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Working Woman is All Our Story

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Some films stay with you.  That could be said for …Working Woman, a new film by director Michal Aviad.

It’s a simple story. A beautiful  Israeli mother of three, Orna, (Liron Ben Shlush of “Next to Her”) is offered a job by a man who used to be her captain in the army. He’s now a big shot in real estate and promises her a lucrative career with advancements. She loves her husband who has just opened a restaurant and realizes the extra money could really help. Plus, she’s ambitious for herself and to prove she can do it.

When the developer Benny (Menashe Noyhen) tries to kiss her after a successful real estate negotiation, she is shocked, scared and disappointed. But he apologies profusely and says it won’t happen again. But it happens without sex, like when he keeps her working late with the prospect of ‘already ordered sushi’ and keeps turning the lights off and on. It is sick and childish, but she is doing so well in bringing in her own business, that she makes herself ignore it.

Her husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen) is very good at sharing family chores, gets upset when he receives a special business license thanks to Benny’s interference. Something doesn’t smell kosher, but he respects his wife and holds his tongue. They even attend a party at Benny’s palatial home and it is clear to all that Orna and Ofer are tight.

But what happens in Paris can’t stay in Paris. After a celebratory dinner in Paris, selling homes to French Jews, both Benny and Ofra are feeling good about their work and are slightly tipsy, Benny pulls a fast one…the old, can’t get my door open trick…and ugliness takes over. It’s a very well done scene…Ofra struggles but both in shock and awe resigns herself to the drunken abuse because she has little choice.

Back in Israel, her otherwise terrific mother doesn’t want to know and Ofer starts blaming her for allowing it.

Orna is sensitive but fiercely protective of her family and needs a recommendation to get future work.She must garner all her strength and at the same time accept her own complicity in ignoring what she didn’t want to see.

She resolves the problem with great courage handling Benny in front of his wife to get what she needs. He tells her how lucky she was to learn so much with him, and she agrees. But we know what she learned in the loss of innocence is a far greater lesson than selling a condo at the beach.

Whether the director used Harvey Weinstein as a template for Benny, is hard to say…but this is a wonderful film dealing with the strains that women suffer in the workplace especially when one person holds all the power. In Working Woman, the lead takes her power back.

Written by nancykoan

April 3, 2019 at 1:18 am

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Pinter by Sands by nancy cohen-koan

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ImageMy first memory of Howard Pinter was sitting next to Sandy Mandel in a London theater and watching her head bounce up and down on her long neck during the Birthday Party. It was the same head that struggled to stay erect in front of the Trevi Fountain and at the opera at the Baths of Caracalla. We were young, it was our first trip to Europe and we hadn’t gotten much rest. And Pinter was probably way too sophisticated for our backpacking sensibilities. A few years later, I was living in London in a flat with a guy who was great friends with the actress Vivian Merchant and was regaled with gruesome stories about her difficult marriage to Pinter. But I still wasn’t tackling his material. In fact, it took me a long time to appreciate his nuanced style and even then I had to get over the fact that  I read  he hated Americans  — for the government’s policies…unfair, considering  how Thatcher’s actions in Grenada, had little effect on my lifelong Anglophilia.

But a few years back I participated in a workshop at Cuny with Harry Burton that dealt with Pinter’s work with actors and my respect and admiration was deepened. And It was revived last night at a one man show at The Irish Rep called a Celebration of Harold Pinter, directed by John Malkovich and starring Julian Sands. Sands  is truly a romantic actor… I loved him in Impromptu and A Room With A View, and have assiduously avoided seeing him in things like Warshlock . My gut feeling is that his comedic skills have yet to be exploited, though in this show, his improvisatory moments are very funny as well as his vulnerability.

Clearly Sands loves Pinter’s poetry and does it proud. When he is Pinter, his voice lowers to a gruffy basso and brings the outspoken man right back to life. Celebration covers many aspects of Pinter’s career, personality, politics and his very committed relationship to author Lady Antonia Fraser.  Sands  is so tight with Pinter that he was asked to read at the funeral ceremony in 2008, after Pinter succumbed to cancer. It is this kind of intimacy, both with the man and the material,  that Mr. Sands brings to this show. Death is ever present in this show and Sands begins with a short poem that is equally cool and warm in its scope. Pinter emotionally takes no prisoners…his  bold, raw style wouldn’t support Broadway, but had its birth in a country where art has been traditionally more supported.  It is such a pleasure to have a better understanding on “the curse of the Pinter pauses” and beats in his writing… I would like a sequel…. Perhaps with even more silence to fully take in everything that he says.  Generously, Mr. Sands mentioned that Rufus Sewell will be playing Pinter in the West End next year.  Hopefully, Mr. Sands will carry on with this show as he has done since 2011.

Written by nancykoan

November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Now You See It, Now You Don't.

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photo by Jari Santala

I had the pleasure of catching Robert Jägerhorn’s most recent New York appearance at the United Solo Theatre Festival a few weeks back. United Solo is the largest solo theatre festival in the world and this was its 10th year, so rather important artists came back for the anniversary. I had seen Robert there a number of years back and was anxious to see how he could top his last elegant show. Robert is both a performance artist and magician, combining amazing magickal skills with comedy and panache. It also doesn’t hurt that he is so good looking.

The first time I saw Robert perform, his show centered around the conceit of finding a long, lost film of Alfred Hitchcock. It was inventive, charming and magically breath taking. Since that show, he has performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, was awarded Magician of the Year by The Finnish Magic Circle and performed on television in Finland and in France.

The show he brought to the Solo Festival is new territory for Robert. He calls it a Pop-Up Magic Show. It is very quiet, in fact, it is almost mime-like, with Robert working very intimately with the audience, doing close up magic with props. Yellow liquid is drunk and appears again, balls emerge from nowhere and weddings rings, borrowed from his audience, somehow show up in the most unlikely places. Interesting music takes the place of banter, so one could really pay attention to his nuanced handwork.

Robert’s in a class of his own. At one point I thought there were actually two of him on stage at the same time. He is a sophisticated talent and for me, my first truly entertaining Finn!

I hope to see more of his work and follow the direction he takes his magical charms.

The show was written and performed by Robert Jägerhorn, and directed by Markus Zink.

Written by nancykoan

November 29, 2019 at 3:24 am

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The Hikers…Rashid Johnson’s new show

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Huge mixed media canvases, primarily mosaics tell the story for of a fear that’s taken its unholy space since the Trump election. Broken Man, the breaking that many of us are feeling, especially men and boys of the Black community are in these works. But the breaks don’t seem fatal.The glass may be cracked, but the whole survives with strength and dignity.

There are two ways to see these works: micro, the fine detail of hand made tiles, splattered with markings and jeweled mirrors –then step back to macro, where the imposing figures, perhaps tribal, perhaps religious loom over the rest of the piece. At the talk back, Rashid, the most affable of fellows, is completely comfortable with himself and his art. He answered queries with delight, seeming to really enjoy what he was learning by answering these questions.

His film, The Hikers, is for me a meditation on nature and our species. One masked man dances alone, his arms extending out to the trees, as if he were part of tree, his own sinewy limbs moving in the wind. When he notices another, much like himself, now in the same space, I couldn’t help but think of two male creatures of any number of species, recognizing a potential competitor in its midst. But this was more of a mirror dance, finding compatibility of movement instead of domination.

There is also a living sculpture in the middle room. It is a black trunk like base which houses many different types of green plants, each emerging from its own secret space’ perhaps a reminder of how life forms can live with each other, separate, but still united in the comfort of its home base.

The show can be seen at Hauser & Wirth on 22nd Street until January 25.

Written by nancykoan

November 12, 2019 at 2:23 am

9/11 revisit: Rescue Dogs

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 DOG IS GOD SPELLED BACKWARDS

By Nancy Koan

My introduction to the rescue dogs first came at the Javitz Center where I waited along with hundreds of others for instructions on what to do as a volunteer.  Most of us had been standing around for ages and except for an occasional flirtation with firemen, were feeling like crap and basically in shock. There was plenty of free food and sun, but not enough to do to fill up the hours of disbelief and confusion.

I think it was about five thirty when a work shift was finishing and the people started coming back from downtown.  Everyone was looking for signs of hope but all we saw were exhausted, saddened faces.  Then, suddenly, a police captain walked by with a worn out German Shepherd at his side. Perhaps as much for himself as for the news- starved volunteers, he turned to the crowd and announced that his dog had made eight “finds” that day.

 At that point in the rescue effort, no one knew precisely what “finds” meant, but we understood that something good had happened and that the dog was a big part of it. We gave them both a standing ovation, just as we had done for the returning rescue fireman.  The dog wagged his tail and they went off. It was the beginning of many such moments.

Porkchop, Max, Molly, Senta and Daisy are just a few of the names from the heroic rescue dogs who came to New York to help the fallen on September 11th. They poured in from everywhere: California, Florida, Arkansas, Chicago, France – the world. They were mostly work dogs, shepherds, collies, a bloodhound, a few rotweillers, some labs and yes, even one part poodle. Some of them belonged to FEMA, some to the police department, and some to just ordinary civilians, many who paid their own way to New York to offer their skills in what instantly became known as Ground Zero.

Dr. Garvey from the Animal Medical Center in New York said, “I have never seen anything like it. These dogs worked in the most adverse conditions. Lots of dust got into their ears, nose and eyes. Wuss, a Belgian Malinois from St. Louis fell face first into a hole and had to be treated for asphyxiation. Ammo, a German shepherd, who had had 200 saves in his career, collapsed from dehydration.”

 Clearly, these were not games being played on a field. Ground Zero was a true test of the canines rescue skills and their loyalty to the handlers.  These dogs worked longer hours than most of my friends. Each day consisted of a 12- hour shift with a few breaks for ear cleaning and a bath.  They had to walk on endless jagged material, teetering on shaky debris in the wild hope of picking up a scent that would lead them to a living or dead body.  Dr.Glenn Anderson, working at the Triage center in Tribeca said that the circumstances under which the dogs and handlers worked were ‘unimaginable’, and he was amazed by the camaraderie and cooperation.

Rescue dogs are trained in two ways: live finds and cadavers.  For live, they often learn by searching for their handler who is hidden in a forest or hole, invisible to the human eye. The dogs sniff them out. Their reward is finding the person they love. For human remains, they practice with products that give off the scent of a corpse.  Sometimes they work with actual dead bodies.  Their sense of smell is so powerful that they can pick up scents through asphalt.  In the case of the World Trade Center, finding cadavers became their only job.

Not surprisingly, these dogs experienced a kind of stress and depression at what they found. Unlike us, they had no Prozac.  But like the best in us, they kept on looking and hoping. 

All of these wonderful dogs and their handlers have a story. Here are just a few of them:

SENTA

Senta, a 5- year old German Shepherd who worked with veterinarian, Dr. Dan Bacalaglu, from Lakehurst, New Jersey. He was adopted from a shelter and trained at the Naval base, OEM.  September 11th was his first real job. The two of them came to help at 2 p.m. on the Tuesday of the attack and had been working for more than a week when we met.

DAISY

First-timer, Daisy, a bloodhound with draping ears was the picture of youthful enthusiasm. Prior to this assignment, handler Gary Curdiff of Cherry Hill had done lots of repetitive tracking in wooded areas. Daisy was adopted from the Allige Foundation, founded by a father in memory of his abducted daughter

OFFICER JOAQUIN GUERRERO AND ROOKIE

I bumped into Rookie when he was having his paws checked for cuts at the Triage center. Joaquin Guerrero, of the Saginaw Police in Michigan fell in love with German Shepherd Rookie when he was just a pup in 1996 and  they’ve patrolled the streets of Saginaw ever since.  As Guerrero’s partner, Rookie is considered a full-fledged police officer.  He is trained as a “full utility” dog.  Rookie can search, track, do SWAT team work, evidence searches, narcotic detection and K-9 therapy.  This was his first trip to New York.

MAX

Max, a Shepherd belonged to, Jasmine Fraleigh of Fort Smith, Arkansas and had come with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team.  Jasmine said that Max, a four- year old Sagittarius (meaning he likes to travel), could never have been prepared for anything of this nature.  One time back home though, she said,   “Max picked up a scent after 18 hours of a lost thirteen year old.” She felt that Max was definitely suffering depression from the lack of live finds, but at least he was able to give comfort therapy to the fireman on site where they “could cry onto his broad furry back.”

KERMIT

Another hero, Kermit, a German Shepherd working with Merlin Durkman, from Colorado, was trained to find human scent, blood, fluid, bodies, and clothing. He had an extremely sensitive nose but was because of the dust, was experiencing some difficulty from the dust.

THE FRENCH TEAM

The international response to the tragedy had been no less than the national.  A rescue team from France arrived on Sunday, anxious to put their hounds to the test. They were from C.I.C.R.S. or Group Intervention Cinophile Rescue Search.  It takes two to three years of training before they are ready for search and rescue. When they find someone alive, the dogs jump up and yelp; when they find a dead body, they drop down and look sad.  Ah, the French technique. Their dogs are especially adept at finding lost children.  They once found a little girl in Armonje, France after ten days.

They team was anxious to start working and had to wait for a diplomatic release before joining the search.

HEDGES

. Hedges, a 3 1/2 year old black and tan German Shepherd, was part of the New York State Police explosives detection and K-9 unit. He and his handler, Neil Dow of Troop F in Orange County, New York specialize in bomb searches and  were brought into the World Trade Center scene to do “bomb sweeps” to insure that there were nothing planted. Because at that point there had been 90 threats, they had “swept” JFK, La Guardia and the Javitz Center.

They

Officer Dow uses hand gestures with Hedges for commands like sit, stay and come. “The three key words with dogs are patience, repetition and praise.” he says.  “Also, they like to be spoken to in a high-pitched voice when training.” I was personally thrilled to hear that.  I have always spoken to my animal companions in a “girly” voice that has driven many of my human friends crazy.

 Watching Hedges and Dow together almost made me yearn for a relationship as sweet as theirs, their bond is so tight.  Dow says “if a perpetrator gives off a “vibe” that the dog mistrusts, the dog will react to protect his handler.”  This includes subtle energies that are only picked up by the dog. “Dogs have jumped through car windows to protect their handlers”, Dow said.

“Patrol dogs’ lives are quite stressful. They have a career span of six to eight years”, Dow said, because of the climbing up and down, which can be hard on their hips.” But even when Hedges retires, he will continue to live with Dow.  They are a real team.

________________________

MOSES

“Moses led people out of Egypt” said Chief Rabiela as a way of explaining his German Shepherd’s name. They came from Chicago, from the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters, thus further explaining the moniker. “Moses has zero aggression and he does therapy work, too”, said the Chief proudly.   Moses had to have three stitches on his paw after he cut it while climbing on a wire. But like Moses, he was back out in the field the very next day.

PORKCHOP

Every show has a star and the 9/11 canine rescue team had Porkchop, an Australian Shepherd with a pinkish nose.  Porkchop was trained in live scent and cadaver work with the California Rescue Dog Association and spends his days in Oakhurst, California with handsome handler Eric Robertson.  They’ve been together since Porkchop was 10 weeks old. The breed is apparently good for avalanche work, able to work long, hard shifts with great find success.  They train regularly everyday for four hours.

 Assigned to the New York Police Department canine unit, Porkchop and Robertson were considered the confirmation team.  FEMA people would go in first, then Porkchop would go in and confirm. According to Robertson, Porkchop made recoveries everyday, often within the first thirty minutes of starting the shift.  His technique was to bark three times when he makes a “live find” and to sneeze when he finds a cadaver. There were no survivors found, but everyday remains were discovered.

Porkchop was the first dog I saw with little booties. . Some of the dogs wear booties to help protect the soft pads of their feet from the rubble. Many sets of booties had been donated.  Porkchop seemed to really enjoy wearing them, a closet shoe fiend no doubt.

“But, when his vest is off, he’s just like a regular dog”, insisted Robertson “And how did he get such a goofy name?” I asked.   “When he was a puppy, we put him in the shopping cart at a grocery store and when we went to the checkout line, the sticker from the pork chops was stuck to his butt,” answered Robertson.

There were so many more canine workers: MOLLY, the yellow lab; MORGAN, and BIGFOOT. They came from all over this country and the world, but they had one thing in common – they shared a love for their handlers. We New Yorkers were fortunate, for with that love came incredible skill, training, loyalty and devotion.  Qualities that this city so desperately needed and will continued to need as we heal.  The statues that were erected are a reminder to us all that these shaggy heroes are truly human being’s best friend.

Written by nancykoan

September 11, 2019 at 6:55 pm

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Bowie’s Back

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I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on. …David Bowie
 

Indeed, David Bowie lives on. His influence on music and culture is so immense, that it wasn’t too long before a group would coalesce to carry on his energy and art.

Alex Thomas is the lead singer of Live on Mars, the Bowie band that had a successful UK tour in 2018 and is currently making its first tour of the United States. Influenced by Bowie’s legendary concert performances, LIVE ON MARS gives an electrifying show with music ranging from Space Oddity to Last Dance; the best of Bowie with a fabulous light show and animation.

I spoke to Mr. Thomas, the lead singer, who has received rave reviews as David Bowie. When I asked him about his approach, he said that he wants to give the effect of Bowie with his looks and voice, without costumes and wigs. He respects his iconic hero too much for that ‘tacky route’.  “Bowie got  away with costumes and it worked…I can’t pull off the  make up , doesn’t work with my face at my age.”

N: How difficult is it to take on such an icon?

A: It’s a lot of pressure, incredibly good fun. I’m a huge Bowie fan and don’t want to ruin it for anyone… People enjoy it. The reaction is amazing with people getting carried away, sometimes in tears. I don’t take credit for this.

Mr. Thomas was too young to have seen Bowie perform live but has always been told he looks like him and sounds like him, even changing his voice to pattern the range change that Bowie exhibited during his lifetime.

A: It was a challenge, early on he had a much higher voice; he gets lower and richer with more vibrato later on. I had vocal coaching and moved the sound from throat to chest.

N: Do you channel him? How do you get into it?  

A: It’s all in movements, the music drives it. I wear a suit that resembles him the movements come naturally. The early stuff is more camp—the older stuff, traditionally masculine.

Before this exciting gig, Alex did more experimental stuff …noisy psychedelia with a group called Great Pagans. But he always loved Bowie.

N: What is Bowie’s greatest musical influence?  

A: The synchronization of experimentation and bringing it into the pop sound. He was influenced by Brian Eno and experimented with gender and androgyny.

N: What does he continue to say to the culture?

A: His legacy is one of the biggest. He is untouched by scandal which is a surprise coming from the generation he did. What I like is that he championed people who were over looked and abused. Abused is perhaps the wrong word.

N: What do you mean?

A: Bowie was interviewed in the  mid- 80 and berated the MTV  host for not having as many black music videos on primetime tv .He was forward thinking…also with androgyny. He had a lasting influence.

Clearly, Alex is an enthusiastic fan which can only help drive his performance. And he expressed equal excitement at performing in this country, with a first stop in Ohio.

N: What city are you most excited to play in the US?

A: I’m really looking forward to Miami. And of course, New York.

New York State schedule
Fri 31 May Rochester NY Auditorium Theatre

Sun 2 June Westbury NY NYCB Theatre

Wed 5 June Syracuse NY Crouse Hinds Theater 

 Sat 8 June Lewiston NY Mainstage Theater

TICKET INFORMATION:http://www.cmpentertainment.com/index.php?action=display_artist&artist_id=456&archive=0

Written by nancykoan

May 31, 2019 at 2:48 pm

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My Sh!t in Auschwitz Rocked

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photo: lambstar

What could Steve Bannon have meant by this line as he opens Alison Klayman’s documentary The Brink? He’s talking about visiting Europe with his populist agenda and his Torchbearer, Duck Commander, Phil Robertson’s film. I played it over twice but am still not sure what he was really trying to say. Apparently, he was totally surprised to discover that Birkenau was built specifically for the annihilation of a race—that meant  that intelligent men sat around with coffee cups making their plans. “Normal people who weren’t devils”, as he puts it. He should see BBC/HBO’s The Conspiracy, which dramatizes the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where the European lawyers and high level SS drink champagne and discuss the Final Solution like they were planning  a campaign to push rayon over silk. Kenneth Branagh playing General Heydrich was also charming. Bannon, an unlikely warrior,  never expresses any irony as the film shows him going about the business of aiding and abetting other populist and racist causes himself.

This fascinating look into the Fritto lover who sadly gave us Mr. Cheetos is particularly eerie because Bannon is not without some charm and wit, and one keeps wondering if he truly believe what he proffers. It feels like an act. As if he’s found a niche and he thinks he can win in this niche, so he sticks to it. If he had made more successful films, would the Right have become his cause, or is he in it out of defeat?  Could he possibly be so blind to his own racism? Does he think the Populist values of recreating the White World in his image is sensible or even evolutionary?

Not once in this film is the troubled environment mentioned except as a jokey excuse for some piece of legislation. Not once do we hear of the pain epidemic, lack of decent jobs for all people, high rate of infant mortality in our country and too many more issues that he has no time for.   He travels on private planes, enjoys expensive hotels, hangs out with ex Goldman Saxers and  doesn’t consider himself an elitist?

What is Raheem, a Muslim who sounds just like John Oliver doing working for him? That should be the sequel.  This guy goes on about all the Arabs living on the Edgeware Road for the last ten years in London.  I lived in London 25 years ago and there were always Arab stores and restaurants.  He and Epstein, a Republican candidate who wanted Trump to write his name on her pregnant belly are breathtaking in their self-deception. Apparently, Ms Epstein is a Messianic Jew, and was neatly defeated by Haley Stevens.  Aw.

What is so intelligent about this film, is that the director stays quiet, only occasionally asking him a question. Instead he lets his own blindness speak for him.

I don’t know and really don’t want to know what happened in his childhood to bring him to this place. He’s good looking (underneath the rust), funny, sort of aware and has potential to be a human. Can’t we get him into one of those Steiner nursery schools where he can learn to love himself first and then just maybe others? Only if Betsy DeVos stays out of it..

 

See the film.

 

Written by nancykoan

April 2, 2019 at 12:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized