Thoughts On Rosh Hashanah 2022

It’s amazing how busy the day gets. Work, writing, errands, etc. Before I know it, it is time to go to bed.

Rosh Hashanah starts this coming Sunday evening. For two days, Jews around the world will temporarily put their daily schedule on hold and ask our creator to forgive our sins and mistakes from the previous year.

For my part, I am looking forward to the holiday. It will be the break I have been looking for. This time of year is the busy season for my industry. For the last six weeks or so, I have been putting in long hours that have thoroughly put me through my paces. This time away from work and the very long to-do list is just what the doctor ordered.

To everyone celebrating, have a sweet and happy new year.

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Anne Heche and the Impermanence of Life

Life, as we all know, does not last forever. If we are lucky, we will be around until our golden years. But not everyone has that opportunity.

Last week, actress Anne Heche died in the aftermath of a car crash. After lingering in a coma for several days, she was taken off life support and declared brain dead. She was only 53.

As someone who has been living with mental illness for a long time, I am reminded daily that we only have one chance to go around the sun. When, how, and where we leave this Earth is unknown. We can only live as best we can.

I wish I could say that Heche’s unexpected passing gave me the impetus to finally drop all of my emotional baggage and give it the proverbial middle finger. But I know it won’t. The only thing I can do is deal with the cards I’ve been dealt.

May Heche’s memory be a blessing. Z”L.

Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings Book Review

“Normal” is relative. What is every day to one person is out completely out of the ordinary for another.

To say that Chrysta Bilton‘s childhood was anything but ordinary is an understatement. Raised in and around Los Angeles, her story is told in the new memoir, Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings. It was published earlier this month.

In the early 1980s, her mother, Debra was out of the closet and wanted to be a mother. Other than getting married to a man and making a baby the old-fashioned way, her options were limited. She would have to go to a sperm bank. While getting her hair done one day, Debra met Jeffrey Harrison. He was everything she wanted the father of her children to be.

Through Debra tried to create a traditional family structure for both Chrysta and her younger sister, it was anything but. She had a series of partners, addiction issues, and tried to support her daughters via get-rich-quick schemes.

When Chrysta finally discovered the truth about her parentage and her many half-siblings, she was forced to face a reality that would force her to shift her worldview.

This book is amazing. Bilton’s story is complicated, emotional, difficult at times, and shows the truth about what it is to have a family. What I found inspiring is that Bilton somehow came out of this extraordinary childhood with a resolve and a strength that some might not have developed at all.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings is available wherever books are sold.

Persuasion Movie Review

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. There are some opportunities that are firmly in the past. Then there are others that do come again. We can either let it slip through our fingers or go for it.

The new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of Persuasion was released last week on Netflix.

Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) gave up the love of her life eight years ago. The daughter of a minor aristocratic family, she was convinced that Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis), a poor sailor was not good enough for her. Now in her late twenties, Anne is still single and pining for what could have been. Frederick has returned to her circle. He is now wealthy, a respected war hero, and a catch, according to the eligible young ladies.

Will they be able to make peace with the past and have the life they were meant to have, or will they once more go their separate ways?

This version is not all bad (well, it’s mostly bad). I loved the color-blind casting. The best performances in the film came by way of Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. Johnson’s accent was not bad and she had decent chemistry with Jarvis.

The main problem is the lack of tension. What makes the narrative is the emotional wall between Anne and Frederick that slowly crumbles over the course of the narrative. That wall came down a little too quickly for my taste. The other problem is that it was turned into a rom-com (which it is not) and the use of modern slang. By the time we get to the letter, the buildup that would normally be there is a pittance of what it should be.

While I understand that the filmmakers wanted to make it palatable to non-Austen fans, they stripped away too much of the original text. This Anne Elliot is closer to Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse. Personality-wise, Anne is a complete 180 from both Elizabeth and Emma. I admire Elizabeth and I get a chuckle from Emma, but Anne I get.

If I were to rank the various adaptations and Austen-adjacent filmed IPs, this Persuasion would be second to the bottom of the list. The only one that is worse is Austenland.

Do I recommend it? Not really. Just stick to either the 95 or 07 version. Trust me, you are not missing much. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the worst films I have seen this year.

Persuasion is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. The anniversary of Austen’s passing was yesterday. She would be spinning in her grave if she saw this movie.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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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