Monthly Archives: October 2023



If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, mass shootings and war in the Middle East are both, depressingly, old news.

If you are a Millennial or Gen Z, you might be hopeful that there are solutions to both problems. That’s a good thing. We need hope and solutions.

Or you might simply be hopelessly naïve.

I hate to say this, but as an old dude who’s been reading about war in the Middle East for my entire life, and about mass shootings for most of it … I give up.

Good luck, younger people.





Good Halloween viewing: The Traitors


Second-rate celebrities mix with regular folks to play a murder game at a cool-as-fuck Scottish mansion. I thought I might hate it. But I am four episodes in and very much hooked.






Bad Halloween viewing: Malignant


James Wan has directed some great horror flicks (the first Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), and this movie is never boring. It’s just stupid. Very stupid.

Let me count the ways it is bad: continuity errors (daylight in one shot, nighttime a shot later), special effects that look like special effects, hackneyed dialogue, and too damn many jump scares.

If you want to see a better movie with a similar theme, check out Brian De Palma’s Sisters.






Proper way to eat with a fork?


It doesn’t seem possible that I have lived as many years as I have, yet only recently have I noticed so many people eating food with their forks turned the wrong way.

I use my fork the way the lady does in the picture above, not the way it’s used by the dude.

Have I been wrong all these years? Tines up, or tines down? Important question.





I have yet to see Old Dads on Netflix, but I do enjoy Bill Burr’s stand-up routines and his podcasts. The headline above irritates me.

It implies that critics are to be trusted and the viewing public is a collection of dopes. Makes me want to see the movie even more.


© 2010-2024 (text only)


by Leo Tolstoy


Prior to reading this novella, I’d read just two books by the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy’s gargantuan War and Peace was, in my humble opinion, much more entertaining in its “peace” parts than in its “war” parts. I remember thinking Anna Karenina was very, very good … but I recall absolutely nothing about the story. (In my defense, it has been many years since I read these books.)

I suspect that The Death of Ivan Ilyich, weighing in at less than 80 pages, will stick with me much longer than will the two Tolstoy magnum opuses.

The story is simple, yet concentrated and vivid. In it, a Russian judge develops an incurable illness and then slowly and oh-so painfully, expires. That’s it. Yet Tolstoy successfully puts the reader in bed with poor Ivan and forces us to endure all his pains, physical and psychological.

The big question that Tolstoy asks us to ponder is whether there is truth in Socrates’s dictum, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”


© 2010-2024 (text only)




Housebound (2014)


Making a horror-comedy is a tricky proposition. If you manage to get the comedy right, good luck with the horror. Or vice versa.

New Zealand’s Housebound finds the perfect mix of laughs and chills — often at the same time. Morgana O’Reilly stars as Kylie, an irascible thief who, nabbed in the act and then confined to house arrest with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), and her stepfather, notices odd and eerie phenomena in their spooky old house.

If you’ve seen even one ghost story, the first half of Housebound is a bit familiar. But once our heroine teams up with Miriam and with an eccentric security officer (Glen-Paul Waru) to investigate those bumps in the night — and a menacing neighbor — the pace picks up and Housebound becomes an absolute delight.


Miriam and Kylie have a strained relationship


There’s no place like home — especially when you’re wearing an ankle monitor


Top to bottom: Security officer Amos (Waru) sidelines as a ghost-hunter; intrepid investigators Kylie and Amos; Kylie’s smug social worker






[Rec] (2007)


Most found-footage horror movies have major credibility issues. No matter how dedicated the photographer is to capturing everything on video, when a killer is trying to stab you with a knife, or when a monster is chasing you through the woods, I’m sorry, but you are going to put down the damn camera.

But if you do that, we have no more movie.

[Rec], a 2007 horror-thriller from Spain, finds a clever way around those credibility problems (for the most part). The protagonists are a pair of TV journalists who, sensing they have stumbled onto a big story, decide they need to document everything on camera — no matter how horrific.



And horrific it is when our dynamic duo accompanies firefighters on a routine call to an apartment building that turns out to be anything but routine. There is a virus or infection on the loose — think fast-acting rabies — and it’s threatening everyone in the building. The infected immediately turn into, you guessed it, bloodthirsty monsters.

Adding to the problem: City authorities are aware of the situation and have quarantined everyone, the infected and uninfected, inside. So, yeah, no escape.

What follows is a frantic hour of suspense and horror that culminates in a truly nightmarish finale.


This film was so successful that it inspired a U.S. remake, Quarantine, and three Spanish sequels.



© 2010-2024 (text only)



. Nixon         


I am very old. I was born during the Eisenhower administration. I remember the day Kennedy was shot.

For most of my life, two guys have been the consensus choice for “worst” presidents. They would be Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter (that’s them above, for you kiddies).

We owe Nixon and Carter an apology. Watergate and the Iran hostage crisis were peanuts compared to the insanity going on under Joe Biden.





I’ve been waiting more than 20 years for this.

For the longest time, had you asked me, “Which actress has the finest ass in Hollywood?” I would have said, “Gwyneth Paltrow.” This was based on one scene with Jack Black in Shallow Hal (below).



Alas, word leaked that the derriere in question did not, in fact, belong to Gwyneth. It was allegedly the butt of a body double.

But now Paltrow has graced us with the picture below. Looks like the Shallow Hal ass, to me.



On the other hand, if Gwyneth’s rear end had anything to do with Harvey Weinstein, I want nothing to do with it.


© 2010-2024 (text only)




I don’t pretend to have any answers — or even understand the questions — when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What I do understand is that we Americans can expect enormous pressure to get more and more involved in the conflict. Just like we face enormous pressure to stay involved in the Ukraine-Russia war.

I see upsides for Ukraine and upsides for Israel when they successfully drag us into their battles. We have lots of money and resources. I do not see any upside for the United States.

We have too many pressing problems of our own — foremost, the ticking time bomb that is our southern border.

If that makes me a dreaded “isolationist,” so be it.





Why is it that so many progressive “journalists” look exactly like this guy? They smirk and sport scruffy beards that attempt to compensate for their essential unmanliness.

They are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infamous “girly men.”

Also, methinks it’s time to change the word “progressives” to “regressives,” since so many of their policies are taking the world backwards.





We said goodbye this week to houseguest Cameron (above) on Big Brother. He wasn’t exactly “Mr. Popularity” with the other contestants.

But I’ll miss him. I’ve been watching this stupid show since it debuted on CBS in 2000. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who was such an underdog and yet remained so cool under pressure, winning challenge after challenge in the face of unanimous opposition. 

So, a pox on the house of the remaining contestants, who are just a collection of dolts and snakes.


© 2010-2024 (text only)



Fair Play


Thinking about Oliver Stone’s masterful Wall Street (1987), it seems to me there were probably disparate audiences for his drama. Some viewers admired Gordon Gekko (“Greed is good!”), and others were horrified by the fate of poor Bud Fox, who wound up going to prison.

Fair Play, a drama set in the world of finance, targets the same two demos: people who salivate at the chauffeured limos and fancy meals available to Wall Street hotshots, and those who recoil from the human tradeoffs required to make it big in that profession. 

Fair Play doesn’t shy away from those moral questions, but it adds a new wrinkle: gender politics. When analyst Emily gets a big promotion that her lover/coworker thought was his, their relationship is put to the test. To put it mildly. Should Emily “stand by her man,” or should she subscribe to the feminist mantra, “you can (and should) have it all, baby”?  Release: 2023  Grade: B


Would I watch it again?  Probably not. The movie is well made and provocative, but its unlikable leads and downer resolution make it a once-is-enough-for-me, thank you.




Up the Down Staircase


Within a month of each other in 1967, two high-school-themed movies opened in theaters. The films were To Sir, With Love, and Up the Down Staircase. Chances are, you recall the movie with a big star (Sidney Poitier) and a titular song that topped the charts. The other movie might or might not be familiar.

I prefer Up the Down Staircase, starring Sandy Dennis as a teacher at an inner-city school who must choose between a job at a cushy, wealthy school, or the unceasing challenges of life at Calvin Coolidge High School.

Sir and Staircase both tug at the heartstrings, and they deal with similar themes. But to me the latter film is more realistic, and far less sappy. Release: 1967  Grade: A-


Would I watch it again?  I just did.




The Goldsmith


What I loved about 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was its tone of demented glee. When young people encountered a crazed family in Texas, we didn’t need (or want) “backstory” explaining the lunatics’ twisted history. We already know there are crazies in the world. Just bring on the madness, please. Chain Saw did just that.

The Goldsmith, another young-people-versus-loonies story, bores us with action-halting exposition in which we learn why the baddies are so bad. Also, it doesn’t help that the protagonists, a trio of thieves out to rob an elderly couple, are so unpleasant. When the movie degenerates into all-out body horror, I didn’t care what happened to anyone.

Goldsmith, from Italy, is a lot like its American cousin, Don’t Breathe. In both movies, what begins as a suspenseful break-in story morphs into something else entirely — but not in a good way.  Release: 2022  Grade: C-


Would I watch it again?  No.


© 2010-2024 (text only)


by Bel Kaufman


It isn’t often that I actively look forward to returning to a book I’m reading. Don’t get me wrong; I love books, but these days there are so many options competing for my leisure-time attention. Options like Netflix, music, regular TV, the Internet ….

But I went out of my way to read Up the Down Staircase, which, nearly 60 years after its publication, is still a joy.

Kaufman’s 1964 novel, chronicling four months of a rookie teacher’s life at a New York City high school, introduced a groundbreaking format. It’s largely a collection of fictional inter-office memos, student homework assignments, personal letters, and items from the class “suggestion box.” This collage of written memorabilia — loaded with rib-tickling malaprops from both kids and adults — paints an indelible picture of English teacher Sylvia Barrett’s introduction to Calvin Coolidge High School.

But the story is in no way all fun and games. Kaufman deftly juxtaposes humor with all the heartbreak and frustrations faced by idealistic teachers and underprivileged kids at the school.

A confession: Staircase is a font of deep nostalgia for Yours Truly. Back in the day, I was cast as one of Sylvia’s students in our high school’s stage production of the book.

I played, naturally, class comedian “Lou Martin.”

Ha ha!


© 2010-2024 (text only)




Good News! (unexpected)


It’s not often that I see side-by-side headlines that both make me smile (above). Despite RINO outcries about “unexpected consequences,” and “be careful what you wish for,” the ousting of Kevin McCarthy by Matt Gaetz and friends was a breath of fresh air.

No matter what happens next, the warnings of Republican chaos are preferable to an untenable status quo. Good riddance, McCarthy.


As for Aaron Rodgers … I’m a Vikings fan and spent years rooting for former Packer Rodgers’s comeuppance. But the quarterback’s refusal to take the jab and willingness to take jabs at sellouts like Travis Kelce have made me a Rodgers fan — at least until he faces the Vikes.





Bad News! (expected)


I’m tired of hearing criticisms of the FBI come with the caveat: “But the FBI rank and file are very good people.” It’s the same caveat we hear about teachers and their unions: “But the rank and file are very good people.”

The rank and file are tainted by their leaders.  Individual teachers and FBI agents are the only people who can stop the madness.





Middle East Turmoil


I just heard about this an hour ago.

So, beyond an obligatory “what the fuck?” reaction, I have no comment.




Lake and March in Witch


I watched I Married a Witch the other day, enjoyed it, and decided to check out some background information about the film. From Wikipedia:



This was almost as entertaining as the movie. Director X hated screenwriter X who hated actor X who hated actor X who hated ….




Kudos to Tim Pool for recognizing the importance of culture in our national war between the Reds and the Blues. He wants to create Red-friendly music, videos, and coffee bars.

But Pool badly needs a partner, a modern Walt Disney, to help him achieve his goal. His on-the-road shows, including Friday’s panel in Florida with Matt Gaetz, are lifeless and dull.

What Pool needs is a partner who understands show-biz pizzazz. He can’t do it by himself.




Speaking of (sort of) culture … if you are mentally ill and a fan of Big Brother, as I am, there are YouTube channels devoted to BB recaps and analysis. This is one of the better ones.

As a bonus, the host is a Minnesota girl.



© 2010-2024 (text only)