Tagged: Germany

The Grand Budapest Hotel Envisioned as Lego Construct

The Grand Budapest Hotel Envisioned as Lego Construct

A very special opening awaits! In celebration of the June 17th Blu-ray and DVD release of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is readying to unveil a version of the illustrious European hotel constructed entirely of Lego bricks!

Take a tour, with trusty lobby boy Tony Revolori, in this video showing how it was built!

Ryan Ziegelbauer and his team of eight model builders – all die-hard fans of Wes Anderson – spent 575 hours building and designing the replica of the exquisite hotel. To construct the model, more than 50,000 certified Lego bricks from collectors and wholesalers were sourced from Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Germany, Italy and 14 different states in the U.S. The final model will weigh approximately 150 pounds and stand 7 feet tall and 6.5 feet wide.

Mindy Newell: Family, A Love Story

Newell Art 130805I must apologize for not being here last week. We had a family emergency, and the weekend was not fun.

No, not my dad. My mom. She was in the hospital.

I’ve talked about my dad here, but have rarely mentioned my mom.

She comes from a large family. Eleven kids. All of them, the girls as well as the boys, were raised to be independent, to be able to stand on their own two feet. My mom became a nurse, and down through the years, like Cherry Ames, she has worked in many areas of the field.

Laura Newell, Army Nurse. Laura Newell, Labor and Delivery Nurse. Laura Newell, Dialysis Nurse. Laura Newell, School Nurse. Laura Newell, Camp Nurse. Laura Newell, Public Health Nurse. Laura Newell, Emergency Room Nurse.

I thought a lot about my mom this past week. A professional woman before that was unremarkable. Able to sustain a marriage now 65 years in the making while raising two kids and continuing to work before there was daycare and flex-hours. Being in love, married to a man who was as proud of ability to help others heal as he was of her looks and housekeeping skills and never minded if she had to work an extra shift or stay overtime at the hospital? How had she done it? Where did she learn to how to do it?

And then I thought of my grandmother.

It was during the second wave of the East European Jewish immigration (which lasted from 1890 to 1924) that my grandmother, Anna Pecker, with her two young children – my Aunt Ida and my Uncle Phillip – crossed the ocean to America sometime in the early 1900’s. She was from a shtetl (Yiddish for “small town or village”) near Vilna, a city always known for its culture and book-learning, and which was sometimes part of Poland and sometimes part of Russia and is now a major city of Lithuania.

The thing is, no one knows what happened to her first husband. We don’t even know his name.

There are two theories. The first is that, like many young men of the times, he was conscripted into either the Polish or Russian Army and never returned. Her brother advised her by letter to come to America, saying that he could pay the steerage passage.

The second, and this is what makes it such an intriguing story, is that her husband was a miserable lout, always drunk, and always beating her and threatening the children. She hid her brother’s letters from the brute of a husband, as well as secreting money from him, as she saved for the journey from Vilna to Hamburg, Germany, where the ship would be docked. And then one day, young Anna had enough. She waited until her husband was asleep (or in a drunken stupor, or not home), took her kids, the money she had squirreled away, and left.

They mostly traveled by foot, saving money, and Anna would hire herself out as a maid or a cook to earn more, hiding the kids in a field or a forest. Supposedly they only travelled at night because it was safer, especially for a Jewess with two young children.  I don’t know how long it took, but it must have taken weeks, if not months, to get to Hamburg. Either she wrote her brother and sent it from one of her stops along the way, or, reaching the German port, she wrote her brother to wire her the passage money. (No one is sure about that.) At any rate, she paid for and received booking on a steamer to New York.

When they finally reached America and Ellis Island, my Aunt Ida, who was about five, was almost turned back because the immigration doctors said she had tuberculosis. But my grandmother refused to allow that, and my grandmother’s brother, who was waiting for them, must have greased a lot of palms. Ida was allowed to stay, although she had to be in quarantine for about three months. Think little Vito Corleone in Godfather II.

Anna and her children lived with her brother and his family in Bayonne, New Jersey, which had a large and thriving Jewish community. Jacob Yontef, a tall, handsome widower with seven children, and considered a “hot catch” by widows or mothers with marriage-age daughters, saw Anna at a dance, and fell instantly head-over-heels in love. I mean, he only had eyes for her, as the song says.

But Anna wasn’t interested. She literally scoffed at him, or so the story goes.

Was it because Jacob already had seven children? Of course, back then large families were the norm, but still, I think any woman would hesitate inheriting such a large brood. Unless her name is Carol Brady. Or…

Was it because she was still legally married? Was she worried that her husband would track her down? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

But Jacob never gave up.

Finally, at least three years later, though some in my family say it was more, Jacob won his woman.

And Anna Pecker became Anna Yontef.

And into this family was born my mother, Loretta Yontef, called Laura by everyone. Three years later, another girl, Anita, who would almost immediately be rechristened Augie – though that’s a tale for another time – was born.

Eleven kids.

And it wasn’t until I was 19, after my grandmother’s passing, that not only did I hear this story for the first time while we sat shiva (a period of mourning) but also learned that only my mom and my Aunt Augie shared parents.

Now my mom is 87, the matriarch of the family, the last surviving member of a true Yiddisher mischpacha (“family” in English, pronounced mish-PA-cha, the cha as in Chanukah – a sound that is like clearing your throat.)

Last month she fell, but thankfully did not break her hip. Still, for the last four weeks she has been in a great deal of pain and she was finding it hard to walk. Then last Friday I got a call. My mother was in the ER. There was a reason for her constant pain of the last month. No, she hadn’t broken her hip. (Thank God, for that would have been a horrible nightmare.) But the fall had caused a linear fracture of her lower pelvis, and of course walking around for the last four weeks had exacerbated it.

There really isn’t anything to do for a fractured pelvis (dependent on the severity, of course) but to rest it and allow it to heal, which means bed rest and wheelchair, with appropriate physical therapy.

So now my mom is in the same rehab/nursing home facility as my dad. We tried to get them into the same room, but weren’t able to, which, in fact, is a blessing in disguise, because knowing my dad, he would most certainly get up in the middle of the night to check on her and considering his fragile state – he is confined to a wheelchair these days and his cognitive state is not good, to say the least – well, I don’t even want to go there in terms of what that could lead to…But my mom is three doors down, and they spend their days together. I tease them about “wheelchair races.”

Yesterday, after a wonderful day partying and celebrating my niece Isabel’s 13th birthday, we brought my parents back to the nursing home/rehab center. They were both exhausted. The nurses said they would put them to bed for us.

But before they were wheeled off to their separate bedrooms (something that is hard for me to watch), they leaned towards each other, and kissed each other good night.

That’s 65 years of marriage.

That’s mishpacha.

That’s love.




Piccadilly Publishing Promotes the Sergeant

Cover Art: Tony Masero

Piccadilly Publishing has added Gordon Davis’ The Sergeant to their ebook reprint catalog.


I’m delighted to announce that we have acquired the ebook rights to one of the great series of the 1980s — THE SERGEANT by Gordon Davis. Beginning in October we’ll be issuing all nine books in the series, this time under the author’s real name, and all featuring covers painted by Tony Masero!

About Piccadilly Publishing:
Piccadilly Publishing is the brainchild of longtime Western fans and Amazon Kindle Number One bestselling Western writers Mike Stotter and David Whitehead (a.k.a. Ben Bridges). The company intends to bring back into ‘e-print’ some of the most popular and best-loved Western and action-adventure series fiction of the last forty years.

Series fiction (the most popular genre was always the Western, but it also encompassed war stories, tales of pillaging Vikings, life in the Roman arena and action-adventure set in the far-flung future) was at its most popular throughout the 1970s and 80s and is still fondly remembered and avidly collected by die-hard fans even today. Some books are now so hard to come by that it’s not unusual for them to change hands for astronomical amounts.

“We got to know a number of the authors when we were teenagers,” remembers Mike. “Although they mostly wrote Westerns, they often joked that they had never been further west than Piccadilly, in London’s West End.”

Thus Piccadilly Publishing was born. One of its aims is to bring back titles for new and old readers alike. Great care is taken over the production of each title, and each one has a specially-commissioned cover from Westworld Designs that recreates the feel of the originals, at the same time giving them a fresh and more modern look.

At the moment all Piccadilly Publishing titles are available for download from Amazon’s platforms in the UK, US, Spain, France, Germany and Italy, with more titles are set to follow on a regular basis. There are also plans to expand their availability on other electronic platforms.

“We’re adding authors and series to our catalogue almost every day,” reports Whitehead. “Over the coming years I think we’ll surprise and delight our fellow fans with what we have to offer.”

REVIEW: The Great Escape

The Great EscapeI’m not sure we’ll get every story of heroism, bravery, and ingenuity that made World War II so endlessly fascinating, but by now we seem to have gotten the best of them. The war had a scope involving millions of people on a global scale never seen before so the stories of the atrocities and acts of mercy continue to be uncovered and justly celebrated. And yet, one of the most enduring tales was not about a battle. Instead, the true story of the massive escape from Germany’s Stalag Luft III demonstrates a never-say-die attitude that demoralized the enemy. Thinking themselves clever, the Nazis collected their most troublesome prisoners and placed them in one facility, thinking they would be able to keep a better eye on them. They were all officers and treated a such, with the expectation that they would not cause trouble.

What the Germans forgot was that a prisoner’s first job was to escape and that’s exactly what these disciplined, highly-trained and clever men managed to do. It was an international effort that saw them survey and engineer three tunnels (cheekily nicknamed Tom, Dick, and Harry) that would allow 250 soldiers flee captivity. Paul Brickhill who was there, immortalized the effort in his 1950 nonfiction account The Great Escape.

It was a story ripe for Hollywood but studio after studio turned it down until finally John Sturges finally convinced United Artists to finance the production. Sturges both produced and directed from a screenplay credited to James Clavell, W.F. Burnett, and Walter Newman. Compromises had to be mader to make it palatable to Hollywood and its audiences. The American POWs who helped dig the tunnels were relocated seven months before the escape so reality was twisted to keep the yanks on hand. Additionally, characters became composites of real people, so it had the look and feel of what happened without the exact details.

great-escape-james-garner-and-donald-pleasence1The film is headlined by Steve McQueen, looming large in the marketing but small in the grand scheme of things, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, and David McCallum. (McCallum at the time was married to future Star Trek guest star Jill Ireland, who fell in love with Bronson during the shoot.) The Stalag was reconstructed with frightening attention to detail in Bavaria and the film benefitted from a fine Elmer Bernstein score. Technical advisor Wally Floody, a former prisoner at the dreaded place, was stunned at how real it felt.

A movie about digging tunnels for much of its 172 minutes might sound dull, but Sturges kept thigns interesting by showing how the men forged bonds and overcame fear and adversity. None of the characters were especially deep but all were idiosyncratic enough to remain interesting.  Some action pieces, such as the iconic motorcycle, were added. When released in 1963, it was a surprise hit and has showed enduring staying power, referenced in countless pop culture sources and is credited as an inspiration for the questionable sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.

Now 50 years old, the film remains entertaining viewing and 20th Century Home Entertainment has just released it on Blu-ray for the first time. Unfortunately, they did not use the occasion to remaster the film; merely transfer it from the 2004 two-disc release. As a result, it looks fine but should look better.

Great EscapeThe film was great fun and serious drama but it won no awards except from the men who were there, who later told Sturges what a fine job he did. Those anecdotes, recorded in 1974, survive on one of the many commentary tracks that were also ported over from the last release. Coupled with the fine lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, it is satisfactory but not what the movie and today’s viewers deserve.

The bonus features from the 2004 release are here with the exception of the trivia track and the photo gallery. But we do get:

Commentary with Director John Sturges, Cast and Crew, as Steven Jay Rubin, author of Combat Films: American Realism, 1945-1970, stitches together a series of interviews into this track. He managed to speak with  Sturges in 1974 and later Coburn, Garner, McCallum, Pleasance, Jud Taylor, Sturges’ former assistant Robert Relyea, stuntman Bud Ekins, art director Fernando Carrere, and McQueen’s one-time manager Hilly Elkins.

The Great Escape: Bringing Fact to Fiction (12:21) which originally ran on History Channel, narrated by Burt Reynolds.

the-great-escapeThe Great Escape: Preparations for Freedom (19:50): Another History Channel featurette looking at how the escape was really executed.

The Great Escape: The Flight to Freedom (9:22): Another History Channel featurette compares the reality versus the Hollywood version of events.

The Great Escape: A Standing Ovation (5:58): Another History Channel featurette examining the 1963 reaction by POWs to the film.

The Great Escape: The Untold Story (50:47): Made for British audiences, this used a mix of interviews and re-enactments.

The Great Escape: The Untold Story—Additional Interviews (9:35).

The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones (25:01): American Army pilot David Jones, who participated in the famed Doolittle Raid, was the template for McQueen’s character and gets a nice profile here.

Return to The Great Escape (24:09): Rubin directed this 1993 Showtime entry with Garner, Pleasance and Coburn, reminiscing.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:42)

The Griffon Battles the Terror and the Viper—on Kindle!

Two Titanic Tales of Adventure in One Package, from Van Allen Plexico

Who is… the Griffon?? 

When criminals, saboteurs and foreign agents threaten America’s security, millionaire ballistics expert Kerry Keen takes the controls of his custom-built, heavily-armed seaplane, the Black Bullet, as the dashing Griffon!

With mechanic/co-pilot/butler/chauffeur Barney O’Dare at his side, the Griffon strikes from a hidden hangar on Long Island Sound and delivers swift and often brutal justice to those deserving of it.  Sought by the authorities for his ruthless vigilante tactics, he must constantly avoid both the wrath of his foes and the long arm of the law.

In these two new adventures by award-winning and best-selling New Pulp author Van Allen Plexico (Sentinels; Lucian), the Griffon squares off against Nazi agent The Terror and his horrifying new secret weapon that could tilt the balance Germany’s way in the coming war—and then battles The Viper, a vengeance-seeking SS officer leading a squadron of missile-launching rocket-planes!

“The Griffon is such a terrific character,” says Plexico, “and I’m happy that White Rocket can offer readers what is essentially a two-part adventure together in one package for the first time.  Fuel up the seaplane and get ready for takeoff—the Griffon flies again!”

In these two power-packed adventures, here are just a few of the real-life machines you will see in action:

Sikorsky 1-S38 flying boats

DKW F5 Meisterklasse and Dusenberg sedans

Bachem Ba-349 rocket planes

Henschel Hs 217 Föhn unguided air-to-air rockets

Messerschmitt Bf 109 W seaplanes

Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter planes

Chatellerault MAC 34 high-powered machine guns

Originally appearing in LANCE STAR: SKY RANGER Vol 2 (Airship 27) and NEW ADVENTURES OF THE GRIFFON (Pro Se), this 2-in-1 Kindle edition from White Rocket Books collects the two parts of Van Allen Plexico’s epic tale of the high-flying GRIFFON into one e-book for only $2.99.


New Pulp Author Win Scott Eckert shared news on some upcoming Philip Jose Farmer releases from Titan Books.

COMING ON MARCH 12, 2013! Pre-order your copy now…

One man survived.

The great white whale with its strange passenger, and the strangled monomaniac its trailer, had dived deeply. The whaling ship was on its last, its vertical, voyage. Even the hand with the hammer and the hawk with its wing nailed to the mast were gone to the deeps, and the ocean had smoothed out the tracks of man with all the dexterity of billions of years of practice. The one man thrown from the boat swam about, knowing that he would soon go down to join his fellows.

And then the black bubble, the last gasp of the sinking ship, burst. out of the bubble the coffin-canoe of Queequeg soared, like a porpoise diving into the sky, and fell back, rolled, steadied, and then bobbed gently. The porpoise had become a black bottle containing a message of hope.


COMING ON JUNE 11, 2013! Now available for pre-order

Three figures moved in and out of the shadows of clouds and trees. The moon was riding high over the alpine mountain of Gramz in the Black Forest of southern Germany, only a few miles from the Swiss border. Long black clouds raced under it like lean wolves lashed by moonlight beams. Their shadow selves loped over the precipitous western side of Gramz Berg, bounding over the squat and massive stone pile of the castle on top of the mountain, writhing down the jagged slope toward the narrow sheen of the Toll River two thousand feet below.

The three figures were men toiling up the rock-strewn, pine-dotted slant. One was six feet seven inches high. He had the body of a Hercules. His bare head glinted dark-bronzish in the moonlight. If there had been more light, his eyes would have been a very light gray-green with many flecks of bright yellow.


TALES OF THE WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE, by Philip Jose Farmer and others, coming from Titan Books in October 2013!


Coming Soon.


By W. Peter Miller
Uchronic Press
55 pages
Recently I reviewed a short digest novella from Moonstone Books and mentioned liking this handy format for a quick, enjoyable reading experience. Well, California based writer, W. Peter Miller has launched his own series of such small paperbacks called “Unchronic Tales,” and the first one is entitled, “The Zeppelin.”
Now from the back cover copy, we’re told that these books will be set in an alternate world which is much like our own but then again different in some pretty startling and unique ways.  And make no mistake about “Unchronic Tales,” they are definitely part of the New Pulp Fiction movement sweeping the literary world today.
The hero of this first novella is American Agent Clark Tyler who has gone over to England at the start of World War One to enlist and do his part.  When a super Zeppelin, the Eisern Feist, attacks London one night, British Intelligence learns the bombing raid is actually a cover up for a more sinister German mission.  The Germans have kidnapped the daughter of famous scientist and are bringing her back to Berlin to utilize the special formula she now possesses, a formula that bestows her with a rather unbelievable ability.
Thus it is that she must be rescued at all cost and Tyler and his team fly off in modified tri-planes to overtake the dirigible, get aboard her and find the young lady before the massive airship can cross the channel and reach Germany.
Miller’s writing is pulp-perfect and the action nonstop from beginning to end. Tyler is a great, stalwart champion and the young, lovely scientist a spunky spitfire capable of holding her own when the action kicks into high gear. But before they can successfully complete her rescue, both of them will have to battle their way through an entire crew of German airmen and a team of highly trained, deadly German Commandos. 
Having relished this great little book, this reviewer is looking forward to digging into the second titled, “The Horn.”  If it is as good as, “The Zeppelin,” we pulp fans have much to celebrate. 

Win a Copy of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

shh2-34884-300x198-1836386On Tuesday, Warner Home Video will release Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows on Blu-ray Combo Pack or Digital Download and they have made two Blu-ray Combo Packs available for ComicMix readers.

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room…until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective. Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the death of an American steel magnate… No one sees the connective thread between these seemingly random events—no one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty. Holmes’ investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.


To win, tell us which is your favorite Sherlock Holmes disguise from this film or its predecessor. All entries must be posted on our site by 11:59 p.m., Monday, June 18. The judgment of ComicMix’s judges will be final. Entrants must have a current domestic address, no post office boxes allowed.

Mindy Newell: Success And Failure, Part 2

We pick up the story a few months after my parents pulled me out of Quinnipiac and sent me off to work to “learn the value of a dollar.”

I joined the drones commuting to lackluster jobs on Wall Street. Got a job as a receptionist. Had my first experience with sexual harassment from the big boss, though it wasn’t called that back then and zero-tolerance policies were still twenty years in the future. Didn’t crumble. Called the guy an asshole and quit. A good feeling. Went home. Worried about what the parents would say. Told them I got laid off. Said I would start looking for a new job “tomorrow.” Picked up my battered copy of Exodus (by Leon Uris) and started reading. Started crying instead. (Failure). Coincidentally the movie version of Exodus was on television that night. I watched it. Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan. Oscar-winning score.

Went to sleep. With the soundtrack of Exodus and Paul Newman’ blue eyes – hell, just everything Paul Newman – keeping me company in my dreams.

The next day I told my parents I needed a little time, I’d start looking for a new job on Monday. Went to the laundromat, and while my clothes were spinning in the washer I finished Exodus. Also decided that I was going to go to Israel. Live on a kibbutz. Meet my own version of Ari Ben Canaan and marry him. Raise a bunch of sabras. (Look it up.)

I was still just along for the ride.

Now my family was never especially “Zionist.” Supportive of Israel? Of course. But I once asked my grandmother – whom family legend says walked from Poland to Germany with two little kids in tow (my Aunt Ida and Uncle Philly) and hiring herself out as a laundress, cook, whatever, to make money for the journey to Hamburg, where they took passage to America – why she didn’t go to Palestine instead. “Why would I go from a country where the Poles shot at Jews to a country where the Arabs shot at Jews just to live in tents and dirt?” she scoffed. “Here you can live like a mensch.” And when my dad, who was a fighter pilot in WWII – flew Mustangs in the CBI for you WWII history buffs out there – was approached by the fledgling – well, basically non-existent back then – Israeli Air Force to train pilots, he and my mother were not willing to give up their American citizenship, which was a real possibility at the time.

So when I announced that I was going to go to Israel for six months, live on a kibbutz, study Hebrew – no one in the family was exactly jumping for joy. Especially Grandma. But they knew I was unhappy – hell, they knew I was “lost” before I did – and were questioning their decision to pull me out of school, so, well, being good and loving parents, they said okay.

I hated Israel.

Yes, I must be the only Jew in America that hated her visit to the land of her forefathers.

Well, let me rephrase that a little. I didn’t hate Israel itself. I couldn’t stand the Israelis I met. The kibbutz I landed on was Shefayim, one of the original kibbutzim (which was cool), founded by Russian Jews imbued with Theodore Herzl’s dream, sitting on the Mediterranean coast. It was beautiful, but the kibbutzniks were another matter. I found them incredibly arrogant and judgmental towards America and the Americans. They were always saying really nasty things about the United States to me and the other Americans in my group of starry-eyed wanderers. And at the same time, they were trying to recruit us to move permanently to Israel. All they ever said to us Americans was that we were Jews who happened to be American and we belonged in Israel. All I ever said back to them was “No, I’m an American who happens to be a Jew, thank you very much.” Okay, so that didn’t exactly endear me to them, but c’mon. I wasn’t going around telling them that I thought the way they treated the Palestinians was shitty. I just wanted to learn some Hebrew, pick oranges in the orchards and milk the cows in the barn, and take side trips to Jerusalem and Haifa and Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee, explore the country of my ancestors.

I wanted to belong somewhere. I hadn’t belonged at Quinnipiac. I sure as hell didn’t belong at that job on Wall Street. I had wanted to belong in Israel.

But I didn’t.

After two months I called my parents and told them I was coming home. My father said, “Don’t come home. Fly to Paris or Rome or London or Madrid, instead. Call me when you land, I’ll send you money through American Express. Take advantage of being there. See Europe.”

An incredibly generous – and loving – offer.

But what I heard was “Don’t come home.”

Feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere.

Feeling like an utter failure.

To be continued…

TUESDAY MORNING: Michael Davis, black in back

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten discusses creativity and togetherness