I had posted a belated Media Alert this afternoon, halfway through a re-run of Gunsmoke I stumbled on that was airing on TV Land. The description was an episode I'd seen a few years ago which I enjoyed so, even though it was half over, I tuned in to watch. It was called, "Whelan's Men," and concerned a gang that robs Dodge City when Matt Dillon is away, and waiting around until he returns to kill him, on a grudge by the boss. In the interim, Miss Kitty gets them involved in a game of poker and...whups them bad. It builds to a final big pot in which the town and Matt's life is up for stakes..
I mention this because when watching this time, I did a double-take when I saw one of the gang sitting at the table. The episode was shot in 1973, and in just four years that actor's career was going to take off in a galaxy far, far away.
I tried to get the Media Alert posted in time, but knew that most people wouldn't see it in time to watch the young Harrison Ford. (And then it turned out that things glitched and the Media Alert didn't even get posted.)
But better than a Media Alert, here's the whole episode! The full show is fun, but you can fast forward though things just to get your Harrison Ford Fill.
As I said, the episode is fun, and there's even some pretty good snappy dialogue.
Kitty [raising her bet and goading the bank robber]: What's the matter, Whelan? You're hesitating. Afraid of losing your money? [With a bitter sneer] It's not like you earned it.
Whelan: You got a problem with that??
Kitty: Why should I? I'm winning.
Here's the whole thing.
A brutal police-beating video near Detroit has caught a lot of national attention, and the story just got worse for the officer in the center of the the focus.
If you haven't followed the story up to this point, here's the background, from ThinkProgress. (You can read the full story here.) --
The police officer caught on tape brutally beating an unarmed Michigan man goes by the name “Robocop.” He’s been sued “at least four times for excessive use of force, cost the city more than $1 million in legal settlements and received more citizen complaints than any other in the city,” according to an LA Times 2003 report. One million-dollar payout was over the fatal shooting of an unarmed man during a traffic stop in 1996. And he faced federal corruption charges but was later acquitted for a three-year corruption campaign that included false accusations of drug possession very similar to those against Floyd Dent.
And yes, that's not the bad part.
(In the full article, they explain Officer Melendez's acquittal, from comments by jury members told afterwards. "Their reason for acquitting the officers was that they didn’t believe the government witnesses because they had criminal records of their own, and thus retained reasonable doubt about whether the cops were guilty. They conceded that officers likely made mistakes, but that they didn’t warrant a criminal conviction." Hardly a glowing stamp of innocence. Particularly given the latest charges, and others.)
Anyway, the bad part of this story is that although Floyd Dent, was charged with possession of cocaine -- a new video has been released that purportedly shows Officer William "Robocop" Melendez planting a bag of cocaine. It's not perfectly clear in the video, but damning enough for WDIV, an NBC affiliate, to run this long story. It's worth noting that Floyd Dent is a 57-year-old with no criminal history, who has worked at Ford for 37 years.
This alone is hardly proof. And what's seen on the video is, as I said, not definitive, and there could certainly be many explanations. Of course, one of those explanations could be that it's cocaine being planted. As Mr. Dent's lawyer notes, "You're not going to find his fingerprints on it it."
By the way, if there's any "levity" in this video, it is Floyd Dent's lawyer, who if he went into a casting director's office to audition for the role of "flouncy lawyer" would likely be thrown out for overacting. Though his "outrage" certainly is impactful here.
Oh, okay, I might as well take this to its logical conclusion.
I began talking about Theodore Bikel, and a song I'd heard him sing many decades ago, the original Russian folk song that was years later turned into the hit song, "Those Were the Days" performed by Mary Hopkins. I then posted Bikel singing another Russian folk song -- and then afterwards posted another singer, Manca Izmajlova, with that original Russian version of "Those Were the Days," titled ""Dorogoi Dinnoyu."
But I figured it was only right an proper to have Mary Hopkin with her hit song.
I found a very nice version of her performance when she appeared on The Tom Jones Show, a fellow Welsh singer. But it has incredibly bizarre camerawork. For the entire song, they just have a close-up of Mary Hopkin's face, and only has the music fades out does the camera pull back and show her sitting in a charming tavern set. Now, Ms. Hopkin does have a perfectly lovely face, but seriously there are limits to odd TV choices, so I've chosen not to use it. This version comes from a French TV performance -- not great with the camera, though it is solidly better. And it looks like it might be lip-synched...though with old YouTbe videos, that sometimes can just be because things get slightly out of sync, though this is synched pretty well.
As some have written, there's something offbeat about a 19-year-old girl singing about looking back to when she was young. I've heard some wonderful versions of the song performed by older singers, and they have a richness to them that works better. But Mary Hopkin has a sort of "old quality" to her voice, and the sweet innocence of it adds a fascinating wistful quality, almost of the singer looking forward to what she has waiting for her. It's one thing, after all, for a person to look back at what they missed when they were young (as here in Charles Aznavour's "Yesterday When I Was Young"), but something else for a young person to (sort of ) look ahead to that.
Most interesting of all though about this performance is at the very end, after the curtains close.. You see the studio audience and...boy, howdy, did French TV audiences get nicely dressed for the occasion. (Perhaps it was some special event.) Ah, those were the days...
I've given a lot of criticism to Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) recently, most notably for his egregiously thoughtless comments about President Obama not loving America, and then saying that there was no racial intent by suggesting that Mr. Obama was, in some odd convolution, white. But I believing in being fair and giving proper due when people get it right. And when it comes to the nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, which Republicans have been holding up for one of the longest periods in the last 30 years -- over 130 days at this point -- Mr. Giuliani is getting it right.
While he made positive statements about Judge Lynch in the past, he not only continues to do so, but ratcheted it up a level on Friday.
"The confirmation process has been really tremendously distorted," he told reporters in a phone call. "t's become Republicans torture Democrats, Democrats torture Republicans. Who started it, God knows. But as a Republican and looking at the Constitution, I find Loretta Lynch not only to be an acceptable appointment, but I find her to be an extraordinary appointment."
Good for him.
After Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) signed the "Intolerance Bill" last week that many suggest can open the door to legally allowing sexual bias in Indiana, there was a great deal of outrage across the country (and even some within the state itself, with some businesses now putting up signs, "This Business Serves Everyone"). Large corporations made public that they don't plan to do business in the state, to protect their employees. A major convention organizer said it would re-visit its contracts with the state and consider pulling out.
Lost in the shuffle is attention to the current NCAA basketball tournament. Now that the Final Four teams were decided over the weekend, the competition moves to its last destination for the semi-finals and finals.
That destination is...Indianapolis.
Which is the home base of the NCAA.
This hasn't been completely ignored. The NCAA has made some public statements about its displeasure with the law, and there's been a bit of coverage, though not much. And in that little coverage, no one is suggesting that the tournament will pull out this year -- they won't, and they can't.
(Well, okay, the wonderfully-outspoken Charles Barkley did tell USA Today: "Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me. As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.” This year's tournament, starting in five days, is not switching locales, but it's good and not surprising to see "Sir Charles" at least address it.)
But even if not moving this Saturday, it will be interesting to see what public reaction crops up during the last two rounds, whether there are protests outside the arena...and inside.
This week's contestant is the director of the American Heritage Orchestra Maestro Antonio Luigi Salvatore, from -- no, not Italy -- Bridgeport, Ohio, It's probably a big risk for a professional conductor to compete, and he handled himself,,,well, half-respectably. The composer style is distinctive, and he did a good job analyzing it. As for the hidden song, it's pretty clear, so it was surprising that the name completely escaped him, though he could hum the tune. Happily I got both.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I had been looking for something and by accident came upon a video of Theodore Bikel. This here below isn't what I was looking for -- but it's a cousin.
Many years ago on a talk show, I saw Theodore Bikel tell a story about how the big hit, "Those Were the Days," that Mary Hopkin had recorded was actually a Russian Gypsy folk song, which he'd recorded years earlier. And he then played the original Russian song, which was wonderful. I'd never forgotten that peformance.
(Remembering the performance stood me in good stead. A few years back, I was at a Writers Guild event, and Theodore Bikel was there as a guest of a friend, Lynn Roth. We had a very enjoyable conversation, and I mentioned that TV appearance quite a few decades earlier. Needless-to-say, he was stunned and very appreciative.)
It was a Bikel recording of that song I was looking for, but couldn't find. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, I did come up with this. It's the Russian song, as performed by Manca Izmajlova, who seems to have made it a signature song of hers, since I came across at least three different TV performances of her singing it.
Here then is the original "Those Were the Days," in Russian -- "Dorogoi Dinnoyu." Feel free to clap along with the chorus...
It's been a quiet week. Spring arrives in town, young people begin to go outside without jackets, and Lyle Janske runs the high school basketball concessions stand to take his mind off his son's illness.
Oh, just one more thing...
I'm guessing that the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel is going to start adding Columbo to its schedule, because they have a Columbo Marathon all weekend -- and beyond -- on now. Wall-to-wall episodes the rest of today, through the night, all day Sunday and until 9 AM (Los Angeles time) on Monday.
So, if you're a fan of the show -- as I am, big time -- check to see if you get HMM.
While looking for something else, I came across this video and found it to be quite wonderful, so I thought I'd post it here. It's not a song I've ever heard, it's just a joy of a performance.
This comes from a show by a Canadian Klezmer group, Beyond the Pale. They were doing a show at a coffeehouse in Berkeley, California. The Freight and Salvage. It turned out that legendary performer Theodore Bikel was in the audience, so they invited him up on stage and asked him to play a number.
It should be noted that this is from just five years ago, when Mr. Bikel was 86 at the time. And had no vocal warm-up or rehearsal. It's just a little, Russian folk song, and he sits down, plays and sings the bejeepers out of it, the mark of someone who has been doing this for probably close to 70 years and has a pretty good idea how it's done. The band joins in and does a nice job filling in an impromptu backup, but they know they're with someone in another league.
Before they help him head back to his seat in the audience...
When former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith passed away last February 7, it got a great deal of coverage. Smith was one of the winningest coaches coaches in NCAA history, but more than he was was beloved.
Beloved has the potential to be an overused word, but in Dean Smith's case it was well-deserved. Former players not only stayed in touch with him, decades after, but more than just stayed in touch, they continually came to him for advice on among the most personal and important matters in their lives. He was seen as much as a second father-figure to them. And by "them," I don't mean former players who went on to other, less-visible careers, but people like Michael Jordan, not known for his touchy-feely outreach to others.
This kind of personal connection with his players is rare for any coach, but especially for one in the highest reaches of a sport, where survival there is so cut-throat. The only other coach I'm aware of who was at that vaunted a level and maintained that much affection was UCLA's John Wooden.
But these are just words. Let me give just one example of how and why Dean Smith was so beloved by his players:
He bought all of his former lettermen dinner -- all of them. After his death.
Thanks to a Tweet sent out yesterday by one of the recipients, it turns out that in Dean Smith's will, he left a provision where all 180 of his former lettermen players received a check for $200, specifically to have dinner, on the coach.
That is known as an act of graciousness. And probably explains more than anything why when people says Dean Smith was beloved...they mean it.
The funniest conclusion of this story is that it might not even cost the Smith estate much of anything. As one sports commentator said on ESPN, "How many of the players who got this check do you think will actually cash it, rather than frame it instead?" (His partner answered, "Oh, probably five.")
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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