Category Archives: New York City

Park Avenue Summer Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that men underestimate women. But that is often our secret to success.

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen was released earlier this year. Alice Weiss is 21 in 1965, a transplant from Ohio and dreams of becoming a photographer. But like many young people who come to New York City with a dream and not much else, Alice has to get a job.

She gets a job as the secretary for the late Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl and the new editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. At that time, the magazine was on it’s death bed. It was up to Helen to turn the magazine around, but it seemed to be a Herculean task. The magazine was shedding employees like a snake sheds it’s skin and the men who run the parent organization are more than ready to shut the magazine down.

When a fellow employee tries to pull Alice in into a plan to spy on her boss, Alice goes the other way. She will do everything in her power to help Helen succeed. Along the way, Alice learns a few things about life, men and success.

Described as a literary love child of The Devil Wears Prada and Mad Men, this book is more than the story of a young woman discovering herself. It is the story of an unconventional woman who succeeds in a man’s world on her own terms.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

Law & Order SVU Character Review: Peter Stone

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When it comes to one’s career choice, many are influenced by their parents or other family members. But going into the family business is not as easy as it seems. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, District Attorney Peter Stone (Phillip Winchester) is a second generation District Attorney. His late father, Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) was also a New York City District Attorney.

D.A. Stone’s introduction to the characters and the audience is via his father’s funeral. He became the District Attorney after the previous D.A. Barba (Raul Esparza) resigned. Like many new relationships, there was some initial tension with the SVU detectives, who were used to Barba and his perspective of the law. But that tension disappeared as Stone became another member of the team.

Over the course of his time with SVU, Stone revealed more about himself than his knowledge of the law. He had a promising career in baseball before an injury forced him to change professions. He has a sister who lived with mental illness, she died in his arms during a police shootout.

In the courtroom, Stone is a professional, but he is also imperfect. He is accused of rape, but the charges are lifted when the real rapist, a friend of Stone’s is arrested. He also was able to take down a rapist who his father was not able to. In his final character arc, he put his career on the line to stage a prosecution in order to win what seemed to be in an unwinnable case. When his plan is revealed, Stone resigned. His heart and his morals were in the right place, even if he stepped over an ethical boundary.

To sum it up: Stepping into the career shoes of one’s parent or family member has it’s own set of challenges. But D.A. Stone is not one to simply stand in his late father’s shadow. He is a brilliant lawyer in his own right and thoroughly human.

Which is why fans still appreciate him, even if his time on SVU was all too brief.

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Maxwell and Finnegan: A Reminder of Love on 9/11

Eighteen years ago today, nearly three thousand people lost their lives due to hate.

As I was listening to live stream of the memorial ceremony this morning, one thing struck me. Those who died that day and those who died in the aftermath were of different races, nationalities, religions, etc. But the one thing that they all have in common is that they are victims of September 11th.

But love still prevails. On the streets of New York City, two young boys, Maxwell and Finnegan, are best friends. Maxwell’s father filmed the boys, one black and one white as they randomly met on the street. The video, which has gone viral, is nothing short of beautiful.

Today we remember and mourn those who lost their lives. But this video and this friendship gives me hope that there is still love in this world. Hate may have it’s day in the sun, but in the end, love will always prevail.

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Thoughts On the Post 9/11 Generation

Tomorrow is 9/11.

Those of us who are of a certain age and older will forever remember that day and the following days after the towers fell. I will never forget coming home for fall break from college in October of 2001 and craning my neck to see the remains of the towers as the bus drove into New York City.

I sometimes wonder what the kids who were very young or not yet born (Gen Z) think and know about September 11th. Especially that tomorrow is 18 years since the attack. An entire generation has grown up with 9/11 as just another aspect of their lives.

I wonder if they see it as living history or just as history in the same way that my generation sees Vietnam or the assassination of JFK (for context, I am in my late 30’s). I would hope that they understand how significant and life changing that day was for this country. I hope that they mourn and remember those who 18 years ago tonight, had no idea that their time on Earth was growing short.

May the memories of those who perished that day and of those who sacrificed their time, the health and ultimately their lives in the days after 9/11 to be a blessing to us all. Z”l.

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Filed under History, Music, New York City, Thoughts On....

Evvie Drake Starts Over Book Review

Grief has a funny way of changing our lives. We may not see it at the time, but in the long run, we can look back and see how the change that the grief created.

In the new book, Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes, the titular character, Eveleth “Evvie” Drake lives in a small town on the coast of New England. Newly widowed, Evvie hides a secret about her late husband, who was a much beloved local doctor. In New York City, Dean Tenney was the greatest thing to happen to major league baseball since Babe Ruth. But since his pitching arm stopped working, his career and reputation have been in decline.

Dean and Evvie are connected by a mutual friend. Dean moves into town and rents an apartment in Evvie’s house. Bonded by their individual grief, they strike a deal. Evvie does not ask Dean about baseball and Dean does not ask Evvie about her late husband. That deal slowly erodes away into friendship and something more.

But unless Dean and Evvie deal their pasts and the truth of their pasts, neither will be able to move forward.

I loved this book. If I were to compile a top ten of best new books of 2019 today, this book would be on the list.

The reasons that I loved this book comes down to two generic themes: grief and romance. From a writing perspective, it would be easy to write a character who eats too much, drinks too much, watches sappy movies and throws themselves a pity party. But neither Evvie or Dean throw themselves a pity party. The arc from hiding their emotions to releasing their emotions felt natural and authentic.

While this book can technically be classified as a romance, the romance between the main characters is subtle, understated and a perfect slow burn that made me wonder if they were ever going to get together.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Dr. George Huang

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Not every character can be the main character. Sometimes, a supporting character, who comes and goes as needed, is just as important as the main character. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Dr. George Huang (B.D. Wong) is not always on screen. But his input and advice in helping to solve the crime is as important as the detectives in the field.

Originally on loan from the FBI, Dr. Huang joined the SVU as the resident psychiatrist. Though he initially did not get on well with the detectives, the edges smoothed out as he became a respected member of the team. His job is to understand and explain the psychological motives of the victims and the accused to his detective colleagues.

However, there are cases in which Dr. Huang does not agree with the choices of the detectives or the D.A. This occurs when he agrees with the mental health diagnosis stated by the accused and their legal representation.

To sum it up: As a character, Dr. Huang stands out because even though the audience does not see him as often as the other characters, he is important. As writers, we have to remember that every character is important, regardless of whether they are the main character or a supporting character. It’s important to give them the spotlight, even if the spotlight is temporary.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

Flashback Friday-Judge Judy (1996-Present)

It’s easy to tell a lie. It’s harder to tell the truth, especially if the person who needs to hear the truth does not want to hear it.

Judge Judy (1996-Present) has been on the air for nearly a quarter of a century. Judy Sheindlin is a real life retired New York City Judge. Coming before her are real life small claims conflicts. Held in what looks like a real court room, Judge Judy hears both sides before making her ruling.

Though Judge Judy falls within the reality show genre, it’s far from the brain drain that is most reality shows. Judge Judy is a no nonsense, tell it like it is Judge, who does does not bend because the cameras are on her. Using logic and reason, she makes judgments that may not appeal to everyone, but make sense, given the parameters of the case.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, New York City, Television, TV Review

Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Captain Donald Cragen

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 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 us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When one is in a management position, it is sometimes akin to being torn in two different directions. He or she is responsible to their bosses, but they also must be there for their staff. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) was in charge of the Special Victims Unit for fifteen years.

In his line of work, Captain Cragen has a lot on his plate. His detectives are working to solve some of the most gruesome cases in New York City. But if something goes wrong, NYPD brass and the Mayor’s office are only a phone call away.

There are some bosses who are content to sit behind their desk, dictate work from behind their computers and let their staff do the grunt work. But Captain Cragen is not one of those bosses. He is fully involved in each case, providing support to his detectives and in some cases, going into the field. Though going into the field and going undercover is dangerous, he is if nothing else, dedicated to his work.

To sum it up: For many fans, Captain Cragen will always be one of their favorite SVU characters. His mixture of professionalism, dedication, patience and once in a while being a tough boss is what makes him memorable. It would have been easy to write him as the stereotypical manager who is either too hard or too soft on his detectives. But because he is soft when he needs to be and hard when he needs to be, that is why we love him.

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Removing NYC’s Gifted and Talented Programs is Not the Way to Level the Educational Playing Field

One of America’s greatest sins is racial inequality.

This sin can be fixed if we fix our schools and ensure that every child, regardless of skin color, zip code or parental income has access to a solid education. But we all know that too many children are locked into bad schools because of skin color, zip code and parental income.

In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are considering a proposal in which the Gifted and Talented programs would be dismantled, along with other admission criteria.

I feel like the Mayor and the Schools Chancellor have good intentions, but you know what they say about those with good intentions.

Removing the admissions criteria and and the G&T programs is not the way to level the playing field. Why should the students who are working their tails off to succeed academically be punished because other students do not have the resources they have?

Granted, the numbers don’t lie. The majority of students in the New York City Public School system are Latinx and African-American. The majority of students who gain admission into the G&T programs and the specialized schools are Caucasian and Asian.

I was born in New York City into a family of teachers. I was educated in the NYC public school system until 9th grade. I completely understand that the system and how flawed it is. I also appreciate beyond words that my parents prioritized their children’s education above all else.

If there is to be a change to level the playing field, it has to start from the ground up. It has to start with the schools themselves and the quality of the education. It it is also tantamount that the parents and the greater community is involved. Only then will every child receive that solid education.

Removing the G&T programs and the admissions requirements into the specialized schools will not resolve the racial inequality within the NYC school system. It will only make them worse.

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Brittany Runs a Marathon Movie Review

At some point in our adult lives, we have to take responsibility for our actions.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is the directorial debut of writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Based on the story of a friend of his, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is in her late 20’s and living in New York City. She has a job, but it is neither professionally or financially fruitful. She drinks too much, sleeps too much and is overweight. Her life, in short, is a hot mess.

Hoping to score a prescription of adderall, Brittany visits a doctor. Instead of receiving the prescription, the doctor recommends that she lose weight. She initially balks, but follows through and starts running. She is encouraged by her neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and Seth (Micah Stock), whom she met in her running group.

The running opens the door to other goals, including running a marathon. But doubt and insecurity gets in the way. Can Brittany succeed?

This movie has it’s pluses and it’s minuses. On the plus side, the characters and the narrative are realistic. Brittany speaks for many people, regardless of size, who are hindered by unseen emotional scars. We live in a world which is dominated by social media. The image that many of us put on our profiles may not reflect reality and may cause those who look at our profiles to compare their lives to ours.

On the minus side, the film is a little longer than I think it should be and is a little predictable story wise.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is presently in theaters.

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Filed under Life, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, New York City