Another in our series of "Photographs I took of great paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago." This, as you no doubt recognize is the famous "At La Moulin Rouge" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Yes, yes, I know the artist had the hard part actually painting the picture, but it's not like just anyone can walk up and take a photograph of it. After all, you have to actually be there at the Art Institute and find the thing. What happens next is that usually you go, "Wow! That's the Moulin Rouge painting by Toulouse-Lautrec!" And so it is.
You'll note the fine use of perspective by the photographer, so cleverly angling the frame of the painting so that it's a bit cockeyed and adds to the impressionism of the artist...
Two contestants participate this week, Bill Wise and Toni Kazic of Columbia, Missouri. And listen close, or the song will zip past you. This is one of the shortest Piano Puzzlers I've heard. The song is very gettable, and the composer style falls into that category of "Okay, it's one of these three or four..."
Perhaps the most idiotic headline on the Huffington Post last week was the one on the homepage which read, "The Real Reason Kitchen Nightmares is Over?" And then, in a close second for Stupidest Headline of the Week was when you clicked through the link and got to the story itself -- "A Shocking 60 Percent Of Restaurants On 'Kitchen Nightmares' Are Closed."
The only shock to me is that 40% of the restaurants on Kitchens Nightmares are still open.
The implication behind that first headline, and within the article itself, is the idea that because so many restaurants featured on the show have closed, the series lost its credibility.
The article also notes that "Even more shockingly, almost 30 percent closed within one year of their episode airing (some even before)."
What's clear to me is that the Huffington Post and I have different definitions of the word, "Shocking."
I've read different statistics, but for the sake of fairness, let's go with the most conservative ones. And those say that withing their first year of opening, 25% of restaurants fail. So, 30% within a year of an episode's airing seems right in the ballpark (even taking into consideration that it's not actually the restaurant's first year).
And -- again, staying conservative -- the statistics say that within five years of opening, 60% close.
Consider now that Kitchen Nightmares has been on television for...TEN YEARS. I'd say that, with that in mind, their failure rate is pretty spot on. Actually, it's seems better than the norm.
Yes, I know that the very point of the show is to "fix" these restaurants. But keep in mind that these were restaurants that were in serious trouble -- not just on a culinary level, but financially. Owners regularly say that without the show, they might have to close the doors in a couple months. Among other things, this means that they generally have had huge debts. Improving your cuisine and management skills and maybe even (or not) your very personality still doesn't resolve those debts. Creditors want their money. The IRS demands its money.
For 40% of these restaurants in such dire shape for numerous reasons to still be open, on a show that's been broadcast for 10 years, is actually pretty good. Indeed, the very opposite of "shocking." And hardly even remotely a reason to stop production.
But I'll go a step further.
The figures "uncovered" in the story are hardly news of an amazing discovery.
After watching Kitchen Nightmares for a few years, I started a habit. I would record a show and check out first if the restaurant was still open or not. After all, I decided that I had little interest in investing both my time and my caring about whether the restaurant in question had a great re-opening if it turned out that the place had already closed. So, over the years, I would do very simple searches and found that most places had, in fact, not made it.
Actually, going further, the only "shock" to me about the Huffington Post's story was how high the success rate was! My own un-scientific checks seemed to turn out a much higher percentage of closures. That might well be because I was checking on reruns, often from quite a few years back, going back to the English series (which I preferred). so the restaurants by that point had had a few years to sink or swim.
And the thing is, too, for years there have been websites that kept a scorecard on how the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares (and its British predecessor, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares) were doing. So, it was perfectly easy for anyone to simply do the most basic search in the world and find out.
And for years and years, it was brain-dead obvious that most of the restaurants over time closed. But some did make it now and then. So, for the Huffington Post to be "shocked" (!!) that such a shockingly high number of restaurants featured on Kitchen Nightmares had shockingly closed...AND that this is the reason the series might be going off the air is just plain idiotic. Not only because it's not remotely a shock, to anyone who cared to simply look, but also because the number is actually, in the real world, not particularly bad.
Shocking, I know.
When checking one of my tech news website, I came across a story about an indestructible soccer ball. "Soccer ball," I thought. "That's not a very common topic for a tech site..." So, I decided to check out what the point was. I expected to watch the video for a few seconds, find out and move on. But I was so fascinated, and ended up watching the whole intriguing -- and heart-warming -- thing which is an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News and lasts almost five minutes.
(Yes, a video about soccer balls not only relates to technology, but is "heart-warming.")
The story concerns Tim Jahnigen and his wife Lisa Tarver, who created the One World Futbol project, whose purpose was to develop a soccer ball that couldn't be punctured or crushed or destroyed in most any way. This might not seem like a big problem, but it is for poor Third World countries where not only is soccer the core to kids' recreation, but where the life span of a soccer ball, they say, is not much more than one hour. Instead, the children are forced to find almost any alternative to kick around.
The ball they came up with uses a plastic that's more flexible than rubber, that's related to the material found in Crocs shoes. It can even withstand being knocked around at length and bitten by a lion, as an adorable part of the video shoes. Eventually even Sting got involved with the project.
The One World Futbol projects operates on the "buy one, give one" principle. A ball costs $39.95 and a second ball is donated from the company swebsite.
Here's the full video. (I'm having a little difficulty getting it to play. If it doesn't, click here to go directly to the Yahoo site and see it there) --
I don't know how many viewers this will apply to, so since PBS schedules aren't consistent across the country. But if it's not on in your city, it might be worth checking elsewhere.
Anyway, in Los Angles, on KOCE at 10:30 PM tonight (Sunday) following Masterpiece Mystery, the station is premiering a new British sitcom called Vicious, about an elderly gay couple who have lived together in a London flat for almost half a century. This might not seem like enough on its own to earn a Media Alert, but then you note the cast.
It stars Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi.
Yes, you read that correctly. Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi are starring in a new sitcom.
On the show's PBS website, the description continues: "Constantly picking each other apart and holding on to petty slights for decades, Freddie and Stuart are always at each other’s throats, cracking snide remarks aimed at the other’s age, appearance and flaws. However, underneath their vicious, co-dependent fighting, they have a deep love for one another."
I have no idea how the show is. But I don't think it's hyperbole to say that this might be the greatest cast for a sitcom in history.
Here's a brief montage from the show
Thanks to their vantage point high up behind home plate, baseball announcers periodically find that baseballs come flying into their broadcast booths a few times a year. Most of the time they tend to duck in understandable safety.
Every once a while, though, announcers don't do their play-by-play from the comfort of the booth, but instead sit out among the fans in the far-reaches of the outfield. (The first time I'm aware of an announcer doing this was Harry Caray, when he sat in the Wrigley Field bleachers announcing the Cubs. It's possible he might have done this previously when announcing the White Sox, though I'm not certain.)
On Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies broadcasters were sitting deep in center field, calling the game. And not only did a home run pounded by Freddie Freeman of the the opposing Atlanta Braves come in their direction -- but Phillies' announcer Tom McCarthy caught it!
(Their excitement is only balanced by the reality that the home run was hit by the wrong team...)
Then came the decision on what to do. For decades, the fans at Wrigley Field in Chicago have a tradition of throwing back any home run hit by an opposing player. While this hasn't transferred to all other ball parks, or even as consistently in those parks where it does occasionally take place, the tradition has been picked up in a few places. And that is McCarthy's dilemma, since clearly he's pretty excited about catching the home run.
What was it all like? Here's the TV coverage as it happened --
As is pretty well-known by now, even if you don't follow sports in the slight, Uruguayan soccer star Luis Suarez bit another player from Italy during their World Cup soccer match. I actually was watching the match at the time -- I didn't see the bite itself, but my timing was such that I walked into the room as I heard the announcers saying how unfortunate the incident was, and that it certainly looked like the Italian player was complaining he'd been bitten. They couldn't be sure from the replays, they said, but it looked possible. That's when I reversed the DVR a few seconds, watched the play and the replays and just laughed. "Boy, are you guys bending over backwards being polite," I thought to myself, "Of course that's a bite!!" -- especially considering that they were saying that Suarez had previously been suspended two other times for biting.
It was clearly obvious, and that was confirmed when the FIFA governing body suspended Suarez for four months for his third violation of biting.
But what do you do when you have a soccer player who consistently bites other soccer players?
Well, the funniest response I'm come across by far is this posting by...Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer!
As far as I can tell, this is absolutely on the level, not an fake article being sent around. I say that because the article I read the article on Millan's own website, Cesar's Way. So, unless his site got hacked, this is the real deal. And it's pretty amusing.
"If you're having problems with your players," Millan writes, he gives suggestions on what you can do to address the ongoing problem, Like the suggestion --
"You can reduce aggression by having your soccer player spayed or neutered. Many low and no cost options are available."
You can read the whole article here -- and all the suggestions to do with your own soccer player problems, if you have one of your own...
It's been a quiet week. The Whippets defeat the Holdingford Bulls in the rain on another long fly ball from Wayne Tommerdahl, Father Emil returns to Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, garage sale season begins, and the Women's Bible Study Group goes skinny-dipping.
Also worth noting is that this weeks news comes from a performance at the Ravinia Music Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, which I've written about several times, most notably here. I worked at Ravinia for a couple summers, and it was a joy. The festival, which is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony, but also cover folk music, rock, jazz, chamber music, opera, theater, and dance, have grounds that are walking distance from where I grew up, and on a really clear night, you could sometimes hear the music off in the distance. It was a long way -- a mile-and-a-half, maybe -- along Green Bay Road, but much shorter if you cut through Turnbull Woods, which I did on occasion. (Going to a concert, or to work backstage once in a while -- not in the dark afterwards. You don't want to be caught by witches or gremlins, of course.)
Just a quick reminder that Episode 3 of Almost Royal is on tonight on BBC America. In this evening's entry, the Carlton siblings, Poppy and George, visit Texas. It airs at 10 PM, West Coast time.
If you didn't see my earlier posting on the new, fake-documentary series, where a couple of very amusing British comedians pretend to be aristocrats touring the United States, you can read more about it here. BBC America is repeating the series premiere (that took place in Los Angeles) after tonight's new episode, though the show is also available On Demand, where the'll have Episode 2 from Boston.
Here are a couple of interviews.
In this first on NPR with Scott Simon, and embedded below, the actors Ed Gamble and Amy Hogart switch between being themselves and having Georgie and Poppy participate.
And this is a very funny interview on BBC America's Graham Norton Show. It was exclusive to BBC America, and didn't appear as part of his regular BBC show, I assume because Almost Royal only appears on BBC America and not in England, at least yet.
Though I wanted to focus on the songs from Once Upon a Mattress when writing yesterday about Mary Rodgers, who passed away on Thursday, I thought it only proper to offer some of her other wonderful of her lesser-known material as a follow-up. So, here are a few selections.
This first comes from the concept album Free to Be...You and Me, originally done in 1972, conceived by Marlo Thomas and then later animated as a TV special. The song here, "William's Doll," is an impressive collaboration. It has music by Mary Rodgers, with words by Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, among many other Broadway shows. And further, it's sung by Alan Alda -- and the woman who accompanies him is Marlo Thomas herself.
One of the most off-beat things that Mary Rodgers wrote for was contributing to the 1966 hit off-Broadway revue, The MAD Show, based on -- yes, the magazine. (It ran for 871 performances, over two years.) Her song, "The Boy From..." was a parody written with lyricist Estaban Rio Nido of then-popular song "The Girl from Ipanema." This alternative number tells of a girl infatuated with a young man from a town that has an near-unpronounceable name, and who for personal reasons we slowly discern, doesn't return her affections, or seemingly those of any young woman. It's worth noting, to say the least, that the lyricist used a pen name, and was, in fact, long-time family friend Stephen Sondheim.
The song here is performed by Linda Lavin, who later went on to star in the TV series, Alice.
This last song comes from the stage revue Working, based on the non-fiction bestseller by Studs Terkel, a collection of interviews with people talking about their jobs. The show, conceived by Stephen Schwartz, began life at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in 1978, and later transferred to Broadway. It wasn't successful, though the show was later adapted for PBS, and has had a long life in school productions and elsewhere.
The score was written by a wide range of composers and lyricists. This song, "Nobody Tells Me How," written by Mary Rodgers along with lyricist Susan Birkenhead, is a lilting, tender, and ultimately heart-wrenching number sung by an older school teacher a bit lost after decades of work, trying to figure out the news way of the world of education. It's wonderfully performed by Bobo Lewis from the original Broadway cast.
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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