Twenty Years Of The Sopranos

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about “The Sopranos”. Prior to the show coming into my life in Jnauary, 1999, there wasn’t a particular television show that impacted me as greatly as it has. Well, maybe “All In the Family”, since my parents didn’t prevent me from watching it. To be honest, I think I learned a great deal about life from Archie Bunker; it certainly saved my mother from having to sit me down for more than a few awkward conversations.

January, 1999 was a somewhat difficult year for me. When I look back at it now, those difficulties pale in comparison to what followed about a decade later. That was the year I was unceremoniously fired from my job because the misogynistic idiot running the show felt I was too fat to sell fudge (more on that some other time). January 1999 marked three years since my father’s death, and my mother was doing her best impression of Livia Soprano – although I didn’t know it at the time.

I’ll never forget the first time I became aware of “The Sopranos”. My brother, my ex-husband and I were in my parents’ house in Brooklyn, attempting to clean out some of the accumulated relics in preparation for our mother’s move to a condo in New Jersey. As we were stuffing items into garbage bags, my brother inquired as to whether or not my ex and I had watched “the new Sunday night show on HBO”.  We said we hadn’t, and my brother responded, “Watch it, and let me know who the mother reminds you of.” The answer was obvious. From there, I never missed an episode.

It turns out “The Sopranos” was much more than the sum of its parts. It was, and in many ways still is, a cultural phenomenon. It was a revelation for those of us who were raised on insipid American television that was limited by draconian sexual and language taboos, but would serve up a hefty portion of violence at every opportunity. The fact that HBO isn’t beholden to advertisers and censors gave David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos”, the freedom to explore subject matter major networks either wouldn’t touch, or could only scratch the surface because of traditional limitations.

Perhaps the most compelling feature of the series is its authenticity. Having grown up in Brooklyn and experienced the “goombah” Italian culture firsthand, it was glorious. Chase mined all the brilliant New York actors who played bit parts in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” and made them household names. Dominic Chianese, Uncle Junior in “The Sopranos”, played the role of Johnny Ola in “The Godfather, Part II”. Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy) each had bit parts with no dialogue in “Goodfellas”. They were so small, in fact, that if you blinked, you missed them.

There are dozens more examples, but the ultimate casting gem was giving the role of Christopher (Chris-ta-fuh!) Moltisanti to Michael Imperioli, who played Spider in “Goodfellas”.  Who didn’t feel cinematic vindication when Christopher shot the bakery kid in the foot during the first season, when he felt slighted because he had to “wait in line for buns”? In the end, Christopher’s arc was just as tragic as Spider’s, but the six seasons we spent with him made the ride worth it.

There is so much more to explore that I could be here for weeks. Books have been written by scholars in the attempt to unpack everything from the major theme of the psychic damage inflicted by an unfit parent, to the Shakespearean influences, and so on.

Personally, the one thing that blows me away is the impact a New York life has had on me, and how it influences everything I do and say. I’ve lived in several different places since “The Sopranos” debuted, and if the show ever comes up in conversation, I’ve had to strenuously explain it to people who have no idea what it’s like to know individuals who are exactly like those characters. Some have been amused; others can’t fathom those characters having any basis in reality.

I will go to my grave with “The Sopranos”. I literally want to be buried with my DVD copies of the series because I have no idea how much time I’ll have to do in purgatory before I get to heaven. I haven’t had the chance to add up all my venial and mortal sins. I sure as hell don’t want to end up playing cards with Roman soldiers every day, and get whacked every night like I did in real life. If you’ve watched the series more than once, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The Metaphorical Wall

Five days into 2019, we are in the midst of a government shutdown, and incessant talk about a border wall. The “wall” talk has been with us ever since Donald Trump decided to run for president, and like every other aspect of his presidency, it is a giant Potemkin village that is all show and no substance.

It is ironic that people like Trump are experts when it comes to construction. They don’t actually build anything tangible, but they excel at throwing up metaphorical walls that frustrate, infuriate, and have the capability of hurting many. While I have to keep in mind that Trump hasn’t ever been officially diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) he exhibits the characteristics of it. Mind you, I am not an expert at diagnosing emotional disorders, but I, and many others have first-hand experience dealing with people who behave similarly to him. That’s why we are triggered by this mendacious, King Lear-ish despot who thinks he has absolute power over the entire world.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone with a narcissistic person, or persons in their lives that Trump is fixated on building a wall. People like him throw up invisible walls that can make life unnecessarily challenging for the rest of us. While these metaphorical walls don’t require any financial commitment, they can be both physically and emotionally devastating. Just look at the havoc the current government shutdown is causing: there are currently 800,000 government employees who are either working without pay, or furloughed until Trump decides to cave on his ridiculous request of $5 billion to build his imaginary wall. And the longer this goes on, the worse it will get. Entire agencies will have to shutter completely in order to satisfy the whims of someone who is categorically unfit to be in the position he holds. If that doesn’t scare you, you are ass-up and completely clueless.

Think for a moment about all those difficult people we must deal with who unhesitatingly throw up barriers that we are tasked with dismantling. It could be a family member, a friend, or colleague who habitually gets in our face with manufactured obstacles we must tear down. And we expend Herculean effort trying to deal with these, to the point where we are the ones who have to seek support to deal with the crises they cause. Meanwhile the “builder” of the wall stands back and gleefully relishes the frenzy before them. People get hurt, and the builder exhibits little to no empathy for the fabrication of anguish being wrought.

Those of you reading this who have had the incredible luck to be spared from a Trump in your life should pay close attention to what is happening. Either you are in denial, or you have some serious emotional issues. Many mental health experts will tell you that narcissists are beyond help and are not capable of changing. My personal solution to dealing with a narcissistic person is to cut them off completely. It is the only way to save yourself; the hell with what the narcissist is thinking or feeling – you must put yourself first in the equation and do whatever is necessary to get yourself as far away from this person, or persons, as possible.

It’s too bad getting rid of Trump won’t be so easy. Years from now, he will likely be a case study in psychology programs at schools all over the world. He will join the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and other malignant figures in history who caused the death and destruction of millions. That is, if we’re still around to contemplate the damage he has done.

Getting Banned From Twitter

I never thought I’d say this, but I have something in common with batshit crazy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Both of us are banned from Twitter.  It seems I am guilty of violating Twitter’s policy of “abusive behavior” because I tweeted something unsavory to the social media platform’s founder, Jack Dorsey.

I may have spent almost two years absent from blogging, but I have been very active on Twitter. After Donald Trump was elected president (I hate saying/writing that), Twitter became a screaming-into-the void outlet for me, because, when has it ever been possible to directly communicate with a United States president? I mean, besides writing a letter addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I became so active on Twitter, I believe the number of times I told Donald Trump to go fuck himself is probably upwards of several hundred. I’ve said other things as well, but I believe my use of the word “fuck” would be considered prolific.

Truth be told, my account was limited by Twitter a couple of times before my permanent suspension was handed out. I can’t remember what the first time was for (thanks, chemo brain), and it was for only 12 hours. The second time, I had the audacity to call odious Fox News pundit, Tomi Lahren, a “bimbo”, and for that I could not tweet for seven days.

Earlier this month, after reading a Washington Post article about Jack Dorsey’s visit to Myanmar to meditate, I channeled my vitriol for his cluelessness into a tweet to that castigated him for visiting a country guilty of ethnic cleansing.

As a Jew whose father survived the Holocaust, you can bet that if there is genocide occurring in the world, I will be aware of it, as will other people who pay attention to such things. Jack Dorsey, however, like so many other Silicon Valley tech billionaires, lives in a tone-deaf bubble of privilege that precludes him from having to worry about things like the suffering of others. So, he takes a 12-day trip to a highly conflicted part of the world, raves about the food and his personal spiritual enlightenment, and totally ignores the fact that thousands of people are dead or displaced because of their race and religious beliefs. I bet before people reacted to his navel-gazing tweets about his trip, he didn’t have the foggiest idea who Rohingya Muslims were, and how much they are suffering at the hands of Myanmar’s Buddhist-controlled government.

With the social ineptitude so common in the tech sector, Dorsey sort of apologized for his navel gazing. Somewhere in the middle of his rhapsodic recounting of self-discovery, getting called out for it, and his quasi-apology, my Twitter account was permanently suspended.

Now let me tell you why my suspension blows my mind: There are several medium-to-high profile tweets quoted in the article I linked above, chastising Dorsey for his actions. NONE of those accounts were suspended. My account, I believe, bit the dust because it was of no consequence to anyone. Per my recollection, I believe I had 73 followers at the time of my suspension, and I had tweeted about 1,200 times since I joined the platform in 2009. The majority of those tweets were made over the past two years. Moreover, I contacted the people who were quoted in the article, along with a few other shit-disturbing people I follow, to let them know what happened. I have not received a response from any of them.

Here is why what happened is so horribly wrong: Twitter, and other popular social media platforms, hide behind their established Terms Of Service (TOS), which allows them to treat people as they see fit, rather than obeying the laws protecting freedom of speech. If you read those lengthy documents, you will see that you are expected to play by their rules. If you don’t, they can shut you down with little to no consequences. A TOS gives any social media platform the right to refuse service to anyone, outside of your First Amendment rights as an American citizen.

Because I am a piss-ant tweeter of little consequence, my account was suspended. The people who did not get suspended create revenue and exposure for Twitter, because millions of people access the platform daily to check out what these people are saying. These people feel the need to respect the TOS, so they don’t wind up in the same situation as me and Alex Jones. They might go to jail to protect a high-profile government source who funnels information to them about what’s really happening in the White House, but some anonymous schmuck like me means nothing to them.

I believe that if Donald Trump never became president, Twitter would have likely folded. It has been on a roller-coaster ride since going public, and if not for the moron in the Oval Office, and his constant, stream-of-consciousness tweets, it would have bitten the dust. Moreover, it has become a verbose cesspool of misinformation, depending on who you follow, which does not bode well for the future of democracy. Apparently, attempting to clean it up will further imperil Twitter’s future in the world of tech and social media. I say let it die. There has to be a better way to communicate.

Let’s face it; the last decade of my life has been rife with personal and financial struggles, and the last thing I should be bitching and moaning about is getting banned from Twitter. But, you know what? I’m pissed anyway. In a country where the middle class is all but extinct, and the educated have to dumb themselves down to make a living a  notch or two above the poverty line, this is some fucked up shit. You can pander to the TOSs of all the social media platforms you subscribe to, and make a shit-ton of money. Or, you can speak your mind and get fucked. It all depends on where you are in the pecking order. Clearly, I am a bottom dweller whose words are inconsequential.

I will keep fighting. Fuck you, Donald Trump, and fuck you, Jack Dorsey. History will ultimately not be kind to either of you. Hopefully, the little people like me will rise up and overcome the oppression of your algorithms, TOSs, and everything else you want to throw at us.

Oh, and I was able to create another account: Please follow me @TweetsNava.

The Curse of What Iffing

As someone four-and-a-half years removed from a breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve reached the point in my recovery where I “what if” myself all the time. I’ve moved past the consistent routine of doctors appointments and testing that were de rigueur during treatment and the clinical trial I took part in. That leaves me with a lot of spare time, and plenty of room in my brain case to ponder what I did or didn’t do during my treatment.

For example, I keep going back to the four week period between chemotherapy and radiation where I seriously considered not doing radiation. At that point, I’d had a PET scan and 16 chemo treatments that, as far as I was concerned, killed enough evil in my body and psyche. I didn’t see the point in roasting myself, as I referred to it, on top of all that. The logic wasn’t there. But, I went ahead and did it. The problem I had was, what if I don’t do it and the cancer comes back? So, I went ahead and submitted myself to 34 trips to the giant rotisserie.

Then, after my oncologist and I determined that I was really and truly post-menopausal, I decided to switch from Tamoxifen, the gold-standard of estrogen-inhibiting drugs, to an aromatase inhibitor, which is meant to kill any remaining estrogen your pituitary gland might have the audacity to secrete. I spent eight months of misery on that drug, and boy was I sorry. I went back to Tamoxifen and promised to re-visit the situation once I’ve been on it a full five years.

In December, 2017, I discovered that I had atrial flutter, which is an irregular heartbeat. I was subjected to a battery of tests and had to take a beta blocker and blood thinner for a couple of months. Then, I scheduled myself for a procedure called a cardiac ablation, where a doctor specializing in cardiac electrophysiology, went up through my leg with electrodes to zap the area of my heart that was not beating regularly. A year later, my heart is fine, but I still cannot feel parts of my right leg.

Just before Thanksgiving, I came down with a cold and cough so epic, I thought I would never recover. Pre-cancer, I never had any issues with my lungs, save for one episode of bronchitis when I was in my 30s. Now, any cold I get settles immediately in my left lung, making me cough and wheeze like a three-pack-a-day smoker. I’ve never before felt a rattling sensation in my lung, and it is not pleasant. And for the record, I halfheartedly smoked Parliament cigarettes for about five minutes in high school.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about over-treatment of breast cancer. The consensus now seems to suggest that women are receiving too much chemo and too many sessions on the rotisserie. Given that my diagnosis included a spread to my lymph nodes, I was told that the treatment I received would be very aggressive. What I wasn’t told was how bad the fallout would be years after treatment ended. I don’t think there is any doctor who would tell you that residual side effects from cancer treatment don’t change you physically and psychologically, but I do think there is a pact among medical professionals to downplay the aftermath. For example, the cardiologist who performed the ablation procedure, along with the general cardiologist I saw prior, were both reluctant to admit that my heart problems might have been caused by radiation treatment. In my case, it’s easier to say, you’re an overweight, middle-aged woman, what do you expect? Of  course you’re going to have heart problems at some point. Not that it matters now; the damage is done and I have to deal with the consequences of my decisions.

It’s human nature to question yourself when you get to a certain point in life. So many questions start with the phrase, “What if…” that you want to delete it from your vocabulary. I have my share of regrets, but the most difficult ones to reconcile are the ones that have to do with the decisions I’ve made about my health. It sucks to feel like shit for as long as I have, and to have trained professionals de-emphasize what you’ve been through. I’ve been gone since the dawn of the “Me Too” movement, and many people think this is a problem experienced only by women. I’m not so sure. Maybe if the medical establishment treated its patients with more empathy, I wouldn’t feel this way.

What if we could be kinder to each other and not look at each other like parts on an assembly line? What if we stopped and listened instead of trying to wrap things up quickly in order to move on to the next task? What if…

 

Returning From Self-Imposed Exile

It’s been almost two years since I last blogged. It’s been almost two years since I’ve done any writing at all. It got to the point where I was exhausted by all the topics I blogged about, and I simply needed to get away from them all. Granted I am not a ridiculously successful, famous author who’s been hiding away in a secluded cabin in the woods (Annie Proulx is literally somewhere in my midst) contemplating my next roman à clef; I’ve been toiling at other things, and quite honestly, did not miss putting pen to paper.

So, what have I been doing? I’ve been working in an administrative capacity, earning a weekly paycheck and not subjecting myself to the humiliation of attempting to earn a living writing for less-than-a-penny-a-word content mills. The world of online line content has sunken to hideous lows, as we all know, and I no longer have the desire to attempt to earn a meager living writing crap I’m not proud of. Instead, I’ve regularly been telling Donald Trump to “go fuck himself” on Twitter, along with disturbing other shit that’s gotten me banned from the platform, twice. It’s been entertaining for the most part, but I lately find myself yearning to get back to writing more than 280 characters at a time.

I’ve got a lot to say, and I am once again ready to say it. Keep an eye on this space for the piss and vinegar of yore, new and improved after a long silence.

We don’t need Margaret Atwood to tell us we live in a dystopian universe.

 

 

I have to begin by saying I am not a fan of Margaret Atwood’s books. I did, however, recently read her seminal novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, because it seemed apropos given the current events we are witnessing. Moreover, it’s been years since I attempted one of her works. Since my brain has been rewired by chemotherapy, my taste in literature has changed slightly, along with my sense of smell.

Continue reading We don’t need Margaret Atwood to tell us we live in a dystopian universe.

I Wanna Be a Hot Size 4 Like Mama June Shannon

“There’s a Smokin’ Hot Mama Waiting to Bust Out”, and you can watch her on WE tv. Yes, Mama June, the notorious mother of Honey Boo Boo, the chubby little beauty pageant queen from Toddlers & Tiaras who captured the hearts of redneck America, has undergone a radical transformation to keep that reality television income flowing.

Mama June, otherwise known as June Shannon, 37, shocked American television viewers with her redneck lifestyle, her four children sired by three different men, and the leveraging of her youngest child, Alana, as a child beauty pageant queen. As if Toddlers & Tiaras wasn’t a horrifying enough look into a world where parents enter their children into creepy beauty pageants in order to earn a few bucks, and more importantly, live vicariously through their offspring, TLC, the network that hatched the original series, gave Mama June, Alana and their family their own reality series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Continue reading I Wanna Be a Hot Size 4 Like Mama June Shannon

Donald Trump Has Us All Distraught

I knew it was going to take a significant something to light a fire under my ass to get me blogging again. I’ve spent the last three months marinating in the American people’s decision to award Donald Trump the presidency, and watching seemingly everyone who swears they didn’t cast a vote for him become completely unhinged (myself included). Friends, family members, colleagues, online acquaintances, and even complete strangers find themselves at odds with each other over how the most unlikely candidate for the big chair is actually managing to sit in it.

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There’s A Lot I Can Say That I’m Not Gonna Say…

Image result for Images of Janice Soprano

One of my favorite characters in The Sopranos was unquestionably Aida Turturro‘s portrayal of Tony’s sister Janice. Their fictional relationship reminds me of my own relationship with my brother, but that’s a story for another time.

Someone recently asked me what was going on with my blog, and it struck me that I’ve been remiss in blogging for almost four full months. Let me tell you why: I started working full-time last May, and between freelancing for so long, and all the vile medical treatments I had to undergo post-cancer diagnosis, I was tired of pushing myself to write. Yes, some writers have to push themselves, and I count myself among those who do. I’ve also realized that for the time being, I don’t miss writing.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that I’ve been very vocal lately. I’ve taken an active anti-Trump stance, and at present, I am content to leave the heavy lifting to others. I will disseminate writing that I feel needs to be read, but for now, I will not be doing any of it myself. I’ve shoveled a lot of shit against a very strong tide for a long time now, and I need a break. For now, I am putting some long-dormant skills of mine to good use – for people who appreciate it – and to maintain a level of sanity I’d denied myself for too long. I no longer have to chase my income; it comes to me once a week without fail.

“Toodle-fucking-oo” for now. But remember, I will be back. And I will have lots to say.

Sarah Jessica Parker Channels Donna Karan With Stash

Image result for Images of SJP StashFor about a decade, serious perfume aficionados had to endure bombardment with celebrity scents that were churned out by the dozens. Most of them were insipid fruity- florals with no imagination that were meant to appeal to teeny-boppers, and anyone into smelling like a combination of fruit cocktail and cotton candy. “Celebuscents” are still out there, but they now seem to be relegated to the shelves of WalMart and Target, and on discount e-tailer websites.

Continue reading Sarah Jessica Parker Channels Donna Karan With Stash