Breaking Bad: Not Toys for Kids

We’re only a few episodes away from completing watching Breaking Bad, the AMC series that ran for five seasons from January, 2008 to September, 2013. We had tried one episode ages ago and quickly dismissed it as not for us:  violence and drugs and nothing we could relate to.

Some friends insisted we watch the entire series, all five, from beginning to end, and said we were to promise each other not to watch an episode without the other. There was to be no sneaking around trying to find out what happens, we were instructed to watch every show in order. So we tried again and found ourselves hooked. The characters engaged us; the plots of each episode intrigued us, and usually ended on a cliffhanger, forcing us to stay up too late, watching just one more segment. We found ourselves discussing the show, making predictions and analyzing character motivations. I even managed to knit four matching sweaters for the grandsons while watching.

The content is very adult. Violence, drugs, profanity, and sex. Parents that allow their kids to watch this has something seriously wrong in their approach to childrearing.

So why then, would a toy manufacturer make action figures to represent the stars of Breaking Bad? Bryon Cranston and Aaron Paul are excellent actors yet that doesn’t mean their characters should be reincarnated in doll form. Parent petitions  have convinced many Toys R Us chains to remove the figures from shelves, or to put them in the adult collections area. Really? Adults collect these figures too?

I went through a Barbie phase as a child and enjoyed creating scenarios with my friends about Barbie and her friends. I liked collecting the various clothes, even made some myself when I learned to sew, and probably the most extreme activities my Barbie engaged in was making out with Ken.

My sons loved action figures, mostly superheroes and Ninja Turtles. There was a lot of “cowabunga” going on during that phase.

But action figures that produce and distribute crystal methamphetamine as toys for kids?

Of course, as soon as parents complained, the other sides stepped in, saying you don’t have to buy these dolls and that attempts to curtail sales represent censorship.

I’m all for Freedom of Speech. But toy manufacturers need to be responsible citizens too.





Posted in commentary, Education, Family, Knitting, Movies & TV, parenting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Some Books & A Play

Books I’ve read recently:

In Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life, magazine journalist Slava Gelman interviews old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, NY, and files Holocaust restitution claims on their behalf, massaging the facts a bit here and there to fortify the applications. What’s truth? Is he justified in stretching it?

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clarke will make your food shopping trips take even longer. Chemist David Leveraux works as a flavorist-in-training, testing a new artificial sweetener, “Sweetness #9.” He notices unusual side effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys, and years later, his wife becomes obese, his daughter unresponsive, and his son speaks without verbs. Is the sweetener to blame?

Barbara Kingsolver novels are usually provocative and Flight Behavior is no exception. Climate change in the form of a strange monarch butterfly migration in rural Tennessee provides the background for Dellarobia Turnbow’s transformation. Full of characters—local townsfolk, scientists, and media caricatures. Funny yet serious.

Unlike Edan Lepucki’s California. This apocalyptic story, an  end of the United States as we know it, due to extreme weather—hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms—offers little hope and a huge dose of cynicism, yet I still felt compelled to finish it, eager to know how and if the protagonists survive.

Ash Thompson is a soldier for the Union in the Civil W and a woman in disguise. She left her husband to tend the farm so she could do her part. Laird Hunt’s Neverhome portrays the horrors of war through Ash’s eyes and voice.

And finally, a play. William Luce’s 1976 Tony Award winning  “The Belle of Amherst” brings us inside Emily Dickinson’s 1883 home. A one -character play, this revival stars Joely Richardson. Told through letters and poems, we hear the despair the writer felt upon her constant rejection of her poems from the Atlantic Monthly. She describes her life, dispelling her image as being shy, offering bits of childhood memories and her black cake recipe. This quote stuck with me: “Hold your parents tenderly; the world will seem a strange and lonely place when they are gone.”



Posted in Books, commentary, New York City, Reading, reviews, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Football Fumbles

It’s fall. Pumpkins and cider. Foliage and sweaters. And football.

While the NFL struggles with its own public relations nightmares— accusations of child abuse and domestic violence, here in New Jersey incidents involving the sport are grabbing headlines.

In Sayreville, the school board cancelled the high school football season after reports of hazing by senior players against freshmen. The details are starting to emerge, including sodomy, that occurred on a daily basis.

The superintendent shared that his own son had been a victim of bullying, and given the criminal nature of the allegations, bravely cancelled the entire season. The community is outraged, claiming how football is in its blood. Little attention is given to the victims, who I imagine are afraid that by coming forward, they’ll become victims once again. The bystanders—who witnessed the crimes and others who knew about them—have remained silent.

In Lakewood, four football teammates were arrested for alleged involvement in a series of armed robberies.

In my town, Summit, last month, a silly tradition – blocking an open doorknob between adjoining locker rooms with a banana intended to prevent opposing teams from overhearing or peering in – was interpreted as a racial taunt by an opposing team comprised of mostly African American players.

Despite claims that this wasn’t the intent, the incident is being investigated by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and the school has repaired the broken doorknob.

Looking at what’s going on at the national level, it’s not hard to imagine that some of this behavior began early. Bullying is repugnant. Victims aren’t the ones to blame; they need to be protected so they’re comfortable naming names. The players involved in these incidents and fellow team members need to reflect on the behavior and find productive ways to use their time.  Let’s hope they learn about bullying and work to prevent it.




Posted in commentary, Education, sports, teaching, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Turning Night Into Day

Turning Night Into Day. Reblogged from Naomi Baltuck.

A perfect Yom Kippur message.

Posted in art, holidays, Judaism, parenting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Not my Grandmother’s Honey Cake

The mixed aromas of honey, strong coffee, whiskey, orange juice and cinnamon are wafting through the house. I’m making honey cake in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins tomorrow at sunset. Honey cake and dipping apples in honey symbolize the wish for a good and sweet year.

My mother, in her kitchen, is making her famous chicken soup and matzo balls, which we eat on every holiday not only Passover. Hers are the fluffiest and lightest ever, made so by the addition of some club soda. My daughter in-law is gathering the traditional foods associated with the holiday, beets, dates, pomegranates and fish heads among them. She’s baking challah with the help of two of the grands.

In my kitchen, I think of my grandmothers, who dutifully prepared for holiday meals. My paternal grandmother Rosie made the best apple strudel. Her recipe, passed to my siblings and cousins, doesn’t include exact measurements. She expertly knew how much of each ingredient to add. My grandmother Mae made chopped liver and chocolate cake. Neither used recipes for soups and stews.

Unlike my honey cake. I read different recipes. My daughter in-law asked me to make the one I made in May for a grandson’s Upsherin, eaten to symbolize the sweetness of learning that begins at age 3.  I couldn’t remember which recipe I used. Loaded with ingredients, it’s hard finding the right balance of not too sweet and not too dry. Hadassah magazine features a recipe it claimed never fails, as long a you follow the directions exactly.  I compared it to ones I’ve made and decided to try it.

On Thursday, I’ll listen to my son blow the shofar at the Columbia University Chabad. Later in the day, we’ll walk to the Hudson River and join thousands of New York City Jews in the Tashlich ceremony, symbolically  casting away our sins into the water.

L’Shana Tova, Happy New Year to all.


Posted in celebrations, Family, food, holidays, Judaism, New York City, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

California Cycling


Through redwood forests

We spent five days cycling through Napa and Sonoma counties, taking in the vast panoramas of California, from hot desert climbs to cool coastal descents.



Open roads, no traffic


Small bridges


Bikes get premier parking.

Bikes get premier parking.

And park where no car can

And park where no car can


Posted in bike riding, environment, exercise, Family, sports, travel, Trees, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Conquering Fear: The Golden Gate Bridge

We’re in San Francisco for a few days visiting our daughter before a 5 day bike trip touring Napa and Sonoma wine country.

My husband assembled our Ritchey bikes—called breakaways—that come apart and load into such huge boxes that people often ask if we’re in a band. He put them together (I went to a yoga class a the local Y), and we wanted to test them out before the journey begins tomorrow. Everyone suggested  we ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and then take the ferry back from Sausalito, a picturesque residential community across the bay.



I knew the bridge would make me nervous. Though a strong rider, I’m not good with large crowds, high winds, and narrow bike lanes, especially when the traffic is two-way. I’m not a city rider, preferring bucolic country roads over buses and trucks. San Fran is a bike friendly city; bike lanes and paths prevail and bike rental companies abound.

We rode along the Embarcadero waterfront through the park before the bridge. I hesitated before joining the steady stream of cyclists. When among riders of varying abilities, on all sorts of bikes, one can’t anticipate speed or sudden stops. It was windy and traffic quite heavy for a Saturday, though the bike lane is safely fenced from both the ocean and cars.

And then I went. I rode steady and slowly, keeping eyes ahead; ignoring both the scenery and the water below. There are three curves, where the lane circles the bridge supports that made everyone slow down, some were taking photos. At one point my husband stopped to take his camera out, I told him if I got off I’d never get back on. A woman fell in front of me, knocked over by the wind. She missed my wheel by an inch and grazed her knee. She admitted it was her first time using bike clips for her feet— not the best way to start out I thought.

The end was in sight and I made it across, happy to dismount for the photo. The ride to Sausalito took about 10 minutes and we returned to San Francisco by ferry.

Today we’re hiking in Marin County and Monday start the bike tour.


Bike tools & pump available for all to use on the waterfront.

Bike tools & pump available for all to use on the waterfront.




Posted in bike riding, Cycling, environment, exercise, health, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments