I don't spend enough time tackling the big questions on Workbench, so I'd like to rectify that today by addressing a subject of great import among those of us who came of age in the '80s: Are James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. part of the Brat Pack? The term Brat Pack was coined by journalist David Blum in the June 10, 1985, issue of New York magazine. His cover story Hollywood's Brat Pack describes a world, now lost, in which attractive young women fought for the right to engage in consequence-free heterosexual ... read more

The actor Jeff Bridges passes along a fish tale I hadn't heard before, concerning a fisherman in Wichita, Kan., who saw a basketball behaving oddly in a lake: It turned out to be a flathead catfish who had obviously tried to swallow a basketball which became stuck in its mouth!! The fish was totally exhausted from trying to dive, but unable to because the ball would always bring him back up to the surface. Bill tried numerous times to get the ball out, but was unsuccessful. He finally had his wife, Pam, cut the ... read more

The radio show The Romance of Helen Trent, which aired from 1933 to 1960, began each of its 7,222 episodes by reassuring women over 34 that they weren't too old to attract a man: And now, The Romance of Helen Trent, the real-life drama of Helen Trent, who, when life mocks her, breaks her hopes, dashes her against the rocks of despair, fights back bravely, successfully, to prove what so many women long to prove, that because a woman is 35 or more, romance in life need not be over, that romance can begin at 35. The ... read more

Reader Greg Tutunjian made the following comment in response to a New York Times item about how fight scenes in movies have become increasingly incoherent: We go to the movies to be entertained, not to observe proper fighting technique. I think the chase (car versus train) in The French Connection would elicit yawns (and a lot of concurrent texting) from today's target audience in a movie theatre. I recently saw that 1971 film for the first time, wanting to see how Gene Hackman earned his best actor Oscar. ... read more

When American Catholics began the National League of Decency in 1933, you had to recite the following pledge to become a member: I wish to join the Legion of Decency, which condemns vile and unwholesome moving pictures. I unite with all who protest against them as a grave menace to youth, to home life, to country and to religion. I condemn absolutely those salacious motion pictures which, with other degrading agencies, are corrupting public morals and promoting a sex mania in our land. ... Considering these evils, ... read more

I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail again this weekend with my son and nephew, who at 11 and 14 are the perfect age to appreciate the Knights Who Say Nee and a rabbit who brings "death with nasty, big, pointy teeth" but not quite old enough for the rescue of Sir Galahad the Chaste from the peril he faced in Castle Anthrax. Sir Lancelot: We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril. Sir Galahad: I don't think I was. Sir Lancelot: Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril. Sir Galahad: Look, let me go ... read more

An Imax documentary, Straight Up: Helicopters in Action, includes this three-minute segment on an insane but technologically amazing profession: high voltage cable inspection. ... read more