RIP Elijah Cummings

It has been said that true courage comes not from the absence of fear, but rising above the fear.

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) passed away yesterday. He was 68. The chair of the House Oversight Committee, he was born in Baltimore in 1951 to former sharecroppers.

Coming of age during the Civil Rights era, he is an icon of the movement and a time when African-Americans were fighting for their most basic rights. As an adult, he first became a lawyer and then went into politics. Recently, he was known for going up against you know who and defending the reputation of his hometown.

It’s hard to find a politician who is as principled, honorable and respectful of this country as Rep Cummings. He set a standard not just for our era, but for the future of what American politics should look like.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Flashback Friday-Dr. Who (1963-Present)

There is something to be said about a good science fiction story. While the story must be out of this world, it must also have human qualities for the audience to relate to.

Dr. Who has been a staple of British television since 1963. The title character is a Time Lord in human form known as the Doctor. Traveling in a spaceship known as the Tardis (which resembles a British police box on the outside), the Doctor travels through time and space with their companion(s). Along the way, the main character helps the less fortunate while encountering villains whose goal is to see to their demise.

Currently, the title character is played by Jodie Whittaker. I am not a huge Dr. Who fan, but I appreciate that this program does not take itself too seriously. This, in my opinion, allows both the audience and the characters to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Feminism, Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

Law & Order SVU Character Review: Mike Dodds

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 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 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 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When it comes time to choose a career, some of us choose to go into the family business. This may lead to taking advantage of a family connection to move up the professional ladder. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Mike Dodds (Andy Karl), is a second generation policeman. His father is Chief Dodds (Peter Gallagher. He got the job with SVU because of his father.

Dodds temporarily becomes second in command and then the head of SVU when Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is removed from her post. Though he does not get to his position by merit alone, he proves his worth as a policeman.

Like many police officers, Mike Dodd’s dies a hero’s death. He is fondly remembered by his colleagues as a top rate cop.

To sum it up: Though Dodds receives a hand up from his father, he still earns his stripes and the respect from his colleagues. It’s one thing to get a leg up because of your family, however, one must still earn their stripes. As a character, Dodds stands out because he knew that his father helping him only went so far. He had to go the rest of the way himself.

For that alone, I think that makes him a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, New York City, Television

New Randy Rainbow Video-“GIULIANI! (Here He Goes Again) – Randy Rainbow Song Parody”

Those of us who are above a certain age remember the dark days just after 9/11. It was nothing but chaos and grief. Back then, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) was a light in that darkness. He was one of a handful of officials who helped to get New York City and the country back on it’s feet.

These days, he’s a joke. Known more for being you know who’s personal legal lackey, he is not the man the public thought he was 18 years ago.

Enter Randy Rainbow’s new video, entitled “GIULIANI! (Here He Goes Again) – Randy Rainbow Song Parody”. Using ABBA‘s classic song “Mamma Mia” as a cornerstone, this song perfectly explains that this former NYC mayor is not what he used to be. He is not only talking out of his behind, he is one of the idiots who is putting America on the road to Hades in a hand basket.

Just another reason to get you know who out of office.

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Filed under Music, New York City, Politics, Randy Rainbow

A Life of My Own Book Review

Writing about your own life requires introspection, honesty and the ability to examine what you have or have not accomplished.

Claire Tomalin is known as the author of quite a few successful biographies. Her new book, A Life of My Own, is her autobiography. Born in 1933 to a French academic father and an English musician mother, Tomalin used books and reading as an escape hatch from her tumultuous and painful life. As a child, she watched as her parent’s marriage crumble.

In her adult years, her own marriage was far from picture perfect. Her late first husband was not exactly loyal to his wife or his vows. Her son was born disabled and she lost one of her daughters to suicide. But she was able to maintain a respected literary career and find love again, even after her disastrous first marriage.

I have to be honest. I love Ms. Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen. It is brilliant and as perfect as a biography can get. However, I found this book to be on the boring side. I should have been inspired by how she overcame what stood in her way. But I wasn’t.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen, Writing

Flashback Friday-Scooby Doo (1969-Present)

There are some cartoons that are so generation specific that it is becomes easily identifiable with that generation. Then there are other cartoons that keep coming back and entertaining multiple generations of fans.

Scooby Doo (1969-Present) is one of those cartoons that has multiple generations of fans. The premise of the show is as follows: four teenagers and a talking Great Dane solve cases that appear to be supernatural via unorthodox and comedic methods.

I am not a huge fan of Scooby Doo, however, I can see why it has entertained kids for fifty years. I think that it’s success comes down to the fact that it does not take itself too seriously or have illusions that it is a prime time police procedural.

I recommend it.

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Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush Are Friends: What is the Big Deal?

It’s one thing to disagree with someone over a political or cultural issue. It’s another thing to completely disassociate yourself with anyone who does not see the world in the same way that you do.

The most recent kerfuffle is that talk show host/actress/comic Ellen DeGeneres hung out with former President George W. Bush (R-Texas). Some have criticized the talk show host for choosing to spend her free time with the 43rd President.

Honestly, I don’t get what the big deal is. If Ellen wants to spend her free time with George Bush, that is her prerogative. Yes, she is a celebrity, but that does not mean that she must listen to the crowd when it comes to who her friends are.

And frankly, this friendship is a very good thing from my perspective. If a gay liberal performer and a straight conservative former President can kick back and relax together, why can’t the rest of the country do the same?

It’s obvious that our country is divided among several political and cultural fault lines. The problem is that we are unwilling to step over those lines and try to see the human being under the label of liberal and conservative. Until we do so, this country will remain as it is today.

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Fix Her Up Book Review

Sometimes love and the right person is closer than we think.

Tessa Bailey’s new novel, Fix Her Up, is set in the small suburban community of Port Jefferson, New York. For most, if not all of her life, Georgie Castle has been looked down as the baby of her family. She has also nursed a crush on Travis Ford, her older brother’s best friend since junior high.

Georgie earns her living as a children’s entertainer and birthday clown. Travis was once the hottest thing in major league baseball since sliced bread, but a physical injury has put an end to his career. Post professional baseball, Travis’s life consists of alcohol, takeout and self pity. Then Georgie pushes her way in and forces Travis to get back on his feet.

They plan to pretend to date to shock her family and give some life back to his career. But this pretend dating turns into something more.

I can’t say that I loved this book. There are sections that, frankly added more to the narrative that was needed. However, the book also has moments that are funny, that are sexy and that are emotionally raw, elevating Travis and George above what is expected of lead characters in this genre.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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Joker Movie Review

Creating a villain for the sake of opposing the hero or heroine is easy. It’s harder to create a three dimensional character who is still a villain, but is just as human as the hero or heroine.

The new movie, Joker, is a standalone/maybe prequel in the world of Batman. Set somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a Gotham City plagued by crime and poverty. Arthur earns his living as a clown for hire, though his professional goal is to be a stand up comedian.

He lives with his mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Controy) in a beaten down apartment. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), a Johnny Carson like late night talk show host. He also suffers from mental illness and has daydreams of dating his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz).

Over the course of the film, Arthur slowly transforms into the villain that we know of as the Joker.

I admire that director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Scott Silver tried to tackle the very complicated ideas of mental health and economic disparity. However, I found the violence to be a little much for my taste. The film was also a little on the long side.

Since the release of the film last weekend, there have been some concern that the portrayal of Arthur’s mental illness might be a trigger for those who suffer in real life. While I can completely understand that concern, I am also concerned that some in the audience might come out of the theater with the general idea that everyone who suffers from mental illness has violent or criminal tendencies.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Who Needs Friends Like the Kurds, Who Needs Enemies Like You Know Who?

Outside of family, friends are the most important people in our lives.

On the world stage, friends come in handy, especially when fighting an enemy whose sole aim is one’s destruction.

In Syria, the Kurds have been America’s ally in the war against ISIS. A politician who is well versed in this relationship and respects it would not abandon the Syrian Kurdish community to the mercy (or lack thereof) of Turkey. But you know who has decided that in his infinite wisdom, that we don’t need their support.

This community didn’t have to help us. But they did and this is how we thank them? My concern is that if we let you know who continue on this path, America will be isolated from the rest of the world. Our only friends will be countries who leadership has a questionable friendship with the United States.

In justifying his decision, he claimed that the decision was made because of the Kurds were not part of the Allies and did not participate in the Invasion of Normandy. That is the most ridiculous, nonsensical reason that I have ever heard from this man. Any voter with an ounce of sense would see this man as completely unfit for office and make dam sure that he is a one term President.

But there are fools in this country who continue to support him and will vote for him next fall. G-d help us all if he wins a second term, for we will need all of the help that we can get.

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Filed under History, International News, Politics, World News