Being an Intellectual in Radical Times

Adolf Hitler and Che Gueverra were both socialists with different views of what was right. Both hated art (unless it was about them) and destroyed art and artists. They both killed people for different reasons. The same occurred within the communist movement and amongst religious zealots in history who wanted to take control over people. They have killed people too for different reasons. All thought they were fair, right and just for doing so. Now we have the feminist radicals who have gone to the extremes in many ways. We are no longer just seeing “Women are better than men,” thought processes but witch hunts from the “MeToo” movement and destruction of art, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” to fit their purposes. They are destroying men and art and even women who don’t agree with them for the sake of beliefs that they believe is right and just. This radical approach to turning the world around to their perspective, and this causes them to be incapable of looking at another side of things or listen to their instincts (not their ego). The “I am Right and You are Wrong,” is like with any radical thought process mentioned above, it is always “wrong,” as it is based on the ego, not a mature mindset and destroys society.

To be an intellectual, you have to be a mature person who is capable of criticizing art from an intelligent standpoint vs. a radical opinion. I personally hate most modern art but I still recognize the value of the contribution. I don’t hate all of it because I find that some modern art actually peaks my interest. I think most everyone can stare at a red dot on a white background and say, “Oh, I could do that,” and then the cliché’d phrase will be, “Yes, but you didn’t.” The point is that I wouldn’t say “It is stupid or ridiculous,” just because it doesn’t suit my tastes. Instead, I would comment on the piece and talk about what about it doesn’t suit me. The fact that the piece of art has captured someone’s attention, that they can make some decisions about it and agree that it is their perception and not a given, is being an intellectual.

An intellectual is capable of having a broad perspective because they have knowledge of history, art, theater, politics, or a well-rounded education on the world around them. You might not agree with them but you don’t have to. There is democracy in a conversation where people are “arguing” that the film had artistic merit but did not really engage you as a storyline. It ceases to be an intellectual discussion when you are just there to get people on your side. Politics have become like a gang where it is all about whether you are on the red team or the blue team. There is no longer an intellectual discussion about politics, amongst the political; there is only death to the other side who is “stupid” and “wrong.” We have missed out on so much with the lack of verbal intercourse.

I was on a group recently on Facebook which was a fan club for classic films. A woman was destroying “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because it didn’t fit within the politically correct realms of today’s society. She and another woman were making non-intellectual judgements about the film and got a few others to join in. I questioned this because I wondered “Why are you in a ‘fan’ club if you are here to bash the films?” The moderator at this point doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It is a movie, so worrying about whether or not a cat is thrown out of a taxi is not relevant. This is not an animal rights documentary. It is relevant that people have to make tough decisions at times in their life. City life is not conducive to having pets. At that time, there weren’t “animal rescue groups,” so it was feasible that an action like this may have happened. It was about the story and the passionate place the character was in. Audrey Hepburn’s character hated having to do this act, which was more than obvious in her facial expressions, but felt forced to. In the end “cat” (the name of the cat character) came back into her lap “and they lived happily ever after.” Even then, the director knew it would not make American’s happy to see a cat being thrown away. We, as a whole, like happy endings.

The woman leading the bash of the movie also suggested that she just couldn’t get into the film. I told her she should try and put herself in that time period, rather than coming from the perspective of 2018. This is the problem with radical people. They bash history on film, paintings, songs, statues, books, all because they are incapable of putting themselves in the shoes of those that came before then. History is not about 2018. To try and judge others in 1815 or 1938 or 1960 by 2018 standards is missing the lessons of that time. It is disrespectful to our ancestors.

Paintings are all we have, until the creation of the camera, to show us what life was like in those different centuries. Yes, bad things did happen then but you don’t destroy art because you are uncomfortable with history. Women who posed nude for paintings were distraught peasant women who were desperate for a penny. They took their clothes off because it was easier than washing clothes all day long for the same amount of money. I am quite sure they were sexually abused by some artists or the men who watched the artists paint. We don’t destroy the masterpiece because of this; we discuss it and have an opinion on this. We certainly don’t take the piece of art out of the gallery because we found out the woman in the painting was sexually abused or paid only a penny.

“Baby it’s Cold Outside,” is a song. It was written by a husband and wife team in a time period when there was no social media. People actually gathered together in people’s homes to have conversations and enjoyed each other’s company. They “liked” each other in real life. They became “friends” with people they met, through others, at these gatherings which boasted lots of food, song, games and plenty of booze.  I was a kid then but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed watching people laugh and dance. Later, as an adult, I went to a few parties in the 20 years before the Internet became a “thing.”

The song “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” was created to get people to go home (hint, hint). The couple who created and sang this song became quite the item at parties and were actually invited to come and sing this song at the end. Later on, the husband sold the rights to the song, (which upset his wife), to the studios and the rest became history; as it floated up the charts. Cleveland women recently became enraged by this and forced radio stations to stop playing it because the song made them uncomfortable. I have no idea whether it was the action of a feminist organization in Cleveland or just a bunch of radicals who took the initiative. Once there were a local group of women in Salem, Massachusetts, who determined to get back at older intelligent women and thus many people (I believe 19 was the number) were hung for witchcraft. They were not witches, just people that they wanted to destroy.

Rap music on the other hand, also art, but mostly written and “spoken” to a racist audience (not much different than if the Neo-Nazi group began a type of spoken word), and as in most cases; written to destroy people. The Neo-Nazi movement is not much different than inner city folks who feel their rights are being impinged upon. Different history but the same philosophical anger. Rap music once had to be given ratings to protect children from listening to Rated R words, but now parents do not seem to care at all. At least, I haven’t heard of any measures to protect from these newer lyrics which continue to degrade. This music is now allowed by the White slaves of the Politically Correct movement. People who have been shut down by social media for having an opinion so they acquiesce to save face. You can’t say anything wrong about Black people in today’s society because you are considered a racist, even if they are making racist or sexually degrading comments about your person. You can say something wrong about Neo-Nazi groups because it is taboo in today’s society; even though we are in a democracy, where they do have freedom of speech. (Now I must make a disclaimer to ignorant people who may catch this article and state that I am not a Neo-Nazi, I am making an intellectual statement). Therefore, as we see White slaves to the PC movement in today’s society, it is okay to play rap music on the radio but not a cute, flirtatious, song like “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” that was written by a man for his wife.

Personally, I find the play “Hamilton,” extremely offensive as it panders to White slaves of the Politically Correct movement as well. It is racist against White people because it is destroying our culture by putting Black people in the role of White people, showing that figures in history are just meaningless insignificant people and it is not relevant what their race was. It is dishonest because it is lying about history and making a mockery of it at the same time. Playing rap music for the ignorant who aren’t capable of coming to a historical play with some merit; if it were to use music, costumes, hairstyles, from that time period. It is art of course but it is dishonest. Just like the art work that depicted witches as devil worshippers or ugly old hags with pointy black hats, torn black dresses and striped stockings in pointy toed shoes. Most intelligent people today know that this is dishonest and ridiculous but we don’t throw it in the trash. It is a testament to how far the religious zealots went to force pagans, witches and druids, into Christianity or other religions. It is part of history because it reminds us of how ignorant people were (or still are). One day the play “Hamilton” will, hopefully, at some point in the future, be a testament to the ignorance of our society today. Especially when children become confused about historical characters and forget about the history of African’s who were forced into slavery around that same time period.

Films today, in America and abroad, have sought to expand upon themes by placing politically correct but historical inaccurate characters in period pieces. Thanks to the radical celebrities – many who had no artistic merit in the first place, to be considered for an Academy Award, complained that there weren’t enough awards given to the Black people; so the Oscars were therefore racist. It didn’t matter that the awards were voted on by a very diverse group of people, from around the world. The Oscars are voted on by members of the Academy – which equals people who are past recipients. It also didn’t matter that the films, that were selected for awards, along with those who worked on the production; were of superb quality. The fact that enough actors weren’t of color – not the fact that they weren’t grade “A” professionals, but not enough, was more significant. This caused White slavery of the Politically Correct world to become more international. Now you see period pieces where black people are thrown in, even though they would not have been there (in that time period). You will also see the proverbial gay character storyline; attached to all these films – even though this was very rare then, as it is now, and has nothing really to do with the time period or storyline. Having the gay storyline in the film is not much different than having a sex scene that just isn’t relevant and is only there for the sake of having a sex scene (e.g. Death Comes to Pemberley). This is not how art is congratulated.

Films should be awarded a prize because an actor has gone to a place that is exceptional and on a level that far exceeds. My feeling about the Oscars being “racist” is that if the Black community wants Oscars, they should make better quality films. This comment is not based on “Let them eat cake,” a cliché from history; that was taken out of context in that time period. It is a comment based on Black films I have ventured to watch that were uninteresting, typical or copycat. Copycat by taking storylines from “White” movies to begin with and turned them into Black, which lacks originality (of course this is typical for Americans – who steal from foreign films all the time).

Meanwhile there are many men and women in Black history; that exceptional movies could be made about. By only creating movies about the inner city or slavery, it is saying that there were no intelligent Black people in history, that accomplished something worthy of value or merit; which could be turned into a movie. And yet, notable Black people in history, has the potential to be a storyline worthy of merit. It would show society exactly what this culture wants us to know. With good trained actors and exceptional focus on detail (clothes, plot, cinematography, direction, history) there are so many untold stories – why the need to steal movies that have been done? Why are ignorant White people trying to take care of them by inserting them into films where they wouldn’t have been? This is even worse because White directors are saying that they feel sorry for the Black culture so they will give them a job to make them feel better. It is insulting to their culture that they have to be placed in historically inaccurate roles because they weren’t capable of doing anything on their own.

It is not art, however,  when people flock to the streets and demand that statues of General Robert E. Lee be destroyed. It is ignorant people who aren’t capable of opening a history book so that they understand this human being had nothing to do with slavery. Perhaps they need to make a rap musical about him and have General Robert E. Lee played by a Black actor so that our uneducated audience can understand. This is art being destroyed because our society wants to pick and choose what is acceptable art and what is not acceptable, not much different than what Adolf Hitler did in his rise to power.

All art is acceptable as it makes a statement, whether we like it or not. Whether it is offensive or not is a personal viewpoint and the point of art. We shouldn’t shut down or destroy this as it is a reminder of the times. We should see a statue of Adolf Hitler or Che Gueverra or a Communist Leader or a religious zealot and it should make us angry. The job of art is to get a rise out of people, whether negative or positive. This is no different than selling “Mein Kampf,” at the book store, which was written by Hitler and explains his way of thinking. This is education, it builds a stronger intellect to learn and understand. General Robert E. Lee was a soldier who was chosen to lead the south; after he turned down leading the north. It was based on family and his upbringing not on his personal views about slavery. The Civil War wasn’t created to put an end to slavery; it was a war about gaining power because the southerners were in disagreement with the northerners and wanted to split the country. It is not much different from the Republicans and Democrats fighting for attention and power today. The difference is we are no longer in different sections of the country; political sides are mixed together in each state.

Then there is fashion; another form of art. It is not art to wear holey blue jeans 24/7 and have no respect for ones’ self. This is not style, it is laziness. Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Poiret, Schiaperelli, and others; this is art and significant to call fashion. They are masterpieces whereas jeans, they are merely graffiti on the wall, by the train station of a freeway underpass. Anna Wintour has decided to focus on having a penchant for politics rather than keeping her perspective strictly on clothing and style. Fashion is based on politics and the current events of the day but those in this field don’t ignore art or style simply because they don’t like their husband. Therefore, talking down about Melania Trump who has brought back elegance, style, intelligence, in a way that is reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy, a true connoisseur of fashion would applaud this not destroy it. An intelligent person would not make fun of a woman who speaks multiple languages and is said to have a high I.Q. and appears to be a dedicated mother and wife. She is “in vogue,” for all these reasons which should be enough for the magazine. Anna Wintour would not have gotten away with her behavior in a more dignified society of our past. She continues to bring down the magazine in agreement with the radical opinions of women in our society today. She ignores the point of the magazine, which was to accede to high fashion. The magazine was made for elite women not radical feminists. We have MS. Magazine that was created for feminists and many others that have followed since then.

How far will we go in the destruction of art in our radical society today before we have completely annihilated authentic history and a fondness for nostalgia? The women’s movement, originally, was not created to destroy history but to improve upon the conditions for women and children in the future. The feminist movement sought to continue this once we had the right to vote and gave rise to new expectations for women and children in the workplace and society. This has nothing to do with replacing art with more comfortable lyrics, paintings, or theater productions. Abolitionists sought to give freedom to all people and the NAACP movement and other Black organizations were created to protect their rights, not destroy art and re-create history to massage their egos.

We are in a place in society where we have no sense of values, only extremist mindsets, which have created group think. Social media has caused fear and unrest from bullying, lies, conspiracy theories, and turned all news into sensationalist rags. We can no longer handle the truth and this is not an intelligent society but a very ignorant, intellectually depleted group of people who are destroying our Earth. Will we ever start rising up again or are we destined toward a future that is ruled by violence rather than intellect?

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Sophia Loren – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This book is one you don’t devour. You take your time, stirring, simmering and seasoning as if you are making a pot of soup or stew. Sophia is a Virgo, which is most of my astrological chart, except the first dominant three. I sensed a grounded woman almost immediately. A person who has taken her time and made the right choices; which led her down a path that would make her a very happy woman. As a Leo, who has made all the wrong choices, very impatiently and innocently, when you have done these things, only then can you truly appreciate someone who is smarter than you. Patience really is a virtue.

While reading the pages of her book, I immersed myself in everything Sophia. I began to look up films on YouTube, but then as luck would have it, Film Struck dedicated a week to Sophia and I had many of the Italian films right at my fingertips. Thankfully, they devoted most of her footage to the old stock from Europe rather than the cheesy “We need an Italian” American movies. I was rather embarrassed to look at a trailer for Houseboat and see that she was darkened with make-up, since no one, in 1958, was capable of accepting she was Italian without it. Odd, since at that time we had a huge Italian population in America.

As she writes in her book, she is more adept at filming in her own country, when she is portraying herself, her mother, her grandmother, and her neighbors. This is clear because she is more natural, less scripted, in her normal color, unafraid to look worn and “ugly,” and not making us think the entire time “Oh look it is Sophia Loren,” like you do when you watch an American actress on film. I think I like her in films more, when she is in a worn out dress, her hair is a mess, she is in her (what seems like) signature slip on sandals and she is fighting for whatever she is passionate about. This type of role is more of an emotional investment than a film where she is just being a pretty woman. Although in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” it is interesting seeing her portray three different types of women in various personalities. It is almost as if you are getting a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I know I always bash my own country when it comes to cinema but being a foreign film fanatic there is such a huge difference. The answer came for me when I read her book. You are not getting a “tell-all” fraught with sexual harassment stories. There is no political agenda or a feminist bitch-fest which is riddled with “What’s wrong with men,” tales. Instead, you find that she is a professional and holds in high esteem her fellow actors that she worked with. When they were on the set, they had cooking contests or pulled pranks on each other. In her case, her mother came to the set with her while she was starting out. The only time this ceased was when she was meeting her future husband for the first time, producer Carlo Ponti.

When I watched interviews with her, she was very careful in the way she answered questions. Very diplomatic, intelligent enough to remain appearing innocent, though you knew she saw the journalists attempt to get her to “dish the dirt,” using her English as her second language as a tool to stall and prepare.

Naturally, I followed some of Marcello’s interviews as well, as he and Sophia were in some very important movies together. I was embarrassed when David Letterman tried desperately to turn him into a player (which he is) and make him seem dirty to Americans. It is a different lifestyle, a player in Europe vs. a player in America. The Europeans have more tact which results in their escapades being very classy and fashionable. Not that I agree with it or condone this, but it is their business. Here we are more focused (in the last couple of decades) on trashing what used to be alluring, exotic, and only for the mature.

When you see Foreign films, you do get a sense of professionals coming together to make dramatic stories come to life. Even when they are quirky and abstract, such as Frederico Fellini or Pier Paolo Pasolini, it comes together like a typical novel turned into a film, only with the long bits chopped out and the most important scenes smashed together through facial expressions. Serious actors who are trained by great directors and who can relax into the role are able to do these things.

Today, in American films, you have the nouveau riche who started out working hard but are now just entitled adults who can only sell overacted pieces. You get the sense that they are all having one big orgy, especially when they spend an interview flirting with each other and behaving like children. The films are not deep and cerebral, they seem geared toward children. Adults playing action heros are no longer spellbinding as “Superman” once was, or the first “Batman.” Now, everyone is doing it so it is cliché.  I am more interested in the craft, being transported into another place and time, people who appear so much in character that you don’t recognize them. In interviews, I want to see grown-ups behaving like professionals. It feels embarrassing to watch because I know they are going to dread these interviews when they become older and are “has beens” desperate for all the money they spent.

When I watch Sophia Loren in her movies, I think how Penelope Cruz has taken after her in her ability to portray women in despair and not utilize her good looks (this is what the modeling world is for). I think of a good friend that I grew up with, who is Hungarian and who naturally has that sense of being European that I am completely incapable of creating somatically; no matter how hard I try. Those nuances which catch you off guard: a tilt of the lips, a shift in the eyebrow, the movement of the hips, for example that can’t be caught on camera through a third or fourth (and so on) generation.

My favorite film with she and Marcello would be “Sunflower,” which I had to disagree with her on. She spoke of Marcello playing a character similar to Don Dummi in “Marriage – Italian Style,” and I think she mentioned the character from “Too Bad She is Bad.” Nonetheless, she was speaking of a character as a bad boy. On the contrary, I was so moved by the story and his character which from a psychological perspective, the background scenery in the film; was captured quite well. One sensed that the Russian wife understood this but the Italian wife continued to have disdain for her lover. Of course the Russian wife (a single parent) was simply looking for a husband that she went looking for one day; while walking through wounded soldiers. Whereas the Italian wife was terribly and hopelessly in love; seeking emotional revenge in the end. Like in a Fellini or Pasolini film, there is one character, a surviving Italian soldier stranded in Russia, who gives us that snapshot or foreshadowing of what is to come. Psychologically, Antonio was not a bad boy. He was grateful to his protector and felt as if yesterday, as an Italian, had disappeared or maybe it was a dream.

Many years ago I saw “Two Women,” the one film she won an Academy Award for. I felt that she should when I saw it. I don’t think the Internet was around at the time I viewed the story so I only learned this from the book. Also from reading her story, I understood that she was playing a character in a time period she had once lived through. This took on new meaning for me.

Last night, I re-watched Marcello and Sophia in “A Special Day,” which was a gay film that isn’t trying to be a gay film like those we hear about in America today. Again, it is the nuance of a phone call; a slight mention that one has to pay close attention to.  His character is discreet, careful, cautious and classy. Later he has to be more obvious because Sophia’s character is too innocent and lacks street smarts. The ending is tragic in a quiet way for Marcello’s character, while Sophia’s appears to be saying silently “Well, I guess it is back to business,” in her household. Terribly emotional and hard to fight back the tears that you feel rising up from your chest. The second ending is the landlady, who has played a small yet pivotal role hoping to divide the characters. She stands in front of her building working a double entendre as she speaks to her tenants. It was perfect. I am not sure young people or new people to foreign films about World War II would quite understand the intent of this scene. Watch a few more films and then come back to it, if so.

What I loved about the writing in this book was how grateful Sophia Loren is for her life. She tells you over and over again, in so many ways, that she does not take one single thing for granted. I am not sure she realizes that she did do all the right things (not to say she was perfect), as she never lived a life where you do all the wrong things. Her gratefulness is her modesty. It is all her characters rolled up into one thanking the directors, the producers, the family, the audience for helping them to be portrayed in such an honest way. For telling the stories that wanted to be told and creating a space for the unsung heroines of Italian heritage.

What I saw is that she wanted to be a star but she didn’t sleep her way to the top. She was desperate but not stupid. As I mentioned, her mother was there. She worked very hard to understand her roles, to study acting, to listen to her directors and respect them. She wanted to be a wife and mother and patiently waited for her turn with Carlo. When she had her children, they became a priority for her. She talks of her love for the children and how they changed her life. It is quite clear that we won’t be getting a “Mommie Dearest,” book from Eduardo or Carlo Jr. She talks of how she consciously looked over her boys, and how she and Carlo Sr. recognized the talents each had to offer, early on. One son became a director and the other; an orchestral conductor. Having seen one of Eduardo’s movies “The Human Voice,” featuring his mother, this is not a famous man’s son doing his best. He is a man who stands alone. I feel there will be more great things to come.

It is so much easier to be grateful when you have done all the right things and good things happened to you as a result. I am reminded of that first line in “Anna Karenina” by Leo  Tolstoy. I continued to learn as I read her book and took it in on a philosophical level. At this stage in my life, almost 30 years behind her, I am looking back at life in a very spiritually contemplative way. It was not an accident that her book happened to be at the library one day in the “used books for sale” room. I love going through there to find stories I can keep and I had been meaning to buy Sophia’s book through Amazon for some time now (on my wish list). Like when I was a young girl and the library presented so many magical surprises, now the same occurs for me as an adult only I am helping fund the library at the same time.

As I came to the end of her book, she mentioned that her husband had been the producer of “Dr. Zhivago,” when discussing an homage that she and her sons put together in memory of him. Suddenly, he became much more than Sophia Loren’s husband and producer of many of her films. I had no idea that he was responsible for such a beloved masterpiece. This was a nice surprise. Their love story was not quite one that I came to really understand and relate to, as I have never been married for 56 years or a long time relationship period. I have never been able to understand women who are with men twenty to thirty years their senior either, as I was never quite mature enough to undertake such a flirtation. Perhaps other women, like my Hungarian friend will cling to this like an old soul.

I was able to relate to her male counterparts that came to nothing more than friendship, soul mates or a missed out on love that probably would have come to nothing anyway. Having watched a great deal of her films as I read the book and viewing photos of she and her family online, I came to respect this very professional woman whom I once saw, only, as another sexy actress. I hope you will re-visit her work as well and see how it impacts your life.

Alaine Polcz – Hungarian Writer and Psychologist

In her book, “A Wartime Memoir: Hungary 1944-1945,”Alaine tells about a life changing year that instead of being her downfall, became her life’s purpose. Sitting ducks with a changing guard, from Russian to German on an on-going, what seemed like a never ending basis, she travels from Transylvania (then hoping to remain with Hungary) to Csákvár, in Hungary and back again. In the end, you can imagine the frustration in knowing, if she had never left, her life would have remained simple an innocent.

What is beautiful about this book is that she is not talking like a psychologist but instead, goes back in her mind to re-live painfully traumatic experiences at the age of 19, as if she were that age once more. As a psychotherapist myself, I get the sense that she probably never went through her own course of treatment. This is because she continues to repeat over and over “I do not remember…” This is typical of a sexual abuse survivor or someone who was horribly traumatized at a young age and blocks the exact details of the trauma from their mind, for their own “assumed” well-being. Ironic, as she was a psychologist yet even today, people in this profession are closed off to doing their own work. It is important so that they can properly support others without transferring their own pain onto the client or confusing the client’s story with their own. I am not condemning her though because this was more typical of this time period. I grew up with Hungarians (refugees from the revolution), none of whom went into therapy and all of whom went through some of their own harrowing ordeals. Not least of which was fleeing their beloved homeland.

Alaine was born in Kolozsvár, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (at this time known as the city of Cluj-Napoca). Now it is Romania and it was in 1944-1945 as well. This was a time of unrest between the Romanians and Hungarians, power struggles on the Romanian part that included violence and discrimination against the Hungarians who lived there. Alaine’s father gave her this male name because of two reasons. One, he did not know French and so unaware that it was a man’s name but Two, his only purpose was finding a name that was not able to be translated into Romanian.

At the onset of 1944, Alaine, at 19, was married to her childhood sweetheart János. Within a few months into their honeymoon period, he gives her gonorrhea. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, it is at this point when he detaches from her and begins to be an emotionally abusive husband. She has the luck of being a strong woman, though terribly naïve. His mother, Mami, happens to work for the Esterházy family, who are of noble origins. It is here that they will go to live and because of him that she follows the family as they escape into Hungary to live and work at another estate, which will be the beginning of the end of Alaine’s life as she knows it. In Csákvar, what seems to bring some peace and safety for a short time, ends up being the front lines, which means constant harassment or torture from either the Germans or the Russians. For women, as with all wars, she and other villagers will be gang raped on what appears to be a daily basis, and at this time, she is under the impression that her husband was executed. The most impressive lines that she writes of her first account of abuse goes like this:

He put the photograph [of she and her husband] on the nightstand and laid me down on the bed. I was afraid he would not give me the picture. When he was done, he took the picture into his hand and showed it to me again…

When she writes, she is not writing like a writer in this book.  She states facts, over and over. There are no pictures drawn and yet there is a story being told. Fuzzy memories are re-told and sometimes they are not even in order, so you have to re-read to catch yourself. It is as if you are sitting with her and she is telling you a story. When I got to the line “When he was done,” it came at me so quickly; I had to read it a few times to let it register. “Oh, okay,” I thought, this is how she is protecting herself and the audience. Even though she is not talking like a psychologist, she is consciously protecting throughout the book.

At some point, days, maybe a month or so later, she is escorted to a cellar, with 79 other Hungarians, who are doing their best to survive. They will go through days or months (you are never sure of the timeline but the book is only one year), of not bathing, very little food and at one point no water, ritual defecating and urinating (they can only go outside to do this during the 10 minutes of ceasefire which occurs daily at the same time), as well as lice and natural body odors. She is only with Mami and her dachshund “Filike,” who she holds at her breast, under a coat which no one notices until the end of her time there.

Alaine does spend a lot of time talking about blood and guts and waste, more than any other writer I have seen when it comes to war zones. One does wonder how people use the toilet during these times. When she mentions herself running away from a gang rape sequence, she talks about running through the snow with a slip on and blood being caked on her body and in her panties. She mentions being in the cellar when she pulls her shirt away from her body and a woman notices the skin of a sore coming with it. She is telling us about how you just keep going, no matter what, becoming oblivious to your own vanity.

The war is at the end, in 1945, when this part of her story comes to a close. She returns to Budapest, still without her husband, to be reunited with family; who will then return to Kolozsvár. She is saved from being labeled a whore, as most women will be in this time period, because her family are good people and she finally denies what happened. By this time the gonorrhea and the life conditions she has just endured have taken its toll on her body. She is hospitalized for some time before she will recover and get some of her life back. The irony is that she will never be able to bear a child and this was the fault of her own husband. The sardonic twist is the realization that all those Russian soldiers had went home to their wives passing on her venereal disease to them.

She and János will part ways and soon she will meet her second husband Miklós Mészöly, who went on to become a famous Hungarian writer. Alaine will go on to become the founder of the first children’s hospice program and win two different awards. She receives the Tibor Déry Award in 1992 (for this book, which was written in 1991) and The Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 2001. Alaine’s husband dies in 2001 and she will pass six years later.

Post-Script: What is horribly frustrating about the book is the writing and translation. Albert Tezla is the translator and having read a great number of translated books from several different countries, this is pathetic. You would almost think he didn’t speak English because the sentences come across as broken and unedited. I believe he is translating word for word, rather than trying to put it together in some organized fashion. It is also possible that Alaine was never edited since Albert was not either. I think this is embarrassing to both the writer and the country itself. While I am not a prolific writer myself and certainly need to be edited, I am self-published and have no professional acclaim to add to my repertoire.  I was disappointed to say the least. However, this story, edited or not, annoying with the redundancy or not, needed to be told. What I have noticed when I find anything about women in history, this is so often the case. It is sad because I can’t recall any time when I have seen the same about men.

Barre Girl at 55; Do you plié?

If you have ever been one of those women, like me, who has sat by the sidelines for years wishing your mom would have let you be in a ballet class, now there is a new fitness craze created just for you! Barre classes are springing up all over the nation designed to, well, what I call nurture your inner ballerina.

It is hardly a ballet class and yet there is just a hint of it. You will do some plié’s and use first and second position (possibly other positions depending on the instructor) and if you have arthritis setting in, like me, will use the barre more than most people. Mostly you will do planks, downward facing dog, put a ball between your thighs or hold onto it with your back leg in the air. You will do side planks, lift your legs up while in the plank and a lot of other difficult maneuvers (if you are 55). None of this would have been too daunting for me as a 20 year old, back in the 80’s when I was already in advanced yoga and had done gymnastics as a child. It’s a dream class come true a little too late but I am not giving up nor should you. Stick with it and you will begin to have some shape again where the sagging has long begun and if you are young, get going as you will have so much fun!

Recently at one of my classes, taught by Krystal at the Phillip Heit Center in New Albany, Ohio, I began to have an idea for some clothing for the class that I felt would be a great idea. A fun little pun to add to the exciting group we already have (mostly older women) and this was based on what I was already noticing in myself. I started to make a design through a larger outfit who does online DIY clothing but it just wasn’t working for me and I don’t like their pricing or their shipping rates. Then by accident of looking for active wear DIY manufacturers, I stumbled upon a locally owned website called CustomizedGirl. Their prices are more amenable and they offer free shipping for $60 and over which isn’t too hard to spend on there! They also offer some artistic icons to choose from which makes your creations come to life and of course you can also download your own artwork as well.

I created a shop called Enlightened Gal (a name I had come up with a while ago) and got cracking yesterday with my puns. The store sells active wear tops, athletic bag, water bottle, and a few more novelty items for someone in a barre or ballet class. My favorite pun is “I owe my body to a barre,” but I also have “Barre Girl” for young girls as I don’t think it would be appropriate for a little girl in ballet class to be talking about her body (not to mention she hasn’t really formed one yet). But I didn’t stop there, I also have “Do you plié?” on the backs of some of my products or as the main line on hats and mugs. The cutest award goes to a gift item called Teddy Plié in which “it” sports a t-shirt that says “Plié with me.” Awww… I know you have to see it.

Check out the line of clothing I have created (at the moment they only have bottoms for young girls, not misses) and note that while I have most items in grey, pink, black, you can change the colors on some of these items when you go to order them. Keep an eye out though for the sizes when you change colors. Not all sizes are available with each color choice. Also, if you are changing an item from pink to black (for example), make sure to change the font color to white or some other bright color so you can actually see it.

Make sure to like us – Enlightened Gal on Facebook.

Haven’t taken a barre class as of yet? Google search it and find out where the nearest one is to you.

Maria Callas

My first time to hear the name Maria Callas was in a movie about her life. This was called “Callas Forever,” (2002) starring Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons. I was intrigued with the personality and captivated by her voice (which was dubbed in). At this point she was long passed (1977 in Paris, France) and there was no chance of seeing her in concert. I began to immerse myself in everything I could find about her. Documentary, video clips of her singing, and I read Arianna Huffington’s book “Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend,” which also came out in 2002. The funny thing is; I don’t really like opera. When I was reading Ms. Huffington’s book, I kept wondering what an aria was. Somehow I missed the part where she had explained that this is what you call an operatic solo.

I have since attended a couple of operas and I have tried listening to other sopranos but I just don’t get the same feelings as I do when I listen to Ms. Callas. It is hard to explain. It seems to be that I am in love with the person, not the genre and the passionate way she projects herself. I get the same feelings when I listen to a gypsy violin, especially when it is played to sound like a bird singing. This is when the violin is transformed to become another entity as if it is shapeshifting. I like other instruments (except the flute) and I appreciate other violinists but not quite as much as a gypsy violin player.

Her story is rather romantic. Father leaves, mother pushing her daughter to sing from the age of three, her great love marries Jacqueline Kennedy. What is also sad is the bracelet that Aristotle Onassis gave to I believe four women, including Ms. Callas and Kennedy, which all said the same thing and looked the same as well. This did not make me think too highly of him as a partner. At the end of Ms. Callas’s life, she died alone. Perhaps her life could become an opera on its own. 

My favorite fairy tale moment (though it is said to be true), in Ms. Huffington’s book was a time when Ms. Callas had been practicing on the terrace of her mother’s home. Suddenly a man’s voice could be heard, with an equally gifted sound, singing from behind a hedge or was it a tree in the distance. Evidently she never did meet this person but the singing took place a few times and with a particular song which I do not recall.

When I was a young girl, my best friend used to play classical music records at the highest volume so that they could permeate our environment and I was forced to immerse myself in a genre that, at that time, I did not appreciate. Most kids our age were doing this with head banging music, which neither of us liked. Now, I find myself doing this with Ms. Callas’s music. If it is not loud one cannot hear it upstairs while on the computer.

One documentary that I saw, Maria Callas: The Callas Conversations, had interviews with various journalists. In order to sing opera, one has to become something of a linguist and she spoke quite a few languages besides her native Greek dialect. One can learn so much about the art of speaking a language by watching Ms. Callas talk. When she was speaking to a British journalist in English, she was in a very conservative room and she was more subdued or composed in her body language. A lot like my grandma used to say “Sit up straight, legs crossed, hands folded in the lap like a lady.” She even spoke with a British accent (and an American one with another interview on YouTube here in the US). When she was speaking to an French journalist, the room had a more dramatic look to it and suddenly her command of this language was accentuated with hand gestures and a stronger voice. This is quite a talent to envy. 

From what I understand, she was a difficult woman to deal with. At the same time, one can imagine that because her life was a never ending drama, it must have been hard to leave the stage. Today, we talk about famous women being divas. All the same, when I hear this, I wonder how appropriate it is for the person, or shall I say are they just doing it on purpose. There are also famous women who aren’t divas, including great singers. When we make a word out to be a given, it loses its luster. It is taken advantage of.

If you haven’t had a chance to immerse yourself in the aria’s of Ms. Callas, make it a point to do so. She had a lot of critics, just as most famous people do and so it might not be to your liking. If you are not a fan of opera, you might find yourself opening up to a new sound in your home.

Frida Kahlo – Legendary Artist

Art should be regarded as a spiritual experience for when you find a piece that you like, it is speaking to your soul. When I first met a Frida Kahlo, I was in a university class that had to do with Women in Art (I don’t recall the specific title).  Our professor showed us a piece of her work and I asked the teacher if she had been in some type of an accident and explained what I saw in the photo of the painting. She told us a little about the history of Frida Kahlo and I felt stung. Until that moment, my experience was usually to look at paintings in a museum and admire them. While I had been to many art museums and had my favorites, I had never been this moved by art.

Since then, I have begun to look at art differently. I have begun to focus on the picture and think about the symbols, the way they are arranged, and what the artist might have felt. I have also seen the movie of Frida by Selma Hayek, read the biography by Hayden Herrera, had a friend copy a painting by Frida so that I could have my own genuine recreation and I have had friends give me books and old magazine articles that are about the artist and her paintings. When you research someone to this depth, you become one with the artist.

Frida Kahlo painted portraits and recreated interpretations of her life on canvas the way we journal in a diary now. The intensity of her work began after she was in a “bus” accident in Mexico at the age of 18. To explain, a bus in the 1920’s in Mexico was similar to a hay wagon with benches nailed along the sides.  This old fashioned mechanism collided with a streetcar which threw her and others from the bus and caused her to have many almost fatal injuries. She spent much of her life in body casts, laid out on a bed. She also underwent many surgeries for this over the years before she died at 47. Frida was a survivor and from her bed she began to paint, not for the first time but in a new way.

The first opportunity she was able to get out of her bed, it was the same time that Diego Rivera, a well-known Mexican painter, was working on a mural nearby her home. They met and eventually married. Señor Rivera  was known for his philandering but she knew this and asked, not for his fidelity but for his loyalty. He accepted. Their marriage was full of liaisons; hers with both men and women. They lived in two homes joined by a bridge so that each had their own space. Unfortunately, it was here where Señor Rivera went a bit too far with his affairs and slept with her sister Cristina. Between this and her on-going setbacks to give birth to their child, which her doctors had explained would be impossible; their marriage began to go downhill. They continued to remain together though, until her end.

Both Señora Kahlo and Señor Rivera, were very passionate about communism as well. This was incorporated in their art work depicting laborers in Mexico. Their beliefs were controversial, even then but they fought continuously to try and bring this philosophy to their country.

It is quite doubtful that Señora Kahlo and I would have been friends had we met during that time. When you are captivated by a piece of work, it is not about likes or dislikes of personal opinions.  Art stands alone, though it captures that person’s beliefs and feelings, what you gain from this is not always going to be the same. I was intrigued by her work as a woman, as a survivor, her bravery, her determination and will. All of these qualities I saw on the canvas and all of these adjectives she would probably have brushed aside indignantly. People like this do not want accolades for anything except their work, not their essence of being.

What I became fascinated with, when I learned about Señora Kahlo’s history, was her homage to ancestry through her clothing. While she was both Hungarian and Mexican, she only knew of her Spanish cultural ways. Her father’s Hungarian parents immigrated to Germany before sending their son to Mexico as a young man. While in Mexico, he married her mother and never returned to his homeland. She only had an idea of what her grandparents looked like. The way Señora Kahlo dressed herself was not indicative of the times in Mexico and so when she travelled with her husband, it was often seen as odd or eccentric. Now it is how one would recognize her through photos, though her work is quite obvious once you have had the opportunity to view a few pieces. As a woman she made a statement. Quite literally she was a work to behold. A piece of art always in progress.

While travelling in Mexico, I noticed that far too many shopkeepers hold vigil to her in their windows; along with homage to their religious symbols as well. Even in America, many Mexican restaurateurs will display her reproductions around their diners. Frida Kahlo is a legend. If you have not had the chance to explore her work, I invite you to research the name and see where it leads you.