Tag Archives: America

Throwback Thursday-Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

For all of the wonderful qualities that America offers her citizens, there is a dark underbelly that is difficult to address.

That is, unless your Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat).

Mr. Cohen’s 2006 mockumentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, is a satire of an foreign man’s view of The United States. It also exposes the squeamish arenas of our culture that few are willing to truly look at.  Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a journalist from Kazakh TV. He has been sent by his producers to make a documentary on what it is to be an American. While watching television, he comes across a Baywatch rerun and becomes obsessed with Pamela Anderson to the point of finding her and marrying her. 

It takes a bold comic to go all out into a character like Borat. Borat is not the most likable of characters. But it also takes a bold comic to reveal the truth. And boy, does he reveal the truth.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies, Television, Throwback Thursday

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Yesterday marked the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. 146 workers, mostly young immigrant girls, were killed by a fast moving fire inside of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

They came to this country to start a new life. Some of them knew America as der goldene medina (the golden country). America was the land of opportunity where one could grow beyond the emotional and physical barriers that kept them stagnant in their countries of birth.  Instead these workers lived on slave wages, went home to overcrowded tenement apartments and worked in sweatshops and factories where the physical working conditions could only be described as inhumane.

The events leading up the factory were industry wide strikes. The strikers, many of whom were female, were striking for better pay, a safe work environment, a reasonable work day and their rights as women. To these women, the Suffragette movement and the idea of working in a safe environment and earning a reasonable paycheck went hand in hand.

Until the fire, the government had a hands off approach to industry. It was only after 146 workers became lambs to the slaughter did the government finally step in.

I honor the memory of these men and women. When the stepped onto the boat to come to America, they were unaware of the fate that lay before them.

In the language of my ancestors I say z”l. In the language of the country that I call home, I say rest in peace. You are gone, but never forgotten.

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Filed under Feminism, History, New York City

Encountering Ellis Island Book Review

The United States of  America has been described as a melting pot. The familial origins of our citizens, past and present, can be traced every corner of the world.

Between 1892 and 1924, millions of immigrants left the world and the families they knew for America.

Ronald H Bayer’s new book, Encountering Ellis Island: How European Immigrants Entered America (How Things Worked) follows the paths of various immigrants as they immigrated to America, dealt with the process of going through Ellis Island and settling into their new lives.

This book can best be described as an academic book. It’s meant for history and/or genealogy enthusiasts or someone who just needs to do research for a school paper. It’s not completely dry, but I wouldn’t label this book as a gripping fictionalized account of an early 20th century immigrant to United States. What I did like was that the author also focused some of the spot light on Angel Island. Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West Coast.  While European immigrants faced less subtle discrimination and a myriad of questions on the East Coast, the treatment that Chinese immigrants received was outright discrimination.

Do I recommend it? In an academic sense, yes. Otherwise, no.

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Triangle: The Fire That Changed America Book Review

March 25th, 1911 is the day that forever changed the American work force.

It started as a warm spring day. That morning, the employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory made their way to work as they did everyday. By nightfall 146 of them were dead.

The majority of the victims were women,  between the ages of 16-25. They were Jewish and Italian immigrants, working for very little pay and working without the benefits that many of us take for granted today.

David von Drehle’s 2003 memoir, Triangle: The Fire That Changed America personalizes the story. He starts several years before with previous strikes by employees seeking better pay and improved safety standards. The chapters that take the readers through the fire and providing details in the lives of those who lived and didn’t live are climactic and heartbreaking. The final chapters go through the trials where the owners were accused of manslaughter and the lives of the owners after the fire.

I’ve owned this book for a few years, no matter how many times I read it, I have to have box of Kleenex nearby. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.  The details of the fire and how many of the victims died is  so vivid.  The reader can feel the heartbreak of the families who are lining up to identify their loves ones. Many of the victims were burned so badly that their families could not identify them.

One of the reasons that I enjoy this book is that it connects me to my roots. My ancestors, like many immigrants who came to America from Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s and worked in factories like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. They led strikes for better pay and better working conditions. They are long gone, but it’s as if I am getting to know them and the world they knew.

I highly recommend this book and make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.

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Filed under Books, Broadway Musical Review

Another Shooting

Another day ends in America. Another school shooting makes headlines. Another child walks into school in the morning and leaves in a body bag.

In Troutdale, Oregon, a teenage gunman killed one teenager and injured a teacher.

Another family that must bury their child before their time. Another family will miss out on the precious moments of life. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, career achievements, the birth of future grandchildren. None of these moments will happen for this family.

The Sandy Hook massacre was only a year and a half ago. 74 incidents of school shootings have occurred since then. And nothing has changed in this country.

I have nothing against the 2nd Amendment. But it was designed to allow American colonists to bear arms and protect themselves against the British Army. I don’t think the founding fathers imagined that over two hundred years later that the 2nd amendment would be used as a defense when children are being killed simply for going to school.

It’s another day in America. Another school shooting makes headlines.

It’s time to end the madness and protect our children.

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Hannukah In America- This Candle Did Not Last Eight Days

On a whim, I decided to take out from the library, Hannukah In America, Diannes Ashton’s book about the history of the celebration of Hannukah in the United States.

She explores not just the celebration within the United States, but the origins of the holiday in Ancient Israel. The story of Hannukah is the story of the Maccabees, religious Jews who led a rebellion against the Hellenic invaders and reclaimed the temple for their people.

This book could be interesting. The story of the celebration of Hannukah is the story of the Jews in America, how they survived and thrived. I found the book to be boring. There is a way to write a history book that appeals to the reader and brings the history to life. Ms. Ashton does not do this. It reads like a college history book, the type of reading that is done because it has to be done, not because the book is interesting to the reader.

I was hoping that this book would be enlightening and interesting, but sadly, it is not.

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Downton Abbey Series 4 Episode 6 Recap

*-As usual, these recaps contain spoilers. Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen Episode 6.

Upstairs

Can we talk about Mary and Charles Blake in the mud and then eating scrambled eggs, which she made?  That was a rom-com setup if I ever saw one, especially with the pig man conveniently not around when he is needed.  A part of me says that any man that Evelyn Napier, who tepidly attempted to tell Mary that he is attracted to her,  brings to Downton and attracts Mary’s attention should come with a warning sign.  However, Charles Blake is smart, attractive and realistic and he has a Benedict and Beatrice relationship with her.  And of course just as we think that Mary and Charles Blake might be going somewhere, Anthony Gillingham returns and dodges the question about his off screen fiance. Did we honestly think that Julian Fellows would let us off that easily?

Robert has to go to America to bail out Cora’s brother. We all know why Hugh Bonneville wasn’t seen for the rest of the episode. He is in Monuments Men, which I hope to see very soon.

Do you remember that childhood rhyme about the kissing couple? Rose and Jack, sitting in a boat, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes an explanation about why her parents have biracial grandchild.   She also does the walk of shame and evades Rosamund’s questions about why she really in London. Wasn’t there a little movie called Titanic about a doomed couple called Jack and Rose on a boat? I don’t think this will end well.

I like the changes in both Edith and Rosamund’s characters. Rosamund, who previously was Downton’s resident Yenta, promised Edith her complete support, even if it meant a scandal.

Edith, over the past four seasons has grown from an angry, hurting and vindictive young woman to a mature woman who must make some real life altering decisions. The kudos goes to both Laura Carmichael and Julian Fellows, as both performer and writer to show the audience how this character has grown.  The decision on whether or not to abort her pregnancy just broke my heart.

Some have used the story line as a platform for their pro-life views.  The way I see it, Julian Fellows did not use Edith’s decision as a platform to share his opinion on abortion as either pro-life or pro-choice.  I don’t think a recap of a television show is the right place to share one view’s on this topic.  However, I will say that the decision she made was the  one she thought was best for her, her future and the fetus that will become her child.

That being said, let’s go down a to a lighter topic.  Isobel plays Florence Nightingale to  Violet, who does not want to show her son that she is sick. Forced to go to the political event alone, Tom briefly meets a young woman who might become the next Mrs. Tom Branson?

Downstairs

Bates does not want to go America with Lord Grantham, still worried about his emotionally fragile wife.  Mary convinces her father to bring Thomas instead. While in America, Thomas gives Baxter the task of reporting back to him the reason that he and not Bates was to go to America.

Alfred returns for a visit and Daisy and Ivy are back to the same old argument. Am I the only one who is tired of this?

With the return of Lord Gillingham, comes his valet. While the rest of the downstairs, is laughing, Mrs. Hughes and Bates are both sending death stares toward Mr. Green.  Elsie “Mama Bear” Hughes is back,  not afraid to face Anna’s rapist.

Analysis

Julian Fellows continues to surprise us.  Not only with the decision for Edith to keep the pregnancy going, but also for the scene between Mary and Charles Blake in the pig pen. We haven’t seen that kind of smile from Mary since last series, before Matthew died.  We’re coming to the end of the series, I have a feeling that Julian Fellows has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

Dowager Moment/ Line Of The Week

“Goody, goody.” Violet, playing a game of Gin Rummy with Violet after spending the last few days in bed. Tempered, but still Violet.

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Filed under Downton Abbey, TV Recap