Good on Simone Biles for Taking Care of Herself

Within the worlds of mental health and mental illness, the concept of self care is important. It is one of the tools in our toolbox that allows us to relax and take a break from the havoc that brains are wreaking on us.

In the world of sports, gymnastic superstar and Gold medalist Simone Biles is stepping back from competition for a few days from the 2020 Olympics. Stating mental concerns, she is withdrawing from tomorrow’s women’s all around finals. Whether or not she competes next week in the four individual finals is up in the air.

The most important thing about living with mental health is knowing when you have to step back. I admire her for not just doing what needs to be done, but being open it. It also helps that USA Gymnastics is completely supportive of her decision, which is a nice change from the way Naomi Osaka was treated recently. The response to Biles’s decision is how we should all be treated in cases like this. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.

Regardless of whether or not she leaves Tokyo with additional hardware, she is still a hero in my eyes. Her legacy as a gymnast will live on for decades to come, as will her honesty of how important it is to take care of ourselves physically and mentally.

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It’s Time to Break Britney Spear’s Conservatorship

There is no doubt that Britney Spears is an icon. She is one of those few performers whose name and work is instantly recognizable. It doesn’t take much to conjure up her image or one of her songs.

Since 2008, Spears has been under a conservatorship led by her father. At the time, it made sense. Given her the public mental health breakdown, it was obvious that someone needed to step in. To sit back and do nothing would have irresponsible. It was supposed to be temporary, until she was able to function as an adult. But somewhere along the way, it became more about using her a cash cow while treating her as a child incapable of taking care of herself.

In response, the #FreeBritney movement and the Hulu documentary, Framing Britney Spears, fans have been advocating for Spears to have at least some control over her life.

It’s time for the conservatorship to end. If not wholly, reduced down so that she has some say in her personal and professional life. I also have to wonder if she were a man, would the treatment been different? I think so. There have been a quite a few male celebrities who also live with mental illness and have been open about it. They were not legally and personally shackled down as Spears has been.

#FreeBritney

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Filed under Feminism, Hulu, Mental Health, Music

Requiring the Covid Vaccine for all NYC Public Health Workers is Common Sense

When humanity was created by the heavenly parent upstairs, we were given the ability to make our decisions. Which, as we all know, has consequences. Some for the better, and some for the worst.

In New York City, only 60% of public health workers are vaccinated. In response to these numbers, the Mayor has announced that those who remain unvaccinated must either get the shot(s) or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing. In my mind, this is a no-brainer. It is also common sense. Those who work in this sector interact with the public as part of their jobs. The ease of which both the medical professionals and the patients can catch and spread the virus is mind blowing. If g-d forbid I get the virus, I can isolate for two weeks, keep it to myself, and still do my job from home. They can’t.

I understand the reason for the hesitation. Most vaccines take about a decade before it is released to the public. For obvious reasons, the Covid-19 vaccine was developed much faster. However, I would think that given where they work and the rising numbers of cases due to the Delta variant, why wouldn’t they get the shot? Frankly, it would easier to just get it done than submit to weekly testing.

If we would use our g-d given brains, we would have potentially stopped this disease a long time ago. But because we didn’t, people continue to get sick and more lives will be lost.

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The Cook of Castamar Review

Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.

The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.

The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, Mental Health, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Black Widow Movie Review

No one’s past is crystal clear. It is full of potholes, bad memories, and mistakes that still linger in our minds. When facing our past, we can either run from it or face it.

The new Marvel movie, Black Widow, premiered two weeks ago. It takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. The film opens on an average American suburban family in Ohio sitting down to dinner. But dinner is cut short when their true identity as Russian spies is revealed and they must hightail it out of the US. It then cuts to the present. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has discovered a conspiracy that is tied to her previous life as an assassin and spy. When she becomes a target, she must turn to the family that was assigned to her by the spy agency. Her younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), father Alexei (David Harbour), and mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) have all gone their separate ways. Revealing the source of the conspiracy and ending it requires more than a physical coming together as a group, it means facing the unhealed emotional wounds that still linger.

This movie is amazing. The action and stunts are well balanced with the humor and the emotion. As an audience member, I saw the main character as more than a superhero who is able to save the day. I saw a woman who is conflicted about both her present and her past. She makes the difficult decision to look at what she has done square in the eye instead of running from it. It a lesson that goes well beyond the genre and movies in general.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Black Widow is now in theaters.

P.S. Stay for the mid credit scene. The wait is long, but it is worth it.

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Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies

Clueless Character Review: Josh Lucas

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In every relationship, whether familial, platonic, or romantic, there has to be an emotional balance. One person can be the dreamer with out there ideas while the other is level headed and realistic.

In Clueless, Josh Lucas, (Paul Rudd) is the former step-brother of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). Due to his being in college compared to Cher still being in high school, he tries to enlighten her about the ways of the world. Though Josh tries to get along with her, they tend to but heads. He thinks that she is a superficial ditz who only thinks about clothes and shopping. Her perception of him is that he is not cool, too serious for his own good, and a politically, a little too soft. His career ambition is to be a lawyer and is spending time with Cher and her father, Mel (Dan Hedaya) to gain some real world experience. But as the narrative rolls on, both Josh and Cher begin to see that perhaps they have more in common than they initially thought.

To sum it up: Though Josh can be the annoying older brother type, he is also not as quick to mansplain as his literary counterpart, Mr. Knightley. Like his step sister and future girlfriend, he has a good heart, but he sees the world in a different way. Which makes them compatible and will hopefully lead to long, healthy romantic partnership.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emma, Jane Austen, Movies

Flashback Friday: The Last Days (1998)

The only way to learn from our past is to not repeat it. Sometimes, that requires reliving it, as painful as it sounds.

The 1998 documentary, The Last Days, was released on Netflix back in May. The film follows five Hungarian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. During the last year of World War II, the Jews of Hungary were the last intact Jewish community in Europe. That would quickly change. Within six weeks, hundreds of thousands were deported to Auschwitz. Only a handful would survive. Containing interviews with survivors, a SS doctor, and American soldiers who helped to liberate Dachau, it is powerful and haunting reminder of both the light and the darkness in humanity.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It was riveting, emotional, and a punch to the gut that is absolutely necessary. Hearing about this time in history from the people who lived through this nightmare reminds us all that the Holocaust is not a myth and not strictly relegated to the world of literature. It is an event that happened in the lifetimes of many people who are still alive. While we cannot bring back those who were murdered, we can honor their memory by remembering them, and open our eyes to the negative energy and destruction that hate drags behind it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Spotlight (2015)

The purpose of religious observance is to provide community and structure to the ins and outs of our daily lives. That does not mean, however, that some within the clergy will use their power for less than honorable means.

The 2015 film, Spotlight, tells the story of how a group of journalists at the Boston Globe discovered that the Catholic Archdiocese was covering up a decades long child molestation scandal. Led by Michael Keaton, the team includes Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James. Taking place over the course of a year, the audience is taken on a journey to uncover the truth and the lengths that were taken to cover up what the church would have preferred to remain hidden.

When this movie originally came out six years ago, I tried to see it in the theater. There is a reason why it was sold out. It is gripping, intelligent, and a bare knuckle ride from start to finish. This is why we go to the movies. It is also a reminder of why journalism is so important and can never be overlooked.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Ben & Jerry’s Has Chosen to Boycott Israel. I Choose to Boycott Ben & Jerry’s.

In a living democracy, we have the right to protest when we disagree with a government or a private entity. But the key is knowing all of the facts.

The latest tactic by BDS is via the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s. As of this week, the company will no longer be selling its products within Israel.

I’m sure that the people who made this decision are not dumb. However, they made a dumb decision. Now granted, the company has been left leaning politically since its founding in the late 1970’s. But that does not mean that they are exempt from doing their homework before making such statements.

What people who support these anti-Israel boycotts don’t even consider is who is affected. Six years ago, the pressure go to the point in which a SodaStream plant had to close and remove hundreds of Palestinians from their payroll. These were good jobs with good pay. But because of anti-Semitism and the sheep like mentality of some people, these 500 employees had to find another way to earn a living.

We were given working brains for a reason. I wish that we use them before opening our mouths every once in a while. The next time I want ice cream, I will buy another brand.

P.S. If you would like to tell Ben & Jerry’s how wrong they are, the petition is here.

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Filed under International News, World News

Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury Review

In the Jewish faith, Psalm 137 has the following lines:

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [her cunning]/ If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

The new six part CNN miniseries, Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury premiered last night. Over the course of the six episodes Sundays, the program tells the story of the city of Jerusalem via six key battles that changed the fate of the city and the region. Combining re-enactments with interviews with historians and Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars, the viewer is given a 360 degree picture of it’s past, it’s present, and perhaps, a glimpse of its future.

The first episode focused on the glory days of King Saul, King David, and the downfall of ancient Israel after the death of King Solomon. I enjoyed the first episode. If nothing else, it proved that humanity has not changed one bit. Externally, the world may look different, but inside, it is the same as it ever was. It is also, I think a pathway to understanding what has come before us so we can create a better world for future generations.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury airs on CNN on Sunday night at 10PM.

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Filed under History, International News, Television, TV Review, World News