Daily Archives: July 31, 2010



Every little kid knows the bogeyman.  The bogeyman hides in the bedroom closet, or lurks on the floor beneath the bed.  Fortunately, most kids grow up and find out who the real scary people are:  math teachers and driving instructors.  But for documentarians Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, both of whom grew up on New York’s Staten Island, the bogeyman never really went away.  He is, apparently, still haunting them.

Zeman and Brancaccio wrote and directed Cropsey, a documentary about child abductions and the alleged, real-life bogeyman behind them.  The filmmakers grew up in the 1980s during what surely must have been a nightmare-come-true for Staten Island parents:  Children kept disappearing, and one of them was found dead and buried near the site of an abandoned mental hospital.  Suspicion fell on a middle-aged drifter named Andre Rand, and this pathetic outcast became the borough’s “Cropsey” (a Hudson Valley nickname for any ax-wielding bogeyman) as related in this creepy – yet ultimately unsatisfying – movie.

I call it unsatisfying because, try though they might, Zeman and Brancaccio never get past gossip, rumor, and speculation regarding the decades-old disappearance of five children on the New York island.  Rand was eventually convicted of kidnapping two of the kids, though he never confessed to their killings, and no additional bodies were ever recovered.  This lack of hard evidence forces Zeman and Brancaccio to venture all sorts of hypotheses, including:  Rand, who once worked as an attendant at the notorious Willowbrook mental institution, was seeking to rid the world of mentally disabled children;  Rand was under the influence of a devil-worshipping cult, which roamed a network of subterranean tunnels beneath the ruins of Willowbrook.

There are no revelations from Rand, no interviews with him, but instead lots of wide-eyed theories posited by regular folk and authorities.   But all of this speculation – from police, citizens, reporters, “experts” – has no payoff.  Rand remains in prison, possibly guilty, possibly the scapegoat of a fearful, ignorant community.  This ambiguity kills Cropsey, rendering it just a big-screen version of Dateline NBC when the film’s focus shifts from horror to courtroom politics.

Unfortunately for Zeman and Brancaccio, their bogeyman stayed in the bedroom closet … when they really needed him to come out.          Grade:  C-


Cropsey2       Cropsey3

Directors:  Joshua Zeman, Barbara Brancaccio  Featuring:  Donna Cutugno, Karen Schweiger, David Novarro, Ralph Aquino  Release:  2009


Watch Trailers (click here)


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  Special K Week: 

The Kindle and Killing Kim Kardashian




One nice thing about getting older is that you tend to miss out on what’s trendy — unless you accidentally stumble onto it.  Such was the case the other night when I happened upon Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

I don’t live in Botswana, so of course I had heard of these idiots, but I’d never actually watched their show, which apparently has been fouling the airwaves since 2007.  My impressions:

1)  What the hell happened to Bruce Jenner’s face?

2)  That Kim is a cutie.

3)  The mother, Kris Jenner, is a glorified pimp.

4)  Somebody needs to … kill the Kardashians!  I cannot see the teensiest benefit to our sharing the planet with them.






The Kindle


Amazon lowered the price of its e-reader, the Kindle, so I broke down and bought one.  My thoughts:



1)  Stephen King wrote his own appraisal of the Kindle, in which he quoted Gertrude Stein’s observation about her childhood home in Oakland:  “There is no there, there.”  After using the Kindle, I know what that means.  It’s just an eerie sensation to realize that you cannot rifle through pages.  And it sucks if you are on, say, page 78 and want to go back and read something on page 39.  To do that, you must laboriously tap back 39 times for 39 pages.  Very time-consuming — especially if you get to page 39 and then realize that what you’re looking for is actually on page 59.  Tap, tap, tap ….

2)  No color, and the graphics can suck.  I read The Passage on my Kindle and there was a map in the book.  But because the Kindle’s screen is so small (six-inch reading area), there was no way to get a satisfactory view of it.

3)  The Web browser is slow and has a primitive display.  The audio voices sound like Robby the Robot reciting Shakespeare in Pig Latin.



1)  The light weight (8.7 ounces).  There is something to be said for a device that lets you read War and Peace or Moby Dick with your left hand while you eat, drink, smoke, or play with yourself with your right hand.

2)  Free public-domain books.  Within seconds, I downloaded books by Jane Austen, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Charles Dickens, and George Bernard Shaw.  It was like checking out library books without leaving my bed.

3)  The instant dictionary.  It’s sweet to simply highlight “repudiate” and instantly have a definition at the bottom of the screen.



1)  Amazon hypes the fact that you can store up to 3,500 books on the Kindle.  Nice, but do you really expect to live long enough to read 3,500 books on your Kindle?

2)  A glare-free screen that allows you to read in sunshine.  OK, but I can also do that with a paperback.

3)  Download new books from the Amazon store in 60 seconds.  Rarely do I need a book in 60 seconds.  Sometimes a drink, yes.  Besides, I enjoy browsing at real bookstores.



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