Monthly Archives: July 2021

Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR Book Review

The founder of anything, specifically when you are a member of a group who has been disenfranchised is more than the creation itself. It is breaking boundaries and making it easier for future generations to follow in your footsteps.

Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Nina Totenberg, and Linda Wertheimer were all born into an era in which the expectations of women were limited. They could have followed the prescribed path of marriage and motherhood. Instead, they took what was then the less traveled path and became journalists. Their combined story is told in the new book, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR. Written by Lisa Napoli, it was published earlier this year.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the career doors were starting to bust open for women. At the same time, the concept of radio was also changing. In April of 1971, NPR aired its first broadcast. As with many new businesses, they had open jobs to fill and were not as picky about who they hired as more established enterprises. As the years passed, these women became formidable and respected, changing the game and giving new voice to those who in the past had been silenced.

Though it is a little slow to start, when it takes off, it really takes off. It is a fascinating read, What I found interesting, is that this book is not just the individual stories of these women. It is the story of how women in general have come a long way in only half a century.

As a fan of NPR and avid listener of my local station, WNYC, it is a good read that is well worth your time.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

Clueless Character Review: Amber Mariens

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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 movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. 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. There are two types of people in this world. The first are tried and true, staying with us through whatever life throws at us. The second type have ulterior motives that may or may not be obvious to the people around them.

In Clueless, Amber Mariens (Elisa Donovan) is described by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) as Monet.

“From far away it’s okay, but up close it’s a big old mess.”

A modern version of Augusta Elton, Amber can be described as a fair weather friend. She hangs out with Cher and her best friend Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), but only to gain the access she needs to usurp their social status. When it comes to Cher and Dionne, everything with her is a competition. Though she tolerates Tai Fraser (the late Brittany Murphy) post-makeover, it is only because she has joined their social circle. When she sees an opportunity to hook up with Elton Tiscia (Jeremy Sisto), this adaptation’s answer to Mr. Elton, it is her chance to get one up on Cher and Tai. This is after Elton turns down Tai and Cher rejects Elton’s advances.

To sum it up: If there has to be a baddie in this film, Amber comes pretty close. She is only it in for herself and when the door opens to use her “friendships” to gain the upper hand, she will use it. We, as the audience, may not like her and may see through her, but her existence creates the balance needed to increase Cher’s likability.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Books, Character Review, Emma, Feminism, Jane Austen, Movies

How to Find an Apartment in New York City

Looking for a new home is not easy. In New York City, it is made infinitely harder by the fact that not only is everything more expensive, but compared to other parts of the country, your paying more money for less space.

After living in my last apartment for over a decade, it was time to find a new place to live. Along the way, I learned a few things and I would like to share the lessons I learned.

  1. Know your budget: Before you start any apartment search, it is imperative to know what you can and cannot afford in terms of rent. There is nothing worse than finding your dream home and realizing that it is out of financial reach. On the surface, the budget is the rent. However, there is also the security deposit, the realtor fee( see #3), the cost of moving (see #10), and other miscellaneous expenses that crop up along the way.
  2. Check your credit score: One of the things that a potential realtor and landlord will ask is your credit score. Even if everything else on your application is perfect, there is a chance that you may be rejected because of your past credit history.
  3. Working with a realtor: The upshot of working with a realtor is that they have access to multiple properties. Bear in mind, however, that if you make this decision and find an apartment that you love, there is likely to be a realtor free. Depending on the agency, the fee could be anywhere from 15% of one month’s rent to one to two months of rent. If you choose this path, I highly recommend that you do research and/or ask for recommendations. If they are legit, you will not pay anything until you say yes to the apartment.
  4. Use multiple sources: The more search options you use, the more apartments you will find. When I was looking, I used the advertised sites (Zillow, Streeteasy, etc), Facebook (both the market and groups), Nextdoor.com, and Craigslist. Just be aware that some ads on Craigslist can be a little on the shady side.
  5. Location: While you may want to live in Manhattan, be aware that the cost of rent is higher than other parts of the city. An example is of the Cash Jordan video below. I’ve seen similar units in Brooklyn that cost around $1500 instead of $2500.

6. Get to know your potential neighborhood (if you don’t know it already): Once you have narrowed down the neighborhood(s), it is time to get to know where you might be living. I recommend first using rentcity.co to learn more about the building. Then I used Google and Yelp to figure out where the stores are and how close the public transportation is. After you have seen the unit, take some time to walk around. Not just during the day, but also at night. The last thing you want is to be afraid to leave home after dark or come home after a late night out.

7. Amenities: They can be as simple as an elevator and/or laundry in the building. Or, they can be as fancy as high end finishes, in house gyms, doormen, roof decks, etc. What you have to remember that the more amenities a building offers, it is very likely that the rent will be higher.

8. Be firm, but flexible: I know this sounds like a contradiction, but hear me out. Whether or not you go through an agent or work with the building owners directly, there may be a fair amount of pressure to say yes. I can recall a number of times that I was told that the apartment would go fast and I had to make a decision ASAP. Know what you want, but be realistic. There will always be something to compromise on. The question is, what are you willing to let go of and what stays on your must have list?

9. Be patient: This is a learning process. You may find what you are looking for right away. It can happen. But, be aware that it takes time to put together an image of your next. It took me about six months to find my new apartment. Trust me when I say it was difficult and time consuming. You don’t want to sign a twelve month lease and realize two months in that your miserable.

10. Moving Company: Once you have signed the lease, the next step is figure out how you are going to transfer your belongings. There are two ways to go about this. The first is, if you don’t have a lot of stuff, rent a van and ask friends or family to help. A few years ago, I and a few others helped a couple of friends move. Our reward was free dinner. The second is to hire a moving company. The vetting process is similar to finding a realtor. What I found very helpful is that if you use Yelp, it is setup so that multiple moving companies are contacted in one sitting.

11. Organization is key: This is a messy, complicated process with a lot of details that if missed, could result in a major screwup. The only way to remain calm and in control is to be organized. I used Excel and added a new folder in my email just for this process. Someone else may have another way of going about it, but the point is not to panic and let everything that has to be done overwhelm you.

12. Be prepared to throw-out, sell, or donate: When your settled, you don’t think about how much stuff you have. That realization only comes when you have to start packing. Over the course of those six months, I did a deep dive and really had to think about what I wanted to take with me and what I no longer needed. There are multiple ways to go about doing this. I made several trips to Housing Works. Craigslist, Facebook, and Nextdoor.com also have features in which you can post listings for stuff you want to sell and/or donate.

To anyone going through this, I wish you luck. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is farther away than you would like it to be.

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Flashback Friday: Nick Arcade (1992)

These days, technology changes in blink of an eye. What was cutting edge quickly becomes outdated.

In the 1992 Nickelodeon show, Nick Arcade, contestants competed in virtual video world. Hosted by Phil Moore, the game started with two different teams in the first round. The winner then moved into the “Video Zone”. Their goal was to win against the “Video Game Wizard” of that particular episode and ultimately, walk away the winner.

Almost thirty years on, the technology looks primitive, if not straight out of the stone age. But back then, it was top of the line and absolutely fascinating to watch.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Television, TV Review

Throwback Thursday: The Iron Lady (2011)

Depending on who you speak to, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is either a glass ceiling ball breaker who made history or a politician whose policies still were deeply controversial during her time in office.

The 2011 movie, The Iron Lady, explores her life and legacy. Starring Meryl Streep in the titular role, the audience relives the details of her life as she imagines conversations with her recently passed husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). Still coping with his loss, we follow her story from her early years to her present circumstances.

I sat through about 3/4 of the film on Netflix a while back before turning it off. As a political history nerd, a feminist, and Anglophile, I should have been thoroughly engaged. But it lagged on to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies

Good on Simone Biles for Taking Care of Herself

Within the worlds of mental health and mental illness, the concept of self care is important. It is one of the tools in our toolbox that allows us to relax and take a break from the havoc that brains are wreaking on us.

In the world of sports, gymnastic superstar and Gold medalist Simone Biles is stepping back from competition for a few days from the 2020 Olympics. Stating mental concerns, she is withdrawing from tomorrow’s women’s all around finals. Whether or not she competes next week in the four individual finals is up in the air.

The most important thing about living with mental health is knowing when you have to step back. I admire her for not just doing what needs to be done, but being open it. It also helps that USA Gymnastics is completely supportive of her decision, which is a nice change from the way Naomi Osaka was treated recently. The response to Biles’s decision is how we should all be treated in cases like this. Unfortunately, that does not always happen.

Regardless of whether or not she leaves Tokyo with additional hardware, she is still a hero in my eyes. Her legacy as a gymnast will live on for decades to come, as will her honesty of how important it is to take care of ourselves physically and mentally.

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Filed under International News, Mental Health, World News

It’s Time to Break Britney Spear’s Conservatorship

There is no doubt that Britney Spears is an icon. She is one of those few performers whose name and work is instantly recognizable. It doesn’t take much to conjure up her image or one of her songs.

Since 2008, Spears has been under a conservatorship led by her father. At the time, it made sense. Given her the public mental health breakdown, it was obvious that someone needed to step in. To sit back and do nothing would have irresponsible. It was supposed to be temporary, until she was able to function as an adult. But somewhere along the way, it became more about using her a cash cow while treating her as a child incapable of taking care of herself.

In response, the #FreeBritney movement and the Hulu documentary, Framing Britney Spears, fans have been advocating for Spears to have at least some control over her life.

It’s time for the conservatorship to end. If not wholly, reduced down so that she has some say in her personal and professional life. I also have to wonder if she were a man, would the treatment been different? I think so. There have been a quite a few male celebrities who also live with mental illness and have been open about it. They were not legally and personally shackled down as Spears has been.

#FreeBritney

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Filed under Feminism, Hulu, Mental Health, Music

Requiring the Covid Vaccine for all NYC Public Health Workers is Common Sense

When humanity was created by the heavenly parent upstairs, we were given the ability to make our decisions. Which, as we all know, has consequences. Some for the better, and some for the worst.

In New York City, only 60% of public health workers are vaccinated. In response to these numbers, the Mayor has announced that those who remain unvaccinated must either get the shot(s) or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing. In my mind, this is a no-brainer. It is also common sense. Those who work in this sector interact with the public as part of their jobs. The ease of which both the medical professionals and the patients can catch and spread the virus is mind blowing. If g-d forbid I get the virus, I can isolate for two weeks, keep it to myself, and still do my job from home. They can’t.

I understand the reason for the hesitation. Most vaccines take about a decade before it is released to the public. For obvious reasons, the Covid-19 vaccine was developed much faster. However, I would think that given where they work and the rising numbers of cases due to the Delta variant, why wouldn’t they get the shot? Frankly, it would easier to just get it done than submit to weekly testing.

If we would use our g-d given brains, we would have potentially stopped this disease a long time ago. But because we didn’t, people continue to get sick and more lives will be lost.

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The Cook of Castamar Review

Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.

The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.

The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, Mental Health, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Black Widow Movie Review

No one’s past is crystal clear. It is full of potholes, bad memories, and mistakes that still linger in our minds. When facing our past, we can either run from it or face it.

The new Marvel movie, Black Widow, premiered two weeks ago. It takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. The film opens on an average American suburban family in Ohio sitting down to dinner. But dinner is cut short when their true identity as Russian spies is revealed and they must hightail it out of the US. It then cuts to the present. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has discovered a conspiracy that is tied to her previous life as an assassin and spy. When she becomes a target, she must turn to the family that was assigned to her by the spy agency. Her younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), father Alexei (David Harbour), and mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) have all gone their separate ways. Revealing the source of the conspiracy and ending it requires more than a physical coming together as a group, it means facing the unhealed emotional wounds that still linger.

This movie is amazing. The action and stunts are well balanced with the humor and the emotion. As an audience member, I saw the main character as more than a superhero who is able to save the day. I saw a woman who is conflicted about both her present and her past. She makes the difficult decision to look at what she has done square in the eye instead of running from it. It a lesson that goes well beyond the genre and movies in general.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Black Widow is now in theaters.

P.S. Stay for the mid credit scene. The wait is long, but it is worth it.

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