So, I think it would be a good idea today to have Julie Andrew singing and dancing the Sesame Street theme song. She's not really with any Muppets here, other than some brief appearances from Oscar the Grouch, but mainly a whole bunch of dancing garbage cans.
This comes from her Julie on Sesame Street TV special in 1973, from which I'm posted some videos in the past, and it features some lively hoofing by her.
Garrison Keillor stepped away from Lake Wobegon and recently wrote an outspoken, scathing op-ed for the Washington Post about Donald Trump. The title gets to the heart of the piece, "The Punk Who Would Be President," but that's only the starting point.
My favorite line is a simple description -- "There's no philosophy here, just an attitude." But that's gentle. The rest of the article, from a fellow known for quiet weeks, is not.
You can read it here.
Tomorrow (Thursday), the BroadwayHD website will be streaming a live performance from Broadway of the wonderful Harnick & Bock musical, She Loves Me. This is of particular note because it's the first time in Broadway history that a performance will be streamed live online. (There have been live performances on TV, though. But if this works, it would be a step for the future.)
She Loves Me has a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who wrote Fiddler on the Roof, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning (and Tony Best Musical, Fiorello!. The 1963 show is based on a Hungarian play that also served as the basis of several movies, including The Shop Around the Corner and You've Got Mail.
This new production stars Laura Bernanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski. It was nominated for a Tony Award this year as Best Revival of a Musical.
You can watch it live on the Broadway HD website (which you can get here), and the stream begins at 8 PM East Coast Time. If you're a subscriber to Broadway HD, the show is included in the subscription, otherwise it costs $10.
Here's the presentation for the show from the recent Tony Awards.
One of the constant complaints of new PC owners that that their new devices contain bloatware, or what is also known as "crapware." These are applications that are automatically installed that can cause problems with the system. They often are difficult to remove since their installation core is buried deep, and they can sometimes even cause security risks often being poorly written as just promotional apps.
One way to avoid the problem is that Microsoft offers "Signature Editions" of third-party notebooks which comes without any bloatware on them. However, you can only buy them them directly from Microsoft online and the number of Signature Edition models is limited.
But there is a help on the way.
This summer, Microsoft will be releasing a major "Anniversary" update to Windows 10. And one of the included features will be a "clean install" option.
The app will be available under the Settings heading. When running it, this will basically wipe the old Windows 10 installation and replace it with a clean install, giving you what they call a "fresh start."
The other day, I noticed that there was a great deal of debris in front of my door. Leaves, twigs, broken bits of branches and such. I thought perhaps it had been windy and things got blown around. But as I looked in either direction, there wasn't all this detritus in front of other doors down the way, just mine and my immediate neighbor.
Another thought was that my new neighbor was doing some sort of craft project and was a bit messy. After all, they had placed a sort of flowing curtain to hang in front of their door, and maybe this was just who they were. And they hadn't cleaned up. So, I swept things away. Though the next day, there was a little bit more.
It was then that I looked up.
And between our two apartments is a light fixture, where I saw this --
Yes, there is a bird nesting there. The leaves and twigs were obviously all brought there to build the next, which is probably occupied for a good part of the day, unless it goes flying off to forage for food. One thing I've noticed is that when it's there, it doesn't move a muscle. You can be three fit away, talking and it just sits there, unmoving. I don't know if that's simply the way a parent bird sits when nesting its young -- or if if thinks if it doesn't move that those people folks around it won't notice that it's there -- or maybe it's terrified. But when I've sneaked a peek silently from my door and looked up, and there's no one around, it still just sits there and doesn't move.
My neighbors had a theory about why the bird built the next there. After all, there are a lot of trees facing this view that would seem to make a great place for a nest. But the thing is, there have always been a squirrel or two leaping their way through those trees, and they've been there for years. Because of the location of this light fixture, far enough away from the trees and having a protective overhanging, angled eaves, this would seem to be a particularly safe place to be.
Though when the light goes on at night, it must be tough to sleep.
And yes, that's my neighbors' curtain hanging down on the right.
It's pretty easy to write a column about how horrifically awful Donald Trump is -- not just as a candidate for the presidency, but just in general. But I'm not sure if I want to write about him every single day. Though I probably could. And given the importance of an election for the presidency of the United States, it's not necessarily a bad idea. But every once in a while, I think it's good to have a change of pace. So, I was hoping to write about something different today.
It was tough to do, given all the potential Trump stories. Like, his bizarre press conference in Scotland on the day of the Brexit vote when the world economy went into a meltdown and the British Prime Minister resigned, saying this could mean more tourists to his golf course. Or how the amount of money his campaign has raised is so bizarrely paltry. Or how reports show that about 10% of the money his campaign has spent has gone to his own properties, facilities or family. Or how in the midst of a presidential race he's decided to take a trip to Scotland to view one of his golf courses there. Or how the latest polls show Hillary Clinton's lead over him steadily increasing, now some up to double-digits. Or the epic rant Mark Cuban just made about Trump which included such ethereal comments as, "It’s rare that you see someone get stupider before your eyes, but he’s really working at it. You have to give him credit. It’s a difficult thing to do, but he’s accomplished it" -- and "Let’s look at it this way: Name one good deal he’s done/ When he talks about his great renegotiations, they’re renegotiations, so tell me if you think this is a good deal: I lose four casinos, they go out of business, but I’m really good at renegotiating the debt of his companies that have already gone out of business" -- and "At some point, you’ve got to start learning and understanding the issues, you know? Donald has been at this a year but you don’t look at him and say, 'Wow, he’s gotten so much smarter on this topic or that topic.' In fact, you look at him and say, 'What the hell are you talking about?’ That’s not good for America.”
So, I started preparing pieces instead on Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) who had a hissy fit when he was told he couldn't pick-and-chose what people on food stamps could buy and so threatened to shut down the program in Maine -- basically eliminating the concept of how Republicans want to keep the government out of peoples' lives. Or how everything has been going terribly wrong for Brazil as it prepares to host the Olympics, including its economy becoming shaky and its president having been impeached -- and then in the torch relay, a jaguar being used to help promote the event got loose from its handler and had to be shot and killed, and a paralympic athletic was robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Or how even though 20 million more Americans have health care coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the country is on track to spend 2.6 trillion less by 2019 since the law was enacted.
And yet, in the end I still have to come back to Donald Trump. Because the inanity of one of his comments reached Trumpian levels.
In a speech to evangelicals, Donald Trump (R-Trump Towers) questioned the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton and then President Obama, hinting that neither may even be Christians --
“She’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no, nothing out there. There’s like nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama, but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had to have your guard up. With Hillary you don’t and it’s going to be worse.”
This is ghastly for several reasons.
First, Secretary Clinton is long on record about her religious beliefs, and has even said that she caries a Bible in her purse.
Second, Donald Trump seems to be perhaps the least-religious man who has ever run for the presidency and sounds like an ignorant pandering clod when discussing religion (like when he infamous and incorrectly quoted from "Two.Corinthians," rather than "Second Corinthians" and asked, "Is that the one you like? I think that's the one you like"). Most likely, he is taking a page out of the traditional GOP playbook and attack your opponent about your own biggest weakness.
And third -- and most importantly by far -- religion has absolutely no place in a political race. Zero. While I know that it's a fool's wish to think it will disappear, since religion does play a part, that part is pretty much exclusively played by those outside the arena attacking those in it. When candidates address religion it's pretty much always to pat themselves on the back for being holier than thou. But for a candidate of any office -- especially the presidency of the United States -- to try and make a litmus test of religion is about as un-American think as there is, striking at the core right of Freedom of Religion.
I say "try and make," because the attempt will not only fail but fail miserably, and if it gains any traction, it will be solely as a means of backfiring on Donald Trump, not just for his silly, childish petulance at his idiotic charge, but for shining the spotlight back on himself and his own standard of devotion.
Amy Schumer is an outspoken critic of the gun lobby. “I am sickened by the cowardice of these people who are supposed to lead us,” she told Politico. “Their dedication seems to be only to dollar signs for their own pockets. In November, we will remember who stood with the gun lobby, rather than their constituents, as we mourned for Orlando.”
Earlier this year, her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer did an episode about guns titled, "Welcome to the Gun Show." One particular sketch got cut because of time. As a result of the recent Orlando massacre, she released the sketch publicly.
It's awfully good, an impressive feat blending tragedy with humor.
In the aftermath of the "Brexit" vote, I was watching a panel discussion of analysts talking about that there should be concern among Democrats in the U.S. for how this protest vote had similarities to support here for Donald Trump.
It was a thoughtful discussion. And yes, I think anything and everything should make Democrats wary, and treat Donald Trump as a serious candidate, and not take the slightest thing for granted, since he has shown pundits to be very wrong who dismissed.
But what would have been even more thoughtful is if just one person on the panel would have had said, "Yes, Democrats should be concerned and wary by similarities. But not necessarily. And probably not."
That no one on the panel even seemed to consider the possibility that the connections between the British vote and the American presidential race were, while real, far more tenuous on most levels than appeared at first cursory glance, seems a pretty empty bit of analysis.
Let's take a step back and a deep breath and take a closer look.
For starters, even the British themselves aren't quite sure what they voted for. It was reported that the day after the vote to leave the European Union, the second-most searched for phrase on Google was, "What is the EU?" A lot of people didn't even seem to know what in the world they were voting about. Moreover, there have been quite a few reports that people who voted "Leave," were saying -- the very next day -- that they wished they could change their vote. There is now a petition, as well, with over 2.5 million signatures already to have a do-over vote. There appears to be great bewilderment in the UK about exactly what this vote was about and its ramifications. Yes, there was a campaign, but like all British political campaigns, the time frame was quite contained, over a period of months. Contrast that to the U.S. presidential campaign which, by the time Election Day rolls around, it will have been going on for about a year-and-a-half. People here in the U.S. know quite well what is at stake and who is running and that a vote for a candidate means they want that person to become President of the United States.
I'll go a step further, and ask an odd question -- about what impact the simple name itself played? Let me explain. British voters had to decide whether to Remain or Leave, which became known as "Brexit." Which, of course, stood for British Exit. So, there was a daily pounding of this on the electorate. Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit throughout every single day, repeatedly. Might there possibly have been a difference if it had been referred to instead as, say, "Bremain"? And every day voters heard Bremain, Bremain, Bremain, Bremain. I don't know, maybe not, or maybe not much. But in a vote of four points difference, "not much" is not insignificant. "Not much" was need to shift the result. Particularly, since, after all, as we've seen, British voters don't seem to have been completely sure what they were actually voting for. But voting for "Hillary" or "Trump," that is absolutely clear.
Secondly, in the U.K. vote, there wasn't a face to put to the decision. It was an amorphous issue. There was a "Brexit" at stake. It was about a thing called the EU -- which as we've seen many people didn't know precisely what it exactly was. So, the whole vote was about something you couldn't really focus on what was at stake. On the other hand, there are two very pronounced human beings who voters in the U.S. can put faces to -- and have already, and will continue to ratchet up for the next five months, as images of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are plastered everything. Americans know exactly what's at stake.
Similarly, without a face in the U.K. there wasn't anyone at issue who could affect opinions by screwing up or inspiring on a weekly basis -- let alone daily. It was just what it was, the EU wasn't going to change, and you were either for or against it. Polls made it a close toss-up. But with a Donald Trump, you have the potential of daily gaffs, if not multiple ones in the same paragraph, as in fact we've already seen, which has already driven his polls number plummeting. Whereas only a month ago polls had Secretary Clinton ahead by 3-4 points, a just-released Reuters poll has Hillary Clinton now up by 13 points. An AP-Washington Post poll has her up 12 points. And again that's with five full months left for Donald Trump to keep revealing his unqualified, empty, egomaniacal, racist self in the glaring public eye and wear out his welcome by the day.
Also, while some analysts have pointed out the similarity in the "Take my country back" theme with Brexit and the Trump campaign, that theme isn't even remotely as similar as it looks on the surface and at first glance. Indeed, at that first glance, the themes seem 100% identical because they are word-for-word exactly the same. Except that they're not. In the Trump case, the words "Take my country back" mean his supporters longing wistfully for a better time in the distant past when the world wasn't confusing, and black people knew their place, and there weren't so many Mexicans, and womenfolk stayed in the kitchen. In the case of British voters supporting Brexit, though, it meant literally returning actual, full governmental authority to Parliament. "Take my country back" in the U.K. meant getting back literal, total sovereignty of the Crown, rather than ceding control to a body of unelected officials running the European Union. Those are two totally different things.
And another critical thing to consider -- this vote wasn't a last-minute whim of unhappiness with the EU by voters frustrated at not getting their way with government, as is the case with Trump far-right supporters. The British have never fully embraced the European Union. Consider, for instance, that while the rest of the EU uses the Euro as their monetary system, the U.K. still uses the Pound Sterling. Moreover, they've already had one referendum previous to this about whether to remain in the EU or leave.
Moreover, these aren't two cases of similar voters all simply fed up with "Politics as Usual." Never mind that in the U.S. such a reaction also helped bring about (in part) Bernie Sanders -- two utterly different fish. Far more to the point, in the U.K. most reaction doesn't appear to be people upset with politicians because they didn't get their way, but unhappy with being part of the amorphous European Union.
In fact, there's really only one similarity between the two sides of the pond, and that's the question of immigration, which was at the center of the British vote. Yet even there -- even in this one similarity -- it's has differences. On two levels.
The first difference in this one similarity is that, in the U.K. vote, the concern wasn't about immigrants from "outside" crossing illegally into the borders, decreasing security. It was about citizens of other member-EU countries being allowed to travel freely for work, and entering England to which made the country crowded and impacted jobs. Immigration was an "intra-EU" issue (not completely unlike if people from Nebraska wanted to immigrate into Kansas, and Kansas was unhappy about it, as well they should be), not an external one of people from outside. Yes, there was some overlap in issues, but again, remember, this is supposed to be the one similarity, and yet it's largely not all that similar.
And second, the issue of "foreigners" is a very different concept in Europe than in the U.S. In England, people are pretty much historically English. In France, the citizens have been French for centuries. In Italy, they're been Italians since before Julius Caesar. In Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, their citizens have almost exclusively been Spanish, German, Swiss and Danish. And...okay, you get the point. In the U.S. -- as xenophobic as many are, and as racist as sadly too many are -- at heart, America is a polyglot nation, a melting pot. There are very few Americans who can trace their lineage to the Mayflower in 1620, let alone back just a mere century. (Even Donald Trump's own Scottish mother didn't immigrate to the U.S. until 1930, and all four of his grandparents were foreign born, from Scotland and Germany.) The United States is a nation made up of immigrants from England, Spain, Ireland, Canada, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Iran, China, India, Japan, Cambodia, Afghanistan and on and on. So, as much as "immigration" is definitely an issue in the Trump campaign -- and a huge one -- the concept of immigrants here is very different from that in England. And again, for all the similarities that do exist on the "immigration issue"...the fact that there are so many differences is profound considering that this issue is the one "similarity" between Brexit and the Trump campaign. Yet even there, in the one similarity between the two situations, even there it's not actually really all that similar.
And for all that, for all these differences that many analysts are overlooking, I think the differences between the U.S. presidential race and the amorphous vote in the U.K. on whether or not to leave the EU can be summed up most simply by Donald Trump himself. By simply looking at how he himself responded to the Brexit vote.
There was Donald Trump (R-Trump Towers) at a press conference on his golf course. The day that the U.K. cast a vote that brought world financial markets to turmoil and several trillion dollars lost in world stock markets. When international security was put at risk. When the British Prime Minister resigned. When there was discussion of Scotland declaring independence and of Northern Ireland uniting with the Republic of Ireland, all of which would mean the break-up of the United Kingdom. And there was Donald Trump, the Republican nominee to be President of the United States, leader of the free world, command-in-chief of American armed forces, saying --
Saying that he felt the vote was actually a good thing because it meant that more people could travel and come to his golf course at Turnberry.
Saying it was great that "the country here" was going wild about leaving the EU -- except that the country he was in was Scotland, which actually voted to stay. And the entity that voted to leave was the United Kingdom which is not actually a "country" at all.
And saying on this most momentous, tumultuous, concerning day that his golf course had remodeled the old lighthouse "and we made it something really special," and it was now so beautiful but more than that "inside the lighthouse it has incredible sweets, and it's called the Halfway House because this is the ninth tee," and it has the most delicious sweets, you should really try to sweets, "they're the most beautiful sweets you'll ever see" and so wonderful.
That's the difference.
And who knows, maybe the sweets are as delicious as the taco bowl you get in Trump Tower?!
That's what Americans are being asked to vote for. Not an amorphous concept of staying or leaving a quasi-governmental entity that so many don't understand, but -- a human being who is a clueless, insensitive, racist, misogynistic, egomaniacal, insecure bully. Who has been on the presidential stage for a year, is revealing his horrific self by the day, and still has five months more to melt down even more.
And yes, Democrats should absolutely still be wary about the similarities between the Brexit vote and supporters of Donald Trump.
But mainly, Republicans should be far more worried about all the great many differences.
This week, the contest is Jason Carr from Philadelphia. In the early stages, I could hear the theme, but couldn't make out the hidden song -- but not long after it became quite clear to me. The composer style is obviously from a distinct period, though it's a period I always have a toss-up because about three or four people. And my toss-up guess was wrong.
On this new edition of 3rd & Fairfax, the podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guest is Simon Kinberg, screenwriter of Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men: The Last Stand, This Means War, and The Fantastic Four, among others), who talks about writing and producing with interviewer John August, the screenwriter of such films as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, and the animated Frankenweenie. and Hilliard. There's also an interview with Gary Goldstein, the chair of the LGBTQ Writers Committee.
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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