Victoria Jelinek

Jack Goes Boating

(Rendez-vous l’été prochain)

indexA limo driver’s blind date ignites a humorous and poignant tale of love, friendship and betrayal focused around two working-class New York City couples.

Jack (the late, great, Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a limo driver with vague hopes of getting a job with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). He has an obsession for reggae that has inspired him to attempt to grow his hair into dreadlocks, and he spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend and fellow driver Clyde and Clyde’s wife, Lucy. Clyde and Lucy introduce him to Connie and they like each other. Being with Connie inspires Jack to learn to cook, to take swimming lessons in order to take Connie on a romantic boat ride, and to pursue a new career. Meanwhile, Lucy and Clyde’s marriage begins to disintegrate.

Hoffman’s directorial debut is a very independently spirited and produced film. Hoffman made a career doing interesting, indie films such as Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Capote, and The Boat That Rocked, among many others. During his career, he was the Artistic Director for an off-Broadway theatre company in NYC for ten years, which is where this play originated. In putting together this film, he gathered around him wonderful talent, both on-screen and off-screen, from both the theatrical and the cinematic world, both independently financed and studio financed. And, the result is a small, gently paced, gem of a film, perfect viewing during our days of confinement.



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal SunshineI recently read an article in Aeon Magazine, which investigates the scientific possibilities and implications of purging one’s “bad” memories.* Haunted by news stories and terrible images during this pandemic, and as a teacher to too many troubled adolescents, I find my opinion is conflicted: memories construct who we are, for-better- or-for-worse, but there are such horrible things that happen…

Hungry for more insight into the subject (and a film buff) I decided to re-watch the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In it, introvert Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets outgoing Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they start a tumultuous relationship. Then one day, Clementine doesn’t recognize Joel and he finds out that she had all of her memories of him removed. Angry and hurt, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but in the process of it he finds that he has second thoughts.

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is ingenious. His films Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are also high concept ideas that explore neurosis and the possibilities of the mind scientifically and perceptually. The movie begins slowly, as we experience the confusion Joel feels because his girlfriend suddenly doesn’t know him, with him. However, once Joel discovers she has had her memories of him wiped out and decides to have the same procedure done on himself, the bulk of the action takes place over one night in his rapidly disintegrating memory. When Joel’s subconscious decides that the procedure is a bad idea and he enlists the ‘memory’ of Clementine to help him escape, the film moves at a rapid pace. Here, director Michel Gondry showcases true visual verve (and most of the effects are created in camera!) as we delve into repressed memories, teenage humiliation, and childhood helplessness. But then a miracle happens — just as Joel’s situation seems most hopeless, the tone of the film becomes more hopeful. We travel through Joel’s mind back to those initial, profoundly romantic first days with Clementine, and we are able to view both the beginning and the end of a relationship at the exact same time. It’s poignant and beautiful. At this moment, Kaufman’s objective comes into sharp focus, and we, the viewer, are left to ponder what we’ve just seen, and to consider whether we would, indeed, purge our minds of painful memories if given the chance. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a relevant and weird and wonderful film with genuine heart and a thoughtful mind.

*Aeon Magazine, Aug. 1, 2016, Would You Purge Bad Memories From Your Brain If you Could by Lauren Gravitz.

A Serious Man
April 16, 2020, 7:49 am
Filed under: Film reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A potential film to watch while in confinement…

A Serious Man posterDid you like The Big Lebowski? Fargo? Raising Arizona? Oh Brother Where Art Thou? No Country for Old Men? Then you should watch A SERIOUS MAN by The Coen Brothers if you haven’t watched it already.

The setting is 1967 Americana suburbia: Larry Gopnik’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) life is beginning to unravel -his wife wants a divorce because his incompetent brother is sleeping on the couch and his son owes the school bully $20 for a bag of marijuana – and he just wants to know how it all went wrong and what he can do about it.

The Coen Brothers have made some great films and this one is marvellous – a suburban dysfunctional family drama meets metaphysical mystery that stands out as their most human and relatable film yet.

Shameless USA

ShamelessShameless USA is a family drama based on the UK’s long-running hit of the same name. William H. Macy leads the cast as the working class patriarch of an unconventional Chicago clan of six kids who, helmed by their eldest sibling, Fiona, keep their ramshackle home afloat while their dad is out getting blindingly drunk each day.

While the original series, set in Manchester, is grimmer, grittier, and, arguably, more shameless than the USA based series, the American version is still good. Yes, even as the actors in the US version are more attractive, their teeth are good, and their home is larger and prettier than the British version (prompting the question of whether Americans are comfortable with the ugliness of poverty), their circumstances and behavior are similarly outrageous and touching. Sure, Americans don’t ‘do’ subtlety as well as the British, so much of the action is obvious and flat-footed (such as when young Debbie puts the pillow under the head of her passed out father, thereby showing us the acceptance and love that the family feel for him, rather than permitting the audience to discern that via observation), they are still an audacious, criminally-inclined family trying to survive without resources other than their wits and each other.

I came late to these series, which have both been running since 2004 and 2011*, respectively, but it’s never too late to watch entertaining television – particularly during confinement. Moreover, I have found that by watching these fictional families, which in many ways reflect the truth of poverty in that the people make perpetual sacrifices in order to meet the minimum needs of life, have to get by on practically nothing, and whose permitted aspirations are often little more than surviving, I have gained perspective about my own life’s desires and expectations. As I’m entertained watching this series, I’m also inspired and resolved to be more modest in general. And, at this terrible moment in our shared global history, that’s a good thing to learn and to remember as we face our collectively uncertain future.

*Ending in UK in 2013 and in USA in 2021.

Covid-19, April 14, 2020

The following came to me, a teacher, from my mother, who is a retired teacher, and she received it from another teacher. It’s not written very well, but the concept is wonderful!

Just maybe this could happen because of our crisis…

Education and the worldWHAT IF

If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education…

But what if…

What if instead of falling “behind,” this group of kids are AHEAD because of this? 

What if they have more empathy, perspective, enjoy family connection, can be more creative and entertain themselves, love to read, love to express themselves in writing? 

What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet?

What if they notice the birds and the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower? 

What if this generation is the one to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home? 

What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? 

What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday? 

What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place? 

What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?

What if they are…”AHEAD?”

*image courtesy of UNICAF.ORG

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man

The Accidental Further Adventures book reviewThe sequel to The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is another deft satire about the flaws of modern society. Using Allan and Julius’s latest adventures, with its madcap twists and turns, Jonasson creates a thought-provoking portrait of the current state of the world.

After climbing out the window of his retirement home on his 100th birthday and accidentally entangling himself in an epic adventure involving a suitcase full of cash and a gang of ruffians, the spry Allan and his best-and-only-friend Julius, settle into luxury on Bali. Most people wouldn’t grow bored of sipping cocktails beachside, but Allan and Julius aren’t like most people so their decadent life has become a bore and they’re restless. Julius decides to liven things up with a hot air balloon ride in honor of Allan’s one-hundred-and-first birthday. When the operator jumps out of the balloon to take a bite out of Allan’s birthday cake, Allan and Julius accidentally snap the lever that sets the balloon in motion and they go sailing up into the sky. But they’re not hot balloon experts, of course, and end up having a crash landing at sea before being rescued by a North Korean ship carrying smuggled uranium on board. Soon, Allan and Julius are swept up into an international diplomatic crisis that involves various global players such as Putin, Trump, Merkel, and Kim Jong-un.

I found myself looking forward to going to bed each night in order to continue reading this book in peace. Allan is an incredibly endearing character leading us through twists and turns galore in an intricately plotted book. All the while, Jonasson makes thoughtful and relevant points about power, truth, morality, and the role of perception in current affairs, and not in an ideological or pedantic way, but with nuance, wit, and warmth.

A highly amusing and intelligent book that I absolutely recommend!



Covid-19, April 12, 2020
April 12, 2020, 10:38 am
Filed under: Corona 2020 | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Because it’s Easter, a holiday associated with life, light, nature, and possibility –
And because “Hope,” here, is symbolized as a bird –
And, because, it’s Emily Dickinson –
I offer up this poem to remember…

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –


I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Covid 19, April 9, 2020

Humorous, from a friend in Wales (Believe “Wankspangles” and
“clunge puffins” will be my new favorite words):


The Government has announced today that, for the Easter break only, certain groups will be allowed to go to parks and beaches and invite friends round for BBQ’s.


While the majority of the population will remain in lock down the following groups will be allowed to gather together at parks and beaches throughout the Country.

Half wits
Clunge puffins

Anyone not in those groups must follow the guidelines set out by the Governments regarding social distancing.

Thank you.

Covid-19 7 April 2020

I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so placid and self-contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long,

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not like awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman

At this time (medical professionals goes without saying) it’s the low paid workers – street sweepers, refuse collectors, supermarket workers, delivery drivers, and farmers that are keeping the country going, not big businesses, over paid footballers, you tubers, etc.

I would love to believe people will change their perspective a little when this is over, but I doubt it. Given the conversations I have with adolescents I teach and know, and from what I see from those around me who have huge houses and fancy cars they work all of the time to pay for, I think most people still see “success” as material, and most adolescents want to be big corporate executives or celebrities of some sort (sports, you tubers, those new online “change makers” or “it” folks). With little effort to boot.

Such a shame. There is great integrity in those listed above, and those who can do a trade (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, hairdressers, teachers, artists, sowers, farmers). The world needs people who are educated, absolutely, but who are also modest. Kindness, usefulness, collectivism should be promoted by our societies, not individualism, competition, and avarice. My guess is that if these alternative ideas were promoted, you would find that the grave numbers of loneliness, depression, and suicide would be vastly reduced. Purposefulness and a sense of “other” are reasons to be and give one self confidence.

Bertrand Russell wrote in his book “The Conquest of Happiness,” that the most direct path to true contentment is altruism.


(image courtesy of The Borgen Project)

Covid-19 5 Avril, 2020


Cher Monsieur President Macron,

J’étais fier et soulagé quand la France a commencé rapidement et avec fermeté le 16 mars. J’ai félicité le gouvernement français à chaque occasion de «prendre de l’avance» sur la courbe. Je me sentais protégé. Depuis, j’ai changé incommensurablement «mon air».

Hier, je suis sorti (dans la voiture) chercher des cigarettes. C’était la première fois que je conduisais en trois semaines ou parcourais plus d’un kilomètre. À mon grand étonnement, les gens étaient rassemblés en groupes dans les coins, le long des routes, à bicyclette, profitant de la journée ensoleillée et se tenant proche de l’autre, parlant en groupes et en groupes. Comme s’il n’y avait pas de virus infectant les deux chiffres en France seulement. De plus, au cours de la dernière semaine, j’ai remarqué depuis notre véranda arrière, qui surplombe une petite route, des groupes de personnes qui n’ont pas l’air liées (sont en fait similaires en âge) à faire du jogging, de la marche et du vélo ensemble.

C’est très inquiétant. Au magasin de cigarettes, l’homme derrière le comptoir ne portait pas de masque ni de gants, et ne m’a pas simplement fait effectuer un paiement «tactile», mais a pris ma carte et saisi les informations manuellement, et a pris chacun des magazines que j’achetais et les scanné chacun manuellement, comme il l’a également fait avec chaque paquet de cigarettes. Il a touché chacun de mes objets à fond. J’étais mortifié. Je lui ai demandé pourquoi il n’avait aucune protection pour lui-même et pour les autres, comme un masque ou des gants, et il a bêtement répondu: “Je me sens bien.” Mes voisins partent chaque jour, avec leur famille et leurs chiens, deux ou trois heures à la fois, puis reviennent, puis repartent encore deux ou trois heures, tout au long de la journée, chaque jour. J’ai deux amis qui m’ont demandé séparément de les rencontrer pour boire un verre chez eux, me disant qu’ils le font avec d’autres amis.

Pas étonnant que la France soit si riche en infections et en décès consécutifs. Le confinement DOIT être appliqué ou il n’a tout simplement aucun.

Hier, j’ai regardé un extrait de nouvelles (étrangère) expliquant pourquoi il y a des endroits dans le monde qui ont le virus corona, mais qui ne voient PAS les infections rapides OU les décès, comme en France, en Italie et en Espagne. En Islande, ils testent activement la population, puis ils ont des DETECTIVES, des forces de police, trouvant TOUTES les personnes possibles avec lesquelles une personne infectée a été en contact au cours des deux semaines précédentes, puis les mettant en quarantaine pour une obligation deux semaines, souvent trois. Coûteux? Est-ce moins cher d’avoir un confinement dans un pays où les gens le traitent avec une attitude cavalière?

Au Vietnam, en Corée du Sud et à Taïwan (juste en face d’un petit canal en provenance de Chine), ils ont maintenu la propagation en vérifiant les personnes qui arrivent par avion pour la fièvre, puis en les ramenant chez eux dans une voiture gouvernementale (seule!) Et en les mettant en quarantaine. Encore une fois, ils effectuent des tests massifs sur la population, mettent en quarantaine ceux qui sont positifs, puis recherchent activement leurs contacts potentiels au cours des deux semaines précédentes. De plus, ils publient qui est infecté afin que les gens puissent voir s’ils ont été en contact avec la personne infectée. De cette façon, tout le monde AILLEURS n’est pas en lock-out et le pays n’est pas fermé et souffre d’une catastrophe financière ET le virus ne se propage pas. Est-ce une violation des libertés civiles? Est-ce moins le cas pour nous dire que nous devons avoir un morceau de papier justifiant pourquoi nous sommes à l’extérieur, ainsi que notre carte d’identité, ne devrait être à l’extérieur que pendant une heure, et la création d’une situation dans laquelle les voisins s’espionnent les uns les autres avec suspicion et la colère dans leur cœur?

L’Organisation mondiale de la santé a déclaré dès le début que le moyen le plus efficace de lutter contre la nature infectieuse du virus Corona est de procéder à des tests massifs de la population, d’isoler les personnes atteintes de la maladie, puis de rechercher «de manière agressive» toutes les personnes dans lesquelles elles se trouvaient. Les contacter et les isoler également. Oui, cela coûte cher et cela nécessite un grand effort coordonné, mais est-ce plus cher que de fermer l’économie pour «endiguer le flux» de patients vers les hôpitaux?

En parcourant le nombre de personnes infectées par pays et par État sur le site Web de l’Université John Hopkins, je note que même si certains États des États-Unis, la Suède, la Suisse, par exemple, N’ONT PAS de confinement en vigueur, ils ONT instillé des mesures de sécurité ( pas de place dans les restaurants, tous assis à six pieds de distance, nombre limité dans une réunion, travail à domicile si vous le pouvez, fermetures d’écoles, etc.), qui SONT appliquées et qui sont par conséquent respectées par les gens, et le virus ne se propage pas! Pourquoi y a-t-il beaucoup moins de cas d’infection dans ces États des États-Unis, en Suède, au Luxembourg, en Suisse, en Belgique, etc. qu’en France (ou en Italie ou en Espagne) et même moins de décès, alors que la France, l’Italie et l’Espagne sont confinement total?

Quel est le but de paralyser l’économie et de faire en sorte que CERTAINS d’entre nous adhèrent au confinement, alors qu’il y a évidemment BEAUCOUP de personnes qui ne respectent pas les règles? Dans l’état actuel des choses, les gens voient évidemment l’amende potentielle de 135e pour ne pas avoir adhéré aux mesures de confinement comme une menace vide. Alors que je remplis chaque jour le journal pour moi et ma famille avec notre raison de sortir, je n’ai pas vu un seul officier de police, même une fois depuis que nous nous sommes isolés le 14 mars.

Je suis sceptique que mon pays fera ce qui est dans le meilleur intérêt de la nation. En fait, je crains que la France ne mette un terme au confinement – pour tout ce qu’il vaut – trop tôt en raison de l’adhésion aux arguments «économiques» des mêmes personnes à courte vue et égoïstes qui n’adhèrent pas au confinement, renvoient nos enfants à l’école (mettre en danger parce qu’il y aura eu beaucoup de divergences dans la façon dont les familles respectives se sont «auto-isolées») et puis il y aura encore une nouvelle augmentation terrible des infections et des décès, et un autre confinement inefficace, et ainsi de suite.

Le gouvernement français a bien commencé – de manière décisive et rapide – puis a échoué par la désorganisation. Pour remédier à cela, veuillez soit appliquer activement le confinement, OU tester la population, mettre en quarantaine les personnes malades et rechercher activement celles avec lesquelles elles ont été en contact (ou publier les données publiquement), et les isoler également.

Merci pour votre considération.

Sincères amitiés,