Starting with early 2020 and ending last the fall, we start the narrative when it was just a mysterious flu like sickness that appeared to arrive from China. As the months pass and number of cases and deaths rise, the revelations of mismanagement, lack of communication, in-fighting and political bullshit allowed the virus to take hold and kill over half a million Americans.
Reading this book felt like it was a ticking time bomb. It was just a matter of time before all of the elements would come together and explode into chaos and destruction. What made me angry is that the fate of the American people was put aside to ensure that a small handful of individuals remained in power, regardless of the damage that was created in its wake.
It would be easy to wish, that as adults, the experience of our childhood have no effect on us. But the truth is that as much as we have grown up, who were and what we went through when we were young is always with us.
Growing up, writer Helen Fremont knew two certainties. The first was that she knew that her parents lived through and survived World War II, but refused to share the details with their children. The second was that what happened in their house stayed in their house.
Her new memoir, The Escape Artist, was published last year. Her story is that of long held secrets (her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland), mental illness, and the heart breaking discovery that her father wrote her out of his will. Add in the questioning of sexual identity and you have a messy youth that has the power, if allowed, to destroy the chance of having a productive and happy adulthood.
I loved this book. Her story has all of the complications that life throws at us. It was at times, painful to read. I kept wishing that I could have given her the innocence and happiness that I knew when I was a girl. I’ve read more than a few memoirs over the past few years. This book is one of the best.
The question of nature vs. nurture is a tempting one to ask. Does our upbringing dictate who we are and what we believe? Or is it our perception of ourselves and the world around us?
Cruella was released yesterday on DisneyPlus. Estella/Cruella De Vil (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a child and Emma Stone as an adult) has been a rebel and an outcast since she was young. Raised by her single mother, she is left parentless at 12. Arriving in London with only her dog as a companion, she finds family in the form of thieves Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). Ten years later, they have become a trio.
But Estella wants more out of life than petty thievery. She wants to be a fashion designer. Fate sends her the opportunity she is praying via the Baroness (Emma Thompson). The Baroness is the queen of the English fashion scene. She is also self centered and selfish. What starts out as a door opening to the job of her dreams turns Estella/Cruella into a version of the person she wants to destroy. The question is, can our heroine keep up with the image she has created while being true to herself or will she sell her soul in the process?
What I loved is that this movie it proves that a female led movie does not require a romantic narrative to be successful. There are male characters who have a significant role in the narrative, but their relationships with the Baroness and Estella/Cruella are of a professional and/or plutonic nature.
Among the Disney prequels that have come out as of late, this is the best one. Though there is the argument of an easy cash grab, there are more than enough Easter eggs to keep fans of the original film happy. Expanded beyond the original narrative, it is a loving homage to its predecessor while standing on its own two feet.
*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).
*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. Being the father of a teenage daughter is a curious and complicated thing. It is obvious that your little girl is no longer a little girl. As much you want to protect them, there comes a point in which they have to be set free.
In Clueless, Mel Horowitz (Dan Hedaya) is the father of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). A widower and a high priced lawyer who has had several relationships since the death of his first wife, he is also the former step-father of Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd).Though he is none too pleased with some of his daughter’s outfits, he is proud of Cher’s unconventional academic achievements, and her striving to be a better person.
Mel also encourages Josh in his professional future as an environmental lawyer by inviting him to join him on work related projects when additional hands are needed. He also lets Cher get involved, but he gets frustrated by her inability to follow directions.
To sum it up: Mel is no different than any father. He wants the best for his daughter, but he gets aggravated by some of her actions, which to be perfectly frank, are normal for her age. Though he is far from the main character, he is not as clueless (get it?;)) as other parents in the genre.
Which is why he is a memorable character.
P.S. As New York accents go, his is old school in the best way possible.
We all have stuff in our homes. They speak to who we are, what we believe, and what our interests are. But there is a difference between just having stuff and letting it take over.
The A&E series Hoarders (2009-Present), follows the lives of real people who struggle with compulsive hoarding. Hoarding is defined as being unable to remove large amounts of unneeded goods from their property. In each episode, the subject works with professional cleaners and a psychiatrist or psychologist to get to the clean their home and get to the root of their distress.
Unlike other reality shows, this program does not mock the people it profiles or uses them to boot ratings. They are dealt with in a compassionate and realistic manner, offering support and help without demeaning them for their mental health issues. As a viewer, I want to reach through the television and hug them, letting that person know that everything will be alright.
When we get to a certain age, the expectation is that we will leave the nest. But for a variety of reasons, many adults still live with their parents long after childhood has ceased.
The new HGTV show, 40 Year Old Property Virgin, premiered last night. Each episode follows an individual or a couple who is looking for their first home after living for years with Mom and Dad. But as with every show on this channel, there are opinions given by family, friends, and even well meaning real estate brokers.
A riff on The 40 Year Old Virgin, this program is unique. It is not your standard home renovation or looking for a new home show that is the hallmark of this channel. What it speaks to is that the professional and financial security that previous generations took for granted no longer exists. Between rising home prices and extremely inflated student loan debt, the standard hallmarks of adulthood are not as guaranteed as they once were.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
40 Year Old Property Virgin airs on HGTV at 9PM on Wednesday.
When we go to war, it is not the old we sent into battle. It is the young ones who put their lives on the line.
The 2007 short film, To Die in Jerusalem, is the story of two young lives cut short by hate, war, and unending conflict. In 2002, Rachel Levy was was a 17 year old Jewish girl living in Jerusalem. She died at the hands of Palestinian suicide bomber. The person who killed her was a 17 year old Palestinian Muslim girl, Ayat al-Akhras.
When we talk about this conflict, we don’t discuss it on a human level. By making the story about two families, two young girls taken at the prime of their lives and two mothers looking for answers, it becomes personal and down to earth. The audience does not see an argument that is complicated and misunderstood. They see the ordinariness of the subjects and hopefully understand they are no different than anyone else.
These days, depending on who you speak to, religious intermarriage is either just part of normal life or has a hand in breaking down the various faiths. But for as many opinions on this subject that exist, there is one thing that cannot be disputed: it is not a new idea.
The Convert, written by Stefan Hertmans and translated by David McKay, was published last year. In eleventh century France, an unlikely couple has fallen in love. He is David Todros, the son of a prominent Jewish Rabbi and a yeshiva student. She is Vigdis Adelaïs, the daughter of a high ranking Christian family. In spite of the obstacles of faith, family and everything around them that is telling them to back off, they decide to get married. Vigdis converts to Judaism, giving up the life she had before she met David.
She expects that she her father will do everything in his power to bring her home. What she does not expect is an anti-Semiticpogrom and a journey that will take her halfway around the world before she returns to Europe.
Based on the Cairo Genizah, a group of documents and scrolls dating back more than a thousand years, this book is part fact and part fiction. What I liked was that the format is different than other novels in this genre. As we follow the characters on their respect journey, we travel with the author as he goes on a similar journey to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He is able to walk the fine line of using the information that is known while adding historical details that make the period come alive.
What I appreciate is that Vigdis is not the helpless damsel in distress type. She has experiences that could easily kill her. But she survives and is able to make it through a world that others her as both a woman and a Jew.
Her life changes when she meets 1970’s rocker chick Jane on the train. What starts a crush turns into something more. The problem is that Jane cannot leave the subway car. She has been stuck on the subway since the 1970’s. The only way to free Jane is for August to open up and not be afraid of looking back at her past.
To say that I was disappointed in this book is an understatement. I loved her first book. By themselves, the individual elements of this novel are fine. I loved the chemistry between August and Jane. The author perfectly captures the kinetic and sometimes less than glamorous reality that comes with living in NYC. The supernatural twist adds another level that is sometimes missing in the modern romance genre, regardless of the gender and/or sexuality of the lead characters.
The problem is that it is hard to read. It drags on to the point where I nearly put it down several times without finishing it. I did eventually get to the end, but not without feeling like I had pushed on a ten pound weight off my shoulders.
I would love to say that in 2021, women across the world have broken the glass ceiling. The archaic rules of what is “acceptable” for the female gender is nothing but a memory. But the truth is that for every achievement and every right that is ours to claim, there are many who still believe that a woman’s place is in the home.
Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan last week, the fear of Afghani women is that they will be forced back into the extreme restrictions they were forced to live under in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Though the country’s new leadership has promised to not re-instate the old rules, it is a promise that seems to be more talk than action.
Speaking of Israel, the world’s reaction to what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan is nothing compared to crap the Jewish state received in the spring. Where is the anger, the outrage, the articles in the press and the posts via celebrities on social media? It is crickets compared to collective noise directed at Israel in May.
The fact is that the country gets shit on no matter what it does. But when there is a life and death issue the affects another nation is facing, the racket from the rest of the world is a pittance. Meanwhile in Israel, women have been free to live their own lives for decades.
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