Category Archives: History

The Story of Late Night Review

For many of us, our day ends with a late night talk show.

The new six part CNN series, The Story of Late Night, takes viewers through the history of late night television. It started as a way to fill the air time after the primetime shows and turned into a completely new genre. Initially headlined by television legends Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson, these programs have kept the country laughing for 70+ years. While being introduced (or re-introduced, depending on your age) to these television personalities, the audience is given back stage tour to the places and people that were not in front of the camera.

I enjoyed the first episode. It was educational, but not in a stuffy or academic way. It was both a learning experience and a good laugh. One of the hosts I was surprised to learn about is Faye Emerson. My impression of the era was that men were the face of the genre, women worked behind the scenes or were part of the act. Knowing that she led her own show was a lovely surprise.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Story of Late Night airs on CNN on Sunday nights at 9PM.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Television, TV Review

The Room on Rue Amelie Book Review

When we make a choice, we never know what the consequences of that decision will be. We can only hope that it will turn out for the best.

In Kristin Harmel‘s 2018 book, The Room on Rue Amelie, Ruby is a young woman in the late 1930’s. Attending college in New York City, she meets and instantly falls in love with Marcel, a Frenchman from Paris. After the wedding, they move to Marcel’s hometown. At first it seems as they are in newlywedded bliss. But then World War II starts and their marriage is forever altered. The man she married and the man who stands in front of her are two different people.

After he is killed, Ruby discovers that her husband was part of the resistance. Picking up where he left off, she hides Allied soldiers who have landed in enemy territory. One of them is a RAF pilot who Ruby immediately connects with. She also takes in Charlotte, the young daughter of her Jewish neighbors who have been arrested. As the war continues on, the level of danger grows tenfold. They know they want to survive, but fate may have other plans.

I really enjoyed this book. Harmel’s story of love, resistance, fate, and hope is emotional and powerful. The relationship that kept me going was the one between Ruby and Charlotte. Their sisterly bond was the strongest among the characters, keeping them both going in a time when their circumstances could have easily broken them.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

The Parting Glass Book Review

Within an upper-class or aristocratic household, the relationship between a member of the family and their valet or lady’s maid is a unique one. Though they are employer and employee, there is an emotional and physical bond that has the potential to go beyond the traditional bounds of the relationship.

The Parting Glass, by Gina Marie Guadagnino, was published in 2019. In the 1830s, in New York City, Mary Ballard’s job is that of lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, one of the most sought-after young women in society. But Mary is not who she says she is. Her real name is Maire O’Farren. Maire is an Irish immigrant who was forced to leave her homeland after being caught in a compromising position. On her nights off, she frequents the unseemly parts of the city, where she gets involved with a prostitute and drinks with friends who are part of an underground society.

Maire/Mary is caught in a bind. She is in love with her mistress, who is having an affair with Maire/Mary’s brother. When the shit hits the fan, she has a choice to make, which has the potential to result in heartbreak.

Starts at 13:22

I have mixed feelings about this book. I love the concept of the narrative, blending a traditional historical novel with an LGBTQ protagonist and the reality of what it was to be an Irish immigrant during that time period. Though the middle of the story lags at moments, the ending is fantastic, and the details are nothing short of perfection.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, New York City

The Forgotten Modern Genocide: The Armenian Genocide

Genocide is defined as the following:

The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group “a campaign of genocide”.

Today is the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

During the massacre, approximately 800,000 to 1.2 Armenian women, children, and older members of the community were sent on death marches to the desert. Another 100,000 to 200,000 women and children were forced to covert to Islam. More than a century later, Turkey has yet to claim responsibility for the atrocity.

Reading about the event and watching footage is stomach curling. The similarities to the Holocaust are too close to home for me. As is the denial that it either never happened or the facts are exaggerated.

The fact that President Biden has both acknowledged the genocide and encouraged our allies to do the same tells me that there are good people in this world. What is done cannot be undone. But we can honor the memories of those who were murdered by standing up to hate and prejudice.

May their memories be a blessing. Z”l.

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Filed under History, International News, World News

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

When it comes to famous writers, there are only a few who are universally loved and worshipped. At the top of this list is William Shakespeare. Today is his birthday. I could list why he is one of the greatest writers in human history, but I will let the work speak for itself.

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Filed under History, William Shakespeare, Writing

Flashback Friday: Frost/Nixon (2008)

In a democracy, an interview between a reporter and a political figure is a normal event.

The 2008 film, Frost/Nixon, written by Peter Morgan (The Crown), is based on the play of the same name. In 1977, the late American President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) sat down to a televised interview with British television host David Frost (Michael Sheen). It has been three years since the Watergate scandal and his ouster from the highest political office in the land. Over that period, he has not spoken publicly about his misconduct and its aftermath.

Up until that point, Frost’s reputation is not exactly that of a journalistic heavy hitter. Nixon hopes to use that reputation to revive his public perception and earn a hefty check in the process. For his part, Frost has to overcome the doubts that his team has in his ability to succeed. What neither knows is the game that the other will play and how challenging it will be.

This movie is fantastic. The acting is top notch and the story immediately pulls the audience in. Langella almost disappears into the character of Nixon. Though the makeup and prothesis helps, it is the actor who does the heavy lifting. For his part, Sheen as Frost, has the more difficult job. He has to prove that his character has the chops to take on one of the most infamous men in American history.

If there is one takeaway from this movie, it is that politics never changes. Though the narrative takes place nearly fifty years ago, it is a relevant today as it was then.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Frost/Nixon is available for streaming on Peacock.

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Filed under Flashback Friday, History, Movie Review, Movies, Politics, Television

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields Book Review

The perception of women is that we are caregivers and nurturers. The want or need to kill another person is not in our nature.

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, by Wendy Lower, was published in 2014. In the book, Lower puts the spotlight on a group of women who were responsible for the murder of Jews and other minority groups looked upon as “subhuman”. Some of those profiled worked in clerical positions, others took profound glee in being able to say that they had a direct hand in the killings.

I have to admit that I had trouble reading the book. Not because it is poorly written, but because of the subject matter. It is chilling to think that these women had blood on their hands, but went home to their families and children as if they had ordinary jobs. The reason the Nazis were able to stay in power and do what they did because of ordinary people who supported them. It is a lesson that is as profound today as it was in the 1940’s.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Politics

The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel Book Review

There is something about a shared life experience. Instead of small talking and playing the “getting to know you” game, there is an immediate understanding and shorthand between those who share said experiences.

In 2019, journalist Howard Reich published his memoir about his friendship with the late Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel. It is entitled The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Reich, whose parents both survived the Holocaust, sat down with Wiesel for what was supposed to be a standard interview. Instead of it being a one-and-done experience, Reich and Wiesel became friends and were in frequent contact with each other during the latter’s last four years of life.

This book is excellent. Though Reich and Wiesel have an innate grasp of each other, it is not so exclusive the reader cannot feel like they are part of the conversation. What I liked about the memoir is that one does not have to be a 2G or 3G (the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors) to understand that trauma can be transferred to younger generations. What is important is that the story is told and spoken of in such a manner that shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Life

Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth Book Review

The best way to learn about a new culture is to speak to a local. They have the insight and experience that an outsider would never have.

Earlier this month, Israeli actress/ producer Noa Tishby published her first book. The Tel Aviv native seeks to understand and explain Israel as it is, without relying on the flashy headlines or the half truths. Using her firsthand experience, she speaks of Israel, both past and present, as it is, and not how some see it or wish it could be.

What I love about this book is how down to earth and accessible it is. Tishby‘s voice is that of the average person, not the academic or historian who usually writes about this topic. That, I believe, provides an opportunity for a dialogue that should have happened long ago.

If you only read two chapters, I highly recommend chapters on BDS and the virulent anti-Israeli sentiment (which is really antisemitism). Even for those who are well versed on the topic, it was an eye opener.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, International News, Podcast, Television, World News

Podcast Reviews: People of the Pod and Fever Dreams

Though podcasts are a relatively new form of media, they have as much power and influence as their predecessors.

The new podcast from The Daily Beast is called Fever Dreams. Hosted by reporters Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer, they delve into political right’s various plans to take over the government. Examining the different aspects within the movement, each episode talks about how each subgroup is using different methods to reshape the United States into their own image.

The People of the Pod is a podcast that made its debut in the summer of 2019. Created by the American Jewish Committee, hosts Seffi Kogen and Manya Brachear Pashman talk to different guests about what is going on in the world, how these events can be looked at via Jewish eyes, and the connection to American Jews, Jews across the world, and Israel.

I enjoy both podcasts. The perspective that each takes is an open, honest, and sometimes difficult approach to talking about what are essentially important subjects.

Do I recommend them both? Yes.

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Filed under History, International News, National News, Podcast, Podcast Review, Politics, World News