Yeshiva University Should be Forced to Recognize and Legitimize its LGBTQ Student Organization

Religion is a beautiful thing. It can bring people together, create communities, and ensure that traditions are passed on to the next generation. It can also be used as an excuse to exclude, murder, and destroy people and ideas seen as “other”.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that in the Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance case that in the short term, the university does not have to recognize its LGBTQ student organization. While the school was waiting for the decision to come down, the administration chose to suspend all student-led clubs.

According to a survey released last year, only 22% of Americans attend religious services of any kind. In this same survey, 31% have never prayed in a formal setting.

It goes without saying that the institution’s cultural and academic foundation is based on traditional Jewish values and teachings. If a particular student is not happy, they are free to continue their education elsewhere.

I disagree with the resolution (Unorthodox podcast talks about it at 20:07). Religion is well and good. But if it is so stuck in the past that modernity and the march toward equality are ignored, that is a problem. If faith leaders want to increase attendance in the various houses of worship, they cannot bury their heads in the sand. This is why people walk away from organized religion. They feel disrespected, ignored, or both.

It’s akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t get it.

Inclusion and respect is the only way to increase participation in formal religious practice and live up to the ideals set up by our founders. I think it would behoove Yeshiva University administrators to rethink the choice they have made.

Flashback Friday: Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

When a new and unique character comes along, it can fire up the imagination of the audience. But, by the time the audience gets to the third or fourth outing with this character, it becomes a question of when to move on.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) is the third film in the Austin Powers trilogy. After Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), our favorite international spy (Mike Myers) must again prevent the world from being destroyed by Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers). This time. travels back to 1975 and pairs up with Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce) to rescue his father, Nigel (Michael Caine) from Dr. Evil and disco kingpin Goldmember (again Mike Myers).

Though the shine is a bit faded from the previous two movies, it still sits comfortably within the world that the audience expects. Beyonce, as usual, excels in the part of Foxxy Cleopatra while giving proper due to the blaxploitation subgenre of the era.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

For all of the strengths of a superhero, there is a weakness. It is therefore expected that their antagonist will use that weakness against them at some point.

The 1999 film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is the sequel to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) uses a time machine to travel back to the 1960s to steal the mojo of Austin Powers (also Mike Myers). With the help of CIA Agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), Austin has to both save the day and get his mojo back.

I love this movie. Myers took what made the first movie the brilliant comedy that it is and explodes it tenfold. It is quotable, hilarious and one of the most perfect spoofs I’ve ever seen. Though it’s been years since I’ve seen it, I can still quote it.

The only issue is Graham’s character. Though Felicity is on par with Austin both sexually and as an agent of the law, she is also a love interest. Though it is par for the course for female characters, it kind of takes off some of the shine of her badassness for me.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience Survival and Hope Book Review

As the years pass, the number of Holocaust survivors who lived to tell their first-hand stories dwindles. At this point, it is only the child survivors who are still alive to speak their truth.

Tova Friedman is one of these child survivors. Her new memoir, The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience, Survival and Hope, co-written with Malcolm Brabant and with a foreword by Ben Kingsley, was published earlier this month. Born in 1938, her earliest years were defined by antisemitism, poverty, violence, and destruction. She saw things that no child should ever see.

By age four, Tova and her mother were sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Her father was sent to Dachau. What she experienced in the camp was imminently worse than anything she had seen previously. Though she and both of her parents could have been murdered any number of times, all three of them were liberated and found one another.

Now in her early 80’s, Tova is a wife, mother, grandmother, and lecturer. Her mission is to educate about the Holocaust, to make sure that it never happens again.

What makes this book so powerful is her memories. Though the events are nearly a century old, the images are as potent and brutal as if it were yesterday. It is a reminder that this happened in many people’s lifetimes.

Included in the book are pictures. Among them is an image of one of her aunts. Her aunt was liberated from the camps only to be murdered in a pogrom a year later. It is hard to see, but an important reminder of what prejudice can do to us.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience, Survival and Hope is available wherever books are sold.

I’m Ok With Cameras Being Installed in the NYC Subway System

Among the many concerns of those of us who ride the NYC subways, safety is at or near the top.

Last week, it was announced that every car in the system will have cameras installed in them by 2025. I’m ok with that.

I understand the arguments about big brother and the long list of fixes that need to be made to the system. However, when riders feel that they can get where they need to go without being assaulted, that can go a long way in bringing back people who are afraid of getting on the train.

About a year and a half ago, I was attacked by someone who clearly had issues. I won’t go into details, but I will say that it left an emotional scar that still exists to this day. I’m ok now, but the memory is burned into my brain. I later saw a story on the news that he went after an elderly couple not far from where he went after me. I don’t know or remember if the police ever caught him. But if the camera had been there, perhaps that couple would have gotten to their destination unmolested.

The only problem is that the cameras will not be live, which I think is a mistake.

There are things in our day-to-day experience that are necessary, as much as we dislike them. One of these things is these cameras, which may end up saving someone’s life or catch a potential criminal before they end up doing greater damage.

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Andor Review

There are two arguments when it comes to a prequel. One is that it allows a formerly minor character to get a little bit of time in the narrative spotlight. The other is that it is a cheap copout by the studio. Instead of giving voice to new stories, they are relying on a known (and perhaps too reliable) IP.

Andor premiered last Wednesday on DisneyPlus. In short, it is a prequel of a prequel. Five years before the events of A New Hope, it follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as he becomes the rebel that we know him to be in Rogue One.

While getting on the bad side of bureaucrat Syril Karn (Kyler Soller), he joins the rebellions by way of Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) and Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona).

So far, the first three episodes have been released. The connective tissue between the boy he was and the man he has become is starting to come together in a way that feels right for the character.

My favorite character so far is Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), Cassian’s adopted mother. She is not blind to what is happening and though she does not appear to have one, she has a spine made of steel.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

New episodes of Andor are released every Wednesday on DisneyPlus.

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Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother Book Review

There is no bond as important as a mother with her children.

When the late Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997, she left behind two young men who were forever changed. The new biography, Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother, by James Patterson, was published last month. It tells the story of Diana and her sons as human beings, not just celebrities or royals who live in a gilded cage.

While ensuring that both of her boys know what their responsibilities and futures will be like, she also gave them the opportunity to be ordinary kids. After her untimely passing, they grow up (with the usual and unusual hurdles due to the family they were born into) into responsible men, husbands, and fathers who continue Diana’s legacy.

What struck me was that Diana learned how to work within the system while rebelling against a way of life that may seem archaic to some. Her love for her sons, specifically when her marriage to Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was falling apart, was evident from the word go. Even when her own mental health issues weighed heavily on her, her boys still came first.

Choosing to live and parent as she did, she set up William and Harry to become empathetic and understanding of the idea that not everyone lives like they do. In doing so, she set the English monarchy on a path that allows tradition and modernity to exist concurrently.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother is available wherever books are sold.

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All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Mrs. Pumphrey

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

I apologize for not posting last weekend. The family came first.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. 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.

Every town or neighborhood has an older person who might be seen as oddball or weird but is accepted for who they are.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name) Mrs. Pumphrey (first played by the late Diana Rigg and then by Patricia Hodge) is a wealthy widow without children. In place of human descendants is her beloved Pekingese, Tricki Woo. Trickie is one spoiled dog.

This is to the chagrin of James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph), who is referred to as “Uncle James”. He is the veterinarian of choice when it comes to taking care of her furbaby. While James tries to convince Mrs. Pumphrey to feed Trickie healthier food, it takes a while for the suggestion to sink in.

To sum it up: Mrs. Pumphrey may be a little too indulgent of her dog, but it is out of love. She is a generous person who gives to those who she cares for and believes in sharing her emotional wealth with others.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Woman King Movie Review

The myth of the Amazons is a powerful one. The idea of a race of warrior women who depend only on themselves and not on men has captured our collective imagination for centuries.

The new film, The Woman King, is based on true events. The main character is Nanisca (Viola Davis). In the 19th century, she is the General of the Dahomey Amazons. The Kingdom of Dahomey was one of many that traded goods and humans (i.e. slaves) with European settlers and traders.

Nanisca’s job is to lead and train the kingdom’s female warriors. One of the new recruits is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu). She is young and driven, but also stubborn. Taken under the wing of one of Nanisca’s lieutenants, Izogie (Lashana Lynch), Nawi knows that she can be one of the Agojie.

When Nawi, Izogie, and a few other women are captured in battle, Nanisca defies King Ghezo (John Boyega) to free them. Adding to the tension is a potential love interest for Nawi. Malik (Jordan Bolger) is a Portuguese trader who is much more than he appears to be.

Wow. Davis at the very least deserves an Oscar nomination. It is a powerful film that reminds all of us that we have the power to fight against our oppressors. We can live as we want to. But, in order to do that, we must take a stand against those who would hold us down because we are different.

This is one of those films that every woman should see. It disproves the idea that we are weaker and unable to handle life’s complications in a way that a man can. We are just as strong, intelligent, and capable as our male peers.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Woman King is presently in theaters.

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Letitia James and Fani Willis may be the Ones Who Save Us From You Know Who

It has been said that where there is smoke, there is fire. If that is true, there has been smoke coming out of a famous NYC building owned by you know who for a very long time.

Earlier this week, New York state Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James announced that she has filed a lawsuit against he who shall not be named, and his three eldest children. In short, it claims that their namesake organization and its leadership have been committing financial fraud as a standard business model for years.

Of course, his response was a racist slur. Which we have learned over the years is par for the course.

In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has pulled together a grand jury investigation. The purpose is to determine if he and his supporters violated state laws in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

Starts at 1:15

As pointed out in yesterday’s episode of the podcast The New Abnormal (which starts at 5:19), both James and Willis are African American women. I think it speaks to where this country is going politically. These women understand that if they don’t stand up for what is right and the rule of law, there is a chance that no one will.

The only way to shut down a bully is to beat them at their own game. The former President is a bully. Until it is made crystal clear that he and his cronies are not above the law, they will continue to act with impunity.

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