On this new 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the WGA, the guest is screenwriter Justin Marks who talks about writing the recent live-action version of The Jungle Book, as well as the upcoming sequel TopGun 2, along with other works. This comes on at around the 29:30 mark, if you want to jump forward.
I've posted several videos from the wonderful Bad Lip Reading folks in the past, and they're back. This time, they take on the Democratic National Convention. I think there are a few lapses, but overall it's very funny, and has several passages that are a laugh-out-loud hoot.
There was an interview with the fellow who does these. He said that his mother (I think it was...) had a hearing impairment, so he learned lip reading -- but was really bad at it. That's where this come from. Happily, he's done a great job being bad at it.
This is something that's a few days late, but it only clicked in when I saw the actual graphic that the Associated Press put out to promote their story about the number of meetings with Clinton Foundation donors that Hillary Clinton took as Secretary of State.
I hadn't seen this exact phrasing, but when I did, something seemed instantly terribly wrong.
Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State for four years. And when I read this, the thought that immediately occurred to me was -- does the AP actually believe or want me to believe that in four years as Secretary of State, traveling around the world and on just daily business overseeing the foreign policy of the Unites States of America, that Hillary Clinton in those four years Only Met or Had Phone Conversations with just 154 people???
Hey, AP, I meet or have more phone conversations with more people than that in four years. Hillary Clinton probably meets or has that many phone conversations in a month, if not less.
As it turns out, the Clinton campaign has had a big push-back on this article and the numbers, and there's been significant coverage about how the AP screwed up. Unfortunately, the story and headline is out there and got all the big news. That it's been discredited -- and that the story itself isn't especially damning (the "big reveal" was meetings she took with Muhammad Yunus...a Nobel Prize-winning economist, Congressional Gold Medal winner and World Food Prize-winner, who had been pressured by a foreign government to resign from the board of bank he was investigating) -- is alas a minor issue compared to the attention it got in the first place. The bell has been rung, and it's not possible to unring it.
When one actually reads the article, it turns out that what they write is different from what the Big Promo implies. The article refers to only those with "private interests." (Though even that is selective cherry-picking.) The larger point is that what they promoted -- what most people only saw, as it got passed around and spread like wildfire on social media, is that card above. Implying that it's all the people who the Secretary ever met or spoke with on the phone. All 154 of them in four years...
Journalist Matt Yglesias has an excellent and detailed article on how poor the AP reporting was. You can read it here.
I don't think this completely qualifies as an "adorable video," though the end may justify it, so we'll go with that.
A tour boat in British Columbia was doing some whale watching when they spotted a dozen orcas swimming around -- but then went into hunt mode. Soon after, a terrified but pretty smart baby seals leaped onto their boat to escape them.
However, feeling that it was safe, it jumped off back into the water. But quickly realizing its hasty mistake, it jumped back on, yet again, and snuggled to a safer spot. (The people posting the video suggest that the baby seal may have fallen off.)
A problem for those on the boat was that the baby seal was close to the motor, and so they didn't want to turn it on. There's a jump in the video, and it appears that the baby seal tried again to get back into the water (or fell off...), and again realized it was a mistake...but this time seems to be hiding underneath the motor. All the more problematic.
And then there's yet another jump in the video, but from the description of an article I read, what appears to have happened is that the baby seal got back on the boat, and was far enough away from the motor that the tour boat could start up again and get out of the area. And once safe, and as the people posting the video write, after the orcas gave up after 35-40 minutes, they released the baby seal back into the water.
Of course, there's no way of knowing the fate of the little fellow, but one can hope that such a determined and clever creature found his way back to his clan, or they to him. Or found a new one. Or just went off on an adventure. Or...
I was having a conversation with a friend about the election campaign. He's not a fan of Hillary Clinton, though has said he would vote for her if the election in his state was close. Since the state he lives in is blue, however, and not close, he feels safe voting for one of the third-party candidates.
But he does not like Ms. Clinton. He has a lot of theories about what he doesn't like about both her and her husband. And while I understand his points, I don't remotely agree with them. Most of his quibbles are about maybes and "there's all this smoke" and what-ifs and questions. But he's never brought up anything specific that points to actual, real-life wrong-doing.
As you might imagine, he brought up the Clinton Family Foundations and all the questions that were raised about potential conflicts-of-interests and actions. I acknowledged the questions, but said that's all they were. Questions. His concern was that public policy could have been changed because of donations, which is a fair concern, except that I said there's absolutely no evidence that any ever was. And besides, I added, what on earth would she have to gain from it?? It's not money that goes into her pockets. It's a charitable foundation! And one with an A-rating from CharityWatch, which says that 88% of money raised goes to the charity programs it runs. And the Foundation gets so much in donations, significant amounts of money, from so many different sources, what was there to gain from screwing around because of any single donation, which the Foundation could get along just fine without, no matter the dollar amount? Besides which, she wasn't even a director of the Foundation until after she resigned as Secretary of State.
Well, my friend said, she and Bill get salaries, so the more money the Foundation raised, the more they could enrich themselves.
It's a swell-sounding point, with just one pesky problem. Bill Clinton does not receive a salary at the Clinton Foundation, and Hillary Clinton didn’t either when she served on the Board of Directors. So, there was no enriching themselves even that way. There was even less of a reason that my friend's concerns had any merit, and I sent him an email to let him know this.
So, what was his argument now to that?
He wrote back to say that he didn't mean to suggest that the Clintons themselves got a salary directly from the Foundation. (Though, yes, he did suggest exactly that -- and said it.) He said what he was referring to was large salaries that could go to their workers and cronies and whoever else.
To be fair, he noted correctly that the Clintons made $10 million last year, mostly from speaking fees, and have become wealthy from that over the years. So, they wouldn't even need salaries from the Foundation. And he added that they admirably give a lot of that money to charity - but then he had to toss in a "dig" that the charity that they gave most to was the Clinton Foundation. And he added that the Foundation sustains their very wealthy lifestyle, so it does indeed pay for that part of their lives. And noted that I probably wouldn't agree with him.
Well, he was at least right that didn't agree with almost anything he wrote. So, I replied --
First of all, I said, if the scandalous case that a person is trying to make has come down to “They’re making money for other people who are doing great work for a charity,” then I think one is losing the argument.
And given all the money the Clintons do make from speaking -- $10 million last year alone! -- no, I don’t think the Foundation does anything for their lifestyle. And seriously…their lifestyle? Their freaking lifestyle? That's the complaint now? All coming from this magnificent charity that most observers say does profound good. (And I won't even bother to make the comparison to Donald Trump's "lifestyle," since that's not a standard one should go by.)
And to make an actual complaint that the money they give to charity goes to their own charity...seriously?? By all accounts, even their critics, the Clinton Family Foundation is A Great Charity. So, they're reinvesting their money in a charity that they know does so much good -- and with their added money will do even more good. Seriously?
What I left out was a "Sigh..."
I understand there are questions. Questions are fine. But whenever I hear someone, especially pundits on TV or print journalists go on about how we have "all these questions," and all this "smoke" that's there, and we have questions, questions, there are question, what I always want to say back at the screen and say -- Right, there are a lot of questions. So, you're a journalist, look into them. Track down the answers. Do some reporting. And if you actually ever find something, anything that is literally bad...then great, report it. And at that point you can have a real, serious investigation. But if you don't find anything, after all your reporting, then in the end -- they're just "questions."
And questions by themselves are meaningless. Anyone can ask "questions." Hey, I can ask a dozen questions to any journalist, any pundit, any person, to you reading this, even to me without putting much thought in it, all of which would sound like something devious is going on. Who did you vote for? In what ways does that affect how you report on the candidate? How do we know? What do your papers shows? What charities did you give money to? How does that impact what you write? How many times have you moved in your life? Why so many times? How many different jobs have you had? Can we see your performance reports from you jobs?. And on and on and on. And all those questions are silly and meaningless. But...they're questions. We have questions. A lot of questions. There's all this smoke, billows of smoke from the heat of the barrage of questions we're asking. Smoke, more smoke, and all of these questions. We have questions!
So, fine, ask them. And look intot them. And if there's no story there, if you can find no actual wrong-doing, then move on. But just having "questions" and thinking that that by itself is substantive is not "where there's smoke there's fire," but rather smoke-and-mirrors and about as empty as you can get.
Other than maybe being bothered by someone who raises a lot of money for charity so that others doing noble charitable work can be well-paid. Because if your complaints comes down to that, boy howdy you have lost the high-ground.
One of my Broadway disappointments is that although there was a planned TV production of Annie Get Your Gun to star Reba McEntire, it never got made. McEntire had never been on Broadway before, nor as far as I know had done much acting. But she was convinced to take over the role of the revival that had started with Bernadette Peters. And by all accounts, she was amazing in the role. So much so that there had been no talk of a TV version, but it only occurred after people saw her. I don't know why it didn't take place -- some reports say that the network didn't offer enough money, and she didn't want to do a barebones production. Other reports say that after a couple TV musical failures, TV got (no pun intended) gun shy. Whatever the reason, it didn't happen.
And it's made all the more disappointing because there is bootleg footage of her entire performance, and she is indeed tremendous in the role. I even broke a rule and posted one particular song she does, "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," because it SO great, and because there were no alternatives to see it, and that it was a part of theater history.
The problem with that bootleg footage, besides being bootleg, is that the quality is awful. Well, I just came across an eight-minute medley of Reba McEntire in the production, and it appears to have been filmed professionally by the show itself, and is excellent quality.
It's not enough -- not nearly. But it beats having nothing, and so, here (starring opposite John Schneider) it is.
By the way, being a medley, this only includes short excerpts from the songs. If you want to see her perform the full version of that aforementioned, "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun," which she signs the bejeepers out of, you can watch it here. (The full clip is excellent, with several songs, but for those who want to see this particular song only, it begins at the 5:50 mark.)
I liked this article, which comes from a lawyer who was hired by Donald Trump to work with him on a real estate project, and describes the experience. It wasn't a good one. In fairness, he only worked on this one project, and it was in 1987, almost 30 years ago. So, this can't be taken as a definitive look at the Republican nominee for president. But it's certainly an inside look, and seemingly valid for the events.
What's notable about the piece, though, is not so much the specifics of what happened, but that the author, Thomas M. Wells, breaks it down into 20 lessons he learned from his time with Trump and how they pertain to his run for the president. For instance, how at any opportunity, Trump would not hesitate to lie. Or that the presidency is about addressing all the people in the country, and Trump almost exclusively talks about "I." And much more.
You can read the whole thing here.
This week's contestant is June Echols from Richmond, Virginia. Happily, I got the composer style, which isn't always the case. But I just couldn't guess the hidden song, in part I think because I was so focused on the composer style. I only had one guess, and it seemed wrong. The reason it seemed wrong, it turns out, is that I had the right song, but had a brain freeze and gave it the wrong title.
Well, this is a touch of kismet whimsy.
This morning, I wrote about the new film, Southside With You, about the first day that Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama went on, and I noted how especially wonderful the two lead actors are.
As good timing would have it, both actors -- Timka Sumpter and Parkers Sawyer -- are scheduled to be guests this evening (Tuesday) on Stephen Colbert's show. That's CBS, of course, at 11:35 (10:35 Central.) So, if you're interested, crank up the DVR.
(Over the weekend, I pulled myself away from the Olympics (it was Sunday, and there were few events) to see the film, Southside With You. It's a movie loosely based on the real-life first date that a couple of lawyers took when they were both working at the Sidley Austin firm in Chicago. Generally that wouldn't spark much interest in fodder for a movie. In this case, their names were Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama.
I enjoyed the movie a lot. It's not typical for most films, in that it doesn't have a traditional story structure. It's simply what happens on their date -- they don't have their paths cross with international spies or have to be back home by nine for the babysitter and get detracted -- it's a date. Though maybe not a date, Michelle insists, until she says it is, concerned not only about mixing business with pleasure, but being involved with a summer associate for whom she's the supervisor. As such, the movie goes little slowly at times by usual movie standards, and is obviously not overly dramatic with conflicting plot points overlaid on the events, but I found it exceedingly thoughtful, smart, beautifully done, and able to have a respectable story structure on something that was so otherwise unstructured. And it's important to note how incredibly well-acted is – impressively so, making them both utterly believable. There's nothing cloying or precious about the portrayals by Tika Sumpter (as Michelle) and Parkers Sawyer (as the future president). No sense of winking at the audience or talking in platitudes as if One Day This Will Be Important. In all feels very natural. And to be clear, there is conflict, not just in Michelle's repeated insistence that this is not a date, but also some harsh personality hurdles that occasionally get in the way.
It was fun for me to watch, too, because I've mentioned here in the past how my oft-referenced friend Nell Minow has a strong family connection to the Obamas. Her sister Martha, now the Dean of Harvard Law School, was a law professor for the young Barack Obama. And she was so impressed that she contacted her father to say that she had the smartest student she'd ever had in her class, and that he should hire him at his law firm. Their father, Newton Minow, was working at Sidley Austin in Chicago. And the firm did indeed hire that young Mr. Obama. And Minow became his first political adviser.
(Newton Minow had been the FCC Chairman under President Kennedy, and is famous for referring at the time to television as a "vast wasteland." (It was a phrase that so upset TV producer Sherwood Schwartz, that to get some retribution, he named the boat on his upcoming series after the FCC Commissioner. The show was to be Gilligan's Island, and the boat -- with a slight spelling correction, became the SS Minnow. His attempt at retribution failed. The family and country loved the little boat.)
As I said, one of the conflicts in the film is Michelle's concern that her reputation at the law firm will be hurt if she's seen dating someone who also works there, especially a summer associate she oversees. A particularly dramatic scene in the film occurs when they go to see a movie (Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing), and when leaving the theater they run into one of the firm's partner's and his wife. That actually happened -- and the partner and his wife who they ran into on that first date was...Newton and Jo Minow. (The exchange happened differently in real life, as Nell told me, and when the film's writer/director Richard Tanne had an interview with Nell for her film column, The Movie Mom, he acknowledged that he'd had to change things from the reminiscence letter her dad had sent to Tanne for research.) In the film, the exchange takes place on the South Side; in real life it was downtown at Water Tower Place, a fancy high-rise mall with a Ritz-Carlton hotel on the upper floors. And while the partner in the movie is polite and nice, he's also a bit formal and stuffy, a little out of place. In reality, as I said, their relationship was very strong, as well as warm and friendly.
(Side note: I just love the idea of a film's writer/director, and the two stars going in for an interview with a movie critic, and it turns out that she's the daughter of one of the real-life characters. I have no doubt they were blown away.
By the way, there's a sequence in the film I loved for personal reasons, which would mean nothing to almost anybody. It's one of the more important scenes that takes place at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop. As it happens, Nell Minow's mother Jo, who I note above, is Jo Baskin. Yes, that Baskin.
The only thing I'm not sure of is why the title is "Southside." In Chicago -- like I assume most cities -- it's referred to as "South Side." Maybe they thought it looked unique. No idea...
Here's the trailer. As you'll see, even from such short clips, these are wonderful portrayals by the two lead actors.
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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