Category Archives: Life

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels Book Review

When life throws shit our way, we often turn to our favorite books or movies. It is the predictability in a sea of chaos that may be the one thing that gets us through the emotional turbulence.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels, by Rachel Cohen, was published last year. About a decade ago, Cohen was going through tough times. Her father was on the verge of dying of cancer and she was near the end of her first pregnancy. Needing something to provide a source of comfort, she turned to Jane Austen.

In this memoir, Cohen weaves her story with Austen’s while exploring the emotions and narratives within the novels. She writes about dealing with grief, loss, change, and watching your children grow up.

I really enjoyed this book. While reading it, I was reminded why after more than 200 years, Austen is still beloved as an author. The experiences of the characters are thoroughly human. The feelings are ones we can all relate to. If I were to make a list of books for newbie Austen readers, this one would be on the list. There is just enough detail to hook the reader, without going deep into the nitty-gritty details that only a longtime Janeite would understand.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Jane Austen, Life

Summerland Movie Review

Sometimes, life can throw changes our way. We may not initially like that change, but we may end up surprised by the results.

Summerland (2020) is a BPD that takes place on the coast of England during World War II. Alice (played by Gemma Arterton as a younger woman and Penelope Wilton as the older Alice decades later) is a prickly writer who lives alone. She does not care for company and is seen as an oddity by her neighbors.

As the war rages on, children are being evacuated from the cities to the country. Frank (Lucas Bond) is a young boy who needs a temporary home. Begrudgingly, Alice takes him in. As they start to grow on one another, we flash back to Alice’s past and her relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

It’s a really sweet story about love, acceptance, and opening your heart to someone whom you never expected to. The casting is top-notch and the film is entirely watchable. It is also a reminder that love is love is love, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Life, Movie Review, Movies

New Randy Rainbow Videos: PINK GLASSES (A YouTube Exclusive) & Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You? (A YouTube Exclusive)

One of the beauties of the internet is that it opened the door for new artists/performers whose work might have gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Randy Rainbow is one of these artists/performers.

Rainbow released two videos this week. Both songs come from his new album, A Little Brains, A Little Talent.

Co-written with Alan Menken (Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc), I love how this song is about being yourself and not caring what someone else thinks.

When you love something, it shows. Rainbow’s affection for Broadway musicals is obvious as he pays tribute to The Music Man. There are some who would pretend to like something for their career or their bank account, but not him. Underneath the hilarious parodies, there is a sincere love for the genre. He knows these shows in a way that allows him to spoof whatever is going on in the world while remaining true to both the characters and the narrative.

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of Randy Rainbow. I love these videos and I look forward to whatever he is going to do next.

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Filed under Beauty and the Beast, Life, Music, Randy Rainbow

Throwback Thursday: Finding Your Feet (2017)

Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect it. What matters is how we respond to that curveball.

In the 2017 movie Finding Your Feet, Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) has just been given the shock of a lifetime. Her husband has been sleeping with her best friend for the last five years. Leaving her upper middle class, bourgeoisie life behind, she goes to the only person she can: her older sister Bif (Celia Imrie). Bif is a free spirit who could not care less what others think. It has been ten years since the women have seen one another. What starts out as an exit from heartbreak turns into the experience of a lifetime and a bonding experience that neither sister anticipated.

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I really like this film. I like its message that you can start over again and happiness is still possible. I also love that the main characters are women of a certain age. Even in 2022, there is still a dearth of older female characters who are not limited to the role of mother or grandmother.

What I get from the narrative is that making lemonade, even when you are given figurative lemons, can happen. It just takes nerve and trust that everything will turn out ok.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Life, Movie Review, Movies, Throwback Thursday

Thoughts On the Discontinuation of the iPod

The technology of a certain era can tell us a lot about the world in which it existed.

In the early 2000s, Apple released the iPod. This little device changed the music industry, allowing fans to pick and choose which songs they wanted to buy and/or listen to. Last week, the company announced that the product is being discontinued.

I bought my iPod more than ten years ago. It lasted until earlier this year when the battery died and I had to replace it. I’m not one of those people who, technology-wise, is brand loyal only to Apple. I’m more of a mix and match kind of person. What I love about this device is its simplicity, its ingenuity, and how much it can do than simply play music.

I came into this world in the early 1980s, when records were still king. By the time I was in junior high in the early 1990s, everyone was listening to music via tapes. Flash forward another ten years and CDs were giving way to mp3s and other early forms of digital music. When I was in college, Napster and LimeWire were the rage, even if their legal footing was on shaky ground.

Saying goodbye to the iPod is not going to be easy. It represents not just a generational change in technology, but also how our world has changed overall in the last twenty years or so.

RIP iPod, thanks for the years and the memories.

Short Film 2000S GIF by Charles Pieper - Find & Share on GIPHY

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Filed under Life, Music, National News, Thoughts On....

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Movie Review

Grief and fear are two very potent emotions. They have the power to control our actions and if we give them power, our destiny.

The latest addition to the MCU universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, uses grief and fear as the emotional base of the narrative. The sequel to Doctor Strange, the movie starts with the wedding of Doctor Steven Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) colleague and ex, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). The festivities seem to be going well until predictably, the city is attacked by a monster. Its target is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young lady with abilities to travel through the multiverse.

Together with his friend, Wong (Benedict Wong), he has to keep America safe from Scarlett Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). She wants to use the girl’s powers to get back to the fictional children she created within the world of WandaVision. Nothing and no one who will stop her from getting back to her boys. The only person who can save the world and the multiverse is Doctor Strange.

This movie is absolutely amazing. I would even go so far as to say that I would rank it in the top 5 of MCU movies. Making a sequel to one story is hard enough. Making two of them and marrying them into a larger tale is twice as hard. I loved the surprising horror elements, the underlying emotions that drove the characters, and the ending that is absolutely perfect.

Benedict Cumberbatch Avengers GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was top ten lists of movies come the end of the year.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is presently in theaters.

P.S. As usual, stay for the mid-credit scene. There are two of them, so I recommend staying until the very end.

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Filed under DisneyPlus, Life, Movie Review, Movies

Birthday Candles Play Review

It’s amazing how quickly life goes by. One minute you’re a teenager with your whole future ahead of you. The next thing you know, you are holding your first grandchild.

This is the premise of the new Broadway play, Birthday Candles. Written by Noah Haidle, it tells the story of Ernestine (Debra Messing). The audience initially meets her as a starry-eyed seventeen-year-old and then follows her throughout the years, ending when she is one hundred and seven. As she goes through the various stages of life, she bakes a cake for each birthday. Among those who come in and out of Ernestine’s life is Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me), who plays her long-time neighbor, and John Earl Jelks, who plays both her husband and grandson.

I’ve been a fan of Messing since Will & Grace. She was the reason I wanted to see the play. I was impressed with not just her performance, but the performances of all of the actors. Instead of aging via prosthetics and makeup, they rely on posture, changes in costumes, props, and wigs. It is a magnificent narrative and a treatise on life, family, and relationships.

My only problem is that the end of the play could have been cut down a little bit. Other than that, it is a piece of theater that is remarkable and worth every second.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is also 90 minutes without an intermission.

Birthday Candles is playing at the American Airlines Theater in New York City until May 29th, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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Is the Wicked Child From The Four Children Really That Bad?

Character types are the backbone of storytelling. Whether or not a writer(s) chooses to go beyond these stereotypes tells us everything that we need to know about the creators of the narrative.

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts on Friday night. One of the components of the story of the exodus from Egypt is the Four Sons. Each son (whom I refer to as a child instead, because of well, feminism.) is a stereotype. The eldest knows everything that there is to learn about and is still eager to know more. The second-born would rather be someplace else, doing anything else. The third child knows the basics and needs a simple answer. The youngest does not even know how to ask the question.

My problem is with the image of the second eldest child. In traditional terms, this person is dealt with harshly. They are basically told that had they been in Egypt, they would have been left in bondage. Looking at the text with a modern lens, rebellion or questioning the status quo is not a bad thing. It forces us, as a culture to look our demons in the eye and make a decision: do we deal with our problems or stick our heads in the sand?

In a religious context, the second child speaks to those of us who are discontent with the all-or-nothing aspect of faith. According to a Gallup poll from last year, less than half of all Americans attend regular religious services. This is compared to 80 years ago when almost three-quarters were in a house of worship at least once a week. I think this comes down to flexibility and understanding that many younger people are turned away from the old-school way of looking at religion. If the wish is for the pews to be full, a little creativity may be needed to bring back those who have drifted away.

To everyone celebrating, have a Happy Passover.

Pass Over Jewish People GIF by Hello All - Find & Share on GIPHY

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Filed under Feminism, Judaism, Life, Music

Flashback Friday: Shrek 2 (2004)

In the lifetime of a romantic relationship, one of the major milestones is meeting your significant other’s family.

Shrek 2 takes place just after the ending of Shrek (2001). Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are in the midst of newlywed bliss when an invitation from her parents arrives at their doorstep. Traveling to the kingdom of Far Far away with Donkey (Eddie Murphy), they are initially given a warm welcome. That welcome is quickly rescinded by the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), who are shocked and well, unhappy about their daughter’s choice of a spouse.

Among movie sequels, this one is near the top of my list. The film takes what made its predecessor successful and builds on it. It expands the world and the characters while using the same humor and heart of the first movie. What I personally love is that it represents a reality that is something not seen on screen and not seen in fairy tales. It shows that even in the happiest of families and the seemingly most perfect of marriages, there are still problems and conflicts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Flashback Friday, Life, Movie Review, Movies

Why We Argue and How to Stop: A Therapist’s Guide to Navigating Disagreements, Managing Emotions, and Creating Healthier Relationships Book Review

Relationships, whether they are romantic, parent/child, friendships, etc, are not always sunshine and roses. Arguments are bound to happen. What matters is the ability to come out of the disagreement with the connection intact.

Jerry Manney is a therapist with more than thirty years of experience. His new book, Why We Argue and How to Stop: A Therapist’s Guide to Navigating Disagreements, Managing Emotions, and Creating Healthier Relationships, was published this year. The author starts the book by explaining why disagreements occur. He then goes into how we can either put a stop to them or at the very least, turn down the temperature in the room. The chapters end with open-ended exercises, allowing the reader to digest and personalize the content.

There are a number of ways to approach this subject. The easy way to write a self-help book of this nature is to write in either therapy speak or clinical terms that the average person will not understand or relate to. The author writes in a way that the audience does not feel like they are being talked down to. It was as if he was my counselor and I was meeting with him for our usual appointment.

What I related to was the mental health aspect of the subject. When something is left unsaid, it can fester and open the door to words and/or actions that we may come to regret. Opening the lines of communication allows us to not just heal, but to make difficult conversations easier to have.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Why We Argue and How to Stop: A Therapist’s Guide to Navigating Disagreements, Managing Emotions, and Creating Healthier Relationships is available to purchase via the publisher and wherever books are sold.

Thank you to the publisher for the ARC.

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