“DEADLIEST CATCH” SUPER FANS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are huge fans of a reality show called “Deadliest Catch”. We’ve watched it religiously for 13 years. The show follows six or seven crab boats, based in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as they fish for crab each year in the Bering Sea.

Crab fishing used to be known as the most dangerous profession in the United States because of the high rates of injuries and deaths on crab boats each season. It’s less deadly these days, but still treacherous. An intrepid production crews live on the boats with the fishermen while they fish. They film conversations with and between the captain and the crew as well as following the ups and downs of the hunt for large quantities of the lucrative crab.

Why do we avidly watch people fishing day after day? Well, the viewers also get to know the captain and crew very well. There’s always tension between crew members and/or between crew members and the captain. On several boats, the captains bring along family members as part of the crew – brothers, sons, nephews, even a daughter once. So there’s plenty of family drama as well.

We’ve followed medical crises, including heart attacks, injuries, addiction, and even the death of a beloved captain. We’ve watched fights and feuds as well as bonding and friendship both on the boats and between the boats. You get to really like some captains and hate others because of their style of leadership, bad judgment, arrogance or quick tempers.

It’s fascinating to watch these men live in close quarters for weeks at a time under stressful work conditions in the middle of nowhere. This definitely creates an unusual dynamic. I used to think that the personal relationships and the personalities of the captains were the main elements that kept us watching week after week, year after year.

But I realized that I would not watch this show, with the same people, if they were on fire trucks instead of crab boats. It’s not just the characters or their dangerous jobs that keep us watching. The sea and its unpredictability is a major character in the drama. That’s what makes the show riveting. There are frequent, treacherous storms throughout the season. Winds can get to more than 60 miles an hour and the seas and waves can grow to be more than 30 feet high. Yet the men fish through all but the worst storms!

It’s mind boggling to watch these boats take on giant waves, smashing through them or being catapulted from side to side like children’s toys.

The sea is also isolating. Each boat fishes over 100 miles from their home port. They are often far, far away from any land. The boats are often far away from each other as well. So when something breaks on a boat, which happens frequently, the crew is totally on their own. They have to figure out how to fix it without a trip to the store or any outside advice. They at least have to be able to patch things up enough to be able to limp back to shore for repairs.

There is something mesmerizing about these men, alone in a giant and tempestuous sea, trying to find crabs and stay afloat and alive. This is one of the few shows we actually watch on the night it airs. We can’t wait to see the next episode.

We’re not alone. The show airs in over 200 countries and has lasted for 13 seasons!

Who’d have thought anyone would be at the edge of their seats, waiting to see if a crab pot coming over the edge of a boat is full of crabs or empty? Who’d have thought the same story every week would keep us coming back for more than a decade?

And there’s no sex and almost no violence. Go figure!

DEVIL IN MISS JONES

Halloween was always a special holiday for my group of friends. From the early 1970s, we held an annual Halloween party. Each year, we descended on a friend’s parent’s summer house in the Berkshires. The house was not huge, but we were young and found places to sleep, even if it was on the floor or a hammock on the porch.

Those were the days before DVDs or even videotape — long before big screen televisions — so we rented a projector, screen and a movie. The occasion called for a horror movie. We tended to the classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman (poor Larry Talbot) … but lacking one of these, any horror movie would do.

It was the centerpiece of our weekend’s entertainment — in addition to the pleasure of getting together to see each other.

The last year we had the party in the mountains, just before most of us got married and settled down, the guys in charge of movie rental were late getting to it. All the familiar films were gone. So, in the spirit of trying something new, they rented “The Devil in Miss Jones.”

It sounded like a horror movie to them. The Devil? Halloween? Right?

Given the audience and our condition — drugs and alcohol flowed freely in those halcyon days of yore — the movie had predictable but hilarious (depending on what you find funny) results. I won’t go into lurid detail, but I think it was our absolutely best ever Halloween party. Subsequent parties became more elaborate. Bigger, almost like virtual reality rides at a theme park.

But the year we watched “The Devil in Miss Jones” brought us closer in ways we would not soon forget. I certainly haven’t, especially since that party was when Garry and I grew really close. Now we are fused at the hip and share those special memories. Do you youngsters ever wonder what grandma and grandpa are giggling about over there on the recliner?

So you see? Things can turn out fine, even when they apparently go awry. Thank you Georgina Spelvin and Harry Reems. It was your finest effort!

MY HARD TO DESCRIBE HOBBY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m frustrated. I have a hobby that people don’t understand. I try to explain it to them in different ways until I see the glimmer of recognition in their eyes.

I’m part of an audio theater company. We call ourselves “Voicescapes Audio Theater”. We write and produce short audio plays, both comedy and drama. We post them online and also perform 60-90 minute live shows, whenever we can.

Audio theater is theater that is primarily, audio. Like old time radio dramas, but updated.  We try not to use the phrase ‘radio drama’ because it conjures images of old-fashioned melodrama, kitsch, overacting, and schmaltz. We write modern, sophisticated material attuned to today’s sensibilities and styles. Nothing like the old days.

For generations, radio was a primary form of entertainment around the world. Radio had all the shows TV now does – dramas, mysteries, serial or standalone, sit-coms and other kinds of comedy. Talk shows, game shows, news, documentaries, and of course, music.

In the ‘50’s, television became the entertainment of choice. But in England, radio, in all its original forms, retained its place in the lives of Brits along with television. England continues to have a thriving radio culture. It’s professional, well-financed and popular. The quality is on par with what is available on TV and in movies.

In America, television completely eclipsed radio, and radio almost died out as an art form. On a professional level, radio continues to play music. There are many talk shows and of course, news, but not much else. The other forms of original ‘radio drama’ have been pretty much relegated to the amateur world. The quality is generally not on the same level as its professional, paid counterparts on TV. It also has a fraction of the audience it had in it’s heyday.

So we’re left searching for the right analogy to get across to people what we do. We use the phrase ‘enhanced play reading’. The problem is, “play reading” sounds dry and not ready for prime time. Our pieces are polished productions, complete with sound effects, live and recorded, as well as music. We provide a fully-realized theatrical experience for your ears.

People love our performances. Not to brag, but we’ve been told our writing is clever, brilliant, and thought-provoking. Our actors are experienced, talented professionals. One member of our company, Barbara Rosenblat, is an Audie-award winning audio book narrator, with over 500 audio books to her credit. She has appeared on Broadway and off-Broadway, as well as on television, including on the Netflix series, ‘Orange Is The New Black’. Another member of our company, Robin Miles, has also won Audies and other awards for her audio book narration.

Our one honest-to-God review said that our performance was “A night to remember. Excellent writing and performances. A unique type of humor that audiences will carry with them when they leave.” (Cynthia Allen, Outer Critics Circle and Modern Theater Online).

So, we’re excited about what we do. Everyone who sees or hears us is excited about our product. Once you experience our unique form of entertainment, you ‘get it’ and you’re hooked. The problem is explaining what we do to get people interested in checking us out online or in person.

You can help by going to our website, listening to some or our pieces and spreading the word to your friends. I know that geographically, you can’t all come to our live shows in New York and Connecticut. But we have a whole other life online. We post all our material so anyone and everyone can listen for free.

Here is our website, VOICESCAPES AUDIO THEATER. There is also a link on the sidebar, so you can click any time and see what we do. Enjoy a comedy about driving through the countryside of France with two warring GPS machines. Or a comedy describing the joys of trying to cancel a cable account with customer service. Try one in which a husband and wife argue about whether farts are really funny. There is also a Twilight Zone style drama about the year 2014, when one woman wakes up to a very different and puzzling world. There is even one children’s piece if you have young children or grandchildren.

There should be something for everyone. Please give us a try and let me know what you think!

FILM REVIEW: LA CARA OCULTA (2011) – THE HIDDEN FACE

hidden-face-posterThe Hidden Face (La Cara Oculta) is a supremely dark movie, literally and figuratively. The subject is dark and most of the movie takes place in dim light or actual darkness.

At first glance, I thought it was going to be a whodunnit and I was good with that. But early on, the plot became obvious, so what remained was a race against time. The overall story is standard thriller cum police drama “missing person” stuff.  As the movie opens, we watch a “dear john” video from a young woman leaving her boyfriend with minimal explanation (but a lot of subtext). Her boyfriend (who we will soon learn is a renowned orchestral conductor) watches the video. Apparently baffled, miserable, in despair. It’s a flashback, because the film immediately moves forward to “now” as he meets someone new and begins a relationship. The story flashes back again. Despite how it sounds, the flashing back and forth is not confusing,  just tricky to write about.

Into precisely what genre The Hidden Face fits is murky.

It’s creepy, but not a horror movie. It’s a mystery, but so briefly no detective work is required. I was surprised at how soon in the film lays the whole story out. It eliminated any element of surprise or mystery, leaving creepiness without suspense. Does that make it sort-of horror? A ghost story without a ghost? Secrets don’t stay secrets long. The film put everything out there, up front.

The film would benefit from a tighter edit. Too many beauty shots  of the stars walking on the beach, ambling along by the river, looking sad, staring into mirrors (many mirrors, lots of staring), suffering, pondering, despairing. You could trim a lot of it without compromising the story. Fewer shots of Fab walking, thinking, pondering, Adri conducting, flirting, suffering, yada yada. That much B-roll is directorial self-indulgence and it gets old quickly.

After the who-done-what is revealed, the movie becomes a race against the clock. The only remaining question is who will win the race. That’s when I started to lose interest. The situation was indeed creepy, even horrible. But very little was happening and although nothing much is happening, it takes a rather long time to not happen. Back to the editing room!

Have I seen anything like this before? Yes.

Even before they show you everything, there are plenty of tells for anyone familiar with mystery or horror stories. Moreover, the plot is classic and everyone will recognize it. Think fairy tale crossed with Edgar Allen Poe. I believe the movie’s writers assume the situation, the premise itself, will generate sufficient tension without action. No need for story. It doesn’t work for me.  I need a story. So this movie wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m a coffee drinker. If you like tea, you might love it.

hidden-face-stillThe cinematography is moody and broody. I appreciate the artistry. The “sexy scenes” were just that. Nothing pornographic about them. Had the overall tone of the film not been so edgy, it might have been romantic, even titillating. The sense of “something wrong” overshadows all else and the foreboding short-circuits potential erotica.

My aging eyes I would have preferred more light (as in wattage). The poor quality print may have contributed to the problem because it was difficult to focus on the picture, but most of the film takes place at night or in shadow so it wasn’t brightly lit to start with. After repeated copying of the original print, there was considerable squinting involved for me. Not a movie for the weak of vision.

Did I enjoy it? I liked the beginning a lot. I like the middle, mostly. By the end, I was eager for it to be over. Would I recommend it? It depends on who’s asking. I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t get into it or wrap my head around it. If the tale had unfolded in a normal timeline rather than flashing back and forth, that might have helped. Maybe. I wish they had saved some surprises for the second half.

The situation was eerie, but for a movie to work for me, I need more. I need a story. Characters to whom I can in some way relate. Interesting dialogue. In this case any dialogue would have helped. Maybe I’m just not artistic enough to appreciate the nuances, but from where I sit, the problem was not too much nuance. It was too little.

BINGE WATCHING “OUTLANDER” by ELLIN CURLEY

I am currently binge-watching a show called “Outlander” on Starz. I’m late to the game on this one.  It is in its second season and has legions of loyal fans.

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It takes place in the lush and magnificent Highlands of Scotland and the time period switches back and forth between 1945 and 1745. I am a huge time travel fan so this is a big draw for me. However the butterfly effect is totally ignored. No attention is paid to the fact that the main character would be changing the timeline right and left as she went through each day two hundred years in the past. This is not an intellectual or theoretical endeavor.

The story centers on a married, British WWII nurse who is sucked back in time to 1745 Scotland. She ends up married to and madly in love with (in that order), a young Scottish gentleman who has a price on his head by the British occupiers.

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For me, the key to “Outlander’s” success is that it focuses narrowly on these two main characters – the nurse, Claire and her 1745 husband, Jamie. The subsidiary characters have few plot lines of their own. They are almost exclusively seen with and in relation to Claire and Jamie, which intensifies the viewers’ connection with them. They are both richly complex and appealing characters, played by extraordinarily talented and attractive actors. They are riveting to watch and their fascinating relationship changes and deepens as time goes by.

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The show highlights period costumes and period customs. There is also plenty of romance, nudity and beautiful sex scenes. The writing is fantastic although the heavy dialects often make it hard to understand all of the dialogue. The balance is spot on between high drama and intimate moments; between politics (at all levels) and personal relationships; and between heavy, dark plot lines (including lots of sword fights) and humor and humanity.

On top of everything else, the theme song is permanently stuck in my head as well as my husband’s. The melody is a lyrical old Celtic tune and the lyrics used here are based on a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. The song permeates the lush background music and adds atmosphere throughout the series.

I’m usually circumspect about what I recommend to other people on TV, especially when it requires an investment of 16 hours, just for the first season! However, the variety of people who have extolled this show to me makes me confident that it will appeal to a wide range of blog readers as well.

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If you’ve already seen it, tell me what YOU think of it. If you watch it in the future, you’re in for a real treat.

IT’S TRUE! I SAW IT ON THE NEWS!

Introduction – Garry Armstrong


I remember discussions about news coverage more than 50 years ago.  My college radio colleagues and I thought the mainstream media outlets were sellouts, ignoring the real stories and covering their collective butts with government propaganda. Some of us vowed to seek employment with the CBC, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we would have a greater chance to tell the truth.

skydivingLuck intervened and I landed a job with ABC Network News as a 20 something. ABC, coincidentally, was revamping its national and international news format. They wanted new blood. We were encouraged to be fresh and innovative. Newbie newsies like me leapfrogged over veterans from the advent of radio and TV news.

The late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the new “golden era” for broadcast news. We had access to newsmakers in the highest places. We were emboldened to take chances even when threatened by power brokers. I always worked in the moment, never fearing the consequences of political windmills I might tilt.

It was a Camelot period for those of us who sought to report the truth. Then everything began to change.

Fast forward ahead to today and the proliferation of 24 hour cable news and social media. Camelot is dead. News — local and network — is controlled by corporate entertainment divisions.

Newbie newsies today don’t have the support or access I did half a century ago, but they still have a bully pulpit and should use it — if they have the courage and conviction to try to create change.


AND NOW, THE NEWS … ALREADY IN PROGRESS


Garry was a news guy for more than 40 years. For most of those years, he was a reporter. You could watch him on television pretty much every day. He covered breaking news. Murder, fires, disasters. Blizzards, hurricanes, politics. Riots. Court cases. Wherever something was happening, there he was. I knew the news from both sides. How it was made, how come some stories got on the air and others did not. What made a story “hot” and why. I have no illusions about the accuracy of media, but I also know how hard reporters work.

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Reporters mostly don’t choose what they report. They can enterprise projects and sometimes get the green light to do something they believe in. And of course, a reporter can request to be put on a particular story. Sometimes they get a yes, sometimes no. Reporters are employees. They have bosses. The news directors and their directors. Not to mention the people who own the corporation and the sponsors who pay the bills.

Way back in the 1970s, news became entertainment. Before that, it was public service. Maybe it will be again, someday, but for now, news has to make money and get ratings. Therefore, the news will be full of whatever stories news outlets think we want. Hopefully this isn’t a surprise to anyone. You all knew this, right?

That’s how we have wound up with Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. He was entertaining. He brought in viewers and ratings. We watched. Love him or hate him, we tuned in to see him. Now, we stand in imminent danger of seeing a lot more of the Trump than most of us imagined in our darkest nightmares. You get what you pay for.

We expect a lot from news and those who report it. We expect honesty. Stories based on truth. Facts. We hold the news to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. How’s that working out for you? Not so good?

We are all responsible for seeking truth. We don’t have to believe lies. Nobody would get away with making stuff up and presenting it as truth — or news — if we were not predisposed to embrace it. We will get accountability and accuracy from media only when we demand it.

As a final note of irony, apparently the Brits are now — just a wee bit late — Googling “European Union” to discover what they actually voted to dissolve. That’s what happens when you believe what they tell you because it’s what you want to hear.

THE DAILY POST | FALSE

A GREAT AMERICAN BIRTHDAY PARTY – 2016

Yankee Doodle Dandy

It’s the 4th of July again! We are planning to watch the most spectacular fireworks display anywhere,  the 1812 Overture accompanied by howitzers and fireworks over the Charles River in Boston … where arguably, it all began.

There more than a hint of bitter-sweetness to this years celebration.

David Mugar, who has supported and made possible this fantastic show seen round the world, is retiring after this show. He has been the grand master and primary support for this show for 43 years … and no one has stepped up to the plate to take over the festivities. Boston’s long-running Independence Day event may be at its end.

Which would be very sad because there’s nothing like it. The music, the orchestra, the river …. the hundreds of thousands of people who literally wait all year and for hours in line before the event because it really IS that good.

When we lived in Boston, we actually got to see the fireworks live and hear the concert from our balcony in the apartment where we lived.

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If we wanted to get even closer, we could stroll a few hundred yards, see and hear the entire event from the Arthur Fiedler footbridge over the Charles.

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It was the best view in town and though watching it on television is okay, now that we live way out here in the country, there is nothing that beats being there.

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Boston has been doing better since the horrors of the terrible marathon year and David Mugar has been a big part of the recovery. He deserves his very own parade and celebration for the good he has done for this city.

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Now it’s time to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy, assuming someone is showing it. If not, we have a DVD. Yes, I know we saw it just a couple of weeks ago, but I need my music and dance fix.

When Garry and I were growing up in New York, “Million Dollar Movie” showed the movie frequently. Albeit with bizarre edits and often, using a grainy, tired copy of the film … but for us kids, it was enough. We learned the words, songs, the dances, the spirit.

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Tonight, we’ watch again as James Cagney dances down the steps in the White House. We always replay it half a dozen times. Can’t get enough of it. In case you feel the same way, I’ve included it so you can replay it as many times as you want. What a great movie! Happy Birthday to US!

This is the beginning of American autonomy, when we stepped off the sidelines and entered the mainstream of the world’s history and politics. Let’s hope we remember that what we do matters, not only to us, but to the entire world. We aren’t a little colony anymore. We’ve moved up to “the Bigs.”

Autonomy | The Daily Post