A surprise guest

My wife and I like to watch a show called “The Masked Singer,” where various actors, singers, comedians, news presenters or athletes dress up in elaborate costumes and sing their hearts out. It is a fun show as we try to guess the identities of the performers before they are unmasked when they are knocked off. It started its ninth season last night and its first reveal stunned everyone.

The gnome character was the first reveal and after guesses of Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and one other, to everyone’s surprise a 97 year old Dick Van Dyke emerged. The judges were all stunned and some were in tears. He did an admirable job of “When you’re smiling,” but after his identity was known he gave us a rendition of the Mary Poppins’ song he sang in the movie “Supercalafragiliciousexpealodocious.“ I know I spelled it wrong, but felt I would leave my attempt here.

He added to the performance by dancing with his 97 year old legs. We were tickled as much as the audience was. Thinking of Mary Poppins, the famous star Anthony Hopkins once said who cares if Van Dyke’s British accent was horrible, his was one of the most amazing performances ever as Bert the chimney sweep.

If you can find footage of his performance it is worth the view.

I’ve loved you so long – a movie surprise

My wife and I watched a French movie starring Kristin Scott Thomas called “I’ve loved you so long.” If you don’t mind movies with subtitles, this an excellent and unexpected movie, with Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein playing the lead roles as two sisters. Here is brief summary from Wikipedia, which holds back some as to not reveal too much plot

“When Juliette Fontaine, formerly a doctor, is released from prison, her younger sister Léa invites her to stay with her family – including her husband, his mute father, and their two adopted Vietnamese daughters – in their home in the university town of Nancy in Lorraine. Why Juliette was in prison is revealed slowly throughout the film,” but it is told upfront that she was in prison for fifteen years, so it was a serious crime (my editing).

“Léa, a college professor of literature, is considerably younger than Juliette. Because of the nature of Juliette’s crime, their parents denied Juliette’s existence and refused to allow Léa to visit her. In addition, Juliette had refused to speak throughout her trial. As a result, Léa knows nothing about the circumstances surrounding the crime and, when pressed for details, Juliette refuses to discuss what happened until the end of the film.”

The movie is primarily about two sisters who are rekindling their strong bond from before the imprisonment, especially with the younger sister not knowing many of the events and surrounding stories of earlier life with her sister. But, it is also about Juliette befriending two men who understand more about what she went through, without knowing all the details. Luc is a colleague of Léa’s (played by Serge Hazanavisius) and Captain Fauré, her parole officer played by Frederic Pierrot. Laurent Grévill plays Michel, Léa’s husband who shares his concerns over the arrangement early on.

We do not mind subtitles, so movies like this are enjoyable. Although Scott Thomas is an English actress, her French is excellent and this is the second movie we have seen where she speaks only French. We both think she plays melancholy roles so well. The movie is compelling and does require some tissue as the revelations are made toward the end. The title is indicative of the two sisters affection for one another that had been missing for so long. It is definitely worth the look. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 88 rating, while other watcher sources rank it highly, as well.

Old series are still new to us

I have shared before that we discover old TV series and watch them with some regularity. If you have never seen a series before, it is like finding an unopened box in the attic long after you moved. It is still new to us.

With the advent of using Tubi which is a free streaming source, we can find even more little gems. Even if they only lasted two or three seasons, we enjoy them. Actually, the shorter ones are good because we limit our time to 20 or so episodes.

Here a few gems we discovered in the past year:

“The Hour” – this BBC show about a “60 Minutes” type news show set in the 1950s is one of the better shows we have seen. It lasted only two seasons, but fans wanted more. It stars Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, and Dominic West with a great supporting cast.

“Bomb Girls” – this Canadian show is about women who go to work in making bombs for the allied effort in WWII. It stars Meg Tilley, Jodi Balfour, Charlotte Hegele, and Ali Liebart again with a great supporting cast.

“Our Girl” – this is a gripping show about two different British army medic nurses over the course of two seasons. The first setting is Afghanistan and the other is in Nigeria. It stars Lacey Turner in season one and Michelle Keegan in season two. Ben Aldridge, the leader of the squad of troops appears both season.

“The Village” – a show about an early 20th century village in England just prior to, during and just after WWI. It stars Maxine Peake, John Simm, Charlie Murphy, Tom Varey and a host of others. It runs for a couple of seasons, but shows how times are evolving around giving more voice to women and those who are not in the gentry.

“Rose and Maloney” – a different kind of detective show about a group in London who looks into mishandled criminal cases where an imprisoned person may not have gotten a fair trial. It stars Sarah Lancashire as the brash Rose and Phil Davis as Maloney, a rather anal attentive and begrudging partner. It lasted three seasons.

“City on a Hill” – a series based in Boston which focuses on a sleazy, but effective FBI and former FBI agent and equally effective assistant DA who gets sucked into helping the agent. Kevin Bacon stars as the FBI agent, Aldis Hodge as the attorney and Jill Hennessy as Bacon’s wife. My wife hates that Bacon’s character is so imperfect, but he plays it well.

Some of the longer running shows we are still watching include “Homeland” which is riveting starring Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and Damien Lewis about a CIA hunt for terrorists, “McLeod’s Daughters” which is a long running Australian series starring Bridie Carter and Lisa Chappell about two sisters and their friends running a ranch in western Australia, “Heartland” which is a similar Canadian series starring Amber Marshall and Michelle Morgan about two sisters and grandfather running a ranch that involves the younger daughter being a horse whisperer like their just deceased mother, and “Heartbeat” which is British series set in a village in England that focuses on a police officer and his wife who is the local doctor starring Nick Berry and Niamh Cusack and wonderful 60’s music as a backdrop.

Let me know what you think. Tell us some of your favorites.

A few thoughts on a rainy Sunday

As I type upstairs underneath a sky light which is being pummeled by the constant rain, it offers a serene mood inducing backdrop with the screen illuminated by a small lamp nearby. Since I use an older laptop, some of the keys are missing, so I need to see them as I type to assure I hit them. Missing a few keys does alter the passwords I choose.

In no particular order, I have a few rainy day thoughts.

I read where the actress and singer Irene Cara died yesterday at the age of 63. It hit me a little harder than some other celebrity deaths as I remember Cara as the young and youthful looking student from the movie “Fame” as she sang the title song. Around that same time, she also sang the theme from the movie “Flash Dance” called “What a feeling.” Both of these movies were about the newfound angst of young adults and older teens as they made their way forward, so to see Cara pass before I did is unsettling.

My wife and I caught the beginning of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony after seeing only the last two-thirds before. In particular, I wanted to see Pat Benatar and her guitarist husband Neil Giraldo get inducted. Not only did the two make powerful music using her marvelous voice and chutzpah and his excellent play, but they have lived a wonderful life as a couple complete with kids and grandkids. They obviously are in love even still and also can still belt out some good old rock and roll.

The other thing that struck me about this year’s awards, is the number of top-drawer female artists who attended to honor the inductees such as Benatar, Dolly Parton, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon and a couple of music producers that helped women with their careers. Just to name a few, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige, and Brandi Carlisle, all took active rolls in honoring the new inductees. These women were inspired by the inductees and it was nice to see them sing word for word the songs performed.

During the ceremony, they also paid tribute to lesser known African-American artists who influenced many, but never got acclaim due to the Jim Crow era. One such person was Elizabeth Cotten, a left-handed guitarist who played a right-handed guitar upside down. We saw footage of Pete Seeger speaking with her as well as watching her enormous skill as she played, rhythm, lead and bass at the same time on the guitar. Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family used the method called the “Carter Clutch,” but she self-confessed learning it from some African-American players in the mountains where she was raised. As an aside, Duane Allman, an excellent guitarist, taught his kids the “Carter Clutch” years after she passed.

I was fortunate to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with my oldest son. We were there four and 1/2 hours and never were bored. The best part is where you get to listen to snippets of who influenced these performers in contrast to how and what they played. If you love music, I encourage you to go.

Now, stay warm and dry today.


The Hour – a British miniseries that captivates

“The Hour” is a miniseries which only lasted two years, but in my view it certainly was not due to the quality of the program, the actors or the story. More on that later.

Filmed about ten years ago, “The Hour” is set in the mid-1950s when the BBC was launching a “60 Minutes” type news show called the same name as the title and advertised as the most important hour of your week. It is well casted starring Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Domenic West. Here is the Wikipedia summary:

The Hour is a British television drama series broadcast on BBC. The series was centred on a then-new current-affairs show being launched by the BBC in June 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Revolution and Suez Crisis. It stars Ben WhishawDominic West, and Romola Garai, with a supporting cast including Tim Pigott-SmithJuliet StevensonBurn GormanAnton LesserAnna ChancellorJulian Rhind-Tutt, and Oona Chaplin. It was written by Abi Morgan (also one of the executive producers, alongside Jane Featherstone and Derek Wax).”

Whishaw is excellent in his role as Freddie Lyon, the sharp-minded crusading journalist looking for the truth and the real story. West is Hector Madden, the camera-friendly host who learns a great deal from Freddie and his boss Bel Rowley played by Romola Garai, as well as his patient and supportive wife Marnie played by Oona Chaplin. Madden’s philandering and drinking require as much as tolerance from Marnie as possible.

Garai is excellent in her role as she is supportive of Freddie as he often rubs people the wrong way. She is also human, so she makes relationship mistakes that make her job more challenging. Other key roles are played by the spin-doctoring PR man for the Prime Minister Angus McCain played by Julian Rhind-Tutt. The remaining recurring cast is excellent, as are the guest stars for the two seasons, especially Anton Lesser and Peter Capaldi.

The first season focuses on a underlying story of a Russian spy being somewhere in the BBC along with the other news stories of the day, in particular the Suez Canal crisis. In the second season, the underlying story is bribery and corruption in various halls of power.

The show is excellent and when it was canceled it caused a lot of consternation. I think the ratings fell off in the second season for one reason I won’t mention so as not to spoli it, but I found the storyline just as compelling as the first season’s. Outside of Freddie, my favorite character is Oona Chaplin’s Marnie. The stuff she has to put up from her husband is on a long list. Yet, she reveals what she always was, her own woman. The chemistry between Bel and Freddie and the other crew members on the news team (Anna Chancellor in particular) makes the show. The kindredship is compelling.

Give the show a try. There are only twelve episodes, six per season, so it won’t take long to go through them. If you have seen the show, tell me what you think. If you have not, beware of spoiler alerts in the comments.

You are never ‘all dead’ on a soap opera

One of the movies my kids and wife enjoy as much as I do is “The Princess Bride.” You smile throughout the movie following the escapades of the Dreaded Pirate Roberts, who is a cult-like anti-hero named Wesley who is smitten with the future Princess Buttercup.

One of the funnier scenes is when we think Wesley is dead, so his comrades take him to Miracle Max played by Billy Crystal, with his wife played by Carol Kane. We learn from Miracle Max, that Wesley is not ‘all dead’ he is only “mostly dead.” After checking him out, Max says “I have seen worse.”

Why am I bringing this up? Soap opera characters who have been killed off are never ‘all dead,’ they are only ‘mostly dead.’ My wife loves “General Hospital” and has watched it for years dating back to when her mom and aunt were alive.

On occasion, I assume when contract difficulties arise or an actor is moving to another show, he or she may be killed off. Sometimes, it will be a coma related incident, as you don’t know if the studio can re-sign the actor through negotiations and they might recover. Usually, it is some accident where they cannot find the body. But, once the actor leaves, it is fair game to kill his or her character off. The body is either discovered, or he or she is just gone.

The problem arises when the actor returns to the show a couple of years later. So, when you thought the actor was ‘all dead,’ they character was not really dead at all. They were only ‘mostly dead.’ I will watch a little every once in a while and ask I thought he was dead? The explanations are usually less than satisfying.

What gets more complicated is when they use another actor to play a character when someone leaves. Then, the old actor returns a couple of years later and plays another character altogether. This is quite confusing for the occasional viewer.

In one case, the new actor played what everyone thought was the old character, but he had been in an accident had facial surgery and loss of memory. So his wife re-fell in love with what she thought was her husband and actually had more children. Then, the real husband returned to the show playing the real husband and the wife realized the guy in her bed was not him. Oops.

I must confess I think these soap opera writers must get a kick out of the machinations they must go through. They also need a historian to keep tracks of the who’s and what’s and why’s.

So, don’t mourn a soap opera death too long. They just may be ‘mostly dead.’

A few more excellent movies

I usually pick eight or so movies to highlight on my movie posts. Today, I am going to keep it to a manageable few to list some that are top drawer in my mind. Please remember, my wife and I like dialogue, plot and good characters, so we will lean away from the more recent CGI films. At the end, I will list a few honorable mentions.

“Where the crawdads sing” is just out in theaters based on Delia Owen’s book by the same name. Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya, known in town as the Marsh girl, it is fairly true to the book and tells the story in a flashback form, which works for the movie. Taylor John Smith stars as her friend Tate, Harris Dickinson as her boyfriend Chase, David Straithairn as her attorney, and Sterling Macer and Michael Hyatt as the store owners who help her out from time to time. The movie starts out with Chase’s body being found and Kya being arrested for his murder. She has been treated as an outsider her whole life as her violent father runs off her mother and siblings. He eventually leaves as well when she is only ten and she fends for herself in their marsh cabin. We loved the book and the movie.

“Last night in Soho” was released last year and is categorized as a horror/ thriller. It stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise, a fashion designer trainee just arrived in school in London who has a curse of seeing glimpses of her deceased mother. After being teased by others for coming from rural England, she moves to lease a bed and bath from a landlord played by Diana Rigg shortly before the actress died. Apparently, there was a murder in the room and when Eloise sleeps she goes back in time to the late 1960s in Soho, an era she loved for fashion and music. She becomes infatuated with a singer named Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The movie keeps your interest and is not too horror oriented, although you do get lulled into thinking it will only be macabre. We give it a thumbs up.

“84 Charing Cross Road” is an older movie that may sound dull, but it is fascinating to see good actors tell a story. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel, a British bookstore co-owner and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, a New Yorker who loves non-fiction books. With her search for inexpensive earlier editions, she befriends Frank and his whole staff and eventually his wife played by Judi Dench. Their relationships starts just after WWII and lasts into the 1970s and is based on a book Hanff wrote about their interactions. The story is in essence told as a series of letters and asides to the camera. This movie is one of the better ones you will see, if you choose to give it a go. It should be noted Mel Brooks produced this movie as he wanted his wife, the great Ms. Bancroft, to play the role she loved from a similar named play.

“The immigrant” is a true to life story about predatory people taking advantage of women traveling to the states from Europe in small numbers or alone. This story will make you angry, but it is a must watch to see how it happened, and likely still does. The movie stars Marion Cotillard as Ewa, an immigrant woman before WWI whose sister is told she has TB and must be quarantined on Ellis Island. Cotillard is charged with prostitution on ship, as she was raped by another passenger and is about to be deported. An advocate steps in played by Joaquin Phoenix, who pays off an Ellis Island official to “help” Ewa. He, of course, is taking her into prostitution. Jeremy Renner stars as Phoenix’ cousin. The number of people who are involved in the predatory relationship is what will make you angry the most.

A few other movies worth the watch include:

“Love and mercy” a biopic about Beach Boy Brian Wilson and his struggles and how his second wife saved him from a domineering therapist starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elzabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti.

“A promise” about an older German owner of a manufacturing facility played by Alan Rickman who becomes ill, his young wife played by Rebecca Hall, and his new right-hand secretary played by Richard Madden. The younger two have an attraction, but make a promise to be there for each other in the future so as not to betray the trust of the boss/ husband. This is one of Rickman’s final movies.

“33 postcards” is an Australian movie about a man played by Guy Pearce who sponsors an orphan girl in China named Mei Mei (which means little sister) played by Zhu Lin. They exchange 33 postcards over the years and when she travels to Australia with her orphanage choral group, she wants to meet her mysterious benefactor who she finds in prison.

“Sunset song” is a movie about an Irish woman (starring Agyness Deyn) before WWI who endures the tough hand over of her father after her mother died and brother moved on. She keeps the land after her father dies and eventually marries a man who will come back from WWI with PTSD.

A couple of others include “Caroline?,” “Hush,” “The go-between” and “Up against the ropes.” Each of these is good, with the first one being an unexpected surprise.

Compliance – a movie that will disturb you

The other day, my wife and I were reading summaries of movies as we selected one to watch. We passed on a thriller where one critic said it was the most disturbing movie he ever watched. Ironically, we selected a Sundance award winning movie that was powerful, but may have been the most disturbing movie we ever watched. It is called “Compliance.”

NOTE: A small spoiler alert is needed, but I only touched on it a little more than the summary does for the movie.

The movie is based on a true story that happened in a Kentucky fast food restaurant in 2004. Sadly, it has happened in quite a few other places. In essence, a young female cashier was picked out to be accused on the phone by a man pretending to be a police officer. I am not giving too much away, as you learn shortly therein what you already have figured out.

The man uses the name of a regional manager who he says is on the other line to enlist the help of the female store manager. He says a female customer has accused the cashier of stealing from her purse and they have surveillance footage. Since the police is too busy, he enlists the manager to do a strip search to save the accused the trouble of coming down and being booked. The ruse gets much uglier for this gullible young woman and her naive boss. I will spare the details, but their compliance with the requests of this beyond-creepy man is very disturbing.

The red flags are many throughout the call, but they are missed by the accused, the manager, and the manager’s fiancé who she enlists to help as the store is busy. If you watch this movie, you will be talking at the TV pleading with someone to think about what is happening. And, sadly it is based on a true story which happened over seventy times elsewhere.

The movie is meant to be disturbing. The director is Craig Zobel and it stars Dreama Walker as the young woman, Ann Dowd as the store manager, Pat Healy as the pretend cop, Bill Camp as Dowd’s boyfriend, Ashlie Atkinson and Philip Ettinger as co-workers and Stephen Payne as the maintenance worker who plays a pivotal role. The lessons in the movie are many, which is its intent, so if you do watch it, be forewarned that you will be perturbed.

Endings and next chapters

Have you ever noticed how some movies, series, or books just end without tidying up the conclusion? As my more frequent readers know, I enjoy watching movies, and tend to watch those with a good plot and dialogue.

Yet, I have noticed of late, a non-inconsequential number of more recently made movies about life’s challenges, seem to end without real resolution. Maybe they are emulating life, where we keep on going, often without resolution. We may get back on a better path, but the problems still persist.

The screenwriters and directors are seemingly leaving it up to us to figure out what happens next. It is not uncommon for my wife and I to look at each other and say “is that the end?” when the credits start to run.

To me, a writer can leave it to our imagination and still add needed clarity. In “Casablanca,” the ending had clarity for the two new members of the resistance who walked off to the “beginning of a beautiful friendship,” but we will always speculate what happened to Ilsa, Laslo and Rick in the future. It had closure as well as letting us converse about what’s next?

I was watching a movie where the ending basically was the child of a young mother (who got in her own way) would not leave her even when she tried to bus him to relatives. The woman would still be getting in her own way and had problems she had not remedied, but the movie just ended with them walking down a road in the snow with no money and the clothes on their backs. The only takeaway is they were still together.

Another movie about a husband acting rashly with a young woman (who was staying at his and his wife’s guest house as the two worked together on a film project) just ended without clarity. The movie faded out with the guest riding away in a taxi, leaving us to decipher if the wife would give the husband another chance or kick him out. It afforded my wife and I good what-if conversation, but it would have been interesting to see the writer’s take on it. To me, the question could have been left open-ended, but the wife could have left or said he needed to leave to let her think about next steps.

In one of the more famous movie endings in “Gone with the Wind,” Rhett Butler provided the needed clarity as he walked out the door. But, we are left to discuss what may have happened as Scarlett noted “tomorrow is another day.” If you have not seen the movie, you will need to move past the sugar coated racism and make lots of popcorn due to its length.

Of course, some endings may be too cheesy and cliche. When a movie, series or book ends with a more unexpected or against the grain twist, that can be more intriguing. Too obvious an ending can be less fulfilling, so leaving it somewhat open ended or imperfect can be more entertaining. The famous movie “The way we were” ended in the way it should have, but not in the way a Hallmark movie would have.

What are your thoughts? Do you like endngs that leave a lot to your imagination? Or would you prefer some or a lot of clarity? I would note the answer may depend on whether you are watching the movie with someone. I would love to hear from some of our authors out there.

Let’s go to a concert – when it is safe again

This is a repeat of an older post dating back before the pandemic. When it is safe to go back, let’s take precautions and start returning to concerts. Again, I encourage all to have the three vaccine shots and wear a mask in any large gathering. We are contemplating returning to a Steely Dan/ Steve Winwood joint billing later this year.

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who was so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Marya wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), John Sebastian, The Association, Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Fourplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to “Molly Malone.”.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?