Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sky, Necks, Shabbat

Skywatch Friday

Nora Ephron passed away the other day. I am an avid reader of her books, essays, and I have watched all of her films. Some of her writings and films are cute, humorous, some serious, but no matter the genre, they always speak of women, independence, perseverance and realizing potential.

One of her books, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, is one that I find to be a great asset in the area of women and aging. It is filled with much humor, yet depicts a serious look at the aging process.

It is both a poignant and outright hilarious book, bringing much comic relief to women who are aging, although it has serious undertones. With Ephron’s sensible, yet comedic style (after all, she did bring us When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, along with Julia and Julie), we are infused with scents, creams, lotions bath oils, food and cooking, the likes of which cling to us, long after we finish the book.

Her book chronicles the downfall (literally) of a woman’s aging body, from sagging breasts and chins, to wrinkled knees and elbows, to thinning hair and thickening necks. Each page is crammed with laughter and tears, causing smiles to form on our faces…adding a few more wrinkles with each smile.

Nora Ephron was not getting older gracefully, and admits it. Nothing she did could slow the process down…and she was fighting back at it every second and hour of the day.

If you want to wallow and feel bad about yourself, this book is a must read, and if you want to feel good about yourself, and laugh your way through those bad-feel days, then, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, is a book for you.

My deep condolences to her family. May Nora Ephron Rest in Peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Judaism

Book Review – The Madonnas of Leningrad

Sometimes it requires all her wits to piece together the world with the fragments she is given: an open can of Folgers, a carton of eggs on the counter, the faint scent of toast.”

And, so, begins the story of Marina, a woman caught between her past, and her present, as her life weaves back and forth, memories often overlapping the lines between the here and now. From 1941 Leningrad, and the German siege that follows, to relocating to America, the book resounds with ghostly images of starvation, bombings, and paintings by the great Masters of old.

Marina is one of the tour guides in the Hermitage Museum, one of a few staff members who are responsible for packaging up the great paintings, themselves, while leaving the frames on the walls, as a reminder of what was, and what eventually would be returned to its proper place in the Hermitage.

In order to escape the ravages of war, Marina creates a “Memory Palace” in her mind, remembering and visualizing each painting, each stroke of the brush, of the Madonnas and angels within the paintings. The minutes and hours pass by, and life is created within Marina’s mind, often blurring the borders of reality and fantasy. These fantasy images are what help her to get through her horrific situation, both during the war, and during the last years of her life, when the past takes over the present, guiding and comforting her towards the end of days, during her struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

The visuals within the story line are incredible, both beautiful and haunting. Dean is masterful at depicting art with all of its minute details, all of the colors and intensities that artists render in their paintings are illuminated through her stunning prose.

Debra Dean brings us a poignant novel of wartime, a beautiful, yet ghostly reminiscence of what was, and how we deal with the emotional pain of loss. She gives us food for thought, and her compelling images leave us to wonder about emotional borders, and where the line ends or begins, between fantasy and reality, between illness and end of life stages.

I highly recommend The Madonnas of Leningrad to everyone.

June 28, 2012 – 8 Tamuz, 5772

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Novels

Jewaicious Review – The Gift of Rest

Senator Joe Lieberman’s book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, is a work of loveliness that is embracing in many facets.

Senator Lieberman is a devoted and an observant and practicing Jew, and a man who takes time out of his extremely hectic schedule to celebrate Shabbat, whether in synagogue or home, and celebrate the gift of the Sabbath, handed to us through Moses.

I was in awe of his dedication, and the fact that even though he lives almost five miles from the Capital, in Washington DC, he walks home on Friday, one of his many observances of Shabbat. It matters not if it is raining, he walks, and walks through heavy rains, snow, winds, whatever the weather condition, he walks.

For Senator Lieberman, the Sabbath is a sensual delight. It fills all of his senses through food and drink, song, family, love, and traditions he and his family practice with deep dedication. His connection to G-d is defined through these moments of observance.

I enjoyed the aspects of Shabbat and the Sabbath that he practices, such as turning off his computer, TV, etc., and the fact that water is heated in a large urn ahead of time, so he can prepare instant coffee on Saturday morning, without actually boiling water on the Sabbath. This and so many other family traditions are a part of Senator Lieberman’s routine, as he and his wife prepare for the Sabbath. It is a part of who he IS.

His peers in Washington DC know he is an observant Jew, and know of his steadfastness in not working on the Sabbath. But, there are times when there is a critical issue or an emergency where Senator Lieberman might have to wrestle with having to discuss urgent business during the Sabbath, and he has thoroughly researched those aspects, within the folds of Halacha/Jewish law, and quotes the Biblical, Talmudic or Rabbinic law that pertains to a given situation. At times it is a combination of the varied laws. Surprisingly to many, they will find that Halacha/Jewish law does provide for unique circumstances when work is permitted.

Each chapter in The Gift of Rest is a work of teaching and insight, filled with how the celebration is fulfilled through prayer, food, tradition and family. Each chapter ends with his thoughts on “Simple Beginnings”, beginnings meant to inspire the reader to ponder Shabbat, the Sabbath, and instruct the reader on how to proceed.

The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath is more than an inspiring book. It is, in itself, a gift to the reader, whether Jewish or otherwise. Senator Lieberman’s prose of insight depict what many of us feel, but cannot articulate. He writes beautifully and masterfully, teaching, instructing, guiding and affecting the reader as they move through the pages. His word-visuals breath life and joy into the Jewish celebration of Shabbat and the Sabbath. His beautiful writings and instructions, along with quotations and bits of humor beckon the reader to ponder how they can incorporate tradition and observance into their own lives within the hectic world we live in.

Many religions incorporate a day of rest within their practice, or a specific time of rest. Whether you are Jewish or not, I highly recommend The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath to everyone. It is a wonderfully inspiring, informative and lovely book. I can not say enough about it. The book is one of the most beautifully written personal testaments to Jewish tradition and observance I have read. It will sit on my nightstand, along with my Siddorim/books of prayer, and with my inspirational books. I know I will refer to it often.

© Copyright 2010-2012 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

June 25, 2012 – 5 Tamuz, 5772

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Filed under Book Reviews, Judaism, Non-Fiction

La Grande Illusion Film Review

Last night I saw the French film La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion), directed by Jean Renoir. The film was produced in 1937, and 75 years later it has come to the big screen again, with an excellent restoration.

The film is in black and white, and is subtitled for the American audience.

Set during World War I, the themes of status and relationships runs throughout the anti-war story line of men trying to escape from their imprisonment. Both sides of war are depicted, with those who have been captured, and those who are captors, demonstrating friendship towards one another within a prison camp environment. Each side (Germans and the French, upper and working class) tries to make the best of their situation through humor, dignity and even empathy.

The film is a bit unusual in the aspect that it portrays male interactions and friendships that cross borders of cultural and social backgrounds. From those born into wealth and the elite, including a Jewish Lieutenant, and to men of the working class, the film is a metaphor for aristocracy and breeding versus the new breed of individuals.

I don’t want to go into the content of the film, as I feel that the film deserves to be viewed, and not read about.

I found La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) to be a satisfying and complex anti-war film (although some might find it simplistic), and recommend it to everyone.

June 24, 2012 – 4 Tamuz, 5772

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Filed under Films, Judaism

Shadows and Blue

Shadow Shot Sunday

© Copyright 2010-2012 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

June 23, 2012 – 3 Tamuz, 5772

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Filed under Photography, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday!

Happy, Happy, Happy Third Birthday, my dear Boyjoy Grandie!!!

I like how the sky is reflected in the water in the photo above.

Skywatch Friday

Shabbat Shalom!

June 22, 2012 – 2 Tamuz, 5772

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Filed under Photography