Tag Archives: NYC

A League of Their Own Character Review: Doris Murphy

*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 novel A League of Their Own. Read at your own risk if you watched the movie. 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.

Every era has its own ideal of female beauty. Though the external images change, the expectations of how to be a “proper woman” remain the same. This, of course, does not include playing sports in either a formal or informal team. In A League of Their Own, Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) is far from the idealized 1940’s pinup (unlike her best friend Mae Mordabito). A resident of New York City, Doris has a zaftig figure and speaks with a stereotypical NYC accent.

Joining the AAGBPL gives her the opportunity to feel like an insider. After spending years feeling like an outsider due to her physical appearance and her love of baseball, Doris has finally found her people. She also finds the confidence to believe that she is worthy of being loved and not forced to be with someone for the sake of being with someone.

But she also has a temper. When Kit Keller (Lori Petty) has an argument with her sister Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), Doris makes a joke at Kit’s expense, which leads to a fight that changes the course of their relationship. Doris does not just talk the talk. She walks the walk. When pushed, she is not one to be messed with.

To sum it up: Then and now, seeing women who are not a size 2 is still revolutionary. In both the character and actor looking like the average woman, it allows those of us who are not modelesque to see themselves on screen.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, History, Movies, New York City

The Antisemitic Graffiti at Miriam’s Restaurant Should Spur All of Us to Act

When the members of my family left Eastern Europe for America more than a century ago, they hoped that the antisemitism that forced them out of their homelands would not follow them.

They were wrong.

Last week, Miriam’s Restaurant, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, was tagged via graffiti with the following line “Fuck Jews“.

As of Friday, the perpetrator(s) remain at large.

The message is clear. We are not welcome in New York City.

To say that I am scared shitless is an understatement. I was born and raised in NYC, as was most of my family. I shouldn’t be afraid to express who I am without fear of being attacked, but I am.
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Whoever did this wants us to be afraid. They want us to cower in the corner, watching every shadow that goes by with heart-pounding anxiety.

I have every confidence that officials will do everything in their power to find whoever did this and make them pay. I also know that I will always be proud to be Jewish, regardless of someone else’s opinion.

What I love about this city is how colorful it is. We have everyone from everywhere. Our diversity makes us beautiful and powerful. But until we face this monster head-on, it will continue to nip at our heels.

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Filed under History, Judaism, New York City

The Murder of Christina Lee Scares the Shit Out of Me

One of the rights that a woman should have is the ability to be outside after dark without fear of being attacked or killed. That right is still being fought for, even in 2022.

On Sunday, Christina Lee was heading home to her apartment in New York City‘s Chinatown. Unbeknownst to her, a man was following her. He is accused of killing her in her own home.

As of yesterday, the murder is not based on Ms. Lee’s Korean-American heritage. But that does not mean that the police will find evidence to prove otherwise.

What scares the shit out of me is that this is every woman’s worst nightmare. Ask any female and she will tell you the same story. Carry your keys in your hands, mace in your bag, be aware of your surroundings, walk-on brightly light streets with lots of other people, etc. We shouldn’t have to follow these rules, but they could mean the difference between life and death.

What is even scarier is that this is not the first time that the accused (who shall not be named here) has gone after a random stranger. Last September, he punched another man for no reason at all. According to reports, he has a history of mental illness and should not have been on the streets to begin with.

One of my concerns is that this one heinous act creates a perception of an entire community. Like millions of others around the world, I live with depression. The difference between this man and myself is that I have access to getting the help I need. I am lucky enough that I have health insurance via my job which allows me to see a therapist and take medication. Not everyone has the same opportunity. This creates a vacuum and opens the door for people like the accused to hurt and kill others.

My heart breaks for those who knew Ms. Lee. No one should know this type of grief. I can only hope that this unnecessary loss of life spurs those in power to do something (and not just throw someone in jail, which is another topic for another time).

May her memory be a blessing. Z”L.

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Filed under Feminism, Mental Health, New York City

Flashback Friday: One of Us (2017)

Humans were not meant to be alone. We need other people, we need to be loved and wanted. But sometimes, that need conflicts with the internal knowledge that we are different.

The 2017 Netflix documentary, One of Us, follows three former NYC-based Hasidic Jews as they break away from their previous lives. To say that this process is difficult is an understatement. It’s more than the change in physical appearance. The emotional journey from where they started to where they ended is challenging, to say the least. It requires the knowledge that they may lose everyone they love in the process.

Going through this process is akin to coming out of the closet as an LGBTQ person. The push-pull of being true to yourself while wanting to be accepted is a psychological see-saw that no one should go through. But we live in a world that says that the only way we will be loved is if we conform to what is “normal”.

Though the subjects of this film are Jewish, one does not need to be of the same faith to try to understand what these people are going through. I suspect that there are many people, of all faiths, who were raised one way, but come to realize that that is not how they want to live.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

One of Us is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, New York City

The Royal Treatment Movie Review

The Cinderella narrative is one that has been part of our cultural history for centuries. The prospect of a poor young woman winning the heart of the prince is a potent one that still fires up imaginations and dreams.

In the new Netflix movie, The Royal Treatment, Isabella (Laura Marano) is the owner of a hair salon in New York City. Not afraid to share her opinion, she is known for her open heart and her dreams of seeing the world. Her life takes an unexpected twist when she is hired to cut the hair of Prince Thomas of Lavania (Mena Massoud). Thomas is used to being deferential to duty and the expectations placed upon him based upon his title.

Impressed by her work and her attitude, Thomas extends an invitation to Isabella and two of her colleagues to help him and his fiance, Lauren (Phoenix Connelly) get ready for their big day. As expected, they fall in love, but there are obstacles to their happiness.

The best word to describe it is cute. It’s one of those films that is watchable and entertaining, but not very deep. We all know how the story starts, where it is going, and where it will end. That being said, I appreciate the casting of Massoud as Prince Thomas. It’s nice to see a non-Caucasian actor playing this kind of role.

Another thing I liked was the portrayal of Lauren, Thomas’s fiance. It wouldnt have been a stretch to write her as the baddie who is only marrying him for the status and wealth that comes with being a princess. But she is written in a way that I feel for her as much as I do for Thomas.

The only issue I have is the portrayal of NYC and the characters who call her home. The image is almost stereotypical. It sort of has the flavor of the city, but that flavor is merely surface level. Maybe another viewer who does not know her like those of us who live here might be ok with it, but I am not. I wish the screenwriter had dug a little deeper to reveal her true character.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, New York City

Michelle Go Should Be Alive

If there is one thing New York City is known for, it is our subway system. It is the lifeblood of not just the city itself, but of the region. Without it, NYC would not be what it is.

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Last weekend, Michelle Go was shoved toward a subway car by a homeless man as it barreled into the Times Square station. She did not survive. The accused, who will not be named on this blog, has a history of previous arrests and emotionally disturbing encounters with riders.

There are two theories as to why Ms. Go was targeted. The first is that the accused has severe mental health problems and should not have been on the streets. The problem with this accusation is that it casts a shadow on everyone who lives with a mental illness. The truth is that most of us who live with it are just trying to get by. If such an act happens, we are more likely to be the victim, not the perpetrator.

The second theory is that she was targeted because of her ethnicity. It is sadly not the first time this has happened and will not be the last time. Back in November, Bew Jirajariyawetch was chocked one station south of where Ms. Go was killed. Ms. Jirajariyawetch is a model originally from Thailand.

My feeling is that both played a role in Ms. Go’s death. Which as a rider of the NYC transit system scares the shit out of me. I should not be afraid to get on the bus or train. But until the city does what they need to do to protect straphangers, I am forced to be more vigilant than I have been before.

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Filed under Mental Health, New York City

West Side Story Movie Review

Regardless of whether or not one is a fan of Broadway musicals, they are likely to at least know of West Side Story. To make a long story short, it is Romeo and Juliet taken from Italy in the 16th century and put down in New York City in the late 1950s.

The reimagining opens as San Juan Hill, a neighborhood in Manhattan, is being torn down to become what we know today as Lincoln Center. Not surprisingly, the residents of this neighborhood are people of color, immigrants, and low-income Caucasians.

The Montagues and Capulets have been replaced by two warring gangs of young men, fighting to retain unofficial control of what is left of their neck of the woods. Riff (Mike Faist) is the leader of the Jets, who are all White. Bernardo (David Alvarez) is the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Though he has a career as a boxer, he is equally concerned with protecting his family and his fellow Puerto Ricans.

Their fates are changed when Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) meet at a dance. Maria is Bernardo’s younger sister. Newly arrived in NYC, she is both idealistic and stubborn. Without their parents, the only maternal influence she has is Anita (Ariana DeBose), Bernardo’s girlfriend. Anita is spicy, whip-smart, and is eager to take advantage of the opportunities that lay before her. Tony is Riff’s best friend and his former second in command. After spending a year in prison, he wants more from life than being a hoodlum.

As the two fall in love and envision a life together, their relationship is tested by the violence around them. If they could get those closest to them to find a way to get along, Maria and Tony could have a chance at a future. But as lovely as that idea is, it will take a miracle to make it happen.

Kudos go to director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner. They took a chance on remaking a classic and succeeded. What makes it stand out from its 1961 predecessor is both the casting of Latinx actors and the understanding that socio-economic issues, politics, and racial strife is the backbone of this narrative.

The deliberate decision of seeking out and hiring performers who are from Latin America or of Latin American descent adds a feeling of authenticity that is missing from the original film. Even Rita Moreno, who is also Puerto Rican (Anita in the 1961 movie and Valentina, the co-owner of the pharmacy and widow of the late pharmacist in this adaptation) had her skin darkened.

If there is one performer who stands out, it is Rachel Zegler. In her first on-screen role ever, she shines as Maria. Her voice is absolutely stunning. Most young actors start out as background players or in small roles, slowly building up their resume. To come out of the gate in the lead role in a major movie and blow everyone away shows that she has nothing but a bright future ahead of her.

This narrative is as timely and powerful as it was sixty years ago. The problems have not changed, they just have different names and different faces. If nothing else, it reminds the audience that we have two choices. We can continue to figuratively shoot ourselves in the literal foot, or find a way to work tother.

Though it clocks in at a little over two hours, it is worth sitting through.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

West Side Story is presently in theaters.

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Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies, New York City, Politics, William Shakespeare

Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground Book Review

The choice of book speaks volumes about the reader. It’s one of those things that tells us something about that person even before they open their mouth.

Between the Lines: Stories from the Underground, Uli Beutter Cohen, was published last month. In the book, the author interviewers 170 New Yorkers from different backgrounds about the books they are reading while riding the subway. The interviewees are both boldfaced names and ordinary people just going about their business. In doing so, she is not just telling the story of the city as it is today, but of the people who call it home.

I loved this book. As both a bookworm and a native of NYC, it spoke to me. It spoke to my love of this city, books, and how, at the end of the day, this medium has a way of both teaching us and uniting us.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The State of American Politics: The Democrats Messaging Problem and the Republicans Attack on Big Bird

When it comes down to it, politics is about two things: messages and action. One can say the right things, but without acting on what has been said, nothing gets done.

I am a lifelong Democrat. My first major election was the 2000 Presidential election in which George W. Bush ran against former Vice President Al Gore. For the last twenty-ish years, I have voted mostly along party lines. But that does not mean that I can’t or won’t speak when I feel the need. The problem with today’s Democratic Party is not the message. They just finally passed the Infrastructure Bill, for G-d sake. The problem is how the message is being presented. Instead of hearing that our young children will be educated, our seniors will be provided for, and our roads will be maintained, the only thing we are being told is the cost.

There were three recent elections that exemplified this issue. In my hometown of New York City, former police officer, and current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams won handily against activist Curtis Sliwa in the Mayoral election. Truth be told, Adam’s win was not a complete given, but generally accepted that it was the obvious outcome. NYC is, for the most part, politically blue. It was not a surprise that Sliwa lost.

Across the river, current New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy won his Gubernatorial election against Jack Ciattarelli, but only by a narrow margin. Down south, the shock that Republican Glenn Youngkin was proclaimed the winner in the Virginia Gubernatorial election rippled across the nation. His opponent, Terry McAuliffe lost because instead of focusing on kitchen table issues, he spent his time on you know who. Youngkin won because he mostly repudiated the former President and spoke to the everyday problems that voters are dealing with.

While this is happening, the Republicans are making mountains of out molehills. With the announcement that children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, the powers that be reached out to the people at Sesame Street. Via Twitter, Big Bird is encouraging young children to get the shot.

Ted Cruz, in his usual unhelpful way, decided to attack this most beloved of characters. Instead of remembering the 760,000 Americans who have died from the virus, he is opening the door for even more of us to lose our lives. When will he get it through his extra thick skull that the only way to stay alive and return to normal is to be vaccinated?

There is no doubt that the American political scene is nothing short of a shit-show. Until we get our heads out of our asses and do what needs to be done, it will continue to be a shit show.

P.S. How is Paul Gosar still in Congress when he posted a video in which AOC is killed and the President is attacked? He doesn’t have to agree with her, but he crossed the line with the suggestion of violence.

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Filed under National News, New York City, Politics

One Last Stop Book Review

When we get on to the train or the bus to get to wherever we are going to, we don’t expect to find love. But sometimes, it finds us when we least expect it.

Casey McQuiston‘s new book, One Last Stop, was published in June. New Orleans native August has just moved to New York City to be alone. She rents a room in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush and lives with a motley crew of roommates. When August is not home, can either be found working at a local pancake restaurant or attending classes at Brooklyn College.

Her life changes when she meets 1970’s rocker chick Jane on the train. What starts a crush turns into something more. The problem is that Jane cannot leave the subway car. She has been stuck on the subway since the 1970’s. The only way to free Jane is for August to open up and not be afraid of looking back at her past.

To say that I was disappointed in this book is an understatement. I loved her first book. By themselves, the individual elements of this novel are fine. I loved the chemistry between August and Jane. The author perfectly captures the kinetic and sometimes less than glamorous reality that comes with living in NYC. The supernatural twist adds another level that is sometimes missing in the modern romance genre, regardless of the gender and/or sexuality of the lead characters.

The problem is that it is hard to read. It drags on to the point where I nearly put it down several times without finishing it. I did eventually get to the end, but not without feeling like I had pushed on a ten pound weight off my shoulders.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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