This week's contestant is a nervous Tony Villecco from New York, NY. It's a charming little piece, and the song should be completely gettable. I also was able to correctly guess the composer, so that strikes me as meaning that it's quite solvable, as well.
It has come to my attention, after getting around to check my Amazon Affiliates report, that some fine and kindly people here have actually bought products on Amazon after first clicking the Amazon link to the right (or on the main Elisberg Industries page).
To explain, for those who missed the seminar, people who click those those links get taken directly to Amazon, the same as if they'd gone there directly, and anything they purchase during that session allows for a very small commission to be returned to this website. So...thank you. Much.
I would especially like to thank the person who bought the deluxe cabin cruiser. I only wish you hadn't had second thoughts about getting the boat and then returned it. To anyone wondering, yes, the stipend has to be returned...
One of the iconic film performances of the early 1960s was Melina Mercouri's Academy-nominated role of the good-hearted prostitute Illya, in Never On Sunday. (Arguably even more popular than the film, which was successful, was the title song which became a huge hit.)
In 1968, the move got adapted into a Broadway musical, renamed Illya Darling. Totally unlike most musicals adapted from movies (if not all...), the stage show got major attention because Melina Mercouri re-created her starring role. (As I noted in an earlier post, Anthony Quinn also re-created his famous role of Zorba, in the stage musical version of Kander and Ebb's musical version, but that was for the revival, so I draw a slight difference. Oddly, both for were for Greek-related stories. The only other case I'm aware of is Julie Andrews doing both the film and stage musical versions of Victor, Victoria. There may be others, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment. And Mercouri, as far as I know, was the first.)
The stage show for Illya Darling was also directed by the 1960 film's director, Jules Dassin. And the music was by Manos Hadjidakis, who had written the score to the film -- something which had the added benefit of the stage show being able to incorporate the famous title song into it. The lyrics were by Joe Darion, who was most famous for having written Man of La Mancha three years earlier.
Illya Darling didn't get especially good reviews, but had a respectable run of 320 performance, clearly on the strength of Mercouri's performance.
Here are 8-1/2 minutes from the show, from an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. It's sort of an odd choice. For the first half of it, Melina Mercouri -- pretty much the reason people went to see the show -- does literally nothing but sit and watch others dance and sing around her. Then she does at last get to perform -- but it's to dance only, no singing. (Having heard the cast album, she's not the strongest singer, but she carries her songs well). Finally, when they break into that famous title song, she does at last sing, which they save for around the seven-minute mark. Still, it's a quite entertaining clip and wonderful piece of history -- even if it was an offbeat way to promote the show.
My friend Mick Garris, who I've written about often here, is an accomplished writer and director. Most of his work has been in the field of horror (in fact, he's in several SciFi and Horror Hall of Fames), though not all. He wrote and directed a Disney Sunday Movie, Fuzzbucket, and director a very good courtroom drama for NBC that starred Chris Noth.
But mainly it's been horror, with a lot of collaborations with Stephen King, most notably directing the ABC mini-series of The Stand and that network's TV remake of The Shining. Most recently, he directed Pierce Brosnan in the four-hour A&E mini-series of Stephen King's book, Bag of Bones. He also created the Showtimes series, Master of Horror.
(And perhaps his most proud "credit" is being the son-in-law of Louis Zamperini, the subject of the massive best-seller, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, and upcoming feature film, for which Mick serves as executive producer and which is being released this Christmas.)
But he's also been an accomplished interviewer for years. And by years, I mean going back as far as when there was the Z Channel (anyone remember them?!) and lots in between, up to now when he's been host of the show, Post Mortem, on the SyFy Channel.
I mention this all because Mick has now started up a Facebook page which has links to many of his favorite video interviews. It includes pieces with the legendary Roger Corman (from 1979), John Badham (director of War Games, among others), John Carpenter, Joe Dante (of Gremlins) and many others. As well as some other enjoyable tidbits, like a behind-the-scenes documentary Mick himself did about the making of Gremlins.
If such things interest you, here's the link.
It was a quiet week, and as the summer archives continue. Powerful storms roll into Lake Wobegon, Luanne Peterson copes with the arrival of a new patient in the pediatric intensive care unit, and a story to comfort Luanne when she breaks down under an overpass during the storm, in a monologue from June 2012.
Today, gourmands, we are talking about cream cheese. The question that often comes up when the subj...
Wait, hold on. Cream cheese?? Yes, you read that correctly -- cream cheese.
The other day, I was at my local Ralphs grocery store (not to be confused with Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery on the News from Lake Wobegon, a point Garrison Keillor often jokes about when he brings A Prairie Home Companion to Los Angeles) and wandering through the deli section came across what looked like a new product. It was a Kroger house brand called “Greek cream cheese & Greek yogurt”.
I don't get cream cheese all that often -- in part because it's high in fat and in part because...well, unless you've got you some lox, it's pretty bland. When I do need cream cheese on occasion, I'll generally get non-fat cream cheese, and the best brands like Knudsen are passable, though they all tend to be a bit gummy (and lesser brands can be chalky). Low-fat cream cheese is tasty, though not terribly low-fat. (As you may have noticed at this point, I try to eat low-fat.) I decided to buy a package of the Kroger Greek because I was intrigued -- I know that Greek yogurt has a slightly thicker texture and richer flavor. And because this said it was lower fat, although not seemingly as low as low-fat cream cheese. And it was also on sale, which...okay, that helped, too…
A couple things, one of which is odd.
The fist thing, which is non-odd, is that It tastes almost exactly like cream cheese, but is less bland, seeming to have a little richer flavor, and has a slightly thicker texture (though not much).
But the odd thing is that, as you can see from the package above, it says that the product is "Half the fat of cream cheese” – but it’s not. It’s actually better than that. It’s actually less than one-third of the fat! I checked packages of cream cheese in the case which all said 10 grams of fat. Light cream cheeses were 4.5 grams of fat. And this is only 3 grams of fat. Why on earth they “under-promote” themselves, I have no idea. My best guess is perhaps studies show that people will think it won’t taste good if it’s too “low fat.” Or maybe they can’t do the math.
The very low-fat is a big deal for me personally. But the operative issue for most people is point #1 -- it tastes very good. I don't mean "very good" compared to lower-fat cream cheeses. I mean, very good for cream cheese, period. At the very least, it tastes and has the texture almost exactly like whole milk cream cheese. The only reason I say "almost" is because...I think the little difference tastes better. It's cream cheese with a slight richness. At a third the fat. (And 60 calories, compared to 100 for regular, and 70 for low-fat.).
I read online that the product is now in 2,400 stores nationwide. Whether that true or not is only for the Food Gods to know. But if there's a Kroger near you -- or a chain owned by the Kroger company, like Ralphs -- it's worth checking out for the cream cheese lovers among you. Me, I've found myself even spreading it on crackers occasionally for a snack. Since it actually has a slight flavor.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled bagel.
So, you'll recall all the way back to yesterday how I wrote about that the beloved Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series in 108 years, but under new management they've been rebuilding their minor league system and have what is being called the "core four" -- four highly-touted prospects they hope to bring up to the major leagues soon.
At the end of the season, most teams will promote some of their prospects for the last remaining weeks, and on Wednesday the Cubs started one of those "core four" for the first time, 22-year-old Jorge Soler -- who in his very first at bat in the major leagues hit a home run.
Last night on Friday was his third game. And his first against the Cubs' longtime historic rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. And so, it's only proper that two is the number.
No, no, I don't mean he hit his second home run. I mean -- last night, he hit two more. He now has a total of three home runs. (He also went 3-3. So, he's now got 7 hits in his first 11 at bats. That's an average of .636.)
No, it's not going to keep being "this easy." It's not even going to be easy. In baseball, if you get out seven times out of ten, and hit .300, you'll end up in the Hall of Fame. You don't hit .636. This is three games. He's just 22 and only has a paltry 500 at bats of experience. (Teams like a player to have at least 1,000.) The dust bin of baseball is filled with hot prospects who started off spectacularly and them plummeted. Eventually, major league pitchers adjust, and find the young player's weak spots. It's what they do with all rookies. And then it's up to the batter to fix whatever isn't working and adjust.
But this is sure a good way to start. Especially when your team hasn't won in 108 years.
There is no truth that when God created the concept of hope, He also created the Chicago Cubs. But research shows that He began thinking about them then...
And so, here's to hope.
This is one off those videos that qualifies under the heading of "This is a treat."
Apparently -- and I only have his word to take for it, but it seems reasonable -- Fred Astaire had never danced at an Oscar ceremony. (In fact, until 1975 he's never even been nominated for an Oscar.) But in 1970, Fred Astaire walked out onstage with Bob Hope -- appropriately, as an inside joke the audience was yet to be aware of, to the song, "I Won't Dance" -- to present the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. After, as Oscar presenters are wont to do, Astaire and Hope began to quip about how Fred Astaire had never danced at the Academy Awards before. And in a few moments, at the age of 71, and to the utter delight of the theater (and no doubt those at home), that was about to change.
To offer a slight digression, I actually had the opportunity to meet Fred Astaire. And quite appropriately for our purposes here -- and memorably for me -- it was at the Academy Awards. In fact, all the better, it was at those very aforementioned 1975 Oscars when Fred Astaire was nominated for the first time, as Best Supporting Actor for The Towering Inferno. (How I get to the ceremony is too long and bizarre a story. The short version is that I was a kid, and a friend basically said, "You're a movie guy, you could get tickets to the Oscars." And so, I called up -- and got tickets to the Oscars.)
Anyway, as I think I've mentioned around here, I'm not much on getting autographs, especially just for the sake of it. But when there's a special reason for which an autograph carries meaning, I'll make an exception. And I figured that an autograph from Fred Astaire, on the official program for the Academy Awards, the year that he was nominated for his first ever -- and only -- Oscar...was a pretty valid "special reason."
There. Proof. I'm not a-lying to you.
I can't tell you what in the world we talked about. My recollection is that it was along the lines of something substantive, "Hello, Mr. Astaire, may I please have your autograph?" "Yes." "Thank you, I really enjoy your work." "Thank you."
It's the sort of witty repartee that George Bernard Shaw was so well-known for.
Anyway, here's the video. It's all sort of enjoyable to watch from a historical standpoint. But if you want to get just to the dancing, you can skip to the 2:21 mark.
Apparently, he will dance. Joyously. No matter how exhausted it might make him. But after all, the show must go on.
And you know, I really do enjoy his work.
There's a wonderful and valuable article on CNET by Lexy Savvides about how to protect yourself when using a free WiFi hotspot. You might think you're pretty careful, but some of the tips make so much sense for things you might not have considered. Take the very first one, for example.
Before using a Free Wi-Fi in a a coffee shop, or library or wherever...ask the staff the name of the network to verify it. As Savvides points out -- it's easy from someone nearby to create a fake network called "Free Wi-Fi" -- or even one that says "Starbucks" in the name, and hijack your account when you log in.
Some of the suggestions are a bit convoluted, and more than most people will likely do. But one -- which takes a couple of steps -- is still very easy and a huge safety net. In Windows, go into your Control Panel and turn off "File Sharing." That way, if you are hijacked, your files can't be accessed. Then you turn it back on after you log off. (The article shows you how to easily do this, and what to do with an Apple device.)
You can read the whole article here.
Sometimes when you're crazed, you don't realize how crazed you are. Welcome to the world of the gun corporation-owned NRA, the outlier fringe terrorist group.
I refer to them as terrorists because one of things the NRA does is what pretty much any self-respecting terrorist group does -- try to increase their reach by creating a sense of irrational fear and hatred of others who they paint as hated threats by focusing on the use of violence.
And so they were at it again. Less than 48 hours after a nine-year-old little girl accidentally killed the instructor who was teaching her at the gun club how to use an Uzi -- yes, really, an Uzi -- the gun corporation-owned NRA sent out a tweet about all the great fun that the kiddies can have at the shooting range.
I mean, seriously, how tone deaf can one get? Not just the message itself, but look at the Twitter account name used for posting this. "@TeamWON." Yes, it's quite a victory they're trying to convince us to celebrate. And anyone who thinks this tweet was just a coincidence when it was posted, rather than yet another intentional attempt to regain the public platform after a potentially damaging tragedy is ghastly kidding themselves. This is what the gun corporation-owned NRA does.
Great fun, indeed. Well, okay, perhaps not so much for instructors, but at least for the kiddies, as long as you don't count a lifetime of nightmares and therapy.
To the credit of "NRA Women," they took down the tweet without explanation. Not that any explanation was needed. I suspect "Are you serious??!! This makes US look like heartless assholes" was thrown around a lot. I also suspect some of the NRA Women also started to shout, "Over my dead body," but thought better of it, remembering who they were dealing with.
By the way, I want to be clear about something, to put all this is perspective. So, a digression --
At summer camp many years ago, I taught "air riflery," which is a fancy name for BB guns. It was an NRA accredited sport, though I suspect BB's were looked down at with scorn by the NRA hierarchy, even way back then. (Once I did a test, and put a blown-up balloon in front of the BB gun and fired -- it didn't break the balloon. Though in fairness, if there was more distance between air rifle and balloon it would have popped. Though with the low-power BB guns we used, I wouldn't bet on it. Nor would I bet that you'd hit the balloon, since the sights were often a bit off) BB guns were probably just waaaay down on the NRA totem pole. After all, how many macho points can one get with a BB gun when competing again an Uzi? That aside, I was pretty good at it, reaching the level of Expert, the second-highest (only under Distinguished).
I also enjoyed regular riflery at the camp, with single-shot.22's. I wasn't quite as adept in that field, doing okay, but just getting about halfway, reaching Bar 4. It was only recently that I found out the husband-and-wife camp owners had an ongoing philosophical argument about whether to have the gun range. The wife part of the equation told me she was strongly against it (and just think, she wasn't even an "NRA women"!), her husband felt the range was well-monitored, had a history, and justified as a target sport.
The point being that I am not inherently against teaching young people (I was 11 when I started) how to handle single-shot rifles safely as a target sport. And to me, with my hand on a Bible, that's ALL it ever was. Trying to hit a bulls-eye, like in archery or darts. Obviously a rifle is massive worlds more dangerous, but I'm just explaining how I personally viewed it. I never had any thoughts of hunting or killing animals for food or anything other than one thing: I liked shooting at a piece of paper 75 feet away with numbers on it to get the highest score. It was (to me) not significantly different in its core point than bowling.
And it was incredibly, meticulous, profoundly monitored. A set order to everything. No picking up of the rifle even until approval was given. No talking. Total attention to detail and care. I did my best to keep those high standards reasonably so when I ran the BB guns. Stupid as I thought BB guns were. (I kept asking to be assigned to some other activity. Once, I did get to work in athletics, but that was only for a few weeks I was then sent back in air riflery. I think this was for two reasons -- 1) I ran if efficiently and well, and 2) I don't think they could get anyone else to take it over. I ended up being in charge for three years. Ah, the burdens of having a useless skill...)
Through all this, I never gave any thought to using a hand gun. I don't know why not, but there was never any hint of an idea of being a quick draw or gunslinger, or tough guy. It was just rifles -- lying prone or sitting or kneeling to look carefully through a little eye piece at a target to get as many points as possible.
And having said all this, though I enjoyed single-shot rifle target practice to score points, if they didn't have riflery or air riflery, I'd have been okay with it. Same as if they didn't have it today -- which they may not, for all I know. Because in the end, whatever your personal position one way or the other,I think it's fair and reasonable to believe there's a huge difference (to the extent of it being an unencroachable gulf) between the two realities: a mannered, deeply-protected range to shoot at a bullseye target purely and solely to score points -- and teaching a nine-year-old child to use an Uzi.
There is no earthly reason to use an Uzi unless you are a member of the Israeli Army.
And I think there's little reason to let nine-year-olds to handle a gun of any sort -- there's plenty of time to learn, God willing there not being a house accident. And I think too there's little reason for most any young child to handle a gun for any other reason other than as basic hit-a-target-and-score-points practice. If you want them to learn about killing animals for food, take them to the grocery store and watch the butcher.
But most of all, there's no reason to be so thoughtless and crass simply because you're crazed and feel that whenever there's a tragedy you must push the cause of that tragedy all the harder. Smash it peoples' faces. Cram the hell down peoples' throats. Even if that means the throats of little children so that they can just have grand "fun."
With a God-sucking Uzi.
Or any killing weapon.
My sense or at least hope is that this sort of thing will ultimately backfire on them. No pun intended. Because what they do every time they do this is remind the public in the most galling, horrifying way what galling, horrifying, heart-breaking thing happened. This time, for instance, even the NRA Women knew they'd gone too far. But the overall NRA powers-that-be? Nah, not them.
After all, they're the gun corporation-owned NRA, the outlier fringe terrorist group. As tone deaf as one could imagine.
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, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. 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.