Thoughts On the Damage Created by Hurricane Ian

Mother Nature is a powerful being. She can easily provide for those who rely on her. She can also take away.

Last week, Hurricane Ian tore through Florida and North Carolina. As of earlier this evening, the number of dead has risen to 100.

This is climate change, pure and, simple. Granted, we are in the middle of hurricane season. But given the power of the storm and the destruction it left behind, it is obvious that we, as human beings, are contributing to our own demise.

Ian did not care about anyone’s skin color, religion, political affiliation, family origin, etc. The water still came and the wind still raged. Homes and businesses were destroyed. Many were left with only the clothes on their backs and the possessions they had with them.

What makes it worse is the continued callousness of Republican politicians. While their constituents suffer, Florida Republicans vote no on bills that would provide much-needed support. Just another reason to vote blue next month.

May the memories of those who died be a blessing. Z”l.

Never Change Book Review

Not everyone is meant to have a happily ever after. While some may mourn the lack of a spouse and children, others accept their fate.

Never Change, by Elizabeth Berg, was published in August. Romance was never in the cards for Myra Lipinski. As a child, she did not socialize with her peers. Now, as a middle-aged adult, she limits her social life to the patients she works with as a visiting nurse.

Her newest assignment is Chip Reardon. Back in the day, Chip was BMOC. Every girl in her high school had a crush on him, Myra included. But he never gave her the time of day. After being given the diagnosis of incurable brain cancer that will take his life, she becomes more than his nurse. They start off as friends and slowly drift into something more.

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To say that I was disappointed with this book is an understatement. I connected with Myra from the first page. I understood who she was and why she made the choices she did.

I had two issues: the first was that the proverbial editor’s pen kept appearing in my mind. I hate when I am reading a book and I feel the need to play editor. That is relatively minor compared to the second issue. Whatever romantic chemistry that should exist between Myra and Chip was non-existent. I did not feel it at all. I wanted to, but I couldnt.

Do I recommend it? No.

Never Change is available wherever books are sold.

Lady Clementine Book Review

In certain segments of our society, both in the past and present, a woman’s highest achievement was having a Mrs. attached to her name and at least one child at her feet. While some women were content to live within those parameters, others have taken the bold step of being more than someone’s wife and mother.

Clementine Churchill was one of the females. Married to the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, she was more than his other half and the mother of their children. She was his unofficial right-hand woman and his most trusted advisor. Her story is told in the 2020 novel, Lady Clementine. Written by Marie Benedict, the narrative takes the reader through the first half of the twentieth century. It starts with the early days of their marriage and ends with World War II. Through the decades, she deals with personal issues, as well as the complications of being a politician’s wife and everything that comes with that.

Through it all, Clementine has a spine made of figurative steel, ambition, and a sharp mind that transforms her into a feminist icon and a female who was ahead of her time.

Like Benedict’s 2016 novel, The Other Einstein, and Victoria Kelly’s Mrs. Houdini: A Novel, this story gives Clementine a voice and a spotlight beyond her title as Mrs. Churchill. I can’t help but think that if she would have been alive today, she would have been a politician in her own right. It proves, that if given the opportunity, we can potentially succeed in areas that were previously out of reach due to our gender.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Lady Clementine is available wherever books are sold.

All Creatures Great and Small Character Review: Diana Brompton

The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show All Creatures Great and Small. 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.

Sometimes the best couples can be described as yin and yang. What one person lacks, the other makes up for.

In the PBS/Masterpiece television series, All Creatures Great and Small (based on the book series of the same name), Diana Brompton (Dorothy Atkinson) is an unusual woman for 1930s Yorkshire. She is a divorcee who is vivacious, outgoing, and does not care what others think. Personality-wise, she is the complete opposite of anxious and out-there Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Their potential coupling represents a change for the widowed Siegfried, who has focused on his work since his late wife’s passing.

Unlike other women of her era, Diana is not afraid to speak her mind or tell a “dirty” joke. Though some might think she is “unladylike”, her charm and easy sociability quickly win over her detractors. Ahead of her time, she represents a future in which females are free to act as they wish without being called names.

To sum it up: It takes a bold person (especially a woman) to step out of the circle of what is expected of them and be confident in who they are. It is Diana’s belief in herself that makes her stand out and speak her truth without fear.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

The Election in Italy is a Warning That Cannot be Ignored

If Americans have learned one thing over the past few years, it is that democracy is not guaranteed. It must be fought for and earned.

Last week, a new Italian Prime Minister was elected. Her name is Giorgia Meloni. Though she has just been chosen to lead the country, there are already comparisons to Benito Mussolini. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the twentieth century understands that this is not a good sign of things to come.

Though there is the argument that she is a woman, that does not preclude where she lands politically. Fascism is dangerous, regardless of the sex and gender of elected officials and those who work for them.

Obviously, as an American citizen, I have no say in this decision. But what we can all do is be vigilant and speak up. If we don’t, then who knows how long we have left to live in a country that is truly democratic?

Thoughts on Tashlich, Yom Kippur, and Starting Over

No one is perfect. We all have our flaws and mistakes that we wish we can undo. However, there will (hopefully) be opportunities to start over.

Earlier today, I completed tashlich. To make a long story short, bread is thrown into an open body of water. Each piece represents a sin from the previous year. In casting off our sins, we hope that we can start fresh.

After I finish, I can’t help but feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I walk away shedding a few tears and feeling emotionally refreshed.

Yom Kippur starts on Tuesday. As usual, I will be fasting for 25 hours, and praying for another turn around the sun. If nothing else, it makes me grateful for what I have (food obviously included). There are many who are surviving on much less.

If I have hurt or offended anyone over the past year, I apologize. To everyone fasting next week, have an easy fast. May you be written in the book of life.

Yeshiva University Should be Forced to Recognize and Legitimize its LGBTQ Student Organization

Religion is a beautiful thing. It can bring people together, create communities, and ensure that traditions are passed on to the next generation. It can also be used as an excuse to exclude, murder, and destroy people and ideas seen as “other”.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that in the Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance case that in the short term, the university does not have to recognize its LGBTQ student organization. While the school was waiting for the decision to come down, the administration chose to suspend all student-led clubs.

According to a survey released last year, only 22% of Americans attend religious services of any kind. In this same survey, 31% have never prayed in a formal setting.

It goes without saying that the institution’s cultural and academic foundation is based on traditional Jewish values and teachings. If a particular student is not happy, they are free to continue their education elsewhere.

I disagree with the resolution (Unorthodox podcast talks about it at 20:07). Religion is well and good. But if it is so stuck in the past that modernity and the march toward equality are ignored, that is a problem. If faith leaders want to increase attendance in the various houses of worship, they cannot bury their heads in the sand. This is why people walk away from organized religion. They feel disrespected, ignored, or both.

It’s akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t get it.

I have not attended Saturday morning Shabbat services in more than twenty years. When I do go to services (which are mostly on the high holidays at my parent’s temple), I am turned off by the lack of acknowledgment of women within the prayer book. I know there are other synagogues that are more egalitarian. But, in this case, I wish that I was seen and respected within the liturgy.

Inclusion and respect is the only way to increase participation in formal religious practice and live up to the ideals set up by our founders. I think it would behoove Yeshiva University administrators to rethink the choice they have made.

Flashback Friday: Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

When a new and unique character comes along, it can fire up the imagination of the audience. But, by the time the audience gets to the third or fourth outing with this character, it becomes a question of when to move on.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) is the third film in the Austin Powers trilogy. After Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), our favorite international spy (Mike Myers) must again prevent the world from being destroyed by Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers). This time. travels back to 1975 and pairs up with Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce) to rescue his father, Nigel (Michael Caine) from Dr. Evil and disco kingpin Goldmember (again Mike Myers).

Though the shine is a bit faded from the previous two movies, it still sits comfortably within the world that the audience expects. Beyonce, as usual, excels in the part of Foxxy Cleopatra while giving proper due to the blaxploitation subgenre of the era.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

For all of the strengths of a superhero, there is a weakness. It is therefore expected that their antagonist will use that weakness against them at some point.

The 1999 film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is the sequel to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) uses a time machine to travel back to the 1960s to steal the mojo of Austin Powers (also Mike Myers). With the help of CIA Agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), Austin has to both save the day and get his mojo back.

I love this movie. Myers took what made the first movie the brilliant comedy that it is and explodes it tenfold. It is quotable, hilarious and one of the most perfect spoofs I’ve ever seen. Though it’s been years since I’ve seen it, I can still quote it.

The issue I have with the film is two-fold. Though Felicity is on par with Austin both sexually and as an agent of the law, she is also a love interest. Though it is par for the course for female characters, it kind of takes off some of the shine of her badassness for me.

There is also Fat Bastard (again, played by Myers). Though I am perfectly aware that this is a satire, I cannot overlook that he is a punchline merely because of his size.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience Survival and Hope Book Review

As the years pass, the number of Holocaust survivors who lived to tell their first-hand stories dwindles. At this point, it is only the child survivors who are still alive to speak their truth.

Tova Friedman is one of these child survivors. Her new memoir, The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience, Survival and Hope, co-written with Malcolm Brabant and with a foreword by Ben Kingsley, was published earlier this month. Born in 1938, her earliest years were defined by antisemitism, poverty, violence, and destruction. She saw things that no child should ever see.

By age four, Tova and her mother were sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Her father was sent to Dachau. What she experienced in the camp was imminently worse than anything she had seen previously. Though she and both of her parents could have been murdered any number of times, all three of them were liberated and found one another.

Now in her early 80’s, Tova is a wife, mother, grandmother, and lecturer. Her mission is to educate about the Holocaust, to make sure that it never happens again.

What makes this book so powerful is her memories. Though the events are nearly a century old, the images are as potent and brutal as if it were yesterday. It is a reminder that this happened in many people’s lifetimes.

Included in the book are pictures. Among them is an image of one of her aunts. Her aunt was liberated from the camps only to be murdered in a pogrom a year later. It is hard to see, but an important reminder of what prejudice can do to us.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Daughter of Auschwitz: My Story of Resilience, Survival and Hope is available wherever books are sold.

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