From the archives, this week's contestant is Andy Zerman from New York, NY. I was pleased, and a bit surprised that I got the composer whose style the song is written in. But I was stumped -- utterly stumped by the hidden song. No clue. Oddly, I thought it might be one of those 'trick songs' that pianist Bruce Adolphe sometimes does, where the song isn't a popular song, but something from the classical world. It wasn't that, but it turns out I had a good reason to think that. (I shall say no more.) Even when he slowed down the song and highlighted it, I didn't know. Only when I started at the main theme and focused on that did I guess it. That one theme, when you know what to listen for, is extremely clear. But the rest is very well hidden. Nice piece, though...
With the Women's World Cup closing in on its finals, and the U.S. women just having a significant upset victory of host-country France, this seemed an appropriate time to post this. Because of a rain delay during a baseball game the other day, ESPN re-ran a documentary made six years ago about the 1999 women’s soccer team that won the World Cup Championship. It was absolutely wonderful – really well-done and unique. What made it so special is that one of the players -- Julie Foudy -- had a video camera and filmed all the time behind-the-scenes, and they used all that. Plus, they got many of the players together to site around on the Rose Bowl field to talk about it with great insight, humor and affection, and that may have been the best part.
This comes from the ESPN documentary series, Nine on IX," nine documentaries named after.Title IX, the law that helped provide federal funding for, among other things, women's sports in schools.
The guest contestant for the 'Not My Job' segment of this week's NPR quiz show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is actress Olivia Wilde. She is very lively and upbeat, as host Peter Sagal talk with her about her new film, Booksmart, for which she made her feature film directing debut
"Fake news...You don't have that problem here." That's what Trump quipped to Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Well, no, Putin doesn't have that problem. That's because if Putin doesn't like a journalist, he just has them killed. Not theoretically or hyperbolically, but literally killed. Dead. There have been 26 journalists who have disappeared without a trace during Putin's time in office.
What else did Trump "joke" to the brutal Putin about journalists?
"Get rid of them," he quipped.
As it happens, no, that isn't a joke. But an accurate description of what Putin does. As Trump ha-ha-ha--ha laughed about it.
And here's an addendum to make this SO much more Trumpian -- yesterday, the day Trump was "joking" about getting rid of journalists -- was the anniversary of when five journalists were killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, the deadliest mass-murder of journalists in the United States.
And to add to all this, Trump's "jokes" about Russia not having problems with journalists and just getting rid of them comes days before he sits down to meet with Mohammad bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who had an American resident journalist kidnapped, tortured, killed and dismembered.
And Trump will be honoring this cruel, murderous despot with the great respect of an official meeting. On the heels of joking with the cruel, murderous despot of Russia about getting rid of journalists.
Perhaps they're all going over how-to tips.
And all in the midst of Trump actually snarking with Putin who smirks back (most likely thinking, "What an idiot dupe this Russian asset is") about not meddling during the upcoming U.S. elections. For the record, Russia didn't "meddle" with the U.S. elections, it attacked the United States.
The only good thing about Trump's election "quips" with Putin is that it provided a 10-second clip that Democrats should and likely will be playing over and over and over during the coming election.
Here's a preview --
A few weeks back, I wrote a rave review about a great documentary, Maiden, about the first-ever, all-female crew for the Whitbread, a 32,000-mile around-the-world sailing race in 1989, which you can read here. As I wrote, in brief, the documentary surprisingly was extremely exciting for a film about sailing, and equally-surprisingly was often deeply emotional.
The Los Angeles Times main film critic Kenneth Turan reviewed the film on Wednesday. How big a glowing rave is it? Let's just say -- I tries nots to steer you wrong. He begins this way: "Maiden tells a mighty tale about the majesty of the human spirit and the power of women, and it’s all true." And it goes from there.
Here are two, extended passages. The first --
No matter what your expectations, this heartening doc about disregarding skeptics and moving ahead has the ways and means to take you by surprise, thrill you and make you cry.
And the review ends with this --
As if more complications were needed, Edwards, 26 when the race began, confesses to self-destructive insecurities, doubts and fears that led to conflicts with crew members, including a last-minute confrontation that made her so angry with one woman “I wanted to rip her throat out.”
You can read the full review here.
I tries nots to steer you wrong.
Here's a brief, 4-minute interview with Tracy Edwards, the skipper who was the driving force putting together the team, and Alex Holmes who directed the film -- which he got the idea to make after attending a speech by Edwards at his young daughter's school.
By the way, one of the things I referenced in my original article was that the documentary leaps out because they had SO much footage aboard the boat -- along with great archival footage of Tracy Edwards' life before she got into sailing. In an L.A. Times article by Susan King that I read, it explained more in detail how this came about.
Director Holmes said that he initially envisioned the project as a narrative film, because it never occurred to him that there would be footage of the race. It was only after Tracy Edwards told him that they actually did have cameras on board that he realized it might be possible to make as a documentary.
Edwards herself fills in the holes how that surprising reality came about --.
"The Royal Naval Sailing Association, which was our race committee, had this quite revolutionary idea to film stuff. It was all very exciting. All the other boats were going 'No, no no — we’re too busy racing; we’re too serious to take cameras on board.'
"We said, 'We’ll take them.' We did feel that we wanted to, whatever happened, capture this for posterity. I think we were probably the only boat with two cameras because Jo, as the cook, said, 'I am not doing the watch, so I’ll do the filming.' And we put a camera on the mast as well. If you heard 'All hands on deck,' the job of the last person out was to hit the panic button and that would start the filming. So that’s how we got footage in extreme conditions."
For the same reasons I said yesterday, I don't think that there were any winners or losers in this second night of the initial 2-part debate among Democrats, because it's much, much too early for any of it to matter. And also because this wasn't really a debate, but a multiple-choice questionnaire. So, there wasn't anything to "win," but just score well on your test. Even the various blunt exchanges -- most notably between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden -- will have lessened impact at this point in the long journey to the convention. I won't repeat all the reasons for this that I wrote earlier, but you can see that piece here.
Yes, I know that most commentary says that Kamala Harris "won." But as I said above, I just have a different perception of what took place. It just wasn't a debate. People simply got questions -- a year before the final exam. Everyone, within a wide framework, passed the test without a failing grade. But there were definitely people who did better than others, and worse.
But yes, I thought Kamala Harris did well. Bernie Sanders did fine, though his anger (while understandable) is sticking out a bit much. Michael Bennet did fine in his answers, but in the Big Gaggle of 10 candidates blended in a bit too much. Kristin Gillibrand did fine, too, though kept interrupting and talking over others -- I understand why one would do that, but it risks coming across as more desperate than aggressive. Pete Buttigieg did okay, though not at his best. Eric Swalwell did fine, although I don't think broke through any new ground. But even Joe Biden did fine -- except for his responses to Kamala Harris, especially considering he had a week to prepare a reply to what he had to know was going to be asked. He did not come across well in that.
Quick side note: How difficult would it have been for Joe Biden to have answered Kamala Harris's olive branch question about at least acknowledging that his position long ago against busing to have been: "I have spent a career fighting for civil rights and I believe am well-respected for it. At the time, for reasons I've explained, I thought my position was the proper one, for busing to be a local issue which I supported. But over a long period of time, as my views on busing have evolved it is clearly not a position I would take today, and for that reason I do regret it."
Back to the others on the gaggle. Among those who did less-well, I thought John Hickenlooper was just fair. Andrew Yang was a non-entity. And Marianne Williamson was banal, though transitioned into silly with her final "We'll beat Trump with love" final statement. Yet none of them "lost," since they really don't have very far to drop.
Overall, I thought the strength of the debate was that there was more invoking Trump and criticizing him. The weakness was the efforts to get their voices in and talking over one another. (Kamala Harris did well addressing that.)
Another weakness is the party's general response to charges of Democrats being "socialists" -- a charge of Republicans for over half a century. They dance around it politely and need to be blunt. They need to make two points:
1) People who try to push the claim that Democrats are "socialists" are ignorant of what socialism is. It is not about the government helping the public and providing safety nets. Socialism is a political philosophy where, as its foundation, the government literally owns all industry and business. No Democrat has ever promoted that.
2) The American public has long-accepted and overwhelmingly supports policies that are socialistic because they provide critical safety nets for society -- Social Security, Medicare, public education, farm and oil industry subsidies, the police department, the fire department, federal deposit insurance, the military. Those are all socialistic at their core and widely supported by Republicans and Democrats alike as central to democracy and capitalism.
Ultimately, I don't think this first two-part debate-like event accomplished much because it was SO early. This isn't to say Kamala Harris wasn't helped by it -- she was. Just that for whatever she gained, it was still too early to be as substantive as this would be if it came in six months when the convention is closer and there is a more focused collection of candidates left.
And in the end, that's my biggest takeaway. It's not that I dislike there are so many candidates -- that's life, if people want to run and qualified for the debate stage, more power to them -- but that there are so many candidates who really have no business being in a race to be President of the United State. This election is profoundly serious, and whether or not I like someone, I'm really bothered that Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang, and Tulsi Gabard are on an Ego Tour taking up valuable air time that would otherwise be used to hear from the people who may actually, seriously take on Trump -- but also John Delaney Bill DeBlasio, Tim Ryan and a few others. I may even include Julian Castro, as well as he did last night, but is polling at 0.8 percent. For some of them, I suspect they're running to raise their profile enough to be on the ticket as Vice President. And while that's understandable, I think that when you only poll at 0.8 percent that isn't a great calling card.
As I've posted in the past, the Chicago Cubs have had a tradition for about 20 years where they invite to the ballpark "guest conductors" to lead the crowd in the 7th inning stretch singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The singing usually ends with the guest conductor imploring the team to "Let's-get-some-ruuuuns!!!!!!!'
Today's guest left a tweet in anticipation of the occasion --
It's the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, so that clearly had most to do with Cookie Monster being there.
Here's the event itself. (For the record, the "Gary" who Cookie Monster refers to at the beginning is longtime organist Gary Pressy.)
On final note: The video cuts off a few seconds before it should have. (In fact, all but one video that I was able to track down online cut off too early. Cookie Monster adds something but it's said almost as an afterthought quietly, and I think most people missed it. I thought of embedding that one video, but the sound quality is bad.) However, I was watching the game live, and saw the Stretch as it happened. After Cookie Monster calls out to the crowd to "Let's-get-some....COOOOK-IESSS!!!!!", what you don't see in the video is that a moment later he quietly then says, almost as a second thought -- "...And some runs, too."
Last night, the Democrats held Part One of their two-day First Debate. My comments will be reasonably curt because that's all I think it deserves. I know MSNBC gave it A LOT of hype for the past couple weeks, but in large part that's because they were hosting it. Beforehand, a friend gave me his thoughts on what candidates would have to do be be winners and losers. I said I thought it would be unlikely that there'd be winners and losers. It was simply much too early. Too early for many people to watch and care deeply enough to make someone a winner or loser -- and too early for someone to to do something SO big or SO awful that they'd be a winner or loser.
For someone to be a winner, they'd have to do something so major the whole evening as to swamp everyone -- but with only about 10 minutes at most for each candidate, that would be hard to do. And for someone to be a loser, there simply wasn't enough room for those at the bottom with 1% to drop. And for anyone near the top, there's plenty of time to make it up.
I think at this point, people will drop out when they simply don't have enough money to keep running or find it much too pointless. Not because they did badly at the debate. Doing badly at the debate when you're around 1 percent isn't going to convince you to drop out -- you're only at one percent already, for goodness sake. And if you're at the top tier and do badly,
To be clear, I do think candidates can do well, which would be helpful, and other candidates who have poor nights and don't do themselves any good. And such was the case last night.
For my taste, I thought Amy Klobuchar did well. And Elizabeth Warren did, fine, too. Also, Julian Castro was okay, along with Cory Booker. Jay Inslee did reasonably well, except he barely touched on what is virtually the entirety of his campaign, the environment and Climate Change. The foundation of his argument is that the issue impacts all issues -- and he never mentioned. As for the rest, no one really did bad enough to hurt themselves, though I think Tim Ryan came close, most notably on the question of fighting the Taliban who he claimed attacked us on 9/11, when it was, in fact, al-Qaeda.
Afterwards, I listened to some of the post-debate analysis on MSNBC, and the only poor comment I heard came from Nicolle Wallace. She fretted that when you run against an incumbent president, you have to frame the race as a referendum on them, and she noted that last night the candidates rarely even mentioned on Trump. She said that it was almost as if they were running scared, and if they do that, they risk losing in 2020.
The problem with her analysis is that right now the Democrats are not running against Trump. They're running against one another, trying to get the nomination. Trying to convince the Democratic voters why they're the best candidate. And as so often been said -- including during the debate -- if Democrats only talk about Trump and impeachment, they risk alienating voters who care about issues like health care, the economy, war and immigration. Once someone gets the nomination and becomes The Candidate, then everything changes. Happily, Eugene Robinson chimed in and said precisely what I was thinking -- "When we have the two party's nominees, trust me, we will hear plenty about this being a referendum on Donald Trump."
Tonight conceivably could be slightly difference since, because of the luck of the draw, more of the top-tier candidates will be on the debate stage together, so there could be more attempts to position themselves. We'll see. But whatever happens, the core reality remains -- there will be hard to be a winner and loser. Though some will likely do themselves some good, and others perhaps a touch of harm.
There is an excellent commentary on Salon/Raw Story by Heather Digby Parton which has nice things to say about Republican NeverTrumpers, but politely tells them to knock off lecturing Democrats on how to beat Trump. As she notes, not only could Republicans not beat him within their own party – but she brings up a remarkable statistic: Democrats have only lost the popular vote once in 31 years! And she adds that two electoral wins by the GOP during that period are highly “suspect.”
You can read the piece here.
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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