Monday, May 7, 2018

Leading the Band of Brothers

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick WintersBeyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters by Dick Winters
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Major Dick Winters was a diligent soldier, caring humanitarian and just who you'd want to lead a troop of men into the worst of war zones.

He is most well-known from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' World War II miniseries Band of Brothers, which dramatized the valiant efforts of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from D-Day through to the end of the European stage of the war.

Major Winters' memoir takes a brief glance at his youth before diving headlong into his time with the army and his involvement in WWII. It finishes just as briefly, rounding out his post-war career and retirement, with a coda comprising some of the leadership topics he lectured upon for audiences towards the end of his life.

Winters' friend, the historian Stephen E. Ambrose wrote a great book about Easy Company's accomplishments. It takes a broad view of the war and the company as a whole. Then there are memoirs by other company members, such as non-commissioned officer Sergeant Donald G. Malarkey, which focuses much more on the men, their personalities and individual achievements. Winter's book is somewhere in between.

Beyond Band of Brothers is an officer's look at the war, and a very competent officer he was! The prose is soldierly efficient. Winters lavishes praise upon the men he served with and only occasionally he is critical. You can tell how damn proud he was to serve with these men, even when he's not flat out telling you.

I've watched the miniseries a number of times. I've read a few books about this company. I know the men's names. I know their faces. It is truly amazing what the went through. I'll always be thankful.

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I Love You Betty White!

Here We Go Again: My Life in TelevisionHere We Go Again: My Life in Television by Betty White
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew Betty White went back a few years, that she was part of the Mary Tyler Moore set, but I didn't realize she went all the way back to the very dawn of television! Radio, even!

Here We Go Again (probably a reference to this being her second or third biography) is a really nice and compact look at the history of television programing, especially in the early years. It's short, which is to its merit, and it is sensibly focused on White's career, but nevertheless I learned a thing or two about tv, and that's something I didn't expect to get out of a slim Betty White bio!

I also didn't realize that she was such a model of feminism. I don't know for certain, but I'd be surprised to hear that she was a card-carrying member of the movement and that she marched with Gloria Steinem (certainly nothing like that is mentioned in this book), however, White did her part for women's rights simply by working. Her career came about at a time when women weren't expected to have careers. She went through two men who wanted her to stay at home in order to pursue a life in showbiz. She was good at entertaining and so that's what she did, damn what the men had to say about it. It's that kind of gumption that truly moves a movement!

White never even relates her career or what she did to achieve to feminism. The whole episode is just a matter of course with her. No, what she champions, if she's going to champion anything, is animal welfare. She loves her pets, talks about them throughout the book, and has devoted her free time to animals in general. Again, it's just something she does. Never did I feel like she was saying "oh look at me, I'm such a good person for caring!". No, she simply cares for all creatures great and small.

A well-balanced book, even when dealing with the truly tragic moments of her life, Here We Go Again is highly recommended to anyone interested in this lovely lady. And how can you not love her? It's amazing to think it's 2017 and she's still with us! Still able to totter out there on stage to make an appearance and even cognizant and quick enough to deliver a one-liner, and the woman is creeping up on 100! She's outliving her earliest fans. A lot of people are going to be sad when she goes, and because of this book I better understand why.

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