Today is the 96h birthday of Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick, who won a Tony Award for Fiddler on the Roof, a Pulitzer Price for Fiorello!, and such other musicals with Jerry Bock as She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, The Rothschilds, Rex (with Richard Richard Rodgers), and the opera Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines -- and much more.
I interviewed him years ago when I was a student at Northwestern, and he returned to campus as Homecoming Grand Marshall. I made a radio documentary from it and two decades later when I finally tracked down his address through a mutual friend to send him a copy -- and when I told my mother that I finally found someone who knew where Harnick lived, she said, "Oh, you mean, Aunt Joan?" I was floored. I never had any idea that they grew up together and went to college together. Though. no, she didn't have her address. When I sent him the radio documentary though and explained my further connection, he sent a handwritten note back, and the first line was, "OH, MY GOD!!! JOAN SERED!!! (which was her maiden name. And yes, this is the Aunt Joan who I wrote about here back in January for her surprise 90th birthday party.) Though they've periodically crossed paths over the many decades, I was able to get them together 13 years ago when we all saw a production of his show She Loves Me at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. (And yes, this was the production I've written about several times that starred Jessie Mueller before she left for Broadway and won a Tony Award for starring in the musical Beautiful.)
But enough of all that. On with the show. Here's a wonderful, hour-long interview with Sheldon Harnick at the Kennedy Center six years ago when he was 90, and you'll see he's vibrant and entertaining.
And here's one of my favorite of his lesser-known songs, "In My Own Lifetime," from The Rothschilds, which starred Hal Linden who won the Tony Award as Best Actor. Harnick writes poetically and richly with the simplicity of almost everyday language, which is his hallmark.
And we'll end our celebration with this video from two years ago -- when Harnick was 94 -- singing absolutely wonderfully one of his classics, "Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof with Judy Blazer.
I thought you’d appreciate this. The Laemmle Royal is a fine art movie house about three blocks from me. I haven’t seen it for a few months because, of course, I’ve been staying inside, and the few times I ‘ve been out, I went a different direction. But I took my morning walk in its direction the last two days. I walked past it yesterday, looked over and started laughing. I took a picture of the marquee but it was fuzzy, so I went back today – and the marquee was different. So, my guess is that they actually change this every day. I don’t know if they’ve been doing this for the past couple months, or if they just started it recently or what. But hats-off to them whenever they began.
Yesterday, the marquee was --
Here’s what it was today –
Actually, this will be three videos. I thought about posting them one at a time, but they all fit together so nicely I thought it best to just make it trilogy set.
They come with thanks to the inveterate Chris Dunn for bringing this to my attention. To be more accurate, he brought the third of these to my attention, and when I looked to find out more about the guy, it turned out that he's done a series of others.
These are play-by-play videos by Andrew Cotter about his two dogs, Mable and Olive. It turns out that he is an actual BBC sportscaster, and (as he notes on one of his tweets) he was bored during this coronavirus shutdown without any sports to broadcast.
As far as I can tell, this is the first one --
He follows it with a rematch.
Fun fact, an article about the videos (and this in particular) made note that the voiceover and final line was all done after-the-fact and edited onto the video later, in case people didn’t like what he says at the end….
And finally, this was the video that Chris sent me --
I've been mentioning that the wonderful National Theatre Live has been streaming productions from their archives for free every Thursday that will stay active for a week.
I thought it worth mentioning the new one that is streaming now, as of 2 PM ET. I've actually written about this in the past. It's their adaptation of Frankenstein that stars good friends Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (who like Cumberbatch also played 'Sherlock Holmes' in the CBS series Elementary). And it's directed by Danny Boyle who directed Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday, and Trainspotting, among others. But what stood out most about this production is that every other night Cumberbatch and Miller switched playing the roles of the Doctor and the Creature.
What they will be doing for this streaming is that the version with Cumberbatch as the Creature (and Miller as the Doctor) begins streaming today for a week -- and the version that features Miller as the Creature (and Cumberbatch as the Doctor) will start streaming tomorrow (Friday) for a week, so you can see both, if you're so inclined.
I saw the production with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as the Doctor. It's wonderfully done, vibrant and very interesting. But -- the adaptation takes a few liberties with the original story I didn't care for.
Anyway, here's the link to the NT Live streaming page, where you can find both versions. Know that while you can watch this online, if you have a Smart TV you can watch the production that way through a YouTube app or via the NT Live YouTube page in a browser.
And this is the trailer for the original production itself. You'll notice that it edits both actors back-and-forth in the two roles.
As readers of these pages know, I'm a huge fan of Tom Paxton, winner of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, among many other honors. And even got to meet with the good fellow a couple of times, and got a lovely email from him after writing a column about him on the Huffington Post. So, it was a real surprise and treat when I saw a TV ad the other day that used one of his classic songs, "What Did You Learn in School Today?"
The ad was for Frontier Communications. And as pleased as I was to see one of his songs in the ad, it was also completely taken aback at home they edited it, to entirely change the meaning of the song 180-degrees.
More on that in a moment, first here's the ad.
Now, yes, it's a cheery song, and Paxton has written numerous children's songs, including the well-known "The Marvelous Toy" that Peter, Paul & Mary had a popular recording of.
But this is not a children's song. In fact, that's an almost hilarious bitter irony here in that the point of the song is proven by what the ad did. The point of the song, which was written in 1963 just as the United States had gotten involved in the Vietnam War -- and was first introduced by Pete Seger -- is to warn against believing everything you're told by authorities. That authorities sometimes leave out important facts, sometimes lie, sometimes tell you the very opposite of what the reality is, so learn what the truth is, think for yourself.
That Frontier Communication took this song with that point, moved lyrics around (to the degree that they don't even rhyme), and cut out all the dripping sarcasm, and turned it into an "All is well, authorities are always our friends!" is just too, too precious. And teeth-gnashing.
The one good thing from it, though, is that I suspect a lot of people will seek out the song online and hear the real thing.
Here's the real thing --
And just as a fun bonus, here are some updated lyrics that Tom Paxton wrote for the song -- and that he wrote these in 2010, not last year (or arguably even two weeks ago), is especially prescient of the guy,
Over the several years, I've posted a lot of 'Mystery Guest' segments from the game show What's My Line? I've had this particular video for a while but wasn't quite sure of the best time to post it because it's a great deal longer than the usual clips. This one last 90 minutes. (Though that's with commercials, so it's quite a bit shorter.) But I figured that with people now actually looking for things to watch, this might be the ideal time.
This is a 25th anniversary special of What’s My Line?
Sign in, please.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote here about how one of the most stupid political moves Trump has made is that when the early models suggested there could be between 120,000-240,000 deaths of Americans, Trump jumped on the "good news" of a new model that suggested it could instead "only" be 60,000 deaths -- more than Americans who died in Viet Nam. It sounded better, so he could announce it as "good news." The problem was that he created a lower standard that it would be far easier to go over. And then he made it worse by saying that "I heard 50," that it could be as "low" as 50,000 deaths, because that sounded "better." Never thinking that that lower standard would be the new one he'd be judged by -- and he did even foolishly say these were the standards he should be judged by. Fair enough, fine by me.
(What Trump always ignored, in his blindness for "good news" is that ALL these projections were based on Best Case Scenario, where everything went right. Where everyone wore facemasks, where everyone social distanced, where there were enough ventilators and PPEs in hospitals, and where all businesses stayed closed until it was the curve hand flattened and started to go down. But Trump has down most everything possible to ensure that the Best Case Scenario was a chimera. And set that 50,000 mark as his standard to be judged by. Fair enough, fine by me.)
The reality is that we're now well-past that 50,000 death standard, and as I write this on Tuesday night, we're at the 59,000 mark. Okay, to be fair, 58,955. But then, to be totally fair, by the time you read this on Wednesday, it could be nearing that 60,000 level.
And will soon be soaring past. Consider: we are still getting 1,500-2,000 deaths every day. In fact, that organization that put out the 60,000 model has just readjusted it, and now made their guess to be 74,000 deaths. But, doing easy math, if we're getting 2,000 deaths a day...we'll be at that 74,000 figure in one week! And flying past it.
For instance, another thing to consider: while some places, like perhaps New York and California, may possibly be dropping down a bit -- perhaps -- (and those are major places to drop) quite a few Red states have re-opened some of their their business, Florida re-opened its beaches, meat-packing plants with growing levels of infections are re-opening, and Las Vegas is on the verge of re-opening its casinos (pushed strongly by Trump who, oh, by the way, has a casino hotel there). The number of deaths each day tragically may not only not lower, but could go up.
And this doesn't consider the second wave that pretty much all experts are saying will be coming in the fall. (Before the election.)
But the curve is flattening, many Republicans are shouting. The end is in slight. Go forth and prosper.
Forgetting for the moment that this might not be truth, let's accept for the sake of argument. Let's say that the curve is indeed flattening. Which, if so, is indeed good. And yes, that means the end is in "sight" -- except that doesn't mean "near." The horizon is in sight. The moon is in sight. They're still very far off.
Consider, again: just because the curve is flattening -- if it is -- doesn't mean it will be starting a downturn tomorrow. The level could be flat for weeks. Or a month. Or longer. Further, as scientists keep trying to make clear, the first day that the curve starts down from its peak...that number will be the second most deaths in a day we will have had.
(Well, okay, sort of. A flattened curve isn't a steady flat one. It has ups and down along along a basically standard pace. But the general point holds: the day the curve starts to go down, it's from it's high point, and the number of deaths will still be very high.)
And then it's not like the downturn will last a few days, and then it will be gone...like the proverbial Trump "miracle." That downturn could last months, and probably will. Until that second wave comes.
Indeed, we may look back that that Trump standard of 50,000 deaths as quaint.
Will it hit the initial 120,000-240,000 range? Probably not, hopefully not (though reality demands saying possibly so). But it seems likely to my totally untrained eye that the number of deaths from the coronavirus -- by the time there is a vaccine for everyone, and life has become a reasonable version of life again -- will be a lot closer to that horrific 120,000 than to the Trump standard of 50,000. After all, we could be at 75,000 to 80,000 deaths by next Saturday.
Yes, the number of deaths of American men and women is horrific. But there are reports of progress made on vaccines and treatments. However, even the absolute best of those reports is five months away, and only enough could be produced for a part of the world population. Other solutions are still a year away, or longer. But it will come.
The larger point is that Trump and Republicans are looking at all this without the focus of reality. And it's not just that the number of American deaths is going to be far worse than what they are trying to convince their base and the American publican, but in trying to make that false case by believing their own fantasies, they are creating a bridge to their own disastrous failure. They are seemingly doing everything possible not to flatten the curve, and in doing so they are only serving to flatten themselves.
Because in the end, this is not about Trump. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party -- in Congress and throughout the states -- who enable him, follow his actions, and are complicit.
To anyone who tuned in on Sunday night to watch that Stephen Sondheim 90th birthday gala, as you no doubt noticed, they had major technical problems last night. After waiting for a half hour, the feed ended, and I gave up and returned to my regularly-schedule evening..
As it turns out, in the end, they finally resolved the issues and did the broadcast. And it’s available at the same place to watch – on their YouTube channel here. Better still, if you have a SmartTV, you can go to the YouTube app and watch it on the "Broadwaycom" channel. .And since it’s now recorded and not streaming live, you don’t have to watch it all at once, if it’s too long – and it is long, almost 2-1/2 hours.
Or to make it easiest of all, I've embedded it below.
Related to my piece this morning about tests for a COVID-19 vaccine, there are also reports of very early tests (very early) for a possible treatment using…Pepcid AC! It’s not the heartburn medication itself they’re interested in, but the active drug it uses, famotidine. It’s a cheaper drug than what’s used in Prilosec, and researchers in China found that people who live in poorer areas had a death rate of 14%, while richer areas were 27%. And since heartburn seemed to be a symptom of the condition, the poorer areas were using Pepcid AC (which costs less), while the richer areas were using the more expensive Prilosec. That got researchers the idea to test what might be going on. The thinking is that famotidine may combine with a COVID-19 pathogen and block it. But studies are in the extremely early stages. The plus side is that famotidine is an approved drug without any serious side effects when used properly. The only concerns of scientists are that 1) there could be a run on Pepcid and generics (which there was been, they're largely sold out on Amazon), leaving a shortage for those who need it – or for scientists so that it can be tested, and 2) that people don’t take it as recommended and overuse it would could cause problems for them.
And to be clear, this is for something that would be a treatment for those who have already contracted the coronavirus, not a vaccine to prevent infection.
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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