Sedona, Arizona

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Sedona, Arizona

“Wow Even the rocks in Sedona meditate!” Ilchi Lee

Plan to be amazed.  As the sun started to set, the red rocks started to glow in the light.  We sat on the hotel terrace restaurant with Mexican food and margaritas, watching the color of the sky change with rocks. I would have forgotten that there was a Corona virus except for the masked waiters. 

As you drive through the mountains to enter the town, you can clearly see the outlines of Sedona because of the distinct shift between the typical brown/beige desert surroundings to the intense red color of these rocks.  

 We had a very different  trip planned the week everything closed for quarantine in March to the Mii Amo spa in Sedona.

This time we were masked and social distancing so the spa was out of the question for us.  Everyone else was using it. The most dramatic red rocks of Sedona’s Boynton Canyon  set the tone for an experience beyond compare.

  Enchantment Resort is a little pricey but there isn’t a more beautiful hotel to stay in.

When we arrived it was crowded and no one was wearing masks, except the staff. It felt unsafe as far as the virus was concerned. All the rooms have beautiful views of the red rocks so just hanging out on your terrace is amazing. The rooms are “casitas” and have both a kitchenette with a table and an outdoor table and grill. You have different options for  room service both cooked and ‘raw” if you want to do it yourself.  Somehow with all the different hikes, spa treatments and activities that they have,  we were able to avoid crowds of people and eat in all the restaurants at off hours, hike, walk and feel safe.  Doing yoga, qi gong and meditation on the terrace facing the red rocks was a spiritual experience.

  The Bf was off hiking and mountain biking.

The activities at Enchantment were limited because of safety. There were no large classes or group hikes. You had to hike on your own or hire a private guide.

Our guide was George, a 76 year old Apache who started the mountain biking experience and cut many of the trails that people hike on.

There was no one more concerned with masks and social distancing than George – except for me. He was horrified by all the hikers who don’t wear masks.

With his Apache spirit he guided them away from us and made us wait for the air to clear when a group passed by.

It was a special treat to see “The land of the red skin” with him.

And then there are the stars. Sedona has strict rules about lighting at night because the skies are ablaze with stars. Being a city girl, the night skies are one of the marvelous splendors of the area. 

We will definitely come back to Sedona to have the full experience when this is over. But during these uncertain times, finding beauty is a necessity. 

Stay safe,

JAZ

Road Trip In The Time Of Corona

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Road Trip In The Time Of Corona

“That’s why I love road trips, dude. It’s like doing something without actually doing anything.” John Green

The world changed in March 2020, when the country — and the planet — shut down to help slow the spread of Covid 19. For most of us, the pandemic signaled the first time we were asked to shelter in place, maintain our distance from our friends and family, forgo handshakes and hugs, and cover our faces.  

Being at risk, I have been home for six months. The California wildfires changed all that for me because I am violently allergic to smoke and was getting sicker and sicker from the air. We decided to drive to Arizona.  Venturing outside brought up very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited to go on a trip to anywhere, have room service and eat in a restaurant.  On the other hand, I had adapted to being at home and felt safe there. The virus is still very active and it was scary to change what I was currently doing for fear this would lead to getting the illness. But I had no choice.

We jumped in the car the next day. When you’ve been inside for a long time, it feels strange to go out. Eventually we had to stop and get food and use our first public restroom in six months. We were armed with masks, gloves, alcohol spray and  hand sanitizer. As difficult as it was to get used to lockdown, it is just as difficult to come out of it. We drove by a crowded restaurant and decided no way.  We saw a Subway. It was not crowded and everyone wore masks and stood six feet apart. The bathroom was clean. I ordered my favorite-turkey on whole wheat with pickles lettuce and tomato and then I put potato chips in it to go. It tasted like the best sandwich I had eaten in six months.  I felt the sensory overload of being in a restaurant for the first time..The second rest stop was super crowded. Everyone wore masks and kept social distance. I felt so much anxiety about being around all those people. 

We got to the hotel in Arizona. The staff wore masks and gloves. Everyone had to wear a mask when indoors. There was an automatic temperature checker as you walked in.

Automatic hand sanitizers were everywhere.  We had our choice to carry our own luggage or  park our own car and a bellman came to the parking lot in a golf cart. We ordered room service.There are no checks to sign. 

The next day we hiked and we were shocked that no one wore masks.

We decided to venture out to the restaurant for lunch.

The tables were eight to ten feet apart and the restaurant was not crowded. There were individual ketchup packets and individual water bottles. I forgot how it felt to sit in a restaurant and have someone serve you. What a treat that I used to take for granted. (first waiter in six months!!!)

We were upgraded to a room with a small swimming pool and large outside area so I was totally fine to hang out there. (the view)

We went to the restaurant for the rest of our meals.

I changed clothes for every meal.

Being in sweatpants  for six months  has made me appreciate my clothes.

If you are like me, and worried about safety and the virus, The Four Seasons in Scottsdale is a great place to start going out again.I felt very safe and was able to relax and heal. 

There has been a lot of talk of a ‘new normal’ – but normal is changing and uncertainty, and managing risk, is going to be the reality for the foreseeable future. New normal’ for most of us will mean ‘what we need to get through today, or this week – it’s going to be very difficult to predict what the course of the rest of the year will look like.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned from Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi

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Things I Have Learned from Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. “Eckhart Tolle

There are many studies about how Yoga, QI Gong (a form of Tai Chi) and Tai Chi can improve your health. People have been doing it for thousands of years so it must have some benefits. I’ve been doing it regularly in quarantine and have not had any of my usual health problems so there might be something to it. Here is what I have learned so far.

Look at everything-not just one thing.
Did you ever notice how people can look at the same thing and see something totally different? Learning to see something from all sides, without judgement, to see beyond our own assumptions is something to strive for – especially the way the world is now.

Change hands-change responsibilities.
You can’t change your circumstances but you can change how you look at them.

Is a balance posture strength or submission?
We look for balance to live a life of quality. A balance posture requires steady feet, a steady mind and a sense of weight control. It isn’t one thing. It takes both strength and letting go to balance in the posture and in life.

Your speed does not matter. How far forward you can go does not matter. Forward is Forward. Your speed at doing anything is personal. Sometimes a slower pace will get you further. There’s always a pace you’d rather be experiencing, but it might not be what’s really happening right now.

You are not going to master every movement in one day, master what you can in a day and just keep doing it. Persistence is the only guarantee to master anything. Feeling defeated is also part of mastery.

Focus on the movement not the results. Whether good or bad the focus is always on the action itself. As humans we are not always satisfied with our present circumstances. We believe that only through results can we secure a pathway for a better future. Things in life may not actually turn out the way you want to. Be happy that you are working to achieve your goal.

Breathe in and out and be available to what unfolds.
We don’t always have to have a plan.

Move slowly with intention.
It is true that ”slow and steady” wins the race. You won’t miss out on anything by doing it mindfully.

We do the same thing day after day. Each day is a different day and each side is a different side. There is always more to be found by exploring the same thing over and over.

Where can we let go? Sometimes you have to let go because things are too heavy to carry with you. It can take just as much strength to let go as to hold on.

When two or more gather together, the practice is more powerful.This comes from the Bible. “When two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” We find it in Mathew 18:20 .The idea that is commonly promoted is that if there are two or more people gathered together who agree on something, and they ask God for it in prayer, then he will answer their request. Sounds like a plan. We can use all the help we can get these days. We are better, together.

Stay safe,

JAZ

After The Virus Is Over With A Little HELP From My Friends

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After The Virus Is Over With A Little HELP From My Friends

“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” Albert Camus, The Plague

What are the habits, behaviors and routines you will keep doing after The Big Q is over? What sorts of things will you continue to do after all this?

I will continue to do QI Gong and meditation every day to control my anxiety. i will also deep condition my hair every week. it is so healthy now. JZ

I don’t have to be so regimented in my life. CL

What I hope continues after the pandemic are virtual meetings. I love the convenience of logging in from anywhere in the country and the fact that you do not have to dress and drive to a location. My zoom book club meetings have much better participation now. EM

I don’t need to go to Drybar for my hair every week because I can do it myself. DG

We absolutely will continue getting food deliveries from Costco and other markets. What a blessing. I’ll also continue subscribing to Broadway HD — in memory of your mother if for no other reason. Have been watching some amazing plays. I’ll also continue taking walks every other day when the weather and air quality allow it, and exercising at home when I can’t do it outside. No more gym membership. And now that I know that I can redeem my Marriott points for Amazon gift cards, I won’t feel so pressed to use them to stay in hotels. LM

Meditate and do yoga and not be in such a hurry all the time -hopefully. MU

I will continue to bake bread (I’ve gotten really good at it and it’s therapeutic); make my own yogurt because it’s so much better than anything I’ve ever bought and it’s stupid easy); write postcards and letters to friends and family; cut my own hair (most of the time);  be more tin touch with people who matter to me; purge, purge purge. Finally, now that I’m unemployed, I am trying to find a way to be self-employed. EF

Make my own bed. Clean my patio. Go to Whole Foods for meat, chicken and fish. Keep walking 4-5 miles 3 or 4 times a week with friends. Watch Turkish soap operas as they are so good and full of art and great design. NC

I will probably always wear a mask on a plane now. GW

I will continue to shave only once a week; walk two or three miles a day 3; cook more, eat out less; practice guitar an hour a day; use my girlfriend’s homemade face lotions and body scrubs and play the NY Times (highly addictive) Spelling Bee puzzle. CW

I’ve been zooming – and since 3 of my best friends from college (the 4 of us were roommates) all live in other cities, we will probably continue to zoom together every 2 weeks or so. It’s been fun to “see” each other, so I will propose that we keep doing that.DG

I will probably continue wearing some sort of mask outside .I love all the extra washing and hand sanitizing so I will definitely keep it going. LA

I will take the ability to slow down, to appreciate what I have, to recognize that not all motion is progress.HM

Stay safe,
JAZ

Proverbs From Southeast Asia

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Proverbs from Southeast Asia

“Any water in the desert will do.” India

Proverbs and old sayings reveal many aspects about the cultural  traditions of a society. Proverbs originated from indigenous people who handed down these wise old sayings over the centuries, generation to generation. Many proverbs serve as advisory tales and wise counsel. Here are some things you might learn when visiting Southeast Asia.

“Calm water does not mean that there are no crocodiles” Indonesia

“Those who can’t dance blame it on the flute and the drum.” Thailand

“Don’t play the violin for the buffalo to listen to.” Thailand

“Don’t let an angry man wash dishes; don’t let a hungry man guard the rice.’ Cambodia

“Don’t bargain for fish that are still in the water.’ India

“Without a woman’s help, a man cannot set up a tent.” Tibet

‘Live with vultures, and become a vulture; live with crows, and become a crow.” Laos

“When it rains, collect the water” Myanmar

“To take revenge on an enemy, give him an elephant — first he must thank you for the gift, and then the elephant’s appetite will deplete your enemy’s resources.’Nepal

“When you are shopping for a cow, make sure that the price of the tail is included.” Sri Lanka

“Be careful of the teacher you choose and the water you drink.” Bangladesh

“You can dress a monkey in a suit, but it is still a monkey.” Pakistan

Stay safe,

JAZ

Books In The Time Of Corona

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Books In The Time Of Corona

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”  Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake

I think you are either a person who reads or a person who doesn’t. If you read, you are going to want to do it more. If you don’t, I’m not going to be able to convince you to put down the remote. I decided to use some of this time we have been given to read great books that I had missed. Here are ten of them.

Nostromo Joseph Conrad

At the beginning of the quarantine, I took on the daunting task of reading Nostromo. I was greatly intimidated by the very long prologue to one of Joseph Conrad’s greatest and most complex novels. Once I started, it became a compelling adventure story with profound psychological insights and political implications. Nostromo tells the tumultuous history of the fictional South American country of Costaguana. Written at the time of the development of the Panama Canal, Nostromo is set in the imaginary province of Sulaco, which secedes from the federation of Costaguana in order to protect its natural resource, the silver mine. The parallels with the ‘revolution’ in Panama by the United States in 1903 are striking; just as Panama seceded from Columbia to satisfy the material interests of the canal builders, so the secession of Sulaco serves the material interests of ‘the Gould company. Conrad creates the “perfectly incorruptible”” Nostromo who we don’t get to know until the second half of the novel. He is an Italian immigrant and a heroic symbol within the community. Nostromo, is the only man who can save the silver in the San Tomé mine and secure the independence of the province of Sulaco. The question is whether his morals and integrity are as unassailable as his reputation. Will he stand firmly in his ideals once the fate lies in his hands?

Angle of Repose Walter Stegner

Angle of Repose is a classic of American Literature. Lyman Ward is a recently divorced, wheelchair-bound retired history professor (aged 58) struggling to find his way through the turns life has taken. Determined to write a biography of his beloved and famous artist/author grandmother, he moves into his grandparent’s long-empty home in Grass Valley, California in 1970. Most of the book is about Susan Ward an accomplished writer and illustrator, who found herself an accidental pioneer of the western United States during the 1870s and 1880s.The character development in Angle of Repose is exceptional. Wallace Stegner shows great incite about two groups of people that can be hard to understand – the physically disabled and strong, complex women, of the Victorian era. His words do justice to the great beauty of the American West. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and no wonder because the prose is beautiful.

The Movie Goer Walker Percy

The Movie Goer written in 1961 is about John/Jack/ Binx Bolling, a Louisianan who drifts along. He is in a line of work that he finds interesting, but he has no real purpose in life. Like Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, he finds meaning in movies. Little things he sees remind him of different films or actors—and the films are always more interesting than his routine life. He is single and about to turn thirty. Most of the story is about John drifting through Mardi Gras and his life in New Orleans. It is a nice little tour of New Orleans neighborhoods and some of the nearby coastal bayous and by the end of the book John has matured. It is a coming of age story. You can’t help but draw comparisons to Holden Caulfield with his eye for identifying self deceit and insincerity (though in a much more Southern genteel way).The book remains current because of the alienation and despair that persist in both good and bad times and the power of language and humor to give them meaning.

Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

On a simple level, Americanah is a love story set in Africa, Europe and America. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that Adichie uses the novel format as a social commentary about race. Protagonist Ifemelu ironically discovers that she is black as she leaves a politically tormented Nigeria for the United States. There are shrewd observations about repatriation, sizing up and distancing between African blacks and African Americans, the value of dark skin in Caucasian societies, the arrogance of white savior mentality and the fascinating world of African hair. The novel is filled with insightful blog posts by Ifemelu as she experiences America.

The Overstory Richard Powers

The Overstory is a huge novel about trees, cleverly structured around roots, trunk, branches and seeds. Richard Power’s ability to make us see something we take for granted is really special. Blending fiction, historical writing, scientific description and literary prose, he writes a story of climate catastrophe and hope. The plot of The Overstory focuses on people’s various intergenerational connections with trees. It is a human story in the context of environmental loss from climate change. The lonely broken people of Power’s story seek other people to save the trees and ultimately our world. This is a reminder that it is everyone’s problem. It was the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

A Gentleman In Moscow Amor Towles

At the age of 33, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest for life in the elegant Hotel Metropol in Moscow’s Theatre Square. Instead of his familiar suite, his new abode is now a tiny room in the attic.The book covers Russia’s turbulent years from the 1920s to the 1950s. Rostov witnesses the momentous changes in Russia, not Tolstoy-style through the debate of powerful men and the clash on the battlefields, but in the detail of everyday life in the hotel as he quietly observes the changing guests and procedures. We are left to imagine the mentality of the new regime’s leaders and life outside the hotel. I love the character of Alexander Rostov with his old school manners, adaptability, kindness and quiet dignity.The writing is elegant, effortless, beautiful and funny. I really enjoyed this book.

A Long Petal In The Sea Isabel Allende

I am a huge fan of the author and so I was glad to pick up her latest book. The story starts in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. The first part of the book is captivating, and emotional as the reader is introduced to the various characters. After joining half a million refugees walking from Spain to France, the leading characters Victor and Rosa are accepted on the rescue ship M/S Winnipeg chartered by the famous Chilean Nobel-prize winning poet and politician Pablo Neruda bound for Chile. (fact) They have the same problems fleeing refuges have today and they are among the few lucky ones that make it to Chile. They begin a new life and later they are swept up in the Pinochet reign of terror. Victor and Rosa escape to Venezuela who welcomes all refugees fleeing from Chile. They return to Chile and again start a new life as Pinochet dies and Chile slowly returns to democracy. As the book headed towards a heartfelt and compelling conclusion, I found myself reading slower, not wanting to leave the book, its story and characters.This is a stunning historical literary novel and one I cannot recommend highly enough.

The Orphan Master’s Son Adam Johnson

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013, ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ tells the story of Pak Jun Do’s journey from life in a North Korean state orphanage to professional kidnapper to a career in Pyongyang at the heart of Kim Jong ll’s regime.  It is an intriguing and sprawling story which explores several aspects of life in one of the most secretive countries in the world. Since there is no way of knowing how authentic it is, the line between fiction and nonfiction is blurred. I found it a carefully crafted, elegantly written, fascinating book to read.

The Assistant  Bernard Malamud

The Assistant was written in 1957 and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. It is about a Jewish grocery store owner in Brooklyn in the 1950’s and the Italian assistant who works for him. The story is a tragedy about the Jewish immigrant experience in America at that time. It is also about Frank Alpine, a man trying hard to change himself. It’s a fight that each of us might be familiar with. We know what to do to be good yet we often lose ourselves to temptation, to take a shortcut to to have it easy. Malamud can write. The simplicity of the prose and dialogue and the depth and complexity of the plot make the Assistant a special book.

To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee.

Atticus Finch is my number two literary crush and so I reread To Kill A Mockingbird every once in a while.(Howard Roark is my number 1). The book offers so much more than the picture of a small Southern town in the depression era filed with prejudice, injustice and the bond of love between family members and neighbors. So many issues that Scout points out, in the book, are still very real problems today. Lee’s characters define themselves every time they open their mouths and so they stay in your mind long after you finish the book. Atticus is the epitome of the literary hero, quietly dignified, moral, and unpretentious, standing alone, if need be, to do what is right. When you reread the book, you see that Scout, Jem, Boo, Tom, Calpurnia, the judge, the doctor and the neighbors who take care of each other, bring something to the human, heroic response to the world. Because we as a culture have gotten so good at rationalizing our bad behavior, we often forget “to do what’s right”. That’s why so many years after this book takes place, our world is still broken, so I thought it was time to read it again.

Stay safe,

JAZ

No One Reads Anymore

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No One Reads Anymore.

‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. “ Rene Descartes

It’s ironic that you are reading a blog about why no one reads  anymore. Obviously some people read books.

But readers are slowly dying off, easing into extinction as newer and flashier means of grabbing our attention evolve. Why? Because reading is hard, or at least harder than watching TV or movies or playing video games.

Reading books stimulates the brain, forcing us to focus, to remember and to perform various mental gymnastics. It provides enormous benefits. Reading reduces stress, keeps your brain sharp, helps you fall asleep, increases your vocabulary, writing skills and improves your imagination.

There are many other advantages to reading as well, including developing greater discipline and empathy, helping you better understand other cultures, building self-esteem and making you more interesting.

But a great many people still believe they don’t have time to read. Society floods us with sensory input. Our phones, our tablets, our laptops: all offer connectivity to the wider world. So we think that because we’re connected to it electronically, we needn’t pursue such an old-fashioned activity as reading.

I was not allowed to watch TV as a kid and getting lost in a book was a wonderful way to pass the time. But even I have trouble now forcing my brain to focus for that long. I’m using this gift of time to read great books and will you keep you posted on my favorites.

Reading this blog does not count, by the way. 

Stay safe,

JAZ

Neither Snow Nor Rain…..The US Postal Service

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Neither Snow Nor Rain……The US Postal Service

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’. Herodotus

I grew up with this quote. It summons up visions of brave postal workers trudging through inclement weather conditions.  For more than a century,  it’s been synonymous with the tireless work the postal service does to make sure you get your junk mail, magazines, and birthday cards on time. 

This quote was inscribed in the NY Postal Building in Manhattan  in 1912. Architect William Mitchell Kendall was a classics scholar in both architecture and words. It comes from Herodotus, Book Eight of the Persian Wars. Herodotus was impressed with the fast travel of the Persian couriers.

When the Constitution established the postmaster-general position, the Founding Fathers were worried about how to get the new nation’s increasing volume of mail delivered. A system had been developed in the colonies, in which merchants, slaves and Native Americans would pass letters and parcels from person to person until they reached their destinations. That soon gave way to  mail carriers who traveled via horse and stagecoach and later locomotives and airplanes.

In January 1913, one Ohio couple took advantage of US Postal Service’s new parcel service to make a very special delivery: their infant son. The Beagues paid 15 cents for his stamps and an unknown amount to insure him for $50, then handed him over to the mailman, who dropped the boy off at his grandmother’s house about a mile away. People who mailed their children weren’t handing them over to a stranger. In rural areas, many families knew their mailman quite well.

It has always been  a system of trust. Today, though email and Amazon have replaced a lot of their job, it  is still our most trusted organization.

The 2020 election will definitely not look like any other election in American history.  A record number of states will allow for expanded early voting options including vote by mail.  Although mail balloting, sometimes known as absentee voting, has been around since  the Civil War, it has come under new scrutiny this year as Trump has claimed that this type of voting is open to fraud.  This is not true.

 What we should be worried about, is whether Trump’s Post Office can handle the influx of ballots with all the recent budget cuts. There are tight deadlines on when ballots must be received. Most require the ballot to be postmarked on or before Election Day and they must be received by the Board of Elections within 7 days of the election.  The mail is already backlogged. Imagine what it will look like with a hundred million mail in ballots.

Make sure you vote as early as possible. If you can, go to the post office instead of putting it in a blue box (which is as sanitary as anything else you touch), drive to the mail-in location, or drop it off the day of at your polling place. Don’t wait until the last minute. This year we need to work with the Postal Service,  like the  Founding Fathers did in the colonies to make sure letters got to their recipients. “We are Americans. We get the job done.” (I have to stop rewatching Hamilton).

Stay safe,

JAZ

Best TV Shows With Subtitles

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Best TV Shows With Subtitles

“On Friday night, I was reading my new book, but my brain got tired, so I decided to watch some television instead.”  Stephen Chbosky

Since I can’t actually travel right now, I’m traveling to a different country, one TV series at a time. These shows take me to different places and different cultures. As the virus continues, I’m sure I will be adding more to this list.

Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Japan) Netflix

I used to love eating after midnight in college. There’s something about eating with people at odd hours that inclines one toward romance or deep philosophical discussion.
Based on the manga of the same name, the story follows a man who owns an izakaya in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, (translated into diner) which is open from midnight-7AM. Each episode follows the story of a customer with ties to a particular dish from his past. The diner serves as a meeting place for the episode’s featured characters, while the owner—referred to only as “Master”—offers sage, down-to-earth advice. The patrons range in backgrounds, from taxi drivers to physicists, writers, actors, gamblers, gang members, drag queens and strippers. There are several regulars who appear in each episode and interact with the featured character. There is nothing epic in the stories and the characters are often based on stereotypes. What I particularly love is that the setting allows them to let their guard down organically, alone in a small diner in the early morning, with no one but the proprietor to intrude on their journey of self-discovery. It facilitates a sense of separateness—almost outside of reality—where people who might otherwise be considered nobodies or oddballs can express and share their humanity. It is our favorite show. In these troubled times, it reminds us that everyone has a story and reflects a truth of what it means to be human.

Shtisel (Israel) Netflix

Shtisel is a drama featuring an ultra Orthodox family in the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem. The depiction of ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture is just fascinating. At the heart of “Shtisel” is the relationship between Shulem Shtisel, a recently widowed religious school principal, and his youngest son, Akiva, a bachelor who still lives at home. There is true love between them, but their relationship is fraught with tension over Akiva’s still being single, as well as over his preference for making art instead of studying and teaching Torah. The other main plot lines deal with Giti, one of Shulem’s daughters, and her family. Her husband, Lipa, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of supporting a large family, goes abroad (ostensibly for a job) and disappears for months. Left to raise and financially support the children on her own, Giti almost falls apart under the strain. Additional strands of the dramatic narrative involve other members of the extended Shtisel family and their friends and neighbors in Geula. The Haredi lifestyle is presented as a given, and by and large the characters do not strain against its strictures. At the same time, the series does not shy away from dealing with real-life issues and the fact that all of them have “vices”. The peculiarity and foreignness of the show combined with the universal and familiar feeling of what goes on in families completely won me over. I watched it once by myself and again with the BF who also loved it.

Broadchurch (United Kingdom) Netflix

I discovered Broadchurch by accident. Like True Detective, Season One revolves around one murder case. I was on the edge of my seat trying to guess who murdered Danny Latimer. Everyone looks suspicious. Each time I thought I knew who the murderer was, a new clue came up and secrets popped out and I had to guess again. i watch a lot of detective shows and I’m pretty good at figuring out the culprit but this one had me stumped. Broadchurch was the most popular show in The UK when it came out and I can see why. The cast is superb led by Academy Award winner Olivia Colman and David Tennant. It is a fully immersive drama that will grip you from the first episode. Unfortunately, the other two seasons are not as good. But, the character development is brilliant and they have great chemistry, so I stuck with them. Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Charlotte Rampling appear in the second season. The natural beauty of the town (the Jurassic coast-now on my list of places to go) and the people that populate Broadchurch allow it to rise above the usual detective series.

Made In Heaven (India) Amazon

I absolutely adore Made In Heaven and can’t wait for Season 2. The story follows Karan and Tara as they manage their wedding planning business of the same name. It seems like a very real take on the wedding industry of the very rich in India. Each episode focuses on a different, unbelievably beautiful wedding while the characters navigate their very complicated lives. Kabir and Jaspreet work for Made In Heaven and are dealing with complications of their own. Kabir often narrates the videos of the weddings and they’re always wonderful observations and really tug at your heart. Each wedding tells a story of India, undisguised and unsweetened. They don’t shy away from politics or religion and there is always a message of hope.

Bordertown (Finland) Netflix

Bordertown follows Kari Sorjonen, a shockingly great detective (definitely on the spectrum), who decides he needs a break from the horrors he sees everyday in Helsinki. This is understandable as no horror is too scary for this show. Kari moves his sick wife and teenage daughter to a family house in Lappeenranta, a town that borders the edges of Finland and Russia. At first it seems nice. However, if you’re in a crime drama, things are never nice for long. Though Bordertown has the brooding, dark environments and intense acting of similar shows, the series is more of a family-focused drama with a killer on the loose. There are horrific crimes happening in the background — almost all of them are done to young, sexualized women. The main narrative is about this one tired, brilliant investigator who just wants to have dinner with his family. I loved the first two seasons but I couldn’t make it through the first episode of the third season. It became way too dark and gory for me.

Fauda (Israel)  Netflix

An Israeli show about an elite team of commandos looking to infiltrate a terrorist group with ticking time bombs and evil masterminds does not seem all that different from many post 9/11 shows. What makes it different and worth watching is the relationships between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It shows a bit more realistic portrayal of how they are willingly and unwillingly entangled into each others lives. Fauda follows a group of Israeli undercover agents, known as mista’arvim, who carry out counter-terror operations in the West Bank by blending in to become indistinguishable from local Palestinian residents. I think it does a good job of showing both the good and the bad on both sides. . It is clear that the two sides are past the point of no return in being able to coexist, yet they cannot bring themselves to do what is needed to end their mutually destructive relationship. The cast and directors are both Israeli and Palestinian and though there are many political critiques it is definitely a binge watch.

Henning Mankell’s Wallender (Sweden) Netflix

Wallander is the popular 62-year-old hero of a group of novels by Henning Mankell, the best-selling Swedish crime novelist. The inspector lives alone, except for his beloved dog, tends to be morose, is a good cop and a liberal idealist. Detective Wallander is both the beat-up and dysfunctional ex-husband/son/father and a professional who makes honest, human mistakes, but sticks around to see the job through. The BBC made the show as well starring Kenneth Branagh but I watched the original in Swedish. Each episode is an hour and a half and the first season is apparently movies that were based on the different books. In the first episode, Wallander’s daughter Linda returns to Ystad having successfully graduated police training. The difficult relationship between father and daughter is now further complicated by having them work together. I highly recommend watching season one. I get the feeling the other seasons were made into a TV show which was very different than season one and they don’t work as well. I like the casting-they seem more like ordinary people than actors which makes the stories more believable.

Hinterland (Wales) Netflix

Hinterland is set in Aberystwyth, Wales. Speaking scenes were filmed twice, once in English and once in Welsh and was released in both languages. The accent was hard for me but then I got used to it. The series is full of silence. These are not talkative people. They live in a brooding, windswept barren place filled with secrets. And they have their own secrets as well. Tom Mathias stars as a recent addition to the police department in this small coastal town. Mathias is not inclined to explain himself to his officers and they are often left to try to read his mind in hopes of understanding why the investigation is going as it is. He is dedicated to being the tragic figure in this series. Mared Rhys, his partner and an experienced police officer herself, has her own problems. The photography of Western Wales is beautiful but doesn’t look like a place you would want to visit in winter. There are five episodes per season and if you can stick through it to the end of season three, the payoff is good.

Call My Agent (France) Netflix

Call My Agent is about a film talent agency called ASK, and revolves around the agents, their assistants and the film stars they work for. The episodes are filled with gossip, drama and likable relatable characters. In each episode French actors play themselves as clients of the agency. The day-to-day problems are relatively unimportant: the agents are faced with non-compliant actors, try to disseminate false rumors, attempt to reconcile co-stars who have fallen out, wrestle with tarnishing media stories… As well as these behind-the-curtain dramas of the stars, the agents’ private lives are also wrought with entertaining relationship dramas and personal dilemmas. It is a highly, binge worthy watch and just what you need in dark times.

Merli (Spain) (Catalan) Netflix

In the style of “Dead Poets Society,” Merli tells the story of a philosophy teacher in a public secondary school who opens his students minds and makes them question things in a very unorthodox way. His son who has grown up with his mother, now lives with Merli and his grandmother, and is in his class. Every episode is named for a new philosopher. I like the premise but in each episode Merli seems to care more and more about himself. It is less about a great teacher and more about a selfish man that uses his knowledge to justify his actions. Yet for some reason, he still seems to be a good teacher, inspiring his students. There is only one season so it is not a huge commitment and I like watching it. I couldn’t find a trailer with subtitles (the show has them) but you get the idea.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

Chinese Proverbs

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Chinese Proverbs

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Lao Tzu

Chinese Proverbs are sayings which originate from famous Chinese philosophers and writers. Confucius and Lao Tzu are the most famous. there are hundreds of popular proverbs which usually give the reader an inspirational or motivational thought. They address all aspects of traditional Chinese society but are very applicable today. Here are some of my favorites.

“Dig the well before you are thirsty.”

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”

“Your teacher can open the door but you must enter by yourself.”

 “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”

The swiftest horse can’t overtake a word once spoken*

“We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.”

“If you plan for one year, plant rice. If you plan for ten years, plant trees. If you plan for 100 years, educate mankind.”

 “A single conversation with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books.”

“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.” Xun Kuang

“A bird does not sing because he has the answer to something, he sings because he has a song.”

“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”

“The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”

“An invisible silk thread connects those who are destined to meet.”

Stay safe,

JAZ