RIP Caroll Spinney

For fifty years, Sesame Street has been a staple of children’s television. What appears to be seamless is the product of hours of hard work by a team of dedicated professionals.

Yesterday, that team lost one of it’s star players: Carroll Spinney. Starting from the show’s premiere in 1969 up until last year when he retired, Spinney gave life and voice to Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird.

Through the characters he played, Spinney taught the young viewers much more than their letters and their numbers. There were life lessons that go well beyond the academic realm and the time that we spent as children watching Sesame Street.

May his memory be a blessing. Z”l.

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Filed under National News, Television

Does You Know Who Really Care About American Jews?

I think that it’s pretty fair to say that the subject of Israel and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict cannot be boiled down to a quick soundbite or a headline. There are deep nuances and shades of grey that go well beyond what the news media tells us.

This past weekend, you know who spoke at the Israeli-American Council’s annual conference in Florida. He touted his record as pro-Israel and pro-Jewish. He also said the following:

“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more. Because you have people that are Jewish people that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough,”

While I have to agree with him (as much as I hate that), I still feel like he is as disingenuous as he has always been. He can argue that he has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law, Jewish grandchildren, Jewish friends, and colleagues, etc. But he is also known for speaking out of both sides of his mouth and sending out numerous antisemitic dog whistles.

He is a top-notch salesman. He knows what to say and whom to say it to so he can close the sale. In the world of real estate, one needs to be a top-notch salesperson to professionally survive.

In the world of politics, one also needs a touch of the salesperson to professionally survive. However, when one lives in a Democracy and a politician sells the voters a false bill of goods in order to get elected, the voters have every right to kick that person to the curb.

It would be nice if I had a crystal ball to predict the outcome of the Presidential election and the impeachment trial. But I don’t. I can only hope that common sense, decency, and mutual respect will take us back to where were before the chaos started.

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Filed under International News, National News, Politics, World News

Thoughts On the 78th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

War is not the ideal state for any nation to be in. But when a nation is attacked, they have no choice to fight back.

Today is the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Up until the day that Japan attacked, many Americans were wary of getting involved in the war. Many still had very active memories from World War I. But the attack changed everything.

A generation of young men died that day, their bodies entombed in the sea. They died fighting for their country. 78 years later, their service and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

May the memories of those who died that day forever be a blessing.

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Filed under History, Thoughts On....

Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman Book Review

No matter how old we are, we still want our parent’s love and affection. But what happens we have to make a choice between our parent’s love and our authentic selves?

The new book, Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman, is a memoir written by Abby Chava Stein. Abby was born a boy, the eldest son of a large Hasidic Jewish family in New York City. A direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the expectations on her shoulders as a child were clear. She would follow in the personal and professional path of those who came before her.

But something inside of her said that she was different. In her 20’s, after marrying and having a child, Abby knew that it was time to be herself. Even if that meant being estranged from the family and the community that she grew up in.

I loved this book because the author lays it all on the page. It is an honest, heartfelt, sometimes painful memoir of a time in her life when she was living as two different people. Though Ms. Stein comes from a specific community with a specific faith, her story is universal. There are many of us in this world who live two lives. We know at some point, we must come out of the closet, in whatever form that takes.

If she can do it, so can the rest of us.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, New York City

The Golden Girls Character Review: Blanche Devereaux

*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 television series The Golden GirlsRead 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.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from The Golden Girls.  to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In our world, there are certain ideas about women and sex. When we get to our golden years, we are not interested in sex and/or romantic relationships. On The Golden Girls, Blanche Devereaux (the late Rue McClanahan) was the exact opposite of the stereotype. A modern version of Scarlett O’Hara, Blanche had her fair share of dates. Widowed for a few years, Blanche often waxed poetically about the South of her childhood and the many young men who came calling.

But Blanche is more than just an old Southern debutante. She was devoted to her late husband and her late parents. Though her parenting skills were not as strong, she tried, as many parents do. She also attempted to accept that her brother was gay, though it took some help from her roommates to finally respect who he really was. She is also equally devoted to her roommates, who pay rent to her as the owner of the house they share.

To sum it up: Blanche is a great character because she is vibrant, she is full of life and is complicated like the rest of us. As both a fan and a writer, I love how complicated Blanche is. I also love that she represents that a woman’s sexuality does not diminish once she gets to a certain age. That is why Blanche Devereaux is a character that television viewers will not forget anytime soon.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, Television

What She Lost Book Review

From my perspective, the Holocaust is a personal story because it happened to my family and my co-religionists. But for someone who is looking at it from the perspective of history without a personal connection, it’s difficult to contemplate the facts of this time in history. That is where the stories of the survivors and the victims come into play.

The new book, What She Lost, by Melissa W. Hunter, is part fiction novel and part memoir. Based on the story of how the author’s grandmother survived the Holocaust, Sarah Waldman is growing up in a small town in Poland in the 1930s. Her Jewish family is large, tight-knit and devoted to their faith. Then the Nazis roll into town and everything changes. Can she survive, and if she does, will she be able to live a full life again?

This book is fantastic. It is a deeply personal, hard-hitting story of an ordinary young girl who survives an extraordinary time in history. I applaud Ms. Hunter for being brave as a writer jumping from time period to time period. Regardless of the experience level of the writer, it takes skill and consistent effort to create a narrative that is easy to follow for the reader. Ms. Hunter is able to do so while telling a compelling story that in our time, still needs to be told.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History

Flashback Friday-George to the Rescue (2010-Present)

These days, home renovation shows are the rage.

George to the Rescue (2010-Present), has aired on NBC for nearly a decade. Hosted by contractor George Oliphant, the show follows George and his team as they renovate the homes of deserving families.

What I like about this program is that the renovations are more than vanity projects or the homeowners looking to add value to their house in order to sell it. It’s about giving back to a family who is going through hard times and desperately needs a leg up of some sort. I don’t know if one might classify it as reality television. But if it does fall under that category, it certainly makes up for some of the brainless programs that also fall into the category of “reality television”.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

Don't Mess With Nancy Pelosi

History was made in the United States today. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) asked her Democratic colleagues to start to draft articles of impeachment against you know who.

But I don’t want to talk about the impeachment in this post. I want to talk about the badass that is Nancy Pelosi.

After the announcement, she was asked if she hated the President. The question came from Sinclair reporter James Rosen. The exchange went as follows:

“Do you hate the president?’

Pelosi stopped and chided Rosen.

“I don’t hate anybody,” she said.

She then returned to the lectern and said, “As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.”

“So then don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”

Nancy Pelosi is my new hero. Unlike a certain fairweather President, she is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if the idea is unpopular. She stands up for what is right and stands up for this country. If only we had more politicians like her.

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Filed under Feminism, Politics

Whose Bright Idea Was it to Sell Auschwitz Christmas Ornaments on Amazon?

Amazon, whether we like it or not, is a retail behemoth that is on track to take over the world.

Over the weekend, Amazon removed Christmas ornaments and bottle openers with images of Auschwitz from their website.

Whose bright idea was this to create and sell? More importantly, where was Amazon in reviewing the products? The company claims to have standards, but the standards seem important only after all of the negative publicity. Not before, when they could have at least given the products a once over before allowing the seller onto their site.

I don’t know what is scarier, that the products exist or that Amazon allowed them on their website in the first place? The Holocaust is not just any historical event and Auschwitz is not just any place. A little respect, especially given the historical circumstances, goes a long way.

This time of year is about family and tradition. It is not about who can buy the most presents or decorate their house so it can be seen from space. As I see it, these products and Amazon’s inability to stop them from being sold in the first place is a symbol of the wrong reasons to celebrate the holiday season.

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Filed under History, International News, World News

Throwback Thursday-Treehouse Masters (2013-2018)

When you’re a kid, you may have wished for a treehouse in your backyard.

Builder Pete Nelson makes that wish come true for adults on his Animal Planet program, Treehouse Masters, (2013-2018). The show follows Pete and his team as they build treehouses for adults who want much more than a simple boxed frame treehouse.

I have to admit that although I am not a huge fan of this show, the treehouses are really cool. It takes whatever ideas a child might have about a treehouse and expands it in ways that only a creative mind could think of. Granted, it is still a reality show, but it does not have the mind-numbing effect that other reality shows have on the viewer.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review