Grapes on the Way














It's really hard to figure out what's "normal" for my grapevine because this is the first year I have witnessed things underway in the Spring. Does this mean the grapes are going to be green? Does this mean they're healthy? I don't know.

I do know this--it's fun to watch things happen. It's fun not knowing. I suppose it will be a let down come harvest time, but oh well.













You Will Love America Or Else




This tweet implies a few things that should be addressed.

1. This is what fascism looks like--blind obedience to the state, beginning with the inculcation of children.

2. America's children don't already love their country? When did this become an issue? Trump believes that if he talks about how awful he thinks America was when Obama was president, people will nod and agree with him. What a bunch of bullshit.

3. The flag is a symbol of the country, but it is not sacrosanct. The reason why America is great is because you can ignore the flag, burn the flag, and do stupid things with it and no one will throw you in jail or destroy you.

4. Why is President Trump holding a rally in Harrisburg, Virginia? His presidency is a failure.

5. Clearly, a lot of white people in Pennsylvania are starved for entertainment. About a half an hour away from Harrisburg is Hershey Park. Take your kids there and enjoy yourselves. Good God, you took your kid to see Donald Trump? I hope you went to Hershey Park before this rally. I really miss Hershey Park and that's the only thing that matters--having a good time with the kids is what life is supposed to be about. Not this political crap. Good gravy, people. If you have a theme park or something fun nearby, take your kids out and have a blast. 













Carrie Fisher Was a Hell of a Writer




Carrie Fisher was never given enough acclaim for her talents and abilities while she was alive:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has revealed that Carrie Fisher helped write the script for the forthcoming movie.

The late actress penned in the past both the book and the screenplay adaptation for Postcards From The Edge, along with episodes of Roseanne, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a number of TV specials and special material for the Academy Awards in 1997, 2002 and 2007, along with the 2010 TV documentary Wishful Drinking, during her career.

Johnson recently revealed at a Star Wars fan convention in Orlando that she also had a hand in writing the script for the latest movie.

“I’d go to her house and we’d sit on her bed for hours, going through the script,” he revealed.

“(We) would just have these kind of stream-of-consciousness, Jazz poetry, ad-lib sessions, and I would just scribble down everything she said on my script. And then at the end of six hours, there would be this four word line of dialogue that would be the distillation of all that, that was brilliant.”

She understood the human condition and had a hilarious point of view. She was a great, great writer and a performer who could hold her own with everyone on a stage, including her own mother. The fact that Harrison Ford, who routinely blew people off the screen (and will be considered the greatest actor to never win an Academy Award unless they get him one, soon), never so much as put a dent in her on screen is hardly recognized, either.













Richard Gere Has Paid a Price For His Support of Tibet




China's influence in the film industry means that actor Richard Here has to appear in independently financed films that are not being marketed to the Chinese:

When Richard Gere walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards in 1993, there was no way he could have known that the night would have repercussions for his career more than 20 years later. Invited to present the award for best art direction, he skipped the scripted patter to protest China's occupation of Tibet and its "horrendous, horrendous human rights situation." The late Gil Cates, the show's producer, was furious, calling the political speeches at that year's awards show —Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also went off script to speak on behalf of Haitian refugees — "distasteful and dishonest" and vowing to ban all three from future Oscars broadcasts.

Gere hasn't done a major studio film in ten years. This is primarily because, whenever he ends up near a project that can be influenced by businesses trying to work out deals in China, pressure is exerted to have him removed.













The Fate of the Furious




This movie could have been a bomb, but so what?

The eighth instillment of the 'Fast' franchise has already pulled in $432.2 million internationally. 

With only hours left in the weekend, ‘The Fate Of The Furious’ is on track to shatter the opening-weekend box office record set by ‘The Force Awakens’ in 2015.

As predicted by pundits, the eighth edition of the film series performed hugely in the worldwide box office in its opening weekend. In North America alone it earned $100.2 million – though, as Comic Book Resources note, this was actually lower than expected.

However, the movie went above-and-beyond for fans internationally pulling in $432.2 million which leaves the film at a projected total of $532.5 million.

If you're going to evaluate these films as if they were serious, thought-provoking treatments on family, international car theft, and mayhem, you could sit and dismantle them one by one. The entire series spans the careers of everyone involved. I'm not going to write a serious review. No spoilers here. I'm just going to give my reaction.

One, the whole thing is lacking in the Paul Walker department. Even CGI Paul Walker would have been welcome. Something. Anything. It's really sad, and Scott Eastwood is no Paul Walker.

Two, everything is implausible, but that's okay.

Three, Charlize Theron is a terrific villain. Hollywood should probably notice this.

Four, you can see why Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel don't get along. They are two alphas in a world full of wisecracking betas. This film looked like it took forever to shoot. If anyone or anything were to delay filming on such a complicated movie, I would get pissed, too.

Five, the real star of all of this should be Michelle Rodriguez, and she should get her own franchise. She's a tremendous star and is allowed to be tough and resilient and powerful in these films, but just not enough.

All in all, it was worth it and I was not disappointed. I did not arrive with huge expectations. They spent every penny of their budget well, and used more stunt persons than actual actors, it looked like.













Lana Del Rey Stands Next to a Vehicle Again




There's a theme that runs through Lana Del Rey's album covers, and it involves cars, trucks, or some sort of a vehicle. There's a vulnerability here that probably appeals to her audience. I can only imagine the grief she would have gotten twenty or thirty years ago from record company executives. I can't imagine anyone allowing her to do anything like these covers, but, then again, maybe they would have. Who knows?

If you think about how female artists are marketed through the artwork that accompanies their album releases, Lana Del Rey's covers have been pretty groundbreaking. There are no "full body" shots and nothing suggestive. They just shoot her from the top half and they don't overly stage or airbrush anything. These are just simple shots, and they're very effective in terms of using the art to suggest what's inside of the album. 













Don Rickles 1926-2017




Don Rickles was one of the best entertainers in America. Will Jerry Lewis outlive everyone?













More Clinton Derangement Syndrome Ahead




You can just imagine the headline--House Republicans Schedule Hearings to Determine Whether or Not Clinton Nephew Really Deserves a Modeling Career.

There's a new, six-foot-tall reason you'll be seeing the name "Clinton" in the news again.

Tyler Clinton, the 22-year-old nephew of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has just landed a modeling contract with IMG, home to supermodel sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, as well as Amber Valleta, Ashley Graham and Taylor Hill. Tyler's dad, Roger, is Bill's younger half-brother and an actor with credits in Spy Hard and The Rugrats Movie.

I would be willing to bet you that Jason Chaffetz is already planning to spend $12 million dollars to find out whether or not Tyler Clinton has cheek implants. So, if you're in the fake news business, this is what's called a gimme. As in, gimme fifty pieces just like this. Woo hoo.













The Sad Story of Melanie Brown




You don't need to be famous to suffer the effects of domestic abuse:

The first public warning sign came in December 2014, when Mel B was absent from a taping of the reality-competition series X Factor. Viewers at home were told that the pop star had fallen ill, but eyebrows were raised when the former Spice Girls singer appeared on the program the following evening with bruises on her arms and cheek. Mel B’s mother, Andrea, took to Twitter to insinuate that her daughter’s then-husband, Stephen Belafonte, was behind the bruising.






“On average It takes 30 beatings 4 a woman to leave abusive man how sad more should b done 4 these victims!!” she tweeted. Belafonte denied hitting his wife; Mel B remained silent at the time, only to tell the tabloids two months later: “No, my husband didn’t hit me. No, I didn’t get held hostage. Me and my husband are madly in love.” 

She won’t be silent anymore.

According to TMZ, Mel B filed a restraining order against Belafonte on Monday, alleging a vicious cycle of physical and emotional abuse. The singer, 41, claims in her declaration that her ex—a middling movie producer, and no relation to Harry—would regularly “beat me down to let me know he was in charge.” In July 2012, Mel B alleges that, on the eve of taping an X Factorsegment with the pop superstar Usher, Belafonte became green with jealousy, and punched her in the mouth. Two months later, she says that he not only punched her in the face again following her London Olympics performance, but also dragged her across the carpet, causing rug burns. Mel B shares that she tried to leave her husband time and again since they were married in 2007, but says he “threatened me with violence and threatened to destroy my life in every possible way… destroy my career and take my kids away from me.”

Horrible. I hope she gets the help she needs. Now is a good time to remind ourselves that the current state of politics in this country has further marginalized women. We need to focus on resources for people who aren't famous and who are suffering from abuse.













Brilliant




You're looking at a preview of the cover of The New Yorker, which has done some fabulous work lately satirizing the idea of Trump in stark terms and with vicious abandon.

If you want to understand what all the fuss is about, look to the arts. Everything is being cut, everything is under siege, and the only thing keeping a lot of people sane is knowing that there are like-minded humans out there who are creating things, writing things, and reflecting back the unreality of modern life right now. It's an insane time, but the satire is pretty fucking good, if you don't mind my saying it.

There's no pretense in this work of being "tongue in cheek" or of simply making fun of someone powerful. This cover shows a bloated, hapless Trump raining destruction down on our institutions. His soft, padded ass is the most prominent thing on display here, and this depiction goes to the heart of what matters about insulting a dictator. You take his most ridiculous feature and you blow it up. You make it indistinguishable from anything else.

When we can look back at this era with some perspective, these are the images that will stand out. They are searing and truthful in a time when the truth can't even get through the door.