Friday, July 8, 2016

Currently.

Excited… for the weekend and my knucklehead's 16th birthday.

Feeling…like the heat is between OMG and WTF. So ready for autumn!

Enjoying…my condo’s central air.

Hoping… for a short summer.

Thinking…I want to move to Alaska.

Listening…to Joey + Rory Hymns CD. Timeless beauty that can touch the weariest soul.

Reading… a lot.

Watching…America’s Got Talent and $100,000 Pyramid.

Loving…Breyer’s black raspberry chocolate ice cream. Luscious goodness in every spoonful.

Needing…to exercise.

Eating…as my Saturday morning treat, an egg white veggie flatbread and a jelly donut from DD, because even breakfast should include dessert.

Drinking…French Vanilla Swirl iced lattes from DD (whole milk, extra sweet please).

Wanting…to magically lose weight without diet and/or exercise or a million dollars, because then I won’t care if I’m 20 pounds overweight.

Enjoying…time with my knuckleheads as college drop-off day draws ever near. Tearful sigh. :o(

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob

"Everybody needs a break, everybody deserves that second chance," proves true for both human and animals alike. A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen is a feel good memoir about a struggling street musician and his feline guardian angel and how they saved each other.

From the publisher: “When street musician James Bowen found an injured cat curled up in the hallway of his apartment building, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London, barely making enough money to feed himself, and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent but very sick animal, whom he named Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining that he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.”

Sweet, charming and heartwarming, A Street Cat Named Bob, is an uplifting book that reminds us that when it comes to helping us through our struggles, God does indeed work in the most mysterious of ways. As a recovering drug-addict fighting for survival on a daily basis, James finds a kindred spirit in the slightly battered stray that fortuitously comes into his life. Like too many members of our society that for any number of reasons fall through the cracks, James and Bob were invisible to everyone but each other, yet as they earned each other's trust and friendship an unbreakable bond was forged. Even though the hopelessness James felt during his worst days was slowly abating, each day was still a struggle to leave the fog of heroin, booze and petty crime far in the past. But in caring for Bob, James gave his life purpose for someone needed him; they needed each other.

Truly as if heaven sent, Bob proved a life-changing force for James; filling his days with hope, joy, friendship, and love. Though James is our narrator (a truly amazing feat if it had been Bob), I have to admit that the story touched me most because of Bob’s role in it. I’m always amazed and humbled by the beauty and goodness of animals, especially those rescued from hardship, that despite past hurts and fears sometimes suffered at the hand of us supposedly more evolved humans, find it within their little (too big for their body) hearts to love and trust again so unconditionally. It's truly one of life's greatest mysteries, though maybe not, because in all honesty I do think they are heaven sent. A gift to see us through our darkest days, our loneliest nights, our deepest fears and to bestow upon us a love, of which given our human frailties, we could never be truly worthy.

Though a simple tale, A Street Cat Named Bob reminds us that we’re never truly alone, that like the song says “the sun will come out tomorrow,” and that animals can make the best of friends.

PS. By the way, Bob is coming soon to a big screen near you. Here’s a link to the film's trailer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Geeks

I'm not a music buff; I'm the geek with WCBS 880 news on my car radio, but I heard this on Good Day New York today and fell in love with both the catchy tune and inspired lyrics. Enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2016

It's Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too)

I have a confession, I’m an easy crier; it’s a curse I tell you. Much like my laughter comes easy, so do my tears. A sad movie is a given, if you make me really angry – then too, but heck even a sappy happy ending causes equal waterworks. I was ashamed of myself recently when I got teary-eyed during a stupid commercial. It wasn’t even that Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercial (I change the channel as soon as I hear the song’s first chord or else I’ll be blowing my nose for the next half hour); it was for Lowe’s – the home improvement store. I wanted to slap myself, but in all fairness, search for Lowe’s “Home Love” commercial and tell me if that doesn’t give you the feels. Anyway, it doesn’t take much to make me cry, so when you give me a beautiful love story, one involving soul mates somehow finding each other in this great big world whom life in all its capriciousness separate, I’ll give you a puddle of my tears on the floor. It's Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort is a beautifully written memoir guaranteed to make you do both.

From the publisher: “Twenty-seven-year-old Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to dopey “boyfriend” until she met Aaron—a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who once made Nora laugh so hard she pulled a muscle. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo. In the period that followed, Nora and Aaron packed fifty years of marriage into the three they got, spending their time on what really matters: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each other, and BeyoncĂ©. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora’s arms. The obituary they wrote during Aaron’s hospice care revealing his true identity as Spider-Man touched the nation. With It’s Okay to Laugh, Nora puts a young, fresh twist on the subjects of mortality and resilience.”

This was an amazing read; funny, poignant, and real. I don’t know if it’s permissible to be heartbroken over a lost love that isn’t your own, but I was. In reading Nora and Aaron’s story, I fell in love with them, I fell in love with their love story, because this book is just that – as Nora eloquently states “it’s not a cancer story, it’s a love story. With some cancer.” Honestly, it seems they shared the kind of love to which the rest of us aspire, and while their tale of love and loss could be maudlin or melancholy, it is never that. It is sad at times, heartbreaking at others, but also beautiful, uplifting and inspiring.

Nora is an amazing author – funny, witty and brutally honest. Her humor breathes life into every moment she shares with us. Yet in her grief she generously reminds us of how darn lucky we are. How even in times of tragedy and heartbreak there are blessings to be counted. Nora reminds us that it’s okay to laugh, or cry, or rage at whatever raw deal life puts before us, but to have faith that in the end everything will be okay.

It’s Okay to Laugh reminds us that life can be so stupidly unfair yet so amazingly beautiful (like a beautiful rose with some sucky thorns). So read this book and when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile and remember to H.O.P.E. (hold on, pain ends).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Being Mortal

Benjamin Franklin astutely said "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Thankfully modern science has altered the course of human life, helping us all to live longer, delaying the inevitable. In Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande, the surgeon and author asserts “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine…We think it is to ensure health and survival. But really it is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.” Being Mortal is a book about the experience of mortality in today's society. Relying on anecdotal evidence from doctors, patients, health care providers and families, as well as his own personal experience with the death of his father, Gawande highlights how people experience the end of their lives – from the elderly in nursing homes forced to give up their privacy and autonomy, to seriously ill patients who face their waning days living through painful treatments that drain both their body and soul.

In Being Mortal’s critique of the nursing home system, which comprises the largest part of the book, Gawande examines how the old have to yield all control over their lives in accepting the rigidity of nursing home life; ceding their privacy in shared rooms and all control thanks to set schedules for every activity and hour of their day. While the official aim of an institution is caring and safety, for many of its residents it isn't always what some would call living. Gawande asserts that there are possibly better approaches out there today, and offers compelling success stories of caring innovators that have come up with groundbreaking solutions by thinking outside the box. One such example is a retirement community in the Boston suburbs called NewBridge. While still a nursing home, it’s so different from what we’ve come to expect; instead of housing 60 people to a floor in shared rooms along hospital corridors, NewBridge is divided into smaller pods with no more than 16 people. Each pod is called a household. Rooms are private and built around a common living area with dining room, kitchen and activity room like a home; namely, like the homes many elderly have been forced to give up.

The latter part of the book focuses on terminal patients, end of life care, and how many times medicine fails those it is supposed to help. Gawande discusses how many times doctors, including himself, and patients avoid talking honestly about the choices faced by ill patients near the end. While there is always something more which can be done, the question doctors and patients avoid is whether it should be done. “People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives,” he writes. “If your problem is fixable, we know just what to do. But if it’s not? The fact that we have had no adequate answers to this question is troubling and has caused callousness, inhumanity and extraordinary suffering.” Though Gawande doesn’t offer easy answers on this subject, his wholehearted advocacy of hospice care is readily apparent. In speaking of his own father’s experience with hospice care he states “Here is what a different kind of care — a different kind of medicine — makes possible.”

Being Mortal is a fascinating and eye-opening read. A book that compassionately sheds a light on truths that realistically will impact us all one day, whether directly or indirectly. More importantly it offers a lesson in empathy, for every story shared comes with a name that is or was a living, breathing human being that was sad, lonely, sick, or scared and fighting for their due respect from life and those around them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Redemption Road

At over 400 pages, Redemption Road by John Hart is a literary thriller that reads like a much smaller book as the pages fly by in the reader’s need to embrace a wide cast of vivid and compelling characters and unlock the tale's multiple mysteries. It is an utterly riveting and gripping multi-layered story, beautifully written, where nothing on the page is filler but instead every word serves a purpose.

From the publisher: "Imagine: A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother. A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting. After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free as deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, a body cools in pale lining. This is a town on the brink. This is Redemption Road."

I loved Redemption Road. This is my first John Hart novel, but it definitely won't be my last. A crime thriller with an emotionally charged plot perfectly paced, dealing with a murder mystery and the always volatile subjects of police corruption and prison abuse. The story is so well-constructed and characters so fleshed out that you feel an incredible sense of familiarity with each; the more you learned about each, the more you wanted to know. Relying on multiple points of view, the plot and parallel subplot develop at a relentless, yet very deliberate pace. With tension, suspense, and intricately woven truths and secrets that are slowly and meticulously revealed, Hart has constructed with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel and the prose and beauty of a poet, a moving tale about real people who are nuanced, complex and unforgettable.

While the mysteries were relatively predictable, it was the characters that kept me joyfully reading for they were truly memorable in their depth. Like the real world, the good and bad guys aren't easily identified, no white and black hats. Flawed, conflicted, with a history; saved yet lost, loyal yet treacherous, innocent yet corrupted. Using light and shade, Hart has created characters that feel incredibly authentic. Central to the story are Elizabeth, feisty yet emotionally wounded, she’s a good cop accused of the excessive force shooting (18 bullets) of two men caught raping and torturing a young girl, who is left fighting for both her future and her freedom; Adrian, an ex-cop and ex-con struggling for his soul and very sanity; and Channing, a girl trying to piece herself back together after the most soul-altering of experiences. Each is on their own path to redemption, without even knowing it. The amazing thing is that in each wildly different character the reader can find a palpable piece of humanity with which to connect and empathize - one's desperation, the other's fear, love, hate, and/or bravery.

The book's jacket touts John Hart as the one and only author to win back-to-back Edgars (the most prestigious awards in the mystery genre) for best novel. If Redemption Road is any indication of his talent, then it's no surprise why. Redemption Road is quite apropos a story of redemption (duh) that speaks to the strength and resilience of the human spirit to face its demons and overcome, emerging battered and scarred but triumphant.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Laughter is...

I’m so easy, a real floozy, quite free and indiscriminate with my…laughs. Where did you think I was going with that? Get your mind out of the gutter people! Yup, I’m an easy laugher. It doesn’t take much to tickle my funny bone. If the joke is even in the remote vicinity of being funny – general ballpark and/or neighborhood works for me, it’s sure to illicit a giggle, chuckle, guffaw or full out belly-laugh. I'm a comedians wet dream.

The joy is that it's a win-win for all involved; the joke teller gets a much needed boost of self-esteem and I enjoy a boost to my immune system. Wait, what? Oh yeah, a chuckle a day, might actually keep the doctor away folks, as research seems to support some truth to the old adage that 'laughter is the best medicine'. In fact, the Mayo Clinic's website asserts that laughing does more than just lift your spirits - it actually causes physical changes in your body, including increasing the release of endorphins by your brain, increasing your intake of oxygen, improving your immune system, and relieving pain. Another article I found from Psychology Today reported that at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, “a study of 20 healthy people, provoking laughter did as much good for their arteries as aerobic activity.”

Now that doesn’t mean we can sit on the couch, watch funny YouTube videos, eat Big Macs and live to be a 100. We could try to beat the odds, anything is possible, but a safer bet is that if we add a dash of exercise, a dollop of healthy foods, and a sprinkling of laughs to each day, we'll have the perfect recipe for a healthier, happier and longer life. No guarantees of course, but it’s worth a shot, right? With that thought in mind, I thought I’d share some links to recent funnies that made me laugh. I'm about to add at least five minutes to your life. You're welcome! Here they are in no particular order.

1. Nacho Libre. This is recent only in so far as the date of its last viewing, because in fact it's an oldie but goodie. I’ve watched this movie with my knuckleheads more times than I can recall, including just last weekend. Irregardless of the number of viewings, it makes me laugh like the first time every time. I can actually quote more lines than I’m willing to admit.

2. Oprah Loves Bread. Maya Rudolph’s parody of Oprah’s Weight Watcher’s commercial is pure comedy genius. Priceless!

3. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco’s “What’s Wrong With People” stand-up routine bit on uninvited guests, including this equally funny segment on jury duty.

4. Ozzy Man Videos - Cat vs. Rat and/or Goat vs. Town. Foul-mouthed hilarity at its best.

5. Bob’s Burger – Jericho. Paul Rudd as a horse. What more do I need to say? Gallop, gallop, gallop.

Edited to include #6. Come at me bro!! OMG.
Update #2 to include #7. Oh no you didn't! LOL. Cats can be such jerks.


Find the funny in life and keep on laughing!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Grief Observed

Grief is personal and its experience unique to each person. It’s not something that you can guide someone through, no magic pill or words to miraculously erase someone’s pain. So while A Grief Observed, published under a pseudonym in 1961 and republished under C.S. Lewis’ own name after his death, can’t be used as an instructional guidebook to see you through grief’s morass, its comfort comes in the human connection found in seeing your own similar anger, sorrow, and fears upon the loss of a loved one either wholly or in part mirrored in its pages.

A Grief Observed is a tiny book (76 pages) written by C.S. Lewis on the heartbreaking death of his wife, American novelist and poet, Helen Joy Gresham (nee Davidman), referred to as “H.” in the book. A world renowned author and scholar, C.S. Lewis had led a relatively simple life until he found love and passion late in life with Joy. The unlikeliest of couples; he a stoic British academic, author, and Oxford professor, and H. an American divorcĂ©e, mother of two, and converted Christian born into a Jewish family in New York. Yet somehow they found each other and their love and faith persevered in the face of illness, suffering and death.

In the book, Lewis reflects on his grief; it feels like fear he says, like being mildly drunk, struggling to take in what anyone says, needing space yet wanting others about out of dread of when the house is empty. In his pain, he beseeches God for answers, "Oh God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of his shell if it is now doomed to crawl back - to be sucked back - into it?" and at other instances strikes back at God for not answering his pleas, “Where is God?...Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”

The book was compiled from four notebooks used as an emotional outlet during his period of bereavement. From Chapter 1 to 4, the reader can see the slow progression of healing; as his initial anger dissipates, as the fears of forgetting H. diminish, as acceptance and remembering start to take root. Whereas he initially fears that his own impressions and memory will alter the real shape of her, he later confesses to surprisingly realizing that his dissipating sorrow has helped to lift some kind of barrier and that when he mourns H. least, he remembers her best. “Such was the fact. And I believe I can make sense out of it. You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.”

Lewis concedes that when you least expect it grief returns because nothing stays put. “One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?” He compares grief to a long valley, where you go around the bend and see new landscapes, but sometimes you run across the same scenery you left behind miles ago. Ultimately, Lewis makes his peace with God; slowly realizing the door was not shut and bolted as initially thought, asserting that “perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear,” and accepts that in loving H. the pain was part of the happiness. When you open yourself up to life and love, it all becomes a package deal.

While I see glimpses in Lewis' book of the grief I suffered after the loss of my mom, who was my mother, best friend, fan, confidant and general zen master of my life, I confess that my faith was in fact what saw me through my sorrow, giving me strength and succor. Unlike Lewis, I felt a great sense of gratitude to God for ending my mother’s suffering. But like I said above, grief is unique to each of us. In fact, in the book’s introduction, Lewis’ stepson stresses the use of the indefinite article (the “A”) in the title; making it clear that the book is merely one person’s perspective. Not a right or wrong way to experience grief. Just one person’s journey through the gradual healing process.

I found A Grief Observed a beautiful and insightful book that holds in its pages the wisdom normally found in much larger and consequential tomes. Deeply moving and unforgettable.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sleeping Giants

I've never been a sci-fi kind of gal, whether books or movies. Don't hold it against me, but I’ve never found great appeal in aliens, space travel, or robots. Star Wars, I'll pass. Star Trek, no thanks. For the most part, I’d rather keep my feet and head firmly planted in reality. Yet Sleeping Giants, the amazing debut novel by Sylvain Neuvel just made me a freaking convert. Holy moly, I absolutely loved it. An original and gripping thriller in the truest sense of the word for it thrills, excites and inspires with an unforgettable story.

From the publisher: “A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?”

Sleeping Giants is easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year (or really any year). The plot is fully fleshed out with vivid characters, suspenseful drama, and a page-turning story that is relentlessly captivating. The story is told through interviews, journal entries, transcripts and news articles. You’d think this narrative format would somehow diminish the quality of character development, but instead we’re gifted with three-dimensional characters that capture both your heart and imagination; strengths, flaws, endearing idiosyncrasies and even acerbic wit is laid out like a feast for the readers enjoyment. A physicist, an army helicopter pilot, a linguist and a mysterious interrogator; the unlikeliest bunch of heroes you’ll ever meet.

Now for the good stuff, the robot. Oh yeah, there’s a robot. A giant robot. The hand from wrist to fingertip is nearly 23 feet and the torso is the height of a six-story building. Cool, huh? Here’s a little tidbit to leave you lightsaber fans salivating – our robot has weapons, our heroes haven’t discovered all of them yet, but one is a sword and shield; a focused-energy weapon, like a lightsaber, only wider, double-edged more like a medieval sword, kinda like Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings. Some of you are already running to Barnes & Noble or Amazon to buy your copy right? Believe me, there’s so much more.

What makes this new author’s achievement even more compelling is the fact that the book wasn’t published in the typical manner. Much like Andy Weir did with The Martian, Neuvel self-published and thankfully when the book garnered praise (well deserved), Hollywood and the publishing world came knocking.

Packed with twists and turns like any good thriller, giant robot or not, and capped off with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that leaves fans panting for the next book in the series – yes, it’s a series (I don’t know how I’ll be able to wait until next year), Sleeping Giants is a tour de force from a brilliant new author.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Me Before You

After much waiting and eager anticipation, last weekend Me-day finally arrived; I packed my Kleenex and dark sunglasses to soak up my tears and hide my puffy eyes, respectively, then hit my local theater with bucket of popcorn, soda and chocolate bar in hand. Chocolate is a must in this type of situation, along with antioxidants, it has magical tear-fighting properties. It works wonders at sad movies, after crappy work days, and though I can't personally attest to it, I do believe its restorative powers work after arguments with boyfriends, husbands and/or bratty kids.

For those of you unfamiliar with the movie or book of the same name, Me Before You centers around young and quirky Louisa "Lou" Clark (Emilia Clarke) who moves from one job to the next to help her family make ends meet. Her cheerful attitude is put to the test when she becomes a caregiver for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a wealthy young banker left paralyzed from an accident two years earlier. Will's cynical outlook starts to change when Louisa shows him that life is worth living. As their bond deepens, their lives and hearts change in ways neither one could have imagined.

I really loved the movie, though I’m gonna go all book snob on you and say – say it with me now – the book is better. Nonetheless, it is a movie well worth the ticket price and the two hours of your life. It goes without saying that it was romantic, sweet, charming, funny and at times heartbreaking. Between the beautiful actors, great acting, emotional dialogue, and wonderful soundtrack, your heartstrings are expertly plucked – played like a harp – from start to finish.

The screenplay was adapted by the book’s author herself, Jojo Moyes, so as you can imagine the film was very true to its source material. The casting was spot on; Emilia Clarke perfectly captured Lou’s joie de vivre, as well as the innocent wonder of someone exposed to new experiences and shown the possibility of a future rich with limitless potential. Claflin was brilliant, especially given that his performance is restrained to facial expressions given Will’s physical limitations as a paraplegic. Whether stealing Lou’s heart (and ours in the process) with his toothy boyish smile or conveying the depths of Will’s sorrow and disillusionment with a solemn look of heartache, Claflin did both with apparent ease. While each actor firmly stood on their own two feet, it was the chemistry between the two where the magic happened; utterly enchanting.

Me Before You is an unabashed chick-flick; a charming romance, light on laughter and heavy on both sap (the more the better) and tears. I stayed away from any spoilers in this post, but I will offer a word of warning, bring Kleenex!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Farewell Party

As I mentioned in my previous post, I watched The Farewell Party, a Hebrew film with English subtitles, last weekend. The film deals with the serious issue of assisted suicide and an individual's right to die by striking a perfect balance between the kind of gravity due this solemn subject, as well as a healthy dose of humor and heart. It's a rare film that can both educate and entertain, rarer still one that can manage to do it through both laughter and tears combined, and The Farewell Party does it brilliantly. The film centers around a group of friends living at a senior citizen's retirement community that build a machine for self-euthanasia in order to help their terminally ill friend end his suffering. Despite all attempts at secrecy, as word spreads, the motley group of friends get additional requests for help, and are forced to face some serious moral dilemmas.

I absolutely loved this film. It was a bittersweet story of love and friendship that makes no qualms on its stance on its controversial subject, but regardless of where you personally stand, whether you agree or disagree, it's a film that will touch your heart, tickle your funny bone, and make you seriously ponder this important subject. A hospital visit by Yehezkel and his wife Levana, to their friend Max, suffering with terminal cancer and in agony from bed sores and the disease, sets this tale in motion when Max begs them to end his suffering. Yehezkel, an inventor of sorts with tons of gadgets of his own creation scattered throughout his home, decides to go against his wife's wishes and help Max and his wife Yana by building a Kevorkian-like machine which Max can use to self-administer a lethal cocktail of meds to painlessly end his life. After having little success with recruiting the help of a doctor also living at the retirement facility, the secret duo end up with Dr. Daniel, a veterinarian, who initially mistakenly assumes Max is a dog. The device is finally used by Max, at which time he movingly attests 'if I use this I will die, if I don't I will suffer and then I will die', leaving the group grief-stricken but at peace with their role, though that soon changes when Yehezkel is tasked with the choice of helping someone he loves.

There are countless moments of irreverent humor and heartbreaking sadness in this film. It's really such a contradiction, but it honestly, effortlessly it seems, manages to make you laugh out loud only to poignantly touch your heart and make you cry in the next moment. It's the little moments in the film that touched me the deepest, such as when Yehezkel first visits Max in the hospital and changes his diaper because the nurse refused. A profoundly humbling moment seeing a man gently caring for his old friend; with no pride or embarrassment between them, just love. Equally memorable is when Yehezkel, with a digitally masked voice, calls his friend Zelda as "God" and tries to convince her to continue with her medications, saying there's no vacancies in heaven right now. Each moment serves as a simple, yet perfect example of love and friendship in their purest form.

The moral dilemma of someone's right to die is not one likely to be decided or resolved by this film, but one nonetheless that merits serious discussion and debate. There are countless factors that can alter the equation and people's sentiments on the issue - is the person terminally ill and facing imminent death, is the person's quality of life severely diminished by a degenerative disease, such as those existing but not truly living, as the case with countless souls facing the 'long goodbye' of Alzheimer's. While I'm not 100% sure what I'd do faced with such a decision, I know that I respect someone else's choice to say enough is enough and believe with both fervor and conviction that God in his infinite wisdom and mercy would neither condemn nor forsake those who saw this as their only recourse.

Albeit a film dealing with death, The Farewell Party, equally conveys the beauty of life, love and friendship. A must-see film.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Let's Schmooze!

For those first time visitors, no I'm not Jewish despite the Yiddish in the post title, it's just a lame attempt at wit. I must admit I like the word, though not as much as verklempt, a favorite, or meshugener. Yes, though there are undoubtedly millions of Hispanic Jews, with a name like Maria Magdalena aka Mary Magdalene, you'd be right in guessing it a pretty sure bet that a) I'm Catholic, b) a Catholic was involved in my procreation and/or naming, or c) both of the above. Ding, ding, ding, if you guessed c).

I've gotten completely sidetracked. Anyway, I just wanted to catch up and commiserate on life. As you've probably guessed from the countless book reviews I've posted, I've been reading a lot. I've managed it by trading in one addiction, television, for another, reading. It seems I can't do anything in moderation, which probably explains the 20 pounds I'm trying to lose. Prior to the summer hiatus, the only show I was watching was The Voice; now it's America's Got Talent. Thanks to NBC though, I think I know what I’ll be doing on Tuesday nights for the foreseeable future after watching this emotional trailer for their new dramedy, This Is Us, starring Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia. It’s hard to gauge from just a two minute clip, but it looks like a winner. Like holding a mirror up to life; in that brief snapshot it offers a reflection of the happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and joy that can be found in one simple life.



I'll wait while you watch. Looks great doesn't it? As further proof of my total lack of moderation skills or a slight case of masochism, this weekend I went to see Me Before You, and as if one movie about untimely death wasn't enough, I followed it up with an On Demand order of The Farewell Party, a Hebrew film with English subtitles that deals with euthanasia. I loved both, but surprisingly would give a slight edge to the latter. I'll be posting a review of each shortly.

What else? Well, summer is almost here. Nooooooo! In case you were unaware, I hate summer. During this season I avoid the outdoors like the plague, fully aware of the consequences otherwise, namely my armpit sweat rings spread like creeping fungus, the humidity makes my hair look like the afro I sported in middle school or like I’m freaking Mufasa from the Lion King, and my cheeks normally rosy due to either a mild case of rosacea or all the years of excessive blushing, turn a violent red like I’m ready to explode. Not my best look, for sure. Nonetheless, it’ll be nice to have some time off. While I won’t be traveling anywhere, I do plan on one or two short staycations. Maybe take a trip into the city, see a show.

Thanks for the schmooze and for those family and friends that still indulge my flights of fancy and actually read this blog, if we don’t see each other soon, have a great summer! For some reason completely unbeknownst to me, I’ve really been enjoying writing lately, so I’ll keep posting about all my recent books, movies, adventures and thoughts. Don’t be a stranger, stop by and visit.