Monthly Archives: November 2016

Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is one of those books. We devoured them as kids. They were our gateway drugs to the power and possibilities that only a book can create. Louisa May Alcott‘s tale of four sisters growing up in Civil War era Massachusetts will live on forever as a testament of not only what it is to be a woman, but to be a sister and to have a sister.

Today is Alcott’s 184’s birthday. While she is known for other novels, Little Women will always stand out for me.

While the four March sisters are archetypes, they stand alone as individuals. The eldest, Meg is the typical eldest sister: steady, reliable and thinking with a clear head. The next eldest daughter, Josephine, or Jo as she is known as, is the tomboy and the rebel. She is the son her father never had. The third daughter, Beth, prefers to stay within the confines of home and family to the world outside. She also has the biggest heart. The baby of the family, Amy, is not unlike other youngest children in that she is spoiled. Though she is a bit of a drama queen, she knows that family is the most important thing at the end of the day.

There is magic in this book. The magic comes from the four sisters, whose lives and relationships feel human, alive and relevant. Using real life as an inspiration, Alcott was the second of four daughters. She received an extraordinary education for a girl from her era, learning from noted Gilded era intellectuals Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Independent and free thinking, Alcott never married.

Louisa May Alcott is part of a short, but important list of women writers who opened the door for women to not just earn their livings as writers, but do whatever they want to do with their lives.

Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott. I raise my glass and my very old edition of Little Women to you.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, Writing

Max Beckman in New York and Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven Review

If we know nothing about a culture, except for their art, we have learned all that we need to know. Art speaks when words are not enough.

New York City’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened two exhibits that represent the power of art.

Max Beckmann was one of the premiere artists of his day. Known as an expressionist artist (a term that he rejected), he often used himself as the subject for many of his paintings. Forced to flee his native Germany in the 1930’s due to the extreme dislike of his art by the Nazis, Beckmann spent ten years in the Netherlands before emigrating to the United States.

Earlier this year, his art was put on display by the The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I found his art to be unique and interesting. They are wild, imaginative, introspective and free. Unlike other artists, Beckmann was uninhibited, he painted what he thought and felt. Though I knew nothing about him before I visited the exhibit, I knew who he was an artist immediately just by studying the paintings.

Max Beckmann in New York is at the Met until February 17, 2017.

Jerusalem is the eternal city. The home of three of the worlds major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it has been at the epicenter of art and conflict for more than 1000 years. Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven tells the story of Jerusalem through various art forms from the years 1000-1400. Using books, jewelry, weapons, pots, bowls and religious artifacts, this exhibit speaks more about the history of Jerusalem than any history book could ever state. That is where the strengths of the exhibit lie, telling the story of this era in Jerusalem history in a unique and creative way.

Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven is at the Met until January 8, 2017.

I recommend both.

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Filed under History, New York City

Anne Of Green Gables Review

Anne Shirley is one of those characters. Every little girl who loves books (especially the redheads, myself included) adores Anne Shirley for her spunk, vivaciousness and imagination.

Yesterday, PBS aired a new adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s classic novel, Anne Of Green Gables. Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine) is an orphan who has landed in the home of the never married, middle aged brother and sister duo, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (Martin Sheen and Sara Botsford). Matthew and Marilla requested that the orphanage send them a boy to help them around farm. What they got was a talkative, imaginative and fiery 11-year-old girl whose hair matches her temperament. Matthew is immediately taken with Anne, but Marilla is a little unsure about the new edition to the family.

I adore Anne Of Green Gables. I adore Anne Shirley. Redheads are only 2% of the population. Positive role models, especially for young girls with my coloring are far and few between. Anne Shirley is one of the few that we can call our own. I did not adore this adaptation. The biggest issue is the behemoth that is the 1980’s miniseries with Megan Follows playing Anne. Follow’s Anne Shirley is as iconic as Colin Firth playing Mr. Darcy in the 1995 Pride And Prejudice miniseries. It’s a hard act to follow.

While I did not have an issue with the casting, I had an issue with the narrative. It felt too fast, certain plotlines that are within the book and the previous adaptation were discarded. While I get that it was a 90 minute television movie and not a full miniseries, I just wish there was more meat on the bones, so to speak.

Do I recommend it? If you as the viewer are new to the world of AOGG, then yes. But if not, I would say no. There are too many changes for my taste.

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Filed under Books, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Television, TV Review

RIP Florence Henderson

There is no one like Mom. She smells of home cooking, fresh laundry and reminds us of home.

Florence Henderson passed away yesterday. Best remembered for playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), Florence was seen as America’s mother.

In 1969, America was changing. While The Brady Bunch was wholesome, unaffected and unabashedly simple at times, it was also charming and reminded us of the love and the chaos of family. Carol Brady is a widow with three little girls. Mike Brady is a widower with three little boys. The Brady Bunch lasted five years, but lives on in reruns. What makes The Brady Bunch interesting from a television perspective is that while it was not the domestic comedies of the early 1950’s, it was represented the changes in the world. There wouldn’t be a Cosby Show, Family Ties or Modern Family without The Brady Bunch. Inspired by the feminist movement, more women were entering the working world, marrying later, divorcing their husbands and were more educated than their mothers and grandmothers.

Betty Freidan, Carol Brady was not. But she was a single mother who saw the possibilities in her daughters. She was also a wife who was a very happily married woman with a very active sex life.

RIP Florence Henderson.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Television

Hairspray Live

The story of the underdog can be appealing to audiences. Those of us who feel downtrodden, ignored and used will often turn to fictional characters for support and inspiration.

In 1988, filmmaker John Waters introduced audiences to 1960’s teenager Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Tracy is a pleasantly plump young lady whose sole wish is to dance in the local teenage dance show. In her drive to become a regular on show, Tracy not only changes the look of the dancers, but the color of the dancers. Subversive, campy, but with a strong message of diversity, inclusion and respect for all, this film spoke to audiences. In 2002, Hairspray hit the Broadway stage and became a mainstay in New York until it closed in 2009.

In 2007, a film musical, based on off the Broadway show hit theaters. Let’s just say that it was mostly flash and pop and lost the message of the original film.

In just under two weeks, NBC will be airing Hairspray Live.

We will know soon enough how it holds up to its predecessors. The thing that strikes me is that it still feels very timely, nearly 30 years later. We are still a nation and a culture who judges women based on their looks and discriminates based on color. Hairspray is a reminder that change is possible, if we are bold enough to step up and speak out for what is right.

Hairspray Live will be airing on Dec 7, 2016 on NBC at 8/7c.

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Filed under Broadway Musical Review, History, Movies, Television

Flashback Friday-Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998)

Family and money are peculiar things. We do things for both that in the moment seem wise, but in the long run are far from wise.

In the 1998 film Krippendorf’s Tribe, James Krippendorf (Richard Dreyfuss) is an anthropologist who has misused university funds. Instead of discovering and recording the last unknown tribe of New Guinea, he comes home empty-handed. Instead of fessing up, Krippendorf comes up with the most unusual of scams: enlisting his children to pretend to be the undiscovered tribe of Shelmikedmu.

I find the premise of this film to be very interesting. Though I am not sure what genre besides comedy that it belongs to, it is certainly an entertaining film.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Movie Review, Movies

Poldark Character Review: Ross Poldark

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Poldark, both the books and the television series. Read at your own risk.

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 Winston Graham’s series of novels, Poldark and the subsequent television series to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Let’s start with the titular hero: Ross Poldark.

Ross is the son of an ancient family in Cornwall, England. At the beginning of the first book and the miniseries, Ross is fighting for the British during the American revolution. In love with Elizabeth, their relationship seems like it is on the fast track toward marriage. Then Ross is injured while fighting for King and country. He comes home to find Elizabeth engaged to his cousin, Francis, his father is dead and the mine that his income is derived from is in shambles.

On one hand, Ross is very much a member of the upper class. He knows what is expected of him and knows how to act. But Ross is hot headed and stubborn. While he can be honorable and does what is right (even if it goes against the law, i.e. the beginning of book 3 and Series 2), he can also act very stupidly. In Book 4 and series 2, Francis dies in a mine accident. The previously dormant feelings Ross had for Elizabeth flicker back to life, nearly breaking up his marriage to Demelza and forcing him to do the unthinkable to Elizabeth when he learns that she is to marry George Warleggan.

To sum it up: Ross Poldark feels alive to the reader because this character is full of contradictions. Though he is a part of the upper class, he appreciates, respects and stands up for the people who do not have his advantages. He can be a bit foolish and headstrong,  but he tries to do what is right.

As writers, we have to approach our characters from not just one or two traits, but a mixture of good and bad. Ross is honorable and tries to do what is right, but sometimes falls victim to impetuousness. No one is wholly good or wholly evil. Winston Graham created a hero who feels alive and real because he is human and therefore imperfect.

This is the first post of what I hope will be a weekly series. Any suggestions to improve this series of posts are greatly appreciated, feel free to leave comments in the comments box below.  

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Filed under Books, Character Review, History, Poldark, Writing

Throwback Thursday-Little Giants (1994)

There is nothing like having a sibling. It’s the most complicated of human relationships.

In the 1994 movie, Little Giants, brothers Kevin and Danny O’Shea (Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill) are as different as night and day. Danny is the nerd and Kevin is the jock. Kevin is the coach of the local kids team and has dreams of taking his team to the championship. When Danny’s daughter is rejected from the team because she is a girl, she and the others who were rejected start a team of their own. The problem is that what they lack the skills and the enthusiasm to succeed.

Only one team can represent their town. Which team will win and represent the town in the championship?

This movie is about the underdog. It is also about a small, but important step on the road to feminism, a girl not only playing a traditionally male sport, but also leading the team.

Do I recommend it? If your 12, yes. If your older, maybe not.

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Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday

Dear Donald Trump: An Open Letter From A Democrat To The Republican Presidential Elect

Dear Donald Trump

You won the election. As much as I would have loved to say the words, Madam President, it was not in the cards, at least not for this election.

We have to talk.

But before I get into the things that I disagree with you about, I need to thank you for some things:

  • Supporting Israel. Israel is one of our greatest allies and the only true democracy in the Middle East.
  • Not repealing the gay marriage act. It is the most important civil rights legislation of this generation.
  • For keeping the parts of Obamacare that work. While I can certainly attest that Obamacare has its problems, when it works, it works.

Now I need to get to the reason for this online conversation.

  • Steve Bannon. This man is dangerous and scary and represents what we need to fix in this country.
  • Mike Pence. His extreme discriminatory law against the LGBTQ community and the scary and antiquated anti-abortion law have honestly sent shivers down my spine. As much as I disliked George Bush Jr when he was in the White House, I don’t recall that he went as far as Mr. Pence did.
  • The Hamilton incident last week. It was not a personal attack on your potential policies or your Vice President, it was simply a group of citizens speaking their mind.

 

 

  • Your twitter rants. Being Presidential means having a thick skin and not attacking everyone who disagrees with you. If every President since George Washington responded with the same fervor to every citizen who publicly disagreed with them, they would have barely lasted a day, much less  4 or 8 years as President.
  • Your anti abortion stance. Frankly, sir, it is quite scary. You have a wife, daughters and granddaughters. While they are lucky to have the financial support should any potential future pregnancies turn for the worst, there are millions of American women do not have that financial backing. Defunding Planned Parenthood would be disastrous for these women, who use Planned Parenthood for more than abortion.
  • Your attacks on the press. Freedom of Press is one of the cornerstones of our country and our democracy. We have the right to use the press to openly disagree with our leaders.
  • Your anti-immigration policy. Unless you are Native American, you are an immigrant. Someone in your family at some point in history made the decision to leave the land of their birth and take their chances in America. America is made of immigrants. Your statements, frankly scared many people, myself included.

That sir, is the end of this online conversation. You will be President, I wish you luck.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Politics

Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday-Really?

Black Friday has become a tradition in this country. I personally don’t see the point of waking up before the sun rises the day after Thanksgiving, just to buy a holiday gift that will still be there if g-d forbid we wait another day or two. But to each their own.

In recent years, some of the stores have decided to open on Thursday.

Why?

If this time of year is supposed to be about tradition and time with our families, which are priceless, why are we killing ourselves not just on Black Friday but on Thanksgiving to buy holiday gifts?

For the people who choose to shop on Black Friday, that’s their call. But to shop on Thanksgiving? That’s appalling. I get it, the store owners see the bottom line. But there is more to running a business than the bottom line. Unfortunately, that, from my perspective, that is what the store owners are looking at.

I wish every one of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. May you spend tomorrow with the ones you love and if you choose to do Black Friday, I wish you luck.

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