"The Definition of Insanity is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results" - Albert Einstein

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Princesses: Long Island Smut

On Sunday night I sat down with my mother and my sisters to watch the premiere episode of Bravo! TV’s latest train-wreck of a reality show, “Princesses: Long Island.” The show is a derivative of the ‘Real Housewives of’ franchise that turned being fame-grubbing and unemployable into a full-time profession on TV and is singlehandedly responsible for the spike in sales of Pinot Grigio over the last five years. Only this time around the river bend, Bravo and Executive Producer Andy Cohen are exploiting the lives of Jewish girls who live with their wealthy parents in Long Island as opposed to botoxed divorcees and socialites.

These ‘charming’ ladies spout out delightfully stereotypical phrases such as “I’m Jewish, I’m American, and I’m a Princess. Bring it on” and “I’m not your typical Nice Jewish Girl.” Their lives revolve around living in their parent’s mansions, shopping, pampering themselves, and the search for a husband. The parents say things like “You should be looking to date a Doctor or a Lawyer, someone who can take care of you” to their daughter who is moving past her prime at the ripe age of 27. In this bubble, there is never any discussion of jobs, or brains or anything past ‘Can I have another AmEx card, mine’s maxed out this month’ and finding a husband that they can service with cooking and not working for the rest of their spoiled rotten lives.

God forbid anyone treat these college-educated women like adults, or value them for what’s inside their skull as opposed to how thick it is.

Their depiction is offensive on several levels. In one scene, one of the girls tells the camera that her family is Reform Jewish, and is therefore, “not really that Jewish,” and then proceeds to serve her Modern-Orthodox friend a non-Kosher hotdog under the pretense that it is Kosher. And this disturbed me on several levels.

I’m sad that the stereotype of “not really that Jewish” is one that will probably stick to Reform Jews when in most cases that is not the case. I know so many Reform Jews that have an unbelievable connection to their faith that I often envy.

I’m sad that instead of inquiring about what makes food Kosher or not Kosher, this girl chose to deceive a friend who obviously cares about upholding that Mitzvoth, and instead chose to be lazy about her friend’s faith for seemingly no reason.

I’m sad that when Bravo TV found two girls who had been friends since they were children from differing sects of Judaism, they decided to make them into a punch line instead of opening up a dialogue that mainstream America rarely gets exposed to.

I’m sad that instead of having any conversation at all about Judaism that could have been complex and interesting, Bravo put up an hour long info-mercial for what people who have never met a Jewish girl in their life think that we behave.

But more than anything, I’m sad that we were complicit about it as viewers. Why are we as a country more drawn to watching other people scream at each other and act like fools than watch Mad Men or Parks and Recreation or read a book? It’s not like we all pretend that Princesses and Real Housewives is quality programming while secretly thinking its smut. It is smut and everyone knows it, but we watch this garbage out of some sort of compulsory cultural stigma, or under the guise of a guilty pleasure, or maybe because it is just far enough removed from our lives that we don’t care.

I’m disappointed in myself that it didn’t even bother me until I felt like the victim to even say anything. I can’t think or a face or religion or ethnic group that hasn’t been victimized for the gain of TV, and how sad is that? I want to go back to when the first episode of garbage aired and write a protest letter to the network. I want to go back and delete all of the episodes of the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo out of my mind permanently, but I can’t do that.

The only thing I can do as a viewer is vote with my television set and stop watching. And if I can get on my soapbox, I think we all should stop watching shows that exploit real people, no matter how complicit these people are in the activity. I think we should demand more as viewers until we no longer have to flip through 1,000 channels to find a single show where women are treated like they have a brain and nobody’s race or religion is stereotyped so blatantly. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

23 Years in 23 Images.

23 years ago today, my best friend Andy was born.

 Now in a normal best friend relationship, people would buy presents for their best friend for their birthday.

But we don't have a normal best friend relationship.

So instead of presents, you're getting the story of our friendship.

Andy and I met in our first year of Meshuganotes. 

But we really became best friends on our first trip to JCFPA in New York.

Because he almost got himself murdered.

And every year we celebrate with a friendiversary.

Our Sophomore year Andy joined TBDBITL.

But he still had time to hang out with me.

Mostly we hung out in the basement of Fresh Express.

My Senior year we became full fledged roommates. 

And Sammy was there too.

Sometimes Andy would get confused.

And sometimes he would cry for no reason.

Sometimes we fight over Baz Luhrmann.

And he would always be messy.

But most of the time we just "get" each other. 

Now it seems like finally Andy is gonna Graduate. 

Any maybe he will start life as a real adult. 

But for right now, I'm just so proud of him. 

And I know that no matter what, we'll always be best friends. 

Happy Birthday Andy!!!! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

I have a lot of problems with “self-help” books. Most of them are hocking some ridiculous diet that no one can possibly expect to follow 100% of the time and is bound to actually make you gain weight like eating nothing but paper.


But I can eat all of the paper I want

Anytime I see a book for “60 days to 6 pack abs” or “Mastering Mastery” part of me dies a little because literature is dying too.

Disclaimer: This is not a real book, I hope

That's because the purpose of 99% of Self-Help books is to make you believe that all you really need to make your life better is spend 25.95 on Jillian Michael’s new Metabolism friendly cookbook. They want to make you buy into the latest fad diet where they tell you to eat all gluten-free almond paste in January, then tell you in March that you shouldn’t be eating fatty proteins like nuts and instead you should only each spinach and cottage cheese. And don’t worry if the $30 you spent on "The Remake Your Life Training Manuel" didn’t work because there will always be another meditation DVD for you to buy because the mega-million dollar self help business isn't actually built on fixing people; it's built on getting people to pay to "better" themselves while working to keep them essentially the same.

This is in-fact a real book. I am not endorsing it.

What is the most depressing though is how badly I want to read self-help books of actual substance. I love improving myself. Seriously. I am the person who believes if we aren’t actively trying to make ourselves do something better at all times, why are we even breathing? I fashion myself as a less annoying female version of Chris Traeger, although I am sure if you talked to most people that hang out with me, they would say I am, literally, just as annoying as he is.

I am 100 percent sure I am 0 percent sure of what to do.

Goals are the difference between people who work a boring job for a paycheck and those who see the value in all experiences. Trying to better ourselves is the difference between waking up in the morning and thinking about what lies ahead and a stoner who honestly believes that we are human/ape slaves controlled by an omnipotent alien overlord who placed us on earth to mine gold.

But too many self-help books nowadays focus too much on what you’re doing wrong, and not on why you are doing it, and what you can do to be better. Which brings me to The Power of Habit.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

I can't praise this book enough. It's the perfect combination of non-fiction storytelling with self-help guidance and miraculously doesn't make you feel like crap for not being perfect already. Duhigg combines the scientific dissection of success and failure in the same way Malcolm Gladwell did in Outliers with the practical knowledge of how to actually better your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Outliers, but it’s not a self-help book as much as a documentary of success. I remember in one chapter, Gladwell writes of an experiment about how kids who were held back a grade in Kindergarten by their parents were overwhelmingly more successful in life than their counterparts who started Kindergarten on time, because they were older, more mature and developed faster than their contemporaries. It was fascinating information, but it did absolutely nothing to help me in my present situation, especially since I started Kindergarten at age 4 and was apparently supposed to be a failure.

The brilliance of Duhigg is the same scientific information set to practical application. Did you know that habits occur on a physiological loop, based on Cue, Routine and Reward? Neither did I. Or that cravings are practically impossible to overcome once they have been “cued,” so instead of just making yourself miserable not eating a brownie, try instituting a new routine that makes you crave exercise instead?

What I learned from Duhigg was how I could use the existing science of habits to deal with my own problems. Charles Duhigg doesn’t know that practically every morning since I was 12 I’ve hit the snooze button on my alarm clock multiple times, and that on mornings I sleep in extra late I tend to eat a breakfast of Toaster Strudels as opposed to mornings when I wake up on time and I eat grapefruit and eggs. But that didn’t matter, because he knew that if I changed the “cue” of hitting the snooze button, I would invariably eat a healthier breakfast in the morning. And so far he is correct.

I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. It’s an extremely helpful and entertaining read. You’ll see the routines in your life in an entirely new light through Duhigg’s writing, and you’ll find it’s not so difficult to change it for the better. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I should begin this review by saying that I don’t usually read Young Adult fiction. And I don’t really care too much for Superhero movies. And I’ve never seen X-Men. So there are no preexisting conditions for me to like One by Leigh Ann Kopans.

One is the story of Merrin Grey, your typical High School girl who lives in a futuristic version of the United States where people have super powers. In this world, you need two abilities to be a Super, like being combustible and being indestructible. But Merrin is a One. Merrin can float, but she can’t create a vacuum to push air away from her so she can fly. And that means she doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

You think you know where this is going don’t you? You think this is the story of a girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere, but she finds a boy who likes her and gives her some self worth and she fits in better.

But you’re wrong.

This isn’t a story about how boys validate girls by being in a relationship and then they learn to rely on that feeling to feel good about themselves. This isn’t a story about a girl who gets saved from her own poor choices by a boy. This is a story about a girl who knows her own self worth and knows she can achieve them on her own.

Merrin is going to fly. I could tell within the first three pages she would fly, because anyone with the sheer amount of determination Merrin has would ever let something so trivial as biology hold her back from her dreams. She’s the strong-willed, in-control, and totally amazing teen heroine we’ve all been waiting for.

In the midst of Bella’s and Ana’s, Merrin has the brains of Hermione Granger, the conviction of Eowyn, and the scrappiness of Katniss Everdeen. I love her. She’s not infallible, but I love her. And I’m so glad that there are people writing about strong female characters that kiss boys and kick ass.

People should be recommending this book to everyone they know but especially to young people. Young girls should be learning how to act like Merrin and young boys should be learning how to treat women like Elias does. It was a surprising and suspenseful read with backbone. A great read!!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

So Many Epics of American Slavery, So Little Time: Part 2

This post is a continuation of my review of Lincoln and Django Unchained, which you can read by scrolling down. This review may make more sense if you read Part 1 first. Then again it may not, since as I am constantly reminded, I have very little control over the human brain’s ability to reason. 

Anyway, where was I?

If Lincoln is the story of the white man who was finally able to pull the trigger on outlawing slavery, Django Unchained is the story of the white man who taught a really angry black slave how to pull the trigger well enough to murder everyone in sight.

Side Note Did you hear that Slavery was actually only officially outlawed in all 50 states a few days ago?

Way to go Mississippi. Breaking the World Record for Longest Time Spent in Bureaucratic Tape Hell.

Django is the story of a pair of bounty hunters, which apparently can exist outside the world of Boba Fett. Granted this is a Tarantino Film, so nothing in it is real at all, so maybe not. The snowman shooting team of “good guys” who brutally kill almost everyone in the film are: a freed slave named Django (the D is silent) and Christoph Waltz, a faux dentist/German who isn’t evil (huge twist). 

This movie also stars Leonardo DiCaprio as gross teeth dude, Kerry Washington as the most beautiful woman alive, and Samuel L. Jackson as the guy from Snakes on a Plane who has time-travelled to antebellum Mississippi by using his Jedi mind powers.

I have had it with these Mother F***ing N*****s on this Mother F***ing Plantation!

Disclaimer about my review of this film: I don’t generally love Quentin Tarantino. I liked Pulp Fiction, and I appreciate it as a film, but I’d still rather watch this:

Than this:

With that being said, I really didn’t like or “get” Django. It’s easier to start with what I didn’t like, since that is subjective, so we will go there first.

1.     I didn’t like that it was 3 bazillion hours long. It could have seriously ended after the first massive shootout at Candyland, but no, they had to keep Django alive so they could kill him. But then they could have killed him, but they had to keep him alive so they could sell him to mine workers. But then Django has to kill them so he can go back to the plantation and kill everyone else, for another 45 minutes.

2.     I didn’t like that it was contrived, and really skim on plot. For example: why didn’t they just buy Broomhilda and go? I understand that Schultz had a point of honor about shaking hands with Leo (again, I don’t get this), but they could have just bought her from the beginning and left! Their entire hair-brained idea hinges on the fact that Django has to pretend like he doesn’t care about slaves being brutally victimized, and Broomhilda pretending like she doesn’t know Django. Both of which, are clearly impossible for the love-birds to pull off, and unfortunately, it’s idiotic of them to assume they could do that.

Besides this major plot hole, the rest of the film is a plot-less, revenge driven schlock fest that is only propelled by a mix of Tarantino’s White Guilt and penchant thirst to cover everything possible in red paint and corn syrup. It’s not that I don’t want to see Jamie Foxx enact revenge on bad people for slavery, I just only need to see it for maybe an hour. The remaining time could and should have been better spent on some of the witty dialogue Waltz uses on the people who are the victims of his bounties. Now that’s entertainment. 

3.     I didn’t like that it was excessively violent. Yes, I understand that this is a Tarantino movie, so if there wasn’t violence we would just be watching a 25 minutes G-rated comic book about a dentist who teaches rich Plantation owner’s about the importance of brushing and helps a young couple get back together. But the gratuitous violence that is Tarantino is at even a new level for him in this film. In the first final shoot-out, blood covers the white walls of Candyland as if it were wallpaper. It’s gross.

Clearly Quentin Tarantino has lost touch with what is good filmmaking and what is just his own wet dream.

However, there were a few things that I did enjoy about the film.

For one: Christoph Waltz is really great in this. His performance is the reason that the Best Supporting Actor race is in such a dead heat right now. And he really does a great job portraying someone who detests slavery as an institution and feels for slaves in a time when no one else did.  Given that this is only the second movie I have seen him in, that I actually like him in the film, and that the first movie was Inglourious Basterds, I’d say he did a pretty solid job.

And that is coming from someone who is convinced that Ralph Fiennes is evil after having seen him in Schindler’s List. I screamed for Jennifer Lopez’s safety throughout the entirety of Maid in Manhattan.

Run J. Lo Run!

And I also really enjoyed the scene where Jamie Foxx wore blue velvet.

Imma Take Yo Grandpa’s Style!

But really, the problem with this film, is that it’s just totally driven by revenge and white guilt. And it’s the same problem with Lincoln. Both of these films are thriving on the fact that white people feel bad about slavery and that any film made about it is automatically “good” and “important.”

I certainly don’t want to argue that slavery isn’t important, or that white people shouldn’t feel bad about it. It was important, and white people should feel bad about it. But Django and Lincoln really only fly with audiences because of this fact, and they don’t stand up as films in their own right, at least they didn’t with me. I can’t just accept that both of them are  “important” and thusly must be good. Lincoln is wicked boring, and Django Unchained is very poorly plotted out, and doesn’t really make that much sense. I can’t just give them a pass for being important.

Really, we should feel bad that racism is still alive in America and that we don’t do enough to combat it. THAT is a movie that would be important.