While searching for a specific song by John Prine that I wanted to post online, I came across another one that I want to post here. It's a 2016 performance he gave on Stephen Colbert's show, but it wasn't for broadcast, so most viewers likely haven't seen it. Colbert says it's just for the Internet -- a duet between between him and Prine of Prine's song, "That's the Way the World Goes Round."
I've always sensed that Colbert loves Prine's work because he has him on the show so often. And singing a duet with him confirms that. But what really sets my certainty is stone is a moment -- actually a couple moments, but one in particular -- that make this A Sure Thing. I'm not even going to give a heads-up when to watch so that you don't miss it. You won't miss it.
What I've wondered if Colbert just has a general appreciation of Prine which has come over time, or if it stems from when Colbert went to Northwestern University and then worked in Chicago at Second City. John Prine is such an icon there, part of the folk-god triumvirate in the city with Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc, and though their peak was before Colbert came to the area, the aura has lingered for decades, even to this day. In any event, wherever his love of John Prine's work comes from, it certainly shows here.
And as long as I'm at it, I may as well also post the song I had been looking for. My search came about because of seeing a tweet from Trump that had the American flag washing over everything, and I wanted to complement with Prine's great "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore."
For that, I tracked down his original recording of the song written in 1968. Here though I found a more appropriate version. It's live in concert (though audio only) from 2010, and he talks about writing the song about Viet Nam (when he was a mailman in Chicago), retiring the number, but bringing it back because of "the previous administration," which would be George W. Bush.
Today, the first Paul Manafort trial begins with jury selection. While there has been anticipation as to whether he would flip -- and wondering why he hasn't yet -- I've long believed that he won't, and for a reason I haven't heard discussed in the media. But finally yesterday, Nicolle Wallace hesitantly raised that same issue on her MSNBC show, and the former prosecutor she was talking with paused a moment, considered it and said in an almost-surprised voice, "Well...that's possible."
The reason I've felt that Manafort has held out from flipping thus far -- with two trials ahead and mounds of supporting material in his various indictments and his former partner Rick Gates having plead guilty and supplying evidence for the prosecution -- is not because he's expecting a pardon, but...he would rather face life in jail than the Russian mob.
Paul Manafort worked intimately in the Ukraine and with Russian oligarchs. He owes perhaps 10 million dollars to one, Oleg Deripaska. That debt is likely why he offered to run Trump's campaign for free, to get inside so he could pass along information and pay off what he owed.
It's my sense that Manafort is up to his ears with Russian oligarchs, which is the equivalence of being up to his ears to the Russian mob. And if he were to flip for a better deal, Robert Mueller would want something worth that in return, and pretty much all Manafort can offer of that value which would be information on the Russians.
It is probably reasonable to assume that the Russian mob doesn't like that sort of thing. And I'll make another leap -- that Paul Manafort knows this. He may have even been told it directly. And perhaps not only has his life been threatened, but more to the point so too those of his family. And if that's so, he won't flip. He'll go to prison for the rest of his life. It seems to me the only substantive reason why he is the only American under indictment who hasn't yet flipped and with so much from the prosecution pilling up against him.
Mind you, it's possible he simply thinks he can win at both trials and be completely vindicated. But he (or most anyone) doesn't strike me as that much a risk-taker or delusional. It's also possible that he's been promised a pardon by Trump. But I think anyone who's known Trump for as long as Manafort has knows that the one thing you don't rely on is a Trump promise about anything. So, that seems to pretty much leave "I'll take 'Threats from the Russian mob' for $1,000, Alex" as the only reasonable explanation.
Obviously, I could be totally wrong. Or wrong in part, he might flip tomorrow -- though still right about why he hasn't up to now. Of course, even if he does get convicted with a jail sentence of decades, Trump could pardon him, for all we know. So...who knows?
But -- if I was to enter an office pool, my bet would be on "Not flipping" and "Russian mob is the reason."
If I'm right, the good news is that I'd only have to split my winnings with Nicolle Wallace.
I've watched several made-for-Amazon Prime series, though not most of them. Perhaps five or so. I've enjoyed them all, to varying degrees. I quite liked the first season of Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton, from David Kelly (though have been warned off the new season.) Bosch is pretty good, and I've watched two seasons so far. I very much liked Mozart in the Jungle, although haven't felt compelled to watch the second season yet. Sort of, "Okay, I get it," but haven't yet cared enough to see where it's going. The weakest was Woody Allen's Crisis in Six Scenes -- though even that had some very good things about it, notably every scene with Woody Allen and Elaine May as his wife. Tremendous. As for the rest of the show, it was only six episodes, so it was quite watchable.
And then there's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
It lives up to its name. It's utterly marvelous. Absolutely great, the whole way through the first season. Not one of the eight episodes was a let down, and it ends the year on a proper note. It's so smartly written, joyously acted by the entire cast, and has impeccable production values that's much of the fun, 1950s New York with Broadway music flowing through the soundtrack. The show comes from Amy Sherman-Palladino, who created Gillmore Girls. I didn't watch that, so I can't compare the two. I can only rave about this one.
I'm not alone. It got a remarkable 14 Emmy nominations, including Best Comedy Series.
Though the full cast is excellent, a few people standout. At the top is Rachel Brosnahan in the title role. It's a difficult one to pull off, requiring deftness, and she handles it impeccably, playing an upbeat, young married mother whose husband decides he wants out of the marriage. She's thrown for a loop, yet pushes forward with her positive but now-slightly-pounded attitude. For reasons that make sense in the plot, she falls into the world of stand-up comedy, though the first season doesn't rely on that. The stories cover a range of plots, and she even gets a job in a department store as, step-by-step during the season, the comedy world slowly begins to develop. (The real-life character of Lenny Bruce even appears a few times in the series, played wonderfully by Luke Kirby.) But through it all -- dealing with her wandering husband, kids, comedy, the department store and deeply-caring but overly-protective parents who she lived above and is now forced to move in with -- Brosnahan manages it with a a seriously impressive touch. And got a highly-deserved Emmy nomination as Best Actress in a Comedy Series.
Alex Borstein is a hoot as a perpetually-crabby booker, Susie Myerson, who runs a low-end nightclub and sees something in Miriam Maisel, deciding to make the young women her first client as a personal manager. She too got an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. I can't do her character and performance justice by merely describing it. (Happy, I do have a video below, which should help...) I'll just note that to the character's everlasting annoyance but acceptance, people tend to confuse her at first with being a guy. But she has such a hilarious sardonic chip on her shoulder about pretty much everything that little in the world seems to concern her, other than her need to improve her life, which she does her best to hide. (One of my favorite moments requires its visual set up, but I'll just say that I recognized the opening chord of the Broadway song from Flower Drum Song as it began to play, though didn't know where they were going with it, as half a dozen well-groomed, attractive women were entering the department store -- and just as the peppy song hits the line, "I enjoy being a girl", Boorstein comes barreling in behind them.)
And finally, Tony Shaloub and Kevin Pollack are absolutely wonderful as the two fathers -- Shaloub as father of Miriam, and Pollack of her philandering husband Joel Maisel (well-played by Michael Zegen). Both fathers are terrific, in their like-annoyed relationship with each other, but Shaloub especially stands out and got an Emmy nomination for it, as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
Oddly, there aren't many clips from the show. And no single one gives the right impression of the show. So, I'm going to post three here.
The first is "Midge" Mainsel coming home -- now living with her parents -- late at night.
And here you get to see Alex Boorstein doing her stuff, as Susie and "Midge" try to figure out what kind of on-stage personality she should have and what her act should be.
And finally, here are Shaloub and Pollack coming to terms about partnering in order to buy their kids' apartment, keeping it available in hopes that they'll get together. Just know that in an earlier scene, Shaloub explained to his family how Pollack's story about World War II drives him nuts and that he had to pay for temple seats on the High Holiday which Pollack thinks they split.
Thanks to a bizarre, inexplicable ruling by the State Department, it will be possible starting tomorrow for anyone with access to an industrial quality 3-D printer -- terrorist, domestic abuser, anyone -- to download a file and make an untraceable plastic gun, unless there is a change in policy before tomorrow.
No, right now, this can't be done by anyone with just any home 3-D printer. But those 'ghost guns" that can be made can be accessible to anyone. And as technology changes it is not unreasonable to foresee home 3-D printers having the capability.
This editorial from the Washington Post does an excellent job here explaining the situation. It's titled, "3-D-printed guns put carnage a click away."
I've never been a particular admirer of Meghan McCain. Yes, within today's GOP she seems not insane -- but that's quite the low standard. And also she came on the scene well-before today. From the first, she struck me as a bit more even-handed and moderate than the core of the Republican Party, though significantly more conservative than her reputation, given. Given how far-right and unbending the core of the Republican Party is, seeming reasonable can be as much optical illusion as reality. Indeed, from the earliest days, she also didn't strike as great a thinker as she came across to many. I think the disconnect was that so many Republicans fell into the "dittohead" category, of repeating unquestioning what they heard from party leaders, and occasionally she'd instead add some independent thought. But having "some" independent thought does not make one a Great Thinker. It just means you beat the very-easy-to-beat curve.
It reminds me of a comment from playwright and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner who said that when fixing a problem for a show in trouble out of town, the risk is convincing yourself that you made it good, when all you may have really done is make it less bad. When hearing some of Meghhan McCain's reasonable thoughts, the risk is that you think she's good, when all she is is less bad.
But she's the daughter of a generally admired (though flawed) U.S. senator, she occasionally is thoughtful, and she's pert. So, she has a platform. And was given a spot on the panel of The View. (Though considering that the show's standard for political insight to be a co-host includes competing on a fake-reality game show, the bar isn't especially high.)
I compare her to another daughter of a political figure who ran for president -- two parents, in fact, one winning -- Chelsea Clinton. She has two Masters degrees from Oxford and Columbia, the latter in Public Health, and a PhD in international relations from Oxford, writing a 700-page dissertation. That alone doesn't make her Right and Special, but it certainly does suggest she hasn't relied on name recognition alone and has trained to be knowledgeable in a vast range of politics.
I don't watch the The View, but once in a while come across videos or articles about discussions. And they tend to confirm my opinion of Meghan McCain. She periodically says something even-handed (just today, she again solidified her "See! She's actually reasonable" bona fides by taking the strong and deeply-controversial position, contrary to the loons on the GOP far-right base, that she is okay with the Obamas dancing at a Beyoncé concert) and occasionally providing insight, but too often seems put off by liberal thought, petulant and bewildered by how life works.
(For instance, the other day after a discussion began about Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she went on a rant about how she didn't want a country of socialism. Except the program is that a) neither of them are socialists. They're Social Democrats which is totally different, it's pushing social programs in a democratic foundation, and b) we actually have tons of "socialism" programs in the country already -- like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, national funding for education, public housing, the Affordable Health Care Act, and much more.)
Last week, I saw some discussion of Ms. McCain that concerned her as seemingly having referred to Hillary Clinton in some way as "Crooked Hillary." I didn't know what what was being discussed, so I let it slide, because I figured it was some off-handed, silly but meaningless remark. Then I belatedly came across the video in question.
I find it reprehensible, and it discredits her fully.
To me, this has pushed Meghan McCain into the category of unacceptable as a thinking, thoughtful analyst. That she may occasionally say something thoughtful, like coming out in favor of former presidents dancing, is pointless. We're ALL supposed to say things that are thoughtful, and do it more than occasionally. But when one adds into their portfolio all the empty, bewildered things she also says...AND includes something as mindlessly egregious as this, taking on the demagoguery of a fascist leader, you've crossed the line. You've discredited yourself.
One can "hate" someone without them being "crooked." Without them needing to be locked up, which is the whole point behind the childish Trumpian nickname. I hated the politics of George W. Bush, but never once thought he was a criminal, nor someone who should be in prison. That Meghan McCain says she calls Hillary Clinton by the Trump name of "Crooked Hillary" (a despicable and damaging phrase to all political discourse) purely because "It really worked during the elections" is pathetic and shame on The View for having an empty, divisive analyst such as this.
I should add that this is the same Meghan McCain who only last month bemoaned the state of civility in America today. Showing that we can add "disingenuous" to the list of her qualities when trying to appear thoughtful.
By the way, I know a reasonable reaction can be how mortified her father would be by her words because John McCain has great and admirable class. But not only is this not about John McCain, neither should there be a false narrative created to define it. Yes, Sen. McCain does have class. But even he hasn't used it all the time. (Back in 1998, for one instance, he told this "joke" to high-end Republican donors -- "Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." And while he did apologize at the time, he only apologized to Bill Clinton, not to Chelsea, Hillary or Janet Reno. He may have done so in later years, but I don't know, I couldn't find a record of that, though in fairness I didn't look so hard.) That said, the way I'd put it more properly is that my sense is John McCain will sometimes show bad judgement -- and sometimes horrible judgement, like selecting Sarah Palin to potentially be a heart-beat from the presidency -- but he wouldn't make such an intentionally fractious and hateful remark purely because "It really worked in during the elections."
But what John McCain would do or wouldn't, and how he'd feel about it all is moot. This is about Meghan McCain, and what she says and feels and believes.
Meghan McCain has passed her Use By date for me. She probably has it in her to make up for it -- she's not an "evil" or bad person, just a surface, plain, profoundly ordinary and often empty one -- but it's a long slog uphill, and I don't see her making that effort.
Host Peter Sagal's guest contestant on the 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR game show, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is James Comey. Yes, that James Comey. The interview is a lot of fun, particularly because many of the panelists are bursting with questions of their own and jump in. But it's when they get to the game that things kick into high gear. At one point -- I'll just say at some point past the 7-minute mark -- Comey makes a quip that probably gets the biggest laugh I've heard on the show. And that alone would have made the segment worth it. But it keeps going, because later Peter Sagal adds a twist that almost tops it. The twist also explains why earlier Sagal doesn't help out with any of the other questions, which he often does, because he clearly wanted to get to this point. Sorry for being cryptic, but I don't want to give anything away.
3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast from the Writers Guild of America, hits 100 today. This is their 100th podcast, and in honor of the occasion, the good folks there do what any top notch series does -- they have a clip show! And so, we have a "favorites" episode. So here, for the next hour-and-a-half (or thereabouts) we have a Best of show with the hosts' favorite moments interviewing TV and screenwriters writers. (They don't do a great job identifying Who's Who all the time, but enough of it is clear -- and the productions they're talking about is certainly clear -- and ultimately, it's the conversation that counts.)
The contestant this week is Beth Everett from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. I got the hidden song right away, though it's a bit disjointed. (To my surprise, the contestant has some trouble with it the first time around, perhaps it's that "disjointed" nature.) As for the composer style, I thought I knew it pretty quickly -- and I did. So, that means I actually got both the hidden song AND the composer style correct! Huzzah!
In all the years that the PBS show American Masters has been on the air, they have never featured a male athlete. They've had a couple of women athletes -- both tennis players, Althea Gibson and Billie Jean King. But zero men in sports. That finally changed on this past Monday. That's when they aired, "Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived."
It was wonderful.
Clearly it will be of more interest to people who follow baseball. But keep in mind, this is American Masters, they understand what they're doing. They're presenting stories about people, their lives and why they were so important to American culture. So, I think there's a great deal here of interest to people who aren't baseball fans. But yes, certainly, it will be particularly impactful if you are.
Ted Williams (who had numerous nicknames -- (Teddy Ballgame, The Kid and The Splendid Splinter, among them) was a fascinating person -- indeed between him and Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest hitter ever in baseball. And for all his amazing career statistics, he lost five years to the sport fighting in World War II and then the Korean War. In many ways he was profoundly independent, almost a loner -- which suited him perfectly as a world-class fisherman -- who was a prima donna and carried long grudges, but also with a fascinating, warm personal side within his circle. (A great story is when he was actively fundraising for a charity and a former ballplayer kept putting off his pushy requests until finally telling Williams, "I'm all tapped out." Yet Williams didn't give up and got the guy to send $10 to him for the charity. Then, getting the check, he marked down the bank code number, tracked down the account and put $1,000 in it.)
I found out about the show last week, when the inveterate Chris Dunn sent me an article about some remarkable footage that was found of Williams' famous last game. That was when he hit a home run in his last-ever at bat. Black-and-white footage exists of the at bat, but it turned out that a young man (at the time) took a color home movie of the entire game, and it sat in his attack for 50 years. He finally tried to interest people in it, but could get nowhere. Finally, he found out about this American Masters documentary, and asked the filmmaker if he was interested in it -- just a day or two before he "locked" the film. The footage is crisp and in great condition.
PBS doesn't make its shows available for On Demand. But they do post them online for a while -- maybe a month or so. And therefore I'm able to embed the hour-long program below. At some point, it will expire, but for now, here 'tis --
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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