Monthly Archives: February 2021

Godless Review

When one thinks of the Western genre, the image of shootouts, cowboys, Indians, and a mass expanse of untamed wilderness. Most of the main characters are men. If there are any women, they are either the sweetheart/love interest of the hero, a prostitute wearing next to nothing, or an extra in the background.

The 2017 limited Netflix series, Godless, takes these tropes and fleshes them out. In the American West of the 1880’s, the town of La Belle, New Mexico has lost most of it’s men in a mining accident. The women are in charge, taking the places of their fathers, husbands, and brothers. Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) is a widow living on the outskirts of town with her son and mother-in-law. In the middle of the night, she shoots an intruder. Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) is a former follower of Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), a criminal with a very long rap sheet.

When Frank discovers that Roy is in La Belle, it will be up to the women to defend their home from Frank and his murderous gang.

After watching only a couple of episodes, I have been hooked. I love that instead of being limited in scope, the female characters have finally been given their due. Strengthened by their mutual loss, the women come together to take a stand. From a writing standpoint, I also very much appreciate the equality between the men and women in terms of the spotlight. Each is given a turn to shine without sacrificing who they are and what they believe.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Of Course, Lindsey Graham Would Oppose the $15 Minimum Wage

It has been said that a rising tide raises all ships.

Yesterday, President Biden’s 1.9 trillion stimulus package was passed by the House. Among the individual pieces of the bill, there was a proposal to raise the minimum wage nationally to $15/hr. I wish I could say that it succeeded, but it did not.

From the perspective of a small business owner, I understand that it would a financial stretch. But for a multi million or billion dollar company, paying all of their employees a base salary of $15/hr is not going to force the company to go under. If Costco can pay their workers $16 an hour and still stay open, why can’t other companies?

The problem is that Lindsey Graham and other politicians don’t understand that. A living wage is a human right. I’m not an economist, but I have enough common sense to understand that by paying a fair wage, it helps everyone. The less we have to spend on food stamps and substandard housing, the more we can spend on schools, highways, and other important infrastructure projects.

How we treat those who are less fortunate speaks volumes about our society and culture. By keeping a permanent underclass of poverty stricken citizens alive, it tells a stranger everything they need to know about us.

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Filed under National News, Politics

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

There is something about the power of music. A beloved song has a way of making it’s way into the listeners brain, conscious, and perhaps helping to change things for the better.

Billie Holiday is one of the most beloved singers of the 20th century. Though it has been six decades since her physical form left this Earth, her performances and songs continue to leave a mark on fans. The new biopic about her life, The United States vs. Billie Holiday dropped yesterday on Hulu.

The film stars singer/actress Andra Day as Holiday, Garrett Hedlund as Harry J. Anslinger, and Trevante Rhodes as Jimmy Fletcher. The audience follows Holiday as she battles drug addiction, racism, and gets involved with FBI agent Jimmy Fletcher. Woven into the narrative is the iconic and dark song Strange Fruit, which sadly is as potent today as it was during Holiday’s life time.

I really wanted to like this film. Day’s performance is worthy of the accolades she is receiving. Unfortunately, that is where I have to draw the line. Frankly, I was bored. I wanted to be hooked, but I was not. Whatever tension and drama I anticipated was sadly lacking. Especially with Anslinger’s obsession and persecution of Billie Holiday. That should have been more exciting that it was actually was.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Movie Review, Movies, Music

Don’t Give Up: An uplifting video interview with Erin Walter, lead singer of band, Parker Woodland

Hear; Let's Listen

Album cover art from Parker Woodland’s 2019 EP The World’s On Fire (and We Still Fall in Love).

Earlier this month, I chatted with Erin Walter, lead singer of Austin, Texas punk-rock band Parker Woodland. From our conversation, I learned that virtual performances have made the touring process for musicians more comfortable. However, due to the increased accessibility of putting on remote performances, virtual tours can also quickly increase fatigue. Musicians can tire from balancing work and performance – even when it is all being completed from their home. Thus, Erin encourages self-care and taking breaks when necessary. Erin says, “To all the creative folks out there, take it one step at a time, rest when you need to rest, and don’t give up. Get your art out there when you are able. Whatever your timeline is, that is the right time.”

My conversation with Erin indeed raised my…

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The Jeffersons Character Review: George Jefferson

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Jeffersons. 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 of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The American dream is the ability to pull yourself and your family up by your bootstraps. But as we all know, that dream still does not apply to everyone. On The Jeffersons, the patriarch of the family, George Jefferson is not exactly humble.

Descending from sharecroppers, and growing in poverty during the Depression, George became a business owner. Opening a chain of dry cleaners, he was able to move his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and son Lionel (played by both Damon Evans and Mike Evans) from Harlem to Queens and then finally to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There are some in his shoes who would be unassuming and appreciative. But not George.

Like his former neighbor, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), George is arrogant, full of it, and has certain ideas about certain people. Though underneath it all he is a loving and supportive husband and father, that is not the impression one gets upon meeting him for the first time. He takes pleasure in riling up his neighbors, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), and their maid Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs). His schemes to bring in more money usually ended up in failure, to be replaced with a new idea.

To sum it up: George Jefferson should be proud of his success. In his time, what he was able to achieve is nothing to sneeze at. But there is a thin line between pride and arrogance. That being said, the reason that audiences have loved this character for nearly fifty years is the duality of being a good spouse and parent and having a large ego. Balancing both aspects, George appeals to the audience in a way that not only breaks boundaries but reveals the human side to what could easily be a dislikable man.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, New York City, Television

Flashback Friday: Flipping Virgins (2006-2012)

It has been said that experience is the best teacher. It is only through doing and making mistakes that we become better at whatever we are trying to do.

From the outside, the process of flipping a house looks simple. You buy a rundown property, fix it up, and re-sell it for a profit. But just because it looks simple does not mean it is simple. Flipping Virgins aired on HGTV from 2006-2012. Hosted by Egypt Sherrod, each episode follows those who are new to business of house flipping. Guided by Sherrod, the subjects will choose the property, renovate it (with the expected complications along the way), and hope that it is sold.

I like this show. Though it is reality television, it is a nice change from the other shows in this genre in which the experts go through the same process.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

Purim, Feminism, and the Good Girl vs. Bad Girl Doctrine

Within the world of fiction (and sometimes non-fiction), there are two main female stereotypes: the good girl and the bad girl. With little to no room to move beyond these basic character descriptions, some women have been forced to play the hand they are dealt.

The Jewish holiday of Purim is started this evening and lasts until tomorrow. Within the world that is the genesis of this holiday, there are only two women, Queen Esther and her predecessor, Queen Vashti. Esther fits neatly in the good girl category while Vashti does the same in the bad girl category. Though Esther is revered as a female icon within the Jewish faith, Vashti has been given a bad rap.

As children, we are taught that Vashti was wicked for disobeying her husband. The reason she was either banished or executed (depending on who tells the story), comes down to the simple fact that the men who were supposed to see her “beauty” were afraid that other women would follow in her footsteps. The only way to quell the potential of any feminist rebellion was to get rid of Vashti and replace her with a woman who knew her place.

In real life, we know that we are much more than the good girl vs. the bad girl. No human being is entirely good or bad. We are a spectrum of personality traits and choices. The problem is that while men have been given unabashed permission to live within this spectrum, women are only starting to move beyond very specific character types.

I think its time to give Vashti her due. In standing up for herself, she is standing up for every women who has been put down and/or limited because of her sex. It’s time to give her her due as a role model instead of reducing her to a one note character.

Happy Purim.

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Throwback Thursday: Death, Sex, and Money (2014-Present)

There are some topics that within the bounds of polite conversation, are not usually talked about.

The WNYC podcast, Death, Sex, & Money, hosted by Anna Sale, has aired since 2014.The premise of the podcast is discuss issues around death, sex, and money, three subjects that are difficult to talk about. Even among those that we are closest with.

This is one of my favorite podcasts. Anna has a way of talking to the guests in a way that is both sensitive and genuine. By doing that, it makes these issues a little less taboo and opens the door to being less afraid of being honest with one another.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Podcast, Podcast Review, Throwback Thursday, WNYC

Yellow Wife Book Review

When we are young, we have dreams and ideas of where life will take us. Adulthood and reality has a way of bringing us back to Earth.

Sadeqa Johnson‘s new novel, Yellow Wife, was published last month. Set in the 1850’s in Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown is a slave with privileges that few of her class have. Just shy of her 18th birthday, she dreams of marrying her sweetheart and the freedom that has been promised as a birthday present. The dream is shattered when she is forced out of her home.

Taken to a jail in preparation of being sold, her fate is changed when she is chosen by the jail owner. Pheby’s status is murky. She is still a slave. But she is also the lady of the house and the mother of her owner’s children. Known as The Jailer, he can be both kind and barbaric. Pheby knows that if she is survive, she must rely on her wits.

I loved this book. It is enthralling, engaging, and so dam good. There has been a lot of discussion about giving a voice and a spotlight to people who’s history has been either simplified or ignored completely. It would have been easy to just give lip service to this idea. Pheby is smart, brave, and likable, qualities that are sometimes missing in female characters. Especially in women of color. Though her story is set in a specific time period, she is one of those women who is instantly relatable. It is a quality that creates classics and forces readers to reckon with their own prejudices.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Was the Joke About Israel on SNL Satire or Anti-Semitic?

Satire is a beautiful thing. But it can also cross the line.

During the Weekend Update portion of last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, anchor Michael Che made a joke about Israel. To say that it did not go over well is an understatement.

The question I have to ask, is it satire or antisemitism?

I get that it was a joke. Weekend Update is not your serious local weeknight news. It is supposed to be funny and perhaps bordering on not exactly being 100% politically correct.

That being said, I can’t help but agree that it did have a slightly anti-Semitic undertone. My people have been persecuted and murdered because of the lies that have been told about us.

Unlike other countries (ahem, United States) on which the the rollout of the vaccine programs have been unnecessarily complicated or messy, the Israeli government got their shit together. As of February 4th, US News & World Report put out a story that all Israelis over the age of sixteen were able to get the vaccine. The important word in this headline is all. There was no mention of any specific group that was either pushed to the head of the line or denied access because of their religious or cultural background.

I’ve been a fan of SNL for more than twenty years, this program is usually the highlight of my weekend. I can usually laugh at anything. But this joke, I cannot and will never be able to laugh at.

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Filed under International News, Television, World News