Wendy Wasserstien Died Today

Wendy Wasserstein was a woman.

I am a woman.

Wendy Wasserstein was 55 years old.

I am 54 years old.

Wendy Wasserstein was born on October 8, 1950.

I was born on October 13, 1951.

Wendy Wasserstein was Jewish.

I am Jewish.

Wendy Wasserstein's mother brought her, as a young girl, to numerous Broadway's performances.

My mother brought me, as a young girl, to numerous Broadway plays and musicals.

Wendy Wasserstein went to college and earned a BA in 1971.

I went to college and earned a BS in 1973.

Wendy Wasserstein's life and life's work was very much informed by her being Jewish.

My life and personal identity has been much informed by being Jewish.

Wendy's work as a playwright was informed by the times in which she grew up, especially by the 1970s, during which the Feminist Movement hailed strong and influential.

My adult life has been informed by coming of age in the 70's, being a part of and influenced by the Women's Movement.

Wendy Wasserstein's female characters, according to today's New York Times Obituary, were always intelligent and successful, but wrought with self-doubt -- seeking enduring love a little ambivalently and not always finding it.

My middle name is Ambivalence, well, it's really Eileen, but you get the point.

Wendy Wasserstein won a Pulitzer Prize for her play, "The Heidi Chronicles," in which her main character, Heidi is representative of the female Baby Boomer who is well educated and trying to make it in what remains a male dominated society.

I never won any major prize, nor have I written any plays, but I found resonance in Wendy's plays and often her female characters spoke for me.

Wendy wrote her plays and essays with wit, humor and comedic dialogue as her characters searched for their own identity, while often despairing in today's society.

I have been known to be "heavy" in my thinking and feelings, yet I do maintain some degree of wit and humor and I am sure I will always be searching to complete my identity.

Wendy Wasserstein Died Today.

I was taken aback by the news, not knowing that she was even sick. As a woman of the Baby Boomer generation, I will miss her. I wonder, now, who will write the plays, spoken in our Collective Female, Baby Boomer voice, as we pass into the older generation.



I love language. Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember playing with words and writing them down and remembering great expressions. Do you remember asking friends, "DO YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO DOUBT MY VERACITY, TO INSINUATE THAT I PREVARICATE?? IF SO, YOU HAVE THE MOST PUGNACIOUS DISPOSITION, FAR BEYOND MY PERSONAL COMPREHENSION! Boy, did I think I was cool because i knew the meaning of each of those words and besides, they sounded so wonderful.

So, now when I come across language that blooms in my ears, I try to write it down (unfortunately, at my present stage of life, memorizing and remembering aren't always possible). I happened to pick up one of my daughter's books, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, written by
Richard Rodriguez. It's a book about the immigrant experience, specifically the newcomers adjusting to the gringos, their ways and especially their language. He spoke of the comfort that being among those who spoke your language would bring him as a child. He wrote, "A family member would say something to me and I would feel myself specially recognized.... I would feel embraced by the sounds of their words. It became the language of joyful return" Language can do that.

Rodriguez makes the case against the use of Bilingual Education, but what interested me for the moment was his own use of the language that became his own as he became an American. This is how he put it when still a child listening to English and trying to speak it. "Tongues explored the edges of words, especially the fat vowels" What a GREAT way to express what it feels like learning the new language, English.


Wilson Pickett....Farewell

Is it coincidence or Serendipity? I am sitting at my desk, responding to emails, NPR's, All Thing's Considered is playing in the background and I am vaguely aware of hearing the song, Land Of A Thousand Dances. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, which is otherwise occupied with what I am reading, I half hear a report about the death of Wilson Pickett. Minutes later, when I have switched off NPR and clicked on my iTune library of songs, five songs down the list, once again, Land Of A Thousand Dances is playing through my speakers. I check on the artist and it is, of course, Wilson Pickett. Perhaps that doesn't sound like something to write home about to you, but to me it seemed like a very big coincidence.

What was the likelihood of this song coming up on my iTunes list? Land of A Thousand Dances is not a song you hear on a regular basis. It is in fact mainly one of those songs, like Celebrate Good Times, that one is familiar with from Bar Mitzvahs and other such celebrations. Well, anyway, the point is that this bit of serendipity caused me to stop a moment and pay my respects to another member of my generation (he's ten years older, but I think that counts as my generation, right?) who has left my baby- boom world. I will proceed to the iTunes Music Shop and do what has become my new way of honoring the passing of
singers, i.e. pay my 99 cents of respect by purchasing a Wilson Pickett song, other than
Land of A Thousand Dances.


Napa Valley...A Trip Much Sweeter Than Wine

Here's my recommendation on how to spend the week between Christmas and New Years. Go somewhere you've never been before. I did that this past year, and I can tell you, I wasn't sorry. Well, I was a little sorry, but, I'll get to that in due time. The destination was Napa, CA, located at the bottom of Rt. 29...

I invite you to view my complete photo journal of this very sweet trip. CLICK HERE


An Amazing Year for American Cinema

Oh that there were more hours in the day. How people keep up with blogging, working and generally living, is beyond me. I have so much I want to say, and so little time to say it all. Anyway, maybe if I got to the point quicker, I could say more, but then that wouldn't be me. I want to comment on last night's Golden Globe Awards Ceremony (this must be my day for ceremony comments....see last blog entry). Anyway, first and foremost, what I'd like to say is that in my humble opinion there is once again hope for American Cinema. I think many film critics, and I say film rather than movie purposely, view American movies as Hollywood, which means big and bright and brash and not always with a whole lot of substance and subtlety. But this year there was an ever increasing number of movies, dare I say films, with substance and with grit. Some I have seen and some remain on my "to be seen" list.

In the past, small independent films were seen only by those who were willing and able to get to the one or two theaters showing the unconventional movie. In my case, here in northern New Jersey, it would be the Claridge Theater in Montclair, a theater that in its day was lovely and large. But it went the way of many old, large movie theaters in America and was sliced up into many small, not so lovely, uncomfortable "Viewing Rooms" (my family room with our 60" rear projection TV is bigger and better and by far more comfortable than the 6 or 7 mini "theaters" at the Claridge). But now, one can go to the larger multiplexes and still see some of the smaller and often more multilayered films that were nominated at the Golden Globes. As a side note, I was unfamiliar with the history of the Golden Globes and wrongly thought that it was a relatively new institution.
It was truly an amazing year for American Cinema. There were many aspects to be appreciated this year in the films that came out, especially near the end of the year. One of those is the diversity you see in every aspect of the movie world from directors to producers to the actors. Ang Lee, who has directed some of the best films over the years, including this year's Brokeback Mountain was born in Taiwan. Peter Jackson, Director of King Kong, is from New Zealand. The winner for Best Supporting Actress was Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener and she was born in England. Frances McDormand was nominated for her supporting role in North Country And she's just a plain old American, but the other major actress in the movie, Charlize Theron was born and raised in South Africa and the director, Niki Caro is from New Zealand. And last, the film that won for best foreign film was Paradise Now and the "home country" was Palestine. The award was accepted by the film's director, Hani abu-Assad. Now that could be a whole other blog entry, but suffice it to say that this nomination and this winner is in some circles (mine for example) controversial, yet adds to the diversity of which I have been speaking. Anyway, my point is that the diversity one sees in this world of American movies is both astounding and welcomed.

And diversity was just one of the things that struck me as I watched the Golden Globe Awards. Besides for the amazing selection of smaller films such as: Brokeback Mountain (haven't seen it yet, but am anticipating it with great interest and emotion), Capote (saw it and thought it was unbelievable how Philip Seymour Hoffman transformed himself into Truman Capote; it was a really worthwhile movie to see) Goodnight and Good Luck (saw it and could not fully appreciate it for all the things I had heard about it in interviews, etc. because I was very sleepy; plan to see it again at home), Crash (saw it at a Premier in NYC along with some of the main actors and the director, all of whom sat on a panel after the film and spoke and answered audience questions; this movie was, in my opinion, one of the most important movies that has comeout in recent times....just see it and you will understand why), The Squid and The Whale (have not seen it, plan to, it's supposed to be smart, I guess sometimes funny, and very well acted, perhaps I will include later a great review I read of this movie); again besides for these wonderful small films this past year, there were equally wonderful larger and louder films. I have not enjoyed a movie more than Pride & Prejudice since, well, I don't know since when. I just loved this movie. I loved the scenery and the costumes and the dancing and I enjoyed the music so much I proceeded to B&N as soon as I left the movie theater and purchased the CD. Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn are so good as the parents and I just loved watching and listening to Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. I went to see this movie by myself and it took me to a wonderland. Another big movie of '05 was Rent
I also thoroughly enjoyed it (not as much as P&P, but a lot). I could watch Jesse L. Martin all day and not get tired of him. And Taye Diggs can, as my grandmother used to say, park his slippers next to my bed any day of the week. Not all movies as musicals work these days, but for me this one did.

There is one more aspect that got my attention. This year there were not one or two really good, important, searching and controversial movies, but there was a whopping 7: Munich, Brokeback Mountain, TransAmerica (Felicity Hoffman won for best Actress), Syrianna, The Constant Gardner, Paradise Now, and Good Night and Good Luck . They did not shy away from controversy because it might not sell. The powers that be took chances and I think we movie-goers should recognize that and doff our hats. What a year for movies and what a year it will be for dvd and video rentals. My hat is off to all who were involved in making the decisions to take a chance on quality, even if it might mean less revenue. But, I guess maybe those big-wigs knew what they were doing because these movies won awards and people are going to see them. All the better for us all.


Welcome Governor Corzine

I arranged my morning so that I would be near a television today at 12 noon. I would have liked to actually been present at today's inauguration of Jon Corzine as the 54th Governor of New Jersey. We are for the most part a progressive state and we have nominated a progressive man to be our governor. I worked a bit on Corzine's campaign and went from being very enthusiastic about him and his nomination to being a bit cynical and less than enthusiastic by the end of the campaign. It was not a pleasant campaign! However, watching him this afternoon, as the various parts of the ceremony took place, I remembered what I liked about him from the beginning.

Jon Corzine strikes me as a sincere, friendly and "regular" guy. I actually found myself relating personally to this man who has been chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, one of the world's oldest and most prestigious investment banks and Senator of my state of New Jersey. He stood there on the platform looking a little confused and unsure of exactly what it was he was supposed to do. After he took the pledge of office and his mother and children went to sit down, he threw them a kiss. He offered thanks and gratitude to the outgoing acting governor, Richard Codey, and gave all the time that was needed for the audience to rightfully and respectfully applaud and show their gratitude to Codey. I think for all his accomplishments, Jon Corzine is a humble person and I truly believe that he will do the job of Governor, not only to the best of his ability, but with some degree of humility and in his own words, he will do his best for everyone in the state. There is a lot to overcome in this state, regarding corruption and I think he may be the man to do it. At least I hope so. Corzine quoted Woodrow Wilson (both Governor of NJ and President of the US) in saying, "If you think too much about being reelected, it is very difficult to be worth reelecting." If he just sticks to that, he will be OK.

Finally, I remember what it was that most drew me to Jon Corzine and his candidacy for Governor. He was one of very few Senators who stood up and spoke out for Darfur and the people there who are experiencing "hell on earth." He, along with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) stood up and proposed the Darfur Accountability Act, providing the tools and authorities to end the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. I heard then Senator Corzine speak at an American Jewish Committee conference in Washington, DC in March of 2005, and could see his distress when speaking of his convictions about Darfur and how little attention the issue got in the United States Congress. I am sure now Governor Corzine will do what he can as governor to help in the Darfur cause. Hopefully he will lead the way to divesting New Jersey of any financial interests with the Sudan. To me Corzine has shown himself as a compassionate man and for me that speaks volumes.

There were a few things during the inauguration that troubled or befuddled me. Before the ceremony started, the camera panned the participants sitting on the dais behind the podium. There were past governors and present legislators, both federal and state. I saw Senator Frank Lautenberg and found myself quizzically wondering where is the other senator, Corzine? DUH!!!!

Then after Corzine took the Oath of Office, the cameras went outside to show the 19 gun salute. Now this is something I just don't understand. What is that all about? How is a person "saluted" by shooting off a machine that kills, in this case, 19 cannons, to boot? If someone could explain that to me, I'd be much obliged.

Still, when all was said and done, I was moved by the inauguration as a whole and I am leaving any cynicism I may have had at the back door. It is my fervent hope that it does not come a'knockin. I give my trust to Governor Corzine. But, I will be watching closely.



Jim Lipton Interviews Me!

As I said in yesterday's blog, I found two bloggers whom I much admire and I am hoping that it's ok, to take some of their ideas, i.e. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, etc. So, like Red, I decided to answer the little questionnaire that Jim Lipton uses on all the celebrities in the Inside the Actors Studio series. I'm playing Jim Lipton and me.

The Questionnaire:

What's Your Favorite Word: Puddle
What's Your Least Favorite Word: Excuse me?(said with scorn and sarcasm)
What Noise Do You Love: Babbling Brook and Wind Chimes
What noise do you hate?: I can't say it....has to do with blackboard
What turns you on: Good Repartee
What turns you off: Lack of subtlety
What Profession would you like to attempt: Actress, Senator
What Profession would you hate: Dentist
What is your favorite curse-word: Shit or maybe fuckaduck
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive: I watched and I listened and I liked what I saw and heard.


The Highest Form of Flattery

The fun and value of surfing the blogosphere is that you get good ideas for your own blog. So, I can't take credit for these ideas, but the results will be mine. In all fairness, I will link you to the originators, both bloggerss whom I fiind fascinating.


Explain America to someone NOT American, but you can only use ten movies to do it. Which ten do you choose?(Now, these do not have to be history movies, they can illustrate something unique about American values or character or “the American experience”). This is a tough one - which are your picks? and why, if you like…

My Picks :
1. In America - Irish family comes to America to make it; lives poor, grows rich in spirit ( The American Dream)

2. Rocky -somewhat same story as above, without the immigrants reference, kind of like a rags to riches story

3. Nine to Five - women's struggle, revenge but in a fun way, worker vs the Bosses, maybe a better choice would have been Working Girl, whch I liked better as a movei, but I LOVED the getting high scene in 9 to 5 and I think Dolly Parton is sincere and all american in a good way.

4. Birth of a Nation - in spite of its rascist displays or maybe because this movie says a great deal about our counry, where it was, how far its come and how far it has to go.

5.M*A*S*H - an American war movie for all time I would also have liked to inclued Glory

6. Strawberry Statement - I guess because I'm a boomer and at the time this movie spoke to me loud and clear.

7. Blazing Saddles - Well, a Western had to be included and this is as close as I come to having seen one. Anyway, a Jewish cowboy and Mel Brooks......aren't they both as American as apple pie?

8. Oh Brother Where Art Thou - Appalachia....culture, people music...American roots

9. Advise and Consent - American politics

10. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - An American story if ever there was one and Tracy and Hepburn....also says Americanwhen it comes to movies.

This is my list of ten, waiting to read those of others.




So, how did the subject of Dr. James Dobson and Spongebob Squarepants again rear it's cute, little, square head ? This is how. In anticipation of this weeks hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme court, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Tony Perkin's of the Family Research Council, are planning a well funded and heavily promoted effort to load the courts with ultra-conservative judges. It is called "Justice Sunday III". This event is, according to the group, Faithful America "an attempt by politically-aligned right-wing religious fundamentalists to pressure Congress to load the courts with ultra-conservative judges. They claim that the courts have been secretly "“working... like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms". Fact is they are doing so by upholding the constitutional separation of church and state."

I forwarded on the Faithful America email, asking for signatures on a petition against the Family Research Councils's claims, and added a sentence or two of my own...

You already know Rick Santorum and Jerry Falwell, but do you remember that James Dobson is the Founder of Focus on The Family and he was the one who WARNED US THAT SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS WAS A HOMOSEXUAL AND WAS TRYING TO PUSH THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA ON OUR CHILDREN??

In response to this, I received an email from a friend claiming that this whole business about Dobson and Spongebob was bogus. So, I did what any good blogger would do and researched the subject because I try not to send out false or distorted information. My research indicated that though The New York Times and other media sources may have gotten it wrong in terms of some specifics, they were quite accurate in terms of the spirit of of Dobson's convictions.

There is nothing bogus about Dobson being on the WRONG side of the separation of church and state issue. Were he and other like-minded Christian Fundamentalists to have their way, our children in public schools would be getting a good "Christian education" ( his words not mine). It all boils down to this. Dobson says that the liberal Media accused him of calling Spongebob Squarepants and maybe Big Bird homosexuals (as if this would be THE worst accusation to make). He states emphatically that he did not say this, but what he did say was that the - We Are Family Foundation ,— the organization that sponsored the video featuring SpongeBob and the other characters, is hijacking poor old (my words) Spongebob to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children and that they were "using" Spongebob and other cartoon characters to further their agenda. If you don't believe me, read it for yourself
We Are Family Foundation 

So, to this I would say, SO WHAT? Since when is tolerance a bad word? Since when is using a cartoon character who children can relate to, a bad way of teaching them to appreciate and accept others, despite their differences? Since when is it not progress to accept easily, in fact, embrace that which was rejected in earlier, more intolerant times? And last, but not least, since when are groups like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Gary Bauer's American Values the standard by which the rest of the nation must abide and strive to meet. My standard is to do unto others what you would have them do unto you and do not unto others that which you would not want done unto you. As the sage, Hillel, said, "The rest is just commentary."

HUH! And they say Liberals can't take a joke.


Newark, NJ Like You Never Knew it: PHILIP ROTH'S NEWARK TOUR - 10/23/05

Back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my sister and I attended a fascinating bus tour of Newark, NJ, basically through the eyes, or better put, the words of the well know author, Phillip Roth. The tour was cosponsored by The Newark Preservation and Landmark Committee and our synagogue, Ahavas Sholom in Newark (which is where the tour begins).

Roth was born in Newark at Beth Israel Hospital on March 19, 1933. He was the son of American born parents and grandson of European Jews who were part of the 19th century wave of immigrants to the US. . Much of what comes off as "place" in his novels comes directly from his years lived in this 2-family framed house from his birth 1933 till 1942.

It was a fascinating day, made moreso by the appearance of Roth himself at his boyhood home to commemorate a plaque in his honor.

The tour can be seen by clicking on title above.

What a day!! Enjoy....