You may recall that last summer, I posted several videos I took from Chicago of a rehearsal of the Grant Park Orchestra, which puts on a series of classical music concerts during the summer. As I wrote at the time, "The Grant Park Orchestra is no slapdash group. Basically, it's the second major orchestra in the city, right behind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra -- but not very far behind. It's largely made up of members of the Chicago Civic Orchestra that plays for the Lyric Opera of Chicago." It's actually affiliated with the CSO as sort of an adjunct.
Well, as it happens, that Chicago Civic Orchestra celebrated their 100th anniversary this past Sunday, March 29. Needless-to-say, they had a gala concert planned, and of course had to cancel it. Instead, they put on a Virtual 100th Anniversary Gala, which they streamed online..
The orchestra itself didn't perform the full virtual concert itself -- I suspect that that would have been far too much of a challenge. But they did perform the opening of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, which they had planned to perform at the intended gala at Orchestra Hall -- because it was played at their very first concert 100 years earlier. It was done the same as these other orchestral videos, which members performing their parts to a click track, and then edited together -- and done so in a very creative, entertaining way.
The full virtual 100th anniversary concert lasts 35 minutes. For the remainder, the organization commissioned seven short world premieres specifically for the virtual concert. To be clear, these are not performed by the orchestra, but appear to be synthesizer performances or computerized by the composers themselves. (Mixed in with an audience applause track after each...) They are all very modern, and some some of them quite weird for my taste. If you don't want to listen to all of them all the way through, the most accessible are two pieces that start around the 24:00 mark. The first is Civic 100 by Josh Fink, followed by Reverse Forward by Liza Sobel. It's all introduced by the Chicago Civic Orchestra's music director Ken-David Masur.
The other day, a friend called me in a panic about some polls showing Trump's approval going up a few points since his daily campaign-rally "press conferences" filled with false-good news misinformation that's dangerous.
I explained a few thoughts. First, yes, I didn't hated seeing Trump's approval go up, it should be bordering on zero. But I understood it. He's on TV every day giving supposed "good news" (much that's untrue). In crises, people want to look to their leader to help help. At any time, people want to support the president. And right now, the numbers of infections and deaths are awful, but manageable, especially compared to the horror numbers we're hearing that are possible. Moreover, when he's on TV, all the news channels and networks cover him, that's all we see. We hardly see his Democratic opponent Joe Biden (or even Bernie Sanders or Speaker Nancy Pelois) much at all.
But, as I told my friend, the numbers of infections and deaths are -- tragically -- going to get overwhelmingly, horrifyingly worse. The "best" low estimates are 200,000 deaths, with infections in the millions. In two months, people will be going stir-crazy isolated in him. And their children out of school And out of work, unemployment payments stressing them. And the economy crashing around, diving into a clear recession, if not nearing a depression.
This is galling, ghastly news. And it's the perspective to under the snapshot that are polls.
I say this because on Monday, there was an important piece in the New York Times from well-regarded analyst Dave Leonhard. He says all this above, and more and far, far better.
A few snippets from an overview in Raw Story about the article –
“According to longtime political observer David Leonhardt, Donald Trump’s chances of being re-elected are diminishing every day as the economy continues to crash and Americans are dying because of the COVID-19 pandemic despite ‘snapshot polls’ saying voters are still supportive of him.
“Writing for the New York Times, the columnist notes that the full horrors of what is now occurring won’t fully be revealed for months to come — and for Trump, the resulting damage may be too much to overcome in November when voters head to the polls.
“…By way of explanation, he suggested that Trump’s focus in his daily press conferences with trying to put an optimistic spin on efforts to stem the coronavirus health crisis will likely blow up in his face as the deaths mount, businesses stay shut down and voters realize things are a long way from regaining any semblance of normalcy.”
There’s a lot more. You can read it here.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was on the air again, albeit from the host's home and in a low-key way. But it was nonetheless terrific. The topic was...oh, you know. They called this one, "Coronavirus III." And it was pointed, informative, and somehow often very funny.
Here's Joan Baez from her living room, not just performing but singing a tribute to the great singer-songwriter John Prine who is critically ill from the coronavirus, with one of Prine's own great songs, "Hello in There."
I'm going to add a bonus here. Because as good and touching as this is, Prine's own raspy performance of the song just reaches levels of texture that I've never heard anyone else touch.
For the past few years, I've written here about the wonderful National Theatre Live. The short version is that it's a program that streams live productions of the National Theatre in England to movie houses around the world. (They're live in certain areas, but for the most part, because of time differences, the shows are time -- and often, date -- delayed.)
Well, because theaters are closed down these days, the National Theatre Live series announced that they will be streaming "family friendly" productions from their archives online for free every Thursday for the next month at least. (It may continue.) Shows will begin at 7 PM UK time, though they don't have to be streamed at home that particular Thursday, but each will be available from its starting date.
You can get access to it all and with more information here.
Better still, as readers of these pages know, one of the shows they did is something I've repeatedly raved about and admonished people to go see when National Theatre Live has repeated -- One Man, Two Guvnors. It's absolutely wonderful, a hilarious farce, and when it subsequently played on Broadway, the star James Corden won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Well...here's the good news: One Man, Two Guvnors is going to be the first production they stream for free, starting this coming Thursday.
If one doesn’t like farces, it’s not for you, but otherwise it’s a joy The story centers on a total dimwit who gets hired to work for a thug – he then gets an even better offer to work for the thug’s rival. He takes both jobs, but can’t tell either one of them. And from there, the story spins out of total control.
Here's a one-minute clip from the show --
Here's how TimeOut in London describes the program. It's largely the same information as I noted above, though with a bit more detail --
"As numerous theatrical institutions across the world have opened up their archives in response to increasing lockdown restrictions, all eyes have remained on one organisation: the National Theatre in London, which has the greatest archive of cinema-quality recordings of stage plays of any theatre on the planet, thanks to its formidable NT Live programme. It’s designed to beam productions from the NT into cinemas across the country, but there are of course no cinemas in operation at present. So the NT is switching to its YouTube channel. From April 2, under the banner of National Theatre at Home, every Thursday (7pm GMT/2pm EST) will see a new National Theatre play released – free to watch for one week – along with bonus content including cast and creative Q&As and post-stream talks.
"There’s a definite emphasis on family-friendly good cheer for the line-up so far, which kicks off with a big hitter: Richard Bean’s beloved farce ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, starring a pre-chat-show-days James Corden. Over the next few weeks you can expect a string of family-friendly titles, though naturally there will be those hoping for some of the real NT Live blockbusters, notably ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Frankenstein’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch and ‘Coriolanus’ starring Tom Hiddleston."
It's TrumpWorld, so of course yesterday provided a galling number of pathetic new stories to write about. So many to choose from, what to write about?
At another time, I'd write about Trump chastising top-notch journalist Yamiche Alcindor (or "you people, as he called the Black reporter) to "be nice" when asking questions. This from the man who, after the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida, said he would have run into the school to face the gunfire. For the record, it is not a journalist's job to ask nice questions. It's to ask whatever question is necessary to get a truthful answer -- and that is never more truth than during a crisis.
And at another time, I'd write about Trump coyly suggesting that doctors and nurses in New York City -- the people at the front line of the health pandemic who are risking their lives under horrific conditions getting worse daily -- might be stealing protective masks and selling them for profit on the side. And that it's something that should be "looked into." Really. Honest. This is sickeningly pathetic.
But instead, I've decided to post a couple of tweets Trump sent out that deal with nothing so direct about others. However, it speaks totally to the core of the disaster that is Trump. They are about him, him, him. They are about something totally meaningless. They are about something that is wrongheaded. And they are not only about him, him, him, but about how great he supposedly is.
And for all that, they get us to the heart of why are here in this hell hole.
The first tweet I saw was this --
I swear with my hand on as many bibles as you want to bring to the evidence stand that when I first saw this, I thought it was a parody account. Or, if real, from two years ago. But neither are from the case. As you can see at the bottom, it's from today and demented.
If "ratings" mattered in the environment we're in (and in clear to anyone sane that they don't), it would be be worth noting they're high for Trump because EVERY NEWS CHANNEL AND EVERY NETWORK AIRS THEM. NOTHING ELSE IS ON. And... people tune in because they are dying for facts.
I was going to say "desperate for facts," but this seemed for blunt and accurate.
And then scrolling through Twitter, I came across this a few minutes later, with Trump quoting a news article that was about him --
This is not normal. Americans are dying -- of course people are watching!
Literally nothing else is on the news channels and networks during those press conferences -- of course people are watching!
People are pleading, terrified, gut-wrenchingly desperate for information -- of course people are watching!
Americans are DYING. But "President Trump is a ratings hit."
And that's why we are here.
Forget the infections, pandemic, death, terror, unemployment, health disaster, economic disaster. None of that matters. Because --
"Trump is a ratings hit." And his "Numbers are continuing to rise."
What numbers are also "continuing to rise" are the totals of infections and deaths.
141,854 infections as I write this.
A month ago, Trump said that there were just 15 infections, and no deaths, and it would all be gone soon like a "miracle."
The numbers as you read this will be much higher already, only hours later.
But the good news is that Trump "is a ratings hit."
He must be so happy.
A hit. It'll play for years on Broadway! Except unfortunately Broadway is shut down because New York City has been devastated and overrun by growing infection and death. And even more unfortunately, this show has taken itself on the road and is touring every state in the country.
A hit?? Yes -- yes, this is a hit , but not how Trump thinks. This is a hit in the same way as if Trump took out a Mob contract on the American public.
But he's reveling in the attention and people watching. All eyes in the nation are tuned in when he's at the podium, lying to the American public. No maatter, the "numbers are continuing to rise." It's the greatest news ever for him.
Imagine if it was a nuclear holocaust. His ratings would be blown through the roof.
Today's guest contestant on the 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is Grammy-winning Hip Hop artist Big Boi. His interview with host Peter Sagal takes an unexpected turn when they talk at length about his love of animals. If there isn’t a lot of applause and laughter compared to usual, that’s because…oh, you know – it was recorded after the coronavirus broke and so there’s no audience.
A few minutes ago, I was watching a show on cable, when this scathing political ad about Trump ran. It was odd to see something like it on actual television as a real ad, rather than part of Saturday Night Live, but there it was. However, after 20-seconds, a nagging idea hit me, and I thought, er, maaaybe it was a real product. I kept watching, and then I realized it was real. Apparently, this product has been out for a year.
But to advertise the "Trumpy Bear" NOW -- now, during the coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown into recession is...weird. Really weird. Yes, yes, I know that during such times there are people who likely feel a need to support their demented leader even more. And yes, I did just say "Trumpy Bear." But even for an cultish acolyte to support Trump this way now is...weird
And as I finished typing this, the same channel ran the ad again. About 15 minutes later. The company is clearly really pushing it. It's...weird.
And again, no, this is not a parody ad from Saturday Night Live.
This is also on the list now as a nominee for Tweet of the Year.
Even better than the voice (which is great) are the words, syntax and thought process which he has nailed impeccably.
Skip reading the text he wrote (which gives away some of the jokes), and watch the video first. You can always go back and read it later...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor