As you likely recall, last week I write a piece about former major league pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling who posted a Tweet and many Facebook notes that repeatedly maligned Muslims as killers, called Hillary Clinton a drunk murderer, suggested civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis wasn't patriotic, supported the Confederate flag as supposedly honoring God in a Christian fight for liberty, had posts demeaning of women, and made comparisons of gun control to 9/11. And more. ESPN took him off their Little League World Series coverage, and subsequently suspended him from their Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team.
And who was there to slam ESPN and defend this egregious, irresponsible, demeaning commentary? Well, dear old Sarah Palin, of course. The former half-term governor said...oh, honestly, I don't know what she said. I couldn't imagine caring enough about what she said which defended this behavior. The headlines said enough, including as they did a brief quote, and that was plenty enough to make one's eyes glaze over. The mere the fact that she hadn't figured out that any business has the right to not have someone who smears women, Blacks, religion and more as the public face of their brand is reason enough to grasp that anything she said that wasn't actually critical of that meant that anything else said was just pure babble and Palin word salad.
Hey, even Curt Schilling himself thought the suspension was proper. Although he was reticent at first, he subsequently released the statement, "I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part."
(Okay, this was more than mere bad decisions, but he does at least get some points for saying it was his fault and that ESPN acted correctly.)
But there's Sarah Palin yammering her head off in a desperate plea for attention on behalf of intolerance. In baseball world, this is known as whiffing at the pitch.
The thing is, Ms. Palin's rant against the suspension was made all the funnier on Sunday night when ESPN replaced Schilling in the prestigious Sunday Night Baseball booth with (are you ready) the first woman ever to sit in that position! There in the booth doing commentary for Major League Baseball was Jessica Mendoza, a former two-time Olympic medal winner for Team USA, and four-time All American softball player.
I thought she did a solid job and performed respectably. Fortunately, she generally tried to limit her comments to areas she knew about, which was hitting. And that was very smart and good of her. A lot of analysts yammer, and she didn’t. The problem is that hitting is the area of expertise, too, of the other analyst in the booth, John Kruk, she sort of overlapped there, and she could offer nothing about pitching, which is what former pitcher Schilling did so well. Or why so many broadcast booths have a former pitcher doing commentary.
Again, to be clear, I didn’t think she embarrassed herself in the slightest, and even had some good commentary, and did fine. I just didn’t think she added all that much and wasn’t able to cover an area that was missing.
That said, I’d prefer her to Curt Schilling.
So, all I can say t Sarah Palin is -- you go, girl. One small step for Woman, one giant leap backward for Womankind.
Actually, making it all the better still is that the game Jessica Mendoza got to help call was one that made national news -- a no-hitter by Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta!! (And yes, that it was a member of the Chicago Cubs does, in fact, make it even better still...)
Here's video of the final two outs of the no-hitter, starting with one out in the ninth inning. Unfortunately, Ms. Mendoza doesn't say a word during this -- that's what I mean about her limiting herself to areas she knew about, and pitching is the focus here, though in fairness John Kruk doesn't say a lot. But she comes in at the 5:00 mark, if you want to hear her.
So, if she doesn't say much -- and nothing during the last two outs -- why post this then? Hey, a Chicago Cub pitcher just threw a no-hitter on national television!!! You think I wouldn't post it??!!
The bleating voice of Sarah Palin cannot be heard, drowned out no doubt by the cheering crowd. And by Jessica Mendoza.
"That is a legitimate issue for us to look at."
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) on NBC's Meet the Press, about building a wall at the Canadian border.
Trying to separate himself from the pack of his fear-mongering Republican competitors, Gov. Scott Walker has doubled-down on the "Let's wall ourselves in" gambit. To one degree, I do agree with the governor -- building a second wall is indeed a "legitimate issue," provided you're trying to pander to the racist elements of your base by playing into the sense of terror in them and hatred others who are different.
Back in May, 2006, I wrote a pointed, but facetious article for the Huffington Post about how calls for building a wall on the Mexican border were racist because they ignored a far-longer, unprotected border, that to the north with Canada. Thanks to Governor Walker, it turns out that I was a decade ahead of my time.
Forget the Village, to Some It Takes a Mob
A friend, David Rintels, is an Emmy-winning writer whose work includes the Broadway play, "Clarence Darrow," and mini-series, "Nuremberg."
He also has a most-timely screenplay, "Freedom," based on the true story of a man's astonishing pursuit of liberty for his family - so utterly heroic it has you beyond awe. But then the man's actions start to spin out of control by going too far in that same effort. Noble virtue, carried to the extreme, becomes a horrifying vice.
This all came to mind the other week when reading the latest scheme by America's poster boys for too much spare time, the speciously-named "Minutemen": to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican borders on private land in Arizona.
No doubt club leaflets explain perverting the Minuteman name, though self-delusion shouldn't count as a reason. The real Minutemen sacrificed their lives as the aspiring nation fought a declared war for independence. Trying to keep out Mexicans just isn't the same thing.
Make no mistake, that's all this wall is about, despite protestations of terrorism and "criminal cartels" to the contrary. On their own website, in their very own press release, their Fearless Leader talks only about building on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The problem is, if this was actually about terrorism and "criminal cartels," then you'd think they might at least mention that other, monumentally-bigger border - you know, the 3,000-mile one by Canada. If you really, truly, honestly, scout's honor want to keep out all "criminal cartels" and terrorists, does it make sense to lock the back door but leave a welcome mat and cheese dip out front?
Now, it's possible the armed wall-builders simply forgot that there's a 3,000-mile border to the north. After all, recent polls show a high percentage of U.S. high school students can't even locate Canada on a map. Maybe the "Minutemen" are recent grads. Or sophomores.
If you were honestly concerned about keeping illegal aliens out of the United States, you'd want to keep them all out. Right? All, not just Mexicans. Oh, sure, some people may say, "There are no 'criminal cartels' of Canadians trying to sneak in illegally." Then how do you explain William Shatner? And Howie Mandel?
Okay, obviously there aren't 11 million Canadians willing to risk their lives to pick vegetables, but make no mistake there are illegal Canadians here. Moreover, Canada has hundreds of thousands of its own illegal immigrants - all with a beautiful, un-walled 3,000-mile border warmly beckoning them to sneak across.
But far more to the point, if you were truly, honestly, swear-to-God concerned about "Protecting The Borders" from terrorists getting in, you'd insist on protecting all the borders. Right? Right???? After all, you don't really think terrorists are too stupid to think the United States bizarrely only has one border? You don't think terrorists would see a big wall looming along the U.S.-Mexican border and not figure out that maybe a wall-less 3,000-miles border with Canada is another way in? Do you?
Assuming the answer is, "no, of course not, do you take me for a total idiot?" - then why focus on only building a wall between the United States and Mexico? It makes zero sense. Unless the only reason behind your playacting "faux-Minuteman" activity was simply to keep Mexicans out - and had nothing to with protecting America from all "illegal aliens," all "criminal cartels" and all "terrorists."
But the reality is, there's something even more insidious going on here. And it goes back to that "Freedom" story, based on actual events - that a virtue carried to extremes is a danger. Remember, we celebrated tearing down the Berlin Wall. And we celebrated it for a reason. Freedom is worth fiercely protecting. But you don't protect something by prohibiting it.
Building walls is not what America is about. It's not why basically all of our own ancestors came to the United States. (And many surely got in illegally.) They came because of the lack of walls. They came because America has a beacon that asks the world to "Give us your tired, your poor."
Illegal immigration is a serious problem. That's why it calls for serious thought, serious discussion and serious solutions. Not fake-patriots playing dress-up Revolutionary War games.
If you want to build a wall, hire Bob Villa. Or get Ty Pennington. He can line up buses to block the view and maybe make Mexicans think there's nothing on the other side.
Building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border not only doesn't solve the illegal immigration problem, it doesn't even address it. Toting rifles and shovels against Mexicans doesn't make you a Minuteman, it makes you a vigilante. In the quest for 15 minutes of fame, their minute is up.
There have been some oddities getting the downloads of the Piano Puzzler, but hopefully it'll get straightened out. For the time being, though, this alternative should work. It actually is last week's show, which I couldn't track down at the time.
The contestant is Billy Brown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm a little surprised that he was stumped by the hidden song, since I thought it was very clear from the first -- and all the way through. (Indeed, when he finally does get the song after another attempt, he notes that he's actually sung it in his choral group and knows it well.) I guessed the composer style, but didn't think I was right, so tried to figure out someone else. Silly me, I should have stuck with my first thought...
Thanks to my pal Nell Minow for sending me an early review of a out-of-town tryout of a new musical that's scheduled for Broadway in March, 2016. The show is Waitress, and stars the oft-mentioned here Jessie Mueller, who I began writing about on these pages after seeing her in the Harnick & Bock show She Loves Me at the 150-seat Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois, and who won a Tony Award last year starring as Carole King in the musical, Beautiful. The review, which you can read here, is quite positive. I don't get the sense that the person writing it is a professional critic, but she did a fairly comprehensive job. The score is by singer-songrwriter Sara Bareilles, who has five Grammy nominations.
But I was intrigued about the show for another reason entirely. Waitress is based on the movie of the same name wonderfully written and directed by Adrienne Shelley, who is terrific in a supporting role, as well. It stars Keri Russell, and has a great performance by Andy Griffith in one of his last movies. The film is charming, funny, dramatic and thoughtful, with a lot of whimsy. It's about a lovely young woman, who's about to have a baby, but in an abusive relationship and in a nothing life, and begins to see a way out for her in a relationship with, of all people, her gynecologist and through her dream of opening a pie shop. Because she's brilliant at making pies.
I really liked the movie a great deal. And if you haven't seen it, it's well-worth tracking down. There is, however, a backstory to all this. And it's that as much as I really liked the film, I saw it before I knew anything about that backstory. And it's truly horrible -- about as sad as any real-life Hollywood story of loss I know. Before the movie was released, some guy came into the New York office where Adrienne Shelley was working and shot her to death.
I don't know any more than that. I don't know any more because I haven't had the heart to look into it and find it out. It's just that sad. From what very little I know, it was a total stranger and not a robbery. Just...a killing, for no earthly reason. And as much as I so like this movie, I haven't been able to watch it since. In fact, the most I've been able to watch it is about two minutes. I've tried, jumping in at different points, but I get along about two minutes, and my body just starts to cringe. It was on an airline flight I took not long ago, and I tried again, but I spent most of the flight with my eyes averted. At some point, I'll see it again, I hope. It's worth it.
This is just me, and I've seen the movie already and don't have to again, so, that works into my reaction. If you haven't seen Waitress, it's really quite wonderful. But it's also, just...well, you know. Ack.
Here's the trailer. And no, I didn't watch it all. (Yet. I'll give it a try. I promise.) The film has a terrific cast and also features Nathan Fillion (star of Castle), Jermey Sisto (from Law & Order) and Cheryl Hines (from Curb Your Enthusiasm). And Andy Griffith, in one of his last roles, and he's a gem. The wonderful Adrienne Shelley is the young woman with reddish hair pulled into a pony tail, and wearing glasses with thick, black rims.
For many reasons, I wish the stage musical well.
It was a quiet week back in November, 2010. From the archives, the fresh snow revives conversation around town, Myrtle Anderson tries to return to town 33 years after an embezzlement scandal, and everyone agrees not to turn their Christmas lights on too soon.
On this week's podcast, 3rd & Fairfax, from the Writers Guild of America, Aaron Mendelsohn (who wrote the movie, Air Bud, interviews screenwriter Paul Weitz about his career that includes such films as About a Boy, Antz, and the excellent small movie Being Flynn (with Paul Dano and Robert DeNiro) and his new movie that's about to open, Grandma, with Lily Tomlin. And as a bonus, my pal Jeff Melvoin -- who was the showrunner for such programs as Army Wives, Alias, and Picket Fences, with many other writing credits -- runs the WGA's Showrunner Training Program, a multi-week seminar for writers looking to move up the ladder and be in charge of a series, and discusses how it works and what it's for.
I realized that it's been far too long since I had a Mystery Guest from What's My Line?, so let me rectify that here. Last night, I was watching part of the Best Picture-winner, Grand Hotel, that was on Turner Classic Movies. Two of the cast members were John Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore. And therefore the sibling who was missing was Ethel -- and that seemed as good a reason as any to have this particularly clip.
Here is the legendary Ethel Barrymore as the Mystery Guest. Not your typical guest on a game show. If you don't want to watch the entire show, she comes in around the 16:30 mark, so you can just jump forward to it.
It's that time again for this month's The Writers Workbench tech review column. This time around, we look at small, portable speakers. (One of them especially-small -- the size of your thumb, with quite respectable sound, considering the size.)
I wasn't bowled over by any of them, though one of the larger models from Divoom was pretty good. And the only reason I downgraded that thumb-sized speaker from X-Mini is because they haven't another, almost-exact same model that includes Bluetooth and therefore can be connected wirelessly. But the corded-model here is almost half the price of its Bluetooth cousin, so it's worth considering.
As always, because it's convoluted to re-code the article for these pages, I make things much easier on myself by linking to the column on the WGA website. You can find it here.
I don't have anything particularly wise or insightful to say about the on-air shooting deaths yesterday of two Virginia broadcasters, nor do I know where this is going. But I know I couldn't let it pass without mention or at least paying homage to reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward by name. So, bear with me, I'm just going to type.
The fact that the shooting was live on-air certainly makes it more ghastly. But it doesn't make them any more dead. They'd have been just as dead if the murderer had done it any other time. Guns work that way.
And yes, clearly, I knew when I started typing that guns would have to get mentioned. And no, it's not too early to bring it up. That's what was used to kill them. You can't not mention it. And anyone who thinks it shouldn't be mentioned yet usually means that they don't want it mentioned ever. And when they say, "It isn't the time to discuss gun control," the only proper response is the one that's always the proper response -- "You're right, the time to discuss gun control would have been before this happened.
I'm not sure how many dead people it takes to be counted as a "mass shooting." It certainly wasn't nearly as many as the church shooting in Charleston, or Columbine, or at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or Virginia Tech, or New Orleans, or pick your mass-shooting, but two people can qualify as a mass. I was going to include the attack at the movie theater in Nashville, but then I remembered that the man there used a hatchet and pepper spray, not a gun So it doesn't count. It also doesn't count because none of the intended victims were, in fact, killed.
It doesn't really matter, of course. Because it does qualify as yet another ghastly murder. Whether one person or a mass. Whether high-profile and attention-getting, or alone in a back alley or private home And at some point, you just hope that the humanity of those who can act to address it will feel pummeled enough to do so. And yes, the corporate-own NRA terrorist group, determined to frighten those susceptible to being frightened will come up with all manner of cold, heartless, unsupportable flim-flam explanations why their corporate interests should be protected and pour millions of their corporate dollars into supporting their cries of terror and fear-mongering, under the faux-banner of the 2nd Amendment which we ALL know and accept does all for limitations on weaponry. But enough already. Again. Human beings are dying in ghastly, mass numbers unnecessarily -- again and again -- and Our Freedom is not being protected one iota by the corporate efforts of the NRA. The only thing they're protecting is bloody corporate profits.
Oh, and one last thing. If it turns out that indeed the killer was fired from his job and he was crazy angry about it -- it seems like they made the right decision. It's just heart-sickening that it had the end result that it did.
So, I guess that's where my thoughts about this led.
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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