Since last fall, the backlash against rich and powerful men accused of sexual assault and/or harassment has been swift and powerful. Men who thought they could get away with such acts without repercussions are finally being forced to admit to their crimes. The newest men added to this dishonorable list is CEO chairman Les Moonves and comic/podcast host Chris Hardwick.
Last week, Mr. Moonves was accused of using the casting couch to fill his sexual needs in return for work. In June, Mr. Hardwick was accused of abusing and blacklisting an ex-girlfriend.
The accusations against Mr. Moonves are still fresh. Only time will tell if he receives the same statement as Harvey Weinstein or if he is exonerated. As of this week, Mr. Hardwick has been cleared of the charges.
I feel like at this point, our collective response should not be all fire and fury. But that also depends on the severity of the charge. The response to the accusations against Aziz Ansari should not be the same response to Harvey Weinstein. But that doesn’t mean that they can get away with it.
The message should be clear. Sexual assault and harassment by both men and women will not be tolerated. Those accused of such acts and found guilty will receive a punishment that fits the crime.
Anyone with a goal will tell you that there is no substitute for old-fashioned hard work.
Ibtihaj Muhammad understands the success that can only from hard work. In 2016, she became the first Muslim-American woman to win an Olympic medal.
Her new memoir is Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream. Co-written by Lori Tharps, Ms. Muhammad’s story starts in suburban New Jersey where she was raised by African-American parents who converted to Islam. As a girl, she was athletic, but was unable get involved with most sports because of her faith. Except for fencing, which requires a full body suit as a uniform. As she began to train and built up her fencing abilities, she dealt with racism, xenophobia and ostracism from those who felt that she did not belong to the fencing community.
I loved this memoir. The quality that struck me most about Ms. Muhammad is that she was so determined to succeed, in spite of the obstacles in front of her. She proves that hard work, confidence and sweat can overcome anything, racism included.
I recommend it.
In her lifetime, Emily Bronte saw her first and only novel, Wuthering Heights published.
From the outside looking in (and from the view of Victorian culture), the second to last Miss Bronte was not exactly noteworthy. She was the daughter of a curate in a small Yorkshire town who preferred her animals, her poetry and the small society of her family to the outside world. Uninterested in fashion, marriage, gossip or any of the standard interests of the day for young ladies, she was wholly herself and didn’t give a fig what someone else thought about her.
Today is her 200th birthday.
Wuthering Heights is the tale of tortured love, classicism and revenge. Her protagonists are Healthcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Catherine is the daughter of a respectable house, Heathcliff is her adopted brother whose origins are unknown. As they grow up, their relationship changes from childhood playmates to young people in love. But then the reality of their world comes crashing down. Catherine marries another man. Healthcliff gives into his long simmering rage. Soon their dysfunctional relationship affects everyone around them, no one remains untouched.
At the time of its publishing, critics didn’t know what to make of this novel. 200 years later, we recognize Emily for the literary genius that she is. Other writers might have romanticized the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. But in Emily hand’s, her lead characters are deeply flawed. Heathcliff has a temper and is more than willing to inflict violence on another person if he feels that the situation calls for it. Catherine is spoiled and selfish, too comfortable in her status to choose the man she loves over the comfort of a proper home and a wealthy husband.
In the end, we keep coming back to Wuthering Heights because of those flaws. Emily was adept at creating characters that revealed the best and worst of humanity. She died at the young age of 30, today we can only speculate what she could have done as a writer had she lived longer.
Wherever you are Emily, Happy Birthday.
Star Wars is more than a space fable where a princess, a farm boy and a pirate defeat an evil empire. It is the story of good vs. evil, democracy vs. autocracy, nature and spirituality vs. machine, etc. It is also one of the biggest movie series of all time.
Last week it was announced that Episode 9 would start filming this week in London. While the statement itself is more than enough to make this fan happy, the most exciting aspects is the return of Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and that Carrie Fisher will also return as General Leia Organa. Director J.J. Abrams (who also directed The Force Awakens), stated the following about Carrie’s return as Leia:
“Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
While we will not know any details about the film for another 17 months, I have complete trust that J.J. Abrams not only will end the Skywalker saga as it ought to end, but also honor Carrie/Leia as she ought to be honored.
To have said that you survived The Holocaust took more that luck. Fate and perhaps split second decisions had a hand in deciding if one would become a martyr or a survivor.
Georgia Hunter’s 2017 memoir, We Were The Lucy Ones, tells the story of her mother’s family survived The Holocaust. She starts the story in 1939 as the Kurc family from Radom, Poland is celebrating the holiday of Passover. They are all together with the exception one of the sons who is living and working in Paris. Then the war starts and the family is torn apart. At each turn, it looks like they will join their slain brethren. But somehow, the family survives forges a new life far away from the hatred and terror that nearly took their lives.
This book is nothing short of wondrous. I could not put it down. There were points in the novel where I held my breath, praying that each individual family member would find a way to survive not just that moment or that day, but the war. It is a breathtaking story of survival, love and perseverance against all odds.
I absolutely recommend it.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is the classic middle child. She is neither beautiful like Jane, witty like Lizzie or outrageous like Kitty and Lydia. Like her sisters, she knows that she must marry well to survive, but without looks or fortune, she knows that the chances of marrying well, if at all are slim to none.
This is the premise of the new novel, Mary B: A Novel: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice.Written by Katherine J. Chen, the book tells Mary’s story before, during and after the events in Pride and Prejudice. As she watches three of her sisters marry, Mary knows that she will forever be the spinster sister dependent on others for her needs. Her only solace is her books and the story in her head that she begins to write.
Then life begins to imitate art and Mary’s voice as a smart and independent woman begins to shine through.
I had high expectations for this book. In terms of Pride and Prejudice characters, Mary is often given the short shrift. It was nice to hear her perspective on the world. However, I had two points of contention that I have no choice but to bring up. The first is that there was language and certain phrasing that was too modern for Georgian England. The second was Colonel Fitzwilliam. Without giving away the plot, I felt like his narrative and specific character arc did not ring true when compared to how he was portrayed in the original novel. In Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Fitzwilliam is outgoing and jovial. His cousin, Mr. Darcy, is perceived in a good chunk of the novel as surely and anti-social. In this book, Colonel Fitzwilliam is closer to Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Churchill in Emma than he is to how Jane Austen introduced us to in Pride and Prejudice.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Drug addiction is like any other disease. It requires a proper diagnosis and treatment for the person who is living with the addiction to be able to free themselves from their addiction.
The problem is that it is not treated as one would treat a another disease i.e. heart disease or cancer. Depending on the person who is suffering from drug addiction, they are at best enrolled in a detox program and at worst, put in jail.
Last week, singer and television star Demi Lovato had an overdose after being sober for a number of years. In addition to issues with drug abuse, she also suffers from mental illness.
Her overdose sheds a spotlight on the fact that drug addiction, despite being an illness, is not treated as an illness. For many (especially people of color), the common treatment is jail time. Ms. Lovato has the cushion of not only being white, but also being a famous performer. I’m not an expert in the law or addiction, but common sense tells me that instead of putting these people in jail, we should be treating them for their disease. Keeping them in jail only exacerbates the problem and makes it harder for them to return to every day life once they have completed their jail sentence.
I’m not a fan of Ms. Lovato, but I wish her well in seeking treatment for her disease.
The American dream is a simple one. Upon reaching adulthood, the expectation is that one will have a job that pays well and provides standard benefits. Which in turn allows one to buy/rent a decent home and support a family. But these days, the American dream is just that, a dream.
In her new book, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, Alissa Quart describes how the middle class is becoming a thing of the past and how the standard of success that were normal in generations past are no longer possible for many Americans. Interviewing a variety of people across the country, the message is clear: the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting by as best we can.
While the book is a little slow in the beginning, it picked up towards the middle of the book and does not let go until the last page. While speaking of issues such as the high cost of both health care and childcare, student loans that are still being paid off years after finishing school, hourly workers who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, Ms. Quart is not afraid to speak of the problems that most American have. But even with those problems, there is still a nugget of hope that things will get better.
I recommend it.
Adolescence or early adolescence is often addressed in movies with a glossy veneer or with a narrative that almost seems too good to be true.
The new movie, Eighth Grade, strips away that veneer to reveal the almost terrifying anxiety that comes with that period in our lives.
Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) lives the live of a typical eighth grade student. On one hand, she has her own you tube channel where she talks with ease about topics such as self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. But on the other hand, when she enters school, she is known as introverted and awkward. Taking place during the last week of eighth grade, the film follows Kayla as she navigates the turmoil and confusion that is early adolescence.
Written and directed by Bo Burnham, this film is nothing short of remarkable. From the outside looking in, the first question is how can a grown man in his 20’s create a film about a thirteen year old that resonates with audiences of all ages? The answer is that there is a humanity to the main character that speak to all of us. While her specific experiences are that of a girl about to start high school, her anxieties and world view, especially in 2018 are universal.
I absolutely recommend it.
Reality television, for many of us (myself included) is a guilty pleasure. We know that it’s fake, but we still watch it anyway.
Between 2010 and 2014, Jerseylicious was one of the leading shows on the now defunct Style Network. The show followed the personal and professional lives of the staff of a beauty salon in New Jersey.
As much as I loathe most of reality television, I have to admit that I was a fan of the show for a short time. It was almost like watching a car wreck on the side of the highway. You know that you should keep your eyes on the road, but you can’t help but take a peek as you drive by.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.