Happy Holidays to my non-existent readers. This year, my wife finally gave up and just picked some things I had forgotten I’d placed on an Amazon list. This is a good thing, as I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading regularly, much like I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging.
I drive to work now, which totally cuts into my reading time (and blogging time). I’ll have to fix all of that in the near future.
I’m always amazed at all the stories from World War Two that remain more-or-less untold. Things like the Battle of Castle Itter, where GIs and German soldiers teamed up with French prisoners to hold off a division of Waffen-SS. It shouldn’t be surprising. Everyone has a story and those were storied times.
However, few stories are as amazing as that of American Paratrooper Joseph Beyrle, who managed to parachute into France (repeatedly), survive torture (repeatedly) and escape from a prisoner of war camp (repeatedly) to fight alongside the Soviets (just once, but for a bit).
Not only that, Beyrle apparently fought under the command of the only woman tank commander in the Red Army (and possibly the only female tank commander in WWII). Aleksandra Samusenko, according to Wikipedia. Insane.
In short, Behind Hitler’s Linesis fascinating and well worth your time if you even have a passing interest in the second World War. The author, Thomas H. Taylor, is a Vietnam-era veteran of the 101st Airborne and son of WWII General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st. Despite the pedigree of the author–and the subject matter itself–I found the book fairly accessible.
The connection between the Taylors wasn’t quite clear in the book except for a brief mention in the Acknowledgements, so thank Crom for Wikipedia in clearing that up. Taylor (um, the author one), pads out the story a bit with tales of Ed Albers, a contemporary of Beyrle who was also from Muskegon. Albers joined the 101st in time for Operation Market-Garden (of A Bridge Too Far fame) after Beyrle had already been captured, and serves as a sort of “What If” counterpart to pad out the story some.
By the time Albers enters the story, Beyrle apparently had been in a post-concussive haze following the skull-cracking he’d received from his German torturers. Beyrle’s story was harrowing enough, but including Albers didn’t detract from the book at all.
This weekend, I saw Avengers: Endgame with my 11 year old. It is by no means a perfect film, but I do feel that it firmly fits within the spectrum of best possible endings for the series.
This little rant will involve certain details of the film, so hold on a moment and let me vamp for spoiler protection.
Now, maybe it was the fact that I spent the night previous shivering in the New Jersey Pine Barrens with my son’s Scouts BSA troop…
Or maybe it was the fact that this film was unabashedly joyful in celebrating its characters…
But I cried, perhaps, four different times during the movie. A couple of times those were tears of fannish joy–Captain America wielding Thor’s Mjolnir or the arrival of all of the “lost” superheroes. And once was purely character driven, such as when Ant-Man finds his now-grown daughter still alive. I didn’t cry at Tony Stark’s death, but I emitted a few tears as I could hear my son softly weeping.
After the fannish glow–after I thought far too long about the cockamamie time travel nonsense–I really began to wonder about the return of all those vanished people after the first one. Sure, the superheroes all jumped back into the fray. But what about everyone else?
What if you had moved on after your parents disappeared? What if you returned, like Scott Lang, to find your daughter was now five years older? What if you disappeared while piloting a commercial jet, killing all the non-vanishing folks onboard? What if your spouse remarried? Is your older sister now younger than you? (What does that do for royal hereditary if suddenly the firstborn is younger than the second?) WHERE IS ALL OF YOUR STUFF?
The Idea: Five Years Later — Not Just A Rehash of The Resurrected, The Returned, The 4400, etc.
OK, I get that this sort of thing has been mined before. Missing people returned from the dead/mysterious disappearance is something that happened a bit in the post-LOST era of TV.
So, yes, I want a LOST-style narrative-style. I want to tell complex stories about peoples whose lives were turned inside out by the ol’ Infinity Snap. Before the Snap, after, and after the Return. Good people. Bad people (you return to find Hawkeye murdered your Cartel, for example). Normal people. People in pain. People who return to losses they cannot fathom. People punished by circumstances beyond their control. People who have been given the gift of a clean start. Are there food shortages now? Do wealthy folks suddenly find themselves poor and homeless?
In a Marvel universe full of gods and warriors, what is it like being just a person?
I want to see the Marvel universe from the ground level. Here’s the other part of that–what’s life like when alien invasions periodically devastate your biggest cities. What’s life like when ARC Reactors become the alternative energy of choice? Do you still go to church after you’ve met a god? Are you still a skeptic when you see magic practiced on the streets of Manhattan?
This is perfect for Disney+ or ABC. Just let me know when you want to talk, Mr. Iger.
Here’s another retelling of the G.I. Joe origin story, paying proper respect to Larry Hama. I just happened to re-read the first fifty issues or so the other week, and they were as just as good as I remembered them.
Yes, the point was to sell toys. But Hama has a great mind for storytelling and realism. I still have memories of reading issue #50 for the first time–the Battle of Springfield, which claimed YourTownUSA Springfield for Cobra long before the Simpsons moved in.
There was a scene where a Cobra family–career terrorist and his children–burn their documents and put down the family dog before boarding the airlift out. That haunted 10 year old me.