Monthly Archives: August 2019

“DOUZE POINTS”— “Fiction Flirts With Reality”


“Fiction Flirts With Reality”

 In “Douze Points”, the Islamic State plans for a French contestant to carry  out a spectacular terror attack on the air.  Mossad agents do their best to foil it. This  is a crazy Israeli film on Eurovision in Israel.

Rasoul Abu-Marzuk and Tarik Jihad were childhood best friends who grew up together in the Muslim quarter of Paris until Tarik decided to come out of  the closet at the age of 15. It was at that moment that Rasoul turned his back on his best friend and Tarik was excommunicated from his community.

10 years later Tarik is now TJ, a proud, gay singer that has left his past behind and lives like there is no tomorrow, fulfilling his dream to represent France in Europe’s biggest song contest. Rasoul has taken a different path. He followed his extremist, Islamic father, Abbas, and is now part of an ISIS terror cell in Paris. ISIS decides that the 2019 Europe song contest, set to take place in Israel, is a great opportunity for their biggest terror attack ever!!! They plan to plant one of their operatives into the French delegation at the contest in order to set off an explosion under the stage during the final performance of the event.

 The ISIS cell will make sure that TJ represents France at the European song contest and that one of their members will be under-cover, acting as TJ’s boyfriend. What TJ doesn’t know is that ISIS is planning to carry out the lethal attack, and that his “boyfriend” is none other than Rasoul.

The Israeli Mossad does know about the planned attack and they put their toughest, most experienced team into the contest in order to prevent a major catastrophe.  

 “SPIDER IN THE WEB”— Maintaining Relevance


Maintaining Relevance

Amos Lassen

Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis brings us a new spy drama starring Ben Kingsley as an aging Mossad agent who is struggling to maintain his relevance. He bonds with a younger operative sent to monitor him while he’s on a secret mission in Europe and this is a reflection on human relationships as well as “on the Europe of today – fragile, troubled, under constant threats from the outside and in turmoil on the inside.”

Adereth (Sir Ben Kingsley), is a once-lauded but now aging field agent of the Israeli Mossad and his superiors feel that he is past his prime. There are those above him that are sure that he’s been fabricating intelligence to maintain his relevance and so they send Daniel (Itay Tiran) a young operative to insure that Adereth does not deviate from his mission to deliver crucial information regarding a sale of chemical weapons to a Middle Eastern dictatorship that he claims is waiting for him. This information leads to the mysterious Angela (Monica Bellucci), who might be a target, a lover or an enemy. (or all of these or none of these). Lines of trust become blurred and Adereth realizes the hunter may become the hunted. 

Naturally the art of seduction plays a role and there are many double-crosses  as we move toward the end of the film. As you are on the edge of your seat, it all comes together but only after you have been confused by the somewhat convoluted plot. The basic theme seems to be that if one wears a mask, he/she may not know who he/she is once it is removed and this certainly says something about those wearing masks today.

Adereth has had quite a good career with the Mossad and his successes compensate for his personal sacrifices. Eventually he feels that he needs pats on the back and the feeling of being useful so that he does not regret what he has missed in life. As he gets older his successes become less frequent and his contacts less valuable but he cannot stand the idea that once he is no longer a spy, he will not have any importance.

So instead of just fading away, Adereth chooses to add to the reports that he gets from his contacts. In particular, he added to the dossier results in 50,000 troops amassing on the border of Syria. Just as he is discovered to be pretending, he finds real information that could save his reputation and the life he has lost through lying. 

Director Riklis brings us a spy film without much action  and that depends on reality being obscured by lies. We sense how it will all end because we know that lies often get out of control of the person who tells it. Kingsley is bitter but he accepts his fate as he tries to find some kind of redemption when  no one believes what he says. Having a bit of familiarity with the Mossad, I can think of no crueler fate for an agent.

We are kept on our toes from scene to scene and we find it becomes difficult to stay on the side of a character who just may not be what he seems to be. The subplot of main romance, between Adereth and Angela just did not work for me but it does provide a respite from the thrilling aspects of the plot. 

The film is able to convince the viewer what living as a liar among other liars is like. As difficult as it is to follow all of the twists and turns, we still get a rewarding experience with “Spider in the Web”. to convincingly weave what it must be like to live as just another liar amongst many. The over-complicated plot twists, however, will leave many scratching their heads.

“THE DEAD OF JAFFA”— The Past Haunts the Present in Israel


The Past Haunts the Present in Israel

Amos Lassen

Ram Loevy is known for his cutting-edge political works. He began his career in 1966 with the documentary “My Name is Ahmad,” which shocked his audience by putting a dispossessed Arab at the center of his narrative. His 1978 television film “Khirbet Khize” portrayed the expulsion of Palestinians by Israeli troops in 1948, and questioned the morality of Israel’s actions. It was censored in Israel and its broadcast of “became a major debate. It earned Ram Loevy a reputation as a filmmaker who would take on a deeply politicized system. His films gave an unprecedented voice to the Israeli underclass: the 1986 television drama “Bread” is an Israeli classic. Loevy  has made dozens of narrative and documentary movies for television, which won him the prestigious Israel Prize. But only now, at 79,  he has directed his first feature for the big screen. Written by Loevy’s longtime collaborator, the late Israeli writer Gilad Evron and a Palestinian-Israeli author, Ala Hlehel, “The Dead of Jaffa” was sixteen years in the making. It is both a debut, and a culmination of a career.

It continues the conversation started in “Khirbet Khize.” However, where the earlier film narrated the events of 1948, the new one fuses history with current events, by intertwining two plotlines. The main plotline springs into action when three children from the West Bank are smuggled into Israel. With their mother dead, and their father serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail, they are effectively orphaned. They arrive at the home of George (Yussuf Abu-Warda) and Rita (Ruba Bilal-Asfour), Palestinian citizens of Israel living in Jaffa. George and Rita, who may or may not be the kids’ relatives, are a couple without children. For Rita, the children’s arrival is an answer to her desire to be a mother. George is more cautious since he lives in a world where even a friendly neighborhood cop hunts down and brutally arrests “illegal infiltrators” from the West Bank and harboring the orphans is an enormous risk.

The three children are traumatized, but where the younger two are just thrilled to be with loving adults again, the older one, Talal (Jihad Babay), is a rebellious teenager with a budding political consciousness. He sneaks into an abandoned house nearby. George finds him and, in order to dissuade Talal from the property, tells him “This is a house of dead people.” In fact, it is the house of Palestinians expelled in 1948, which George’s family has been protecting from Israeli appropriation. But Talal is stubborn and he stays. As he looks out of the house’s window, he sees a window into the past, as the courtyard nearby comes alive with people and music. A Palestinian family in 1940s dress is preparing for a celebration. Three girls in blue dresses prepare to dance. A whirling dervish begins and as he starts to twirl, he floats into the air in a scene full of cinematic magic.

Alas, they are not ghosts, but actors and extras in a foreign film that’s being photographed in the neighborhood. Their presence starts the secondary plotline. A British director (Jonny Phillips) is there to recreate the love story of his parents that started when both were stationed in Mandate Palestine. He is entitled and oblivious and the way he acts with neighborhood people  is a replication of the colonial hierarchies from the time he is trying to depict. The two plotlines come together when he asks George to play the small part of a Palestinian doctor. George agrees but does not quite understanding what the role entails. The scene of the filming symbolizes the place of Palestinians both then and now: the camera depicts multiple takes, in each one of them, an actor playing the British soldier shoots George’s character. George is to fall, covered in blood, again and again, visibly retraumatized by the experience. Talal, who was watching the entire scene from the side, confronts him: “You let them kill you!”

The  climatic moment comes when the crew recruits people from the neighborhood to act as extras for the street protest scene. At first, the locals giggle. But gradually, they get into it, their chants of “Free Palestine!” grow stronger, and Talal, swept by emotion joins the demonstration. Soon, he is leading it, throwing real, rather than prop rocks towards the actors in the uniforms of British police. The make-believe protest becomes real,  as past and present fuse, and tensions erupt. The events come to the fore when the procession reaches the checkpoint of the real Israeli police, who jump into action. “The Dead of Jaffa” doesn’t have a happy ending and considering the burden of violence past and present.

The film’s strongest element is the story of the Jaffa couple, George and Rita, their petit-bourgeois life undone by the children. They are torn between their emerging parental responsibility and very real fear of police retribution. Their drama is deeply felt due to the moving performances of Abu-Warda and Bilal-Asfour, as well as a Babay. They fully inhabit their complex characters. Just as  convincing are the characters of their friends and neighbors, their Arabic dialog, still rare on Israeli screens, occasionally adds humor to the heartbreak. In contrast, the characters of the British director and his actors might seem less developed. But their story is important since it allows the film to engage not only with the history but with memory and representation of the 1948 events. In the fictional film-within-the-film, the Arab dispossession appears only as a colorful backdrop in a British family saga. The historical locals are relegated to the fringe of the narrative and their story is again silenced. Their absence from historical narrative haunts the present.

This absence is symbolic of the place of the Nakba in the Israeli public consciousness. In national cinema, the events of 1948 have been normally represented from the Israeli-Zionist vantage point of portraying heroic sacrifices in the War for Independence for the sake of nation-building. The very few filmmakers who have dared to touch the subject are either iconoclasts working largely outside of Israeli system.

“The Dead of Jaffa” leaves us with  profound thoughts about the collective memory of Nakba and about its aftermath. It is a cinematic achievement in that it brings together Israeli and Palestinian realities and memories that are real and imagined.



Music, Music, Music

Amos Lassen

Here is a musical experience unlike any other. On11 am-packed discs, we have nearly 30 Hours of  live performances from Epic Hall of Fame Ceremonies from 2010-2017 and these include over 160 amazing performances, collaborations and induction speeches from inductees such as Simon & Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, U2, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, John Fogerty, Rush, Cat Stevens, Cheap Trick, Chicago, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Journey, Pearl Jam, Peter Gabriel, Ringo Starr, Yes, Alice Cooper, Heart, Randy Newman, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Many More; Also included is the 25TH ANNIVERSARY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME CONCERTS, Called “the Big Mother of Rock Concerts”!

Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors rock music’s pioneering figures during a very prestigious, black-tie ceremony. As the Hall of Fame enters its thirtieth year, these extraordinary induction ceremonies have become nearly as epic as the artists they celebrate. On September 6, Time Life and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will give home audiences front row seats to the unforgettable ceremonies from 2010-2017 with tis set.

 It is an unparalleled rock ‘n’ roll experience and a must-own for every music fan The set is comprised of three separate collections: ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CONCERT – ENCORE (2010-2013), ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME IN CONCERT (2014-2017) and the complete 25TH ANNIVERSARY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME CONCERTS from 2009. 

On this new-to-retail collection, singular performance highlights include: 

  • Bruce Springsteen joining inductees E Street Band for the deep cut classic “E Street Shuffle” from the Boss’s second album, from 1973, as well as Bruce joining Billy Joel on-stage for a rollicking rendition of “Born to Run.”
  • The two surviving members of Nirvana joined on stage by Lorde, Annie Clark, Kim Gordon and Joan Jett for emotional renderings of the group’s biggest hits.
  • Cat Stevens performing a spine-tingling version of “Father & Son” that turned the massive Barclay Center quiet as a church.
  • Ringo Starr being welcomed into the Rock Hall with a little help from Paul McCartney.
  • Original Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos joining the band for the first time in 6 years tearing through their early hits including “Surrender” and “Dream Police.”
  • The legendary Canadian power trio Rush performing fiery classics “Tom Sawyer” and “The Spirit of Radio” for their fervent fans.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers leading a searing all-star jam session of “Higher Ground” anchored by Slash and Ron Wood.
  • Heart going “Crazy on You” before being joined onstage by fellow members of Seattle rock royalty from Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
  • Alice Cooper ripping into ferocious versions of “Eighteen” and “Under My Wheels” before closing the set with Rob Zombie on “School’s Out.”
  • Ozzy Osbourne singing with Metallica on the Black Sabbath classics “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.”
  • The Hurdy Gurdy Man Donovan is joined onstage by John Mellencamp for a chilling performance of “Season of the Witch.”
  • Legendary grunge-rock group Pearl Jam delivering thundering performances of “Alive,” “Given to Fly” and “Better Man.”
  • Journey performing three classics: “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Lights” and “Don’t Stop Believin.'”
  • Five of the original members of Chicago performing on stage for the first time in 25 years.
  • Mick Jagger and Fergie in a blistering version of the Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter,” with U2 as the backing band.
  • Sting joining Jeff Beck for the Curtis Mayfeld classic “People Get Ready.”
  • Paul Simon, David Crosby and Graham Nash join together for a spine-tingling “Here Comes the Sun.”
  • And much more! 

ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME: IN CONCERT wouldn’t be complete without historic, irreverent and emotional induction speeches including Coldplay’s Chris Martin inducting Peter Gabriel, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducting Deep Purple, Don Henley inducting Randy Newman, and Neil Young inducting Tom Waits, as well as speeches from Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Kid Rock, Dave Grohl, Art Garfunkel, Glenn Fry, Miley Cyrus, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, John Mellencamp and more. Additionally, the set includes collectible booklets, as well as the 26-page collector’s edition of Rolling Stone with behind-the-scenes stories of the 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame concerts.

The biggest and best video music collection Time Life has ever produced, only Time Life and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could have put ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME: INCONCERT together. Because as Eric Clapton memorably said from the stage “music is all you really need, love and music.”

About Time Life

Time Life is one of the world’s pre-eminent creators and direct marketers of unique music and video/DVD products, specializing in distinctive multi-media collections that evoke memories of yesterday, capture the spirit of today, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. TIME LIFE and the TIME LIFE logo are registered trademarks of Time Warner Inc. and affiliated companies used under license by Direct Holdings Americas Inc., which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc. or Time Inc. 


About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s mission is to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock and roll. The institution carries out its mission by giving voice to the stories of the people, artifacts and events that shaped rock and roll – through Museum exhibits, materials in the Museum’s Library and Archives, traveling exhibitions, and a wide array of innovative educational programs and activities. The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays (and Saturdays through Labor Day), the Museum is open until 9 p.m. For more information, please call 216.781.ROCK (7625), visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@rock_hall) and Instagram (@rockhall).

“On Division: A Novel” by Goldie Goldbloom— Looking In

Goldbloom, Goldie. “On Division: A Novel”,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

Looking In

Amos Lassen

Goldie Goldbloom’s “On Division” is a  rare look inside Brooklyn’s Chasidic community”. Surie Eckstein who is soon to be a great-grandmother in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where she lives on Division Avenue. She is mother to ten children who range in age from thirteen to thirty-nine. Her in-laws are postwar immigrants from Romania and live on the first floor of their house. Her daughter Tzila Ruchel lives on the second floor and on the third floor live Surie and Yidel, her husband who is a scribe in such high demand that he only writes a few Torah scrolls a year. They married when Surie was sixteen and have had a good and happy marriage and full lives. Now, at the ages of fifty-seven and sixty-two, they are looking forward to spend some quiet time together.

But that does not look like it will happen since Surie is pregnant again and at her age, pregnancy is thought to be “an aberration, a shift in the proper order of things, and a public display of private life.”  Suddenly Surie feels exposed and ashamed and she is unable to tell anyone the news, not even her husband. Her secret slowly separates her from the community.

Here is her story and we see that she is experiencing a new beginning during middle age. This is  also  a look at the dynamics of self and collective identity as we look at an insular community. But that is not all. Surie’s secret becomes enmeshed with another, earlier secret—about her son Lipa, who is gay.

Not only is Surie, a wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, she is an upstanding citizen in her community where conformity is the only way of life. She knows that her friends and neighbors will turn their backs on her and her children if anybody finds out that she is pregnant and she doesn’t know how to tell her husband the news and fears the results when he finds out. 

As we learn about Surie, we also learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the Chassidic community. Goldie Goldbloom shares this with us and she does so with dignity and respect. I found it interesting that pregnancy which is usually seen as a blessing is seen here as something else. A woman in Surie’s position is bound to have to deal with unpleasantries because of it.  

This is the story of a woman’s struggle for her identity as she deals with family secrets, cultural expectations and gender roles. It is the story of Suri a 57 year old woman from Brooklyn’s strict Chasidic Jewish sect. Suri lives a life that is fairly regimented and revolves around structure built by her religious beliefs and customs. When  we learn the Suri is pregnant, well past menopause, we understand what she must deal with and because of her age and the fact that she is carrying two babies, yes twins, she is high risk. This means that she must visit the clinic every week. During these visits, she develops relationships with the staff of the clinic even though her culture forbids her to do so. She eventually begins to volunteer first as a translator and then as an assistant to midwives and she finds great happiness in this.  She still manages to hide the news of her pregnancy from her husband and her family. In fact she puts the fact that she is pregnant in the back of her mind and allows past issues in the family come forward.

Surie knows  it  is selfish for her to want to keep the babies because, bringing them into the world will bring shame on her family and expose the private intimacy she shares with her husband. (After all, women in their 50’s do not have sex?).

There are no options. She becomes close to Val, a midwife who was actually present at the birth of all of Surie’s children. This  bond allows Val a chance to see the  Chassidic community close up, and it allows Surie to step away from her community for the first time.

I love that writer Goldbloom uses great detail to describe life in the community as well as the celebrations of the Jewish holidays. Along with that  we see how those who do not fit into the demands of the community are regarded. Community can be both a comfort and it can also cause fear and if there is something important to be learned from the entertaining read that the book provides is that we all must be open to and accepting of others and to live your life within a ghetto is not to live a full life.

I so enjoyed this book and it brought back so many memories of how I was raised. “On Division” covers many topics from religion and love, loss and families, marriage and traditions and the choices we make. The scenes of Surie with her son Lipa are heart wrenching and beautiful.
The characters live according to the many rules and regulations that have been handed down in her sect for generations. They live by the same rules that did their ancestors and there is poignant beauty in that.

What is really interesting is that Goldbloom lives on Chicago’s North Side near Skokie, and has eight children, most of whom are now adults. Her children swore her to secrecy when she decided to become a writer and she is not allowed to write stories about them or speak about them to the press. Originally from a farm in Australia, she says that the reason she stayed in Chicago is because she likes Lake Michigan and she loves the “wonderfully kind and funny and real Midwesterners.”

Aside from writing, Goldbloom works for queer visibility in the Chicago Chasidic community. She says, “I am the only out queer person that I know who is still living a Chasidic life in the community.” “Queer Orthodox Jews with unaccepting families face a loss of God, hope and community.”

The novel affected me deeply,probably because I identified with so much in it. When I tell people how I grew up living like that,  they are stunned that I indeed got through it and that I am willing to talk about it. We the joy of belonging to a community as well as the feelings of frustration at its rules and laws. Goldbloom explores complicated questions about community and individuality and she does so with great wit, humor and sensitivity.

Surie grabbed me early on and I could tell she was not going to let go. I laughed with her and I ached with her and felt the pains of being included and excluded, the wonders and joys of tradition, and the difficulties of coming to terms with oneself. This is “a novel of wisdom and uncertainty, of love in its greater and lesser forms, and of the struggle between how it should be and how it is.” ―Amy Bloom, author of “White Houses”.

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols” by Nicolas Mayer—A Newly Discovered Case

Meyer, Nicolas. “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols,” Minotaur, 2019.

A Newly Discovered Case

Amos Lassen

Nicolas Meyer in ““The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols” writes about the shocking discovery of an unknown case drawn from the newly-found Watson journal. In January, 1905: Sherlock Holmes and Watson are called by Holmes’ brother Mycroft to take on a clandestine investigation. A British Secret Service agent was found dead and floating in the Thames with a manuscript smuggled into England at the cost of her life. The manuscript seems to be the minutes of a meeting of a secret group with the intention of taking over the world.

This new adventure takes Holmes and Watson along with an exciting woman to the Orient Express and a ride from Paris to Tsarist Russia from where they try to find the source of the document. Following them are men who are determined to stop them. What Holmes and Watson find is a very large conspiracy that they realize that they have never faced a conspiracy such as this.

Those of you who follow my reviews know that this is not the kind of book I would usually be interested in reading but there is a very important Jewish theme here which had always interested me—that of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. I have learned that the author, Nicolas Mayer has always been interested in forgery and like myself, he was fascinated with the “Most destructive forgery of all time, ‘The Protocols”.

“The Protocols” are the alleged minutes of a secret meeting of Jews, plotting to take over the world.  The minutes were originally disseminated in 1903, and are an early example of “fake news,” and even though the document has been exposed as a hoax, it continues to live on.  Today thanks to Premier Vladimir Putin, “The Protocols” can be found in textbooks throughout schools in the Middle East.

Mayer’s idea was “what if Sherlock Holmes were commissioned to investigate “The Protocols”?  Here Holmes and Watson expose the dark scheme of the Ohkrana, the Tsar’s secret police, to create “The Protocols” as justification for the pogroms of the early twentieth century.  Russian-American Jewess, Anna Strunsky Walling, one of the founders of the NAACP joins with Sherlock to learn who created “The Protocols” and why.

This is a very clever book that kept me entertained throughout the read. At the very beginning, we are told that this case was one of Holmes’s rare failures. Because of the emphasis on fake news, the novel is more relevant than ever. There are parallels here to the rise of fascism and what is happening today in our government.

This is a suspenseful narrative filled with period detail and main themes are so relevant to our current age.

“Finding True Connections: How to Learn and Write About a Family Member’s History” by Gareth St John Thomas— Finding Ourselves and Others

St. John, Thomas Gareth. “Finding True Connections: How to Learn and Write About a Family Member’s History”, Emotional Inheritance, 2019.

Finding Ourselves

Amos Lassen

In Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie”, Tom, the narrator, tells us in the very beginning that “the play is memory” and I have often wondered how many of us realize that our lives are based on memories that both define who we are and bring us together. Understanding that we understand that Alzheimer’s Disease rob us of the ability to remember causing us and those around us to see how much we lose when we do not have the ability to recall what we have lived through. When memory is gone, so is a part of us.

It is never too early to record memories so that they will not be lost for perpetuity. That is what Gareth St John Thomas’ book “Finding True Connections: How to Learn and Write About a Family Member’s History” is all about. Along with “a global team of psychologists, writers and historians” Thomas shows us how to find and keep the life stories of our senior family members.  Now that we are living longer, new social trends about honoring and valuing those who came before us and understanding that one day we will take their places. It is so important that we capture their stories and the legacies they give us.

Author Thomas provides the steps necessary for us to be able to do this ourselves. We have a double age spread where we find on one page a question that is a prompt and on the other page we “have notes to provide context to the question and tips and guidance for how to gain the most meaningful answers.” The questions include, “When you left school, what did you do”?, “What are your key values in life”? and “Did you see much of other family members” to give us three of the one hundred that we get here. Personally I had a great time answering the questions as I read the book and then realized that, in effect, I had just composed my own autobiography.

On the left-hand side of this book are questions you can ask your interviewee. On the right-hand side are thoughts and notes regarding each question. It is important that you read all of the questions before you start the interview. You do not have to follow the notes; rather they are there to help stimulate your thoughts and enable you to move smoothly through the interview. Going through the prompts was going through my life and it was so easy. The prompts kept the conversation focused.

Depending on the nature of the question, the answers will be of different lengths and of different layers of insight and there are questions that can be replied to immediately without a bit of thought. Detail is not nearly as important as facts and time on each question is relative. The questions come to us in a certain order and this order is not to be deviated from. (As you read, you will quickly see why).Thomas recommends to do each section at a time and when you have covered all nine sections, you will have a life story.

one section at a time. If you do this, and take note of the guidance in the introduction, you will find that you have all the material you need in the correct order to write your interviewee’s life story.

The questions are simple yet inclusive and I wonder why no one has thought of this before (or if someone did, I am unaware of it. Here is a book you will use again and again and while it is enlightening it is also great fun.

“PIG HAG”— Meet Jodie


Meet Jodie

Amos Lassen

Jodie (Anna Schlegel) is a nurse who lives in Los Angeles, She’s a nurse living, loves Guns N’ Roses, and has a small group of gay, male friends. She’s alone.—she lives alone in her apartment,  she goes to concerts alone, and her only friends are gay. We first meet her as she is checking her phone and finds she is being bothered though texts. Some troll calls her fat and pathetic and names her “Pig Hag.” Whoever this is texts continually hoping to get a rise out of her and Jodie makes the mistake of texting back. She enlists her gay friends for support.

But then life changes— while at a Guns N’ Roses concert just outside of Los Angeles. During the concert, Jodie feels good and finds “solace and serenity”. As she comes down from her Axl-Rose high, she decides to drink at a local liquor store on the way to her motel. She is soon sad and drunk and on the sidewalk but she meets Dustin (Tony Jaksha), who is friendly and shows a concern for Jodie and as they take part in a  passive-aggressive encounter, they also spend the night together. The next morning, Dustin sends Jodie into an emotional tailspin.

“Pig Hag” is a look into Jodie’s life over a few days and we see the difficulties of finding love for those who are not beautiful actresses or fitness models. Jodie’s idea of finding real-romance is shattered, and she turns to some dark places in the end to find some kind of a connection with anyone. We see her anger, vulnerabilities, and sexuality. She’s abrasive but also likable and her performance becomes a rage-fueled rant during which she curses out her gay friends.“Pig Hag” gives a new perspective for what it means to be a woman and  to have to deal with so many expectations because of gender.

Jodie (Anna T. Schlegel) does not have it easy.  This is a woman who deals with a lot of harassment over texts and whatnot.  Much of the harassment comes by way of text messages from Mitch Internet.  It’s fascinating how the filmmakers choose to use Internet has a last name.  After all, this is a person who could stand in for all the evil trolls in existence.

Jodie loves looking through the photos on social media.  She is almost 40-years-old and doesn’t know if she’ll ever meet the right man. Jodie thinks that Dustin is the one but he never gets in touch with her the next day.  As she has an emotional breakdown and her best gay friends come to her rescue. 

Finding love is not easy. Jodie is desperate for connection and we see that when her romantic overtures don’t go exactly as she hopes, she relies on her gay friends so that she does not feel alone. She is an honest person who is often angry due to her insecurities and vulnerabilities. She has baggage that she to unload before she can be the validated person she wants to be.

“No Place Like Home: Coping With the Decline and Death of Toxic* Parents: *Wounding/Absent/Narcissistic/Traumatic” by Nick Nolan— A Death in the Family

Nolan, Nick. “No Place Like Home: Coping With the Decline and Death of Toxic* Parents: *Wounding/Absent/Narcissistic/Traumatic”, Independently Published, 2019.

A Death in the Family

Amos Lassen

It is hard to believe that it has been some 18 years since I reviewed “No Strings Attached”, Nick Nolan’s first book and, in fact, one of the first books I reviewed. I remember being blown away by the lyrical language and character developed and I often return it when I need a bit of a pickup. That book was followed by two, equally as good books and the three made up “Tales of Ballena Beach” but since the publication of the third volume, Nolan has been quiet. He’s back now and dare I say, better than ever. Moving away from fiction Nolan tackles the very difficult topic of aging, death and a bit more.

In “No Place Like Home” he shares professional perspectives on “the dying parent who was seldom – if ever – emotionally supportive of their child.” He gives us a very intense look at his violent father’s decline and death from diabetes and probable Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (Concussion Syndrome). Nolan interviews three adult survivors of child abuse, as well as eight licensed clinicians who specialize in family systems, women’s issues and Christianity, People of Color, LGBT clients, military PTSD, child sexual abuse, and neurology. In turn, we get diverse and multiple views on  anger, guilt, and resentment that those who survive  familial abuse and neglect deal with as they help the offending parent.

We forget that death is a fact of life and it must be dealt with like any other fact of life. Most of us face death with fear and it remains the great unknown. The way we deal with a parent who is ailing and declining health wise is a rough topic to pursue and to talk about. Yet, as we get older, death becomes realer. For many people, the first time they face death as an issue is with the death of their parents. We can ask ourselves what about parents that are toxic? What about abusive parents who were cruel to a child and his/her siblings? How about parents who were parents only in name and did nothing to provide a loving home for their children? How are the children of such parents to deal with their ill heath, their declining years and ultimately their death?

Nolan takes on this issue and as a survivor himself, he knows the steps that are taken and he shares them with emotion and in doing-so gives us a self-help guide. He takes us through the events of his childhood and as he reflects on them, he pulls us in. I am sure that he wrote this with many tears. Through interviews with eight clinicians he looks at the major issues of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, narcissism, abuse (of any kind). We also have interviews three adults who are survivors of child abuse. 

You might think that this all sounds depressing but as you read you will find that the way Nolan deals with these topics is full of feeling and quite interesting. Yes, it is depressing at times but so is life and we get over depression if we want to.

I find it fascinating to find written on the page the fact that abuse can be the result of an injury and that a hit on the head while a child can result in brain damage that could cause someone to become abusive.

There is a lot of information here and it is presented in ways that are easy to understand.  Nolan takes us on a journey of his personal story and what he has learned in the interviews. I think what really pulled me  is the sincerity and honesty of Nolan and the fact that he is completely open with one he says. I have always enjoyed the chats we have shared and the emails we have exchanged and these gave me a heard start because I already knew something about Nolan. I clearly remember that after reviewing his first book, we had a chat about how he came to write it and he even shard some information about his background and the kind of work he was doing then. I could tell that he felt comfortable speaking to me and vice versa and not only did I read a good book but I made a new friend as well. He is sensitive and moral, compassionate and humble and a wonderful writer.

He shares valuable information that guides us to make a choice of either forgiving or walking away. But walking away from Nick Nolan’s literature is not an option. I believe that once you read him, you will come back for more.

“DRIVE ME HOME”— Reconnecting



Amos Lassen

Antonio (Vinicio Marchioni)  and Agostino (Marco D’Amore)  are two childhood friends who have not seen each other for 15 years. They grew up together in a small town in Sicily and both have widely traveled through of Europe searching for something. They have gone from city to city, with no real destination and no plan.

Then when Antonio learns that his childhood home, now uninhabited, is to be sold at auction soon, he decides to look for Agostino, a truck driver, to help find a solution and save that house to which they have ties.

This is the story of two fragile men who have been tried by life and  who hold onto the cockpit of a truck as they rediscover parts of the past and reopen old wounds that are still hurting. The narration is a mixture of different European languages ​​and accents representing the liquid past in which they both used as a means of escape from their pasts.  They became strays in Europe like so many other young people who struggle with the difficulties of home. Both sought an ideal dimension to be able to gain happiness.

Both D’Amore and Marchioni are two apparent losers that hang between odd jobs in search of their own opportunity and their own place in the world. The cinematography is gorgeous as we visit the icy lights of northern Europe and the warm and quiet atmospheres of southern Ital. This is an intimate and highly up-to-date film that charges us to reflect on the various escape routes that perhaps we deserve to find to find a better life. The grammar of truck drivers and the habits of a little known but extremely fascinating world made of belonging to a community of people who have chosen the movement as a lifestyle are fascinating to see.

The screenplay uses the introspective component; the dimension of solitude that embraces the two men differently, and is extremely metaphorical. The concept of home is stressed. Are we really where we came from?

Director Simone Catania, and stars Vinicio Marchioni alongside Marco D’Amore do a wonderful job with this story of two 30-years-old men who both live abroad and have lost touch with each other years before we meet them. But their lives have changed a lot. Old conflicts and new revelations bring them through Europe on a truck journey that will change their lives forever.