Yesterday, I posted a video of a wonderful young singer Sara Niemiez enthusiastically performing with the PostModern Jukebox with a lively big band-like arrangement of the song, "Love Yourself." Well, one good turn deserves another. And here she is with them again with the same song. But there's a reason for it.
I had come across this second version, which is an in-concert performance, before posting the official music video and was unsure which to use. I went with the music video since it's the most professional video with the best sound, best lighting, visuals and pure vocals.
But this concert version may well be the best performance,
There's something about singing in front of a live audience that can bring out the best in a performer, and it sure does here with Ms. Niemietz. Perhaps it's helped by her being a trained stage actress. Perhaps it's because by comparison the music video wants her to largely stand in front of the microphone and just sing. But cut free of that constraint and with a big crowd in Austin, Texas, there -- she just lets loose and takes control of the entire stage. And the result is just an exuberant, joyous performance. One that recognizes there's an audience there and plays to them.
(Know that at one point, it looks like the performance is over. But it's just a dramatic pause, in part too because it waits for applause, and in part as well I suspect to give her a chance to catch her breath. You'll see.)
And so...this second version of the same song. Hey, one good turn deserves another.
As I noted yesterday, if you live here in Los Angeles, Ms. Niemietz will be having a launch concert for her new CD on July 7 in Hollywood. Ticket information is here.
So, why post the same singer, band and song two nights in a row? From the moment of her entrance on stage, you can see that this will be different.
So, the White House and its spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders today said that they think "morality" is the cause of all the crime and shooting in Chicago. And so Trump tweeted this morning that he was sending in the Feds.
But y'know what I think is the real cause of all that crime? Al Capone! And his bootleg liquor. So, better than just merely sending in "the Feds," I think they should send in Elliot Ness.
But if the crime *is* caused by "morality," maybe they should send in former pastor Mike Huckabee. And that'd be easy, since Sarah could just call up her dad.
Of course, if it's a lack of morality that concerns them, why use all those frequent flyer miles going to Chicago, just send the Feds on a tour of White House. Trump can probably get them a discount.
Trump's bizarre, nasty, misogynistic tweets yesteray about Mika Brzezinski have rightly gotten a lot of attention, and criticism. Even, thus far, from a few Republican senators, Ben Sasse, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins. (The silence from other parts of the GOP speaks loudly...) I won't repeat the tweets about her looks here because they don't deserve the attention. Though I will note what is clearly Ms. Brezinski's understated response -- she sent a tweet that had nothing, no personal text from her, other than a picture of a Cheerio's box with the words on back, "Made for little hands."
Worth noting too is the response of "anti-cyber-bullying advocate" (sic) First Lady Melania Trump, who previously said in one of her first official statements, "We need to stop hurting people “made to feel less in looks or intelligence.” Through a spokesman, the noble First Lady and "anti-cyber-bullying advocate" (sic) released her own defense of Trump -- "As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.” Which is just what you expect to hear from an "anti-cyber-bullying advocate" (sic).
However, as cringeworthy as the president's tweets were, and as empty as were the First Lady's statements (though in fairness she may be busy and unfocused by virtue of preparing for her long-announced press conference from about a year ago), it was the comments from press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders that I found, in some ways, more egregious.
In an interview, she said that Trump's misogynistic, petulant tweets about Mika Brzezinski are absolutely fine because he had had personal attacks made against him on the Morning Joe show which Ms. Brzezinski co-hosts.
The thing is -- of course, which most children can figure out -- Barack Obama faced overwhelmingly worse personal attacks, many deeply-racist, relentlessly for eight years (including from Trump himself), and so did W. Bush, Clinton, and even Reagan, especially during his most doddering moments -- yet when did they ever LASH like this?! Or lash out, period. They understood a lot of things about being president, most notably that they were, in fact, freaking President of the United States. And personal attacks against them were like (as Howard Cosell once put it) spitballs against a battleship.
Alas, we long-since expect such nasty, thin-skinned childishness of Trump -- but Ms. Huckabee's statement confirms that it's administration policy.
I don't tend to click on song videos that scroll by on Facebook. But for some reason, I did the other day. I didn't know the singer, didn't know the group, didn't know the song. But it looked interesting, and the brief mention in the text from the group about how the singer gave one of their best vocals ever struck my interest. And so I clicked. And am really glad I did.
It was for a group called PostModern Jukebox, with the lead singer Sara Niemietz. From what I subsequently read, they take current songs and arrange them to be in the style generally of music from the 1920s and 1930 -- jazz, big band, swing, that sort of thing, with New Orleans style, Dixieland and others thrown in -- done by the group's leader Scott Bradlee. (That's him at the piano.) Also, it turns out that they use a bunch of different lead singers, depending either, I suppose, on who fits the song best or when they're available. Most are women, but a few are men, maybe 8-10 or so. I watched quite a few videos on their website, all were very good, but...Sara Niemietz for my taste was far-and-away the best. And for this particular song, she did nail it. It did indeed seem to be one of the best of their vocal performances I saw, as she just wailed her way through with texture, style and joyful, infectious enthusiasm. I did seem to pick the right video to click on.
I learned a bit more about the song and some of its history -- which some of you might know, since they've been around for five years with 2.8 million subscribers on their YouTube channel -- but I'll get into that after the video. First though, here it is so that you can watch it fresh, as I did.
It turns out that the song is from Justin Bieber, one that he performed and co-wrote about an unnamed ex-girlfriend. (I know it gives his name in the heading, but that didn't appear in the version I saw.) Also, what this article relates, it seems that someone (maybe the group itself, but it isn't clear) put out a black-and-white version of this video and used filters to make it look old, saying that it came from the Library of Congress Archive and that the Bieber version was actually a cover of this original. And it got -- according to the article -- 5 million views! (This color version didn't do nearly as well, though still well enough to have 700,000 hits.)
The video was recorded last year when Sara Niemitz was all of 24. She grew up in Chicago -- yes, yes, I know, I was surprised and pleased about that, but hey, we don't make this stuff up... in fact I think she was even born in the northern suburbs! -- where he also did some acting. When she was nine, she played a character based on 7-year-old Carol Burnett in the play, Hollywood Arms, based on Burnett's memoirs -- and stayed with the production when it went to Broadway. And when she was a young teenager, she had a role in the film, Akeelah and the Bee, among other things. But music has been her main focus. However, her performing background shows in all her videos. (And I checked out quite a few on her website. Her songs range from her own original material to some absolutely fresh covers.)
I'll be posting a few others upcoming. But for those in the Los Angeles, you might like to know that she has a new album being released in about a week, and will be having a "release concert" in Hollywood at the Hotel Cafe on July 7. How's that for good timing? You can get more information here.
You may recall two weeks ago when I had my "Taking the Class Out of Classical" rant here about the generally very-good KUSC classical music station, and how they are dumbing down aspects of their broadcasting.
I also went off onto a side-tangent, bringing up their similarly-annoying "Off to School" Requests in the morning -- and how after six weeks it became clear that these had virtually nothing to do with kids making classical request. Or kids. Or even classical (but rather movie themes). Yet they've continued this way, as "Off to School" Requests for the past year. And I noted how twisted the station's effort have become to justify calling these "Off to School" Requests, rather than just simply Morning Requests.
I explained what their convoluted introduction now was when time for their "Off to School" requests -- but I did it from memory, and knew that I didn't do it justice, only mentioning a small portion of how bizarre the introduction had become. Besides which, I suspected most people probably thought I was joking that it not only was this stupid, but actually even worse. So, to be fair, I carefully listened to the introduction and took notes and marked it all down. I've corrected and updated the original post, and this is now how it reads --
By the way, how silly has it gotten? This week, they changed the name to -- buckle your seatbelts -- "And now, it's the KUSC Summer Vacation Request for Out of School Students or Studentless Teachers or even Parents and Grandparents or to Celebrate a Birthday or Mark a Milestone or Highlight an Achievement or Just Share a Favorite to Kick Off a Summer Day." Really! I'm not exaggerating. I wrote it all down verbatim. That's how far they've jerry-rigged the concept to try and justify calling it "Off to School" when it has next to nothing about schools...!
Okay, just a brief personal bugaboo here.
Yesterday, I heard once again described on the news about how Trump has had no major legislative successes with the sole exception nominating Neil Gorsuch and getting him onto the Supreme Court.
Sorry, but I do not consider that a success for Trump. In fact, in some ways it bordered on a disaster. There's a notable factor that keeps getting left out of the telling.
Up to this nomination, Supreme Court nominees had to get 60 votes in the Senate. The reasoning generally was that for a lifetime appoint to the Supreme Court, it was important that a president couldn't just nominate an ideologue and ram the person through with majority party support. It was seen as being a position that required a certain consensus.
With Neil Gorsuch, however, it became clear that he would not get that consensus and wouldn't be able to reach that 60-vote threshold. And the Trump nomination would be rejected. So, for the first time in United States history, the Republican Senate changed standards -- perhaps forever -- and voted for the "Nuclear Option" to allow a Supreme Court nominee to only need 50 votes to get approved.
And even with that, even with changing the tradition of the United States Senate, Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch barely sneaked through. But ONLY because Republicans changed the rules.
This is not what I consider a legislative success. It was a victory, but it's a victory in much the same way that a team rests all its starters in the first half so that they'll be fresh to finish the game, and yet are only losing by three points at halftime -- when suddenly the opposing team decides that games shall henceforth only be 30 minutes, not an hour, and so they go into the record books as the winner. They won. It counts as a win. But it took changing the rules in a historic way never-before done to accomplish it.
It was a victory -- the same way it's a victory to get your determined opposition to agree to sign a contract by holding a gun to his head. You won. You just didn't convince anyone of the merits of your position, including yourself.
Trump got his Supreme Court nominee. But make no mistake: no matter what gets said, it was not a successful legislative tour-de-force that won the day. He could not and did not get his nominee by the rules that existed when the nomination was made. It was a back-alley blind mugging because they brought 51 guns to what had been agreed to be a fistfight.
This morning, the Huffington Post had an article by their Entertainment Editor Sara Boboltz about Betty White being accepted for membership into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes on the Oscars. From the headline and opening passage, I thought the article would be questioning the Academy's decision, deriding the action which is tenuous at best. Instead, Ms. Boboltz snarkily took them to task for taking so long to accept the beloved 95-year-old Betty White into its group after 72 years acting.
To be clear, I don't really care one way or the other if Betty White is in the Academy. Personally, I don't think she remotely deserves membership -- for reasons I'll explain -- but if they want to make her a member for any reason, it's their club. And it's a lovely tribute. So, fine, not a problem. What rubs me the wrong way is something else entirely. It's that not only was the author was so snippy about the Academy's supposed long delay and terrible oversight, but she's the "Entertainment Editor" and one would hope she would know better.
After all, here's how she ended the piece, chiding the organization for this seemingly egregious omission. "Apparently," she wrote, "the Academy has also used the opportunity to correct the decadeslong oversight that was not inviting Betty White to join its exclusive club. Be better, guys."
Worse, it was the silliness of her justification for why she believed Betty White long-deserved membership. (The correct answer, by the way, is -- "Betty White is a Hollywood icon, and it's just such a nice honor for them to have made.") What she wrote though to explain why this should have been done oh-so long ago and why the Academy has been oh-so thoughtless and male-based was --
"Aside from acting as a badge of honor for top figures in Hollywood, Academy members are given the esteemed privilege of choosing Oscar recipients. White has never been nominated for that award, but she has been nominated for four Golden Globes for her performance in “The Golden Girls” and 21 Emmy awards for various roles, five of which she won for her roles on shows including “The Golden Girls,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and others. She’s also got a Grammy. All of that, coupled with her standing as the legendary Betty White, makes her absence from the Academy membership a bit of a head-scratcher."
It is only a head-scratcher if you don't know what you're talking about.
Okay, here's the thing. Look at that list she re references. Pick out all the ones that are...well, y'know...MOVIES. Zero. None. Nada. The Emmys are TV. The Golden Globe awards were for TV. The Grammy is for audio recordings. There is absolutely nothing Ms. Boboltz pointed to that had anything to do with movies. And it's not terribly hard to figure out why that would be not just important, but 100% essential. After all, just check out the frigging name of the organization. It's the Academy of MOTION PICTURE Arts and Sciences. You can't miss it.
I thought Sara Boboltz was going to ask "Why now"? Why was Betty White given Motion Picture Academy admission now, when she hasn't even been in a movie in seven years? Or that she was going to point out that in 72 years of acting, Betty White has only been in around eight movies. And never starred in one, all small roles. I would challenge Ms. Boboltz -- or you -- to simply name three movies that Betty White has ever even been in.
Okay, she played the grandmother in The Proposal in 2009 with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and was great fun in it. Before that, the last major film Betty White was in was Advise & Consent. It was made in 1962, that's over half a century ago!
But pretty much the entirety of her career -- and yes, it's a legendary career -- is in TV. And the Motion Picture Academy is for motion pictures. Movies. Feature films.
But again, if the Motion Picture Academy wants to honor Betty White and have her as a member -- more power to them. Hey, who wouldn't want to have Betty White at their party? She's had a great TV career, been in a handful of movies and appears to be pretty much beloved. So, very nice for the Movie Academy if that's what they wanted. They figured out a way to admit her, which is their absolutely right, so swell. It was a nice thing to do.
But for the Entertainment Editor of the Huffington Post to take AMPAS to task in such a snide way, suggesting male bias and ageism for not having Betty White as a member -- that's utterly foolish. (She even brings in charges the Academy has faced of race bias.) That shows ignorance of what the organization actually is. It's really simple -- she's a TV actress. A wonderful TV actress. But AMPAS is for movies. One would hope that an Entertainment Editor would grasp this.
There's one unintentionally funny thing in Sara Boboltz's article that makes her snarky gaffe all the more pointed. She had a perfect set-up for a wonderful joke, but got caught up in trying to slam the AMPAS and totally missed what was sitting there on a silver platter in front of her. (Or silver-haired platter.) It comes in a passage where she is trying SO hard to bring out the organization's bias and writes -- "In recent years, as Oscar winners have continued to look a bit too white and male for many tastes..."
Arghhh! What a lost opportunity for a great quip to put everything in proper, whimsical perspective. But her blindness is making A Point (no matter how off-base) forced her to miss what was in front of her. Because what she could have written -- and I'll even go so far as to say what she should have written -- was --
"And now the Academy has decided to make themselves even more White. But in the best way possible."
It's been a while since we've had a "Comedy Against Trumpism" video from the Liberty TV consortium that began with The Netherlands, and other countries just glommed onto it. So, this time, we find if it should be America First -- Lithuania Second. Though as they point out, Lithuania isn't always good enough to come in second...
Yes, even Lithuania has gotten into the act. And Trump wanted to take action so that the world wouldn't laugh at us. Boy, did that train leave the station long ago...
Okay, I guess we might as well continue this thread to its logical conclusion. We started with a posting about a documentary on Frank Loesser. That brought about a video of a classic song that most people didn't know Frank Loesser wrote the lyrics for. And today?
Today, we have the song that Mel Brooks wrote for his 1974 film Blazing Saddles that parodied the Loesser number. Plus, a bonus.
The original song in question is "The Boys in the Backroom" which Marlene Dietrich sang in the movie Destry Rides Again, that had lyrics by Frank Loesser and music by Frederick Hollander. And Mel Brooks parodied it with his song, "I'm Tired," for which Madeline Kahn knocked down the room with her take-off on Marlene Dietrich.
And here's the bonus.
In 1986, Madeline Kahn recreated the number for Comic Relief. I have to believe that she watched and rewatched and then watched the movie again, because it's seriously impressive has spot-on she did the number a full dozen years later.
The video quality is lousy. But that's the only thing that isn't a hoot. And it's especially a joy watching her do the song with a theater audience because it means this time, she gets the very-deserved laughs.
Most analysts I'd seen and read have been saying that it would be disastrous for the TrumpCare bill if Republican senators went home over the 4th of July holiday to face constituents without having had a health vote. The longer the delay, they said, the more time there'd be to study the bill and have all its problems come to light...and have voters back home confront their senators.
Well - the vote is now officially pulled until after the 4th.
The GOP could only afford to have two senators vote against the bill, and it had been facing trouble when four Republican senators early on had said they weren't planning to support the bill in its current state -- though three of those seemed to be flexible. However, then the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (headed by a Republican) released its report which stated, among other issues, that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance under this TrumpCare bill. And another Republican senator said she would not support it -- bringing the number against now to seven, with two definites. (Dean Heller, who is seriously at-risk in his upcoming re-election campaign in Nevada, and moderate Susan Collins from Maine.) And four other Republican senators are on the fence, undecided.
And so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delayed the vote until after the holiday. Meaning senators will have to go home over the 4th of July to face constiuents without having had a health vote, and more time for problems with the bill to come to light. And the GOP not able to afford losing one more senator, while also changing the minds of five flexible votes that are already "No." And the four additional who have not yet voiced support.
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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