The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World Review

Since her earliest days, America has represented opportunity and freedom from persecution and tyranny.

The exhibit, The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World at the New York Historical Society, explores how the first Jews not only settled in early America, but thrived. Containing pictures, religious artifacts, books, press and more, this exhibit tells the story how despite the obstacles before them, the early American Jews created a foothold that not only opened the door to generations of future Jewish immigrants, but for all immigrants looking for the opportunity and security that America represents.

I found the exhibit to be interesting, educational and enlightening. When one thinks of a Jewish immigrant, one thinks of poor immigrants come off the boat at Ellis Island around the early 20th century with the only the clothes on the backs and maybe a bag or two. But the reality is that Jews have been living in America since it’s inception.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World is at the New York Historical Society until March 12, 2017. The New York Historical Society is at 170 Central Park West in New York City.


The World of Poldark Book Review

In 2015, a new television series premiered. Poldark was the reboot of the phenomenon that was the 1970’s series based on the books by Winston Graham.

The reboot in turn has become its own phenomenon. In the wake of the reboot’s success, The World Of Poldark was published. Written by Emma Marriott, the book contains pictures, interviews, research materials from the 1780’s that the production team used and a look behind the scenes,the book gives the viewer an inside look into the making of the series.

This book is a wonderful addition to any fan’s library. It contains everything that a fan would want in a backstage pass to the making of Poldark.

I recommend it.

The Shooting At The Ft. Lauderdale Airport & The Cry For Help

Another week, another shooting. More innocent lives lost.

Yesterday, a gunman walked into the baggage area at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and starting shooting innocent passengers. By the time he stopped shooting, five people were dead and eight people were injured.

The man accused of the massacre is Esteban Santiago, a former member of the National Guard who had recently become a father for the first time. According to reports from the press and family members that have been interviewed since yesterday’s shooting, Mr. Esteban suffered from mental health issues.

Aside from the issues of lax gun laws and the fact that the TSA seems not to make changes until a tragedy happens, the major issue that seems to have contributed to the unnecessary loss of life is the mental health of the shooter.

Mental illness is not a joke. Millions of people, not just in the United States, but around the world, suffer from various forms of mental illness. Under the best of circumstances, those living with mental health issues attempt to live a normal life. Under the worst of circumstances, not only is the life of the sufferer taken, but he or she may kill someone else in the process.

The fact is that we need to take the issue seriously and we need to ensure that those suffering from mental illness receives the treatment they need. That treatment maybe the only thing that saves lives.

Flashback Friday-Avonlea (1990-1996)

There is something comforting about watching a television show from your childhood. While you look at the show with adults eyes and adult experiences, a part of you is still watching with the eyes and the experiences of the child you once were.

From 1990-1996, Avonlea, based on the stories by Anne Of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery was part of the television lineup.

The focal point of the show was the King family living on Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century. Hetty King (Jackie Burroughs) is the oldest of her five siblings and the family matriarch. After the death of one of her sisters, Hetty has agreed to raise her niece Sarah Stanley (Sara Polley). Alec King (Cedric Smith), is the oldest son. Married to Janet (Lally Cadeau), they have two children, Felix (Zachary Bennett) and Felicity (Gema Zamprogna). The youngest of the five siblings is Olivia (Mag Ruffman), who is still being coddled by her elder siblings, despite the fact that she is a grownup.

The thing that I always remember about this show is that is not just that the kind of show that the family can sit around and watch, but it is quality entertainment. There are very few shows that can legitimately fall into the category of quality, family friendly entertainment without being too sweet or predictable. I have fond memories of this show and I wish there more shows on television like it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Poldark Character Review: Dr. Dwight Enys

*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.

In the previous posts, I wrote about the title character, Ross Poldark , his wife, Demelza, Ross’s cousin, Francis, Francis’s wife, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s second husband, George Warleggan and Ross’s cousin, Verity Blamey. Today’s post will focus on Ross’s best friend, Dr. Dwight Enys.

In any good story, the hero or heroine needs another character to create an emotional balance.  It could be a romantic partner or it could be a close friend. In the world of Poldark, the character of Dr. Dwight Enys creates that balance. Dwight is the Oscar to Ross’s Felix. A doctor by profession, he could have easily chosen to practice among the well heeled ton of London or Bath. Instead he chose to live and work in Cornwall, an area where the majority of the residents are far from wealthy. Where Ross is temperamental and impulsive,  Dwight is practical and level headed. A generous soul, Dwight is known to treat patients for free who unable to pay. But no one is perfect, not even Dwight.

His affair with a miners wife that ended tragically  in both book 2 and series 1 allowed the specter of guilt and doubt to enter his life. That guilt and doubt plagued him until he met Caroline Penvenen, the heiress who he would later marry. Torn between his job and his heart in book 4 and series 2, Dwight nearly walks away from Caroline.


The thing that strikes me about Dwight is that in a universe where characters are temperamental, emotional and dramatic, Dwight is the opposite. He creates a balance that allows the characters on the other side of the emotional spectrum to be out there emotionally while he remains calm and collected.

To sum it up: There has to be a balance on the emotional spectrum when it comes to characters. For every Marianne Dashwood, there has to be an Elinor Dashwood. While one character rages on and explodes, the other is sitting there quietly, responding with a cool and level head. In the world of Poldark, Ross is Marianne and Dwight is Elinor. Without that contrast, the reader may find the characters to be monotone, predictable and the book unreadable. The worst thing a writer wants to hear is the p word. It has sounded the death knell for the many books that have been returned to the library or the bookstore unfinished and un-liked.

Throwback Thursday-The Making Of A Lady (2012)

The story of Cinderella has been told time and again, across the ages and across the world. The reason why it keeps being retold is that the basic elements of the narrative and the characters are easily malleable to any writer who wishes to put his or her own spin on the tale.

In the 2012 television movie, The Making Of A Lady, (loosely based upon the book The Making Of A Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett) Emily Fox Seton (Lydia Wilson) has just lost her job as the assistant of Lady Maria Bayne (Joanna Lumley). Lady Bayne’s widower nephew, Lord James Walderhurst (Linus Roache) proposes marriage to Emily. Emily accepts his proposal. What starts out as marriage of convenience soon turns into something more emotionally substantial.

Then James is called away to India and Emily finds more and more of her time is spent with her husband’s heir and cousin, Captain Alec Osborn (James D’Arcy) and his half Indian, half white wife, Hester (Hasina Haque). Emily beings to suspect of foul play, but are her suspicions correct and can she save not only her life, but the life of the child growing inside of her?

I have not read the book, so this review is strictly based on the television program. Friends of mine have read the book and have advised that the creative team took one too many liberties when re-imagining the novel for the small screen. While it may not be a perfect on-screen rendering of the novel, as a stand alone television adaptation, it could be much worse.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Bright Lights Trailer

While 2016 had it’s fair share of heartbreaking Hollywood losses, none felt harder or more poignant than the death of the legendary mother daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher last week. While each was known for a brilliant career in her own right, together, they represented the best and worst of Hollywood.

With many of us still grieving, we have one more chance to say goodbye. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds will be premiering on HBO this Saturday.

I have a feeling that this documentary will make the audience both cry and smile in remembering this brilliant and one of a kind mother daughter duo.

RIP Carrie and Debbie. Together in life and together in death.

Carrie Fisher, The Bipolar Hero

One week ago today, we lost Carrie Fisher. While many will remember her as the daughter of famous parents, as Princess Leia and the best writers around, Ms. Fisher will also be remembered for her battle with mental illness.

Mental illness, in its various forms affects millions around the world. Some are able to put on a face and go about their business, pretending that they are emotionally healthy. Others are crippled by their demons, forced to spend their days in the shadows, afraid to even step out of those shadows. Carrie Fisher was one of us. Diagnosed with bi polar disorder in her twenties, she embraced her demons and openly commented on them with honesty, gusto and a sense of humor that few with mental illness have the bravery to speak of.

I’ve been a fan of hers since my teens, when the original trilogy was re-released in movie theaters. Over the years, I’ve come to admire Carrie Fisher not just for her most famous on-screen alter ego, but for the bravery and the sense of humor that allowed her to face her demons and live her life to the fullest. Those of us living with mental illness want to live a full life, but our demons hold us back. She was our voice and our courage. She spoke when we couldn’t. She gave us the push we needed to give our demons the middle finger and just enjoy life.

It’s only been seven days she left this world. While our tears may still flow, we can start to remember why we loved her.

RIP Carrie, you are missed.

Rey is Not a Skywalker, She is a Kenobi

*The theory below is strictly based on the narrative and characters presented in the movies, not on any of other media. This post also contains spoilers about the Star Wars movies, read at your own risk if you have not seen them.

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), fans were introduced to a new heroine: Rey (Daisy Ridley). We are introduced to Rey as she is climbing through the remains of a downed Empire battleship, scavenging for metal that she can sell. While the audience has yet to be told anything about Rey other than the details that were released in The Force Awakens, multiple fan theories have been flying around the internet since the film’s release.

My theory is that Rey is not a Skywalker, but a Kenobi. My reasons are:

  1. The force and the abilities to control the force are an inherited trait (unless your Anakin Skywalker and believed to be created by the force.) There are only a few surviving bloodlines and families within the Star Wars Universe that have transfered the force from parent to child. Unless Rey were partially created by the force, she has to have inherited her abilities from someone.
  2. If nothing else, the narrative within Star Wars is known for huge, jaw dropping, completely out of left field plot twists (i.e. the big reveal in Empire or Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) killing his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in The Force Awakens). While the easiest and most direct theory is that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is Rey’s father, that would be almost too easy to predict.
  3. Rey is an outsider at the beginning of The Force Awakens. She lives on the desert of Jakku and is without family or friends to rely on. If she were Luke’s daughter, she would be wearing an outfit that is completely white. But instead, her outfit is  white, tan and grey, closer to the outfit that Obi Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) wore in a New Hope.
  4. If Rey was Luke’s daughter, both Han and Leia (the late and very missed Carrie Fisher) would have recognized their niece.
  5. Rey could be Leia’s daughter from another relationship. In The Force Awakens, Han and Leia seemed to have separated for a time. That might have led to a relationship with another man, but again, Leia did not recognize her or make mention of another child besides Kylo Ren/Ben, so from my perspective, it is highly unlikely that she and Rey are mother and daughter.
  6. There is no mention in The Force Awakens of a relationship that between Luke and a woman that might have led to the birth of a child. Unless that is the big secret that both Daisy Ridley and J.J. Abrams have almost let slip over the past year.
  7. Unless some of Obi Wan’s history between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope has been alluded to in other media, the audience knows nothing of his life between those years. There could have been a relationship and a child somewhere along the way.
  8. The audience is given so little of Luke’s life in the thirty years between Jedi and The Force Awakens. Mark Hamill was not given any dialogue in The Force Awakens and he gave no indication, at least for the short time he was on screen, that he recognized Rey.
  9. Obi Wan is one of several prominent voices that Rey hears as she picks up the light saber and learns how to yield it.  Given his status as Luke’s mentor and father figure, as well Rey’s natural abilities with the light saber, it’s not hard to imagine that Obi Wan is related to Rey.

Therefore, based on the information provided provided, I believe that Rey carries Kenobi blood, not Skywalker blood in her veins.

Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to know what my fellow Star Wars fan think.

%d bloggers like this: