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“Munbai Matinee” by Ajay Kaul— Mumbai Through Stories

Kaul. Ajay. “Mumbai Matinee”, CreateSpace, 2017.

Mumbai Through Stories

Amos Lassen

The eight interconnected stories of Ajay Kaul’s “Mumbai Matinee” show the life and culture around the city of Mumbai. Ajay who comes from North India had no idea of what to expect when he moved to urban Mumbai. The culture shock of the dynamic city takes getting used to. He’s captivated, though, and soon falls in love with Mumbai and its many inhabitants. In is the city where he will find love, friendship, and community yet he is aware that there is also danger and the threat of disaster.

It all began in 1993, when Ajay came to Mumbai on a short assignment. He was quickly pulled into the shock wave of the 1993 serial bombings. Despite a brush with death, Ajay was determined to learn the secrets of the city.

After graduation, he came back and found new stories in the city’s streets. Ajay met an interfaith couple that taught him about the power of love, a local labor leader who was more than he seemed, and an acting teacher. He also had troubling experiences and there was one that pushed him beyond his comfort zone and taught him to love his adopted city and all it had to offer.

While this is a memoir, it is also a guide to Indian philosophy and a look at how the corporate world affects society. We really become aware of how much Mumbai has grown of late and we also get a peek at the impact of global terrorism and violence on this notoriously peaceful center of our planet (as seen through Ajay’s eyes). This also happens to be one of those books in which you feel the presence of the author throughout— so much so that I was surprised he was not sitting opposite me when I looked up. (Yes I know that is an exaggeration).

I really enjoyed reading about how the was able to bring the ancient customs into the modern world. In effect, Ajay introduces us to India and he does so with enthusiasm. It was really enlightening for me since I know nothing about India. The short stories might be fiction but they are based on Ajay’s real experiences and each one is a gem.

Because Ajay was living in Mumbai during some of the terrorist bombings, his descriptions of the dangers and the joy of watching people help each other during the danger really brings terrorism home.

Ajay’s memoir is memoir well written and fascinating. One of the wonderful things about reading is that we learn so much and here in just 200 pages I found myself becoming familiar with a place I had never been or even read about. I truly enjoyed Ajay’s observations and descriptions and I look forward to reading more by him. As I said earlier, the stories are interconnected but the characters are not. I am sure that this is intentional as I believe jay wanted to show a city with many different personalities and how they often disappear. Such is life.




“90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality” by Allison Yarrow— Overcoming “Bitchification”

Yarrow, Allison. “90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality”, Harper Perennial, 2018.

Overcoming “Bitchification”

Amos Lassen

I was out of the country during the 90s in America as well as during the years leading up to the 90s so I honestly have little memory of how women and girls were treated by the media. I was living in Israel where equally between the sexes is upheld (by and large) and I had forgotten how women in this country have been “maligned by the media, vilified by popular culture, and objectified in the marketplace.” This excellent new book by Allison Yarrow wonderfully filled me in on what I did not remember or even know. Strong women such as Hilary Clinton and Anita Hill were undermined by the media while others were put to shame and misunderstanding. With television and radio news shows becoming available 24/7 women were once again mistreated when they were spoken of and the sexism that seemed to be part of this country raised its ugly head once again. The remnants of this treatment or as Yarrow names it “bitchification” is still omnipresent in our society. The roots for this come from the 90s when “female empowerment was twisted into objectification, exploitation, and subjugation.” Be prepared that no one is safe from Yarrows probing of the patriarchal society that demands women to be quiet and obedient to men. We are reminded (as if we need to be) that the age of Trump is also an age of masculine insecurity.

There is a feminist backlash going on right before our eyes and in order to deal with it, we must look back to find where it began and how it can be stopped. Allison Yarrow presents that history to us in excellent prose in which she shows us that society has now embraced “the post feminist moment.” We become very aware here of women being subjected to double standards, negative portrayals and mistreatment.

We learn something about sexism on almost every page and there are many revelations that have been carefully studied and researched. To understand the state of gender equality today, we must understand the state of gender equality of the 1990s. We begin to see things from a different perspective. For those of you who lived through the 9os, you probably feel that you know what happened back then but the truth is that we have to look back at the period from today in order to understand it. The dynamic of today was created back then and I am pretty sure that many realized that this was happening.

I could tell just from reading the names of the chapters that this was going to be a fascinating and eye-opening read and I was not disappointed. In her prologue Yarrow tells us that she is using the verb “bitchify” and the noun “bitchification” to show how the media and society looked at women only by their sexual function and in this way they could stop whatever progress women were making. The word “bitch” in itself is insulting but it is also the best word to describe what we have here. I believe I read this entire book with my mouth open as surprise after surprise came through. For anyone who cares about gender equality, this is a must read.

“RECORDS COLLECTING DUST II”— The 1980s Hardcore Punk Scene

“Records Collecting Dust II”

The 1980s Hardcore Punk Scene

Amos Lassen

“Records Collecting Dust II” is a look at 28 influential people from the 1980’s hardcore punk rock music scene people in Boston, New York and Washington DC and is made up of in depth interviews. They talk about the music, the bands and the records that changed their lives. We hear from Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, John Joseph of Cro-Mags, Dave Smalley of DYS, Roger Miret of Agnostic Front and Clif Croce of The Freeze and to be honest I had never heard of any of them before watching the film.

I understand that this is a follow-up DVD to a 2015 documentary of the same name that I have yet to see. It helps if you know the bands profiled here but I enjoyed it without knowing them. We see the musicians as they answer questions such as

“What was the first record you heard?” or “what was the first record you bought?” Most of those the interviewed grew up in the 1960s and 70s, we learn that a lot of the first records they bought were The Beach Boys, The Who, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Led Zeppelin. Most of them seem to be just average collectors and it is interesting that none of them speak of “hard core” bands as influences.

We do not get to hear any of the recordings mentioned and there is practically no music except an occasional clip from a heavy metal performance that is not identified. I am quite sure that there is a limited audience for this but I did enjoy watching it and I learned a bit.

“THE SIGN FOR LOVE”— Gay, Deaf and Israeli

“The Sign for Love”

Gay, Deaf and Israeli

Amos Lassen

From the time that Elad was small, he has felt guilty for being deaf, and has tried extra hard to be like everyone else. He became even more alienated after the tragic death of his mother and the breakdown of his family. He later started a family of his own, becoming a father through a shared parenting arrangement with his friend Yaeli, who is also deaf. They have many deaf friends. “The Sign For Love” is Elad’s first-person account of the life he created for himself and it is his attempt to show viewers his version of family and parenthood.

In this documentary, co-director and subject Elad Cohen explores the meaning and experience of family. Growing up deaf and gay in a family of hearing people, Cohen never felt at home and always felt alone. That feeling of estrangement was exacerbated during his adolescence by the sudden death of his mother and the subsequent rift with his father as the family scattered in different directions. Cohen’s creates a sense of family with a small group of friends, including his best friend, Yaeli, a deaf woman. While he wants a child and a life partner, he fears that he won’t find the right man in the small deaf community in Israel. Sharing the desire with Yaeli to be parents, the new “couple” decides to have a child in a shared parenting arrangement.

Clips from Cohen’s childhood, footage of family members and friends and his day-to-day life Make up the film. As new parents, they soon realize the naïveté in their expectations about bringing up a baby together. Their journey shows the challenges of parenting, the bias against deaf individuals and the intricacies of human relationships. Ultimately their newborn helps Cohen become a more complete person and allows him to mend his relationship with his own father.

“Candy” by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg— A Satire on Sex

Southern, Terry and Mason Hoffenberg. “Candy”, Grove Press, 1958, 60th Anniversary Reprint, 2018.

A Satire on Sex

Amos Lassen

The 60th anniversary edition of Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s classic satirical novel, “Candy” has now been reissued with a new introduction by bestselling author and actor B. J. Novak

 Southern and Hoffenberg wrote the novel by mailing chapters back and forth, as a satire of Voltaire’s “Candide” and a parody of smutty novels. It was published in France by Maurice Girodias’s Olympia Press, which published little dirty books along with literary classics such as the controversial novels “Lolita,” “The Ginger Man” and “Naked Lunch.” “Candy” became a best seller when it was published in America in 1964.

Southern is a first-rate writer and major satirist. He allows us to see ourselves as we are and to see sex as “fulfillment rather than affliction”. He also lets us see that the funniest event in the history of mankind was the division of the sexes. “Candy” is without a doubt a sexploitation-filled novel. William Styron said that “Candy” was “Wickedly funny to read and morally bracing as only good satire can be.”

Candy Christian is a very cute but naïve college girl (presumably eighteen years of age, although that is never specified) who suffers from sophomoric idealism and misplaced empathy. She has been given a A+ on a paper she wrote entitled “Contemporary Human Love” in which she wrote, “To give of oneself – fully – is not merely a duty prescribed by an outmoded superstition, it is a beautiful and thrilling privilege.” Candy then innocently gives herself “fully” to those that “truly need” her. The ridiculous silliness of Candy’s predilections are totally entertaining.

Candy is struck with the Leftist ideology of giving back something to others and what she has to give is her body. Her encounters run the weird gamut of hunchback, uncle, fake spiritual guru, etc. She realizes that giving herself this way isn’t quite what she thought it would be, since she derives considerably more pleasure than she thought from giving. But she is also charmingly naive.

At first the book seems to be soft-core pornography; but after continuing on, I realized that it is a mockery; a satire of a satire. Any resemblance between “Candide” and “Candy” is totally intentional.

“Trinity” by Louisa Hall— A Novel About the Father of the Atomic Bomb

Hall, Louisa. “Trinity”, Ecco, 2018.

A Novel About the Father of the Atomic Bomb

Amos Lassen

Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to betray them later. He lied about love affairs and he defended the use of the atomic bomb that he helped create but that lobbied against nuclear proliferation.

Through narratives that cross time and space, a set seven characters speak about the life of Oppenheimer. We hear about a secret service agent who followed him in San Francisco, the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women come into contact with Oppenheimer, they have something to say about his legacy while at the same time reveal deep and unsettling truths about their own lives.

Louisa Hall has written an explosive story about the ability of the human mind to believe what it wants, about public and private tragedy, and about power and guilt. She brings science with literature together with fiction and biography to ask questions about really knowing someone, and about the secrets that we keep from both the world and from ourselves.

We have both real and fictional characters whose lives revolve around the testing of the first atomic bomb. We see the ways in which we betray others and while betraying ourselves. It has already been seventy-five years since the Manhattan Project was begun and we still see Oppenheimer as both a mystery and an icon.

“Trinity” is told through seven separate and sometimes conflicting “testimonials” and together they give us a fictional portrait of Oppenheimer that captures his elusiveness and contradictory qualities that have made Oppenheimer such a complicated and controversial person.

There is no single narrative; it is replaced “ a chorus of voices—characters who encounter Oppenheimer in Los Alamos and beyond and through their memories—sometimes marginal, sometimes central we get a look at an enigmatic man, learn his secret love affairs and his shift from nuclear pioneer to lobbyist against nuclear proliferation.

 Looking at Oppenheimer, we see how difficult it is to understand the people we care for, or the people to whom we decide to give power.  Oppenheimer gave a long statement that summarized the entire course of his life yet he seems to have been uncertain as to why acted in the ways that he did.  He seems to have had trouble understanding himself. He seems to have had a desire for people to understand him in his full complexity and this might be surprising for some of us. To be honest, I never had actually read anything about Oppenheimer and he just did not interest men Yet, I was totally pulled into this book and did not want to stop reading. 

“Baby You’re Gonna Be Mine: Stories” by Kevin Wilson— Grief, Adolescence, and What It Means to Be a Family

Wilson, Kevin. “Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine: Stories”, Ecco, 2018.

Grief, Adolescence, and What It Means to Be a Family

Amos Lassen

“Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mineis Kevin Wilson’s first story collection in almost ten years and in it, he combines quirkiness and emotional complexity as he explores the relationship between parents and children. These stories here build on each other and are filled with wit, heart, imagination and humor. Each story is expansively empathetic for the strangest aspects of the human condition. There is no moralizing and no sensationalizing as we are swept up in the feeling of wonder at where karma takes us. The dark humor stays with us as we realize that the foibles of the world are created by people just like us. We also discover a sense of longing for times that were and for family life as crazy as it might be.

Let’s have a look at a few of the stories. In one we meet a child who wants to get dressed up for Halloween like his dead brother. He wants his friends at school to know what his brother looked like but his mother, of course, will not allow it. “Wildfire Johnny” is the story of a man who discovers a magic razor that allows him to travel back in time and he knows that he can fix all mistakes he has made or tragedies that have happened if he uses it to slit his own throat. In “Scroll Through the Weapons”, a couple is taking care of their almost feral and underfed nieces and nephews who live in utter squalor, while the kids’ parents deal with hospitalization and jail time from an injury one gave the other. “Signal to the Faithful” follows a boy on a road trip with his priest. This is the story of a frightened and ashamed altar boy who has fainting spells during mass and the priest who wants to help him overcome them. And the title story, “Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine,” is about a narcissistic rock star that moves back home during a bad time for him and goes to work as a landscaper.

Several of the stories are completely implausible, but believable. We become very aware of Wilson’s ability to write about emotional complexity, lost romance, religion, marriage, and between parents and children. The characters in the stories struggle with goodness. Wilson brings us emotional truths in the small moments that surround crises. There are ten stories that build on each other in strange and remarkable ways and we see Wilson, once again, as a wonderful storyteller.

“ASIANCRUSH”— A New Chinese Film Streaming Service


Upcoming Films from Leading Chinese Theatrical Distributors China Lion and Orchid Tree Include the Coming-of-Age Drama YOUTH from Director Feng Xiaogang, the High-Octane Thriller THE VIRAL FACTOR and RUN FOR LOVE, A Star-Studded Love Story Anthology

New York, NY (July 20, 2018) – As the Chinese film boom continues to be heard around the world, leading OTT channel Asian Crush seeks to be the home for top Chinese programming in North America. And with a steady stream of upcoming top-grossing films from leading Chinese theatrical distributors China Lion and Orchid Tree , they’re well on their way. Starting this Friday, July 20, AsianCrush will premiere a new Chinese film each week on the platform beginning with OUR TIME WILL COME, a war-time drama from acclaimed director Ann Hui, starring Zhou Xun, Eddie Peng and Wallace Huo. The announcement was made by Michael Hong, CEO of AsianCrush parent company, Digital Media Rights, a pioneer in digital distribution.

Set in the ’40s, OUR TIME WILL COME tells the story of the legendary Fang Gu (Zhou), one of the key figures during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, and portrays the fight and struggle for freedom and independence by youth resistance groups. Directed by Hui, one of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning of the Hong Kong New Wavefilmmakers, the film was nominated for 25+ international awards, including Best Film and Best Director at the 37th Hong Kong Film Awards. It will be available for all cinephiles and sinophiles on AsianCrush’s apps and website as well as iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and additional platforms.

Additional upcoming Chinese theatrical premieres on AsianCrush include:

THE VIRAL FACTOR (2012) | PREMIERING JULY 27 – In an operation to escort a bacteriologist from Jordan to Norway, IDC agent Jon (Taiwan pop idol Jay Chou and ex-fiancee Ice (Bai Bing) are betrayed and shot by fellow agent Sean (Andy Tien), who steals a deadly virus sample. When he learns that the bullet lodged in his head will leave him paralyzed in two weeks, the countdown begins in this high-octane globetrotting thriller from award-winning director Dante Lam (Stool Pigeon, Beast Stalker), who The Detroit News calls “John Woo via Michael Bay” (122 mins.) (China Lion)

The Viral Factor

THE KING OF THE STREETS (2013) | PREMIERING AUGUST 3– Yue Feng (Yue Song, Iron Protector) is a young streetfighter imprisoned for accidentally killing one of his foes. When he’s released, he discovers that his brotherhood has been destroyed and sets out on a quest for revenge. China’s first street-fighting movie, THE KING OF THE STREETS pits real-life martial artist Song against more than 10 of the world’s top contenders in MMA, Jiu-jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, Sanda, and Muay Thai boxing. (88 mins.) (China Lion)

The King of the Streets

RUN FOR LOVE (2016) | PREMIERING AUGUST 10 – With a star-studded cast of some of China’s finest actors, this anthology of five stories set in locales around the world reflects different perspectives on love, family, and home through the lens of the varying settings and genres: a romance in snowy Hokkaido starring Eddie Peng and Zhang Ziyi, a tense family drama in Instanbul, a Route 66 road trip across America, a poignant tale set in Norway’s darkest season, and a neo-noir thriller about sisters in Saipan starring Zhou Dongyu. (137 minutes) (Orchid Tree)

ANNIVERSARY (2015) | PREMIERING AUGUST 17– Over 10 years of marriage, Bo (Stephy Tang, The Empty Hands, Badges of Fury) and Keung (Lik-Sun Fong, Never Too Late, Death Ouija 2) have had their ups and downs. Between work stresses and questions about whether or not to start a family, their union is at a breaking point. And though Bo believes that love is forever, when past betrayals surface, decisions must be made in this emotional drama. (108 mins.) (Orchid Tree)

LUCKY FAT MAN (2017) | PREMIERING AUGUST 24 – Chow Chong Fat (Bob Lamb) and Wat Kam Heung (Ling Ling Mak, Never Too Late, L for Love, L for Lies Too) are about to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Fat, an accountant and a handyman in his wife’s family business, is bullied non-stop by various family members. The only thing that lifts him from his rigid, boring life is the thought of a reunion with his dream lover, Ceci (Natalie Tong, Return of the Cuckoo). But when he wins 20 million dollars in the lottery, his life takes a turn for the exciting in this hilarious, slapstick comedy. (90 mins.) (Orchid Tree)

BREAKUP BUDDIES (2014) | PREMIERING AUGUST 31 – One of China’s highest grossing films of all time, this wild, offbeat comedy follows the hijinks of a hapless former singer reeling from a messy divorce. When he and his womanizing best friend hit the road from Beijing to Dali City – China’s unofficial capital of one night stands – anything can and does happen in this rom-com that grossed nearly $200MM worldwide (116 mins.) (China Lion)

Breakup Buddies

BANGKOK REVENGE (2011) | PREMIERING SEPTEMBER 7 – After witnessing the brutal murder of his parents, a young boy is raised by a martial arts master who grooms him to be a lethal killer. Some 20 years later, it’s time to take revenge on the assassins who destroyed his childhood. Jon Foo (“Rush Hour”) stars in this revenge thriller directed by Jean-Marc Minéo. (82 mins.) (China Lion)

Bangkok Revenge

YOUTH (2017) | PREMIERING SEPTEMBER 14 [1] — From director Feng Xiaogang (Aftershock, China’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010) comes this sweeping, period coming-of-age drama chronicling the lives of a group of idealistic adolescents in a military art troupe in the People’s Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution. The award-winner, one of China’s top-grossing films of 2017 stars Huang Xuan (Extraordinary Mission) and newcomers Miao Miao and Zhong Chuxi. (146 mins.) (China Lion)


FIST & FAITH (2017) | PREMIERING SEPTEMBER 21 – Set during the 1930’s after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, a teacher, (Jing Tian,
Pacific Rim Uprising, Kong: Skull Island) and a group of students establish a study club to preserve their language and culture as an act of protest against the foreign invaders in this clever genre parody that mashes up high-school gang movies, puppy-love films, anti-Japanese resistance dramas and manga elements. (72 mins.) (Orchid Tree)

MY WIFE IS A SUPERSTAR (2016) | PREMIERING SEPTEMBER 28 — Actress Zhu Qi (Liu Xinyou) dreams of being a major star but is stuck acting in bit parts. Her husband, photojournalist Lai Mao (Zhou Baihao) works for K-9 Weekly and has recently been demoted to an entertainment paparazzo. One day, Outstanding Productions head Zhang Baigao, aka Jeff (Lin Dexin), spots Zhu Qi in a period drama he’s making and thinks she would be ideal as the lead of mega-budget Lunar New Year movie 2047 (a lame parody of Wong Kar-wai’s 2046) and offers her the role on condition that she’s unmarried and causes no scandal. Things, of course, go hilariously awry in this fast-paced satire set against thre backdrop of Hong Kong’s movie business. (105 minutes) (Orchid Tree)

(Duckweed, The Mermaid) plays Mei Yuangui, a professional “Breakup Guru”, who is hired by a client to end a relationship with Ye Xiaochun (Yang Mi, Reset, The Witness). But his penchant and skill at breaking up couples without complication and worry is put to the test when a battle of wits ensues with Xiaochun, risking his reputation and setting up the ultimate test of his services! (115 mins.) (China Lion)

Breakup Guru

SHOW ME YOUR LOVE (2016) | PREMIERING OCTOBER 12 – Daren (Raymond Wong) was raised by his aunt while his mother Yau Ngan (Nina Baw) was out town for work. Without a mother, he became independent and the two didn’t speak for 20 years. After meeting at the aunt’s funeral, he learns of his mother’s terminal illness and decides to stay with her for the last few months. And when he finds a note written when 10 entitled, “10 Best Wishes to Mommy,” he decides to deliver them to her, one by one, in this heartstring-tugging drama. (98 mins.) (Orchid Tree)

VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT (2017) | PREMIERING OCTOBER 19 — After finding himself at the center of a vampire attack, millennial Tim Cheung (Babyjohn Choi, Shock Wave, Our Time Will Come) discovers a heretofore unknown pedigree and has a new destiny thrust upon him by his family. Vampires have been lurking in Hong Kong’s shadows for centuries, and his parents were part of the secret, monster-busting Vampire Cleanup Department working out of an run-down garbage depot. Armed with an immunity to vampires, he begins training in the art of killing the undead, but is soon distracted by Summer (Lin Min-chen), a rare “human type” vampire. And as a supernatural romance begins to blossom , the VCD prepares to fight a powerful vampire king that’s on the verge of resurrecting when the once-in-a-century blood moon rises in this old-school genre comedy, the first feature by directors Yan Pak-wing (who wrote Full Strike) and Chiu Sin-hang. (94 mins.) (Orchid Tree)

MY ALIEN GIRLFRIEND (2017) | PREMIERING OCTOBER 26 — When Angela’s brother leaves their home planet to search for love across the universe, the alien pair end up on Earth. Upon arriving, she meets Tian Yi (Wang Tian Yi), a naïve, kind-hearted human, who serves as her protector and may, perhaps, be something more. While on Earth, Angels realizes that she must inhabit different human bodies to survive, as well as escape the clutches of mad scientist, Doctor Lo (John Chuii Jong Shinn), who’ll stop at nothing to capture her in this out-of-this-world rom-com sci-fi mash-up. (95 minutes) (Orchid Tree)

“As an ever-expanding force in the international filmmaking world, China continues to push the envelope to deliver movies that are the equivalent of anything coming out of Hollywood, ” says Hong. “As one of the leading North American platforms for blockbusters from China Lion – many of which are already among our most successful titles such as thrillers like Mr. Six and The Witness — we’re building a catalog that’ll thrill fans of Chinese cinema and movie lovers alike”

“Our close association with Asian Crush has allowed the world to discover great new talents coming out of China and we’re glad to see that continue with this selection of some of our major releases, ” says China Lion’s CEO & President, Jiang Yanming. “The stories told by Chinese filmmakers are evolving and growing and we couldn’t be more excited by this great outlet available to North American audiences.”

AsianCrush is available on the web, iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and additional platforms, and features thousands of streaming titles, with new titles programmed each week. The OTT channel is available to consumers on a freemium model, which they can choose to view for free or with a premium subscription. Registered users can watch videos for free with commercials while premium subscribers can access the entire selection of titles without commercials, in addition to early releases, director’s cuts and exclusive content. Premium subscription pricing starts at $4.99 a month.

“The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories” by Teresa Solona— Short Stories

Solona, Teresa. “The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories”, translated by Peter Bush, Bitter Lemon Press 2018.

Short Stories

Amos Lassen

I am not much of a short story reader and actually the only stories that I read are those collections that are sent to me for review. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to sit down and review this collection. The stories are divided into two groups— “Blood, Guts and Love” which consists of five stories including the title story and “Connections” that is made up of eight stories. The stories are quite dark and humorous and in them some of the strangest things happen. We meet two grandmothers who are killers and decomposing statues. “Connections” is made up of what the author calls Barcelona stories and they are connected by two criminal acts. Originally written in Catalan, the stories have been translated by Peter Bush and they reflect the lifestyle of the Iberian Peninsula.

I always face the question when reviewing an anthology as to write a few words about each story or review the entire book as a whole and because of the nature of the stories and the fact that saying too much can ruin the read for others, I decided to just look at the book as a whole. What we really get is a look at Barcelona with social commentary and in the “Connections” section we have a crime story with detective brothers working to solve it. Actually the stories are quite independent, there are common characters and situations and it is left to the reader to find the connections.

What seems to be universal to all of the stories is the ironic way that writer Teresa Solona satirizes Catalan life. There is a lot of wit here and we laugh with the writer; plus Borja and Eduard are characters that you are not likely to forget.

“To Heal the World?: How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel” by Jonathan Neumann— Leftist Judaism

Neumann, Jonathan. “To Heal the World?: How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel”, AllPoints Books, 2018.

Leftist Judaism

Amos Lassen

Jonathan Neumann provides a devastating critique of the presumed theological basis of the Jewish social justice movement; the concept of healing the world.

Tikkun olam is an obscure Hebrew phrase that literally means “healing the world.” According to Jonathan Neumann, it is the master concept that is at the core of Jewish left wing activism and its agenda of transformative change. Those who follow this claim that the Bible asks for more than piety and moral behavior—Jews must also endeavor to make the world a better place.

Tikkun Olam has permeated Jewish teaching, preaching, scholarship and political engagement and has led to overwhelming Jewish participation in the social justice movement due to the belief such actions are biblically mandated. However, the Bible says no such thing.

Neumann shows that tikkun olam is an invention of the Jewish left and has diluted years of Jewish practice and belief into a vague feel-good religion of social justice. Neumann uses religious and political history to show how the Bible was twisted by Jewish liberals to support a radical left-wing agenda.

We learn that the Jewish Renewal movement aligned itself with the New Left of the 1960s, and redirected the perspective of the Jewish community toward liberalism and social justice. This has no real biblical basis.

Today there is a strong and growing group of Jews who are critical of liberal ideology and of their fellow Jews who embrace it. Some say that this book “is a devastating exposé of one of the worst vices in American Jewish life — the penchant of many rabbis and communal leaders to pass their own progressive politics off as continuous with the classical Jewish sources. It also opens a window onto a conception of Judaism that is broader, less partisan, and spiritually richer than many Americans have ever known.”

For too long, the Jewish left has used Jewish sloganeering to serve their leftism, claiming that ‘tikkun olam’ dictates their politics. Neumann shows that the combination of Judaism and leftism is damaging to Jewishness itself, and that those who claim they are healing the world on God’s behalf. In actuality, Neumann says, the roots of Judeo-Christian civilization are being torn apart.

Neumann documents “the distortion and destruction wreaked by an assortment of misguided and agenda-driven left-wing icons and activists during the past half century.”

We have a new generation of Jews that values traditional Judaism in its wholeness, and wants to be specifically Jewish. They value religious freedom and see how tikkun olam has been imposed on Judaism by a corrupt and gradually dying left-wing American Jewish establishment.

Neumann gives a detailed analysis of how most American Jews, aided and abetted by the Reform and Conservative movements, have abandoned traditional Jewish thinking and practice) and replaced it with a relatively minor concept in the Jewish tradition known as Tikkun Olam or social justice. Unfortunately, many Jews have been taken into Tikkun Olam without having a clue as to what it’s all about, or even what their tradition is all about. The author does a brilliant job of showing how many Biblical texts have been re-interpreted to fit the theology of Tikkun Olam, and Judaism is being replaced by a leftist political movement.