The other day, I posted a video here of a very good, interesting and somewhat aggressive performance by Anthony Warlow in a 2015 Australian production of Fiddler on the Roof. From that same production, here is a lively rendition of the opening number, "Tradition."
I got a call yesterday afternoon from a friend asking me if I'd seen the news about the Inspector General's independent report on Hillary Clinton. I hadn't, I'd been busy with other things here, but did see a headline about how it seemed the report was very critical of her actions. "Just read the stories," he said, outraged. "It's huge." And it presents real problems, he said.
I should note that he hates Hillary Clinton. To be clear, he's not a Republican and is aghast at Donald Trump. He calls himself a Libertarian, though more often than not votes Democratic. But this year I expect he'll vote for Gary Johnson. But to be fair, he's always liked Gary Johnson, so it doesn't have everything to do with what he thinks of Clinton and Trump. But he does hate Ms. Clinton.
(To be fair, he's said that if he lived in a state where there was a chance that Donald Trump could win, unlike California, he'd vote for Hillary Clinton. But since he's certain she'll win the state, his feels comfortable voting for his favorite Mr. Johnson.)
I did finally check the story. And it wasn't good. It also wasn't a Major Story. And it too wasn't what he said. It basically said what we largely knew, though was more pointed. But it also criticized other Secretaries of State, most notably Colin Powell very harshly. And what it didn't say was something equally important -- it didn't say that she had broken any laws or even had any breaches of security. It said that she broke some rules. Rules of an incredibly antiquated system that, among other things,requires printing out every email sent and received, and putting them in boxes, unfiled. (Ms. Clinton turned in 55,000 emails. Colin Powell has turned in none. Nor he he keep them.) But antiquated or not, rules are rules, and Hillary Clinton broke some
That's not good. But I don't find it remotely as horrific as my friend suggested. I think politicians push the boundaries all the time, and end up breaking rules. FDR tried to pack the Supreme Court. It was a bad thing to do, and he's been criticized for it heavily -- at the time and through history. It doesn't impact the view that FDR is one of America's great presidents.
And it's breaking some department rules. Not breaking laws or making a criminal act or causing a breach of security.
I don't say any of this to let Hillary Clinton off the hook. I don't like a lot of things about her positions, and think she's often her often worst enemy. And what she did with her mail server was wrong and stupid. But there's a great deal I do like about her.
Much more to the point is what I'd have said to my friend if I was interested in getting into a discussion with him about this and had read the news stories yet. It's this --
One of two people will be elected President of the United States. One of them is not Gary Johnson, who will get zero electoral votes. It will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Hilary Clinton has a lot of issues about her I don't care for her. But much of her "reputation" is based on 20 years of the Republican Party slamming her with irrational hatred in every way possible -- and coming up with nothing. If St. Francis of Assisi was attacked and pounded with such unrelenting vitriol for two decades, even he would likely be reviled. But even far more to the point, she is a bright, experienced, very qualified candidate who also had many positions I do like and could be a president. Donald Trump is an empty carnival barker who has zero experience about pretty much anything and everything the president does, and is a misogynist, bully, egomaniac with racism running through him, pandering to the least-common denominator and worst in people, and has nothing in him that says he could be a president. So, if one wants to vote for Gary Johnson and help get Donald Trump elected, or vote for Donald Trump directly, that's a person's choice. But make no mistake: whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, the alternative is only Donald Trump. But vote how you're going to vote, and don't yammer at me for the next six months about Hilary Clinton and Gary Johnson. Because the choice is that either Hillary Clinton will be president -- or Donald Trump will become leader of the free world and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces...
And to me, Donald Trump as president isn't an option. And transcends ghastly, horrific, mind-numbing joke.
The 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee is airing on ESPN-2 right now, until 2 PM EST. The finals will be broadcast tonight (Thursday) at 8 PM EST.
One thing I've noticed is how "frisky" the judges have gotten when a contestant asks, "Could you use it in a sentence, please?" One of the words was "tibourbou" and the sentence the judge used was, "When a tibourbou falls in the forest, no one hears it, unless the NSA is listening -- and the NSA is always listening."
(For those curious, tibourbou is a tree native to Brazil and Costa Rica, and is an alternative fiber crop to make paper.)
Another word was "salele," (sah-lay-lee) and when asked for a sentence, the contestant got back, "Jake told Caroline all about the salele he caught on his fishing trip to Oahu -- and Caroline told Jake that he needed to get more interesting stories."
(It's a small dusky silver or silvery bronze percoid fish from tropical Indo-Pacific area, when you next bring it up.)
Then there was "tyee." Another fish, as it turns out -- a large kind of salmon. The sentence given was, "There were times when the tyee thought this whole 'swimming upstream' thing didn't make much sense."
By the way, as I was typing this, one of the words presented was "colporteur." My eyes were focused on the computer, so I only heard it spoken, and didn't see the word spelled on the screen. My immediate thought was..."Cole Porter??? Cool, I got one. But...really??" Obviously, no. Oddly, the definition is sort of literary, as well. It's a peddler of books, newspapers, and similar literature. (The secondary description is "someone employed by a religious society to distribute Bibles and other religious tracts.").
Yes, Cole Porter would have been an unlikely word. But this is the National Spelling Bee, so Anything Goes...
I saw that the actress Beth Howland died yesterday at the age of 75. I didn't remotely know her well, and only briefly, but did know her a slight bit several decades ago. Sometime around 1980 I had done an internship on the TV series, Alice, on which she played the ditzy character Vera. However, I knew of her before that from her role in Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Company. She had one big solo number in that, the tongue-twisting, "(Not) Getting Married Today."
She was quite nice and we got along well. In fact, I once invited her over for dinner -- nothing romantic, we just got along -- and she said sure. We set weekend plans, and I went about doing my best to get my apartment presentable and prepare a tasty meal. (A challenge for a young guy living on his own...) At this point, I don't remember all the specifics, but basically when things got past the time we had set for dinner, I called and got someone at her home saying that she had some visitors, and took a message. I waited longer -- and longer. Eventually it got late enough that I called again -- not so much for dinner at that point, but mostly curiosity. "Oh, she's gone to bed," I was told.,
My recollection is that one of the first thoughts I had was to write an episode for Alice where things turn out really badly for Vera. Given that I wasn't in the WGA at the point, I was a lowly intern, and no one was asking me to write a script for the show, it didn't get any farther than that.
I don't really recall the resolution of things, but I think all that happened is that I offhandedly brought up "So, what happened?" when we crossed paths on the show the next Monday, and she gave a cursory, "Oh, sorry," and that was it. I still liked her -- she was a very nice person -- and we continued to get along, but after that I had no particular interest in making any effort to remain friends. She was an actress, I got it, and there are aspects of the cliche that do ring true for some.
But she was personable, talented and I'm sorry to hear of her loss.
Rather than include a clip here of Beth Howland as Vera, I figure that most places remembering her will be doing that. Instead I wanted to play her singing "(Not) Getting Married Today" from Company-- lesser-known to most people, but in some ways far more notable and I think longer-lasting.
I was going to just embed the audio of her singing the number from the Broadway Cast Album. But instead, I found something much better. This is from a great 1970 TV documentary on PBS by filmmaker DA Pennebaker on the making of that cast album of Company -- and it's the sequence when Beth Howland rehearses and then records this very difficult song.
I came across a couple of videos from what looks like a major production last year of Fiddler on the Roof in Australia. It stars a fellow who is apparently very popular there, Anthony Warlow. From his performance – which is quite good, though a bit more “aggressive” that most Tevye’s I’ve seen – I’d bet cash money that he’s a trained opera singer. These videos look like they were done without an audience, probably to help promote the show.
To start with, here he is with “If I Were a Rich Man”
Well, this whole "wrapping up a parent's life" is quite a hectic thing. I can't say that I recommend it to anyone. It's not that it's emotionally draining -- though there's certainly emotion rushing through things, and for some people I'm sure it's incredibly draining -- but just that there's SO much to do, and it's unrelenting. And my dad had things in pretty good order. So things are going reasonably smoothly (not "smoothly," I think that that's an impossible concept after any death), but there's just a tsunami of things to do.
I did get a good estate attorney recommended to me, and that's helped a lot. I don't understand all of what she's doing, but what's important is that she does. But so much to sign, and so many accounts to track down and cancel, and insurance policies, and bank accounts and brokerage accounts, and tax accountants, and none of that even touches on clearing out the apartment -- getting rid of all the "stuff," but also giving things away to relatives, and trying to sell off things, as well as ship items back to California. And it's all impacted, as well, by the reality that I don't live here in Chicago, but 2,000 miles away.
It's not a complaint, just maniacally hectic. I can't even imagine what it's like for people whose loss comes much too early and is traumatic, rather than a 95-year-old who had a long, wonderful, full life.,
Some of the morass is understandable. But some of the red tape isn't. Today, for example, I had to cancel my dad's auto insurance and home insurance. For reasons inexplicable to me, the company wouldn't let me, saying that the executor had to do it. (To cancel auto insurance??) I have Power-of-Attorney, though since my father's passed away they said that that doesn't matter -- though I'm not sure if they're right, since his bank is fine with it. And I'm the trustee...but not the executor. The thing is, making it all the more loopy, is that I said, "So, if I called tomorrow, and didn't say my dad was dead, and I wanted to cancel his auto insurance and had power of attorney, I could do that, right?" Yes, Well, okay another thought -- "So, if I didn't do anything at all, and when the next bills came for his auto insurance and home insurance they didn't get paid, his accounts would just be cancelled automatically for lack of payment, right?" Yes.
But because I was diligent enough to call and say that my father had passed away, I can't cancel these accounts -- auto insurance! -- myself and need to get the executor involved. Swell. Nothing like making things as convoluted as possible.
Still, I'm making headway. I have three meetings scheduled over the next week, but the end is in sight. Sort of. For at least the first part, but it's the main part.
And the Cubs won last night, so that was good. And I watched an inning of it in the apartment of a lovely lady I often have dinner with here who lives down the hall -- she's 99. She'll be 100 in just five weeks. When I left her place to come back here, she left the ball game on. So, amid all the swirl, all's right with the world.,..
And the elves back at the homestead watching over things are having the time of their lives, with free run of the place.
Here's a fun video from Conan O'Brien, where he discovered some unfairness on his staff where some people get informed when free food comes in, but others get left out. He decides to get involved and, as the boss, address this...
This is a wonderful, short featurette (about 11 minutes or so) that ESPN aired as part of their "SC Featured" segment on SportsCenter. It's a total pleasure, most likely even if you aren't a sports fan.
It concerns the football team at Benton Harbor High School, a very rough town in Michigan which had gone through troubles. And the team had had its own hard times, going 0-9 the year before and not winning much more during the previous decade. They hadn't even had a winning season since 1989, a quarter of a century. The team had never even made the state playoffs.
Elliot Uzelac was a 74-year-old, retired football coach, who'd had a solid, if not well-known career. He's been an assistant coach in the pros, and had been a head coach on a few middle-tier college teams. After five years of retirement, he got bored and applied to take over the challenge of Benton Harbor. The thing is, he didn't want any money. He told the school to keep it, he just wanted to coach football, and said the money should go back to the school to help the kids. He got hired.
It's not giving anything away, because the coach's wife is seen giving an interview throughout the piece while wearing a sweatshirt that says Benton Harbor Tigers Playoff Football 2015. So...yes, Elliot Uzelac took this dismal, winless team in a very trouble town and, for the first time in the school's history, made the state playoffs.
There's a more to the story, but that's the heart of it. And heart is the right word.
I posted this song before, though in a different incarnation, the Broadway stage adaptation of the title songs of the film, Thoroughly Modern Millie. This related even more directly to the movie version, though isn't. It's from the 1968 Oscars telecast, when the song got nominated for an Academy Award as Best Song.
Making it a special treat, though, and well-deserving of being shown here is that it's performed by Angela Lansbury. Though there are a great many people who know of her many Tony Awards for Broadway musicals, this will still be a treat. But for those who only know of her from her dramatic acting as Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, this will be gob-smack eye-opening. That's because she not only does a wonderful job singing, but she dances up a storm in a full-blown production number.
When I first watched this, I wondered if Lansbury was touring the country in Mame at the time, since her hair style was what I've seen in all the photos of her in the show. (I'm usually blind to hairstyles, but this was a sort of iconic look.) The show had opened on Broadway in 1966, but I figured she had long-since left the production. I subsequently tracked down that she returned to the show in a tour to San Francisco in April, 1968, which would have been only a month or two after this performance.
One note. At the end of the number, the camera pans the audience and then zooms in on one stoic fellow applauding. That's Sammy Cahn, who wrote the lyrics of the song, which had music by James Van Heusen.
When I woke up the day after Donald Trump (R-Trump Towers) became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and titular head of the party (consider that a moment: as the GOP nominee, Donald Trump will be the leader of the Republican Party!!), one of my first thoughts was about that very Party and “How dare you?!” for petulantly taking out their personal angst at not getting their way in Congress and therefore foisting a Donald Trump on all the rest of the country, risking that he could become the President of the United States.
And so, I decided to do something about it, and went on a journey into the mind of a Trump supporter. In fairness, this wasn't as easy as it sounds, and required a microscope, and highly-contoured topographic map. But I made it. Also, lest anyone was worried for my well-being, I was extremely prepared and wore plenty of protective gear, along with a pith helmet.
When I finally was able to discover the existence and then location of what appeared to be a frontal lobe, I made contact. To my surprise, the fellow was very glad I'd arrived safely. "Lucky you!!" he said. At least that's what I think it was. It's possible that the first word he spoke began with an "F" instead. There was a lot of static there, so things were quite fuzzy. "Lucky you!" he shouted. "Lucky you! Lucky you!"
My difficult arrival accomplished, I found a comfortable spot and settled in. Here then are some of the random pieces of our exchange, in which I wanted to know from him why on earth he thought Donald Trump had even the slightest qualifications to be President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of the military, and leader of the free world. All I got back were sort of platitudes which by themselves were a bit meaningless, but strung together they could make up what might be seen as a conversation.
"He tells it like it is!"
(Actually, no, Donald Trump gave up telling it like it is decades ago when he realized it got in the way of him conning people into buying Trump Steaks, drinking Trump Wine, getting an education at Trump University, flying on Trump Air, and qualifying for a loan at Trump Mortgage, to pay for your gambling at the Trump Taj Mahal. They all failed, and many people were hurt by them -- to the degree that the New York Attorney General has even taken Trump University to court for fraud -- though at least he himself did just fine financially from them. And we're still waiting, of course, after five years for him to present the non-existent "proof" he has that Barack Obama was supposedly born in Kenya. And for him to find that fictitious video of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey. And to explain how on earth he couldn't actually know who the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was, who endorsed Trump, despite insisting he has the world's greatest memory. And besides, that's not even his real family name, it's Drumpf. Or skin color. Or hairweave. All of which is fine, unless you're trying to convince people you "tell it like it is.")
"He stands for what I believe in!"
(Actually, no, Donald Trump stands for Donald Trump. That's why, as you may have noticed, he puts "Trump" on everything he owns, sort of like when your mom sewed name tags in your clothes before going to summer camp, except that he's not eight years old, and it's hard to lose a building or an airplane or a casino. Though clearly, it is easy to lose a LOT of steaks and wine. Donald Trump pretty much only cares about himself and what his deal can get for him. Now, mind you, it's possible you believe in some of the same things, like racially smearing Mexicans and wanting to ban Muslims and being misogynistic to women and ridiculing the disabled and supporting torture and keeping nuclear attacks an option and promoting violence and demeaning war heroes and calling people names -- something most people gave up around that same eight-year-old mark. But even if so, that's only a tiny part of what Donald Trump believes in. Because Donald Trump trumps all. And he only believes in those things because they help the Donald Trump Brand. Donald Trump is a megalomaniacal narcissist; a thoughtless bully; a self-centered, wheeler-dealer con man and so profoundly insecure all the attention has to be on him him him marked by his name Trump Trump Trump. And he doesn't care one whit what you believe in. Which is why he can never stand for what you believe in. Or really stand you. Because unless you're rich and have accomplished big things, to Donald Trump you, sir, are a "Loser!!")
"He's a great businessman."
(Actually, no, Donald Trump is like the line by the late, former Texas governor Ann Richards -- "He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." There are detailed reports that Donald Trump inherited up to $200 million. He's like Steve Martin's joke about how to make $2 million. "First, get a million dollars..." Great businessman? If you inherited $200 million and did nothing with it but just simply invested it all in Index Funds, Fortune magazine writes that you would make four times what Donald Trump has!! In other words, he's turned his inherited wealth into one-quarter its value. Besides, Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy four times. If you filed for bankruptcy four times, Donald Trump would call you a "Loser!!" Actually, you probably wouldn't get the chance to file for bankruptcy four times.)
"He can run the government because he knows business."
(Actually, no. Politics is nothing like running a business. Nothing. And being President of the United States is not only less-so, but has absolutely zero to do with running a business. In business, if you're in charge, you can decide everything that you want done. You can order people around and tell all your employees how to do their job. You can fire people, for any reason. In politics, most especially if you're the president, Congress makes the laws and decides what gets done. You can't fire elected representatives or even civil service employees. You have a complete separate political party that can disagree with you about everything and block everything you want. And worse, they might be in the majority and push their own agenda. You have to compromise. You have to be a diplomat. You have to be, literally, a military general, since you're commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. You have to know about outer space, science, macroeconomics, transportation, education, social welfare and on and on, areas far out of your expertise. And then, just when you've been inundated by all that -- there's every other country in the world. You can't order them to do anything. You can't know most of anything about what they're doing. And those are your friends and allies. It doesn't even take into consideration enemy nations that oppose you. And not just oppose, but may be trying, literally, to destroy you. Business?? You know how to run a business?? Swell, buy a chain of 7-11's. This international global politics, bucko.)
"He's so rich, Wall Street can't buy him."
(Actually, no, Donald Trump is a businessman whose whole business life is centered at the business core on Wall Street. Open a dictionary and look up "Wall Street," and you'll see a picture of Donald Trump. Cross-referenced to "Bankruptcies." But then, if your criteria of a qualified president is simply being rich, you probably think a whole lot of people must be incredibly qualified to be president. How about Warren Buffet or George Soros? Oh, sure, they're liberal, but hey they're both really rich, overwhelmingly more rich than Donald Trump that by comparison they make him look like a "Loser!!", so you'd probably like them even better as president. Or maybe Bill Gates or Carl Icahn or Phil Knight or Paul Allen or Jeff Bezos should be president? They're phenomenally rich, massively more than Donald Trump. The Koch Brothers are incredibly rich, perhaps they could be both president and VP? Hey, they're trying to buy the job anyway. Just like Sheldon Adelson, so what about him? Michael Bloomberg could buy Donald Trump 20 times over, and he was even elected to something. "Something" being mayor of New York City. Besides which, we don't even really know what Donald Trump's wealth actually is. So, it might not be anywhere near what he hints and what you think.)
“He finances his own campaign, so he can’t be bought by any special interests.”
(Actually, no, Donald Trump has a request for donations right on his website. You can’t miss it, it’s highlighted. In fact, he raised $12 million from donations. Besides which, he’s had those four pesky bankruptcies so anyone who thinks he doesn’t owe a lot with a lot of obligations to a lot of people isn’t trying. Besides which, two weeks ago, he hired a national finance chairman with goal to raise a billion dollars. The chairman will be Steven Mnunchin, a former hedge fund manager at Goldman Sachs who was known for controversial, predatory homeowner foreclosures. Besides which, all that money that Donald Trump keeps saying endlessly that he spent to supposedly “self-finance” his campaign was actually just a loan that can all be paid back from those private donations once his finance chairman raises that billion dollars. Besides which Trump actually does have a Super PAC despite his insistence to the contrary – never mind that whole “He tells it like he is” thing – called Great America Super PAC, run by Jesse Benton, who two weeks ago was found guilty and convicted of four felony fraud charges, including bribery. Yet he remains the head of the Super PAC. Can’t be bought by special interests?? Donald Trump, all by himself, is a living, breathing, traveling special interest.)
"He wants to make America great again."
(Actually, no, America is pretty darn good right now. After all, don't you think most of the rest of the world still looks at America as a beacon of hope and liberty and success, the ultimate destination for making it? Besides which, Donald Trump saying he wants to make America great again means the he doesn't believe is America is great. Can you imagine if a Democrat ever said that?? Really, just imagine if a Democrat ran on a platform that America wasn't great. Republicans would have apoplexy and start screaming bloody murder about how unpatriotic that traitor was and ask why he hated America? Which is a fine question for a Republican to ask their nominee -- why does Donald Trump hate America? Why is he so deeply unpatriotic?)
"He wants to make America First"
(Actually, no, that's a really, really bad thing to want. Seriously. The "America First" line that Donald Trump has started using for his campaign is actually the slogan of American fascists in the 1940s who supported the Nazis. I don't mean a sort of pseudo Nazi used in hyperbolic language to insult someone, but the real Nazis. Y'know, the ones in brown shirts with Hitler. They even had their own party -- the America First Party. So, no, wanting "America First," is a truly awful, despicable, hateful thing to want. Now, mind you, it might actually be what Donald Trump wants, but it's a horrific qualification for being president.)
"Hmm. I didn't know all that. If I stepped back and thought about him more, this Donald Trump really sounds pathetic, a real Loser. And he's got such small hands, what's up with that?? And to think I once supported him. But not anymore. Lucky me. Lucky, lucky me..."
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, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. 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.
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