This week, the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" comes live from St. Louis. And a big heads-up to the inveterate Chris Dunn -- who, despite being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, remains a fine fellow AND inveterate -- because the guest contestant on the 'Not My Job' segment is former St. Louis Cardinals Hall-of-Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith. His interview isn't deeply substantive, but thoroughly charming and personable, and the best part are many of the questions from host Peter Sagal -- most of which only require a brief answer, but are great fun to hear. Fun, too, is that for the first time I was able to guess ahead of time what the topic of the 'Not My Job' segment would be. That should be a good enough clue for others. If not, it's the best you'll get...
For this special edition of 3rd & Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, we have a panel event, Beyond Words, featuring .WGA Award-nominated (& winning) screenwriters. These include -- Eric Roth (A Star is Born); Kevin Willmott (Blackkklansman); Bryan Woods & Scott Beck (A Quiet Place), Joe Robert Cole (Black Panther); Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly (Green Book); Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?); Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade); Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth); Ozzy Inguanzo & Dava Whisenant (the documentary Bathtubs Over Broadway); and Gabe Polsky (In Search of Greatness);
This week's contestant is Jonathan Jager from Los Angeles, California. I got the hidden song fairly early, and know I should have gotten the composer style, it had such a familiarity to it, but my guess was off. Happily, host Fred Child was stumped, as well, so I don't feel alone.
Last week, I mentioned that Al Franken has a new podcast and posted a sort of "coming attractions" from the series. Here's the first, full official conversation with Maria Teresa Kumar, the president of Voto Latino.
As the site describes the talk, they :"discuss voter suppression, the Wall, and immigration. At turns funny, then tragic, and angry. A fun and moving interview."
The other day, I discovered a series of videos from the Epicurious website. They're funny, entertaining and actually informative. As you see below, they're Basic Skills Challenges, which I'll try to post from time to time. This first is a good example of them -- it's about how to properly open a bottle of wine, as they record a wide range of people trying their best, and then have an expert come in to show you how.
For the past year or so -- but most-especially over the past few weeks -- we've seen Trump slam people who have been critical of him. Calling them either stupid, "a very bad guy," irresponsible, "I'm not the biggest fan" (tm) or a combination of all the above, and more.
To be clear, there have been others he's smeared, as well, though they hadn't said anything about him publicly -- people like Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, H.R. McMaster, Tom Price and more. I'm referring instead to those who Trump demeaned specifically because they criticized him -- among them Rex Tillerson just yesterday, Michael Cohen, Don McGahn, Christopher Wray, and even Steve Bannon and Amarosa Manigault Newman. And more. People who Trump sees as enemies, out to get him, the opposition.
For the record:
Rex Tillerson Michael Cohen, Don McGahn, Christopher Wray, Steve Bannon and Amarosa Manigault Newman are not the opposition. They are not Trump's enemies. They are ALL people who Trump has hired to work for him. They are all people who served him and did his bidding. They may have come to loathe him (or did so before but were happy to be on the same side, grab the power, and cash the pay check), but they are ALL people who Trump thought were wonderful, talented, smart, and who he wanted with him.
Trump has plenty of very real enemies. All he need do is look at the entire Democratic members of Congress. Or, for that matter, most of the majority of voters who didn't vote for him in 2016. But we must draw a line and distinguish between them and the long line of people who Trump hired and is now trying to smear. Being among the "very real enemies" who are lashed out at by Trump speaks loudly about them. Being among the latter -- those hired by Trump who he is now smearing -- speaks volumes about him.
It's very easy to bunch all people who Trump tries to slam under the same umbrella. But they're not the same. Every time Trump has a meltdown against the people on his own side who he actually, literally hired and praised, it only serves to provide further evidence (not that it is really necessary) of his own emptiness. When you are reduced to trying to demean the people you like enough to hire -- because they've had enough of you and spoke out -- you are standing on a chimera. You have built a foundation of air.
No wonder Infrastructure Week never gets off the ground.
A new production of Fiddler on the Roof is playing in New York City, right on the heels of a revival only a couple years ago. But this one is different -- the off-Broadway production is performed entirely in Yiddish, by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Also drawing attention is that it's directed by Tony and Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey. (Though he doesn't speak Yiddish, which I suspect was a challenge, his father Mickey Katz was a big star of the Yiddish theater, which may have had something -- if not a huge deal -- to do with him wanting to take on the challenge.)
The show has been a big hit, and watching clips of it I can see why. The production includes English supertitles (and also Russian ones!), not unlike an opera. And it appears rich and vibrant, and very moving. And by this point, I would think most people have a pretty good idea what the story is of Fiddler on the Roof anyway, even with out the supertitles.
The video here is well-done, and the show looks wonderful and vibrant. And stick around after, because I have a fun bonus video below -- which actually is what I saw first that prompted this.
And now the bonus. As I said, this is what came to my attention first, and as I was preparing to post it, I thought I should check out the show itself. Which brought about the video above. And now we come to that initial video below --
There's an annual fundraising event in New York City that the Broadway community puts on, called the Easter Bonnet." And every year they also given an award for the Best Presentation by a theater company. This year, the award went to this off-Broadway company of Fiddlier on the Roof" in Yiddish. They wondered what it would be like if other Broadway shows were done in Yiddish, too. And there's a guest appearance at the end by Joel Grey, who joins in -- despite not speaking Yiddish.
Last week, I mentioned that I have a cousin who lives in Venice, Jim Kaplan. He grew up in an area known as Miller Beach on the shores of Lake MIchigan, near the Indiana Dunes. It's the outskirts of Gary, but was a very nice area, just a few blocks from where my beloved grandmother (and his aunt) Rose lived, as well as several other relatives. He's always loved boats, and for the past few decades even works in the boating industry -- at first on the commercial end, though later for a company that dealt with more technical, business and Navy-related matters.
Several decades back, during our younger, more carefree and idiotic days, when he was working for the commercial shop, he did a favor for a client and was paid to take an old, small boat from Los Angeles down to San Diego, which would have been a long and overnight trip. He needed a few friend to help crew , and I joined in. We started out very early, and the first day was enjoyable, and late in the day we even came across a school of dolphins. (Sorry that they are mostly underwater here, I did my best...)
As for the second day --
Well, did I mentioned that during that by the end of second day we had re-christened the bought "Kaplan's Folly"? During the night, the creaky vessel sprung a leak, though we were able to contain it well enough. But the early morning, however, that became more problematic. And bailing out the boat because less-occasional, and more of our daily routine.
By noon, we figured that we had done our duty, because the alternative was sinking. I think we had as far as San Pedro (which is near Long Beach) not quite half-way to our destination. We pulled into the marina, called the boat's owner to explain the situation and say that we would be leaving the boat there, and it was now up to him to get it and figure out what to do with the dinghy. And then we called one of the wives to drove down and get us back home. It has remained a fond memory from afar, and something we still joke about from time to time.
This is the most-memorable Kaplan's Folly at a time when it was still afloat...
Anyway, a few months ago Jim decided to act on his love for the lure of the seas, and bought a boat (not a big one, but nice, a sailboat/motorboat), and he goes out one afternoon a week like clockwork from Marina del Rey. (Also at other times, including at night, but those are random.) I join him from time to time.
This is me joining him about a month ago on board the good ship Flying Fish III.
As I said, he always goes out at least one afternoon a week, and that day was yesterday -- and once again, I joined him.
It was quite nice when we took off – that’s a couple of pelicans sunbathing. (I wanted to get a photo of the large clan of seals we always pass by in the channel, but I always remember too late to have my camera ready, and by the time the boat has passed them the photo looks like you took a picture of a lot of duffel bags. I had my camera ready this time -- but there were only two seals on the dock, perhaps the others were out fishing, so I let it pass. But I was at the ready for the pelicans, at least --
As we headed out, there were also a lot of ominous, billowing, dark clouds in the distance, but from how the wind was blowing (which admittedly was strong...) it appeared like we would likely miss them, seemingly being blown in another direction. As his wife later said in a bit of wonderment, “Didn’t you hear the storm warnings? It was on the radio.” Short answer – no.
The good news is that Los Angeles meterologists do a pretty fine job at predicting storm warnings.. Or at least did yesterday. We were out in the channel for about an hour, most of the time it being in a windy squall with a few patches of lightning. Fortunately we’d put in a sot of tent cover two weeks ago, so we were somewhat protected. With emphasis on the “somewhat.” Basically, as we said to one another, hey, we’re on the ocean surrounded by water – if it’s coming down from the sky, too, so be it.
This photo below doesn’t come even remotely close to doing it justice. It just looks like an overcast day. In fact, it was torrential at the time. The camera just doesn’t pick up pouring rain, wind whipping, periodic thunder and distant lightning. But if one looks close, you can see the left bench glistening (which is actually a pool of water) and the spread-out towel on the right, trying to soak up water to make sitting habitable. And what should be a calm, blue, clear ocean not totally covered by pockmarks of rain -- isn’t. And what you can also see is that no one else was devoid of sense to go out at the time. (That’s Ship Captain Jim explaining that All’s Well.)
To be clear, It wasn’t even marginally dangerous in the slightest. Just very wet. And actually reasonably fun. Just…well, very wet. It was fairly calm, never got much waves, and the lightning was rare and far away. (Maybe just three bolts in the hour at sea.) And most-happily, if we hadn’t put up the tent cover two weeks ago – which whimsically enough was not for protection from the rain, but rather to keep the sun from beating down… -- it would have been far more uncomfortable (In fairness, too, I could have gone underneath in the small hold, but chose not to – if my fellow shipmate had to be out there steering, I would not forsake my captain! And on the plus side we did prove that the makeshift Kaplan Ship Co. tent cover is Storm-Worthy. As are we.
It's the evening now, and I'm all dry.
A few months back, I posted a few articles about the wonderful musical, Come From Away, the show based on the true story of all of the airplanes that where forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland -- known as The Rock -- on 9/11. (The initial, most-detailed article was this one here.) At the time, I couldn't find a good video to post from the show -- most numbers that are online are the opening song, "Welcome to the Rock," but they didn't have it done in full. Well, it turns out the the show is currently playing in London's West End and was nominated for an Olivier Award, which is the British version of the Tony Awards. And so, on the broadcast, the cast performed a number, and they choice that opening song, "Welcome to the Rock" -- and did the full thing. And so, happily, I have it to post.
Also happily, the show won the Olivier Award for Best Musical. (Hey, I tries nots to steer ya wrong...)
I've now embedded the song in the original post, but so you don't have to go track it down, I'll post it here, as well. As I wrote in the original article, a video version of the song doesn't do it or the show justice, not getting across the power of the number and it's impact from the rise of the curtain. But still, it gives a good sense of it.
One oddity: having by now seen show and watched a ton of videos of the musical and stories about the history, only a few of the actors in this British version get the Gander accent right -- notably the first performer you'll see -- many of the others sliding a bit into Scottish or Irish, but still it's a joy.
The song is far-more powerful when you see the emotion and pounding on the stage live -- but this still does give a good sense of it. Here's how the show opens --
Cleverness must be rewarded...
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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