Jerome Preisler's reputation precedes him. The 30 books under his belt include several NY Times Best Sellers. He has put his pen to work on the Tom Clancy Power Plays and CSI series. He’s even been a Yankees analyst on the YES network. We’re fortunate to have such an accomplished author on our show.
We are really excited about Jerome's most recent book, First to Jump. It tells the story of the Pathfinders from the 101st. They were the first soldiers to land in Fortress Europe. They jumped in before (BEFORE!) the first wave of paratroopers dropped into combat. These guys went on missions with expected casualty rates of 80 to 90%. One stick (a group of paratroopers) had their plane shot down with them still in it. Some still managed to get out, and they never lost sight of their mission.
The men of the Pathfinders faced so many incredible variables. At the heights they were jumping, there was no room for error. They jumped from abnormally dangerous heights into the most hostile territory, often with little intelligence, and into terrain riddled with dangerous obstacles. It was an accomplishment to survive the jump, and when they did, they were usually battered and facing an alerted enemy with superior numbers and firepower. That’s what it meant to be a Pathfinder.
The unit was full of misfits. Their leader was a troublemaker named Jake McNiece. His exploits, and the way he led his men, are worth celebrating.
These warriors are of a different ilk. They volunteered, not to protect themselves, but to stand by and protect their brothers. You can’t save your neck in situations like this. You put your faith in those around you, you fight as hard as you can, not to ensure that you get home okay, but to ensure that the mission gets done so that those who come next will have a chance to do their job. That’s what the Pathfinders did in World War II.
If you want to understand what they did, read the book. Read about D-Day and know that the Pathfinders jumped in first. Then read about the liberation of the Netherlands and, again, the Pathfinders jumped in first. Operation Market Garden, once again, saw the pathfinders paying high costs to pull off the impossible.
Finally, at the Battle of the Bulge, McNasty and his boys led the crucial supply planes in to save the 101st from annihilation. The Germans had already sent their envoy to accept terms of surrender from the Americans, and the Pathfinders jump in to save this unit from certain death. Incredibly, Pathfinders, the 101st, and Patton’s tanks found a way to win that battle, and ultimately the war, in Europe.
We love that Jerome has chosen to tell this story. Go listen to the show, and click on the link to buy this magnificent book. You’ll get a heroic tale told beautifully, and you'll support an important author and a great dude.
I am, yet again, and almost constantly, amazed at what this show has allowed us to do. This week, while experiencing what I can only imagine is the most spectacularly reaffirming period in his professional life, Scott McEwen chose to spend time talking with us. It was his idea to capture and cultivate the story that became American Sniper, and now that story rules the literary world (it's #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list) and the world of cinema (it is currently enjoying its 6th week at #1 at the box office, is the biggest January movie of all time, and is nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture). And at the apex of attention that comes with captivating the world with a tale, we got to sit down and ask him about dragging a 1400-pound moose out of frozen, slushy, Alaskan mud. That's good fun.
It was an honor and a tremendous pleasure to talk with Scott, and he was even more engaging and inspiring than we imagined. He's an adventurer, a patriot, and a renaissance man, and I hope his success continues to mirror his generosity with fans like us.
This week we published a show about Dr. Robert Greenberg. Dr. Greenberg is gifted. He is a talented musician writing an impressive body of work as a literate musical composer. Also, Dr. Bob is also a wonderful entertainer with the spoken word. On the surface, these are the reasons why he makes a great guest for our show. However, the reality is much deeper.
Pete found Dr. Greenberg while listening to “The Great Courses” while deployed. Pete often talks about his time in war zones and the things he’s seen and done. With Dr. Greenberg it’s different; he provided Pete with an escape. Pete shares below how Dr. Greenberg helped him cope with combat.
“I’d come back from a patrol, you know, you’re hot and tired, probably need to drink at least a liter of water and get a bite. You never know when you’ll have to head back out, so you take care of your body first. If possible, I’d lay down and take a nap. These naps were part of my recovery. Though I fall asleep easily turning off your brain is another story. Much of what I’d hear during my “combat interviews” was created a mental and emotional strain.
I found that I needed something to allow me to escape Iraq for a few minutes. That escape was often lectures by either Dr. Rufus Fears or Dr. Robert Greenberg. Dr. Fears was a passionate lecturer who dealt with history. Dr. Greenberg focused on music, particularly “classical” music. Anyhow, either lecturer provided me with a totally new and interesting topic.
I’d play a lecture on my laptop while I did something else mindless…maybe play solitaire, or doodle; really anything that would drown out my brains need to solve the problems I was facing on a day to day basis. This overloading with Dr. Bob and Dr. Rufus worked fabulously. They have both taught me a lot about life and about their particular field of study; while giving me the mental break I needed.
Dr. Bob has inspired me to attend and grow passionate about orchestral music and particularly opera. He’s given me reason to read books or learn about people who were never available to me before. In short, Dr. Bob made my time in Iraq, my time away from my family, more bearable and survivable. I mean survivable in the heaviest of ways.
His gift to me is immeasurable. I love that I’ve had the opportunity to tell him face to face what he’s done for me. I wish I had the chance to do that with Dr. Fears; sadly he passed before I ever got to thank him.
Dr. Bob means the world to me. I am deeply thankful for Dr. Bob, he’s made my life sweeter, my passion deeper and my world more open to music.”
If you haven’t had the chance to listen to our episode featuring Dr. Bob, don’t hesitate. Go right now and click on his episode. Dr. Bob is brilliant and we love him.
In this week's episode, we had the privilege and the pleasure of a conversation with John Nagl. You must be enjoying an interesting life if when someone writes your name, they have plenty of options for how to address you. In this case, my takeaway was that the proper way to address him is as John Nagl. He has earned the titles Lieutenant Colonel, Doctor, Professor, and Headmaster, along with the descriptors author, scholar, soldier, policymaker, and educator. But his is a case where the man defines the titles, not the other way around. His approach to the careers into which he has launched himself, his ability to see the roadmaps of life and culture, and the way he has influenced so many (many!) of our country's future leaders makes him a fascinating character.
His latest book is a memoir of modern warfare, and of a modern warrior. You should check it out. And you should check out our episode with him. Following are some links to other places you can see and get to know John Nagl. Take a look at them, and the many other clips out there.
Speaking at a Politics and Prose event
Talking about the book on Book TV
On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
In our Johnny Walker episode, we had the great pleasure of hanging out with Duke Harbin, president of the Navy SEALs Fund. Duke spent 9 years on the Teams, and is now dedicated to raising money and awareness for the widows and families that fallen SEALs leave behind, and for his brothers whose sacrifices put them in need of some help when they make it home. We urge everyone to support the Navy SEALs Fund, read about their work and the people they benefit on their website, and share your gratitude with a SEAL and his family every chance you get. It's a community of great guys who live in quiet service to each other and to all of us.
Read about their mission
Lend a hand
Donate to the Navy SEALs Fund
We also extend our thanks to the Encinitas Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 3787, who graciously hosted the event at which our interview with Johnny and Duke took place. They are supporters of the Navy SEALs Fund, and they're a great group of folks who throw a spectacular event. We're lucky to have them serve the community as well.
It gives me (Jon) tremendous satisfaction to know that Denny Tedesco has reached some important milestones in his 18-year journey with this film. Having secured a great distributor of documentaries (Magnolia Pictures, who also distributes two of my other favorite films, Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Blackfish), The Wrecking Crew seems poised to get the release it deserves, and we - the audience - will finally get to see the picture in some great theaters and get that box set of BluRays we've been wanting.
The backstory: I made the acquaintance of my lovely friend Desiree Tedesco (Denny's sister) in a hair salon in 2006. We happened to be getting our respective haircuts (or is it 'hairs cut?') in chairs next to each other, and I overheard her say, "(blah blah, something something) The Wrecking Crew." Our stylists happened to walk away at the same time, leaving us to exchange pleasantries with each other, and I took the opportunity to ask if I heard correctly that she was talking about The Wrecking Crew (purposely not italicized -- at this point I'm talking about the players, not the film), and if so, how she knew about them.
Back backstory: I have been a drummer since I was a kid, and had the good fortune to be introduced to Hal Blaine's book of the same title by a local windsurfer named Bill. He was flabbergasted that I knew not of Hal (I was a long-haired kid whose drum universe rotated around Alex Van Halen) and gave me his own copy. I opened the book out of obligation to the gift, and then was captivated and devoured it in two days. Later, I worked at Mix Magazine, and our reference arm, Mix Bookshelf, sold the book. We frequently heard from Hal himself about it, and he generously supplied us with signed copies and whatever else we asked of him, further cementing my admiration for him. He really is a great guy.
Back back backstory: While I was courting the woman who would become my wife, I mentioned that I dug Hal in conversation, and she was also a fan. She and her Mom shared a love for Jan and Dean, and she knew of Hal from their recording from The Tammy Show. That's when I knew it was love.
Anyway, Des explained that the guys she was talking about were musicians, and not whomever it was to whom I thought she was referring. I responded, "I'm talking about Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, Carol Kaye…)". We became fast friends, and she gave me Denny's email address and told me about the film. I reached out to him, and we traded emails for a couple of months about anything and everything, until we could finally meet face to face at a screening in Santa Cruz, CA. Don Randy was there too, and participated in the Q&A afterward, and we all loved it. Since then, I've taken my friends and my family to see it every time he's shown it at an auditorium near me, and seen the additions along the way. It was great the first time, and has only gotten greater. I love The Wrecking Crew, and can't wait to see it in a theater, and in my living room.
Here are some links:
http://www.wreckingcrewfilm.com - For info directly from Denny about the movie
https://www.facebook.com/WreckingCrewFilm - The Wrecking Crew Facebook page
http://www.magpictures.com - Magnolia Pictures website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Tedesco - Tommy's Wikipedia page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Blaine - Hal's Wikipedia page
http://www.carolkaye.com - Carol's website
http://www2.gibson.com/news-lifestyle/features/en-us/tommy-tedesco-guitar-player-0416-2012.aspx - A great article about Tommy Tedesco from Gibson Guitars
One of the joys that comes with making the Break It Down Show is collaborating. We enjoy hearing every one of our guests talks about the collaborations that meant a lot to them. Since we've started capturing some of our shows at Mindseed Sound Stage, we've had the good fortune and absolute pleasure of working with D'Wayne Wiggins. He's a whirling dervish of ideas and a walking party. And he's quick to share praise for those he's worked with in the past. Here are some of the folks he mentioned in his episode of the podcast, and links to more information about them: