Here, in honor of Opening Day in baseball, is another. Someone known for being fairly shy, just on the good side of reclusive. Joe Dimaggio.
I have spent countless hours watching old videos of What's My Line, jumping from one "mystery celebrity" guest to the next, sometimes for hours at a time, taking me late into the early morning. Perhaps because TV was in its infancy, the show was able to attract really remarkable guests, who would never today dream of appearing on a game show. However semi-famous you might think some of the celebrities might be on things like Dancing with the Stars, no, it doesn't compare to What's My Line. Two examples pop into mind -- Eleanor Roosevelt and Salvador Dali. That, folks, are famous celebrities.
Here, in honor of Opening Day in baseball, is another. Someone known for being fairly shy, just on the good side of reclusive. Joe Dimaggio.
There's an interesting article by Jonathan Bernstein on Salon, making the case why now is the time for Supreme Court Justice to retire. His point centers around her being a significant liberal voice for decades, and if she wants that voice preserved, it can be best done while the president has at least a chance of replacing her with a similar one. As he also notes, there isn't a great deal of precedence for this, but then there also isn't a great deal of precedence in having such a bitterly divided Senate where the minority can rule and block almost whatever it wants.
During the Supreme Court hearings over DOMA and California's Proposition 8 -- in fact, whenever the debate over gay marriage comes up -- one of the few arguments that Republican tend to make to show the party's reasonableness (or, in the words of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, to show they're not old world heretics) is to point out Dick Cheney. That Dick Cheney has a gay daughter. That Dick Cheney is open about having a gay daughter. That Dick Cheney hasn't disinherited his gay daughter and put her in the dungeon. And this -- pointing to Dick Cheney -- is supposed to, seemingly, show that the Republican Party has a heart.
I've never been completely sure why Republicans fall over themselves with "Dick Cheney and His Gay Daughter," which sounds a little like a New Age Golden Book for kids. One reason might be that people are so shocked that Dick Cheney would have a gay daughter -- as if he had a say in the matter. Or it might be that people can't believe that Dick Cheney would, in fact, love his gay daughter -- as if in GOP World it's not unreasonable for a parent not to love their child if they were gay. It might be, too, that people can't believe that Dick Cheney would love anyone. Or it might just be that people simply can't believe that Dick Cheney would actually be able to procreate and have a daughter. (Speaking personally, this last is something I've been trying to wrap my head around ever since I came across the existence of Liz Cheney.)
But a different thought occurs to me whenever Republicans like to put Dick Cheney on a pedestal for loving his child. It's -- hey, what about all those other Republicans in Congress?? Are you folks trying to suggest that none of you have a child who's gay? None of you? Other than Rob Portman...
I've read statistics that say the number of Americans who are gay range between 3.4% and 25%. That's a pretty hefty range, but let's favor the lower side and say 10%, for the easy math.
There are 242 Republicans in the House, and 45 in the Senate, for a total of 287. So, that means, by the pure law of averages, 29 Republicans in Congress have a child who is gay. Yet the only person they point to is Dick Cheney. And now Rob Portman. (And Mr. Cheney, of course, isn't in Congress. So, they're pulling him out of a wider database, of several million...)
Now, of course, it could be more than 29 elected officials -- or less. And this number isn't exact, since the "10%" figure is an average of people, not households, but it's the best we can do.
And it's sort of unfortunate (which is the polite term for reprehensible) that so few Republicans are willing to acknowledge and support the best interests of their children. Now, mind you, it might be that -- knowing their parents -- some of these children are too terrified to say that they're gay, so maybe these GOP elected officials don't know that they're demeaning their own children. But I doubt that all or even most are. After all, if his child was willing to come out to Dick Cheney, all these others have much less to fear.
So, in the end, we're stuck with a situation where Republicans in Congress are not only unwilling to allow equal rights for others -- but for their own families, as well.
There's a reason there are so many more songs about baseball than all the other sports combined. For starters, the slow, pastoral pace of the game lends itself to storytelling.
This is one of my favorites by Tom Paxton, "My Favorite Spring." And like the best of baseball songs, it's about a whole lot more than just baseball.
It's another of those Most Wonderful Times of the Year. The first day of the baseball season.
This is a very short video, only 30 seconds, but I think it does a wonderful job showing without any words why baseball has such a profound effect on so many people. And if others don't get it, it's their loss.
It's the simple things in life, that's what baseball teaches us. A bunt, a sacrifice, a single, a baseball.
The video is about the pure joy of being a little kid and also loving your favorite baseball team more than you can imagine loving anything. After the pre-game warm-ups, Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett left the mound, and...
I love Bob & Ray. And this is one that's always been on my long list of favorites. It's also a rare, very early video of the sketch. The audience doesn't laugh all that much, but me, I think it's a hoot. But beyond all that, it's an especially perfect fit for Easter.
I got some nice comments about my piece with E.Y. (Yip) Harburg singing his own song, "Over the Rainbow," written with composer Harold Arlen. I thought therefore I'd post some more from Harburg, but something that's little known, from a flop musical he did with the great Jule Styne, Darling of the Day. I've chosen this for a few reasons -- it's a wonderful score that no one ever hears, the show even won a Tony Award for its female lead, Patricia Routledge (who folks might know from her BBC series on PBS, Keeping Up Appearances) -- but also because of who its star was. A man renowned far and wide musical comedy -- Vincent Price. Yes, Vincent Price.
Okay, okay, so Vincent Price isn't who leaps to mind when you think of musical comedy. Surprisingly, though not a singer, he does a very nice job on the album. It's sort of talk-singing, but really with more emphasis on the singing end. His voice is a rich baritone. Unfortunately, from what little I've read about the show, he wasn't totally comfortable on stage, so the performance from the album isn't indicative of the theatrical experience. What also hurt the show, which got reasonably respectable reviews, though not great, is that it opened during a newspaper strike, so the reviews didn't appear until much later. Also, there were problems with the book. (The great screenwriter Nunnally Johnson -- who wrote such films as The Grapes of Wrath, Three Faces of Eve, The Dirty Dozen and The World of Henry Orient -- took his name off, and there was no credited writer.) And finally, it's a charming, old-fashioned musical, which opened in 1968, a few months before Hair, and society and soon Broadway had begun shifting to rock music. Ultimately, it ran for 31 performances.
The story is sort of fun, and in large part a commentary on manners and class differences, a subject always dear to Harburg's heart, most notably in Finian's Rainbow . It's based on the play, Buried Alive (no, not a horror story, despite the title and Vincent Price's horror pedigree), which was made into the movie, Holy Matrimony. Set in 1905, it concerns a great artist, Priam Farll, who hates the pomposity of society and moves far from England to the South Seas. When he's knighted many years later, he has to come back, and on the way his butler dies. There's a mix-up, where it's thought that Farll died, and that he (Farll) is the butler. He decides to continue the rouse, which will allow him to live in England again, but unknown. He falls in love with a cockney barmaid and has a happy life, painting for fun. But when his wife decides to sell one of his little drawings, thinking maybe the nicknack painting will bring in a few shillings, the dealer ultimately realizes that Farll must be alive and complications ensue...
I actually got to see a production of Darling a Day a few years ago, when a small theater in the Chicago suburbs did it with a revised book and some song revisions that Harburg himself had done. It was great fun, though the book was still flawed, mostly in the third act, trying to properly work out the complications.
But the score is wonderful. Terrific music by Jule Styne, and really clever lyrics by the always-clever Yip Harburg. One of the wittiest is "Panache," in which the art dealer is trying to explain to a wealthy patron why paintings can become valuable, having nothing to do with quality, but how famous the artist is. He sings --
As for art,
Though the aim and the game of it
Is the fame of the name
On the frame of it,
But panache up the price
And acclaim of it.
Not the hoi polloi,
There are some great ballads, and a show-stopping production number, but I thought it would be particularly fun to hear Vincent Price sing. This then is his number early in the show when he is trying to decide whether to switch places with his butler, "To Get Out of This World Alive."
"As far as I can tell, political leaders are falling all over themselves to endorse your side of the case," Chief Justice Roberts told lawyers arguing on behalf of gay marriage.
The Chief Justice has good eyesight, though it is slightly skewed. Seven senators have come out (yes, okay, pun intended) in support of gay marriage in the past two weeks, though the GOP still stands pretty recalcitrant. So, the fact that political leaders are "falling over themselves" shouldn't be taken as legal evidence that laws don't have to be changed. Leaders may be falling, but they're falling almost exclusively on one side of the aisle. If Republicans aren't careful, they might find themselves without any ballast as the ship tips over on them completely.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told USA Today that in being so intransigent in their moral outrage over gay marriage, the GOP shouldn't "act like Old Testament heretics."
My first reaction was, "But, gee, it's worked so well for them in the past."
My second reaction was -- a heretic is someone who holds religious beliefs that conflict with church dogma. So, in his admonishment of the "heretics," he seems to be suggesting that church dogma supports gay marriage. Gee, first time I've heard that in the debate.
My third reaction was -- "Old Testament"?? Hey, me bucko, don't blame this on the Old Testament. You guys dug your own hole here, don't drag the Old Testament down with you. This is a "Church Thing" with the GOP. If you feel you have to blame someone, blame the sequel.
In an interview with radio station KRBD, Rep. Don Young (R-AL) managed to offend even Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) when using an ethnic slur about Mexicans, latter claiming he meant no offense, though he didn't apologize -- at least until later when clearly someone told him, "Y'know, you didn't apologize." (Mind you, the fact that he didn't think it was offensive to use a slur against Mexican-Americans seems to fit in with the standard attitude of conservatives towards Hispanics.)
In response, Mr. Boehner said, "I don’t care why he said it -- there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology." It's an admirable, blunt statement by Mr. Boehner, so, hat's off. But of course, there is an excuse -- it's that this is close to Standard Operating Procedure for the Republican Party these days, starting with efforts to demean minorities in every way imaginable ever since the first Black president was elected. Only a week or so ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made a major immigration speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and in front of most-especially this group he defended his admiration of Hispanics by referencing a Seinfeld episode and saying, "So it is with trepidation that I express my admiration for the romance of the Latin culture." (Gosh, why would he have any "trepidation" about saying that? It was only a major immigration policy speech. To the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce."
Rule #1 -- When you begin a sentence with "So, it is with trepidation that I express..." -- it's best not to express it. Especially if this is you Big Immigration Policy Speech to Hispanic leaders.
But when this is Standard Operating Procedure for Republicans, it seems okay to say...well, just about anything. Ask the aforementioned Don Young (R-AL).
And all of this comes after the GOP released its Growth & Opportunity Project, which specifically referenced treating minorities with respect. Since all this comes following that admonition, just imagine what the Far Right would be saying about Hispanics and all minorities if they weren't careful to be sensitive."
In his debate with Curtis Bostic for the Republican nomination in South Carolina's 1st congressional district, former Gov. Mark Sanford (you know, the guy who went missing for days and lied about where he went, when he was really cheating on his wife with his Brazilian mistress) slammed Bostic for missing meetings when a councilman. It turns out that Mr. Bostic had a very good, and outraged answer -- he was at home with his wife who had cancer. "My absence is because I was home taking care of her largely, doing what I should've been," Bostic said, "People knew where I was. I did my job just the same."
This is not a mere "oops" moment. This is one of those moments that overlaps with Rand Paul opening a statement with "It is with trepidation that I..." It also falls under the heading of, "People in glass houses should know freaking better than to say something that will shine a Really Big Light on their own idiocy, even if they knew what they were talking about."
In her big speech at CPAC recently, America's Yammering Hypocrite, Sarah Palin, the half-term governor of Alaska, lambasted "the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” In her recent SarahPAC filings with the Federal Election Committee, it shows that she raised $5.1 million. It also shows that of this amount, $298,500 went to actual candidates. The bulk of the remaining $4.8 million went to -- the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media..
In Ms. Palin's case, she shouldn't even concern herself about starting sentences with "It is with trepidation that I..." and just assume that that goes before every word she utters. Or thinks.
One of the great things about reading history and remembering the past is that, as the famous quote suggests, you won't be condemned to repeat its mistakes.
Another is that you don't paint yourself in a fool's corner by getting your facts wrong and misinterpreting what actually happened.
But also, importantly, and one of my favorite reasons is that when you bother to read history and understand what happened earlier, you're simply able to see reality in its fullness and therefore put the present day in a wider, richer perspective. That's something I find interesting at any time, but which I always find most-especially valuable when a controversial issue in the present day had a counter-part in the past, but from a completely different perspective than is ever suspected.
I am currently (still...hey, it's 855 pages) reading What Hath God Wrought, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Daniel Walker Howe, about the communication and transportation revolution that helped transform America between the War of 1812 and the U.S.-Mexican War. And yesterday, I came across a remarkable passage.
It concerns the issues that lead up to Texas independence, beginning with when the territory was still a part of Mexico. The Mexican government had given American Stephen Austin the right to colonize the sparsely populated province, in hopes of attracting settlers. What Howe writes is --
"After the Mier y Teran fact-finding commission confirmed fears about U.S. intentions toward Texas in its report of 1829, the Mexican Congress passed a law suspending immigration from the United States in April, 1830. Austin got an exemption from it for his own recruits, and others found it easy to to slip through the border. Mexico suffered the problem of illegal immigration from the United States..."
Some things need no comment.
But sometimes the fingers must type or burst. All I could think after reading that was, gee, just think if far-right Mexicans had risen in outrage and demanded more security at the border, insisting that a wall be built to keep all the illegals out. If they had, then the outpouring of illegal Americans over the border would have stopped, there would never ultimately have been enough independent-minded outlawed insurrectionists calling for secession and starting a rebellion -- and all those Texans who today keep crying they want to to leave the United States...would have gotten their wish. Because they'd be Mexicans.
No wonder Texas officials love to require history books be rewritten for schoolchildren.
This is a very enjoyable and very readable article by by Brian Lasky from the oft-mentioned here Windows Secrets newsletter. The piece, "The Malware Wars: How You Can Fight It" is an interview with an expert in stopping malware attacks on your computer. How much of an expert is he? He readily welcomes being hit by viruses and such so that he can study it running on his system, to see how it works and therefore create blocks. He also accidentally had a chat-exchange with someone trying to hack his system and relates it. There are a few tips on doing what you can to protect yourself, though most are pretty basic, his point being that you won't be able to stop everything, but doing the core things can at least help.
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.