Monthly Archives: December 2016 Report Card


Hey, our predictions are as good as anyone else’s.




It’s always sad to see Hollywood legends like Debbie Reynolds pass away.

But Doris Day is still alive. And Kirk Douglas is still alive. And Jerry Lew— Lewis


Oh, never mind.


***** Uranus


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by Gay Talese Voyeur


I’m thinking the title of this book should really be “Rationalization.” Its subject, a peeping Tom from Colorado named Gerald Foos, rationalized his perverted pastime by telling himself he was a sex researcher, in the mode of Masters and Johnson, documenting his motel guests’ sexual proclivities in the name of behavioral science. The book’s author, Gay Talese, rationalized writing about Foos because he’s a journalist and he thought the middle-aged motel owner was an intriguing subject. I rationalized reading The Voyeur’s Motel because Talese is a respected, renowned writer.

I assume you are reading this review because you wonder what I think about what Talese thinks about what Foos thought about his guests while he crouched in the attic of the Manor House Motel, peering through a ceiling vent and taking copious notes – and frequently masturbating.

Well … whatever. I’m afraid Foos’s lurid diary comes off as less Kinsey Report, more Playboy Report, as we read his descriptions of one sleazy motel-room encounter after another.

But I learned a lot. That’s my rationalization.


© 2010-2023 (text only)



TCM was showing a Disney movie, a nature film about a cute squirrel named Perri. It had been quite a few years since I’d watched anything Disney-related, so I tuned in.

After we are introduced to furry little Perri and her adorable squirrel family, the movie proceeds to document one vicious Mother Nature-orchestrated slaughter after another. A marmot catches and tears Papa Squirrel to shreds. A hawk spots a flying squirrel and snags it for dinner. And so on. A man narrates the carnage in the blasé tone of someone describing how to butter toast.

It was, to say the least, a disturbing experience.

I’m not sure why kids who watched these Disney movies, including yours truly, didn’t just crawl under their beds and stay there for life.



Merry Christmas. 




The FBI is warning that ISIS would like to attack your church this holiday weekend. Trump and Putin have decided that this is a good time to remind everyone that nuclear warfare could obliterate us all.

Merry Christmas.




Shepard Smith on Monday informed viewers that President Obama pardoned a number of people during his “pregnancy.”

I’ve tried to locate video but, alas, the Internet fails me.




Speaking of pregnancy, this was in the news: Brains


No comment.




How to conduct a news interview: Rachel Maddow, arguably liberal media’s best interrogator, sparred with the unflappable Kellyanne Conway on Thursday. Great television.


How not to conduct a news interview:  Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s latest attack dog, was called a “son of a bitch” by flustered journalist Lauren Duca on Friday. Garbage television. 


Carlson:  “You should stick to the thigh-high boots. You’re better at that.”

Duca:  “You’re a (bleeped).”


I suppose she might have said “sexist pig.” Hard to say, since I don’t read lips.




A piece of advice for sports fans (and everyone else) living in cities with professional teams begging for new stadiums: In Minnesota, taxpayers were warned that the Vikings and Twins “could not compete” without brand-new, taxpayer-funded playpens. After the billionaire owners and millionaire players got their new stadiums, the citizens were rewarded with … noncompetitive teams.


© 2010-2023 (text only)


by Jonathan Franzen Corrections


Confession: I’ve resisted this book for years, in part because its author, Jonathan Franzen, has a reputation (deserved or not) for being something of a jerk. He’s not exactly Mr. Warmth and Cheer on his talk-show appearances, and then there was that little issue with Oprah Winfrey.

Also, reviews informed me that The Corrections’ plot concerns a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I happen to hail from a middle-class family of five in the late-twentieth-century Midwest, with Depression-era parents and grown kids who flew the coop. I thought the book might hit a little too close to home, and so I took a pass.

My mistake.

Franzen is a spectacularly gifted writer. His insights and prose are endlessly inventive. He deftly mixes elements of Shakespearean tragedy with humor straight out of Kurt Vonnegut. He chooses the perfect word, the perfect phrase to illustrate his scenes. The major theme, in which members of The Greatest Generation and The Me Generation collide with societal change and with each other, is important to many Americans. National Book Award voters honored The Corrections in 2001, and justifiably so.

However … this was a novel that I admired more than I enjoyed. The characters, although fully realized and recognizable, are not what I’d call endearing, and the reader is asked to spend 566 pages with them.  Unless you grew up in a family much like the Lamberts – (ahem)The Corrections might engage your mind but not so much your soul.


© 2010-2023 (text only)




I didn’t like it when Bill Clinton put his unelected wife in charge of health care in 1993, and I don’t like it now when Donald Trump gives his unelected progeny prominent seats at government meetings (above). Trump’s going to have enough problems with his own conflicts of interest without dragging in The Stepford Kids.




Trump hasn’t even taken the oath of office, yet it feels like he’s been president for years.

Let’s see: We have a Trump-related crisis with China and a Trump-related crisis with Russia, and we have Trump-related impeachment talk in Congress.

And Trump won’t be sworn in for another 34 days.


Like my pal Keith at Walgreens says, it’s going to be an interesting four years.




I’m convinced that this whole thing began five years ago when Obama ridiculed Trump at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. Trump decided then and there that he would run for president – just to spite Obama.

I believe this because the day preceding that dinner is the last time we have documented evidence of Trump with a smile on his face.


Oh, and these “thank you” tours? I’m surprised the media isn’t calling them what they obviously are: “I crave the adulation of a big crowd” tours.






Vladimir Putin is said to have a “personal beef” with Hillary Clinton. Sort of like Trump having a personal beef with Obama, or George Bush having a personal beef with Saddam Hussein.

Seems increasingly obvious that world affairs are governed by personal beefs. Doesn’t matter if you went to Harvard or Yale. Doesn’t matter if you are worth billions of dollars.

And it doesn’t matter if you lead your country into war. The important thing is to resolve your personal beef.


** Jackie


I suppose Chris Matthews gets a thrill up his leg when he sees commercials for this movie.






Rex Tillerson:  I can’t recall any person in the news whose pictures so often and so prominently feature … nose hairs.


** Rectify


Yeah, you dummies. Lucky for you, you can always watch it on Netflix.


© 2010-2023 (text only)

Share Trump


I had to chuckle when I saw Time’s announcement of Person of the Year, because I knew what was coming. Time really ought to consider changing the name of the thing, possibly to “Influential Person of the Year,” if only to spare itself some grief.

As happens almost every year, Time got swamped with Twitter outrage from ignoramuses who equate the magazine’s declaration with an endorsement.

Maybe Bill Maher is right: Maybe America really is a nation of idiots.


** Chastain


I’m seeing a lot of trailers for the movie Miss Sloane, and not for the first time I am struck by this notion: Jessica Chastain is not a very good actress. Why does she keep getting such juicy roles?


** Cold


Some feminists are upset with the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which was first sung by Mexico-born Ricardo Montalban in a 1949 movie, and which feminists feel depicts a man coercing a woman into unwanted sex.

These feminists must be racist like Trump: Mexico = Montalban = rapist


© 2010-2023 (text only)




Synopsis: The first season of Netflix’s lavish drama about England’s royal family focuses on Elizabeth II, from her childhood through the 1950s.


When you watch any movie, you have to engage a suspension of disbelief. I consider Jaws a fairly realistic adventure film, but if you stop to think about it, is it really likely that a gigantic shark would menace three men in a boat for days on end? Similarly, docudramas that claim to be based on true stories take liberties to make the story more entertaining; watching Woodward and Bernstein sit at typewriters for hours and hours might be factual but, well ….




And then there are shows like Netflix’s The Crown, a new series about Britain’s royal family. There’s no question that it’s well-produced (the budget is Netflix’s priciest ever), well-shot, well-acted, and well-written. It’s an absorbing piece of showmanship – but man, do you ever have to suspend disbelief. Or maybe that’s the wrong kind of suspension: You have to suppress your politics. At least I did.

The Crown asks you to forget that the soap opera you are watching is about people who have problems that are alien to the vast majority of viewers. If your neighbor’s love affair runs into insurmountable obstacles, she cannot console herself by throwing lavish parties for herself at a remote castle in Scotland. If my significant other cheats on me, I am not allowed to mope in perpetuity, because I still have to feed myself and pay the bills.

On the other hand, if you are royal family and have your every physical need and want catered to, at public expense, don’t expect much sympathy when your personal life doesn’t go exactly as planned.

There. That was my obligatory American rant.


.        crown3       crown4


If you can suspend your politics – something that might come easier to Brits than to their country cousins across the pond — The Crown will likely suck you in. The sets are spectacular, the attention to period detail is impressive, and it’s near-impossible to resist watching John Lithgow sputter and bellow as an elderly Winston Churchill.

Being a member of the British monarchy is such an odd, unnatural way to go through life – gilded slavery, at times – that it can’t help but be compelling fantasy. Especially for us commoners.   Grade: B+



Creator: Peter Morgan  Cast: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jeremy Northam, John Lithgow, Victoria Hamilton, James Hillier, Rip Torrens, Ben Miles, Jared Harris  Premiere: 2016




Watch Trailers (click here)




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Sure does look like Donald Trump is draining the Washington swamp of crocodiles. Problem is, he’s restocking it with alligators. Mostly Goldman Sachs alligators.


The question could be: Who will the alligators eat first, taxpayers or Donald Trump?




.             Oliver Trevor


If Trump is going to deport immigrants, I suggest he start by giving the boot to clueless newcomers John Oliver and Trevor Noah, who don’t seem to understand (or care) that the United States has a Midwest.

My guess is that the two of them watched an episode of Duck Dynasty and then decided they had a finger on the pulse of America’s heartland.




I’m not digging Nat Geo’s Mars because I have an aversion to the woman who plays the crew’s captain (below). She is a humorless puke, and I dislike humorless pukes. Seung


I suppose that in real life, should I find myself stuck on Mars and battling to survive, I would want my captain to be a humorless puke. But I’m watching a TV show, so I don’t care to spend so much time with this particular humorless puke.


Did I mention that lately I am enamored of the term “humorless puke”?


** Oreilly


Some enterprising grad student or media watchdog should document the amount of air time Fox News anchors devote to promoting their books. Led by “Buy My Book” Bill O’Reilly, so many minutes are spent on pitching memoirs and novels, you have to wonder how much real news gets sacrificed.


** Department Q


Netflix keeps churning out original movies and series that don’t interest me. On the other hand, I’m grateful to Netflix for importing so many good foreign shows.

I just finished “Department Q,” a series of three films from Denmark, and I recommend it. It’s a cop drama that does suffer a bit from James Bond disease, in which the endings turn sensationalistic and silly, but everything else – intriguing characters, striking visuals, grim atmosphere – clicks.


© 2010-2023 (text only)


The Tribe Tribe


If you’re going to make a 130-minute film with no dialogue and no subtitles, your movie had better have everything else working in its favor. The Tribe does just that. Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s drama about young deaf-mutes drawn into a life of crime is almost always absorbing – even though the actors “speak” only in sign language. Scenes do occasionally go on a bit too long, but overall this is a fascinating glimpse into a mostly silent, frequently violent world. Release: 2014  Grade: B+ 




The Wailing Wailing


Locals begin committing bizarre crimes after a mysterious Japanese man moves to their South Korean village, and it’s up to some unsophisticated cops to investigate. The good news: The movie is well-shot, and the final half-hour is both scary and surprising. (Think you’ve figured out the twist? Think again.) The bad news: You do have to sit through two hours of standard-issue horror to reach that entertaining wrap-up.  Release: 2016  Grade: B




Midnight Special Midnight


Midnight Special starts off well enough. Two men abduct an 8-year-old boy from a religious cult, and the three of them flee from cult members and FBI agents chasing them on the back roads of Texas. But there’s a catch: The boy is a willing participant in his own abduction, and the trio have a plan and an unspoken goal. It’s all very tense and mysterious. And then the story goes all “Kid with Supernatural Powers” on us and gets sillier and sillier until, at the film’s climax, I was thinking of Disney theme parks and Tinker Bell – a far cry from the dark and suspenseful first hour.  Release: 2016  Grade: B-


© 2010-2023 (text only)