The other day, I mentioned the wonderful documentary about Pete Seeger, The Power of Song. One of my favorite sequences in it was this utter gem.
I mentioned that Seeger had been banned by the networks from appearing for 17 years, until the Smothers Brothers had him on. What I didn't realize it that he nonetheless had a show for a while on public television. From the clips they showed, with Pete and folk artists, it looked absolutely wonderful.
But this it the treat.
The song "Freight Train" is one of those that we think just sort of sprang to life on its own, with its author unknown, lost to time. But it was written by the self-taught musicians Elizabeth Cotten. And here she is, around age 70, with Pete Seeger singing her famous song, one of the most famous songs in folk music.
This is as classic as it gets.
Today's Little Known Fact.
A short while ago, for reasons to unimportant to explain, I changed my password on Amazon for a short time, three weeks. Yesterday, I went to change it back, but kept getting an error message that the password was "unavailable." I was scratching my head because I couldn't figure out why in the world a password was not available.
Only by doing some searching did I discover the after-the-fact fine print: if you change your password on Amazon, you can never go back and use it again.
(Had I known this policy before changing my password for just three weeks, I suspect I never would have changed it.)
I called Amazon and spoke with the Password Department. They explained that the reason had to do with "security." After all, they said, what if a friend knew your password, they could use it if you went back to it. Well, a) that's some friend, but b) if your friend or anyone knew your password, they could use it at any time, like when it's actually active. So, the reason made zero sense. Mind you, I know that it's good to change passwords every once in a while. And I do so, on occasion. But that's a separate matter from not being about to re-use an old password. I made two requests:
The first was that they reverse their policy. Anyone should be able to use whatever password they want. After all, it's your password. I don't expect that request to get very far, which leads to --
The second request, that when someone goes to change their password, they are informed on screen that if they make a change they will not ever be able to use that password again.
Anyway, if you ever decide you might want to change your password on Amazon, just know that you can never change back to it.
This has been a Public Service from Elisberg Industries. Your friendly full-service neighbor, providing you live on the planet Earth. Otherwise, if you live elsewhere, while we're still friendly and still consider you a neighbor (albeit in a wider neighborhood), we can't guarantee that we'll be full-service. But we'll try...
If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you might have found yourself caught in the midst of arguments about the dueling Sherlocks -- which is better, which do you prefer? -- Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes in the BBC version shown here on PBS, or Johnny Lee Miller's Sherlock in the CBS series, Elementary.
The reality is that the swirling argument is even more convoluted than most people imagined.
That's because the two actors both starred together in the acclaimed National Theatre production of Frankenstein in 2011. But it gets even more convoluted than that. Because the two actors played the same roles in the show -- alternating between Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature on different nights. And to mix things up all the more, if such a thing is possible, they shared the Olivier Award for Best Actor.
The stage production was directed by Danny Boyle, best known for Slumdog Millionaire. As it happened, the show was filmed live and shown to select movie theaters around the world. (Yes, I know, I'm just finding out about this, too, far after the fact.) And to best recreate the stage management of alternating performances, the two actors switched parts during the movie theater performance.
That production has never been released on DVD, at least yet, though there are no plans currently to do so. But here are five minutes from it. In this sequence, Cumberbatch plays Frankenstein, and Miller the Creature.
I was just watching a replay of a recent, truly wonderful documentary about Pete Seeger. At one point, they dealt with the folk music revival in the '60s and dealt with the TV series, Hootenanny, talking about how critical Seeger was to it getting on the air, yet he couldn't appear on it because the networks had banned him.
But it was something else that made me leap up. Because in the sequence, they happened to show the sheet music for the theme song of Hootenanny, a song I remember enjoying. It said the lyrics were by Alfred Uhry, and the music was by Robert Waldman.
So what, I hear most of you say.
Alfred Uhry later became known as an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Most notably, he won the Pulitzer Prize for writing the play (and screenplay, getting the Oscar) for...Driving Miss Daisy!! He also won the Tony Award for Best Play with The Last Night of Ballyhoo. And co-wrote the film, Mystic Pizza.
(I was always surprised to see that he wrong the book and lyrics for the musical The Robber Bridegroom, which has a very good, evocative score. Little did I know he began his distinguished career as a lyricist.)
And here is the theme song for Hootenanny. The video, sung by the Brothers Four, who also released it on the B-side of one of their singles, has very low audio quality, but it picks up later on.
So, you remember yesterday I was describing the wonderful tech support that I got from Microsoft on their Exchange product. And I mentioned that there was one little oddity I discovered after the fact -- not a problem, but something strange -- that I'd follow up on and let you know what happened.
They may have topped themselves.
As I noted yesterday, after the tech support call they sent an email with the telephone and email contact information for the tech support guy Ernst, as well as that of his supervisor Robert, and for a back-up technician if none of the others were was available. I sent off an email describing the oddity and waited, but didn't hear back. In fairness, it was late in the afternoon here in California, so it wasn't unlikely that everyone in tech support was gone for the day.
This afternoon, I got a reply. But not an email -- Ernst called back! Now, that is unprecedented tech support. Happily, the oddity cleared itself up by the time he called, so it turned out to be unnecessary -- I think it had something to do with information being cached and taking time to clear out (something Ernst confirmed in more specifics) -- but just getting the phone call speaks volumes. It was impressive for any company's tech support -- a call back, for goodness sake -- but utterly unexpec
Last week when discussing Sid Caesar, I mentioned the incredible evening at the Writers Guild Theater when the stunning collection of writers from his two series appeared with him for one of the funniest nights I've ever had in a theater. Arguably, the funniest night. It's available on DVD, called Caesar's Writers. (I wrote at the time that it was edited down for PBS broadcast. It was. But I've since been informed that the DVD is the whole thing!)
What I also noted was that occasionally Sid Caesar would perform (usually with Carl Reiner, who was both an actor and writer on the show) the old sketch they were talking about. Here's an example of that.
The first writer you'll see is Danny Simon, older brother of Neil. They were writing partners at the time. Danny is also the real-life model for the messy character Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple. At one point in the video you'll also see a three-shot of Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. Folks, three-shots don't get much better than that... But then, the entire panel was amazing.
It was announced this week that 4 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and that numbers appear to be going in the right direction for the goal of 7 million by the end of March. It's encouraging, though to be fair, the numbers don't show how many people have paid for their plans yet (although figures from insurance carriers show that they believe this to be around 80 percent). And there is no data yet on how many young people have signed up, something critical to the plan. Those figures should be released next month.
But still, the number of sign-ups is seen as an encouraging sign. As is the fact that complaints about the healthcare.gov website has plummeted.
Interestingly, with the website working just fine now, we don't hear bleating cries from the Far Right about how a problematic new website is supposedly proof that the government can't do anything right and that the program is inherently bad. One would think that by that same logic, the fact that the website is working would mean that that is proof that the government can do things right and that the program is inherently good. Mind you, I don't think a working website proves any of that, just that those who did believe it about the bad news should believe the converse, at least if they were fair and honest.
Interestingly, too, when the first numbers of sign-ups were relatively small -- as was considered likely -- we also heard more bleating cries from the Far Right about how that was proof the ACA program was a dud. But with 4 million signups already, it's so odd that we're not hearing that anymore. ("So odd" will be herein defined as meaning "totally understandable when you're dealing with hypocrites.")
There still is a long way to go before knowing if the ACA program will be successful, and if so, how successful. But when you hear silence from its opponents on the two main issues they were originally rending their hearts over, not nearly as much slamming of the word "Obamacare," or calls for the repeal of "Obamacare," and their criticism now is limited to finding random individuals who are having problems, you know things are going in the right direction towards working out...
Though technical issues are touched on here, this isn't a techie thing in the slightest. Rather, I like to pass along praise when people do things right, and this is about some surprisingly great (and I have a feeling, standard) tech support from a company that most people will likely have dealings with. One who doesn't have the reputation for great, warm and fuzzy anything -- Microsoft.
I can't say that they offer this service for all their products -- I'm not saying they don't or do, but that I have no idea -- but the more I deal with Microsoft Exchange, probably the most convoluted product they offer, the more it's clear that bending over backwards to offer great tech support here is the norm.
First, a very brief background. I have a few "ghost" email accounts -- email addresses that get forwarded to my main account. I don't use them often, but I found out last week that a few things being sent to one of them was being blocked as Undeliverable.
After a bit of investigating, the problem turned out to be that when I switched to using Microsoft Exchange several months back, I didn't quite realize how it worked and everything was now being handled through that. Instead of using "mail forwarding" through my provider, I had to instead set up "Aliases" with Exchange.
I took a deep breath. As I wrote a while back when I first made the switch to Exchange, it works wonderfully but setting it up is not for the faint of heart. It's mainly intended for businesses and for IT experts to put into place. Fortunately, as I explained, my experience calling Microsoft Exchange tech support was very good, so I hoped twice would be the charm.
It was. Here's the tale:
I went online, checked my account, and saw what I thought I should do -- I started to make the changes, but on second thought decided I didn’t want to screw things up, so I called Exchange tech support. I’m glad I did, because my assumption was very wrong.
It turns out there were two ways of doing what I wanted. The easy way, if I didn’t care about replying to emails under the name of the Alias. And the more convoluted way, if I wanted to be able to reply to an Alias using that Alias name. (That uses something called "Distribution Groups." I never, ever, never would have figured that out. But then I wouldn't have figured out the "easy" way either. Even though it was easy. Once you knew what to do.)
Anyway, as I said, I called Microsoft Exchange tech support. After answering a few questions with Customer Service, they then transferred me to tech support, and put me on hold. I had a wait of a whopping 45 seconds.
The tech support guy, Ernst, was great. He was knowledgeable, patient, explained things carefully, slowly, in human English, answered questions well and was very comforting. ("Click here...You'll see such-and-such...Click here...You'll see it say...Click there...") And when another totally unrelated email problem cropped up during the call (an oddity of pop-up boxes asking for my password), he used a LogMeIn download to take control of my system and found the problem in about five minutes.
Better still though was afterwards. Rather than asking me to stay on the phone to answer some survey, his real, human supervisor came on to ask questions about the service and wanted to know about the experience and discussed the support call in detail. More impressive, he also said that they’d be sending an email that would include contact information on my tech support guy and for him, if I had any follow-up questions -- for this or any issue. That's always one of the big problems with tech support if there are subsequent questions: not being able to reach the same person who knows about the issue, without having to try to explain it again and what was done. This email did arrive with all the contact info -- not just email contact info, but also a phone number and direct extension for both Ernst and the supervisor. Plus there was even contact info for a “backup” tech person in case these two other people weren’t available.
It was all very impressive. Keep in mind, again, that this was Microsoft. This is not what Microsoft’s cold, corporation reputation is. But it was among the best tech support I’ve gotten -- for anything.
Who knew??! Go figure. Microsoft.
As told the supervisor, this is the same, terrific experience I had when I needed to call trying to set up Exchange. He acknowledged that Exchange is bewildering, that it requires a great deal of intricate knowledge, but that’s why they had to provide such good support.
As it happens, I told this story to a friend who'd had reason to call Microsoft tech support, and he had the same experience. So, it doesn't appear to be a fluke -- two lucky chances. This actually appears to be what Microsoft tech support is for Exchange and their related-Office 365 service. Hat's off to them. As I said, I like to give credit to people and companies when they do something right. In this case, it was surprisingly and impressively right.
Another Exchange issue did crop up later -- not a problem at all, since it's working fine, but an oddity. I wrote back to my new Microsoft contacts, and if there are any difficulties, I'll let you know.
As some readers here may have noticed, there is an odd tech glitch that happens on rare instances when someone is trying to send a Comment. Usually, all is fine -- but every once in a while, an error message pops up that says the comment couldn't be delivered, and so the person sends a second one...even though the original message went through fine Sometimes that will happen repeatedly, and three or four messages get sent, despite the error message saying none went through.
I've been trying to resolved this for many months with the company that runs the site, but so far they're as bewildered as anyone. What they asked today is that if anyone who gets that error message could please take a screen shot of the error message and then forward it to me, I can then send it to the company.
Mind you, I don't expect anyone to take a screen shot of any error message. Just saying that if the error box does pop up, and you are able to take a screen shot, it could possibly help resolved this. Though even that is in question.
Fortunately, the error message doesn't occur too often. Just more often than it should.
The guest today trying to figure out both the hidden tune and the classical composer whose style it's written in is Lane Cheney, from San Antonio, Texas. I found the hidden tune to be extremely easy -- and was not just surprised that the contestant has such difficulty with it, but especially because he teaches music in middle school. I have no doubt that it's far more challenging when playing the game for real over the telephone than at home relaxing to the radio -- but still, you'll see (and hear) for yourself, particularly when Bruce Adolphe re-plays the piece and the hidden song is virtually being played for what it is. The composer style is another matter. It's tough, though I feel I could have gotten it. My guess was in the right range, but more off than it should have been. All in all, an enjoyable piece to play along with and listen to.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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