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Other Broadcasting System (OBS)


Grateful for the Dead

Most rock and roll guitars can sound abrasive.  Jerry Garcia’s custom-built guitars, variously named “Rosebud,” “Tiger,” and “Wolf” had a more balanced tone, one not so grating on the ear.  This may be a wild guess, but I’d say near the end, when they had to cart Jerry on-stage because of his heroin addiction, he’d want a sound full of reverb (echo), which didn’t challenge him so much musically.

Late in her career, Joni Mitchell did something similar with reverb, but simply because she was getting older, and complicated musical passages must have become too much for her to remember.  She never did heavy drugs.  From what I’ve read, drugs were never her thing.  Joni was a wicked chain smoker of tobacco though, and this is said to have shortened her illustrious career.

(Am I professionally qualified to make these judgements about music?  No, I’m not, but I’ve listened to and judged plenty of music over the years, and this makes perfect sense to me.)

The Book Report for the Fourteenth of February Grateful Dead Concert in 1970 at the Fillmore East follows (the show itself was first heard on Wednesday’s KPFA Dead to the World, on 2-14-18 at 11PM EST).  This set passes the clean listening test (as improvisational jams, and their music didn’t always).  If you think it’s noise, you’re not picking up the harmonies between the vocals and instruments (tapping the beat clarifies matters).  China Cat Sunflower, I Know you, Rider, and Uncle John’s Band remained staples much later in their careers.

Then without further intro, here’s the notes, the happy recap of a show Other Letter first heard on Pacifica, KPFA, Radio of the Revolution.  We’re camping in northern New England by New Hampshire’s White Mountains on the Appalachian Trail, and this is what’s streaming out of the cassette.  Early Dead wasn’t slick but some might say crisper, sharper.  Just seems more clearly articulated.  Acoustic Dead is very unusual later in their careers.  Pigpen led several songs in this set.  This is 1970, in three years he was gone — drank himself to death.

Bob Weir heard here, but surprisingly Jerry wasn’t front and center in this set.  Garcia arrives, he’s backup vocals for parts.  In his autobiography, Searching for the Sound, Phil Lesh, their bassist, said it was Jerry’s band.  He was always the front man.  At least musically he was, because they had a dedicated lyricist in Robert Hunter.  Early Jerry doesn’t sound like later Jerry.  Seems more in command at this point, as though he is able to do more with his voice.

Bob Weir can seem more labored than Garcia.  Jerry seems aiming more for carefree than heavy and controlled as he might later.  This sounds strangely folksy.  Did the pull of commercialism and exclusivity give them a much harder edge?  Still, they sound a bit like Hot Tuna here.  Nicely harmonized if a bit loud, especially if you are older.  Do they jam for too long?  Do they get to the grating end of the jam spectrum?  They still have ideas or approaches.  Seems late in their career they didn’t care as much how they sounded.  They were the behemoth Grateful Dead.  You are privileged to be in the same auditorium.  Or at minimum, did they lose some of the intimacy they had with their fans?

Hopefully a few of us will remember this as the day you heard some great vintage music on KPFA instead of the day of the Valentine’s Day Massacre, one which Washington still refuses to do anything to stop from happening over and over and over again.  Repeal the Second Amendment.  Include a gun buyback.  It’s the only hope America has left.  It’s the one and only guaranteed solution.  Americans must have a sweet spot for kids in body bags.

If you’re an Other Deadhead, this concert may fit the bill.  It’s post-Pigpen (don’t ask why), 1973 (for my money, I’d say bank on ’73 or ’77), and San Francisco’s Winterland (where they always had home field advantage, and fans fully-versed in their work).  That should cover the major food groups.  The Dead are very sharp here, no painfully long, harmony-lacking, time-filling solos.  If you would like a drug-like experience without any loss of sanity or brain cells, watch the Winamp visualizations (save and open download).  Winamp instructions here, or go traditional.  10/28/17.

The Grateful Dead played a concert on the Seventh of October, in 1980, at the more intimate Warfield Theater in San Francisco.  Not many, if any, GD sets on Archive.org get a 20,000-plus listener count like this one does.  The set list at this concert is entirely different than most of their other shows from then, or anytime else.  At minimum, this is yet another new direction of the Dead.  This sounds like their private reserve for the hometown fans.  This concert was before Jerry Garcia, their front man, had his chops severely compromised by a lifetime of heavy drug use.  4/29/17.

The week before Jerry Garcia died, the Dead closed its famous Winterland, New Year’s Eve set with a Let’s Hear it for the Boy cover with Jerry singing falsetto soprano.  Was this a poor choice of material, or do you think he pulled it off?  This is the rarest Dead tape in existence, if it even exists, or was every copy destroyed by his record label?
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It’s Still on your Radio Dial

Get the Radio UK app at Apple’s App Store, or Google Android’s Code Depot.  This offers streaming radio from around the British Isles featuring, but not limited to: Heart 80s, Absolute Radio 70s, Virgin Radio, and Radio Jackie.  If they ask for your zip code (and I doubt that they will), your zip code is WC2H 7LA (or anything similar).  Using a British postal code clears national copyright hurdles.  In other words, they don’t want Americans to know what they’re missing...  (Britain is five hours later than the East Coast of the U.S., and overnights may or may not have weak programming because most are asleep.)

Here is great news, unless you work at I Heart Radio (in which case it’s even better news), I Heart Radio is going into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.  No more Led Zeppelin round the clock programmed by people who do not understand music.  But as Neil Young said, “My, my, hey, hey, rock and roll is here to stay” — except on their network.  Because on I Heart Radio’s ultra conservative, headlong into commercialism format, you would never hear Neil Young B-sides while listening to I Hurt Radio’s, New York, classic rock flagship, Q1043.

Youtube is not the only source for music, online or otherwise.  There is still plenty of broadcast radio programming available if you know where to look — and that would be here (and here on Other Letter’s Radio Page).

The American radio spectrum (at least for White people) goes from a very Pop Forty (often New Wave and 80s) orientation to a rock format.  The rock stations tend to go for music esoterica, and they can suggest they are cooler than you will ever be, to the point of sounding unnatural.  The Pop format can get corny, but they ultimately strive to be down to earth.  The Pop format may have more of a problem with repetitive song selections although they tend to aim for a more relaxing, not so stimulating sound.

Maybe they need to sound bigger than life, but the rock end of the spectrum can sound aloof, while some of the copy of both formats can border on the ridiculous.  Both have a long list of artist factoids, although rock formats tend to emphasize this more.

It’s grating listening to a rock station, like I Heart Radio’s Q1043 in New York, when it favors noisy Led Zeppelin, at the expense of playing, say, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Yes, the Allman Brothers, or Genesis.  Could there be any other reason for this continual, promotional favoritism of this one unremarkable band besides payola?  If they are paid promotional consideration to continually showcase inferior music like Led Zeppelin, how is this not payola?  If you are not receiving promotional consideration, why would you ever bother promoting that band?  (Click links above for clearly better alternatives.)

I am not very familiar with the African American formats, but I believe they run somewhere between classic soul like Marvin Gaye to urban hip-hop like Kanye West.  This rap format, to me at least, hardly qualifies as music, especially compared to the greats of the Seventies like Earth, Wind, and Fire, Michael Jackson, or Diana Ross.

If you’ve gotten sick and tired of hearing Sinatra croon Jesus, You are One Hep-Cat, Happy Birthday!, the Other Letter has the antidote: WSHU, 91.3 in Western Suffolk, Long Island.  They even have broadcast repeaters to the Tri-State area, and parts of New England, as well as streaming on the Internet to anywhere on Earth  They play classic Classical music from 9AM to 4PM, and 8PM to 5AM.  Clear your head without any, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Singers Sing: Manger Mayhem.  12/20/17.

If you live on Long Island, there’s a great station with singularly programmed music you have never heard.  It is the very first slot on your FM dial, WXBA, 88.1.  They play the best classic Sixties, and Seventies music, and anything else worth playing .  Their music selection policy seems to be, if it used to have a huge audience, it still does.

Most surprisingly, it is produced by Brentwood High School, except the play list is anything but amateur (Brentwood High School is one of the largest in New York State).  My take is that it is an upgraded carryover, including the vinyl album collection, from the now defunct, vintage 103.1, WBZO, of nearby Bay Shore.  As of 1/03/18, there is not an Internet simulcast for WXBA to generate worldwide broadcasts.  I would imagine that’s because of prohibitively-expensive, royalty structures, or just as costly streaming, computer servers.

You may think your streaming audio options are limited until you check out Radio-Locator.com and see that they’re unlimited.  I’ll probably be hung by my thumbs for this, but visit a UK site.  (Just so you know, Americans such as us listen to crap on the radio, courtesy I Hurt Radio.  The British have it all going on, I can tell you).  When the station web site realizes your Internet Protocol address isn’t British, copy and paste WC2H 7LA for the required British postal code.  Just a little hack, one that probably won’t generate a visit from MI-6, the NSA, and FBI SWAT teams.

If any of those agents do rappel down the side of your house, just say you have family in London, and you used their postal code.  If they lock out that postal code, find a British company’s address and use that one.  Remember, I never met you, I have no idea who you are, I will testify against you at a UN Tribunal.  Lengthy prison sentences await you, although a cease and desist order may await me (a first for non-British, streaming radio theft, along with a slow day at the DA’s office).  12/30/17...

Or if you just want to sample what makes British music so superior, check this out (and click “Listen Now”), or via this link (click “listen,” “save,” then open download — not a virus, not at all)...  1/01/18.

You can bypass cheat codes (even silly, little ones like postal codes) with the Radio UK app.  I would suggest when the app install requests your location, you don't give it, because you may run into nation blocking issues.  Still, they know the country where they’re sending their traffic.  Like any site, they need your nation-specific, Internet Protocol address to connect and route data...  Heart 80’s has the hot hand on this app right now (an hour later, Smooth London), but you can cycle through the scores of British stations...  Britain is five hours later than the East Coast, which means the overnight programming might be weaker, just like in the States.  1/02/18.

If you would like to get around the Youtube monopoly (including Youtube Red) it is surprisingly easy (this link includes many of the major details).  Register as a webcaster with the United States Copyright Office, and also with a non-profit trade group, SoundExchange.  You will pay 0.14¢ per song, ten plays are 1.4¢.  With advertising on your web site, this is a simple business model to sustain.  On the other hand, Shoutcast will set you up as a radio broadcaster, while simplifying the process over doing it all yourself.  8/28/17.
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Harmonious Music Notes

The country music genre glorifies economic deprivation by substituting the desperation of a vanishing rural life with the celebration of the home...

At the Café Carlyle in New York City, Woody Allen regularly plays in a band as a clarinetist.  He once said that rock music is often pretentious.  There is some truth to this, as rocks adds dramatic effect at the expense of sounding more human.

There are times when the effect is meant to be monstrous, or at least, much larger than life.  Van Halen’s Eruption, and especially AC/DC, and Black Sabbath, aim for this, not so much warm and fuzzy, as dark, brooding, and solitary.  Head banging tracks are packaged as male bonding.  You would be hard pressed to find women into a ten minute, rambling, melody-challenged, guitar solo.

The heavy metal bands are heavy as in much metal, or much electric guitar; and heavy, as in profound, exhilarating themes.  Whether they pull this off, or are more geared for teenage boys, can be debated.  Mostly, this is music to get loaded by.

Maybe I am allergic to Led Zeppelin.  The local I Hurt Radio affiliate, Q1043, has their daily, This Day in Zeppelin.  I never knew that the boys from Led toured with the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, and the Who.  They were widely admired by those bands as the finest in head banging excitement.  I Hurt Radio offers the dates when this all went down, but who really gives a sh*t?

Every holiday on Q1043 is a Led holiday, with specials celebrating the band’s holiday efforts.  There’s Valentine’s Day Zeppelin, Zeppelin at Christmas, Zeppelin at Hanukah, and, in an effort to capture new, Islamic listeners, Zeppelin at Ramadan.  The problem I have with Led Zeppelin is that they are a bastardization of rock, that somehow get infinitely more airplay than they ever deserved.

I will give them this, listening to Stairway to Heaven isn’t bad the first three times, and Led Zeppelin II is not so bad.  Led Zeppelin is a one-hit wonder, given Led Zep II.  If they aren’t exposed as receiving payola payments, then I Hurt Radio would have to be cooking their books, right?

My beef is that Led Zeppelin is marginal at best, and this is Clear Channel’s (aka I Hurt Radio) favorite band by far, it’s really their only favorite band.  When I was in high school, the cool bands were the Grateful Dead, and the Who.  The only ones who liked Led Zeppelin were in junior high.

The Beatles dynamic: Paul McCartney was the ambitious one, and he was a stoner.

You should be paid for your time if you listen to any of these three bands (the bread and butter of Texas-founded, sh*t-kickers, I Hurt Radio):

  1. Led Zeppelin, they are noisy, get far too much airtime, and make for a pretentious foursome (in all honesty, this song is horrific, and it’s not even live, this is a studio cut).  If you take the average Who song and play it beside the average Led Zeppelin song, the Who song is invariably the better song.  Irrelevant and out-of-touch I Hurt Radio plays this band to no end, and they package it endlessly as the world’s greatest rock ’n roll band.  If Q104 (the I Hurt Radio flagship) defines Led Zeppelin as the state of the art in classic rock, then rock ’n roll is just an incredible waste of time and energy.  Are there payoffs involved in the Zeppelin continuous promotion, how would regulators not think this wasn’t Payola?  How did Led Zeppelin even get on the map, when the melody of their signature Stairway to Heaven is a clear rip off of Spirit’s Taurus.
  2. U2, because their founder, Bono, uses tax havens.  Because of this, he dispels any myth that he is a man of the people, which was essentially his act, claiming that he’s just like us.  All of us can afford millionaire tax loopholes like he has?
  3. The Rolling Stones, who ended the career of the Verve, because that band’s major hit, Bittersweet Symphony, was in the cross hairs of the Rolling Stones management.  Jagger and Richards get 100% of the writing credit for the Verve’s best effort.  The dynamic duo needed a few extra bucks so they took down a band with a better song than they will ever record because of a mystifying copyright violation.

The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony is plagiarism when you have a tin ear, and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven is plagiarism when your hearing is not a problem, but you’re a judicial player looking to score some political points.  Even in the field of music, it’s still all about power plays over those with fewer resources.  Real music gets the shaft...

By the way, this Valentine’s Day, Q1043 will be celebrating with a, you guessed it, a salute to Led Zeppelin’s love song catalog — not The Who’s, not the Dead’s, or even Paul Simon’s.  You cannot make this up.  I’m thinking they’ll lead with Black Dog.  Welcome to juvenile sexuality courtesy of Led Zeppelin and I Hurt Radio.  Here is a classic hard rock alternative, and a classic soft rock one.  America, you deserve better than I Hurt Radio.

I feel sorry for the Deejay.  If you are around music essentially 24/7, it is your life, and you just know Led Zeppelin is not the best classic rock out there, but corporate thinks so, so what are you supposed to do?  I’ll say this, for a classic rock station with a steady diet of Seventies tunes, Q1043 skews much younger demographically than one would expect.

A three-way for Taylor Swift means a night in with her two cats, Meredith and Olivia.

How does one know the notes included within the Key of F major?  With a whole step interval being two piano keys distant, and a half being one, start at F, and proceed: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half -- just like the white key (natural key) spacing on a piano beginning at C.  Here, F is the root, the basis, or the starting point, and the key of F includes one flat, B flat.

Jay-Z, whose level of songwriting ability will never approach Joni Mitchell’s, recently penned this tripe: ”You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club?  You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?”

Christians waste money is the message I get from this sloppy writing, but I’m sure his cheap shot meant spending money on strip clubs is some higher calling.  He’s worth over $30 million so where is HE spending HIS money?  If he wants to knock Jews, he’s much richer than 99% of them.  He should take down himself.

He’s like Trump in 2016, saying anything that will keep him in people’s consciousness.  Except he sings out of key and makes tons and tons of cash while he’s at it.  He needs to do community service for just that line.  His claim to fame is apparently being a bad ass, but you would think he would use more words in his songs besides hey and mama.  Then okay, Jay-Z is not antisemitic, he just writes antisemitic lyrics.

I know I am way out of line, Jay-Z is the hero to kids everywhere, and the next MLK; or is Jay-Z what MLK was hoping America would never think of African Americans?

Why are Blacks treated as second class citizens in Billy Joel videos?  In his videos, African Americans are uniformly thieves (Uptown Girl), custodians (For the Longest Time), hookers (Keeping the Faith), and bootblacks (Keeping the Faith).  Otherwise they do nothing of substance, they are only background scenery.  It’s disgraceful honestly.  Joel’s videos are a Klan rally.  These are not videos from 1963, they’re from 1983, and later.  Mister Joel owes African Americans an apology.  Or if he had little say in the creative direction here, which seems a bit unlikely, then the video director owes one.

These were very elaborate videos, this is near the height of MTV, before Napster and file-sharing crippled the recording industry.  The video target demographic skews very young while his music doesn’t at all.  Billy went back to his mansion, his video walk-on extras likely go back to a trailer park.  There must have been tension between the major talent and the very minor bit players.

The Piano Man video was filmed 10 years after that album shipped.  Repackaged as videos, do these videos lessen the inherent appreciation of the musical composition?  The Piano Man visualization is just like a book that was mangled on its way to the screen, or here, the song getting into music video form.  In my experience, bars are not such happy places, the only exception being the Oak Beach Inn from my youth.  Here they are Heaven on Earth.

Because I am from Long Island which is Billy Joel stomping grounds, and his home field, I will likely get death threats for posting this.  Okay, Joel is big out this way, but he has never been that big; but just watch these videos though, they are really cringe-worthy.

The Academy of Country Music Award nominations have just been released.  While we at Other Letter can appreciate Country & Western music for its adult themes, it has been running into issues with new talent, overall sales decline, and the loss of relevance to anyone but farmers who both own, and can play, banjos.  In light of this, please note the following is not just representative categories, but this year’s entire show:

Best Crossover Artist (spanning both Country & Western and another genre)
Taylor Swift, 1989
Béyoncé, Lemonade
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon Reissue
The Who, Quadrophenia
No more entrants

Best Country Video
Hey, that’s not road kill, that’s tonight’s supper
Feels like home because I hear the Deliverance theme when I walk down the block
Jesus, save us from the Liberal
Oh, Lord, Jesus the Christ, protect our Mister Trump from the Liberal
I don’t care if that’s an aborted fetus, I’m giving it baby clothes to wear (and a proper burial)
Kill all the Muslims Right Now, Mister Trump (you have the South’s permission)
The Jews are Killing Us All, One by One
Burning down the Barn (Talking Heads cover)
Shot something or another & it sure felt good
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Cinematic Graffiti

For most years, seventeen of the top twenty grossing movies are for kids.  85% of the movies with the greatest budgets were made with infantile tastes in mind.  Hollywood is a fetishist in entertaining children.  France rarely if ever bothers with this youth market.  Jacques and Jacqueline do not have the pedestrian tastes that Donald and Mitchell across the pond do.

Violence, out of revenge or anything else, is not sexy like Quentin Tarantino would have you believe.  It’s just sick and gross.

When is the last time Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei appeared on the silver screen together?

Here’s a really useful page from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) that checks to see which movies two stars appeared in together.  Another not so obvious combination: Try Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore.

Two movies can also be entered to find above and below the line talent common to both (the former is actors, directors, and producers; the latter is sound, camera, etcetera).  One to try is Jurassic Park and Jaws.

Spoiler alert!  In Curb your Enthusiasm, the jokes come from how incredibly obnoxious and uncouth Larry David is.  The characters are all profane as this blue humor is supposed to be funnier, or at least more visceral, when hardly any good material has been written.  The settings tend towards those where tact is paramount, but David exhibits anything but civility.

This hastily written paragraph of mine typifies his brand: At a funeral, Larry hates the guy who died, so he won’t shut up for the entire service.  After the Rabbi speaks, Larry walks up to the family of the bereaved and tells them:

“He was a nice guy up to a point.  Let me rephrase that, he wasn’t always such a nice guy.  No, occasionally he was nice.  You know, let’s be honest here, he was never effing nice, okay?!  He was goddamn, effing rude, a real ball buster, you know?  You know what I’d like to do to him?  I’d like to sever his testicles, okay?  That is what I would like to do to him.  I know it’s kinda late, but anyhow.  He has it coming, let me tell you.”  And so on...

Their team would lift this, plagiarize this, without any hesitation.  That series is hurting so far, especially compared to the original shows.

Hey, tonight is the biggest night of the year for all you couch potatoes.  That’s right, it is the annual, Television Academy Emmys.  Are you really interested in mini-series, limited-series, series, and made-for-TV movies?  Forget this crap, and watch a real movie.

By the way, ringleader Lorne Michaels and Saturday Night Live received record nominations for tearing down Trump, after he let him host twice during the campaign season.  Now that Michaels’ man Trump is in, no amount of whitewash will erase the pro-Trump sentiment SNL exhibited.

In Michaels bid as a publicity whore, and do anything for PR, he gave Trump the SNL platform and national visibility among deplorables he needed to become President.  This may be libelous language, but Michaels sold his soul to Satan when he invited Orange onto NBC’s national stage.  9/17/17.

The highlight of this year’s Emmys in my estimation, were the presenters: Carol Burnett, of the Seventies Carol Burnett Show; and Norman Lear who created the ground-breaking All in the Family among many others.  She is one classy lady, and she represents what television could be.  Right now though, talent is so diluted across a thousand TV channels that much of what is on the small screen, isn’t even watchable.  Even big, movie people, like Nicole Kidman, are moving to TV, and they try to make a case for how relevant it is, but it is so marginal in terms of quality, and watchability.  Others may be entirely impressed, but I’m sure not.  9/17/17.

For me, the low point of the Emmys broadcast was the ending.  Not because I wanted more, but because Oprah was presenting to Elisabeth Moss.  Oprah, you may know, posted on her social media a picture of Barack Obama and Trump, with the caption, “Hope lives!”  She is hopeful for the Trump’s Presidency?  Maybe the tax overhaul has her very interested in him.  Moss is a Scientologist.  So the show closed with an Oreo giving an award to a Scientologist.  Where was Ms. Burnett when you really needed her?  9/17/17.

Fox has revealed the flagship of their new, Fall line-up.  American Horror Story: Silence of the Fox Anchorwomen will be having a pilot marathon, 8-hour celebration of cannibalism.  The highlight will be a cooking demonstration with classic, Mediterranean seasonings.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

I see acting as a lending of my person, my corporal existence really, to the process; that process, of course, being acting.  First, I pull away all layers of pretension, so I’m stripped naked facing the elements...

Yes, that’s right, the reports are all true.  I would come home in agony after every day of shooting.  The director needed blood, and damn him, I gave him plenty of it.  The most important thing I’ve learned in this role, is that pain should be endured for art, not necessarily for real life, because, well, that would be rather painful, yes, no?...

What am I aiming for most in my performances?  It’s that the theater-goer, well, now, the TV watcher, to first scratch their heads as in what the eff is going on here?  Then slowly, yet surely they realize, yes, she speaks my language, the language of all humanity, but I am speaking directly to you Mr. or Ms. TV-watcher.  Hi, there!...

In the third and final act, when Raven finds her strength, when she looks skyward, and catches the eye of Jesus the Christ pruriently peering over her form, that means much more than even life itself, I’ll tell you.  This is why I create in the cinematic medium, exposing flesh makes every last, stinging critique tolerable, because I have risen far above the pedestrian, and even chaste Jesus in the ether appreciates my figure...

The strongest part of the premise in Big Little Lamborghini was that a schoolyard fight among rich children prompted a murder.  How could I ask for more realism than that in a plot?  I couldn’t, no, not at this stage in my life as an actress anyway...  Yes, I have devoted my life to this work, spent long stretches of time away from my family, the whole enchilada...

Did your cameras catch my décolletage when I leaned over?  Would you like another take?  My director at BLL and yours at ET said they needed a promo, and a money shot to go with it.  Did you need a Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone camera angle for your news piece?  I mean it’s all for the project, I could never, ever let down my production crew...

I plan to write, direct, and do the cinematography for my script.  I’m going in my own direction.  I haven’t written it yet, but like everything I’m jumping headlong into it.  I sure would love to do it, and that’s half the battle, pointing one’s self in the right direction, yes?...  More than anything, I enjoy life, especially family life — and I’m beginning to get into the kids’ Scientology.  CLEAR!!!

Overheard at the Television Pilot Marketing Convention

Isn’t it time you signed on with a winner, a winner like You’re Making it on Mulberry Street.  The log line is: “When it’s always happening and going on, you’re on Mulberry Street.”  You’re thinking, “urban, hip hop, I can dig this, and dig it big.”  Yes, biracial, every family on the block by some odd twist of fate has biracial parents.  But there’s more, the kids appreciate both Black and White cultures.  They’ll listen to Billy Joel on their boom box as much as Marvin Gaye.  The beauty here is that BOTH major demographic subgroups are captured — straight outta the box, from the pilot.

And what a pilot!  The kids outside bicker if Billy or Marvin is heavier, just like their biracial parents are doing the same inside while making supper.  The cops break up the noise, and everyone goes home for grits.  Did I say this takes place in Chicago in the 1970s?!  Here we have solid ratings gold bringing together the two races.  Parents love this content, kids do, and so do entire communities.  It’s content that’s always happening and going on, because you’re on Mulberry Street.

Hi, I am Meryl Streep!!!  YES.  I.  AM!!!!  Are you ready, America!!!!  Woohoo!!!!!!!  Welcome to the Seventeenth Annual Blockbuster Video Awards!!!!!!!

Movies Worth, and not Worth, Making

Have you ever noticed how Hollywood uses a sledge hammer to sound like they are doing something about social issues?  Think of Schindler’s List, which appeared in theaters only sixty-five years too late.  Who watched this ode against genocide?  Well, Jews mostly, and do you think of those attending, it changed their opinion of Jews for better or for worse?  Did you hug a Jew after watching this?  Or much more effective, did you send a check to the Anti-Defamation League?  No, it did not change you or your opinion, because it was preaching to the converted, it was singing to the choir.

Just to further my example with the Holocaust, imagine the life of Anne Frank until she ascends the stairs to her final home.  She is mostly happy, and we can see this.  Do we think Anne herself would want to be seen in any other way?  We know what happens last to her, we do not need representation of this upon the screen.  We cannot internally reconcile her fate as a victim of Nazism with her place as a buoyant or normal child, and as a diarist writing from her experience being a war refugee.  In fact, the happier you show her, the more painful is the lesson.  The final scene becomes an encapsulation of their tragic end via captions, and pictures from better days.  In Schindler’s List, and every other gruesome tale, apparently the director thinks we need to watch their last, uncomfortable breath ad infinitum for half the cast.

There are literally thousands, probably tens of thousands, of difficult to sit through movies that will never reach their targeted audience because people generally do not attend movies to satisfy a sadomasochistic urge.  There are movies like: Apocalypse Now, American Sniper, Monster, The Hateful Eight, the list goes on and on.  These are movies whose subject matter is deeply repugnant, ostensibly revolving around the uncontestable value of human life, with every last thing that can go wrong going wrong.  They often aim to show redemption, but what they mostly show is life’s absolute nadir.  Many just won’t bother watching these, regardless of their importance to mankind, or the zeitgeist.

If a filmmaker wants to moderate public opinion, it needs to be done subtly.  Any movie that makes one squirm in one’s seat, limits the appeal of their offering, and even the effectiveness of their messages.  Sledgehammer-driven themes make one cringe, they are a huge downer, and then the onslaught of cinematic discomfort is deliberately forgotten forever.  Some seek sledgehammer cinema, but most are much more careful with their entertainment dollar, and won’t spend it on watching others get hurt, or murdered.  There is enough misery on this Earth, why pay for the opportunity to witness more of it?

One final note: I don’t see how any of these violent movies are doing anything to stop war or violence.  They do a far better job of showing everyone how carnage is done.

Why does murder sell so well?

The New York Times Fiction Bestseller List is essentially a Murder Incorporated roll call, two thirds-plus of the book titles there have premises involving involuntary, assisted death — that means murder.  Where does global cinema get its book adaptations?  Much of it is from bestsellers, exactly like that on this list.

If Casablanca was made today, there would have to be a sequel like: “Casablanca Two: The Return of Rick.”

Before Sunrise The 2017 Oscars went on and on and on last night.  One started to muse if this will this end before Sunrise.  Could they have scrapped the cutesy tour bus segment?  Or put the technical Oscars with the rest of the technical Oscars on Technical Oscars night?

Viola Davis, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar recipient, gave the speech of the night, and a very stirring one at that.  The main message was that most of our true heroes were never discovered, they are in their graves.  Either they did not have spectacular lives, or they did, and hardly anyone cared, their triumphs went entirely unnoticed.

The accounting firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers that handled the authenticity of the results may even have trouble getting non-Oscars work.  How can a major corporation blow something so patently simple as tabulating ballots and handing out envelopes?

As for the host, Jimmy Kimmel, he brought his stock to new heights, delivering entertainment, then peace and calm, even during a crisis never seen in the Oscars 89 year history.

One sad note, the guy occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue claimed that the winning envelope mix up was a product of everyone focusing on him.  Is this further proof that our President’s cognition is being compromised with premature dementia — that, and an out-of-control ego of a thin-skinned meany with money who was never up for the job.  2/27/17.

“I’d like to thank every girl out there who doesn’t have the huge boobs that I have.  Without them, mine would hardly seem so, well, huge.  Blessed are you A-cups out there, for without you I wouldn’t be standing here today.  I’m on the speed dial of every top agent in Big Three talent when girls with smaller cup sizes don’t make the short list.

“When Jeb, our producer, called me, and said we needed a White girl with big knockers to star opposite Ryan Goslet I didn’t know what to think.  How would this effect my reputation among the high concept crowd?  Would I be comfortable making less than Ryan?  Would I like wearing a neon green super hero costume with a plunging neckline?  And the answer to all these questions was a resounding: yes, yes, yes.

“The orchestra’s playing the wind-it-up music.  And kudos to my agent at Milky Way Talent.  We milked another deal.  Peace out to my cherished auditing team.  Join us and get clear!  Clear!!!    Good night, Hollywood, and get clear!!!...”

Like every working actress, Gwynnie Paltrow has a SAG card for being in the Screen Actors Guild.  On the back are endorsements indicating what types of work she can perform, and stay in good stead with her union.

For instance, there is a box she has checked off to show that she can do these accents: “British, French, and E. European (indeterminate origin).”  This indicates to her director, say originally Coppola or Allen, yet now Apatow or Tarantino, that they may legally employ her as a CEO Brit, French showgirl, or Romanian apparatchik.

The endorsement is given after at least eight hours are earned in the given discipline.  If Gwynnie did not show up at the studio with her SAG card, her servant, Dev, would have to run home to get it, while the production crew all stood around smoking cigarettes, and telling dirty jokes, in the Paramount back lot.

There are more skill sets, even including sex acts, which surprisingly are a valid endorsement on the SAG card.  Ms. Paltrow has studied extensively with master thespian, Meryl Streep, and Gwynnie earned all her eight-hour-plus endorsements under her tutelage.  While all the advanced classes of this starlet couple (including bowling pin-juggling and hula hoop) has been extensively documented on the current season’s Master Performances on PBS — the erotic training was not-so-surprisingly left off the show.

Just yesterday, the production team and myself were pondering this question at the Other Letter Studios: Why doesn’t Reese Witherspoon get a chin job?  When people don’t care for their nose, they get a nose job, why not the same medical protocol for the chin?  We would have to think that Reese takes it on the chin, because hers is larger.  She’s probably gotten some bad advice early in her career; it gives you character, or some such nonsense.  With today’s surgical theaters, they could replace your spine if need be.

We ran a spreadsheet that marketing had created for productions in development where the leading actress dramatically changed her appearance — say via boob work, nose jobs, and yes, chin jobs.  It turns out for much of the East and West Coasts, her latest flop, Piglet’s Masterpiece — if she had chin work — would have been at least second at the box office; and at least third place opening weekend in the Conservative South and Midwest because physical appearance is much less of a concern there (for instance, demand for basic hygiene products is virtually non-existent south of the Mason-Dixon Line).

We have yet more to consider.  Reese wouldn’t get the plain Jane, heart of gold roles she always does.  Instead, she would get the Nicole Kidman, lick-my-boots, blazing marquee, top billing roles every actress dies for.

We know what you’re thinking: A starlet’s appearance is her business, it is all she knows, and it is outside the purview of her fan base.  No, no, no, her fan base is why she has any fans to begin with.  Without us, she is still a waitress at Memphis’ Crispy Creme.  We pulled her out of that vicious cycle — tips, rent, Marlboros, kids bus fare to the mall.  Like Doctor Frankenstein, we gave her life.

Then they say, “Oh how gauche, a chin job on an Academy Award winner?”  But an Academy Award winner at what? — at character parts?  Roseanne Cash was a character part, right up there with Minnie Pearl.  Then they’ll say this is so crass and insensitive of me.  How is it?  It’s not, because we will democratically vote on her final chin prototype in a Facebook poll (just as we were prepared to do with Jennifer Connelly, except she went off-piste and had her boobs reduction work done without fan consultation — Jenny C cheated her fans).  We all need to get together, and steal Reese’s face.  For once in your life, Reese, it is your time to shine...

Notice:  I was hacked, I’m afraid it was Gates and company, settling old accounts.  I cannot remove this piece, even though it is far below the standards of journalism at the Other Letter.  Forgive me, Ms. Witherspoon, my hands are tied here.  Oh, and please finally get around to reading the query letter for my screenplays that I sent you...

That’s not much, is it?

Your average star in Hollywood has even less education than your average Trump voter.  Most in Tinsel Town have little or no college, because when you look as good as they do, and when you have had that much material success before your twenty-fifth birthday, why bother?

My Fan Club of One

There are many, many actresses who should have had bigger Hollywood careers than they have had so far, or will ever have. Jennifer Connelly has an Oscar to her credit, but I cannot recall anything since A Beautiful Mind that had a script of the same caliber.  Ashley Judd had such a stellar debut in Ruby in Paradise, then some quality action thrillers, then not so much else.  I cannot say for certain if Blythe Danner qualifies for inclusion here.  I will say she won a Tony but she should have won more movie roles, and more significant ones at that.

Cameron Diaz should have more roles like the one she had in Being John Malkovich.  Diane Lane is a talented actress but she has not been in many major movies outside of The Perfect Storm, Unfaithful, and Walking on the Moon.  Halle Barry did Monster’s Ball, but not much other significant work, probably because of her skin color and the consequent lack of roles available for those of that skin color.  Heather Graham was in Drugstore Cowboys, but except for About Cherry, I do not recall her getting any important roles since then.

Kirsten Dunst does quality work but she seems to have been relegated to television.  Add Maggie Gyllenhaal to that category, although she has done original film work that was not well-marketed.  Marisa Tomei can be added as well for being a TV actress in Empire, even though she has an Oscar on her mantel (or wherever it is that she keeps it).

Lindsay Lohan is an excellent actress capable of compelling performances, but her past has been so difficult that, I’d guess, she may be a gamble to film investors who underestimate her box office draw.  Kate Hudson won a Supporting Actress Oscar for Almost Famous, but since then, in my not-so-humble opinion, she has not been casted for much that is worthy of her talents.

Gwyneth Paltrow had a string of successful movies including Shakespeare in Love, Sliding Doors, and Emma, but the roles did seem to diminish once she started her family and took on the concomitant responsibilities, as well as the move into establishing her Goop lifestyle brand.  Meg Ryan fell off the radar in the 1990’s somewhere around Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry met Sally.  As far as I know, she has not traded in a Hollywood career in favor of opening up a full-time, dairy farm in Vermont.

Ah, zee French

If you watch enough French films, you begin to realize why the Academy, the Oscar crew, created a Best Foreign Language Film category.  If they didn’t, America’s Hollywood wouldn’t be winning the Best Picture Oscar every year — often enough France would.  The Academy needed to make non-Hollywood films a side show.

The French understand and can create beauty like no one else can, just look at the Louvre, which many say is the World’s finest art museum.  Cinematically, French works are apparently a national effort, and often a pure flight of imagination with sumptuous sets and entirely unique characters.  Hollywood, by comparison, is often an amateur hour, one pandering to children and adolescents, with wooden interpretations of linear, predictable narratives, and with their artistic vision defined by focus groups.

When Casting Casts by Type

Actresses try to take on all manner of parts, but they do seem to do better work in certain genres.  For instance, Jennifer Connelly excels in serious roles in realistic settings; whereas Nicole Kidman appears on stage and screen to much acclaim in light-hearted or supernatural fare that’s an extreme departure from reality.  Jenny C couldn’t be called on to play Satine in Moulin Rouge, and Nikky couldn’t play Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

Ashley Judd has often appeared in what Variety, the entertainment daily, might call “Chasers” — she is being chased, then by Act III, she summons available resources, and she is the one chasing down the malefactors.

Gwynnie Paltrow receives plaudits in high brow, period pieces, as well as those requiring a British accent.  Charlize Theron is often seen in futuristic fantasy movies, or ones with a razor-sharp edge, or at the very least, not a butter knife one.

Heather Graham makes films outside the mainstream that plays up her oversized sexual attractiveness.  Meanwhile, Reese Witherspoon plays the every girl next door faced with trying times, or long odds.  All mostly play single women who are not mothers, because if they were attached, they would be inaccessible as fantasies...

The Deserving that Never Won what They Deserved

Unbelievably, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar for any of his films.  He did win the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, for lifetime achievement.  This is the official, please accept our apologies, “The Academy Screwed-up Award.”  Why this is instructive is that while all his films are now considered classics, they are also considered classics of hard-core suspense — so they were before their time creatively.  If you were a member of the Academy, and you didn’t care much for suspense films, you didn’t care much for Hitchcock.  Hence the Hitchcock Oscar blackout.

Blythe Danner could have won one based on her ability as a theater actress, except of course, not on the film roles that she was never offered.  There are likely many more deserving actors who will never tearfully accept the golden, little guy, and start gushing about how much the award really belongs to fifty others watching from home, whose names the winner carefully recites from notepad, or now, from iPhone — and the orchestra, getting progressively louder, cuts in a third of the way through the recitation.  (All apologies to Gwyneth Paltrow who conveyed sweetness, and not saccharin, fake emotion; or Meryl Streep who has won so many times, she could be outside, getting her moppets to sleep, while they announce her name.)

One and Done Hollywood

Film projects that headed South can end the career, and even the lives, of those helming them.  Two come to mind, Duets directed by Bruce Paltrow (Gwynnie’s Dad), and most recently, Mother’s Day led by Garry Marshall.  Hollywood does not seem particularly forgiving, brutal is often the term much more appropriate.  Tinsel Town, and its investors especially, embrace the “What have you done for me lately?” aesthetic.  If you cannot bat a thousand every year, we will find someone who is putting up Ted Williams numbers instead.  If you are not leading the pack, the pack leaves you behind, in its dust.

Work may have once been plentiful when they were getting good reviews — Mr. Paltrow was a show runner at Saint Elsewhere, and Garry Marshall created Pretty Woman — but professional interest in them definitely seemed to wane after Duets and Mother’s Day were poorly received.  Both directors were dead of “natural causes” within two years after their final movie — Mr. Paltrow at age 59 of oral cancer, and I would guess, the disease was stress-advanced.

Squirming in your seat is entertainment?

I have always wondered if squirm-in-your-seat dramas, where the conflict dial is set to maximum, is the best way to present theatrical material with strong moral lessons.  Take Monster, for instance, Charlize Theron’s classic.  If the script was written to make it more palatable, wouldn’t its message reach a much wider audience?  When movie-goers know a drama will be tough to sit through, then attendance will be lower than it deserves, and its vital theme will never be heard.

A movie-goer is entering into an implicit contract to be entertained — albeit a very brief one — between themselves and the production company.  Aren’t heart-wrenching movies violating this contract?  Couldn’t the producers of Monster be sued for such a violation?

Just the other day, Charli and I had a several-hour, heated debate over “where literature goes at night,” or the cinema.  She said, and I will quote as she gets so riled up that she loses all her composure, and veers away from her typecast, “Gripping cinema, where Man is seen at his low point, represents a proven box office formula, they are always an ineluctable draw.  More than anything else, the cinematic audience loves and embraces full-bore conflict.”  As proof, she waves the Oscar at me that she always carries with her everywhere she goes.

I collect my thoughts, and slowly reply, “Do you think Schindler’s List would have done decent box office, would have had a much wider appeal, and would have spread its message of tolerance near and far, if it had only shown its paying customers any mercy?”  With this, I hold out my hands to the left and to the right, and say, “How else might I own this palatial estate, with its servants, seasonal activities including Esther Williams-esque water ballets, and winter ice house carnival (LA-A/C style), etc., etc., etc., without a knowledge of cinema like Orson Welles, Francis Ford Coppola, or Jean-Luc Godard?”  At this point, as usual and in abject defeat, and knowing that she has far exceeded her authority to speak, she recants all she has said.

Seinfeld could have been more meaningful

Seinfeld fell completely flat in one area, and to me this was a most significant one.  It was meaningless.  Let’s hear all the important social issues raised by their ten years of prime time dominance — like morés?  Don’t double dip corn chips?  They were not quite All in the Family, were they?

Jerry even said that this was a show about nothing, yet that was its major fault.  It was not in protest of any of life’s ills, they existed in a vacuum without any racial or socioeconomic differences.  Jerry, and co-creator Larry David, did not challenge the status quo, they embraced it.  For all the power that show could have exerted as being the only show watched in America then, it spent its political capital on things like Junior Mints, and Jerry’s world-class, breakfast cereal selection.

Even today, his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee does not address what is wrong on this planet, and especially not as George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, or Richard Pryor did (to name only a few), and did with such great effect.

Antiques Roadshow has a cow pie special

Antiques Roadshow — this week we’re from Omaha, Nebraska...  We don’t see too many cow pies like yours.  Have you done research on your cow pie?...  Well, the other appraisers and I were talking backstage about your cow pie, and we had never seen such a fine one before.  Can you guess how much your cow pie is worth?...  Not even close, your cow pie is worth well over...  And that’s just in my retail shop.  If you put it up at an auction well-attended by people who know and who love cow pies, this will be worth well over...  Because the wholesale market for prime cow pies has went through the roof recently, so you’re looking at a real gold mine...  Make sure you insure your cow pie for at least...

Mad Max: Fury Road?  I must be getting old

They laid out a huge budget, a cool $150 mill, for Mad Max: Fury Road.  Did they get the full bang for their buck? They rounded up a CGI cast of thousands.  This is not a criminal procedural from Point A to Point B, it’s a futuristic procedural — not quite 2001:A Space Odyssey though.  No, I got two thumbs middling, for stretches where the narrative was too challenging, or uninteresting, to follow.  They could have doubled the admission price if they let Charli grow out her hair.  She really carried the show.  No trouble figuring out who the good guys are and who the bad guys are — the good guys are mostly the girls.  Yarn spun out of extreme hot rod culture.

Entertaining the tired Great Depression masses

Movies from the Great Depression had an odd fascination, bordering on obsession, with the well-to-do, and how to reprove the excesses from their unfathomable wealth.

A Hollywood Actress’ Third Act begins at Thirty

Refrain of the mature actress in Hollywood, and the roles that are thrown her way: “Just because I’m a woman in this town, my third act begins at forty, or even thirty?”

Social Media: Promise and Reality

When an actress is seen as faking emotion for a living; can it only be expected that social media warmth by fans will never be shown any reciprocation, or any gratitude?
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The Fatal Flaws of Incredibly Well-received Movies

Big Little Lies
The fatal flaw to Big Little Lies is the premise.  A murder is committed because of a schoolyard fight among youngsters.  Could a precipitating incident be this contrived, yet be so well-received by critics and audiences alike?  I really feel like I am implicating Hollywood royalty in crimes against the cinematic State as this effort is a star vehicle for Other favorites, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, et al.

Lost in Translation
This won Best Screenplay at the 2004 Oscar’s ceremony.  The auteur, Sofia Coppola, and the leading man, Bill Murray, are revered in Hollywood, and most anywhere else in America.  Yet throughout the movie, the joke in this romantic comedy is mostly on the Japanese, and Murray’s performance is typecasted from earlier ones.

Bob Harris, Bill Murray’s character, appears on a game show whose host is little more than a debasement of East Asians.  If I was Japanese — and even though the host was a real one for a time — I would really be offended by how unnaturally goofy he is.  Is this character someone the Japanese can be proud to have as a countryman?

Next, Coppola shows a hooker who is so sickly obsequious and fawning it is really repulsive and offensive to watch — again, the joke is on Japan.  There are even more examples of subjugating Asians for comedic effect.

One other note, Bill Murray plays the usual stereotype of himself here, the same wisecracking, long suffering, put upon guy with the wry sense of humor that he always plays.  The range in his characters’ personality never strays far from Saturday Night Live sketches from the 1970s.

Sofia Coppola is pulling the wool over Americans who don’t know any better.  She is taking advantage of the fact that most Americans do not have any frame of reference upon which to judge these caricatures, and this includes Coppola herself.  I lived in a suite with Asians in college.  I can tell you first hand, that this does not represent them, in any sense.  This best succeeds as a travelogue, but only as an Oscar-winning screenplay if the ethnocentrism was deleted from the final print.

The Graduate
Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is seduced by Mrs. Robinson, in a turn by Anne Bancroft.  If you see their scenes together leading up to the seduction, one wonders what Mrs. Robinson, who has a college-age daughter, could possibly see in Ben.  He’s not just a 21-year-old, he is a young 21-year-old.  He’s not age mature, he stammers away at almost every sentence.  This is a then-forbidden romance that had no point existing in the first place, because there was no basis for her attraction.

On a related note regarding the improbability of their romance, Dustin Hoffman was just six years younger than Anne Bancroft when this movie was filmed.  So on-screen, they were impossibly matched regarding maturity and chemistry, while off-screen their ages were much closer.

The Verdict
This is considered a masterpiece in screen writing by a screen writing master, David Mamet.  This all works together well, except for one thing, what is Mamet’s beef against the Vatican?  The Church is portrayed as icy and villainous and no reason is given why.  It is okay for Mamet to have issue with them, but after two hours shouldn’t the audience know what the issue is?  It’s not for being anti-choice, not for misogyny, and not for homophobia.  The Church is taken to task throughout the movie, but for no reason.  Hollywood studios are allowed to simply bash the Church, the demographic-narrowing, unacceptable taboo is to offer any reason why.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The greatest play by perhaps our greatest playwright states that, ultimately, homosexuality can be cured.  You can’t cop out to puritanical, Fifties America any more than that.  And to boot, Tennessee Williams was gay, so he must have knew what the real truth was.

Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice
Think about this for a second: a Caped Crusader armed with only a utility belt, versus the man of steel, one possessing super vision, super hearing, and super strength.  Whoever came up with this premise didn’t think this through enough.  Batman against Spiderman, that might have potential, they can both climb walls.  It doesn’t make for the most exciting chase scenes, to be sure, but at least the contest is not so lop-sided.  Here, in this movie, people walk out in the first ten minutes quizzically scratching their heads.  Ten minutes being the amount of time it would take Superman to absolutely annihilate Batman.

Then, if we can get realistic, what is a Batman exactly?  A Superman is a super man, Batman is a what, a bat?  How can you root on a bat?  The saving grace of Batman is: his Bat Cave; his Bat Car; his boy ward, his better half of the Dynamic Duo, Robin; and his tech-savvy butler, Alfred.  If Batgirl wasn’t on the scene, the whole operation wouldn’t seem a bit heterosexual (don’t forget, they wear tights, hot pants, and capes).  Which I wouldn’t have a problem with, except these are beat-em-up super heroes.  Honestly, is Gotham gay?  For a variety of reasons, Batman versus Superman falls short of the mark, to even the casual observer, one whose closet is not entirely filled with Marvel comics.

Another failure of a Batman versus Superman movie is the fact that Gotham is run over by an omnipresent, omnipotent, pretty much unstoppable, criminal element.  Mischief is regularly being caused by the Joker, the Riddler, the Puzzler, the Penguin, Mister Freeze.  I could go on and on, right down the list.  With Superman and Batman fighting each other, who will save this fair city?  Does anyone really care at this point? — I mean considering that Gotham has gone straight to Hell.  Are grudge matches between the good guys all that’s left here?  Dawn of Justice? — dawn of justice for whom?  Not the Gothams fighting for their very lives, and praying for salvation, but meanwhile having to deal with the pettiness of those sworn to protect them.  They should just surrender their crime fighting badges, damn them.
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Super-hero Theory and Practice 101

Does Batman honestly need that cape?  How does Batman, the Caped Crusader, benefit from being caped?  He can't fly because he wears one.  Wouldn’t it just catch and snag on anything sharp?  It’s not to cover his eyes, because he already has a face mask.

Then again what about his tights?  I could see the advantage in winter, because he needs both heat retention and freedom of movement, but why are they needed in summer?  Wouldn’t they be soaked with Batsweat?  Maybe the cape is just there, in conjunction with his chest-level, Bat badge, to offer the fashion illusion that he’s bat-like.

Sure, Superman had a cape as well, but he could fly.  Superman’s cape was there for aerodynamic efficiencies.  Batman cannot fly, he cannot get air borne, no way, no how.

All that Batman had was a too-small, utility belt that he used to help him climb walls, but Batman cannot climb walls the way even Spiderman can.  Batman lumbers up the side of skyscrapers, and compared to other super-heroes’ agility, he borders on the pathetic and cringe worthy.  Granted, Batman had the Batmobile and a very large array of gadgetry, but if it wasn’t on his belt, he could not use it in crime fighting battles.

My firmly held belief is that Batman was prototyped after Superman.  They are different, but when they blueprinted Batman what did they have to work with?  Well, of course, they had Superman, didn’t they?  More astonishing is this: Was Batman really Superman 2.0?  And, in fact, Batman was created in 1939, while Superman predated him in 1933.

The question might even be raised: Does Batman even deserve inclusion among the Justice League, and other elite crime fighters such as Wonder Woman, Flash, and the Green Lantern?

How did Batman get calls to investigate?  It would have to be through Police Commissioner Gordon, wouldn’t it?  There was a dedicated Bat phone in the Commissioner’s office, a kind of Russia-U.S. detente connection.  Then the Gotham Police Department, already up to their necks in all manner of villainy — Joker, Mister Freeze, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, the list is never ending — would hand off some crime-fighting workload to the Dynamic Duo.

This is where it gets tricky, what if they are not by the Bat phone, what then, Batman?  Would their butler, Alfred, answer the phone, and jot down details for the Duo?  How would triage be performed with excess cases?  And the caseload, it more often than not involved jewelry heists, kidnapping the mayor’s daughter, or even more anxiety-producing, the abduction of Batgirl (who always found herself to be the pawn in each of the villains’ game).

Did Batman and Robin become well-trained from handling continual repetition?  Where were they trained, are all super-heroes trained there?  Do they learn crime fighting domestically, overseas, a combination of both depending on curriculum?  I would think the Batboat would have to be tested in the Mediterranean for European assignments.  What is studied at the Academy?  Is it mastering the martial arts, or countering the villain toolkit, with supporting coursework in maintaining the core objective, keeping world peace, order, and unity?

If we’re already talking super-heroes, who can teach them?  Maybe it is collegial, super-heroes offer each other crime fighting tips.  The comic book literature, very surprisingly, has never answered these questions.

Would Commissioner Gordon’s charming librarian daughter, Batgirl, be called upon?  Were there cases she would handle best, say same-gender ones, like putting a stop to the nefarious Catwoman, or was case assignment independent of Gotham crime fighter gender?  Would Batgirl go one-on-one with her bounty?  When would she resort to calling in Batman and Robin?  Was the protocol that if she found herself up to her neck in it she’d get Bat help?  Can you answer these vexing questions, Citizen?

Clark Kent:  Can we forget lunch, Lois?  I need to get on these movie notes right away.  This will explain everything about the industry, how I made it big in pictures, you know?  Hmm, thinking, I can save Gotham while I’m at it, too, then Mr. White gives me a raise, and Jimmy leaves The Daily Planet.

Lois Lane:  I thought you liked Jimmy.

Clark Kent:  Well, maybe now I don’t so much.  He takes a slice of Daily Planet payroll pie that I wouldn’t mind having all for myself.

Lois Lane:  He looks up to you like you’re his big brother.

Clark Kent:  Well, I’m not, Lois, okay?!

Lois Lane:  And Superman, we don’t live in Gotham, Batman does.  We’re Metropolis, remember?

Clark Kent:  Dang!  Why do we need two freelance, self-deputized, crime fighters around anyway?

Lois Lane:  To balance municipal workload?

Clark Kent:  So then how’d you know I was Superman?

Lois Lane:  Well, the tights were one give-away, the cape, a second—

Clark Kent:  Alright, already!

Lois Lane:  Although Batman has you beat in the utility belt department.

Clark Kent:  You don’t play fair, Lois.

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The villain here is Mia Farrow, not Woody Allen

Dylan Farrow’s brother, Moses Farrow, has stated that Mia coached the family on implicating Mr. Allen.  According to Dylan’s brother, Mia was the one doing the abuse, and that she physically abused her son.  For Dylan’s part, her livelihood revolves around perpetuating this myth of never substantiated abuse, because otherwise she has done nothing with her great fortune from being raised by two of the biggest names in Hollywood.

Woody casted Mia in her best roles, which she morphed into being a vindictive ex-wife with the nastiest of divorces and custody battles.  Yet even Mia has stopped making hateful comments against Mr. Allen, as she no longer defends her adoptive daughter.  The original sin, the villain here, is Mia Farrow, not Woody Allen...

Welcome to the Woody Allen Witch Hunt.  Here’s a few background notes: Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, claims she was molested as a seven-year-old by Mr. Allen.  Woody makes movies about adult romance, extremely sensitive to the human condition, with the hottest starlets in Hollywood including, but not limited to: Diane Keaton, Scarlett Johansson, Helen Hunt, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz — you name them, and they’ve all worked for him.

Yet he hasn’t directed what the far Right claims is Woody’s true passion, the one between seven-year-olds and grown ups.  I’m trying to think of a Woody Allen movie where the leading man was getting hot and heavy with a young girl into coloring books or hopscotch.  Funny, I can’t think of any one at all.  Anyone know of a Woody Allen movie where he indulges in his main fantasy, four-foot-tall goddesses?  Unbeknownst to prying eyes, does Woody secretly have dozens of mini-wives in Thailand?

Why would Woody have any interest in youngsters that age?  They’re not physically or emotionally developed in any sense, they’re flat-chested for one thing.  Woody is being framed for crimes he never committed.  Mia Farrow and/or her offspring must have had some incredibly big blowouts and bad blood with Woody, so this is the way for the Farrows to get even, and the Farrows have shown no human kindness whatsoever.  This is after Allen put her in thirteen of his movies.  Farrow has no career at all without him.

I suggest Woody returns fire, and implicates the Farrows in crimes, imaginary or not.  Does Dylan have a heroin habit?  Is Mia deep into the sauce?  Considering their crazy accusations, one would think that they would.
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Lights, camera, and action...

The following are capsule notes and reviews of deservedly, or undeservedly, significant films.  All have made important, weighty contributions to Cinema, but not all of them have made positive contributions.

The film, Next Stop, Wonderland, was on cable recently.  Its title comes from a stop on Boston’s underground, public transit system, or the “T” as it is known.  Now this is a movie worth watching.  Because Wonderland is set in Boston, it allows for a very sophisticated singles scene (because of all the colleges there?) but with requisite, yet needless, heavy drinking and smoking.  Was the drinking a screenwriting cheat giving the cast primacy, authenticity, or sophistication?  If Wonderland was set in Dixie — even as far North as, I’d have to say, Philly — instead of Bean Town, the Church would be the focus, the entire film would somehow revolve around Jesus and family outings (just joking, almost).

The message was that the hands of fate will serve you well, if you remain good and true to your values.  The narrative was slightly “challenging,” a euphemism for they could have tried to connect the plot points better.  Hope Davis had a great turn (in bemused sentiment and in looks, she reminds one of the Before... franchise’s Julie Delpy), as did the rest of the cast, including the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Kill Bill, Vol. 2  Quentin Tarantino is such an over-rated blood peddler, such a purveyor of violence porn, especially with carnage fests such as Kill Bill, Vol. 2.  He makes trash about white trash.  His main plot points become the murder of people, that’s the creativity evidenced in his work.  His genius is maintaining viewer interest through incessant blood splatter.  He finds revenge so eloquent of a statement about the human condition that he devotes entire movies to it.  One needs a real taste for blood, gore, and violence to appreciate these burnt offerings.

Tarantino sells the inside story to the seedy, the ultra-hip, or those characterized as both — ultimately claiming that his bourgeois, ticket-buying audience has it over everyone.  He promotes stylized violence to the World, and the World embraces it, thus making him extremely rich.  Given that actual violence often mimics what is shown with exquisite detail in motivation and in execution on the silver or TV screen, especially when committed by the younger ones, the world would be a much better place if Quentin was still a video store clerk.

This movie was so offensive in so many ways.  Besides just the violence, it was misogynist — women in a cage motifs — and patronizing to the lowest classes.  Perpetual industry-booster, Roger Ebert gave this garbage four stars.  In his review, he made no mention of the fact that they were burying Beatrix alive in a coffin?  Why bother with a coffin?  Doesn’t that only make her escape all the more likely?  Well, of course it does, how else would she ever survive her given predicament?  The violence is campy on the order of a TV Batman episode.  I had enough an hour and twenty minutes in, just as Uma squished with her foot, the eyeball she just carved from her enemy with an oh-so-special million dollar sword.  I know, completely laughable, if it wasn’t so sickening.

The only redemption to this exercise in schadenfreude is that Uma Thurman was such fun to watch (schadenfreude means enjoying watching others suffer, as Nazis would, and such is the joy here).  Without Uma, there is no movie.  Next, Tarantino will be showing us the inside of a slaughterhouse, and America will be lining up to drop a Hamilton so they can get a look.
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The Academy made the right choice for Best Picture, The Shape of Water.  They didn’t choose two coming-of-age pics about at-risk youth: Lady Bird, and Tell me your Name.  They also turned down two war-related movies: Dunkirk and the Winston Churchill movie, Cigars for Britain.  By Act III, war movies eventually glorify war, even squirmer ones show the glory of national revenge.  Three Billboards over Ebbing, Missouri didn’t win, which was more entertainment about hysterically angry people.

The Academy gave Best Picture gold to The Shape of Water, which was my choice.  It was a romantic comedy (a rom-com, as they are known to inner circle Hollywood types), which are long shots to take home Oscar gold if not rendered with deft direction and sensitivity...

Also, looking at the Ceremony, one thing comes very clear.  The actress pool is thinning fast.  Look back to the glamour of the Golden Age of Hollywood: Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and many, many more.  They were cast for films more for their breeding and full-fledged acting chops, than for their looks.

Today, the women you see on-screen seem more like the by-products of beauty pageants than acting studios or the theater (even sexpot Marilyn Monroe had acting skills).  If you say I’m just plain wrong, match up an actress of today with any from the 1940s, 1950s, or 1960s.  You’ll run out of today’s actresses long before running out of ones from the Golden Age.  As for the leading men, today they are chosen for how often they’ll introduce steroids into their body.
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Ashley Judd will be presenting at this year’s Oscars.  Remember when Pink floated above the audience at the Grammys with a steel trapeze wire?  Well, Ashley will be doing the same thing at the Oscars, again no net here, except she’s not scheduled to sing while she swings.

Ms. Judd is quite the jockette, I have seen video of her doing back flips in her pool.  There is no other actress in Hollywood who can do back flips, younger or older, ever.  Ashley is an avid acroyoga practitioner, so while she dangles mid-air above the Dolby Theater she will be doing moves recently seen on her Instagram account.

There’s more, while she’s gyrating and floating above the Oscar crowd, she will also be presenting.  No word yet on which category, but the home team says she deserves to present Best Picture for taking down the patriarchy.  Ashley’s not to be missed, she will be the 2018 Oscar highlight — guaranteed.
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They’re not the same People

It was a slow day at Other Letter’s Worldwide Headquarters, so we decided to yet again unravel more of life’s mysteries.  These pairs of pictures are not of the same person, they are two very distinct people, living very distinct lives (except for Natasha Richardson, Madeline Kahn, and Patrick Swayze who are now deceased, God rest their weary souls):

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried

(Still from Nine Lives
© Nine Lives, LLC.)

Bette Davis

Bette Davis

(Still from Break at Serengeti
MGM Grand)

Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue

(Still from Heart and Souls
© Universal Pictures)

Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson

(Still from Back to the Future
© Universal Studios)

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek

(Georges Biard)

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz


Natasha Richardson

Natasha Richardson


Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson


Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters

(© 1990 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

Madeline Kahn

Madeline Kahn

(© 1975 20th Century Fox)

Bo Derek

Bo Derek


Linda Evans

Linda Evans

(Linda Bisset)

Emmanuelle Chriqui

Emmanuelle Chriqui


Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev


Jacqueline Bisset

Jacqueline Bisset


Rachel Ward

Rachel Ward


Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze


Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell

(S Pakhrin)

Richard Benjamin

Richard Benjamin


Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum

(Phil Guest)

The avid celebrity cognoscenti should also avoid confusing the following: all of these actresses identify themselves by three names.  If I ever get Copyright attribution straightened out, I will post more celebrities’ images.

Penelope Ann Miller
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Mary Louise Parker
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Mary Stuart Masterson
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Chloe Grace Moretz
Lisa Robin Kelly
Helena Bonham Carter
Melissa Joan Hart

If you would like to participate in our quest to uncover more celebrity twins, drop us an email with a pair of the famous that must have a common gene somewhere.

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Nicole and Charlize, Together at Last

(HDTV Captures)

Charlize Theron smiling

...it’s just a fact of Hollywood.

Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron both won their Academy Awards for playing lesbians, Nicole for The Hours and Charlize for Monster.  Considering they’re two of the most physically attractive women on earth, is this why they get lesbian roles?  Is this why their performances are so highly praised?  Men get off on the whole lesbian fantasy, is American cinema taken over by men’s sexual proclivities?

Now here’s the upshot, Charlize was actually set to play the wife of Nicole in the new film, The Danish Girl.  They’re only lesbians after Nicole gets a sex change operation, but honestly, who cares about the plot.  Hollywood is no longer doing the box office it has in the past, one has to wonder if it’s because they’ve given up on premise, character development, and dialogue.  The entertainment industry does know many would pay just to see Nicole and Charlize get it on, and here we have sexual fantasy beneath the redeeming guise of culture.  A studio executive must have seen the script and rubber stamped it as the next sure thing.


Okay, show’s over, move it along.  1/21/16.  Eddie Redmayne ultimately took the role — as seen in the rest of this article — turned down by Nicole, Charlize, Gwyneth, Uma, and most every other actress in Hollywood.  For his part, he’s up for a Best Actor Oscar this year for his portrayal of the World’s first transsexual, Einar Wegener.  Then more power to Eddie.  I guess he didn’t need pointers from drag queen Rupaul (hey, Mr. Redmayne is essentially in drag, although maybe not so flamboyantly as Rupaul is).

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Substitution in the Cast 11/23/09.  Charlize Theron is now out, Gwyneth Paltrow is in.  This is Gwyneth’s first lesbian role although the high concept here (some might say very high concept) could mean a second Oscar nomination.  Like Charlize and Nicole, Gwyneth won her first Academy Award as a gender bender, she played a cross-dresser in Shakespeare in Love.

To be fair, Ms. Paltrow did not play a blatant, out and out transvestite in her Oscar-winning role.  She played an Elizabethan actress who had to dress as a man to pursue her career; just like Gwyneth now has to play a lesbian to pursue hers.  How’s that for 400 years of progress?

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(Parental Guidance)

cute picture of Marisa Tomei

I found this in
the dictionary under “cute.”

Marisa Tomei and Julie Andrews  2/17/10.  When an actress decides to do a nude scene, what are likely factors in the decision?  Are they talked into it, is it a gamble, is it just another role to play, or is it to show off for a Tinsel Town severely competitive yet only skin deep?  Why hasn’t Merryl Streep ever gone bare?  Two Oscar winners did disrobe for the camera, Julie Andrews in S.O.B. and Marisa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

Even for the best of actresses the decision could just be a function of how in demand they are at the time of the casting call.  Is a line crossed in the sand when an aspiring actress takes on the more prurient of these roles?  If she does cross one, that cinematic release does not embody acting, porn is mechanical and without honed craft (their industry, in fact, tries to tout its product as being drawn from sincere emotion, not tawdry acting).

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Gwyneth bows out, Porn Star with Acting Chops now sought  4/19/10.  Nicole is still heading up the cast — she’s got staying power that one, that little extra something.  We know Charlize and Gwyneth could share many memories of their days (and nights) on the set. 

I would say the casting director is being a little too selective in his choices for Danish Girl.  Oscar winners, and even speaking actresses, come at a premium.  Why not edit out the audio and make it a silent picture, just loop in a much less expensive single electric guitar track.  Honestly, now I am really looking forward to seeing this film, why are the leads begging off?  Eh, I think I know.
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Uma may be our Winner  5/28/10.  Surprisingly, this did not take long at all.  Replacing Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow as Greta Wagener is Oscar nominee Uma Thurman.  The only problem I see with casting Uma as the wife is her height.  Uma is six foot.  Nicole, as the husband, is also tall, but an inch shorter than Uma.  That is not much of a difference, but on a typical 30 by 70 foot movie screen close ups may look a little ridiculous (unlike the premise of this movie).

One wonders how they were able to fill the Danish Girl opening in only five weeks.  Pros that they are, they must have a short list of stars appropriate to the role that they can call on if an actress quits, or feigns mental distress.  Here the short list would be super models with Oscar credentials.

All this role substitution has to be unusual.  Yet considering the nature of the part, it may just be too demanding for most actresses, except so far, for Ms. Kidman.  I wonder if the actors can get paid even if they are not in the finished film.  Then they can just shop around until they find a film that they want to be developed, meanwhile going from set to set collecting very hefty paychecks.  If their work ends up on the cutting room floor, so be it, who would turn down a seven figure payday?
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Charlize, Gwyneth, Uma, and now Lindsay?  8/15/10.  Uma left the cast of Danish Girl almost as soon as she joined it.  The press offered no reason for her exit, although given this level of professionalism, her explanation must have been a good one.  There are tough acting jobs, the role of Greta has to be one of the toughest.

Here is a solution, have Nicole play both major parts just as Lindsay Lohan did a la The Parent Trap.  That would make love scenes difficult as Ms. Kidman would be her own partner, but that’s why body doubles are used.  Better yet, try this.  Rewrite a small portion of the script and have Lindsay play Greta as Kidman’s child bride.  Besides, we know Lindsay can handle the job, she has gone out with women.
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The Joni to Gwyneth Transformation

(Move here to replay, F5 for IE)

Here is a Role Worthy of Ms. Paltrow’s Talent  1/01/11.  Picture this, the cinematic and box office magic of the Joni Mitchell story as played by Gwyneth Paltrow.  Joni Mitchell has characterized her music as folk.  Why not have Ms. Paltrow, having just portrayed a country music star, play a musical relation of the country balladeer, the folk artist?  Gwyneth, one of the preeminent actresses of our age, has said she is growing a little tired of how she is always associated with sex, apparently she is endlessly offered parts having to do with it.  The story of Joni’s life, though, has real substance, true gravitas — not the contrived nonsense commonplace in today’s Hollywood offerings.

This would be a most memorable cinema adventure, the path from Saskatoon to Los Angeles and back to Canada to Vancouver.  Joni Mitchell is the epitome of refinement and taste, she is also a surviving voice of the Woodstock Generation.  This would be a movie many would go see, and would even look forward to its release — Country Strong is whose story?

Reality Shows Unreal  1/01/11.  Today’s fame is the product of public relations campaigns, not extraordinary accomplishment.  Celebrities’ celebrity is prepaid and a by-product of their prepackaged human brand.  They are famous because of the dance contests, the cameras in the scripted ‘reality’ bedroom, the talk show devoted to setting up another’s celebrity.  The typical TV viewer’s mentality: “They must be special, there is an entire series devoted to their lives.”
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The Legends of Ice Hockey

© 2006 Other Letter


Reader discretion is advised.  The following report depicts violence between hockey players.  Could be considered offensive to non-Canadiens, non-hockey players, or even hockey fans.  That should cover everyone.


The Team Match Ups

Back in the 30’s, the Pittsburgh Penguins met the Montreal Canadiens in a contest that would decide much more than a playoff berth.  It would decide how a two-nation sport would be played.  And from there, would determine the character and destiny of professional hockey, its players, and even its fans, forever.

Back then, the Canadiens were known as the Habs, the Habitants, or settlers.  The nickname, humbling for its time, was coined in ’24 by the stateside fighting promoter, and later, Madison Square Garden owner, Tex Rickard.

Montreal was facing off with the penguins in a match that’d send the winner to the playoffs.  This playoff bid was to be the first in either club’s history.  This was the last drive before the elimination round.

The Habs had skating legends, they could skate you against yourself.  They had stick-handlers that were, as a rule, unstoppable.  The penguins had five goons, and even one, on the front line, on offense.  They had a goon on every line.  They had more goons than any other team, before or since.

The faithful in the Canadiens’ Forum knew this was it, and so did their team.  A loss here and the hockey legends were farmhands again, their beloved sport a distant memory. 


Back to the Action

The Habs skated around the penguins in period one.  The penguins checking though, was much more than brutal, every time the ref’s back was turned they took cheap shots, they used intimidation tactics to make the Habs shy off chasing a puck into the boards.

After an extremely vicious stick slashing check to the head of an unfortunate Canadien, he was removed from the ice in a stretcher, body shaking, blood pouring from his head. 

The ref saw it, the Habs saw that the ref saw it, yet the ref didn’t call a penalty, he just waved on the game.  The ref would only call penalties against the Canadiens.  As the team doctor tried to keep the Canadien alive, the Habs circled the ice holding their sticks out in front of them.  

There was no score in regulation.  They went to sudden death overtime, OT, next goal and career’s were done, the Habs’d be finished.


Life outside the Montreal Forum 

Because of the Canadiens very difficult schedule, the hardest in the league, they lost a lot of players to injury, they had been decimated.  They were out numbered, they could barely field a team some nights.  It was night after night, no days off, road trips in cheap seedy motels.  No calls home.  Four to a room, no privacy.  Morale among the Canadiens hit low after low. 

Pittsburgh had the steel industry so they always filled their seats and the superstar life of their players was secure.  And they knew how to fly under the radar.  Top level hockey management wanted to keep Pittsburgh attendance high.  This franchise never had questionable penalties called against them.

The penguins had the most beautiful lady penguins at every home game.  The Habs were deep in the Great Depression, they had a limited but extremely loyal fan base.  At their games they had mostly guys, farmers, some of whom were also firemen, and there was even a pastor with a season ticket subscription.


Went to a Fight, and a Hockey Game Broke Out

By now, all the Habs started holding up their sticks with both hands, a stratagem known as cross checking.  This is a two minute penalty in the NHL, but with the entire team doing it, the game was over.  There was no team left to be fielded.  If they hit the penguins going as fast as they were easily, effortlessly capable of skating, they’d start taking off people’s heads.

What had started as a hockey game, was now more than a blood sport, this was ‘til the death.  Some of the kids in the Forum started crying, fathers told their wives to take them to their car and wait.  The penguins started swinging their sticks like machetes.  The Canadiens were too good though, they managed to just skate around the goons, even though a hockey stick can be wielded like an ax to kill someone.


American Blood Sport

The penguins still weren’t getting any penalty minutes, nothing was being done.  Many in the Forum knew what the deal was.  The ref was in the pocket of NHL management.  They wanted the game rigged so America looked supreme to Canada playing the great game of hockey.

So when the next line left the bench it too held the sticks out in front of them.  They’d be doing damage in return, they’d be returning the favor.  For the next eight minutes, blood was pouring out of players’ noses, ears, and, even, their eyes.  The only ambulance and doctor was at Centre Hospitalier de Saint Laurent, over an hour away taking care of the Hab who was slashed in the first period, but it didn’t matter, there would be fatalities.  The morgue hearse was quickly dispatched.


 Satan Favors a National Anthem

The game was recorded for posterity as a 0-0 tie.  Those in the stands knew the real winner though.  And they’re still playing the rubber match, the winner of this game has yet to be determined, Canadiens replay this every day of their lives.

To this day, old-timers tell of the screams they heard from the Forum while sitting in their cars with their mothers. And when you mention the Pittsburgh-Montreal game they get a little spacey, their eyes glaze over, and they just get bleary-eyed.  They heard Satan sing that night, not before the game but after the game was done.  And he wasn’t singing O’ Canada.  He was singing the Star Spangled Banner.



Pittsburgh Apology  

If anyone from Pittsburgh somehow reads this, I am very sorry.  No offense intended, but the name of your ice hockey team probably dates back to then (it doesn’t, it dates back to 1967).  Somehow it fits the narrative.  Fans identify their teams with their personalities.  I didn’t mean to trash Pittsburgh or fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Maybe I can make it up to you.  The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, I’m trying to figure this out, do they all join somewhere, what are their sources?  I’m guessing they don’t crisscross.  Next time anyone asks directions to Three Rivers Stadium, you can tell them that, it’s where the rivers cross.  Anyhow, thanks again, this is really appreciated.


I cannot Tell a Lie

When I’m tried for treason and sedition against the United States for the last line of this story (where Satan picks a country), I am sure a United States District Attorney will approach me at the defendant’s stand and begin with the following questioning:


DA:      “Are you Al Queda?”

Me:      “No.”

DA:      “But you have Satan singing the Star Spangled Banner?”

Me:      “Yes.”

DA:      “Satan doesn’t sing O’ Canada?”

Me:      “He doesn’t have to.  He’s not welcome there.  He knows where his audience is.”

DA:      “And yet you’re not [sneering] Al Queda?”

Me:      “[sheepish and all kind of defensive] No.”

DA:      “You’re Al Queda!!!”

Me:      “I bet you say that to all the detainees.”


© Other Letter, Year of our Bush 2006

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Good for the Game

Exclusive to the New York World
By Walter Fielder
April 10, 1920
Polo Grounds

From my press box above the Polo Grounds, I join the ovation for the Sultan of Swat, the Great Bambino, the most savvy baseball player of our age.  His December 26th trade, from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, will forever change the sport of baseball.  Forget for a moment that the Bosox’ owner, Harry Frazee, could only trade to one other team besides the Yanks, the Chisox (a mandate per American League president, Ban Johnson). 

After last fall’s Blacksox scandal we needed a marquis player.  One bigger than life itself to play in the biggest, big league city, the five boroughs of New York.  The Babe deal gives the game a much needed lift, even saving it from its demise.  Our friends in Bean Town will be sorely disappointed.  After four World Series championships in the last decade, though, isn’t it time for the men in pinstripes to win some?  Besides, why have the Babe stay with the empty-handed cousin?

The ball is back on the diamond of the greatest city in the world.  The World War will soon be a distant memory -- any Yanks from the War for the Union reading today?  Lucky for us, a bright future awaits Yankee baseball.

We all know the Babe and Head Coach Ed Barrow went at it in Boston, occasioning many, including yours truly, to say it was time for the Babe’s departure.

I, too, was surprised when the same Ed Barrow followed the Babe to the Yankees as Head Coach, just a month after the Babe made it to the Yanks.  Big time baseball, go figure.

Young and old, if you read these pages day in and day out (and forever), you know what I think, the Babe is the greatest celebrity we’ll see in the roaring 20’s.  Looking ahead, he could even make it in Hollywood.  Many New Yorkers are saying his arrival may very well be the start of something great for the Yanks and something even better for the City, the only city that can afford to keep these kinds of players, players in their prime.

Three weeks after the Babe’s trade to the Yanks, we lose booze.  Gives the mob something to sell though.  The Great Bambino’s been known to have a few even though ones like us don’t deserve that right.  Prohibition is the law!!  We’ll look the other way for you though, Mr. George Herman Ruth. 

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With the sudden departing of Marilyn Monroe we asked the man on the street (and a few women), how they felt about her untimely death.  Interview subjects silhouetted so they may remain anonymous.  

I, of course, was sad to see her go. Quite a fun one her.

Just a coquette, little else.

She went through what most woman go through. And that’s being treated like a possession when we’re beautiful, and ignored if we’re not.

She seemed to have it all, but appearances can be deceiving.

She stole every scene she was in at the playhouse.

I would love to marry her kind one day, innocent and warm, full of life. Although as it turned out, death was alot closer than we ever could even think.


See how much the attitudes regarding gender have progressed.  Would these be 1962’s reactions, those from more than a century earlier, or those from today?  Hard for me to tell. 

Some women are, simply put, captivating.  Marilyn Monroe fell under that category, and eventually gave up trying to get the respect she craved.  Hollywood labeled her a dumb floozy; she was never given the opportunity to refute the accusation.

For a full account of her life, click here Portrait silhouettes circa the early 1800’s. 

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Monty’s Millions

Monty Mall:  Well, after five, long months of qualifiers, it’s time you put some cash in your wallet.  Now you have a wife and how many kids?

Jim:  Five kids.

Monty Mall:  Okay, are you ready to make a million dollars, Jim?

Jim:  Definitely.

Monty Mall:  How are you doing?

Jim:  Hanging in there.

Monty Mall:  Then welcome to our Millionaires Round.  Just select one of the following Master Tasks, and complete it:

One, push a semi down the I-95 Corridor from Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts;
Two, levitate your house;
Or Three, extract blood from this stone.

Jim: Where do you keep the million dollars?

Monty Mall:  You just need to do one of these three Master Tasks, Jim.

Jim:  Is it on the set?

Monty Mall:  One of the three, Jim, you need to just choose one of the three ... Jim, down boy ... Jim, I’m just the emcee ... Agghh!!!
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Welcome to the 24-Hour Fashion Network

Lance Pike:  Welcome back to the 24-Hour Fashion Network.  I’m your host, Lance Pike, taking you through the overnight.  Jack Rose is up next with his live report about waffle-weave polos, and where you will find them this summer — Jack?

Jack Rose:  Yes Lance, waffle-weaves are known as a wintry fabric, they’re air bafflers.  These days, though, many men, and the ladies too, are finding them in polos.  I have a sample here, this is not your father’s waffle-weave with the very wide rib-knitting.  And as you can see, the weaving is drop-stitched, not side-knitted.

Lance Pike:  Why would people need to choose a waffle over, say, a standard ring-spun textile?

Jack Rose:  Actually, it all depends on the individual.  One may be hoping for wicking; the next, comfort and breeze resilience in the evening.

Lance Pike:  Who would like a waffle?

Jack Rose:  A lot of people — and not just those working in the trade — are now asking, “Who would not like a waffle?”

Lance Pike:  Who wears waffles?

Jack Rose:  This is what everyone is talking about this year — the demographic is shifting.  Once, waffles were only for the elite, and rarely seen outside the polo grounds.  They were originally for the polo player and his spectator, as the accoutrément for the sporting enthusiast.  Today, anyone can wear them, and they do.

Lance Pike:  You sound disappointed.

Jack Rose:  Well, to be frank, I am.  Fashion is branded on exclusivity and cachet, and with the waffle, we’re starting to see some of this being taken away from us.  There is a wide chasm between Democracy, and Fashion Democracy, between the Distribution of Wealth, and the Distribution of Fashion.  In a free, well-balanced society, these chasms must be bridged, or we’ll all just teeter-totter right over the edge.

Lance Pike:  Do waffles last?

Jack Rose:  People won’t even hand these down, they’ll tell siblings, “Let go of my waffles.”  If they don’t need them, they will store them.

Lance Pike:  So what time of year would people wear these fabrics, Jack?

Jack Rose:  That really is determined by your latitude, and how far into summer you are.  For latitudes South of the Mason-Dixon Line, and beginning after Memorial Day, this is a safe, care-free weave — you will not have to concern yourself with catching chills, or keeping them spotless.  You are good to go.

Lance Pike:  What about our friends to the North?

Jack Rose:  Then this fabric becomes a little more dicey.  Experts tell us you won’t have a problem after the Summer Solstice if you’re in Canada — this would also include Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and even parts of Iowa.

Lance Pike:  What about the Windy City?

Jack Rose:  It’s pretty much the same story there, although you’ll want to switch away from your mid-Spring, mid-weight collection to the waffle sooner than, say, someone in Alberta’s Calgary or Edmonton, although not sooner than someone in Billings, Montana.

Lance Pike:  Billings is so much warmer?

Jack Rose:  Well, the elevation is higher, so the fabric’s thermal properties respond to being closer to the Sun.

Lance Pike:  Thank you, that’s so fascinating.

Jack Rose:  You’re welcome, Lance.

Lance Pike:  Jack Rose.  Up next from our Fashion Fun department, you thought the catwalk was just for models.  Well, this catwalk is for cats.  We’ll be right back after this ...
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The One-cup Brassiere  8/21/13.

Lance Pike:  ... Roger Reed on the cats’ catwalk in New York.  Up next, Raquel Racque with the lingerie that you may not be wearing right now, but you will be, along with everyone else.  Raquel?

Raquel Racque:  Yes Lance, this is the story of the One-cup Brassiere, the latest fashion accessory out of Paris from the House o’ France ... See Lance, this is fashioned almost like your typical unmentionables.  Say you’re at a party, and you would like to go braless for one prospective suitor, say a former beau, and show support to another, say a wealthy aristocrat.  Until today, this was impossible, there was no other way to present two different looks to two very different men at opposite sides of the room.  With the One-cup though, women can display the braless side to one man, and the lifted side to the other.

Lance Pike:  Sounds very practical.  Women are heading to their corsetieres in record numbers for this piece, besides the obvious common sense to such a garment, what is motivating them?

Raquel Racque:  Well, certainly value — the woman gets two looks for the price of one.

Lance Pike:  I might find these in which sizes?

Raquel Racque:  Every recognized brassiere size is available.  In America, this is A to G, in Britain, A to LL, although some manufacturers go to N.  By the way, they are not sold in pairs like underpants, they are known as singles.

Lance Pike:  Has there been full support in the industry for this design?

Raquel Racque:  Yes, very full support, with some socialites saying the design is almost uplifting.

Lance Pike:  Thank you very much for that revealing report, Ms. Racque.  Up next, want to spruce up your wardrobe on a limited budget?  Have you seen the new burlap lines?  You’ll need to thank us for it.  We’ll be right back after a few words with Tourism China.

Postscript:  there may be a question regarding which man the woman will wear her bra for — her old beau, or the wealthy aristocrat.  The former boyfriend only remembers how she made his passion soar.  He knows how she looks au naturel, and he does not care as much how she looks any more, he just wants to be with her again.  The wealthy aristocrat at this point is mostly a superficial dalliance, so she wants to enhance her looks, he will not be the wiser until later, if she so allows him.

There is a second tack though.  She wants to be revealing and sexy to the aristocrat so she goes braless.  Her old beau may have earned more of her respect than the aristocrat, so she wants to be more presentable and dignified for him.  We welcome your comments.
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Matchmaker, Matchmaker ...

Grandpa:  Why not go out with that Dutch girl, Charlize?

Alex:  She’s South African, Grandpa.

Grandpa:  Dutch, South African, six of one, half dozen of the other.

Alex:  Grandpa somehow thinks my prospects are that good.  I know he means well, but I couldn’t afford one dinner like the kind they’re used to having.

Grandpa:  Then go Dutch treat with your Dutch treat.

Alex:  — And Grandpa’s ideas about women are just a little old-fashioned.

Grandpa:  I heard that! ... Hey, how about that spicy Italian dish, Marisa.

Alex:  She only dates philanthropists.

Grandpa:  Hmm ... Then how about the one with all the curves, Kirsten?

Alex:  Grandpa, how would I ever meet any of these women?

Grandpa:  You have a web site, don’t you?  Post an ad.  Put your picture on it, too.

Alex:  I’ll have to think about this, Grandpa.

Grandpa:  Say, there’s the one who’s always in the news, what is her name?

Alex:  Gwynnie, Gwyneth.

Grandpa:  Yes, Gwynnie.

Alex:  Grandpa, we’ll take this up again after dinner?  It’s ready now ...
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The Other Letter Interview

Other Letter: Soixante Minutes, was that your given name?

Soixante Minutes: Yes, in French it means Sixty Minutes.

Other Letter: How is that pronounced?

Soixante Minutes: “Swah-sante mee-nute.”

Other Letter: That is a very unusual name.

Soixante Minutes: Thank you.  My parents were firm believers in lifelong careerism.  You know, mentoring in pre-school, instilling capitalist values, all that good stuff.  They also felt I should set my sights high, high as they could go.  Where higher than our country’s premier news weekly?

Other Letter: So they named you after this TV show.  Always nice to have a leg up.  How appropos.

Soixante Minutes: Yes, I am employed by my namesake ... [The red light above a TV camera lights up] ... We are back with our guest, Other Letter.  You have a very unusual story.  You are hated in many quarters because you have a web site with very unpopular — many would say un-American — opinions.

Other Letter: So un-American I used to fear for my life.

Soixante Minutes: What changed?

Other Letter: I stopped knocking guns.  Now Other Letter has links to Walmart, photos of Bushmasters, I am officially pro-NRA.  Like to go shooting?

Soixante Minutes: Now?

Other Letter: No time like the present.  What do you shoot?

Soixante Minutes: What?!

Other Letter: Never mind, we’ll make it another time.

Soixante Minutes: How do you feel about abortion?

Other Letter: Same thing.  I wrote things about back room abortions, forcing rape pregnancies to term, a male-centric Church.  Yeah, and unwanted children not wanting to see their birth mothers.  But I have seen the Lord, I have mended my ways.  Abortion is a mortal sin against God, it’s in the Bible somewhere.

Soixante Minutes: What about Al Queda?

Other Letter: What about it?

Soixante Minutes: You have claimed that what has given rise to Al Queda is what must be addressed, sending out drones against them is not the answer.

Other Letter: I heard a funny thing about that on NPR the other day.  If we send out drones to other nations, can other nations return the favor, and do the same to us?  Representative King has spoken for the Irish Republican Army.  Because the IRA is a terrorist organization to Great Britain, can Britain send missile drones over his office?

Soixante Minutes: Do you fear you will pay for being a loose cannon?

Other Letter: No, I am pro-NRA, anti-abortion, and anti-terrorism.  What could I possibly have to fear?
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Rewriting TV Theme Songs

The next time you watch the Mary Tyler Moore show, make sure you listen to the final verse of the theme song.  On the first season’s shows, the theme ends with “... You might just make it after all.”  Every season after that, it’s “... You’re going to make it after all.” The first theme is dark, somewhat foreboding, as if to say, hey, as a small-town Minnesotan, she may not take to the big city life of Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

The next version is upbeat, reassuring, and cheerful, MTM will take the bull by the horns, the fates are all with her.  Also in the second version, we see her settling in — she’s washing her car in a purple number ten jersey.  That’s the jersey of Minnesota Viking’s Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, she follows the local teams.  In the park sequence, MTM takes a brisk spring walk.  You can tell it’s July by all the melting snow.

MTM Season One

MTM Changes Tone

At the time this was all happening, the War in Vietnam was raging out of control, all manner of cultural upheaval was taking place, yet here we had this determined young woman setting an early feminine feminist example for career women (in fact, if you can read lips a little, in the season one intro, it seems like she’s saying “feminism” should be a theme).  Watching the show, I do remember there was something about her personality I really liked, one facet being she was so sincere, another that she was very kind.

Gilligan’s Island 1st Season (Maryanne & Prof 2nd-billed)

Gilligan’s Island Everyone Included (after 1st season)











Gilligan’s Island also had two theme songs.  When the show was in black and white the theme ends with: “... the Movie Star, and the rest, are here on Gilligan’s Island,” the rest referring to Mary Ann and the Professor.  The closing bars when the show was in color: “... the Movie Star, the Professor, and Mary Ann, are here on Gilligan’s Island.”  Of course there was the debate: Mary Ann or Ginger, country or city, girl next door or glamour puss, country charm or cosmopolitan sophistication.  It’s surprising they initially gave second billing to Mary Ann, and, for that matter, to the Professor.  I guess life goes on.

12/22/09.  I left out Betty White, the Happy Homewrecker, er, Homemaker on MTM.  She did a superlative job, as did Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman.

1/19/12.  Best I include the entire Emmy and Golden Globe-winning cast: Georgia Engel, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, and Ted Knight (who, in 1986 at age 62, passed away from cancer).

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Secrets Revealed from Sixties and Seventies, American Television  4/3/11.  If you grew up watching TV from the Sixties and Seventies, a few questions from then may remain unanswered.  For openers, who and where were the Bradys’ and Partridges’ original spouses?  On the Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family, and on other TV series, very significant elements of the premise were left only to the imagination.

The long sought identity of Carol’s first husband was revealed on an episode rarely seen in syndication, “The Honeymoon.”  Carol Brady’s full name is Carol Ann Tyler Martin Brady.  The derivation: Ann is her middle name, Tyler is her maiden name, and Martin was her last name until the day she walked down the chapel aisle with Mike Brady.  So after Carol began raising her three daughters, yet before she was a Brady, she was known as Mrs. Carol Martin.

The show’s open-minded creator, Sherwood Schwarz, wanted Carol’s first marriage to Mr. Martin to have ended in divorce.  However, the network brass felt a soured marriage followed by the unthinkable would never help to buoy ratings, so they respectfully requested Mrs. Brady be a widow.  Deadlocked, both principles decided against revealing anything at all about Carol’s first marriage (other than the Martins had three girls together).  Re the paternal side, Mr. Brady’s first wife had died, the cause of death was never given.

In the early ’70s, every Friday night at 8:30, a family band loosely based on the Cowsills broadcast over the airwaves coast to coast.  With the Brady Bunch as their lead in, they opened each show singing “C’mon Get Happy,” we know them as the Partridge Family.  Susan Dey of L.A. Law fame got her start here as the eldest sister.  David Cassidy, the real stepson of Oscar-winner Shirley Jones, played her stage son on the Partridge Family as well.  All the while, where was Mr. Partridge?  He had died six months prior to the pilot episode.

There are questions on TV programming besides ones about matrimony.  Why did Carol Burnett pull her left ear at the end of each show?  Originally, the gesture was to let her grandmother know she was alright (both her parents were alcoholics who could not care for her).  Later, it was meant for her daughter to let her know she loved her, all was well.  Who was the put-upon cleaning woman from the recurring sketch?  Elizabeth Taylor played one incarnation of the role in the Eighties.  I cannot find the answer though, the charwoman was either an invention of Ms. Burnett, or her writers.

Finally, why were the castaways on Gilligan’s Island so well-packed and well-dressed for their three hour tour?  It was Shriner Luau week, and hotels were over-booked so they had to carry their luggage everywhere they went.  Actually, the last one is a slight mis-truth, they needed clothes for the series.
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