Monthly Archives: April 2018

Thoughts On The 25th Anniversary Of Schindler’s List

Oskar Schindler was a complicated man. He was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi party. He was not exactly loyal to his wife. But he was also responsible for saving the lives of 1200 Jewish prisoners during The Holocaust.

This year, the film based on his life during the war, Schindler’s List, turns 25.

If there ever was a Holocaust film, Schindler’s List is that film. Liam Neeson played the title role. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the supporting cast includes Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. Filmed in stark black and white for 99% of the film, the movie pulls no punches. It forces the audience to keep their eyes on the screen and screams out that this is what hate and prejudice leads to.

This film is hard to watch, but it is hard to watch for a reason. It is still relevant 25 years later not only because hatred, prejudice and genocide are still happening, but also because there are some who continue to deny that The Holocaust is anything but historical fact.

May this film live on for eternity, as a reminder of what human beings can do to each other and why we must find a way to accept one another, even if one is different.

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Fascism: A Warning Book Review

Madeleine Albright knows a things or two about fascism. She escaped fascist Czechoslovakia twice during her youth and was Secretary Of State under the Clinton administration in the 1990’s.

Her new book, Fascism: A Warning, examine fascist governments/leaders, past and present. She examines how they came to power, the means they used the control the citizens of their respective countries and how these governments/leaders forever changed the history of their respective countries.

The one thing that struck me about this book is that despite the various countries over the years who have succumbed to fascism, the story is the same. A new leader appears on the scene. He is charismatic and knows exactly what to say to get into power. Once in power, this leader subverts the democratic rules and norms until they are no more. Often, this leads to persecution, destruction and execution of those who are deemed to be dangerous or different.

Ms. Albright is also not shy about pointing about the potential fascist leader in Washington DC who, if allowed, could destroy the American democracy as we know it to be. This book is a dire message to all American citizens. Americans must act now and use our voices and our votes before it is too late.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On the 75th Anniversary Of The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

This past weekend, I took a trip down to Washington D.C. with a friend. One of the site were visited was the United States Holocaust Museum.

This past weekend was also the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The museum is emotionally heavy, as is the story of uprising. Neither dances around The Holocaust. It is in your face, as it should be. It is a reminder of the duality of human beings: how on one hand, we can see past labels and see another person as they are. On the other hand, it is also incredibly easy to judge a person based on that same label and devalue them to the point of murder and destruction.

If nothing else, The Holocaust is a reminder that we are each other’s keepers. It is up to us to remember what hate can do to a person and how beyond important it is to see someone else as a human being before judging them based on factors such as skin color, race or religion.

On a personal note, I found Dobromil on a list of communities desecrated during The Holocaust. Dobromil is one of the shtetls my ancestors called home.

Never Again.

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Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues Book Review

For every hero, there is a villain. For every romantic leading man who ends up with the romantic leading lady, there is a rogue who fails to keep them apart.

Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, edited by Christina Boyd, is a series of short stories by a group of authors who delve into the lives and emotions of some of Austen’s male characters who are not typically given the spotlight. The includes Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice, Sir Walter Elliot from Persuasion and Mr. Willoughby from Sense And Sensibility.

I really enjoyed this book. As both a writer and a reader, it’s always interesting to look at secondary characters who normally do not receive the same attention as the leading characters. Like any writer, Austen spent most of her time focusing on her main characters, opening the door for other writers to focus on characters normally do not receive the same attention.

I recommend it.

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Early Flashback Friday-Happily Divorced (2011-2013)

There is nothing like translating real world experiences into art.

In the short-lived television series, Happily Divorced (2011-2013), Fran Lovett (Fran Drescher) has just learned that her husband of nearly two decades, Peter Lovett (John Michael Higgins) is gay. Instead of going their separate ways, Fran and Peter decide to make their new relationship work.

Based on Drescher’s real life (her IRL ex husband Peter Marc Jacobson also came out of the closet during their marriage, they divorced after 21 years of marriage), the show tries to re-interpret the family sitcom for the modern era that we live in.

The problem with the show is that while it was moderately entertaining and funny, it did not have the lasting power of Drescher’s other show, The Nanny.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

 

 

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Little Women Character Review: Meg March

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have seen any of the adaptations.

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 Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There is something to be said about birth order and personality. In Little Women, Meg March is the oldest of four March girls. The March family is today what we would call middle class. They are not super wealthy, but they are not poor either. The book starts as The Civil War rages on, the girl’s father is fighting for the North. To supplant the family income, Meg works as a governess for a local family. Like many first-born children, Meg often acts as a secondary parent to her younger sisters.

But that does not mean that Meg is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She is still growing up, trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to live her life. Along the way, she lets her wealthy friends turn her into their personal makeover project and eventually marries John Brooke (who shall be discussed at a later date), who according to Aunt March (who will also be discussed at a later date) is not an appropriate match.

To sum it up: Archetypes are one facet of character development. But the archetype is only the skeleton of the character. It is up to the writer to flesh out the character and make them feel alive. Meg March feels alive because despite being the archetypal responsible and level-headed first-born, she still has her imperfections and her faults. That is why audiences and readers still keep going back to Meg and the rest of the characters in Little Women more than a century after the original publication date.

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Early Throwback Thursday-Edtv (1999)

There is something almost ruthless about the reality television genre.

In the 1999 movie Edtv, Ed (Matthew McConaughey) is an average joe who is chosen by a new network to be the star of his own reality show. He will be followed by a camera crew all day and all night. Things get interesting when it comes out that Ed has nursed a crush on his brother’s girlfriend, Shari (Jenna Elfman). On top of Ed’s unspoken feeling for Shari, the reveal that Roy (Woody Harrelson) is unfaithful to Shari only adds fuel to the fire.

In 1999 movie, the reality television genre as we know it to be today was in it’s infancy. Even then, it was ripe for satire and the filmmakers knew it.

I recommend it.

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The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America Book Review

I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but there is one song that to me forever feels relevant: Carefully Taught, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. One of the verses is as follows:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/You’ve got to be taught from year to year/It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught

Mohammed Al Samawi was born in Yemen. Raised in a religious Muslim family, he was taught to believe that Judaism, Christianity and anything in general belonging to western society was inherently evil. Then, at the age of 23, he received a copy of the New Testament. This small action started him on a journey of not just acceptance of others, but ultimately forced him to leave his family and his country and make a new life in America.

This book is mind blowing. I had a number of thoughts as I read this memoir. The first thought is that we can overcome prejudice and hate, if we are willing and we have the opportunity. The second thought is that his story feels like it could belong to anyone, regardless of faith or family background. The final thought is that hating someone because they are different feels like a waste of emotions and energy. We only get one spin on this on planet, why waste it hating someone else when you could just go about your business?

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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A Higher Loyalty Book Review

The man of the political hour these days is James Comey. It seems like it is nearly impossible to go anywhere without hearing his name.

His memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership was published very recently to acclaim, buzz and a bit of controversy.

In the memoir, Mr. Comey tells the story of his life from his own perspective. He was born in the early 1960’s in a suburban town just outside of New York City and grew up in New Jersey. Working for the government at the state, local and national level for several decades, he uses his experience to draw a picture of what ethical and m0ral leadership looks like. As expected, he also writes about his brief and turbulent term as FBI director during the 2016 Presidential Election and under the leadership of Donald Trump.

If some readers are expecting a tabloid-esque tell all similar to Fire and Fury or Devil’s Bargain, they will be sorely disappointed. What they will find is the story of a man who shoots straight from the hip, believes in American democracy, does not cater to party lines and makes decisions based on what is best for the country.

I recommend it.

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Happy Birthday Charlotte Bronte

For those who lived in her era, Charlotte Bronte was an unassuming person.

She was the oldest child of the widowed Patrick Bronte, a man of the cloth who some might have considered an odd duck. She lived in a dirty, poverty-stricken middle of nowhere town in Yorkshire, England. Her mother, Mariah and elder sisters, Mariah and Elizabeth died young, elevating Charlotte to the title of oldest Bronte child. Like her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte was without the standard bearers of her day that would have made her a catch in the marriage market: beauty, status and/or money.

Today is her birthday.

In our own time, we celebrate her genius and the genius of her sisters, Anne and Emily. Jane Eyre, like her other novels, is a respected classic that is beloved by readers the world over, is part of the syllabus in many a classroom and for better and/or worse has been adapted for the stage and the screen.

We remember her as a proto-feminist, a writer in an era when novel-writing belonged to men only and a woman who refused to quietly give in to the image of what a woman should be.

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Bronte.

 

 

 

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