This week's contestant is Mike Ryan in Americus, Georgia. The hidden song is very easy -- I got it in about five notes. But I really didn't have an idea with the composer style. Towards the end, only one thought came to mind, though it didn't seem to fit with the first part, but it was the only guess I could make. And was right! Huzzah.
Just to briefly update you on my article that I wrote about here last week..
The article adds a few comments from the museum about how they've had Two Sisters (On the Terrance) hanging for 84 years, as well as information on the painting's official provenance (they're the third owner, the first of whom bought the masterpiece directly from Renoir in 1881), but mainly it's just fun to see them jump in.
I've written quite a bit about a British chat show I quite like, The Graham Norton Show, on BBC America and have posted a bunch of video clips. It's lively, clever, often very funny thanks to the host, and has a slightly different take on such shows than others, which is no easy thing to do. The guests are almost exclusively from the world of entertainment or occasionally sports. Maybe once a few years back they had a British MP sitting on the sofa with the other guests. This week -- tomorrow, in fact, on Saturday at 10 PM -- they has a change. One of the guests is Hillary Clinton. And for the first time since I've watched, she on the sofa alone. (The other guests show up later after she's departed.)
Clearly she's there to promote her book. But from the few clips I've seen, the conversation is charming, funny and thoughtful. And host Norton, who is anything but a political specialist, presents himself well, though I certainly don't expect him to get deep into policy issues. What I'm most intrigued by is how this comes across to the British audiences. Given that Hillary Clinton was voted the Most Admired Woman in the World something like 21 years in a row, my guess is wonderfully -- while ratcheting up the bewilderment of "How on earth could Americans have not elected this woman and instead made Trump the president?????"
Two clips have been released, as far as I can tell. This first is Secretary Clinton talking about having to go to the Trump inauguration.
The other video deals with Trump tweeting and how she deals with it. There are some very amusing things discussed, but she also turns the conversation a bit more serious to put presidential tweeting in a larger perspective.
Again, The Graham Norton Show airs on this Saturday at 10 PM (on the West Coast, at least...) on BBC America.
Crank up your DVR...
Burger King just released an awfully-impressive 3-minute anti-bullying spot online. It starts off pretty odd, but then takes a strong turn.
Hat's off to them for tackling the subject and in such a fascinating way.
I watched much of Chief of Staff John Kelly's comments at the White House yesterday. I thought they were moving, emotional, heartfelt, personal, important and off-the-mark to the issue at hand, distracting and that the point of them was to be self-serving to his boss.
To be clear, he was in a difficult place. I'm sure he didn't want to be there. And I'm sure that the reason he was there was because his boss told him to. So, he had to defend his boss. And importantly, it was his boss who is the one who started the controversy by himself, unasked, bringing up how previous presidents handled consolation phone calls to grieving military families -- and lied about it, causing outrage from those administrations. It was yet another Trump-created controversy to distract from being questioned about the deaths of four Green Berets, and it backfired. So, he sent out his Chief of Staff to make the boss look good. And it was likely the last place John Kelly wanted to be. So, that was the job he was given.
But make no mistake, that was his job being there. He wasn't there as former Gen. John Kelly, grieving father, talking about personal loss, the military and honor. He was the Chief of Staff in the Trump administration trying to whitewash his boss at this boss's admonition.
On the personal side, John Kelly was touching and emotional and full of grace. But for his actual assignment, I believe he was solidly and significantly off-base.
To begin with, he referenced being stunned that a Congresswoman would "listen in" on a personal phone call between the president and a grieving widow. She was listening because that very widow had her own phone on speaker so that everyone present could hear it. The Congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, wasn't surreptitiously lifting up a receiver and secretly checking it out. I don't know why the Myeshia Johnson, the widow, put the call on speaker phone -- maybe she was so moved to get contacted by the president of the United States that she wanted everyone to hear. Or maybe she was outraged what the president was saying to her and she wanted others to hear as proof. I don't know. But it was her phone and her call and it's what she chose to do. So, don't put this on Rep. Wilson for "listening in" on the call. It's what the Gold Star widow wanted.
Moreover, for all we know, what Myeshia Johnson also wanted was to get the story of how disrespected that call made her feel to the public and Rep. Wilson was acting at her request. We have no evidence of that, but given the extremely close relationship Frederica Wilson had with the family, which was the very reason she was there in the first place and why Ms. Johnson put the conversation on speaker for both the Congresswoman and for her mother-in-law to hear, it seems far more likely that she would not have drawn a grieving widow into the public stage on this without it being precisely what Myeshia Johnson specifically wanted -- rather than than the Congresswoman going off all "rogue" at the expense of the widow of a young man she had mentored years before. And given that the family has confirmed and fully supported her, and not offered any criticism of the Congresswoman, that supports the likelihood that making this public was precisely what the family wanted and perhaps asked her to do. All as opposed to her surreptitiously "listening in."
Further, Chief of Staff Kelly expressed dismay that something "sacred" was disabused. I fully understand why he feels the phone call was sacred. Such calls are sacred. And for John Kelly, it was personal, as well, making such things all the more sacred. But he was not at the microphones speaking on behalf of his personal grief, but there as Chief of Staff defending his boss. And I think anyone involved with this Trump administration who tries to claim "sacred" as a defense for anything has no ground to stand on. "Sacred" went out the window and down the sewer long ago with Trump. The Chief of Staff's boss long-since ran a bulldozer over "sacred" and threw it in the dumpster, and it's no longer on the Trump table, and former Gen. Kelly knows that. One would have thought it "sacred" not to trash Gold Star parents in the first place, but Trump did that. And it would have been been considered "sacred" not to ridicule a POW who had been tortured yet heroically chose not to be sent home so that he could stay with his men, but Trump did that, as well. And one would think it sacred to remain seated and not crack jokes throughout the solemn playing of Taps on a military base, but Trump did that, as well, on live TV, no less. Or to make fun of disabled people or try to undercut the judicial system because of where a judge's ancestors were from, or promote violence against political opponents and the media, or brag about sexually abusing women (who John Kelly referred to as "sacred" when he was growing up), or hiring foreign agents as you National Security Adviser and campaign manager, or have your campaign setting up meetings with foreign enemy officials to get dirt on your political opponents, or attempt to undermine the faith that American citizens have in all the watchdog organizations -- from the media to intelligence services -- that keep government honest, or fire an FBI director because you said on camera that you wanted him to stop investigating Russia collusion by your campaign, or suggest keeping a registered list of all members of a religion and keep surveillance on that religion's houses of worship. But Trump not only did any of that, but ALL of it. So, don't come climbing on a pedestal bemoaning that you would have thought at least some things were sacred. They are -- but not where you work, not where you were standing as you said those words. Your boss got rid of "sacred" not long after he rode down an escalator announcing his candidacy to a roomful of actors he had paid to be there and cheer him.
And through it all, John Kelly never once even deigned to refer to Rep. Frederica Wilson by her name, choosing instead to dehumanize her. Worse, not just calling her only by her job, the "Congresswoman", but repeatedly referencing her as an "empty shell." Talking about the loud noises that "empty shells" make. What you expect from an "empty shell." Over and over. Indeed, he even took a digression to tell a story about how at an emotional ceremony that dedicated a building named after two deceased FBI agents, Rep. Wilson had bragged about getting the federal money for the facility. In fact, though, the building was funded before she ever was elected, and what she actually did was break through the governmental red tape to get it named for those two men -- just days before the event, a process that normally takes eight years. Something for which then-FBI director James Comey said at the occasion, "Rep. Wilson truly did the impossible, and we are eternally grateful." Moreover, in her speech she actually gives appreciative credit to GOP Speaker John Boehner and GOP Senator Marco Rubio. In fact, you can watch her full speech here and see for yourself. And throughout him telling this story about the building dedication -- and getting it totally wrong -- John Kelly kept calling Frederica Wilson an "empty shell." So much for women being "sacred" to Trump's Chief of Staff.
It was also worth noting that John Kelly explained that President Obama never called him in consolation after his son's death, a personal and heartfelt expression, but what stood out is that he didn't complete the thought and instead left out the larger reality. Because what he importantly failed to mention is that he and his wife had been invited to a White House breakfast that President Obama hosted for Gold Star families and seated at the table with First Lady Michelle Obama. So he himself turned his words, as personal and difficult and heartbreaking as they were to his life, into an edited excuse from a Chief of Staff defending his boss's inaction at the behest of his boss. "Make sure to tell them Obama never called you, but leave out all that part about the White House invitation sitting with the First Lady. It's better that way, believe me."
But perhaps most notable was when John Kelly addressed the wrenching thought that goes into making a phone call to a grieving widow. He explained a conversation he once had on the same subject with an officer about his own son, saying how when a soldier goes to war, he is with those closest to him and at his death he is surrounded by his friends which is the best thing in the world, and he knows what he is getting himself into when he agrees to be in the military. And that's a noble look at the tragic situation, and a proper look at it. But there are two very important problems with what Chief of State Kelly said --
The first is that the conversation he was describing was between two military offers experienced in war and the tragedy of death in their own chosen profession. That's a thoroughly different situation from calling a grieving widow on the loss of her husband, pregnant with their child. What two officers say to one another about the intimate tragedy that looms over their careers like an omnipresent specter is not inherently what a leader says to Gold Star spouse. And secondly, as eloquent as John Kelly was in his moving description of the realities of his own son's death in war, we have no evidence from anyone involved on any side that that is what Trump said to the widow, Myeshia Johnson. From what we know from all parties involved, on either side, what Trump said was a significantly-more dismissive, "He knew what he was getting into, but I guess it hurts anyway." Had Trump expressed precisely what John Kelly did, and done so with such gentle thought and emotional caring, it's likely that this never would have become an issue, ever, since it would have been admirable. But gentle thought and emotional caring is not in the Trump makeup, and instead we got, "He knew what he was getting into, but I guess it hurts anyway." And based on the past, cold abuse he'd already heaped on other Gold Star families, and on the disabled, and glibly accepting the gift of a Purple Heart medal because "I always wanted one," and joking seated during Taps, and tossing paper towels to victims of the Puerto Rico catastrophe, it's a far safer bet that he delivered his "He knew what he was getting into, but I guess it hurts anyway" message with as little concern as possible. Not even knowing, it seems, the names of either the Green Beret who lost his life, LaDavid Johnson, or his wife, Myeshia Johnson.
So, for all the very real sensitive, thoughtful and emotional explanation that Chief of Staff John Kelly delivered about his personal experience and the reality of the military, make no mistake -- that was a political presentation meant to cover the butt of his boss. Because that's what his boss wanted and sent him out -- just as he sent out Rex Tillerson to offset reports of being called a moron -- to offset this time the mucked-up controversy that Trump himself caused, lying about past presidents in the first place, unasked, to avoid dealing with the deaths of four Green Berets.
And John Kelly is there to support Trump. And suck up to him if necessary, as he did the day his boss received the gift of a sword and then-DHS Secretary Kelly quipped that it could be used on journalists. Ha, ha, good one.
Chief of Staff John Kelly made an emotional and elegant presentation. But he was pushed out on stage to make it. I don't believe for a moment it's where he wanted to be or what he wanted to do. And in the end, it did not succeed in its intent to exonerate Trump for, once again, not ever taking the blame for anything but pointing the finger at others.
This is a sort of thing you don't remotely see on television anymore. It's a 13-minute performance by two legendary performers.
What we have here are Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye singing a medley of Kelly songs from his movies, and interwoven with a couple of dance numbers. It's not from a special -- though by today's standards, it would seem to be. Rather it's just a long, impressive and fun segment for Danny Kaye's weekly variety series. Even back in 1963, when this episode is from, it wasn't standard fare to have such a long number. But the ease and charm of the two performers just flows along.
The video is sort of odd, technically. The image quality is good, but it has a bit of a herky-jerky quality to it. Perhaps it will play better on your end, but since it's always been like this whenever I've watched it, I suspect the issue is built into the video itself. It's very watchable, though. Just not smooth.
How bad is it? How high is the wall at the top of the mountain you have to get over?
Yesterday, I was reading a Twitter thread that my friend Ed Bott had linked to on his timeline to show how outrageous and pathetic it was. (Early hint: he was right.) His comment about the thread was -- "I just can't even."
The discussion had to do with the far right tearing down John McCain, which apparently is their favorite thing du jour to do. Because, after all, he's a war hero who spent five years as a Prisoner of War after being tortured, refusing to be sent home until all his men were released -- and is now battling brain cancer. So, sure, why wouldn't you? What began the thread was a sick comment from a questionable, local radio host named Bill Mitchell whose tweets are the sort of things psychiatrists use when Rorschach tests aren't available. I won't repeat this particular one out of deference to common decency, but it had to do with thinking that maybe John McCain had really been a spy for Vietnam. No, really.
Anyway, that fortunately brought a barrage of criticism, but alas also some far right support for McCain Bashing blood sport. But one in particular leaped out, which was the point of what Ed had highlighted. If I wrote it, you wouldn't believe me. So, here it is.
I must make a disclaimer here first. This above tweet is NOT a parody account. Oh, dear heavens, I wish it was. No, this is a real human creature who actually thinks this. Someone checked out her account and wrote what he found. That she was, indeed, very real. Not a parody. And actually is allowed to drive motorized vehicles and use sharp instruments
Happily, there were people who dove in to correct her, some pointedly, others in an "Aw, honey, come here, you need a hug" sort of way. One person very graciously took the time to give her the whole, long history of the prison in Hanoi and how it was called the 'Hanoi Hilton' out of dripping sarcasm, even posting a screenshot from a history page describing its background.
Yes, it's creepy the level of ignorance. But what's perhaps worse than the comment is that 3,016 "Liked" it.
As I often will write back to people who post their own equally-egregious ravings: Willful ignorance is no virtue.
I do understand that the Vietnam War was 50 years ago, and there are a lot of people in the world and posting on social media who weren't born then and might not know all the references of the period. Not knowing something is not unreasonable. But this isn't about being ignorant of something, even if it's a particularly well-known fact still in the vernacular. People don't know everything. I get it. I don't know everything. I don't know a lot. But this is about willful ignorance. A level of ignorance where you aren't even trying. Where you're ignorant, and probably know you're ignorant and want to stay ignorant because knowing something will hurt the point you're in a frenzy to make.
If you know that John McCain is always referred to as a war hero. And you know that he's always referred to as having been tortured. And for some reason known to you, you want to ridiculingly refute that. And you don't bother to find out why he was a war hero, and you don't bother to track down that he was, in fact, tortured. And you read somewhere that he really instead had just been put up as a guest for five years in a luxury hotel by America's Communist enemies during the Vietnam War. And if that doesn't strike you at the very least as...well, incredibly odd and contradictory to basic common sense and everything you've heard about John McCain -- like throughout when he ran for President of the United States only eight years ago. And you just accept it on face value that not only a war hero who was tortured, but that ANY FREAKING SOLDIER ON EITHER SIDE FOR ANY IMAGINABLE REASON during the Vietnam War spent years living at a Hilton Hotel -- but especially a prisoner of war, who you know was a prisoner because Trump himself gallingly demeaned him during the election by saying "I don't like people who were captured" then you are willfully ignorant.
And being willfully ignorant is no virtue. Same for those 3,016 who "Liked" the comment. Who apparently believed it was real.
This is the high wall at the top of the mountain you have to get over.
Happily, the reality is that if the rock solid wall is too impenetrable without the proper tools, it's only about 20% of the populace. And yes, that's a sickeningly high number. But if a politician is relying on 20% of people to get him anywhere, that ship won't sail and will remain in dry dock before eventually rotting and sinking.
Is this elitist to call people willfully ignorant? God, no. They are willfully ignorant. It's not just that they're factually wrong . That can't be argued. It's that they're literally gloating about being factually wrong at someone else's expense about something historic and easy to know, concerning a recent presidential nominee. And if they don't know it, easy to learn about before you speak in an effort to smear someone -- for his war heroism and torture. It's the picture book definition of willfully ignorant. Open up a dictionary and it will have a graphic of this tweet. Besides which, it's not elitist because I actually want all these people to know the facts. I want them to learn and grow and be as educated as possible. To join their fellow beings all together in the bright nurturing sunshine of knowledge. That's the opposite of elitist. Indeed, having a world with so many willfully ignorant people in it hurts us all. I want the best for everyone! Let's raise up the willfully ignorant and at least just get them to basic ignorant. That's fine. That's at least a starting point. We're all ignorant about a wide range of things, after all. All of us. And so that's where the concept of wanting to know, wanting to learn, wanting to take the next step starts. Hosannah!
But willfully ignorant, that's where humanoids go to elect sociopathic, misogynistic, ego-maniacally narcissistic, pathological lying racists as their god-force.
One final word for these willfully ignorant to prove how willfully ignorant they are for really, truly thinking this about John McCain. Consider: if John McCain actually spent five years at a real Hilton Hotel in North Vietnam -- where were all the little bottles of shampoo he would have brought home with him?!!
Heading back to the Mystery Guest segment, the contestant here is a fairly young Michael Caine from 1966 -- half a century ago! -- right after Alfie had been released. Given how outgoing and gregarious he's become over the decades on talk shows, it's fun to watch him here pretty low-key and almost reticent.
I've told my story about my one run-in with the fellow, and though I won't repeat it, your can read the tale here. The short version is that it took place on the set of the movie, The Island, and though he had every reason to be annoyed that I was in the way, he was absolutely charming, easy going and couldn't have cared less. So, yes, as much as I liked him before, I've liked him even more ever since...
Rather than watch the full episode, if you want to jump to the appearance, it comes around 15:30.
This morning, I was watching the Senate hearings with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and something gets referenced here that always bugs me deeply whenever it happens. Both sides tend to do it in the past, but mostly I've fouod it to be Republicans when talking to "their own." And that's referring to the Attorney General as "General." Here's the thing --
The word "General" in the title is NOT a noun, it is an *adjective." He is not the Attorney who is a GENERAL leading his fellow lawyers into battle. He is the Attorney who oversees everything in general, rather than having a single, specific area of influence. Basically, he's a "general Attorney." Not an attorney who is a General. Indeed, the correct plural is Attorneys General (which happily we do sometimes see from those who know what they're talking about). Not Attorney Generals.
Those who misuse the name do it either out of ignorance (which I think is common about this title, similarly with the Surgeon General) or more often (I believe) to suggest importance. It bugs me -- and I believe I'm right to be bugged by it. When any Attorney General is under fire, as Jeff Sessions is here, giving him a sense of undue importance by calling him "General" inappropriately shifts the weight of the argument.
Mr. Chairman, I return my time to the committee.
Last night, after reading through more and more hellish #MeToo stories from women, it got me thinking of "The Face on the Cutting Room Floor," a song I dearly love by Steve Goodman, along with Jeffrey R. Hanna and James Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It was written during the brief period when Goodman had moved to Los Angeles.
The song is about the issues that have made the news, but it overlaps some of the stories. And because it's so good for reasons I'll leave to the song, I thought it proper to include it here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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