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Former Winnipegger Jonas Chernick scores with his latest film: “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”

Jonas Chernick (left) & Daniel Stern in a scene from “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”

By BERNIE BELLAN
When I was contacted recently by ex-Winnipegger Jonas Chernick, who asked me whether I’d be interested in seeing a screener for a new movie he’d produced and starred in, I immediately said “yes”.
The reason is that I’ve been writing about Jonas’s career for years now – beginning with his very successful “My Awkward Sexual Adventure” (2012), about which I’ve always been fascinated by the odd fact that a Lithuaianian version of that fim known as ‘Nepatyres” (or “Inexperienced”) opened to the third highest box office of all time n that country – of all places.

 

 

Jonas Chernick is someone who has deep Winnipeg roots. A graduate of Grant Park High School,  Jonas used to write a column about floor hockey for this paper when he was the commissioner of the Jewish Student Association Floor Hockey League.  As well, while he was a student Jonas was very involved with a number of different Jewish organizations, including Camp Massad and BBYO. Later, he was also employed by the Rady Centre.
Jonas honed his acting chops on the stage of the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, where he performed in four different productions over the years. After leaving Winnipeg, Jonas went on to on to fashion a successful career in both television and movies and, in recent years, he has expanded his repertoire to include not only appearing in productions, but writing and producing them as well.

Jonas’s first major success as a writer and producer came in 2012 with, as I noted, “My Awkward Sexual Adventure”.
In 2016 Jonas launched another film which he wrote and produced – this one set in Manitoba, titled “Borealis”. That movie, as did “Sexual Adventure”, reaped quite a few awards and was a hit on the festival circuit. When I interviewed Jonas back in 2016, he mentioned that he had various irons in the fire, but he was particularly keen on a project for which he hoped to find financing – something, he admitted, is always a difficult process when it comes to producing a movie.
In any event, Jonas was able to put together the financing to produce what is now his most recent film, titled “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”. In our next issue we’ll have a full-length interview with Jonas Chernick, but in the meantime I wanted to offer readers a preview of “James”, which is slated to be released across Canada on iTunes and Video on Demand on Shaw, Bell, and Rogers on April 3.

“JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF” is billed as a “sci-fi rom com” (science fiction romantic comedy). It’s a charming story about an unabashed science nerd by the name of James – played by Jonas, who is obsessed with time travel. James is actually a brilliant theoretical physicist and his delving into a subject that has fascinated individuals ever since H.G. Wells’ epic novel, The Time Machine, is grounded firmly in actual science (or so the notes accompanying publicity for this film say. Who am I to judge whether that’s at all true or not.)
At the same though that James pursues his dream of time travel, he also makes a shambles of his personal life. Anyone who has seen Jonas Chernick in either “Sexual Adventure” or “Borealis”, or a television series in which he also recently appeared, titled “The Best Laid Plans”, would know that Jonas has been type casting himself as a sweet, but nerdy nebbish who, despite his best attempts, always seems to screw up his relationships – whether romantic or familial.

Jonas Chernick & Cleopatra Coleman in a scene from “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”

This holds true for James in “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”, as James consistently screws things up with the one woman for whom he holds a torch, Courtney (played by Cleopatra Coleman), as well as with his potty-mouthed sister, Meredith (played by Tommie-Amber Pirie).
Things are not going well for James until the sudden arrival of a character who reveals himself to be James’ future self, although his name is not James, but “Jimmy”.
Jimmy is played by Daniel Stern, probably best known for his roles in the two “Home Alone” movies. And, for anyone who hasn’t seen Daniel Stern in a while, if you didn’t know it was Daniel Stern playing the role, you might say to yourself: “Gee, that guy looks familiar, but I just can’t place him.”
I have to admit that before writing this particular article, I took a look at what other reviewers have had to say about “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF”. The consensus seems to be that Daniel Stern steals the movie. In fact, he’s been nominated for a 2020 Canadian Screen Award as Best Supporting Actor (as has the movie itself for Best Original Screenplay).
Stern invests his role with a crazy kind of energy. When I was corresponding with Jonas Chernick about the film I suggested that the only other actor who I could see playing the role of Jimmy might have been Jeff Bridges.
In production notes accompanying release of the film, how Stern came to prepare himself for the role of Jimmy provides some fascinating insight into how certain actors brace a role: “What helped Stern truly get into the character of Jimmy came via a rather unusual, surprising request regarding his accommodations while in production. Most Hollywood stars would generally expect a nice multi-starred hotel room or luxury apartment, but not Stern.
“As Chernick explains, ‘He requested a rustic cabin in the woods. We found one and it was so remote that it was forty minutes outside of town, off the highway and down a labyrinth of dirt roads. It was a cabin with a wood burning stove, water pumped in from the lake, no cell service and only mosquitoes for company. At first we thought, “Oh great! He’s crazy”.’
“But it was all part of Stern’s master plan. ‘Luckily we realized he chose that location for the character. Jimmy lived in isolation for twelve years and lost connection with the world. He felt that returning to this cabin in the woods every night after shooting and waking up there would put him in this headspace,’ added Chernick.”
Since “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF” is supposedly a story of a younger person meeting an older version of himself, one might expect there to be at least a physical resemblance between the two characters. But, in this movie at least, that notion is quickly dispensed with, as there is nothing at all similar in the appearance of Jonas Chernick and Daniel Stern. (There is an ongoing joke about them having the same looking penis – and some reviewers have dismissed that as puerile dialogue, but the way Jimmy explains it to James – it actually makes sense. It has to do with physical bodies being stretched through time travel, but not losing certain identifying characteristics.)
As James confronts the dilemma posed to him by Jimmy: either abandon his quest for time travel and solidify his relationship with the lovely Courtney or continue in his pursuit and end up like Jimmy, there is a resolution to this dilemma advanced in the film though that helps to explain how, what on the surface appears to be an intractable problem that can’t be solved – but remember, this is just a movie, not a scientifically provable hypothesis.
I might note that one reviewer dismissed “JAMES VS. HIS FUTURE SELF” as an attempt to harken back to rom-coms of an earlier period. But hey, I liked a lot of those rom coms – as did a lot of audiences back then.
And Jonas Chernick has established himself as an expert at playing nerdy but lovable characters. While Daniel Stern certainly dominates the screen when he appears in this movie, it’s Jonas’s soulful gaze that makes you cheer for him. You just wish that he wouldn’t be so blind as not to see how the beautiful Courtney is giving him every possible signal that she’s highly available to him – and, when he finally gets his shot, he flubs it.
Now, that’s what we need more of in movies: Guys who miss every opportunity to score when it’s presented to them on a silver platter. A lot of males watching this movie will certainly be able to relate to that – and no doubt women will be wishing they themselves could have a shot at seducing that oh-so-innocent looking Jonas Chernick.

Watch the trailer for the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8oOuwsvdo

We will have a full-length interview with Jonas Chernick in our April 1 issue – and on this website.

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Features

The Critical Job Roles in Online Business

More companies than ever are embracing remote working. As of 2023, around 16% of businesses have a fully remote working model, with many more adopting a hybrid one. All of this should come as welcome news to anyone looking for a better work-life balance. As well as saying goodbye to grueling commutes, remote employees can embrace lucrative salary packages, generous benefits, and more. Ready to reap the benefits of online work yourself? Below are just a handful of remote working opportunities to consider.

Video Game and Casino Platform Development

Whether it’s creating Canadian online slots for real money casinos or an open-world epic, great games need talented developers. Thankfully, this is one sector where the typical rules of the 9-5 don’t apply. In the US, an experienced game developer can expect to take home around $103,000 annually. For a midweight casino games developer, a starting salary of around $65,000 is fairly respectable.

Software Engineering

If you have a background in software engineering, you’re in luck. Currently, it’s one of the highest-paid online roles around, with an average salary of $108,000. There’s no one size-fits-all remit for a software engineer, but typical roles include designing applications, testing, and creating system upgrades.

UX Design

User experience is becoming increasingly important as companies strive to make their digital products more accessible. Unsurprisingly, there’s a high demand for user experience designers, with many positions now advertised as remote-first roles. You’ll need to have sufficient software and development experience to excel here. What’s more, you’ll need to work closely with clients to meet the needs of the consumer. If you think you could do well in a role like this, expect an annual salary in the region of $97,000.

Web Design

One role you’ll never struggle to find is that of a web designer. It’s a pretty broad field, so expect a lot of disparity when it comes to job remits and starting salaries. At a minimum, a web designer worth their salt should be able to create accessible websites for a wide range of clients. You’ll also need to be familiar with coding languages and testing. Less experienced web designers can expect to command a starting salary of around $43,000. If you’ve been working professionally for more than a few years and have a solid portfolio to back you up, you can easily negotiate twice that amount.

Entry-Level Online Roles

For digital natives, remote working will come as second nature. Don’t have the skills to land a web designer or developer job? Not to worry. There are an increasing number of entry-level remote roles out there.

Customer service roles are readily available, with positions to cater to all experience levels. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you might be tasked with making sales calls or resolving complaints from customers. A customer service agent can comfortably make around $40-50,000 a year. If you operate on a commission basis or can take advantage of a generous bonus scheme, you could easily double this annually.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Even as many businesses encourage workers back to the office, there’s an deniable upward trend in the number of remote and hybrid-only roles on the job market. Video conferencing technology and collaboration tools are making it easier than ever for remote teams to remain connected. Meanwhile, company executives are finding it hard to argue with significantly reduced overheads and increased productivity.

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Features

Dangers from the far-right in America explored in new book

By MARTIN ZEILIG “The United States is confronted by a serious domestic terrorist threat in addition to the foreign ones that have commanded our attention for the past two decades,” warn Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) fellows and leading terrorism experts Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware, says a review of “God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America” on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations (January 2, 2024).  
“Their new book provides a definitive account of how ‘“violent extremism has woven itself into the fabric of national, state, and local politics,”’ from the tragedy that unfolded at a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 through the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.” 

Co-authors of “God, Guns, and Sedition” Bruce Hoffman (left) and Jacob Ware


Bruce Hoffman is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service; professor emeritus of terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews; and the George H. Gilmore Senior Fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. His Columbia University Press books include “Inside Terrorism “(third edition, 2017).
Jacob Ware is a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and at DeSales University. He serves on the editorial boards for the academic journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism and the Irregular Warfare Initiative at the Modern War Institute at West Point. 

Mr. Hoffman agreed to discuss the book in an email interview with The Jewish Post & News.
JP&N: Why did you decide to write this book now?
BH: The idea for this book came to me just a month into the global COVID lockdown. April 2020 was a dark, dangerous, and highly fearful and uncertain time. Odious conspiracy theories, that had been circulating for years, suddenly gained newfound momentum across the internet and social media. Indeed, within days of the lockdown, Jewish people were being blamed and vilified for creating the pandemic in order to profit monetarily from it.
Asians, persons of color, and immigrants, and others, were also being targeted for blame. Only weeks earlier I had been the target of a serious hate crime. Isolated at home, like most of the rest of the world, I had lots of time to think about what was happening and, I quickly reached the conclusion that I needed to return to my analytical roots.
To explain, I had begun my career as a terrorism and counterterrorism analyst in 1981 at the renowned American think-tank, The RAND Corporation. However, by the time that I joined its Security and Subnational Conflict Research Program, all the more prominent left-wing and ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorists active at the time had been taken by other members of the research team.
Surveying the remaining terrorist movements that had not yet been chosen, I decided to focus on the threat posed by neo-Nazi and neo-fascist groups then active in Europe. That in fact was the subject of my first ever professional publication.
Within only a couple of years, I expanded by focus to include their even far more dangerous American counterparts. I therefore studied intently violent, far-right terrorism in the United States from the mid-1980s through the September 11, 2001 attacks. Then, like most other terrorism analysts, my attention was diverted for the next two decades almost exclusively to al Qaeda and then the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL).
Meanwhile, terrorist attacks from violent, far-right extremists both in the United States and elsewhere had suddenly started to increase during the twenty-teens. In 2011, for instance, there were simultaneous, tragic terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, Norway; four years later there was the horrific shootings of worshippers at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina; then in 2018 a gunman stormed into the Jewish Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing congregants; and in 2019 the attacks within weeks of one another on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and a Jewish synagogue in Poway, California, and then that summer at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, clearly demonstrated that the same hateful ideology and bloody mindset that had fueled far-right violence during the closing decades of the twentieth-century, when I first began studying this phenomenon, had neither disappeared nor abated.
Accordingly, I approached my friend and colleague at the Council on Foreign Relations and Georgetown University, Jacob Ware, and proposed that we together write this book. And, we immediately began work on it.
 
 JP&N: What is the extent of far-left terrorism in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the world? Is there a connection between far-right and far-left extremists?
 BH: Let me emphasize that politically-motivated violence—that is, terrorism—in the United States is not confined exclusively to the far-right. Indeed, prior to the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building the most serious incident targeted Republication congressmen. In June 2017, a self-proclaimed supporter of progressive, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders opened fire at an early morning practice for the annual congressional charity baseball game. The then-House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, was seriously wounded, along with five other persons. If not for the U.S. Capitol Police present as part of Rep. Scalise’s security detail, who killed the gunman, the outcome would likely have been very different. In another incident two years later, a self-professed anarchist tried to firebomb a Tacoma, Washington Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, before being shot dead by responding officers.
But with the exception of those two very serious incidents and some others of brawling, rioting, arson, and vandalism that occurred during Donald Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration in Washington, DC, and in Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, and some other cities following the death of George Floyd by police in 2021, the threat of violence from violent, far-left extremists has been less pervasive and less consequential than that from their counterparts on the far-right. Indeed, Professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss in her book, “Hate in the Homeland,” estimates that there were at least 75,000 armed and violently-inclined far-right extremists in the United States as of 2020—a number that likely completely eclipses that of violently-inclined far-left extremists in the United States: many of whom are not armed and lack the training and expertise possessed by those on the far-right fringe.
The only connection between the two is that they both ascribe to the strategy of “accelerationism.” First articulated by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in their 1848 pamphlet, “Manifesto Of The Communist Party,” accelerationism today is embraced by both ends of the ideological spectrum who believe that the modern Western, liberal state is so corrupt and inept that it is beyond redemption and must be destroyed in order to create a new society and way of governance.
 
JP&N: What are the strategies for combating far-right terrorism?
BH: The book argues that the United States needs a comprehensive, wide-ranging, institutionalized strategy to effectively counter the threat to our democracy from violent, far-right extremism. Measures are required to strengthen American civil society more generally as well as to specifically target violent extremist groups, their activists and supporters, their propagandists and sympathizers, and their recruiters and financiers.
 The policy recommendations we propose fall into three categories: short-term measures to create a stronger regulatory framework, with relatively immediate effects; medium-term measures to strengthen civil society, with impacts over the next five to ten years; and, long-term measures to build national unity and strengthen resilience that will benefit future generations and inoculate them against the allure of extremist ideologies.
This comprehensive counterterrorism strategy will require measures to combat extremists’ free reign online, efforts to build and support longer-term initiatives to prevent new radicalization, and the establishment of new laws to counteract the challenges in prosecuting perpetrators of far-right terrorist plots.

“God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America”
(Columbia University Press $28.95 USD)


 
 

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Features

Israel programs looking for Canadian volunteers

Volunteers with Leket are helping to harvest fruit and vegetable crops in Israel's south

By BERNIE BELLAN Living as Israelis are in a time of unprecedented tension and uncertainty, more than ever volunteers are needed to fill important roles in that country. While there are so many areas of Israeli society that are now in great need of help, we decided to focus on three programs with which we have some familiarity, having written articles about each of them in the past: Leket, Sar-El, and MASA.
Each program offers a completely different experience for volunteers. We contacted the offices of Leket and Sar-El and had previously been in touch with the Canadian representative for MASA.

 Leket Israel
We received the following information from a representative for Leket in Israel: “I’m pleased to share that over the past three months, Leket Israel has seen a remarkable influx of volunteer participation in all of Leket Israel’s operations. In addition to its usual volunteer opportunities at the Leket Israel Logistics Center in Gan Haim and the fields in Rishon Lezion, Leket has begun matching volunteers with farmers in need of assistance in harvesting their produce.
“In routine times, Leket Israel welcomes around 5,500 volunteers in the Logistics Center and fields to assist in its food rescue activities.
 “Over the past 14 weeks, Leket has sent over 27,000 volunteers from Israel and overseas to support over farmers around the country, most of them in the Gaza strip region. Additionally, hundreds of volunteers come every day to help sort and pack produce at the Logistics Center and to harvest produce in the fields in Rishon Lezion.
 “Joseph Gitler, Founder and Chairman: The surge of volunteer participation serves as a testament to the unwavering spirit of giving in Israeli society. This collective effort is making a profound difference in the lives of thousands of displaced Israelis throughout the country.”
 

Sar-El volunteers help to do such things as pack kit bags for members of the IDF


Sar-El (acronym from the Hebrew Sherut l’Israel)

Sar-El is a program that assigns volunteers to work on Israeli army bases for either two or three week stints. (Stays can be extended with permission.) Programs are open to volunteers of all ages.
Volunteers are expected to be physically fit and already in a physical fitness program before applying. You should be capable of light or heavy lifting, or standing for long periods of time.

According to the Sar-El website volunteers can be expected to perform non-combat civilian support duties such as packing medical supplies, repairing machinery and equipment, packing and checking all kinds of equipment.
Volunteers work Sunday-Thursday and are expected to be able to put in eight hours of work per day. Three kosher meals a day are provided.

Recently we happened to meet a couple who are both going to Israel quite soon to volunteer with Sar-El. They told me that, due to the exceptional circumstances, they will not actually be stationed on an army base, but rather will be living nearby.

masa volunteers spend 6 weeks in Israel in three 2-week blocks

masa Israel Journey
masa is a program for 16-40 year-olds that offers a variety of different programs from which to choose. We were recently contacted by a representative of the masa Israel office in response to a question we had about volunteering during wartime. We had received an email that was aimed at American volunteers, so we wanted to make sure that Canadian volunteers were eligible to volunteer on masa programs.
We were told that Canadians are definitely eligible to volunteer: “In regards to your question, yes Canadians are absolutely eligible! The eligibility of the program is 18-40 years old, identify as Jewish, have not received Masa funding in the past / have not spend 4 or more consecutive months in Israel and speak proficient English.”
Currently masa is offering a special wartime program. According to information on the masa website, The purpose of the program is to enable young Jews, ages 18-40, from around the world to volunteer in the State of Israel during wartime. Our unique program is divided into three 2-week segments. The first two weeks, we will be based in a youth village south of Tel Aviv, cooking meals for soldiers. The middle two weeks will be based in Tel Aviv while we volunteer on an army base and the final two weeks we will be based in the beach town of Eilat where we will be planning and implementing activities with evacuees under the age of 18. Interspersed within the six weeks will be agricultural volunteering as well as tours, educational and social events. For more information please register below or email Rina at rinas@israeloutdoorsnext.net.

We have not given email addresses for any of the three organizations cited here. Simply Google each of their names if you’re interested in finding out more about them and you’ll find out how to contact representatives.

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