The above picture was posted by Stephen King online, showing a Swedish book display. Now this is the way to sell books. With IT sweeping the globe, the display made me smile so had to share.
She lost her sister in Auschwitz. Her boyfriend and future brother-in-law to a firing squad. All three for Resistance activities. She herself lived off forged papers before joining the French Army, going behind Nazi lines as a nurse and providing key military intel on troop movements that won her a couple dozen medals. When the war was over, she was in Occupied Germany and then left the army to be a nurse in Cambodia and Vietnam. This is the life of Marthe Cohn.
I went to hear her speak last night at the Buckhead Theatre. Cohn is 97 but a pretty lively speaker and it was easy to tell had a bit of wit about her. Sitting next to her was her husband who helped her along at times. The event was sold out and some schools must have made the night a project because there were a fair number of school-aged kids on hand. I sat next to a few. They were well-behaved and listened intently. A good sign for the future.
Marthe has written a book about her exploits, Behind Enemy Lines. I found her discussion frank, without hyperbole so my guess is that the book is a good read.
She was at her best when she was describing her sister - a hero in her own right - and the fate that befell her after she was arrested, put in a French camp, then eventually deported to Auschwitz. Clearly, this experience remains an open wound in her mind.
It was interesting to hear first hand the exploits of a spy and also the situation the French Army found itself in toward the end of the war. From her talk, I also learned how vast the French resistance to the German occupation was and how the population circumvented German rule to keep Jews and others alive.
The only downside to the night was the Buckhead Theatre itself or the organizers. I can't say which. There were technical difficulties with the curtains not working right. Also a DVD was played at the very beginning and it had a severe buffering problem which someone should've known about before the presentation. But the audience bore with it.
You can see pictures of Marthe Cohn in this post - she is very short - and the medals she won which were on display (although the Theatre never turned up the lights afterwards to get a good shot). Overall, it was an interesting story to hear and a fine way to spend a Thursday evening.
In the past month, I found myself on a Dashiell Hammett binge for an inexplicable reason. Hammett was the author of some of crime noir's best hardboiled detective novels. His most famous being ones like The Maltese Falcon; The Thin Man; The Dain Curse. While he wrote other notable stories, it is these that made him famous. Many of his famous novels were turned into movies and I suspect, like me, that is where you know the likes of detectives Sam Spade and Nick Charles from. Hammett was also married to Lillian Helmann, the famous playwright.
I chose two very opposite stories to read. Red Harvest is one of his earlier works and not as famous. However, I found myself identifying characters in the story, who would be used for the foundation of other characters in like The Maltese Falcon. From a writing standpoint, it was interesting to see that development over time.
The story itself is one of racking up the body count, double-crosses, sex for sex sake, and a hardboiled detective in over his head. It was an easy read and should be taken as a simple crime novel escape. The crimes themselves aren't that noteworthy. Like I said, it was an earlier novel.
However, you can see Hammett's improvement in storytelling with The Thin Man. I love The Thin Man movies! They still have a big fan base and channels like TCM show them on a regular basis. So I was expecting to pretty much know the story and not be really surprised. I was wrong.
The book is somewhat different from the movie in the plot. And the characters are more fully developed, leaving a lot to learn about the lead characters, Nick and Nora. You also get a glimpse of elite New York back during Prohibition that doesn't really translate in the movies. The visits to speakeasy's, the way business was done, and even policing, expose a whole different side that the movie doesn't have time to delve into on the big screen.
It turns out that I enjoyed the book, The Thin Man, ever bit if not more than the movie. That says something. Hammett also has a unique way for his characters to tell their stories. Both of these novels are first person but in The Thin Man, the lead character Nick has a way of dismissing society norms that will bring a smile to your face. It is a refreshing technique.
I hope to read The Maltese Falcon at some point down the line. But if you like these kind of stories, I would say pick up The Thin Man which I give 5 of 5 on the rating scale. Then if you are wanting more, and a quick escape, Red Harvest which is 4 of 5.
This month I went to see an exhibit at the MODA in Atlanta of world-renown Luba Lukova's work. I have posted a sampling from the exhibit, snapped with my trusty phone so don't expect Pulitzer photos here. But this gives you an example of her work.
I like her art because it is simple, challenges the mind, and uses little text to get the point across. There is very much a propaganda feel to her style. I don't know if as a Bulgarian, a Soviet influence crept into her style or not, and I don't meant that in a bad way. Hey, they knew how to make propaganda work.
I really like the first poster that I put up here. There are other good ones not shown and it is worth the visit. MODA is less than ten bucks for a ticket and the tour is one floor so can swiftly done on your lunch break if need be. I encourage you to check it out if you get the chance.
Believe it or not, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S.A. entering WWI. There is an exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, I believe simply titled Uncle Sam Wants You! that features posters, propaganda pieces, and artifacts from WWI. Here is just a handful of snapshots that I took while touring it. I encourage you to check out the exhibit if you get the chance.
Tucked behind the main museum of the Atlanta History Center, a short walk's distance down a path, is President Snow's Mansion. President Snow as in President Snow from The Hunger Games. In real life the place is called The Swan House. My friend and I were on a tight schedule so we didn't have time to tour inside but we took a couple quick shots outside. You can see the mansion and the field where the party scene was filmed.
A sidebar. There was a photographer setting up for a wedding. He was using a drone to stream the event. It got me wondering what sorta omen it was to have your your marriage attached to The Hunger Games.
A Nazi is a Nazi. That is all you really need to know. I don't even like to attach neo to the word because the beliefs are old, dated, primitive. Nazis are violent, small-minded, intellectual midgets, who think they are bringing on some sort of resurgence of white power while ignoring the fact that whites have never made up the majority of this planet and are no more gifted than the next race. In doing research, I've rarely found a case of a person regretting being a Nazi, only that Hitler was such a failure.
The Nazi attack on Charlottesville today demonstrates all that you need to know about Nazis. They plowed a car (the photo above snapped at the moment and published by the local paper, The Daily Progress) into a group of counter-demonstrators killing and injuring dozens. This after running street battles that turned the quiet town into a miniature 1930s Berlin. With their Wal-Mart tiki torches and "Heil, Trump", America got a firsthand display of violent idiocy.
The White House of course refused to condemn the Nazis. But this is a White House where Bannon gave an interview praising the attributes of Hitler; where the fake counter-terrorism expert Gorka has a life-long oath to a Hungarian Nazi party, and the lead speechwriter flashes white power signs from the press room and styles himself after Goebbels. Trump's father was a well-known racist in his day and his sons have appeared on Nazi podcasts in the past. Trump gladly and publicly accepted the support of the likes of David Duke and the Nazi parties during the election. Don't expect any heartfelt condemnation to be forthcoming.
The sad truth is, there are going to be more street battles in the days head. An anti-fascist movement has taken root here. On one hand that is the good news. On the other hand, once a cycle of violence begins, it increasingly becomes hard to break it. But the only way to deal with Nazis is to confront them head-on. They are bullies by nature. I actually encounter a couple on a daily basis here and I make sure never to give an inch when around them. Like all bullies, they have little else going for them once put in their place.
This is the state of our affairs here. Our country, ripped apart in less than a year by the Trump family of lunatics. A palace of freedom reduced to a brothel of desperate deeds.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is holding up as one of the summer's big blockbusters. With Wonder Woman the only clear other huge hit, I am not sure if Dunkirk's success is a product of the film itself or the fact people just want to see something that lives up to the billing for a change. Dunkirk is a solid movie. Having said that, it isn't a classic. It won't be up there with a Saving Private Ryan for instance. But it does hold your attention and the craft aspect of the film is nicely done.
One odd thing about the film that becomes quickly apparent is the lack of real lead acting parts. This is no reflection on the cast but more a product of the script itself. A lot was made of Harry Styles appearance in this film but truth is, that was more for P.R. purposes than not as almost every role in this movie is simply a supporting cast role. Consequently, there are no real standouts in the acting category here - with the exception of one.
He wasn't meant to be a lead with this script but the guy who steals this movie is Mark Rylance in the part of a small boat owner. He already has one Oscar for his supporting role in Bridge of Spies and I would think he has to be considered with another nomination for his role in this movie.
Christopher Nolan's directing was spot on. The camera work here is top-notch. In spite of the subject matter, this is a a beautiful film to watch which is probably also part of its appeal. The camera fills the gap for the lack of lines in the script.
Like I said, this won't be a classic movie but it is solid and worth the ticket price. On my rating scale, I give it a 4 of 5. Just wish they had given Rylance a larger part or put more acting in the story.
Man, how I loved this book! Of All The Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History was an absolute pleasure to read. What I liked about it was the fact you really did learn about Hollywood History through one drinking story after another.
The premise of the book is pretty simple. Focusing on famous drinking stories or celebrities known to booze it up 24/7, you learn about those people, what the studios were doing, and how famous movies came about. Each story is only a couple pages long. They are accompanied by a drink recipe. Personally, I'm looking forward to trying a Shandy Gaff, a favorite of Cary Grant's. It is a combination of lager and ginger ale. Sidebars are included on famous Hollywood hangouts and their history. This really is a gem of a book.
The silent-era stories were probably the best. Maybe because Hollywood was much wilder in those days. I can't say for sure. How Hollywood came into being, and the geniuses who created it, I find fascinating. A lot of that history is really under the radar but it changed our world, though for better or worse can be argued.
I won't give it away but one of the best pranks I ever read about is in this book. Seems Errol Flynn never lost his sense of humor. Anthony Quinn found that out first hand. I also like the story about how Billy Wilder got the Sunset Boulevard script.
As funny as these stories were, many were hilarious, there were an equal number of devastating ones, and sometimes plain gross. (I will never think of Spencer Tracy the same again). If anything, this book can serve as a testament to how being a boozer can be a catalyst to the ruination of your life. It is a reminder that we all walk that fine line between having a good time and letting our vices control us.
Of All The Gin Joints is written by Mark Bailey, illustrated by Edward Hemingway. They did another similar book on booze and writers which I intend to order shortly. That should tell you how much I liked the first one. This is the type of book you don't have to get too invested in because the stories are short. A couple pages here. A couple pages there. Its more a form of relaxation than anything else. On the ratings scale, this scores a 5 of 5.
This post starts with me stumbling across (via Twitter) a great L.A. Times article, Ernest Hemingway's Long Lost Los Angeles Visit which I encourage you to read. Hemingway hated Hollywood - with some justifiable cause - but went there to promote a documentary he did, titled The Spanish Earth.
I am always amazed at how many Americans (as in 99.9%) don't know there was a Spanish Civil War just before WW2 and that a lot of famous Americans were involved in it. There were even brigades of Americans in units like the Abraham Lincoln Brigade that put their lives on the line in Spain fighting fascism.
I knew about the civil war and that Hemingway was deeply committed to the cause but I hadn't known that he helped produce a documentary about a village there. It was shown in America to raise funds for ambulances in Spain.
Well, curiosity got the best of me after reading that Times article and I found myself ordering the DVD of the film on Amazon. It was cheap enough at six dollars. Really, I simply wanted to see what Hemingway was up to at that moment.
The documentary isn't great. Although in fairness, technology was very different then and filming a war was really much harder then than now. There are a couple graphic war scenes in this film but the real gem of this movie is the backdrop.
By that I mean how it captures Spanish life. Everything from the houses to how they make bread and farm the land is in this film. If you want to know what Spain was like in the 1930s, this is a good film to look at because the people are authentic. This is how they lived.
Oddly, you don't learn as much about the war as you do life in Spain. A couple Republican (as in The Republic not G.O.P.) leaders are in as cameos but I don't think Franco's name was ever mentioned. The causes and goals were skipped over in this production.
Like I said, as a documentary,, this is a mixed bag. On the rating scale, I'd have to give this a simple 3 of 5. It is an interesting historical piece but not much more than that.
From the mouths of those who led and participated in the Jewish resistance groups in Nazi-occupied Poland, comes the true story of Isaac's Army, so named after the leader of the main Jewish fighting force. This is a detailed account of how these fighters found each other and how they together in the end gave the Nazis all they could handle.
Author Matthew Brzezinski does a couple smart things here. First, he managed to interview the key players before they died. The result is a very personal account, not only a historical one. This adds a more in-depth layer to the story.
He also does something most other writers on this subject didn't; he continues the story to the conclusion. Most historians/writers cover the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and let the story end there when the revolt was crushed. But Brzezinski follows the fighters after the Ghetto Uprising and how they participated in the Polish Uprising the following year. That tale, I have to say, was in some ways more harrowing. How these people - and any Poles - survived ... well, if you weren't hearing it from them, you would have a hard time believing it. That part of the story has gotten scant coverage.
While everyone has always focused on the Z.O.B. (the most famous of the two main Jewish Resistance groups), I felt Brzezinski gave equal time and the best in-depth details of the other group, Z.Z.W., of anyone I have read so far. Truth is the Z.Z.W. was better equipped and put up a heck of a fight but fewer survivors and lack of written accounts mean less is known about them.
The only thing I didn't like about this book, and an aspect I repeatedly found aggravating, was that the author changed the Warsaw Street names to their English meanings. He did this to try and make it easier for his English-speaking readers. I wish he hadn't. I know the Warsaw Street names, I was constantly going, so which street is that again?. I finally gave up trying to keep track of the geography.
This was really my only gripe about the book. Other than that, it was an easy, fascinating, page-turner of a book. I hope to read some of his other work. Street name issue or not, I give this a 5 of 5 on the rating scale and say it is the book to get if you want a general overview of those events.
There is a room of memories in my mind that is now haunted by ghosts. I became aware of this today after I received a call from my cousin to say her dad, known to me as Uncle Cliff, died in his sleep last night. The call initiated a wave of related but unattached thoughts that I've been attempting to piece together all day.
What I remember most about Cliff is that he would tell a joke that would inevitably bring a scolding from my aunt. This typically occurred just before he fell asleep in his favorite chair. Cliff always fell asleep. Even when driving. When I was younger, I found it funny that my aunt would have to constantly punch him awake behind the wheel or yell super loud, "Cliff!' but as I grew older I became aware that getting in the car was a Michigan version of Russian roulette.
I don't know if he had a condition that made him fall asleep or if it was the double shifts he worked most of his life at a foundry in a little town that now has more vacancies than occupants but either way, Cliff falling asleep was always bound to happen.
Still, he managed to find time to build my cousin a play house, a big one, that we played in for several seasons until snakes overran it. And he managed to always herd us to safety and bring in the trash cans as the tornadoes sprung to life in the field next to their house. Then we'd drive around afterwards and see whose house was destroyed. The tornado always managed to hop over theirs before wrecking havoc down the road.
My aunt would send him to check the ice on the series of ponds before my cousin would go out skating, or in summer to make sure the paths were clear - and keep a look out for snakes - so we could wander around like lost explorers before heading up to a now long defunct Sinclair gas station located on the main road for a treat.
And for me, it is the chapter of the house my uncle and aunt lived in that also comes to a close with his death. My aunt died several years ago before my mom did. My dad and mom shared the house with my aunt and uncle after they were first married. The two couples had double-dated. My aunt and uncle finally being married in a church that my dad and grandfather built out of two barns. The building is still there but sparsely used.
My grandfather was pastor at the church for decades. I use to play in the sandboxes in the kids classrooms while he worked in the office. Down the road was a campground my dad and his friends built out of swamp and woods. I have footage of them of them clearing the ground. Everyone but my dad in that old film has passed on.
There is the crux of my haunted room of memories. My dad will attend a funeral for an old friend, look around at a town he spent many years in, and find no living attachment. The sweat, the toil, are now the remember when of a dignified elderly man.
My cousin will visit a house she spent a quarter of her life in and see the wisps of days gone by as she walks from room to room. The roots that sprung her now having been transplanted to fresh fields.
And now I wonder if I will ever visit my hometown again. For my grandparents, aunt and uncle, are all buried there. The houses they lived in relegated to quarters for new caretakers, intruders in the midst of my memories.
Maybe from time to time I will open that compartment in my mind and let the occasional haunting challenge my sensibilities. But for now I leave you with one final story. One memory from that house near the ponds, the one with the giant willow tree at the foot of the drive.
It was a July 4th. My parents and I were there. My brother must've been also. My grandparents. My aunt and uncle and my cousins. We had small fireworks out in the July heat. I remember everyone sitting around a step at the door, on the side of the house with the carport.
There were a few bottle rockets which screeched before exploding. We had sparklers and like the idiot I am, I burned my finger on one afterwards by picking it up by the wrong end. But we had a good time. There was laughter and I remember everyone smiling.
Then the party went inside. There was Pepsi- my aunt always bought Pepsi but my mom was a Coke person, I never got the reasoning on that - and I drank too many as normal and my mom cut me off. There was watermelon and I am pretty sure homemade ice cream. People sat around and chatted, told stories. It was the company that was treasured. And now the memory has to be treasured for as the song above says, The Day Is Over. The memory is all that is left, be it the pangs of sorrow or the tingle of joy.
The Jews Of Warsaw is unequivocally the best overall history of the Warsaw Ghetto during WW2 that I have read. I wish there were more books like this one and I wish more researchers used this book although it seems hard to find for some odd reason. The edition I have was published by University of Indiana and I am hoping they keep it in print.
The book is authored by the former Yad Vashem leading researcher, Yisrael Gutman, who was in the Warsaw Ghetto. Yet, nowhere on a single page will you find a personal incident in this book. Only if you research him or the book jacket cover will you discover he was there. He steps back and divorces himself, best one can, from his personal experience there.
Rather, Gutman's approach is that of a historian and it pays off in massive dividends. He starts with how the Ghetto came to be, who was in there and when they arrived, how the layout came to be and how people adapted. On interesting fact that is often overlook which Gutman refers to is that there were non-Jews confined to the Ghetto for a variety of reasons and they not only struggled with the Germans but often with Jewish groups.
You will find details that never get talked about in a class like how food was smuggled in and how the S.S. initially planned to starve the Ghetto on less than 200 calories a day. (Put that soda down! That is a Ghetto resident's daily intake!). Gutman puts daily life in the Ghetto in terms the reader can relate.
He goes into the shops which were vital to the history of the Ghetto - and the German war machine - and how they evolved. Then there is the lice. Lice was everywhere and so was the typhus that they carried.
There is talk of Jewish Police, Blue Boots (Polish Police), the Judenrat, the 13, the Z.O.B., Z.Z.W., and all the political forces in play inside those walls and out. And of course there are the youth groups which eventually formed the backbone of the resistance.
The city that was the Ghetto (and its relationship with the Aryan side is discussed in detail) comes alive in these pages. The ghetto is no longer a distant blight in the annuals of the war but rather a living, breathing, extension of humanity when reading this book.
I can't say enough about this work. If you want to know about Warsaw, Ghetto life, the Ghetto Rebellion, any of it! - then this is the book you should find. I got my copy (looks like new) off of Abebooks. Gutman's study of the Warsaw Ghetto rates a strong 5 out of 5 on my review scale.
The Breman Institute's Summer Course Teaching The Holocaust has come to an end. It was amazing. If you have the opportunity to spend a week in this course, I highly recommend it. The staff was top-notch, experts in their field, friendly to the umpteenth degree. The time is valuable and every moment is crammed with learning and activities. Even lunch is spent with survivors and conversations about the material. Most importantly for me was the ability to interact and ask questions. Open discussions were encouraged and so when you are able to ask survivors or people at the Yad Vashem questions directly, your horizons are broadened.
The above picture is our final class picture. The elderly man in the middle is Hershel Greenblat who as a kid spent his first years living in a cave in Ukraine. Then he went to a displaced persons camp for five years before ending up in the States.
His parents aided the partisans, his mother being wounded in a firefight, but managed to also come stateside where they settled in the poorest section of Atlanta and started a small grocery that soon prospered.
One detail I found interesting about Mr Greenblat was the role his father played in Atlanta. The Holocaust experience transformed the family into becoming missionaries for equality. Hate kills and the best way to avoid future genocides is to eradicate hate. The Greenblat store was a hub in the black community and soon Mr. Greenblat was close friends with M.L.K. Listening to Mr. Greenblat speak of this special relationship was very moving.
Earlier in the week there was another survivor from France. Her name was Manuela Bornstein. She and her sister are in the States thanks to a little village called Le Got which openly hid her family from the Nazis during WWII. The tale of leaving Paris for Vichy France, illegally boarding trains, sneaking across borders in the dead of night, hiding in a house with Resistance Fighters, is quite the tale. Her sister wrote a book about their experiences which can be had through the Breman Museum Gift shop.
One thing I should add. These survivors - like all survivors - are in their 80's or 90's. But I know tons of 30 and 40 year olds who aren't half as spry as these people. I felt fortunate to be able to listen to their experiences while the opportunity afforded itself. If you the chance to see one of these people - or any survivor - presents itself, by all means grab it.
Students bringing copies of Mein Kampf to school for their classmates to sign like it was a yearbook. White Supremacists trying to recruit. Chants of "build the wall" that torment Latino students. This is just a smattering of what Erin Beacham is dealing with in our current political climate.
As the Regional Director of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) she works directly with teachers and school districts. She is the Regional Education Project Director which means she is working directly with schools and teachers including all the schools in the Atlanta School District which are signed up to its No Place For Hate educational program.
Hate is the core element that makes genocide possible in the first place. Without it, there is genocide. Consequently, hate came up as a theme several times this week. Combating hate is what these teachers who were in the seminar are all about.
Erin Beacham encouraged the teachers at the Breman Institute to get their students to sign pledges and show them how they can change behavior even at an early age. Prejudice is often learned in the home and she relayed how students in the program had gone home, heard a racial remark, and interceded with their parents.
The ADL has a program that is adaptable for any age. One hand it is sad that programs need to exist at all but encouraging that steps are being taken to head off what may be a repeat of history.
This post is about three B's that are central to my week. I'm talking about the The Breman Jewish Museum, Brendan Murphy and Ben Walker. See, I'm enrolled in a week-long intensive course designed to help train educators to teach the Holocaust. The course is a specialized annual program offered by The Breman Institute in Atlanta. I have to say, it is only day two but I've gotten a lot out of the course and am very glad I enrolled.
Due to time, I probably won't blog about the course everyday but I hope to do at least a couple posts this week. We are in class from 8:15 to 3:15 each day and it is non-stop with only a small lunch break. Each day we spend time connected to the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and also have a featured Holocaust Survivor who speaks to us and takes questions. Those two elements alone make the course a win for me but they aren't all that is happening but that is where I will start.
Today's Holocaust survivor was Ben Walker (pictured above). He is in his early 80's and was originally from rural Romania. He managed to survive the war with his mother but lost his father and sister. However, like many survivors, he avoided discussing his experiences for decades.
What changed his mindset about speaking out was 9/11 and the fear he saw in his daughter and kids after that event. For the last 16 years he's been the voice of a witness, sharing his personal journey through the tragedy that at the time destroyed his world.
What I noticed about Ben is a trait many survivors exhibit: a healthy sense of humor. He joked and asked face-to-face questions of his audience. In doing so, he shared the source of his strength - a renewed hope that had been rekindled somewhere down the line.
Ben focused on the Ukraine and Romania which are little discussed and his eventually aliyah to Israel where he lived on a kibbutz with other survivors. Apparently, in the desert hope does bloom. I highly encourage listening to Ben if you get the chance.
Well, that brings me to the third B. Dr. Brendan Murphy spoke for nearly three hours on antisemitism and the roots of this demented ideology which he traced back to the time of Jesus and then walked his class through the timeline of events since.
We spent a good deal of time (but the time flew by) in the Middle Ages talking about how the Catholic Church and especially Martin Luther incorporated antisemitism into their teachings. Martin Luther in particularly wrote what amounted to a foreshadowing of a Nazi Manifesto. It was disturbing to see religion twisted for the sake of prejudice and realize how often it goes unchecked from behind the pulpit.
Still, the hatred of Jews doesn't explain how mankind makes the leap to genocide which became a staple of the 20th century. Brendan Murphy fielded a theory that the ingredient that made genocide possible was racism. He explored the aspects of that and it was a thought-provoking session.
There is a lot to absorb. I am looking forward to tomorrow's Yad Vashem hookup as it is suppose to be about ghettos. I have like five questions already to ask so I will have to weed the list down tomorrow over morning coffee. I like a good challenge.
I was tired of saying, "I'm going to do that someday". Deciding someday was today, I turned my car onto an exit I pass frequently and headed for a small speck on the map called Cascade Hollow.
The small Tennessee burg has one claim to fame. It is the home of the George Dickel Whisky Distillery. If I stopped at this point in the story, you would assume I was a BIG Dickel fan. Truth is, before yesterday, I had never tasted Dickel Whisky. My fascination though stems from the movie version of Michael Chabon's hit book, The Wonder Boys. It is my favorite Michael Douglas film, (it also has Tobey McGuire, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Richard Thomas .... Bob Dylan won an Oscar for the theme song .... watch the movie and laugh!) and his character, Grady Tripp, drink of choice is a double Dickel on the rocks. A drink famously remembered in the movie by a waitress named Oola. As I said, I had often promised myself to turn off and visit Cascade Hollow. Yesterday, I did just that.
There are signs to get there but having good GPS helps anyway. Like most old distilleries, Dickel is located off the beaten path by a creek. It is about 20 minutes from the freeway. You can stop and take a picture or you can take the tour - which I opted to do - for just under $11.
The tour was interesting. I believe my guide's name was Dana. She answered all questions and walked everyone through the brewing process which was fascinating, especially since I knew zilch about brewing. There were no pictures allowed inside so ones you see here are mostly outside.
One surprising discovery for me was the lack of computers. There are none in the brewing process and the storage is not climate controlled. When I asked about the latter, she told me that the company was in the process of exploring ways to implement it.
I was also surprised to learn that they make their own charcoal and that the 'leftovers' (for lack of a better term) are basically recycled. The company allows local farmers to come and pick up the waste to use as feed.
I also thought the plant would be bigger. But there are only three dozen employees, working two shifts, and producing about 700 barrels a week. They did recently produce the oldest Tennessee whiskey ever produced, aged 17 years. There is a limited quantity and she said currently a bottle sells of that rarity is selling for about $125.
For outsiders, there are laws and rules on what constitutes a Tennessee whiskey. I believe Kentucky has the same thing for bourbons. Dickel has one product not labelled a Tennessee whiskey for it only ages a year and comes out smelling a bit like tequila.
That brings me to the conclusion of the tour. A sampling of Dickel's product line. In a little bar area, the group was given five shots of different whiskey. I asked and was told that the Dickel #8 and #12 whisky was the closest to the original George Dickel made a century ago. Per chance, those were my two favorites.
This was a good stop and I enjoyed myself. I recommend it if you are interested in this sort of thing. Now, if I was being honest, Dickel probably won't replace my 100 proof Yukon but it may become a good alternative. And if I find a waitress named Oola, you can bet I will be ordering a double Dickel on the rocks.
This past Sunday, I had the absolute delight to attend a presentation by Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld. The 92 y.o. is an Auschwitz survivor, former Chair at Georgia State University, and gave a profound speech at The Breman Museum in Atlanta. He was part of the Museum's program of hosting survivors at free events for the public.
It was a packed house, people of all ages, as we first watched a short documentary of Schoenfeld relaying his travails during the Holocaust before he took the podium to speak for nearly an hour that included Q & A.
Dr. Schoenfeld is not the first survivor I have met. That distinction rest with Lola, who like Dr. Schoenfeld had a wicked sense of humour. Writing that last sentence, my curiosity wonders if that is a survivor's trait? I suppose there is a big depends attached to that.
I could write several pages on the presentation, how it moved me, and deep philosophies that he challenged his audience with - and I did appreciate the fact that he challenged his audience. He started by saying that it was time to move on from just observing The Holocaust to preventing the causes from existing that will create future ones. One thing the audience overwhelmingly shared with the speaker was the sense that we are seeing the rise of Fascism again and that no one sitting there that day was safe. I will stick to one point he made and one moving story he shared.
He wrote a paper, years ago, on how tolerance has flaws. He asserted that instead of tolerance we need accommodation based on shared moral understanding. Tolerance infers a weakness, superiority by one party over the other and makes zero headway in the two parties reaching an understanding. In fact with tolerance, one party is typically at the mercy of the other.
With accommodation, there is an acknowledgement of the individual differences and how two parties will work with each other along defined lines. He stressed that we are not solely individuals but rather interdependent and without accommodation to get us past wars, we will doom ourselves as a species.
There was a story he relayed from his experiences during the Holocaust. He spoke of being liberated by an American unit. He spoke English so the survivors chose him to speak on their behalf. Turns out the officer in charge was Jewish which shocked Dr. Schoenfeld at the time.
As former guards etc. were being marched out of the camp, Dr. Schoenfeld pointed out a Capo who had nearly killed him by beating him with a club. He told the American officer who the guy was and what he had done. The officer took out his sidearm, handed it to Schoenfeld and said, "Shoot him. Shoot him. Put a bullet in his head. No one will do anything to you if you kill him." Schoenfeld thought about it, then handed the pistol back. I wonder how many of us would've chosen that option.
I could go on about this event. It was extremely thought provoking for me. Even at his age, Dr. Schoenfeld was gracious enough to sign books, take photos etc afterwards and I got to ask a couple questions which made the experience that much richer for me. By the way, the title of his book is, My Reconstructed Life and can be ordered from the Breman Museum Gift Shop. In the current climate, the lessons of the past loom large. We all should learn from them.
When I was a kid, I possessed an old National Geographic map of Europe and Middle East. On it, little historical reminders, notations were listed in red. One of these notes told of several thousand Armenians who had been buried alive by the Turks and then trampled to death by Calvary horses, or suffocated by the ensuing dust that was kicked up. Welcome to the Turkish genocide against the Armenians that killed over 1.5 million people. It is core to the movie, The Promise, which I saw this week.
In a different era, The Promise certainly would've garnered several major Oscar nominations. But in this day and age, the movie is mired in all kinds of ridiculous campaigns against it. Before I dive into deeply reviewing the movie, it is worth noting, the audience rating on this film is an A-. I wholeheartedly agree with the average audience.
The cast in The Promise is unbelievable. Oscar Isaac runs the gambit of emotions as the Armenian villager in Turkey, who sets out to use a dowry, and a family connection to become a doctor by attending medical school in Istanbul. There he meets Charlotte Le Bon, who plays an Armenian who has spent years in Paris. She is the lover of Christian Bale, an AP Reporter. The setting for this epic is 1914 as World War One breaks out.
And this brings me to controversy number one. The Turks launched a campaign to sink the movie before it opened. They posted all bad reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes driving the rating down. The site had to suspend comments. If you see bad reviews, ignore them. Like I said, the audience rating is an A-.
As I said, the acting is phenomenal. But it brings me to controversies 2 and 3. First, the story, as you might have gathered, entails a love triangle. Critics blasted the movie for focusing on the love affairs. The problem with that criticism is that the plot line works. I don't know if people expected the whole movie to be about the genocide but even in times of genocide, people love, marry, and struggle with family issues.
In some respects, this movie reminded me of the classic great film, Dr. Zhivago. That epic had not one love triangle but at least 3. And the Bolshevik Revolution wasn't exactly a sublime event.
What I liked about the love story is that it kept the genocide human. I found myself easily relating to how the genocide came crashing into these people's lives, and not for the better. Trapped by circumstances is an universal theme. We've all been there. Some people still live there.
Charlotte Le Bon kept me guessing on what her next move might be and her suffering of the heart was not an easy feat to pull off but she did it. Isaac started Center Stage and remained there with a powerful performance.
The other controversy I alluded to was Christian Bale. He took a lot of heat for this role because it wasn't the lead and didn't have tons of lines. But that non-verbal communication, man, oh, man. He nailed it.
One thing about his acting. He is a very 'physical' actor. This move was no exception. He changed his walk, his stance to fit the character. And if you think of it, physically, I don't think he has looked the same two movies in a row. He is that good. I commend him for taking a supporting role in such an important film and making the audience care about that person.
There are other big names in the cast, like James Cromwell, and I could go on, but I would be amiss not to say something about the camera work. Wow. The movie has an epic feel to it and you feel like you are along for a grand adventure in Turkey when watching it. The musical score ties in and this becomes a film you have no trouble sitting through more than once.
As for the genocide, despite critics of the movie, it actually does dominate the story. Furthermore, you learn a lot about the genocide itself. Erdogan's Turkey may want to silence those trying to shed light on a tragic history of the Armenian people, but history can't be brushed aside. One thing I learned was the role of the French Navy in rescuing Armenians and Turkey trying to collect the life insurance money of Armenians it had killed from American companies. Two of several details I did not know before sitting down to watch this movie.
I can't say enough about this movie. It was entertaining. It was educational. It also broke new ground by turning a spotlight on an atrocity committed by Turks. There will be no honor in Turkey until it comes face to face with its own history.
I will give this a 5 on the rating scale. I plan to buy the DVD when it comes out. I really urge you to see this movie while you can. You won't regret it.
Donald Trump, under fire for ignoring Jews and the Holocaust in the past, spoke for Holocaust Remembrance Day this week. He plagiarized his speech. Apparently, when you could care less about something, you copy the homework from someone else. Should we be surprised? Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers are easy to find in the halls of the West Wing. So, no, I am not surprised.
How timely the DVD of Denial is then. I had a random evening to watch something and saw it in Redbox. The movie is based on the early 21st century trial that David Irving brought against professor and author, Deborah Lipstadt. Irving is a self-proclaimed historian and legally recognized Holocaust Denier and Lipstadt wrote the book, literally, on Holocaust denial.
To set the stage for this movie, the real life events were that Irving sued Lipstadt in the U.K. He sued in the U.K. because that meant the burden of proof was on Lipstadt to prove that the Holocaust happened and that Irving, in his books, purposely twisted facts to fit his agenda.
The movie is well cast with Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, and Caren Pistorius, all having major roles. This means some top-notch acting. And while it is a legal drama without a smoking gun, the action is surprisingly unexpected and intense. There were two script/final edit issues I could pick a bone about but I suspect most viewers won't even notice.
This film is a stark reminder of what survivors, those struggling to remember, have to face in the lengths that deniers will go to when they viciously attempt to bury the facts to serve their own ambitions. I recommend this film and give it a 4 of 5 on the rating scale.