Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Things To Know About D-Day

Today is the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France in 1944 that led to the liberation of Europe from the Germans, and ultimately, the end of World War II. A few things worth knowing:

The invasion was originally planned for June 5, but rough seas and cloud cover forced a delay.

Overnight, 2,700 ships and 176,000 soldiers crossed the English Channel for the landing at Normandy, France.

At the same time, paratroopers dropped behind German lines to capture bridges and railroad tracks so that the landing troops could advance inland. One such company was the subject of HBO's Band of Brothers.

Because of cloud cover, the planes carrying the paratroopers had to fly dangerously low to make the drops, taking intense enemy fire from the ground. As a result, most troopers were dropped miles off base and apart from their units. The men were forced to form improvised squads from various companies, like the one that defends the city at the end of Saving Private Ryan.

The troops landed at 6:30 a.m. on a 60-mile front, the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The landing beaches were designated into five sectors: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah. The heaviest fighting (and largest death toll) was on Omaha Beach, as depicted in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. Some companies landing there suffered casualty rates as high as 90%.

In the weeks prior to D-Day, Navy scouts visited Normandy beaches under cover of darkness, checking on things like the type of sand — to see if it would hold up a tank — or the placement of steel obstacles and mines on wooden poles. They also verified water depths and the speed of currents, then slipped back to sea, sometimes swimming miles back to their boats moored offshore.

French Resistance workers provided critical information about their German occupiers to the Allies. French laborers conscripted by the Nazis paced distances between obstacles or kept track of German troop movements. A housepainter, hired to redecorate German headquarters in Caen, stole a blueprint of Atlantic Wall fortifications.

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, top commander of German forces in France, wasn't even in the country on the day of the invasion. Convinced that the Allies would never launch a seaborne landing in such bad weather, he went home to Germany to celebrate his wife's 50th birthday.

"Very Funny" TV Show Review of the Day

I don't think he liked it...

'House of Payne': It hurts to watch
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

Well, at least the title's apt.

Indeed, if ever a show could cause actual physical pain, TBS'
House of Payne might be the one. Glaringly, shamefully, insultingly inept, this new cable comedy from filmmaker Tyler Perry isn't just the worst sitcom of the year, it's one of the worst of the modern era. And what's worse, you have to imagine the people at TBS know how terrible the show is, and they are proceeding nonetheless.

The other option — that they really think this horrendous mish-mash of old jokes and ugly stereotypes fills some TV void — is too hideous to contemplate.

Granted, through such films as
Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion, Perry does seem to have tapped into a desire among some parts of the African-American audience to see old-fashioned, church-basement morality plays brought to big-screen life. Still, whatever charms may exist in his movies or in Perry's drag act as Madea, none survives the transfer to TV.

Perhaps he had trouble working under TV's tighter schedule and budgets, or perhaps his sense of humor doesn't work as well in a medium where the African-American family benchmark has been set by such shows as
Cosby and Everybody Hates Chris.

Though the show seems to be named for Allen Payne, the young actor who plays CJ Payne, the main character is Uncle Curtis — played by LaVan Davis, who gives the character all of the bluster but none of the humor of Archie Bunker. Curtis' main complaint is that CJ and his family spend too much time visiting, a problem that's increased in a later episode when CJ's house burns down and everyone is forced to share the same home.

If only they weren't sharing it on TV.

The writing here goes beyond awful to staggering
, from the reliance on stale jokes (asked to name two great kings, Curtis answers "smoking and drinking"), to the feeble attempts to address serious issues, to the ugly homophobia that threads its way through the show. In
Payne's world, bigotry counts as a universal family value.

Given the quality of the script, the actors can almost be forgiven for turning in performances that could lead you to believe you were watching an early rehearsal — and one performed on a temporary set by the real stars' stand-ins.
Certainly, if any of these actors is capable of putting a line across in a way that seems even remotely real or funny, he or she is keeping that talent well hidden.

Too bad TBS hasn't done the same with Payne.


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