It's been too long since I've posted a Quirkology video, so let me rectify that. Quirkology is the brainchild (a very appropriate term...) of Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He's also a magician, and the two come together wonderfully.
The last video I posted was his "10 new bets you will always win." This new one is -- well, you can see below. Whether amazing or new, they're always great fun.
I was talking to a friend last evening, and it turned into a very annoying, teeth-gnashing conversation. Oddly enough, how it got to that point is secondary. Without going into too many details therefore about all that, in short he had said something along the lines that began, "Keep in mind that I'm glad this is happening to Donald Trump because he deserves it, he's an awful person, and what he said was awful, and no one deserves this backlash more than him, but I'm a little bothered by the direction this whole story about the beauty pageant contestant is taking."
I asked what he meant, and he explained at length how he's seen various discussions on TV and clips from The View and articles about making this beauty pageant winner, Alicia Machado, a "victim," when in fact she won a beauty pageant and, no matter how meaningless such things are, it is a beauty pageant, where the whole point is to be beautiful, and if a beauty pageant winner puts on 15 pounds, that actually is an issue, and people who run beauty pageants do have a right to be concerned if the winner gains weight, and though he's extremely glad it's Donald Trump who's getting slammed on this for the awful things he said, someone who enters a beauty pageant knows that appearance is what it's all about, and the fact that a beauty pageant winner who gained weight while representing the pageant is being turned into a victim for ignoring what..."
At this point I interrupted him. He's a good friend, and we always have very civil, very thoughtful conversations, and agree about 60 percent of the time, and at least understand one another's side maybe 30 percent when he disagree. But though I did keep it civil, I lit into him more than I ever had. There was a bit of back-and-forth between us, where he would interrupt me, or I'd run out of breath and pause, but I'm going to leave that out because generally he was just repeating his point, and kept saying he was very glad that this unfairness was happening to Trump, and I kept returning him back to my initial response, building up steam and adding more assertions along the way ...which was basically a very polite, stream-of-conscious rant. Put all together, it went something like --
"I could not care less whether peoples' take on this pageant winner is completely 100% 'fair' or maybe slightly shaded too much because for the past year Donald Trump has been relentlessly doing SO MUCH horrific and disgusting and cruel and racist and venal outpouring of garbage that any slight "shading" doesn't even register as the tiniest imaginable blip on the Out-of-Bounds scale. You talk about all the 'crap' that's going on about this woman making her a victim, but I can't even see any of that because Donald Trump has been covering the entire country with so much 'crap' piled so high everywhere for the past year that it blocks everything else out.
"I cannot care less about what they say on The View or any other group of commentators because it is absolutely meaningless to the issue at hand. If they want to make her a victim and they're right to do so or even slightly wrong to, I couldn't care one tiny bit because it doesn't matter because it isn't the point. The point of all this, the only thing that matters is not if Alicia Machado is rightly a victim or not, it's that that a man who is running for President of the United States tried to humiliate someone in the most reprehensible and shameful way.
"And I couldn't care in the slightest about whether she should have not been 15 pounds overweight after winning a beauty pageant or if it was okay to have gained weight, because this is a beauty pageant from almost 20 years ago. And what she did two decades ago means nothing. Absolutely nothing. What means SOMETHING, the only things that means anything is how a man who is close to becoming president treated her.
"If she was a beauty pageant winner and shouldn't have gained 15 pounds because that's what the pageant rules said -- who cares? And besides, for all we know, the pageant rules don't say that. And in fact, for all we know, she actually looked gorgeous with 15 extra pounds -- in fact, for all we know, this is all just in Donald Trump's head that she was a fat pig, because that's who we've seen Donald Trump is. He's someone who has said a women can't be a '10' if she doesn't have big breasts, and who said Heidi Klum is no longer a '10' because she's gotten older, and who just today the Los Angeles Times had an article about how Donald Trump only wanted to hire pretty women for his country club employees. And we've seen Donald Trump on camera say with a smirk that he doesn't treat women with respect. And who has disparaged women relentlessly. So, for all we know all the other pageant officials were absolutely fine with how Alicia Machado looked, but it was only in Donald Trump's warped head that there was even any supposed-issue with her weight. In fact, I'll go a step further, we actually know she did look gorgeous with 15 extra pounds because we've seen pictures of her training -- you yourself even said you saw the pictures and that she looked gorgeous. So, the more I think about it, the more that I think that it probably is all just in Donald Trump's head that she had to lose so much weight and didn't cause any problem for the pageant.
"And the thing is, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter whether it was a problem for the pageant, or whether the criticism of Trump is being completely fair or not. And it doesn't matter whether The View thinks she's a victim. And it doesn't matter if anyone thinks she's a victim -- or not, or what anyone says about her 20 years ago or today. And it doesn't matter if she's a wonderful person or was a total jerk, or anything about who she was or is. Whatever her past, good or ill, I wish her well, I hope she's happy today and has succeeded with a wonderful life, but she doesn't matter here. She isn't the point. She isn't why this is a story. And I couldn't care less about it. Because the only thing that matters is how Donald Trump, who is running for President of the United States treated her and humiliated her and was himself the obnoxious, repulsive pig.
"Even if she was overweight, even if it was an issue for the beauty pageant, even if it was something that had to be dealt with, even if she was a problem -- or an angel on earth -- you know how it should be handled. You know that what you say is, "Look, this is a beauty pageant, your looks are the whole point. You're a beautiful woman, but you're aware I'm sure that you've put on weight. I'm sure there's been stress, but this is something you have to address, because it's the whole reason why you won, and what your obligations are for representing the Miss Universe pageant. So, if you need us to hire you a trainer or a nutritionist for you, we will. Or if you need any assistance, we're here to help. I'm here to help. Just let us know. If you want to ignore all this, that's your choice, but then we have a problem, and the pageant will have to deal with it. But I know you can address it, and easily, and we'll all be happy for it, yourself included." What you don't do is vitriolically shame someone and call them 'Miss Piggy' and 'Miss Eating Machine' and a racial stereotype slur and humiliate them and ridicule them to the point of crushing their spirit. And if that person who does so is running for president, it speaks to who they are.
"Nothing else matters. None of it. People can talk and pick victims and argue and debate all they want. It's their choice. And I don't care. I don't care at all. Because it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is Donald Trump and how reprehensibly he acted."
I said more, but...well, okay, you probably get the point.
And yes, my pal and I are still friends.
The "Gypsy of the Year" event is an annual awards show that honors the lesser-known performers on Broadway, the chorus and dancers who head from show to show -- ostensibly like gypsies. They put on a pretty good entertainment at the same time. This comes from the 2007 show.
2007 was the 50th anniversary of one of the great musicals in Broadway history, West Side Story. And as a tribute to the show, the "Gypsy..." awards producers raised the bar a bit. They reunited 22 members of the original cast of West Side Story for an extensive medley production number. It's all mixed together with some current Broadway chorus members, but the original Sharks and Jets are in the forefront, along with a couple of unexpected surprises.
A few notes.
One of the first chorus members to have a solo turn here is a fellow introduced as "Mickey Callan." He actually went on to have a bit of a film character, performing as Michael Callan. His best known-role was probably in the film, Cat Ballou, playing Jane Fonda's love interest, as the nephew of Dwayne Hickman, the two somewhat cowardly rustlers who she hires hoping to get tough gunslingers.
Also, though chorus member gypsies are the stars here, the Gypsy of the Year production don't overlook career stars. And for this tribute, they were able to get Carol Lawrence, the original 'Maria,' as well as Chita Rivera, who at the time was an up-and-coming actresses, and played Maria's older, wiser friend 'Anita.' (If you're wondering why the original 'Tony," isn't here as well, he had sadly passed away a few years before.)
For the record, below that's Chita Rivera on the left, and Carol Lawrence in the center.
It's finally done, and posted. A few weeks ago, as even not very observant readers of these pages surely know, I was at the IFA tech trade show in Berlin. Though you got a range of random updates on the show, the full overview of the whole circus was still yet to come. And now come hence it has.
If you want to read the full adventures of the morass that is IFA, you can read the whole thing here on the Writers Guild website. (As I've regularly mentioned, it's convoluted to format these The Writers Workbench columns, so because the WGA does that for me -- after all, they're who the column is written for -- it is oh-so-much easier to just link to it there.
The show really is quite a madhouse, and little of what I write about a trade show is very techie, but rather a look at the kind of products that are out there. And at IFA, it is heavily weighted towards home appliances. The products are often fascinating, but there's a limit on how high-techie a description will get about a refrigerator, washer or dryer...
It's been quite a while since I've posted one of the "Mean Tweets" segment from the Jimmy Kimmel show. So, to correct that passage of time, here's an entertaining one.
While watching it though, you do nonetheless have to wonder about some people in the world, hiding under the safety of anonymity...
The other day, I wrote about how I liked to read current events book many years, decades even, well-after the fact. Very often, small details that mean absolutely nothing at the time suddenly leap out as fascinating with the perspective of time. I mentioned this because I'd just finished a book by Molly Ivins written about George W. Bush before he'd even won the GOP nomination for president. And in it, there was a passage about how Mr. Bush had a fairly aggressive frat boy attitude that was sort of "pompous macho" and tended to push him farther than it should -- and she made the off-handed comment that if he got elected, "Somebody should probably be worrying about how all this could affect his handling of future encounters with some Saddam Hussein, but that's beyond the scope of this book."
If anyone read that in 1999 when it was written, it would have meant nothing. Reading it last month...yes, it leaped out.
At the moment, I'm reading a book about a year on the PGA golf tour, following several players closely, from rookies trying to get their qualifying card to some of the top veterans. It's called, A Good Walk Spoiled (which is a quote about golf by Mark Twain) and written by well-known sportswriter John Feinstein, published over 20 years ago, in 1994.
There's a chapter about the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament (that used to be known as the Bing Crosby Clambake before the family and PGA parted ways). And near the beginning, it focuses on tour rookie Paul Goydos who was participating in the Pro-Am contest and showing up at the club to find out the name of the amateur he would be paired up with.
Again, this was written in 1994. And what made it even more odd (and more like a "Hollywood Moment," something you'd only see in a movie) is that the eye-popping name in question wasn't on the first page -- which ended with the phrase, "...and saw the name" -- but didn't appear until you turned the page, at which point it was the very first thing that you saw on the page which followed. So, imagine my reaction the other day.
* * *
At Pebble Beach that year, Goydos arrived on the first day, looked on the board to see who his amateur partner was, and saw the name --
-- Donald Trump listed next to his. "Must be another Donald Trump," he said.
It wasn't. When Goydos asked why he, Paul Goydos, tour rookie, would be paired with His Trumpness, he was told, "This way it will be Donald Trump's group. If we put him with a big name, then he would be shoved into the background."
Trump doesn't like background. And he isn't a bad player. He even made a hole in one during the torunament and later told friends that 5,000 people had seen the shot. Goydos figured it was somewhere between 50 and 500, but he didn't mind. "It was fun," he said. "He seemed like a pretty good guy."
Trump even talked to Goydos about doing some kind of sponsorship deal with him but never followed up. A year later, Goydos got a new partner, Jack Olsen, the chairman of the board of Hertz. The two hit it off, and Goydos ended up with a $50,000 deal to wear a Hertz hat and carry a Hertz bag for the rest of the year. All that and a free rental car every week. Trump talked, Olsen produced.
* * *
There was no political agenda in Feinstein writing this. In 1994, Donald Trump was not on the radar as running for any political office. He was just a fairly well-known real estate developer.
There is a famous quote by Maya Angelou. "If someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time."
That's who Donald Trump told everyone he was. An egotistical liar who exaggerates to make himself to look better and makes deal, only to break his promises. And that's without even touching on the misogynistic racism.
Read current event books 20 years after the were written. It's a good thing...
There's unfortunately been a lot recently written about Monty Python member Terry Jones who is dealing with a type of dementia which makes it difficult for him to talk. I had the chance to cross paths with him several years back around 1983 when I was working at Universal Studios and we released Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
One of my duties was working with college press, so we held a screening for them, and had a Q&A with the members of Python who were in town, which I moderated. (Those present were Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam.)
I wish I remember specifics of that day, but I don't. I wish too that there was a recording of it, but there isn't. But what I do remember is that I was surprised how friendly Eric Idle was, because from afar he seemed to me as a bit edgy. And I also remember how far-and-away the nicest of the Pythons in attendance was Terry Jones. He was friendly all day, he was friendly during the Q&A. He was just simply personable and a joy, always accommodating and warm.
(It is not surprising that his closest friend on Python was Michael Palin, who has the reputation of being perhaps the nicest of the group, something borne out by my friend Rob Hedden who made an award-winning documentary on the making of the movie Brazil, which Palin was in, and who said Palin was as friendly and gracious as one could hope for. I wrote about it here and embedded the full, wonderful documentary. So, the idea of Michael Palin and Terry Jones together in a world of niceness has always made me smile.)
Terry Jones has written a lot of books for young people, and one of my favorite is his Fairy Tales. There were stories he made up and told to his children at night, and then wrote them down. It is an utter joy, and I highly recommend it. Even if you don't have children. One story, for example, is about a rain drop which goes around bragging as it falls from the sky that it's the best rain drop in the word, near perfect, crystal clear, just a completely glorious rain drop, the most beautiful ever. And then it hits the ground and becomes a part of a puddle. One admonition: if you do get the book, take the advice in his introduction and read it out loud. Even if there's no one else in the room. As he says, they stories were meant to be told aurally, and as good as they are when read, but burst alive when spoken. I think it's out of print, but you can get the book here.
You can also go to the crowdsourcing page here if you're interested in helping get the third book in his medieval adventure series published.
Rather than show one of a great many clips of Terry Jones performing, or his film directing, I thought that if I can't show me interviewing him, I can at least show someone else doing it -- and letting you see what a simply warm, personable fellow he is. Here he is then for 15 minutes talking with fine interviewer George Stroumboulopous on Canadian TV.
As long as we have presidential debates on the mind, I want to mention that there is a TV documentary making the rounds of PBS stations throughout the country about one of the men at the center of the very first presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon -- Newton Minow. Yes, yes, I know, the occasionally-mentioned father of the oft-mentioned here Nell Minow.
In fact, I wrote about the documentary when it first appeared on his local Chicago PBS station, WTTW, who made the show, "Newton Minow: An American Story," and wrote about it here.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, the documentary is finally arriving here tonight. It will air on KOCE at 7:00 PM. And if you miss it, or live elsewhere, you can watch the whole thing by clicking on the link above, since I was able to embed it in the article.
Two things first:
For many months, since Donald Trump got the nomination at the RNC, I have been writing that the presidential debates would likely be the most significant thing in the race because they would not only show that Hillary Clinton has a breadth of knowledge and experience, but also that Donald Trump literally does not know anything about a great many issues. I've said too, repeatedly, that Hillary Clinton would use the debates to relentlessly tell Donald Trump he was wrong, because Trump is insecure and can't take criticism (especially from a woman), and she would try to make his head explode. I noted, as well, that when he participated in the GOP primaries, those were really more like circus melees than actual debates, and he faced almost no criticism in them because he was saying what the GOP base believed, which meant he wasn't used to being in a real debate and being refuted.
And second, on Monday afternoon, right before the debate, I wrote the following to a friend -- "I think he’ll start out fairly strong for a half hour, maybe even an hour. But then her pounding on him will start to have an impact. I don’t think he’ll necessarily go haywire. But I do think it’s FAR, FAR, FAR more likely that he will than she will. I don’t expect him to say anything that baits her. She’s been attacked for 30 years, there’s nothing he can say that she hasn’t heard. And she went through 11 hours of being attacked by House Republicans. The question is if she will come across as so serious to the degree of becoming distant, or be more involving. I suspect she knows really well all about who she’s debating, so she’ll come across well, but we’ll see. But he absolutely can be baited. And she will be doing it ALL night."
Hey, I tries not to steers ya wrong...
CNN did a poll of people who watched the full debate. The participants skewed Democratic by 15 points. But the results were heavily in Clinton’s favor, by a far greater margin than the "skew." Almost double, in fact. Respondents said that Hillary Clinton won the debate 62-27%.
I do think that Donald Trump started out reasonable well. Not to the degree of running away with the debate or necessarily "winning," but he presented himself well and forcefully. He interrupted too much, but if something like that is done well, it can show an aspect of strength. Here though it was done a bit ham-fistedly. As were many of his asides, which he insisted on chiming in.
One of the best examples (or worst, depending on your point-of-view) came when Ms. Clinton pointed out that many sub-contractors and employees of Trump companies had been stiffed and not paid. To which, Donald Trump replied, for some unknown bizarre reason, "That was good business."
So much for the "Donald Trump cares for people like me" mantra...
This unfortunate aside was just as bad as later when Hillary Clinton talked about the assumption from past records that Donald Trump hasn't paid any taxes in recent years. (Wonderfully giving a litany of very personal reasons why not...) And rather than saying, "That's not true, I've paid a lot of taxes," Trump instead answered, for some unknown bizarre reason, "That makes me smart."
Forget all of the policy problems for Trump -- which were many, like rambling answers on nuclear bombs and something about Japan -- these two, unnecessary, clueless asides about purely personal matters showed precisely what I was talking about, that Donald Trump can't take personal criticism and would always have to chime in, always, always, no matter how unfocused it may be. Or how problematic for him. If it's about Donald Trump, he has to talk about himself. And that's why and how she kept baiting him all night.
It didn't help either when about halfway through the night, it all went kablooey. Whether Donald Trump didn't have the stamina he's been trying to chide Hillary Clinton about, or had no answers left in the tank, or couldn't muster up the interest, or got what actors call "flop sweat," his actions onstage and disjointedness got so bad that social media and some analysts wondered if he was on drugs, whether legally medicinal or cocaine. Personally, I just think that's Donald Trump, especially when challenged and criticized (and by a woman, no less). But whatever the cause, it wasn't pretty.
On MSNBC, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt called Donald Trump "incoherent" and "babbling." And "off the rails." Even Republican strategist Nicole Wallace described Trump's "complete incoherence on foreign policy." On "Fox News," even they acknowledged the debate didn't go well for Trump.
There was one thing Donald Trump had to do on Monday night. One. It was what Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan did in their first debates -- just show voters that he could be seen as president. If a candidate can do that, it can turn an election around. Donald Trump not only did not do that, he probably caused a lot of concern for many people.
And that's the point. As I said yesterday morning, what I thought about how the candidates did doesn't matter, nor does it matter what Clinton or Trump supporters thought. Those votes are settled. The only thing that mattered was what undecided voters thought -- and what moderate Republicans who were uncomfortable with being identified with Trump thought and were looking for a very public reason they could use to justify not voting for him. And I tried to watch the debate from that perspective as much as possible. And from that perspective, I think Donald Trump was not able to do the one thing he had to do. Be seen as someone who can be president. And as a result, that's a very big problem when you're someone who's running for president.
The race is not over. Nor close to being over. Polls are still tight, although Secretary Clinton is generally ahead by 3-5 points. And there are two more presidential debates to recover from (though I think the problem there will continue to hold for all the reasons I've been writing for months. Donald Trump will not pivot to become presidential because Donald Trump doesn't have it in him to be other than who he is, which is not presidential, but a racist, misogynist, sociopathic, egomaniacal, hate-filled bullying con man. Who literally does not know anything about a great many issues. And isn't going to become a world expert in three week, nor does he have it in him to especially try. Worse, he'll probably come out knowing he has to show he's better than last time when he got pummeled, so he may likely go into attack mode, which is about as non-presidential as Donald Trump gets, ignoring the one thing he as to accomplish with the debates. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if in the next debate he actually pulls out of some orifice what he afterwards said he was a gentleman about for not bringing up this time, the affairs by Hillary Clinton's husband -- something that not only would completely turn off undecided voters, but which Secretary Clinton will now be even more prepared for, since he just gave away some of his strategy...something Donald Trump has always said a good negotiator should never do...) But there still is more of the election to come, and six weeks to steady the ship, and be stronger at the next debates. However this was a big, new hurdle Trump built for himself. A problem when you're behind and don't need even little hurdles.
After the debate, MSNBC showed a soundless argument in the Trump camp as they were leaving the facility. It was later reported to be that Donald Trump was complaining there had supposedly been a "problem" with his microphone. And he wondering if it was done on purpose.
No, really. Forgetting that I doubt if any viewer in the world heard anything close to a "problem" with Donald Trump's microphone, when that is a candidate's take-away after a presidential debate, it is not A Good Thing.
There's so much to comment on and dissect about the debate -- like Trump's mythical "400 pound" guy on his bed who supposedly might possibly have hacked into the DNC headquarters, or Trump chiding Ms. Clinton for actually preparing for the debate, while his own lack of preparation was the foundation of his deeply-problematic night, or him stumbling around trying to explain what he meant about Hillary Clinton not looking presidential, or his almost literally stumbling around and fidgeting and sniffling and guzzling water (boy, howdy, I'll bet "Little Marco" Rubio got a chuckle out of that one, and more. But as the bottomline look at the event, is a pretty core sense of what went on during the debate.
And for Donald Trump it most decidedly wasn't pretty. Because, more than perhaps most anything, he didn't look presidential.
On this week's "Not My Job" segment of the NPR public affairs comedy quiz show, the guest contestant is actress Kristin Chenoweth. Host Peter Sagal's interview is a bit more thin than most, though it takes a funny turn near the end -- and the specific theme of the quiz is hilarious, which you can tell she finds a hoot. In fact, the quick is a bit...well, snarkier than usual, and all have a fine time with it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor