantages in getting an older animal. The older pets are already housebroken, don’t run around the house breaking everything, and are very appreciative of the love you give them. Some people assume that there must be something wrong with the older animals up for adoption. Nothing could be further from the truth. Often the  previous owners had personal circumstances, like moving,  that forced them to give up a pet. Sometimes the previous owner dies and the animal was left all alone.
Older animals make great pets

Older animals make great pets

  • Giving animals the food they want instead of the food they need. Like little kids, animals don’t always know what is best for themselves. Dogs love chocolate, but it is dangerous for them and can even be deadly. Cats love cream, but it is terrible for their digestive systems. Rabbits love carrots (remember Bugs Bunny), but in fact carrots are among the worst foods you can give to a rabbit.
Chocolate is terrible for dogs, even though they love it.

Chocolate is terrible for dogs, even though they love it.

  • Anthropomorphism – This is the act of giving an animal human characteristics it does not really have. As much as we love our animals, they are not human. As a pet owner, it is your responsible to learn the characteristics of that type of animal, and not just assume the reactions are the same as a human. Dogs, for example, want you to take charge. They are descended from wolf packs which have a very rigid social structure. Dogs need an Alpha to follow. Cats will love you, but they will never 100% trust you, and you should never 100% trust a cat. If you leave a piece of food on the table unattended the cat will steal it. You may be able to train a dog not to steal food, but never a cat. Whatever type of pet you decide on, take the time to read up on what the characteristics of that type of animal and breed are. You should adapt to them, not expect them to adapt to you.
Pet dogs still think of themselves as wolves

Pet dogs still think of themselves as wolves

Whatever you do make sure you understand that when you adopt a pet you are taking on the responsibility for another creature’s life.  It will be totally dependent on you to survive. Make sure you live up to that challenge.  However, any real pet lover will tell you that the rewards you get back are a thousand times more than any effort you put out.

Dairy food is actually bad for cats

Dairy food is actually bad for cats

 

The Naked Milk Bath – Claudette Colbert in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

In the 1932 Sign Of The Cross, Claudette Colbert frolicked naked in a milk bath, briefly fully exposing her ample breasts to shocked Depression-era movie audiences. Sign Of The Cross contained a number of fully naked women, almost naked men, and hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Sign Of The Cross was able to get away with showing this much naked flesh, by disguising itself as a “religious movie”.

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Theoretically Sign Of The Cross was about the struggle of the brave Christians being persecuted by the sinful Romans. But director Cecil B. DeMille was no preacher. The real focus of the film is on the decadent Romans, not the pious Christians. As Billy Joel was to say many decades later “sinners are much more fun”. Depression-era movie audiences did not come in from the cold street to see other people suffering. They wanted some fun and titillation and who better to provide that than the wild Romans?

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in "The Sign Of The Cross" 1932

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in “The Sign Of The Cross” 1932

There was no movie censorship in 1932, but that did not mean theaters would show something considered pornographic. However, Cecil B. DeMille came up with the perfect formula for giving people what they wanted, while letting audiences pretend they were not really watching a sex film.

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

Religion was the perfect way to disguise audiences desire to see sex. Sign Of The Cross showed in great detail the gluttony, orgies and sexual depravity of the Roman Empire, while pretending to point out how “bad” this all was. That way movie audiences got the best of both worlds. Audiences were able to see the naked flesh, all the while pretending they were really watching a film about the early struggles of Christianity. Of course, many of the Christian martyrs being sacrificed in the Coliseum just happened to be beautiful naked women.

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Sign Of The Cross was especially shocking for its hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Emperor Nero was played by Charles Laughton who, incredibly for the times, was open about being a homosexual. (The word “gay” would not come into the language for many years.) Emperor Nero is surrounded by well-built slave men who are wearing almost nothing. In other scenes Nero is attended by near-naked young women. Apparently Nero had quite a diverse sexual appetite.

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

But the most famous scene in Sign Of The Cross is Claudette Colbert as Empress Poppaea and her naked milk bath. She does not just lie there passively. Swimming around and exploring herself sexually, there is one quick flash where her nipples are full exposed. Watching the film today, you can still almost hear the gasps from the 1932 movie audiences.

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in "The Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in “The Sign Of The Cross”

Claudette Colbert’s acting actually was actually amazing, considering how non-sexual  the real situation was. The bath Claudette Colbert was in actually was filled with milk. Powdered milk had been mixed with water to give the water a translucent quality. Even Cecil B. DeMille did not dare film the scene in clear water. That would have shown Claudette Colbert completely naked throughout the whole scene.

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in "Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in “Sign Of The Cross”

The powdered milk mixed with water looked great on film, but the hot movie lights quickly turned the milk sour. So while Claudette Colbert was acting sexual and seductive, she was actually breathing in the stench of sour milk the whole time. That’s acting.

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in "Snow White And The Huntsman"

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in “Snow White And The Huntsman”

Of course the “moral authorities” in the United States went berserk. However, the full force of their wrath did not become apparent until 2 years later in 1934 when Tarzan And His Mate was released. In that film, Jane swims completely naked in clear water for a considerable period. As a result of that scene, censorship was born and nudity was out of American films for many many years.

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

However, the Naked Milk Bath never left American cinema. One of the most recent reincarnations was Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna in the PG-13 rated Snow White And The Huntsman. Charlize Theron emerges naked from a milk bath. However, the milk is much thicker and Charlize Theron’s hands strategically cover her breasts. Claudette Colbert’s 1932 Naked Milk Bath was about 100 times sexier.

We recommend Sign of The Cross as a fascinating film to watch. Long before CGI and other special effects, you can be sure that when you see actors wrestling with Lions, they really were wrestling with lions. It is amazing that no one got killed making Sign Of The Cross. Beautiful naked and semi-naked women and men, a cast of thousands, ferocious animals and of course, the most memorable Naked Milk Bath of all time. A true Hollywood classic.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon, is a murder mystery, where the detective is a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Consequently, the hero looks at the world and people in a unique and fascinating way.

Christopher Boone is a high school student in suburban England, and the murder he has chosen to solve is one the police have no interest in. It seems wrong to Christopher that the police have ignored the murder simply because the murder victim happens to be a dog. Wellington was a good dog and Christopher liked him more than he likes most people.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Someone has gruesomely  killed Wellington with a pitch fork, and Christopher decides to solve the crime the way Sherlock Holmes solved the mystery of The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Of course, Sherlock Holmes himself was definitely on the Autistic Spectrum.

Christopher Boone is a wonderful, gentle person trying desperately to get along in a world  he does not fit into. He is a genius at math, puzzles, and game theory, but the emotions and reactions of ordinary people are often beyond his comprehension.

Autistic people prefer this puzzle to the puzzle of human emotions

Autistic people prefer this puzzle to the puzzle of human emotions

His special education teacher, Siobhan, thought it would be good therapy for Christopher to write down his every day thoughts and feelings. Christopher decides to do better than that, and writes a complete book about his search for Wellington’s killer. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is that book.

In attempting to solve the murder of the dog, Christopher inadvertently uncovers the tangles of lies, deception, infidelity and betrayal that have been hidden for so long in this quiet English neighborhood.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time tries to solve the murder of the dog Wellington

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time tries to solve the murder of the dog Wellington

Of course, like most people with Asperger’s Syndrome, Christopher constantly gets off track and focuses exclusively on subjects that fascinate him.  Consequently, in addition to the murder mystery, the book is full of stories about famous puzzles, math problems and game solutions. This sounds like ti might be dull, but it is actually quite fascinating. It is a glimpse into a world that few of us really comprehend.

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

If you have a child or someone close to you with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, you will find The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time touching but also sometime quite sad. We loved the hero Christopher and it is difficult to read about the way he is sometimes treated by people who view him as “strange”.

Saint Christopher - What was his name before he carried Christ?

Saint Christopher – What was his name before he carried Christ?

Christopher also asks many questions that we never even thought of before.  One of them, for example, has to do with Saint Christopher, who was the giant that carried the Christ child across a raging river. The name Christopher literally means “Christ-bearer” or “Christ-carrier”.  In The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Christopher Boone asks the question, “What was Saint Christopher’s name before he carried Christ across the river?”

Sherlock Holmes a detective on The Autistic Spectrum

Sherlock Holmes a detective on The Autistic Spectrum

It is this kind of inquisitive mind that allows Christopher to solve the murder of Wellington and many other mysteries as well. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is one of the best books we have read in a very long time, and we highly recommend it.

 

 

 

Mother – the movie explained

Critics hate the movie Mother because they cannot understand it. So here is an explanation (Spoiler Alert) detailing what this film actually about. Javier Bardem is a very bad writer (The Poet) who has created one perfect character (Jennifer Lawrence) and then can’t craft a good story to put her in. Jennifer Lawrence (Mother) only vaguely understands that she is actually a character in a story and not a real person. She is completely subservient to The Poet  and continues to trust him no matter how bizarre the story gets or how badly The Poet treats her.

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in “Mother”

In the end, The Poet realizes that his story is utter crap, and the entire house and all the characters burn up in a massive explosion. Then Mother re-awakens on a sunny day in her own bed and the story starts again. This is, of course, the story being re-written. This is exactly how the movie began, so we realize that the story has been re-written over and over many times.

The idea of people being characters in a story controlled by someone else has been done often. The Twilight Zone has several episodes like this. Mother, however, takes the concept to the ultimate extreme. It details what happens to our hapless main character, when her existence is controlled by a very bad hack writer. Of course, we love Jennifer Lawrence as the main character. She is beautiful and kind and sweet, so it is painful to watch the terrible ordeals The Poet puts her through.

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of “Mother”

Speaking of painful, Jennifer Lawrence was so dedicated to the film that she continued once action scene even after breaking a rib when an extra fell on her.

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in “Mother”

There are many hints in Mother that this is all just a draft story by a bad author. Here are just a few of the hints:

  • None of the Characters have names. Jenifer Lawrence is simply called “Mother”, and Javier Bardem “The Poet”. As the story progresses, more and more characters appear, but not a single one is given a name.
  • A writer is worshiped. Let’s face it, writers are very bitter that they never become celebrities they way actors do, even when they have written the films that made the actors famous. In Mother, The Poet writes one poem that is so good he becomes a cult hero worshiped by thousands who travel to visit his house as a shrine.

 

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in "Mother"

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in “Mother”

  • There is no world outside the house. All of the action takes place in one beautiful house but outside there is nothing but grass. No farms, no roads, no cars, no buildings. The author  apparently used all his creative energy making the setting of the house and did not have enough imagination to describe a community to go with it.  Even the house itself is not fully constructed,
  • New Characters are brought in awkwardly and with no reason. Ed Harris shows up at the house and later brings his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). The poet simply invites them in to live in the house, which is something no person would do in real life.
  • When the story seems to be going nowhere the author just makes it a violent as possible. This goes on and on to a ridiculous extent. When Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer just show up, the story drags, as it seems to revolve around how to get rid of annoying and unwanted guests.  Then in the last 20 minutes of the movie we get a murder. Then a riot. Then an attack by the army.

 

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

  • When all else fails, a bad author goes for”Gross & Disgusting”. As a grand finale Jennifer Lawrence gives birth to a baby which is then killed and eaten by the crowd worshiping The Poet. At this point in the theater where we saw Mother  several people actually booed. One fellow shouted out “What the F**k”?

So there it is. Mother is a bad story that is supposed to be a bad story. But we actually liked it. If you take the story seriously, you will hate Mother. However, we recommend you watch it as intended. The story of a beautiful and sympathetic charter (Jennifer Lawrence) who is forever trapped in a world being made and re-made by a bad creator.  Despite all this, she still loves The Poet. She has faith that one day, he will finally create for her a perfect world in which she and her baby can live forever.