A correction. I had said the other day that this would be a six-part festival of the 2000 Broadway revival of The Music Man, and that there was just one more video to go. But I was wrong.
Plus a bonus. But first things first.
In the back of my mind, I thought I remembered one other video from the revival, but didn't come across it when I was putting this together. But last night it hit me -- in fact, I even remembered that I'd posted it long ago. And I found it. And even though I've had it here already, it deserves another viewing. Not only because it fits in with the festival -- but it's just simply one of the fun, most-loved songs from the show.
This is an appearance from a weekend show that CBS used to have, as a companion to its Sunday Morning program, called The Saturday Early Show. Its Rebecca Luker (sorry, "the ethereal...") along with the Hawkeye Four barbershop quartet singing..."Lida Rose / Will I Ever Tell You?"
Like I said, I don't think I'd be forgiven if I left this out.
And now the bonus, for those of you who've stuck with things here and were expecting for the festival to end tonight.
Over on Mark Evanier's site, he had a video here yesterday that was a fun interpretation of "Lida Rose/ Will I Ever Tell You?" performed by two barbershop groups. Usually it's one male quartet and a female solo singer, but there a barbershop chorus with women sing the counterpoint. This below goes to the other extreme, in a first, as far as I'm aware -- it's the barbershop quartet, Storm Front, at the Barbershop Harmony Society, performing both songs themselves. And very cleverly (and wonderfully). They throw in a bit more shtick than I think is necessary, dragging the two songs out a bit, but in the end it's all worth it.
About a month ago or so, I wrote about an upcoming movie that I was really looking forward to, Trumbo, about the blacklisted, twice Oscar-winning screenwriter, part of the famous Hollywood Ten who went to prison for contempt of Congress. I had a chance to see it the other night -- at the best possible venue, the Writers Guild Theater -- and happily it was as terrific as I was hoping. No easy feat for a movie about a writer, whose job is so sedentary and whose work is pensive. And needless to say, it was an appreciative and packed audience. (The WGA doesn't play a bit part in the movie, though does most-particularly during an important sequence.)
Bryan Cranston stars, and is quite terrific. But then pretty much all the cast is, including Diane Lane as his wife, and Ell Fanning as one of his daughters. (She doesn't come into the film until about halfway through, since she plays the grown-up teenage version of the young girl at the start.)
John Goodman also -- not shockingly -- is wonderful as a shlock producer who gives Trumbo work under-the-table when he's blacklisted, and has one especially wonderful scene where...well, let's just say it's when a blacklist alliance member comes to discuss Trumbo's employment. And somewhat surprisingly, another standout and lovingly underplayed performance is given by Louis C.K. as a fellow-blacklisted writer.
As I said, most of the cast is very good, including Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper, and there are other fun performances of real-life people, including John Wayne, Louis B. Mayer, Kirk Douglas, Otto Preminger, and Edward G. Robinson.
The film was wonderfully written by John McNamara, his first feature film, though he's written some TV movies, and a great deal for television series, and very well-directed by Jay Roach, who did Meet the Fockers, Austin Powers and several political-theme films, like HBO's, Game Change and Recount. (Upcoming, he directed, All the Way, based on the Broadway play about LBJ that starred Bryan Cranston, who repeats his performance.)
Here's a very good 4-minute feature about the movie, that gives a pretty good sense of it. (One of the people interviewed is Nikola Trumbo, who is the woman that Elle Fanning plays as a young girl.)
Okay, we're coming towards the end of our The Music Man 2000 revival video festival. Just one more to go after this, I think. And this, once again, is the ethereal Rebecca Luker (I believe that that's her official name and "ethereal" is on her birth certificate) singing "My White Knight" live onstage during a performance.
The song wasn't used in the film version -- though the middle bridge was. But Meredith Willson wrote a new song, "Being in Love," to go around it. It's a bit more of a pop song, and I've always suspected that the filmmakers wanted an original song in the show in order to hopefully get a Best Song Oscar nomination. It didn't get one, though it's a very good song. And I've spoken to people who saw the movie first, before ever seeing the stage show, in fact some haven't even seen the stage show, and prefer the new song to when they finally hear this. And I understand preferring what you heard first, indeed thinking it's the original. And I also can understand anyone preferring the new song, because it's lively and "snappy." But not only do I fall in that same category of liking what I heard first, but I like it for being the original -- but almost, perhaps most importantly, enjoyable as the new song is, I think My White Knight fits Marian's character better, as a soaring romantic ballad, looking back to a long-past time where pure, noble love existed, yet grounded in the firmness of reality. I never get the sense that "being in love" is all that Marian merely wants, but has held out her whole life for a knight in shining armor.
Again, both songs are wonderful. But this one, I think, is special. Here's why --
Bonus note: after posting a video the other day of Rebecca Luker singing "Goodnight My Someone" on the Boston Pops TV program, last night I came across her singing the same song onstage during a live Broadway performance. I've added the link to the earlier posting, but if you want to see the video, just click here.
This afternoon, I was just watching a Law & Order rerun from 2001 titled "Myth of Fingerprints." A question came up in the story about the accuracy of some lab work done a decade earlier.
Forensic expert: I found seven false-positives of the 20 cases I tested.
Southerlynn: (dismayed) That's almost a third.
Say what?? Unless mathematics have changed in the 14 years since the episode aired, seven out of 20 is more than a third, in fact 35% to be accurate. It's pretty easy, basic math.
Now, I know in the real world, that's a simple error to make, and coming close on what's a third -- easy as this instance is -- isn't problematic. Except this isn't the real world. Someone wrote the words, someone approved them, it went through many drafts, the network had to approve them, a few more drafts were done, the actors rehearsed the scene several and then several takes before it ended.
And no one noticed that seven is more than a third of 20?? Seriously, guys?
Even if they came up with the explanation that the lawyer character wasn't a math whiz and was so dismayed by the results that she wasn't focusing, so she just was tossing out a random guess and came close, like some people might, even that stretches credibility -- because the person she's talking to is a scientist, who not only deals in exactitude...but the whole point of the scene is exactitude, which is specifically why the D.A.'s office went to this man as expert corroboration to learn if the earlier lab findings were off. And he would have corrected her and said, "More than a third." Because that's why they went to him. To find out of the earlier results were off and by how much.
To be clear, I don't care all that much that they got math off by a few percent. What has me scratching my head is how such a really incredibly easy math error could be made and make it through so many drafts and approvals and rehearsals without being caught and corrected, by anyone. Especially since "more than a third" makes an even better dramatic point for the point of the plot!
That aside, it's a very good episode. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd probably give it a seven. That's over 75%.
The past few years, one of the notable tech stories is that sales of PCs have been dropping, while tablets led by the iPad have been the big deal. Now comes the news that for the past three quarters iPad sales have not only been steadily dropping, but hit a four-year low.
There was a detailed article about all this on ZDNet by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes about iPad sales slipping. You can read the whole thing here, but the point was that there doesn't seem to be much that Apple can do about this slide for the next two years at the very earliest. That's because older iPads dating back to the iPad 2 all run on the current iOS 9 -- and will be supported, as well, on the upcoming iOS 10. And so, other than losing out on a few features in the software, as well as hardware, users tend to be happy with what they have. Only when the older devices stop being supported -- perhaps in a couple years -- might consumers decide to upgrade. Or not.
To a slight degree, this is a similar issue when Microsoft finally phased out full support of Windows 7, though it still provides "extended support" for security updates. It's a reality with computers -- people tend to be happy and comfortable with the familar they know.
On the other hand, upgrades of the Smartphones, and notably the iPhone, have not slowed down. Just the iPad.
Oddly, Mr. Hughes, a good tech writer, did have one lapse in his article. The very last paragraph deals with why iPhone sales haven’t plummeted, but iPads have. He ends the piece by writing – “Bottom line it seems the difference is down to there being a different upgrade cycle for smartphones than for tablets. People upgrade their smartphones every two to three years, but hold onto their tablets for longer.” What he’s saying here is “The reasons iPhones and iPad sales are different is because people buy them differently.”
Well…yeah. That’s a given. The question, though, is why do people upgrade their smartphones more often? I do think there are valid reasons for the different buying cycles, he just didn’t give any. I suspect, for example, it’s largely related to how new iPhones seem to be adding features that the public finds actually useful, and also they’ve changed sizes (either getting thinner and lighter, or bigger) in ways that the public wants and will upgrade to. And since phones are more of a necessity than a tablet, which is more a luxury item, those notable changes become even more meaningful.
The reader comments to the article are very interesting, as well. Usually, on tech articles that discuss a problem, users of that operating system (more often Apple or Microsoft, rather than Android) come leaping to the defense and slam the article. But that's not the case here. Most agree, and point out reasons that might explain the drop. One example are those saying that people tend to find they're only using their iPads and tablets for browsing the Internet, maybe checking email, and watching videos, so there's no great need to have the Latest and Greatest. Basic does fine. Also, as mobile phones increase in size with bigger screens, the basic need for simply using a tablet has lessened. So, there's not only not as great a need to upgrade, there's also not as great a need to even have a tablet in the first place. And a number of readers commented on the cost of iPads, which made upgrading all the less critical, especially with the other issues involved. Related to all this is what I wrote above, that a Smartphone is becoming more of a necessity, so having "the latest" is more important, compared to a tablet that's largely a luxury item. And so, you have a drop in iPad sales, but an increase in iPhones.
Also, in Mr. Hughes' article he links to an earlier news story he wrote about falling iPad sales. He writes, “But I'll tell you who should be worried - pretty much everyone else trying to sell a tablet.” While there is some truth to that – a lot, even – I have a slight quibble with that, as well, in that he’s ignoring an important point that has always been why I’ve liked Windows tablets far more than Apple and Android.
Apple and Android tablets have always basically been considered entertainment devices -- for email, browsing, and videos. Windows tablets have always been more focused on productivity. Productivity has improved a lot with Apple and Android tablets, but I suspect most people still use them mainly for those entertainment purposes. (Microsoft, after all, has long had a strong corporate base in its usership.) You'll note that Microsoft sells its popular Surface tablet as "The tablet that can replace your laptop." And 2-in-1 "convertibles -- which are like laptops but can release the screen to make it a standalone tablet -- are a more pronounced format for Windows devices.
I do think all tablet sellers should be wary about the drop in tablet sales, but with the advent of Windows 10, which works the same on all form factors -- desktop, tablets, Xbox, and upcoming Smartphones -- I’d be more concerned if I sold Apple and Android tablets. Windows tablets do have their own issues (the lack of apps, for prominent, though that's what Microsoft is hoping to address with Windows 10 and "Continuum" which allows apps to work across the platform of all devices.) However, they seem like they have the potential to be a growing market. (Acer 2-in-1's, for instance, are up 80% over last year.) They may not grow, the entire industry is in flux at the moment, but I think they have that potential.
And so we continue along with the fourth part of our six-part festival of the 2000 Broadway revival of Meredith Willson's The Music Man starring Craig Bierko and Rebecca Luker. And once again, we have an extended nine-minute scene from the show, live in performance. And better still, it's one of the climactic scenes in the show, the classic Footbridge Scene, where Harold Hill goes into the "close the deal" with Miss Marian, and she ends up throwing him for a loop.
The sound isn't great here, you'll probably have to turn up the volume, but you'll hear pretty well, and the scene is far too good for three reasons to pass it up.
First, this includes a great deal of dialogue, so it's a treat to see Bierko and Luker acting together, and not just singing. Second, this recording happens to take place during Craig Bierko's final performance in the show, in May, 2001. And third...well, it includes Rebecca Luker's soaring performance of "Till There Was You" -- and the famous moment when the songs "Goodnight My Someone" and "76 Trombones" (which have the same tune) overlap, which Meredith Willson explained was to show the connection between the two characters.
So, crank up the follow and sit back and revel...
During the debate last night on CNBC, one highlight (out of many) bugged me. But it bugged me more than the others, because it was SO easily resolved and would have done so with "uuuuge" impact.
At one point, moderator Becky Quick had asked Donald Trump about a quote of his, which he denied ever saying. She replied by asking: "Where did I read that, then?"
Dear Ms. Quick, you read it on Donald Trump's own freaking website! Tell him that!! Don't ask him where you read it -- what on earth do you expect him to say? ("Oh, you must have read it on my website.") Don'd apologize for him lying about what he said and what he publicly promotes On His Own Website.
And so, by wimping out, she left the door open to Donald Trump coming back with a snide, "You people write this stuff. I don't know." But Becky Quick didn't have the research handy or lazily didn't bother to check it out first to know where her quote came from. All she had to do was check her own freaking data and have it at hand. Because She Was Right. She just didn't know it. And allowed Mr. Trump off the hook and let herself look like an idiot. When she could have said, "Oh, but Mr. Trump, that quote of yours is posted right on your own website." And it would have shut him down, been massively embarrassing to him, and could have been a defining moment not only of the debate but of his campaign.
"Where did I read that, then?"
O dear Lord. You Were Right. You were the moderator of a national debate of Republican presidential candidates. Please just do the basics of your job. Care enough. You Were Right.
Insert the proper "sigh" here...
REI is a wonderful company that sells equipment for outdoor activity. They announced the other day that on Black Friday, THE biggest day for retailers the day after Thanksgiving -- they are closing all 143 of their stores for the day and telling their employees to have the day off and enjoy the outdoors.
They even announce it on a special page of their website, set up to make things extremely clear, including a countdown --
At the bottom of this above-webpage, the company explains, "REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That's why this Black Friday, we're closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside."
I've long had a special affinity for REI. I don't shop there a lot, but I discovered them over 30 years ago, maybe closer to 40 years, when they were a very small chain with only half-a-dozen or so branches on the West Coast. It's officially a co-op, and they even give rebates at the end of the year on your purchases, as co-ops are wont to do. The thing is, I didn't realize how early I had become a member of REI until I went into their new Santa Monica branch a couple years ago. (Until then, their nearest store was far away, which is why I didn't get there often. Though they also, of course have an online presence these days. But not in the early days.)
Anyway, I went up to the checkout, and the guy at the register did a stunned double-take, worthy of Laurel & Hardy. Is something wrong, I asked? "No," he replied, "I've just never seen a membership number this small."
My number is around 740000, so I never thought it was that small. "Oh, no," he explained, "we're now in the tens of millions."
By the way, the reason I was in the store that day was another reason I love REI. I'd bought a jacket there years earlier that I loved, probably 15-20 years ago. Yes, it's well-worn, but just great in every way. The zipper had a little problem a few years earlier, and my tailor wanted to charge me $25 to fix it. I thought that was ridiculous, so I just used a paper clip, and it worked perfectly. But after some time, I remembered that REI has a lifetime warranty on their own products, and since the new store was now so close, I went in to...well, hey, just ask. And yes, it was still under warranty, I gave them the jacket and a few weeks later it was fixed. No charge.
REI put out a statement explaining their Black Friday action in a little more details. They wrote, "For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth."
In fact, they splash this statement across their website's home page. Just so it's really, really clear.
When a large business (actually, any business, but a large business has SO many more hoops to leap through) does something like this, you have to figure that the company has a good reason. They certainly seem to.
I'm guessing that they think they could have a PR benefit from this one-day closure. And they probably also figure that people who want to shop at REI will be fine waiting one whole day.
Just another reason I've long-liked REI.
Yesterday, in our festival of the 2000 revival of The Music Man, we had Rebecca Luker as Marian the Librarian. Today, we have...well, "Marian the Librarian." And this time, we jump from the Boston Pops to the show in action. This is the full production number, all nine minutes of it recorded on stage during a performance..
Needless-to-say, the video and sound quality isn't great, but it's quite good enough to enjoy the performance of Craig Bierko as Harold Hill doing his best to woo Marian. The exuberant choreography here is by Susan Stroman, who also directed the show -- and who has won a remarkable 12 Tony Awards. (Among her many Broadway musicals, she directed and choreographed The Producers which won the most Tony Awards by a single show in a year -- also, as it happens, 12.)
The video cuts off right before the applause would have started. I suspect it got a lot. You can fill it in...
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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