Tag Archives: World War II

Billy Joel Wear Stars Of David And Makes A Statement

The rally in Charlottesville nearly two weeks ago rattled all of us. If nothing else, it was a sad and scary reminder that hate and prejudice are still alive and well in America.

In the face of the all the hatred and prejudice that come to the light, it’s easy so say nothing and give into the fear. What is right and harder to do is to stand up to the hate.

Musician Billy Joel stood up to the hate. He wore a yellow star at his concert last night. Jews were forced to wear yellow stars during World War II, marking them for persecution and ultimately death.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”-Albert Einstein

I think the one lesson that I personally take away from Charlottesville is that we have stand up and fight. We have to be vocal, we have to be loud and we have to drown out the voices of hate. If we don’t speak up and speak up loudly, hate has won once more and we not learned the lessons of the past.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Music, National News

What President Trump Should Have Said

A President, regardless of his or her party or beliefs is the moral authority and should be leading the nation, especially during a crisis.

President Trump has failed in both areas (no surprise there). His remarks after last weekend’s rally in Charlottesville proved that he is neither the moral authority nor is he far from qualified to lead the nation, especially during this crisis.

What President Trump should have said is in the video above. Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger for standing up for what is right and speaking truth to power.

It’s not uncommon knowledge that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner. It is also common knowledge Jared’s grandparents survived the Holocaust. Their children are being raised Jewish. I would think (and hope) that Trump’s reaction, not a President, but as a father and grandfather would be of outrage and anger.

I know this has been said many times since last weekend, but my grandfathers, like millions of their brothers in arms, fought against fascism in World War II. The sons of Jewish immigrants, they put their lives on the line to protect America and her values. The fact that Trump has subtly given the alt-right the go ahead to slither out of the rocks they came from speak to his incompetence and how ill prepared he is to lead this country.

P.S. Did anyone else do a happy dance when Steve Bannon was fired?

1 Comment

Filed under History, National News, Politics

Once We Were Brothers Book Review

Power is a seductive thing. Once we have a taste of it, we always want more.

Ronald H. Balson published his debut novel, Once We Were Brothers in 2013. In present day Chicago, Elliot Rosenzweig is a paragon of virtue. A success businessman who has given back to his community, no one would think twice that Elliot is not who he claims to be. But Ben Solomon knows the truth. Ben knows that Elliot Rosenzweig is really Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc.

Ben ambushes Otto/Elliot at a fundraiser, hoping to out him as the adopted brother who had a hand in murdering the family and the community that he was raised in. Before World War II, Ben and Otto were brothers in spirit. When Otto’s parents stepped away from their parental duties, Ben’s parents stepped in and raised Otto as if he was their own. But with the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, Otto slowly turned his back on the Solomons and morphed into the butcher of Zamosc.

Ben is determined to see justice pursued. He turns to private investigator/lawyer duo of Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart. Can Liam and Catherine help Ben to reveal the truth or is Ben just an old man who is losing his mind?

One of Mr. Balson’s best qualities as a writer is that he knows how to keep the tension going, in addition to keeping the reader unsure as to the outcome of the story. There was points in the novel when I was sure that Ben was crazy, but then there were other points when I was sure that Elliot would be outed as Otto.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

Musings On The 25th Anniversary Of A League Of Their Own

This past weekend, the 1992 film, A League Of Their Own, celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Taking place during World War II, it is the story of two sisters, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty). While the boys are fighting their way across Europe, a girls baseball league, called the AAGPBL is created. Both Dottie and Kit try out and are chosen for the Rockford Peaches, coached by Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks). But while their professional lives are a success, the relationship between the two sisters begins to degrade.

For a generation of young girls, this movie is nothing short of life changing. It was feminism without hitting the audience over the head. It was a history lesson that far from boring. It was the story of two sisters whose relationship felt normal and real. Most of all, it encouraged young girls to become athletes.

I recall seeing this movie in theaters back in the day and I remember walking out of the theater transformed. It was an amazing film then and 25 years later, it still is an amazing film.

I still can’t believe it’s been 25 years, time goes way too fast. Thanks for the memories.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies, Music

The Bridal Chair Book Review

*Warning: this review contains mild spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Genius and ego often go hand in hand.

Marc Chagall was one of the great artists of the 20th century. He also had a rather large ego.

His life and the life of his eldest daughter, Ida Meyer (nee Chagall) is dramatized in the 2015 novel, The Bridal Chair: A Novel, by Gloria Goldreich. The book starts as World War II is starting to consume Europe. Ida Chagall is the loved and adored only child of respected artist Marc Chagall and his wife, Bella (nee Rosenfeld). She is young, idealistic and in love. She is also pregnant. At the urging of her parents, she not only marries her young man, but also aborts the pregnancy.

This will only be the first test that Ida and her tempestuous, artistic father deal with. As both an artist and a Jew, Marc has a target on his back. They must flee Europe with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and Marc’s paintings. They arrive in America, with Marc heralded as one of greats of the painting world. Then the book then moves forward in time. The war ends, and both Ida and Marc are dealing with their own challenges, as individuals and father and daughter.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because it shows the complexity of being a celebrated artist, the complexity of the father/daughter relationship and how unpredictable life is.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

The Diplomat’s Wife Review

Writing a sequel or a prequel to a beloved narrative is akin to walking on a tightrope. The task of the writer is to continue the narrative and character development without going so far out of range that the audience feels like they have lost sight of the original tale. Some writers succeed at this task, others fail miserably.

Pam Jenoff is one of those writers who not only succeeds, but she takes both the narrative and characters in new directions that fit like a glove.

The Diplomat’s Wife is a sequel to Ms. Jenoff’s debut novel, The Kommandant’s Girl. In The Diplomat’s wife, the focus is not Emma Bau, the protagonist from The Kommandant’s Girl, but Marta Nederman, Emma’s best friend from the resistance. World War II is over and Marta has survived only by the grace of G-d. After Marta is rescued from Nazi captivity, she falls in love with Paul, an American serviceman. He is as head over heels in love with her and as she is with him. They quickly get engaged and make plans to marry.

But then Paul is killed and Marta finds herself pregnant. She marries Simon, a British diplomat and life seems to be returning to normal. But that normalcy is threatened by a communist spy within British Intelligence. Marta goes on a dangerous mission to out the spy, who maybe closer to her than she thinks.

Pam Jenoff is my new favorite writer. This book is nothing short of amazing. I love not just the detail of the period, but the danger that Marta knowingly puts herself in. I could not put it down and I seriously need a sequel.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, History

Grantchester Series 3/My Mother And Other Strangers Series 1 Review

There is nothing so wonderful (at least from my perspective) as settling down on a Sunday night and knowing that the programming on Masterpiece Theater/Mysteries will help with the realization that the weekend is over.

On Sunday night, not only did the first episode of the third season of Grantchester air, but also a new show premiered, My Mother And Other Strangers.

Grantchester picks up just a few months after series 2 ended. The bromance/murder solving duo of Vicar Sydney Chambers (James Norton) and Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) are back together again. But while Sydney and Geordie deal with the crimes that are happening in and around Grantchester, Sydney has another thing on his plate: his relationship with Amanda Hopkins (Morven Christie). Amanda is heavily pregnant and in the midst of divorcing her husband. While they are happily ensconced in finally being together, the storm of Amanda’s soon to be ended marriage and impending motherhood creates more than one barrier to their own version of happily ever after.

My Mother And Other Strangers takes place in Northern Ireland during World War II. Rose and Michael Coyne (Hattie Morahan and Owen McDonnell) have a full life of kids, work and just being busy. The war has yet to intrude into their world. It comes in the form of American servicemen, Captain Dreyfuss (Aaron Staton) and Lieutenant Barnhill (Corey Cott). Captain Dreyfuss seems to be paying more attention to Rose than her husband while Lieutenant Barnhill is interested in 16-year-old Emma Coyne (Eileen O’Higgins). The story is narrated by an adult Francis (Rose and Michael’s son). Ciaran Hinds tells the story in voice over flashback as an adult while 10-year-old Francis is played by Michael Nevin.

I’ve enjoyed Grantchester since the first season. Cop procedural shows tend to get a little boring when the only thing that the audience sees is inside the squad room or investigating the scene of a crime. Grantchester adds to this bland story by making the characters human and allowing the audience to see the lives and struggles of the characters outside of work. I was attracted to My Mother And Other Strangers because of the cast and how compelling the series seemed based off the trailer. The problem is that it is a little boring and it has yet to completely hook me in.

Do I recommend them? I say yes to Grantchester and maybe to My Mother And Other Strangers.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Television, TV Review

The Kommandant’s Girl Book Review

When faced with decisions of life and death, we make choices that in retrospect seem questionable, but in the moment, feel like it is only thing we can do.

In Pam Jenoff’s 2007 novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, 19-year-old Emma Bau is reveling in the glow of being a newlywed. Not even a month after she marries her husband, Jacob, Germany invades Poland. Jacob has no choice but to disappear and Emma joins her parents in the quickly overcrowding Jewish ghetto. Smuggled out of the ghetto and into the home of her husband’s Catholic aunt, Emma is now Anna Lipowski, a Polish orphan.

Adding to the danger, Anna/Emma is hired as an assistant of Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official. While she is working for the Kommandant, Anna/Emma uses her status to help the resistance. But while she is doing this, she is potentially compromising her life, the lives of her loved ones and her marriage vows.

This book left me with wanting more. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My favorite thing about the book was the character of the Kommandant. On one hand, he was responsible for the death of an untold number of innocents. But on the other hand, his affection for Anna/Emma was humanized him and if only temporarily removed the mask of the monster.

I absolutely recommend it.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Life

Flashback Friday-Radio Days (1987)

When a writer mines for ideas, sometimes the best ideas come from their childhood.

The 1987 movie, Radio Days, is based on the childhood memories of writer/director Woody Allen. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, NY during World War II, Joe (played by Seth Green as a child and voiced over by Woody Allen as an adult) associates the various aspects of his life with the radio programs of the era. Told through the memories of the adult Joe, the film is a love letter to not just childhood, but also a time when radio was the medium that the world relied on for news and entertainment.

The best films are timeless because there is a universal quality to them. Despite the physical location and the time period that the film is set in, anyone from anywhere will find an aspect of the film that they can relate to. This movie is universal because it is about childhood, family and the memories we have long after we have become adults.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flashback Friday, History, Movie Review, Movies, Music, New York City

Bandstand Review

War is never as simple or clear-cut as it appears to be. Those lucky enough to return home in one piece may appear to be fine, but the reality is often quite different.

In the new Broadway musical, Bandstand, Donny Novitski (Corey Cott) has just returned from World War II. A musician before the war, music is the only thing that quiets the dark memories of his war-time experience. When he hears that NBC is holding a contest to discover unknown bands, he jumps at the chance to enter. But while he is putting his band together, Donny has another task to strike off his to do list: checking on Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes) the widow of one of his friends who was killed in the war. Julia is a singer, but only sings in church. Donny convinces her to consider the idea of joining his band. Music maybe the one thing that heals their broken hearts, but do they have the drive and the talent to actually win the contest?

I saw the show the other night and I walked out singing the songs. It’s one of the best new musicals that I’ve seen in a long time. My original impetus to see the show was that I love swing and big band music. I enjoyed it because there was a level of realism, especially when it comes to the agony of war and the PTSD that many soldiers have to deal with then they return home. The show is funny, charming and very entertaining. I also find it impressive that the actors are playing their own instruments instead of pretending to play prerecorded music.

I absolutely recommend it.

Bandstand is at the Bernard B. Jacobs theater at 242 W. 45th Street in New York City.

Leave a comment

Filed under Broadway Musical Review, History, Music