Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Bluest Eye Book Review

We all want to fit in. We all want to be loved, to be appreciated, to be accepted. But sometimes, as much as we wish it to happen, it may never happen.

The late Toni Morrison‘s debut novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The main character in the book is Pecola Breedlove, a young African-American girl growing up in the 1930s and 1940s. Because of her complexion and the way that the rest of the world sees her, Pecola wants to be White. She wants to have blonde hair, blue eyes and fit in with the world around her.

As her wish becomes more fervent, her life begins to fall apart in ways that most, if not all of us, would find troubling.

If this book is not a mirror to our reality, I don’t know what is. Issues of race, class, and questions of who is considered to be beautiful bounce around this book like a painful ping pong ball. It is, I think, a necessary read because we are still wrestling with the same issues today that the characters are wrestling with decades ago.

I recommend it.

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Bernie Sanders Lost My Vote

With the 2020 Presidential Election a little more than a year away, the time is coming in which voters must choose which Democratic candidate will go against you know who.

Though I like a number of the candidates, I have yet to choose just one to push as the Democratic nominee. But there is one nominee who has forever lost my vote: Bernie Sanders.

To be honest, something about Senator Sanders (D-Vermont) never quite clicked with me politically. I appreciate his ideas, but they have always been a little out there, at least from my perspective.

But his decision to hire Amer Zahr, a staunch advocate of the BDS movement has turned me off from voting for Senator Sanders altogether. The fact that Senator Sanders, who is Jewish, would bring on a surrogate who actively campaigns for the destruction of Israel is repugnant.

The problem is the mixed message that Senator Sanders sends out with this decision. He has spoken in the past of being Jewish and yet, he hires someone who advocates for the destruction of the Jewish homeland and Jewish lives.

If Senator Sanders wants to win the nomination and possibly the Presidency, recognizing the importance of Israel and her American supporters is tantamount. Especially given that most Jewish voters are Democrats.

As much as I would love a Jewish President of the United States, I doubt that Senator Sanders will be that President.

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Filed under International News, Politics, World News

Throwback Thursday-Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989-1993)

Being a teenager is hard enough. But adding something else to that plate makes life twice as hard and twice as interesting.

Doogie Howser, M.D. was on the air from 1989-1993. Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is much more than the average teenage boy. He has the academic intellect of someone far older than he. This leads him to an early career in medicine. While delving in the adult world of medicine, he is also dealing with the emotional pitfalls of being a teenager.

This show, as I remember it, was interesting. The basic premise of the program is a fish out of water story meets a coming of age tale. Though the program is very much a part of its time, there is also a universal quality to the narrative.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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Filed under Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era Book Review

When you get to a certain age, your friends become your family. For ten years, the television show Friends reflected that time in our lives.

Back in September, pop culture historian Saul Austerlitz published his latest book, Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era. The book takes readers and fans behind the scenes from the conception of the show to height of its popularity and ends by reflecting on it’s legacy as a modern American sitcom. Containing interviews with the cast, the creative team and the crew, this book is one that Friends fans will want to read.

This book is well written. However, it is not for the casual Friends fan or someone who only knows of the show in passing. This book is for the superfan who has seen every episode, can quote every line and knows everything that there is to know about this program.

I would like to say that I loved this book. But I can’t. I felt like there were moments that the author was only writing for the superfan. As a casual fan, I felt like the author was not writing to or for me, which nearly led me to put the book down without finishing it.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Journeys: An American Story Book Review

The story of America is the story of immigration. It is also the story of those who oppose immigration.

Journeys: An American Story, was published last year. Edited by Andrew Tisch and Mary Skafidas, the book is a compilation of immigrant stories. The stories of immigration range from the earliest days of the United States to the present. Those interviewed can trace their families to every part of the globe and range from the well known to the average person on the street.

I enjoyed reading this book. I live in a country and a world that looks down on immigrants, especially those fleeing poverty and persecution. If nothing else, this book reaffirms the idea that instead of punishing immigrants or forcing them out, we should welcome them with open arms. If we prevent them from coming, we may never know what their descendants may accomplish.

I recommend it.

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Cilka’s Journey Book Review

For untold generations, women have been told that our beauty is our only asset. But during war, using our looks may mean the difference between life and death.

Cilka’s Journey, by Heather Morris is a follow up to her previous novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Based on a true story, Cecilia “Cilka” Klein is just sixteen when she was transported to Auschwitz from her home in Czechoslovakia. She is saved from the gas chambers by her looks and is forced to become a sexual slave. When the war is over, Cilka looks forward to freedom.

Instead, she is accused of willfully sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian work camp. The conditions in the gulag are similar to those in Auschwitz. But there is one difference: the kindness of a female doctor. This doctor gives Cilka the opportunity to work in the camp hospital. This job helps to bring Cilka back to life and show her that love is still possible.

When we talk about the Holocaust and World War II, the subject of sexual assault and #Metoo is a subject that does not come up very often. But I think it is a topic that we should be discussing, especially given our current political and cultural climate.

From a very young age, women are socialized to the idea that their main asset (if not their only asset) is their beauty. But we are also penalized when we use our looks to get by. From the instant we meet her, Cilka is a character that I admired and I wanted to hug. Many would have not lasted as long as she did in the same set of circumstances. But Cilka did and for that alone, she deserves as much recognition as she can get.

I recommend it.

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Late Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Brian Cassidy

*I apologize for the delay, life, as it sometimes does, got in the way.

*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.

Finding one’s path in life is not easy. It requires one to take chances, not knowing if your going in the right direction or you have taken a mis-step. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Brian Cassidy (Dean Winters) is just trying to find his way. Like many who are trying to find their way, he makes a few mistakes.

Cassidy is one of the younger members of the SVU squad. Though he is dedicated to his job, he has a long way to go before he is the ideal SVU detective. The gravity of the cases he works on often stretches him emotionally, sometimes forcing him to react inappropriately. It takes his older and experienced partner, John Munch (Richard Belzer), to calm him down and teach him to become a better detective.

If the pressure of work was not enough, Cassidy’s long time crush and one night stand with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) does not end well. This leads to an explosion in which he realizes that working as an SVU detective is not the right path for him and asks for a transfer.

But this is not the end of Cassidy’s time with SVU. He comes back 12 years after the transfer and nearly sends his former boss, Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) to prison for prostitution. He also starts dating Olivia secretly and it seems like everything is settling down. But then an accusation by another prostitute forces Cassidy to take stock of his life and reveal his secret relationship with Olivia.

The next time we see Cassidy, he and Olivia realize that they are different people and they break up. Later, Cassidy accuses Olivia abusing her adopted son, Noah. When it is revealed why he made the accusation, Olivia says that she never wants to see him again.

The last time we see Cassidy, he is in court, facing the man who abused him as a child.

To sum it up: Life is never a straight path. It is a series of curves with potholes, brick walls and challenges, forcing us to adapt and change. Like all of us, Brian Cassidy has to adapt. Though it is not easy, he does and finds the strength that he didn’t know he had.

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She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement Book Review

Throughout history, there has been an obvious power imbalance between men and women. Especially when it came to sex.

When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in 2017, it forever changed the way that rape and sexual assault are viewed. But bringing that story to the front page was not easy. In the new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recount the months long and difficult process of bringing this story to the public.

For decades, there were whispers within Hollywood about producer Harvey Weinstein. But as soon as reports surfaced of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they were put down as mere rumor. That is until Kantor and Twohey started digging. That digging opened a Pandora’s box of truth, lies and the people who would do almost anything to close that box again.

This book reads like a fictional thriller instead of a real story. It is a heart pounding roller coaster ride until the very end of the book. We know how the story ends, but there were so many blockages for Kantor and Twohey that I started to wonder if justice would finally prevail. When I finally finished the book, I was relieved that Weinstein was finally getting what was coming to him.

The thing that strikes me about this book and this story is that it is universal among women. The women who come forward in this book tell the same story, with minor details changed for their specific narrative. They range from Hollywood A-listers to fast food workers to teenage girls assaulted by their drunk male classmates. If nothing else, I think that this book and others of this nature are a starting point for a conversation that is more than overdue.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School (2007)

In the world of reality television shows, a spin off is common place. The question is, if the spin off, like any sequel is worthy of it’s predecessor?

In 2007, Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School premiered on VH1. A spin off of Flavor of Love, the show was hosted by Mo’Nique. The purpose of the program was to teach etiquette to the female contestants from the two seasons of Flavor of Love. The winner would walk away with $50,000 and the title of Charm School Queen.

I have to admit that I am a former reality show addict. I didn’t watch every show, but this one I did watch. Though it had some appeal at the time, at the end of the day, it was just another reality show.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Thoughts On the First Anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

In 2019, we hope that hate and prejudice is a thing of the past. But hope often springs eternal.

This coming Sunday is the first anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. 11 people were murdered simply because they were Jews. It’s nearly a year later and it hurts as if it was yesterday.

I sometimes try to delude myself that because I lived in the United States, this won’t happen to me. I am seen as a complete human being, not just a member of a particular religious or cultural group. But I have to face reality. Antisemitism is on the rise in numbers that has not been seen in generations. I shouldn’t be afraid to wear an outward symbol of my faith out of fear of being abused or attacked. But this is the reality that we all live in.

The shooting was the subject of this week’s Unorthodox episode. It made me feel less alone and less scared. But it also reminded me that I live in a world in which entering a house of worship requires passing by security and police. I wish that this was not the case, but it is.

May the memory of those 11 innocent people killed on that day forever be a blessing and may their blood be avenged.

Z”l.

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