The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 2 Is as Dazzling As You ...The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is a period comedy-drama about a woman comic in 1950s New York. It is created by Amy Sherman –Paladino (of the Gilmore Girls fame) and produced by Amazon. Now in its second season, and renewed for a third, the Marvelous Mrs Maisel is easily the best thing on TV.

Golden Globes:

  • Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy
  • Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Rachel Brosnahan)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Alex Bornstein)
  • Oustanding Directing for a Comedy Series
  • Oustanding Writing for a Comedy series
  • Oustanding Casting for a Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Music Supervision
  • Oustanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series

Miriam Maisel, or ‘Midge’ lives with Joel, her husband of four years, and two young children on Manhatten’s Upper West Side. Her life is one most contemporary would woman aspire to, that is until Joel runs off with his secretary. Her future ruined, Midge moves back to her parents’ apartment and finds a day job. From the depths of despair, she reinvents herself as a bawdy and successful stand-up comedian.  Drama and hilarity ensue.

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Mr and Mrs Weissman

Main characters:

  • Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel – a quirky and glamorous upper-middle-class Jewish housewife cum comedian. Played by Rachel Brosnahan.
  • Susie Myerson – Midge’s sarcastic and impatient manager, ever conscious of Midge’s higher social status. Played by Alex Borstein (the voice of Lois in Family Guy).
  • Joel Maisel – Miriam’s estranged husband. A hardworking man who made a terrible mistake. Played by Michael Zegan.
  • Abraham Weissman – Midge’s tweed coated father. Teaches Mathematics at Columbia University. Played by Tony Shalhoub (from Monk)
  • Rosa Weissman – Midge’s ever-critical mother. Played by Marin Hinkle.

Others include Midge’s gentile friend Imogine Clearly, the Weisman’s Ukrainian maid Zelda and real-life comedian Lenny Bruce. Midge’s two children barely feature – which is all for the better. Too many shows are spoiled by bad child actors playing characters nobody cares about.  Not this one.

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Midge and Susie

A charming set design brings 1950s Manhattan to life, complete with yellow taxi cabs, elaborate fashion and fast-talking denizens.  Themes including gender roles, Judaism, class and adultery are touched on but not central to the story. That honour belongs to its characters.

Marvelous Mrs Maisel’s humour is clever and fast-paced. Midge’s routines are funny too, though they take only a small part of the show.  Unlike many shows about comedians, the lead is only an actress.  Fussy Abe and foul-mouthed Suzie, in particular, are downright hilarious. The humour flows naturally, full of clever jokes and cultural references and every character has their charms with none being overly eccentric or one dimensional.

It is difficult to find fault with the series. Everything, from the costumes, set design, music, acting and wit come together to work wonders. I eagerly await the third season.

The Spartacist Uprising

Image result for spartakusbundThe Spartacist Uprising was a failed attempt by German communists to overthrow the Weimer Republic in 1919.  The rebellion was crushed by the German army and far-right paramilitaries.

The German Empire fell in 1918. In October the High Command faced certain defeat in the First World War. Sailors and soldiers mutinied, strikes paralysed the economy and socialists seized power. On November 9th the Kaiser abdicated, the German Empire was dissolved and the Weimer Republic proclaimed in its place. The new government surrendered to the allies and signed the Treaty of Versailles.Image result for friedrich ebert

Freidrich Ebert of the Social Democrats was named chancellor. His party were left-leaning and held the most seats in the Reichstag but were despised by both the radical right and left. The German military supported the new government on the condition it would suppress the far-left.

The Spartacus League opposed Ebert’s government. They were radical leftists who split from the Social Democrats in 1915 over support for the war and hoped for a full-scale revolution like the one in Russia. The party was named after the Roman gladiator Spartacus who led a slave revolt in the 1st century BC.

Today in history – the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl ...

Karl Leibknecht (left), a lawyer and active member of the Socialist International, and Rosa Luxembourg (right), a Polish-born Marxist thinker were its leaders. Both were of Jewish descent. The Spartacus League opposed capitalism, militarism and the aristocracy and demanded ‘All Power to the Workers and Councils’. Although they had supported the 1918 Revolution, for them the Social Democrat compromise fell short.

In January 1919 Ebert fired popular Berlin police chief and communist sympathiser Emil Eichorn. Eichorn’s dismissal triggered public demonstrations and a general strike across the city. On the 5th of January the workers revolted. Though Leibknecht and Luxembourg had previously opposed an armed insurrection so soon, this was their opportunity. 500,000 workers armed themselves, took over the city and proclaimed a new government under the Spartacus League.

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Ebert enlisted the Freikorps to quell the uprising. These were right-wing paramilitaries formed by disillusioned veterans who blamed Germany’s defeat on socialists and Jews – the ‘Stab in the Back Myth’. Well-armed and battle-hardened, the Freikorps used menacing imagery such as swastikas and skull and crossbones and were a law unto their own. Though no fans of Ebert’s Social Democrat government, they hated the communists more.

On the 6th of January Freikorps units stormed Berlin. The revolutionaries were no match for the well-armed militias who crushed the uprising in a matter of days. On the 15th January, Leibknecht was shot in the back and Luxembourg beaten to death with rifle butts. Many years later, the Spartacist leaders became martyrs to the East German regime and the modern German left.

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Beset by inflation, economic turmoil and a bruised national ego, Weimar Germany existed in a perilous state threatened by both political extremes. The Spartacist Uprising was the first of many failed insurrections until the Nazis seized power in 1933. Had Germany fallen to communism instead of fascism, history could have taken a very different turn.

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2018 Predictions Reviewed

Image result for soothsayerOne year ago I made ten predictions for 2018. This is how they turned out.

1. The Democrats will win a senate majority in the 2018 midterms

The Democrats did well, but not as well as I expected. The Republican Party maintained a majority in the Senate but lost the House of Representatives. Wrong.

2. Bitcoin will suppress 20,000 USD

Oh how I was wrong about this one!! The Cryptocurrency market crashed hard in 2018. Instead of growing to 20,000 Bitcoin, which peaked at $10,000 in December 2017, plummeted to 3,200 in December, dragging most other cryptocurrencies down with it. The market has yet to recover. Wrong.

3. The USA will suffer its largest mass shooting in history.

The US suffered a horrifying 323 mass shootings in 2018. Parkland, which took 17 lives, overtook Columbine as the deadliest high school shooting in US history, but did not surpass the 2019 Las Vegas Shooting in deaths. Wrong.

4. New Caledonia will vote no to Independence

 In November the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia voted against independence 56-44. Right

5.Vladimir Putin will win the Russian Election

This one wasn’t much of a prediction. Authoritarian strongman Vladimir Putin won his second consecutive term (and fourth overall) with 77% of the vote. Whether or not the Russian system is truly democratic, no one could have filled his shoes. Right.

6. The Social Democrats will win the Brazillian Election

Not even close. Jair Bolsanaro, the so called Trump of the Tropics’ and his Social Liberal Party won with 50% of the popular vote. The Social Democrats came a distant 5th place. Given the global slide to right wing populism I should have seen this coming – looks like I didn’t do enough research! Wrong.

7. Artificial meat will be available in supermarkets

Cultured meat made leaps and bounds in 2018 but is yet to be commercially available. 20 companies are manufacturing their own cultured meat, which may appear in supermarkets over the next couple of years. Wrong.

8. Bashar al Assad will win the Syrian Civil War.

Not quite. ISIS is all but defeated but regime forces are still fighting rebel groups in Idlib province while Kurdish led militias control the northeast. Wrong.

9. The Islamic State will launch an insurrection in Southeast Asia

Thankfully this did not happen. Philippines forces clashed with Islamist militants in July and an ISIS affiliated faction killed 28 in a church bombing in Surabaya, Indonesia in May. There was, nothing, however,  to the scale of the 2017 Battle for Marawi. Wrong.

10. Bangladesh will declare war on Burma

Though Burma’s genocide against the Rohingya Muslims continues no foreign power has intervened. Wrong.

Only two of my ten predictions were correct. Looks like a career in soothsaying is not for me!

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2018 Goals Reviewed

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One year ago I listed five goals for this blog in 2018. Here is my evaluation.

  1. Posting once a week: I failed to post every Monday, but stuck to a fairly consistant routine. Sometimes I posted on Tuesday instead. Aside from my holiday in May and Nanowrimo in November I did post once a week. Check.
  1. Diversifying: In 2017 I wrote about history and current events. In 2018 I expanded into book reviews, anthropology and culture. Check.
  1. Style Guide: Unfortunately I never get round to this – maybe this year. Miss.
  1. Nanowrimo: Yes! I managed to write a 50,000 word novel draft in November for the National Novel Writing Month challenge.  If I am not too busy, I will do this again in 2019. Check.
  1. Diligence: One year on and this blog is still going strong. I have far more readers than I did at the beginning of 2018 and am still updating regularly. Check.

All in all I accomplished 4/5 of my blogging goals. Not bad. This year I will stick to the same routine as 2018, blogging once a week on topics which pique my interest. Hopefully by 2020 I am still going. Happy New Year everyone!

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Books I Read in 2018

Image result for booksAside from blogging more, my goal was to watch less TV and read more books in 2018. The books are listed by the date I finished reading them.  Some I have done separate posts on, others I have not.



  • Maitland Edey – Lost World of the Aegean (1976). The archaeology of the Ancient Minoans and Early Greeks. Dated but informative. 3/5


  • Robert Bly – Iron John (1990). An allegorical interpretation of an old fairy tale suggesting what the ancient cultures can teach modern man. 3/5


  • Aldous Huxley – Island (1962). The utopia to Brave New World’s dystopia. 4/5


  • Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible (1998)A family saga of four girls and their missionary father in the Congo.  5/5
  • Thomas Sowell – Ethnic America (1981). Details the history and experiences of 11 American immigrant groups. Good on facts and figures, less so on future projections. 4/5


  • Paul M Handley – The King Never Smiles (2006).  A critical analysis of the modern Thai monarchy. Banned in Thailand. 5/5


  • Roland Tye – Weekender (2016). Five very different stories about five very different people one weekend in Edinburgh. The connection is revealed only at the very end. 5/5
  • JD Salinger – Catcher in the Rye (1951). Great American Novel about a rebellious teenager in the late ’40s. 5/5


  •  Ian Morris – The Greeks: History, Culture and Society (2010). This old textbook is a good survey of ancient Greece if a little dry. 3/5


  • Frederick Forsythe – the Dogs of War (1974). A business magnate hires a team of mercenaries to stage a coup in a fictional African country. Good, but not as good as Day of the Jackal. 3/5


  • Jared Diamond – Guns Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1997). Explains why civilization arose in some parts of the world and not others. An excellent read for history and anthropology buffs. 5/5
  • Frederick Forsythe – Day of the Jackal (1971). About an assassin hired to kill the president of France and the men chasing him. 4/5

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