I haven't posted anything from Fry and Laurie here for a while, the wonderful comedy team of Hugh Laurie (best known to U.S. audiences for House) and Stephen Fry. The two had a long career together, as Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, on Blackadder (with Rowan Atkinson) and with their own series, A Bit of Fry and Laurie.
The two met at Cambridge University, introduced by a fellow classmate, a young aspiring actress named Emma Thompson. Since we've just been discussing Ms. Thompson here in Sweeney Todd, I thought it would be a good idea to get back to a bit of Fry and Laurie. And since a lot of people were surprised to see Emma Thompson in a musical, I thought it would be an equally good idea to show her back in her early roots, and post a sketch here where they guys had their up-and-coming friend on their TV show. So, here are Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in 1986 with a young Emma Thompson.
The other week, I was having lunch with a friend. He knew that I wrote for the Huffington Post, and mentioned that there was an article on HuffPo that related in part to a family member, and it had a slight mistake. He'd tried to get them to fix it and had written a few times, but to no avail. He wanted to know if there was any way I could use my contacts to help.
After doing my best to unsuccessfully stifle a laugh out of politeness, I said no.
I explained to him what I'd written here. How ever since the buyout by AOL and most notably over the past two years, the Huffington Post has gotten far more corporate and distant. Very unresponsive to those writing for it, and far more commonly refusing to post articles without any explanation -- in fact, without any word that it's being rejected unless one follows up relentlessly. Most of the time, comparing notes with others, it has seemed that the reason is because articles have been too harsh and critical, odd as that sounds. (If you think I'm joking, on a private blogger pages, they give some tips on the kinds of articles that would be good, and one is "6 Summer Salads You'll Actually Crave.") Though one friend had an article refused whose topic was being kind to other people! No explanation was given.
I only wish the lunch conversation with my friend had been after this past week, and his question about help had been asked today. I could have added one more to list.
Once upon a time, a person could make corrections to their own Huffington Post articles. Sometimes factual errors, sometimes poor phrasing, most often typos. Given that every article now has to be approved before posting, I can understand not allowing a writer to go back in and change their piece, since they could change it to something that wouldn't have been approved in the first place. So...fine. But if they're going to take that responsibility, then one would think it's up to them to act upon it.
I posted my long article on IFA a couple weeks ago. After publishing it, however, I noticed an odd formatting glitch, where in two cases a couple of paragraphs got smudged together. It looked sloppy and read awkwardly, so I wrote in to explain where the issue was and how to fix it. It was about a 30-second repair.
It's not that after nine days of writing in every day (sometimes a couple times a day) that the problem hadn't been fixed, but they had yet to respond. Even when I asked if they've changed the policy and are now no longer correcting typos.
Honestly, I don't think the policy has been changed. It says if you need to make a change, write to the Blog Team. So, maybe...actually, I don't know. Perhaps they think the change is so minor it's just not worth the time. Fine (well, not "fine," but for the sake of argument, fine), but then at least have an auto-response that explains this. In the end, I think it's just willful laziness. Policy to not answer unimportant things, and they'll go away.
Finally, I got fed up and went around the Blog Team and up the ladder directly to one of the main editors I happen to have an email address for. It's not what I want to do on such a small matter, but eventually I wanted the glitch fixed. I send the IFA article to companies I deal with, so it was important that it look professional. (I'd think the Huffington Post would want that for themselves, too...) Anyway, it got fixed within minutes.
I like the Huffington Post. I think they do a lot of things extremely good. And some things very poorly. But I do know that they've changed a lot since being bought by AOL.
There was an article in Monday's Huffington Post about how people are wasting far too much money using out-of-network ATMs -- like at bars -- and paying fees that are far more exorbitant than they think As the article noted, this usually happens because people find themselves in immediate need of cash, with no convenient in-network ATM nearby.
The author then gives a few tips on how to avoid this.
I have a much better tip. It's one that not only makes perfect sense, but is so easy, and whenever I tell it to people, they almost always say, "Oh, My God! That is an incredibly smart idea!!! I should do that!!" And then, as far as I know, they have never done that.
Among the author's suggestions, though, are --
Switch to a bank that's more convenient.
Switch to a bank that reimburses you for out-of-network ATM fees.
Get cash back when you go to the grocery store.
Borrow from friends and pay them back using Venmo. I
Perfectly acceptable ideas, except that I don't know what Venmo is, though she describes it as an app that sends money to friends, though I'd think that this requires not only that you are with friends, but also that they have money. And if so, you'd like to think that if they're friends they'd lend it to you without you needing an app. Though, if you do have a Venmo app (I just read up on it...) -- and friend with money -- you might as well take advantage of it. And them.
The biggest problem with these otherwise perfectly acceptable ideas is that they require making changes to your life that you might not want to do, or plan in advance (which, if you were good at that, you probably wouldn't be out of money so regularly that you have to resort to these schemes). But my idea is SO much easier, and requires no switching banks -- hey, you may actually like your bank -- or remember to carry around excess cash from the grocery store.
My idea came about because I like my bank. I like that it's small, only has a few branches, has pleasant tellers, and I get fairly personal service. But it's not extremely close to me -- maybe a mile away. And not having many branches, it also doesn't have many ATM machines. On the other hand, there's a big, impersonal Bank of America three blocks away from where I live. But I'm just not interested in the BOA being my bank, even if it does have 10 gazillion branches around the known universe, and is part of a network work 100 bazillion ATMs..
But I don't mind taking advantage of the Bank of America's services.
And so, I found out what the minimum amount was needed to open a savings account that the BOA with no monthly fee. (I think it's $300.) And so, I opened a savings account, and put a couple of hundred dollars more than the minimum in it. And for doing that, I now have an ATM card for the Bank of America, and it gives me access to the 10 gazillion branches and 100 bazillion ATMs. And whenever the amount in my account gets to close to the minimum, I stroll over three blocks, and make a deposit.
And the added bonus is that if ever I have need of a Bank of America branch -- to pay my BankAmericard, or get a wire transfer or some other matter when I've been out of town -- I have access to one pretty much anywhere.
Right now, I can hear people saying, "Oh, My God! That is an incredibly smart idea!!! I should do that!!"
And as far as I can tell...none of them will.
But I keep a-trying. Because hope springs eternal. And if I have one mission in life, it's to spread good financial advice.
Okay, if I have one mission in life, it's not that. But I still try...
Yesterday, when writing about the video of Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, I mentioned my love of the actor Paul Ford. So, I thought it only right and proper to have a bit of the good fellow as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line?
It's not a very long sequence, since one of the panelists makes a seriously-impressive guess, though he acknowledges guessing him for a good reason. (Though the guess is still remarkable.) It's worth noting, however, that this panelist in question is the wonderful Peter Cook. Fun, too, is seeing how truly disappointed Paul Ford seems to be that he was guessed so quickly.
I just got back from a briss. Not mine, thankfully. That's long-since past. This was the second child for the kids of a friend of mine. I did what I did the time before -- showed up for support, and intentionally stationed myself as far back in the room as possible, so as not to be able to see the actual event itself.
I have no interest in seeing a briss take place. I have no interest to simply hear a briss take place. While I fully support the action and tradition, I have little interest in even thinking about a briss taking place. There were some women in the back of the room cringing. Imagine the reaction of guys. Welcome to my world.
What I didn't understand was all the people -- especially guys -- who had gotten to the front and were leaning in to get a better look. You really want to watch?? Seriously? Taking notes, perhaps, in case there's a briss emergency, and you're called to officiate?
No, no, standing in the back and offering moral support is just fine by me. And besides, there's a big added benefit -- I was standing next to the buffet table, so I got to the food right away before the masses converged on it. My plate was filled, and I was out before the log jam.
The most fun part was how pissy the rabbi got -- actually, I guess in this case he was officially a moile -- whenever the crowd got noisy. Ostensibly, it was so people could hear what he was saying, but then if I was him, I'd want the room silent, too, before I did what I was there to do. More to the point, if I was the baby, I'd want the the room silent. Actually, I'd want to the room cleared. But silence is the next best option.
If you haven't been to a briss, you're not missing much. No pun intended. It doesn't take long -- again, no pun intended. The only problem (other than watching) is if the rabbi/moile is talkative, and you got the full history of The Chosen People and any other philosophic discussions a rabbi is wont to do. In this case, he said that he figured most people there had had enough talks with Rosh Hoshanah just passed, and Yom Kippur around the corner, so he'd keep it short. I don't remember him being long-winded the last time, so I just think he'd reasonably thoughtful. Which is good, because you really want the guy to be completely focused on the main thing he's there for, not getting his lecture right.
So, things went well, it's over, and the baby survived. The crowd, too. And happily, I got through the buffet line quickly. L'Chaim.
A year ago, I posted an article here called, "H.G. Wells: Musical Comedy Man" about several musicals based on musicals by, of all people, H.G. Wells. One of those was a 1969 British show, Ann Veronica, which was largely about women's suffrage.
I just received a note in response to that from Carey Snyder who wrote to request that I post two particular songs, because "I'm editing a cultural studies edition of Wells's novel, and I'd like to refer to the musical lyrics, but can't get my hands on them. Thanks!"
We aims to please.
The first song requested was the opening number in the musical, sung by Ann, "A Whole Person." I'm not a huge fan of the score, though there are a number of quite nice things in it, in particular the title song. And in a sort-of overture, the music you hear as this selection begins is that title song. It then goes into -- this.
By the way, I should note that the score to Ann Veronica is written by Cyril Ornadel (who did the music -- and a few years earlier had written my beloved and oft-mentioned here Pickwick that starred Harry Secombe) and David Croft (who wrote the lyrics).
This is the second song that was requested, "If I Should Lose You," also sung by Ann -- performed by Mary Millar -- which comes near the end of the show.
By the way, in writing this posting, I began slapping my head in annoyance (the slaps being metaphoric, of course). That's because in the original article, I left out a third musical based on a novel by H.G. Wells. And it's based on far and away one of his three most famous novels, War of the Worlds. (Yes, War of the Worlds was a musical!) I mentioned the book in the original piece, but not the musical. Ack.
In fairness to me, it's a show that wasn't ever done as a book stage musical, but rather was a "concept album," with a score by Jeff Wayne and most lyrics by Gary Osborne. Recorded in 1978, the eclectic cast included none other than Richard Burton, as well as Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, and Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann, among others.
It was a huge success, having sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.K. It's had a variety of incarnations, including a live concert tour. Though never, as far as I know, a "legitimate stage" book-musical production.
But still, there you have it -- three musicals based on that sing-along raconteur, H.G. Wells.
And two songs here from Ann Veronica. Cultural studies edition now noted...
This week's contestant is Paul Kivocavic of Minneapolis, MN, who teaches music at Concordia College. The composer style is pretty easy to get, I think. But the hidden song is...well, very well hidden. Even when Bruce Adolphe plays it again to bring out the song, not only did I nor the contestant still get it. Only when Adolphe began humming along did Mr. Kivocavic guess it -- and I sort of thought maybe possible I knew. (I was right, but only by the tips of my thumbs.) It's a well-known song, just even better hidden.
After the song is revealed, it's worth noting that host Fred Child has a very clever pun of a quip.
I'm one of eight people in the world, I believe, who doesn't play golf on a regular basis, or even much, yet loves watch it on television. I once even listened to the British Open on the radio!
It was a joy, therefore, watching the Ryder Cup this week between a team of players from the United States and those from Europe. But it was even more so because the Cup was played this year at Gleneagles in Scotland. That's because years ago on a family trip, when I was a kid, we stayed at Gleneagles. It's a legendary links golf course that opened 90 years ago in 1924, and beyond the history, it's ethereally gorgeous.
My dad's a bit golf lover, so the purpose in staying there was of course to play several rounds. I was just a kid, and hadn't played much, but I joined him for a round. Well, okay, it wasn't a full round, but I did play a hole. Okay, I actually didn't play a full hole, but I did hit several shots. Mind you, I didn't get off the tee. But it wasn't for lack of trying...
I intended to play the round. Or at least a few holes. Or just one hole, but the problem was that my first tee shot went slicing off far to the right and went flying into the gorse -- the deep, thick shrubbery that surrounds the fairway. As you might imagine, there's a whole lot of gorse, and ball that goes in there is pretty much gone for ever.
So, I set up another ball, and tried again, giving it a good thwack. And again, the ball sliced and soared deep into the gorse. And again. And again. And again. And...
Well, you get the point.
After six straight tee-shots (well, not "straight" in a directional sense, but in a row...) lost into the gorse, bracken and woods of Scotland, my dad politely asked if I'd please stop playing and would instead join him to walk around for the 18 holes.
It wasn't so much the cost of all those expensive golf balls which, if things continued at this pace for 18 holes, let alone one, we might not be able to afford the trip home, but rather that he had only so many balls in his golf bag, and wanted to be sure that he'd have enough to play the course himself.
I'd have loved to keep trying, but I did understand his point. And so, I walked the 18 holes with my dad. But I still have the memory of teeing off at Gleneagles -- even if I didn't get past that. And an equally joyous memory of walking through that remarkable setting.
I thought the Live from Lincoln Center production of Sweeney Todd was quite good. I do think the show is served better than many shows with a full production, rather than concert staging, since it helps enforce the imposing sensibility, particularly with the barber chair, the bodies sliding to the basement and the furnace. But they did a very good job under the condition. (I particularly loved how they had Bryn Terfel as Sweeney slam down his script during the opening, and then glaring at the others as a challenge that they do the same, which they did.)
I think Terfel was wonderful. As I mentioned, I'd seen him do the role previously with the Chicago Lyric Opera, and it was clear how well-versed he was with the show. And Emma Thompson was terrific, returning to her stage musical roots. She sang very well, though notably better in the lower register. But it confirmed what I wrote before how the role calls more for a comic actress than a great singer. Her interpretation of the role was more grounded than crazed, which is hope Angela Lansbury did it in the original. I think I prefer the latter, it's less realistic but more believable. But again, Emma Thompson was wonderful. (I've also seen Patti Lupone do the show at the Ravinia Music Festival, with George Hearn starring as Sweeney, the role he replaced on Broadway. That production at Ravinia was semi-staged.)
My only complaint has nothing to do with the show itself. It's the pre-introduction with Kristin Chenoweth. (They did a full introduction of the show after, with Audra MacDonald.) At the end of Ms. Chenoweth's comments, she welcomed us to watch Sweeney Todd and then added with enthusiasm, "starring Oscar-winner Emma Thompson!" and that was it. Period. The end. No mention of...er, Bryn Terfel. The man who plays the freaking title role. Sweeney Todd. That's the show's name, y'know, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And the first words sung are, "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." That guy. Sweeney Todd.
You can't miss him. He's the one with the knife. Killing everyone. On stage most of the time.
I'm not sure who's to blame for it. I don't know if someone wrote Kristen Chenoweth's comments. I don't know if she wrote her own words. I don't know what the director was listening to, and what the producer thinking. But if someone wrote it, they're at fault for an egregious oversight that can't be blamed on an oversight because it would have been prepared in advance. And she's at fault, as an actress, for knowing very well about credit and who's starring and what the name of the show is. And the director is at fault for letting this go through. And the producer is at fault for putting it on the air, uncorrected.
It was so oddly egregious that I couldn't believe that they actually left his name out. So, afterwards, I went back to the very start, since I had recorded the broadcast. And it's just not there. Watch Sweeney Todd starring Oscar-winner Emma Thompson.
Really, you don't want to piss Sweeney Todd off...
If you missed it, here's the entire thing. The full production and even Audra MacDonald's introduction. Everything. Except, happily, Kristen Chenoweth's pre-amble.
It's been a quiet week, as we're now past the archives of old episodes. Pastor Liz fills in while the Lutheran Church interviews replacements for Pastor Haugen, news of Marlene’s interesting encounter with Father Wilmer spreads through the town, Mrs. Anderson holds a CD release party at the Sidewinder Bar, and the Tolleruds’ rooster Ludwig comes to a sad end.
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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