There's no way to describe this border collie video other than to say sometimes, I guess, a dog's got to do what a dog's got to do.
The dog owner posted some responses to the comments, and this one stood out. It doesn't say much, but that's why it's not notable -- "I still enjoy watching my dogs 'working' - all unplanned, just doing what they do naturally." As he notes in his description of the video, "What do Border Collies get up to when they're not working sheep? "Well, they make their own entertainment ..."
The wonderful Irish music, "Shetland," helps the video, But even in silence this would be a joy. Watch it to the end, though -- don't think, "Okay, I get the point." There are a few things as it develops that are just a hoot. Not so much because they're especially funny, but because -- sometimes, a dog's got to do what a dog's got to do.
Since getting my Nokia 928 yesterday, I've gotten a lot of questions about "Why a Windows Phone??"
There's no easy answer. Especially when discussing technology that's personal. And phones are personal to people. What I've found over the years that I've been writing about technology that when people get something high-tech -- whether hardware or software -- they tend to think theirs is The Best Ever. In part, it's because they have a good amount of money invested in it. In part, because the way we use a lot of technology, it is personal. Some part of it is that because a lot of technology is proprietary, when you've made your decision what to get, you know that you're likely going to keep with that for the long haul. And some of the reason can be that what they have...is wonderful, and arguably The Best, or as good as any other.
But having said all that, my observation too is that when people declare theirs The Best, they generally haven't tested the others that are available. So, debating The Best tends to be a self-defeating process.
Why I got a Windows Phone, and this particular model is too convoluted an answer, and there might not even be a good answer. The reality is that all operating systems are good. And mainly we want a Smartphone to make calls, send text messages and check email. And all phones do that just swell. It's the bells-and-whistles (and most notably, of course, apps...) that start to cause differences.
At the top, as I wrote here a while back, I switched to using Microsoft Exchange recently, and a Windows Phone integrates with that and Outlook particularly well. Also, I've been testing some Windows 8 tablets and know that eventually I'll be upgrading to Windows 8, so I preferred a phone where the operating system was basically the same.
Honestly, as I said, I'm sure I'd have been happy with any operating system. Many Android phones have great reputations, the Samsung Galaxy S4 particularly, but I'm not crazy that there's no standard among Android phones. Every one has to be configured individually. I use an iPod Touch, so switching to an iPhone would have been easy - but a) they're ridiculously expensive (especially compared to free, as the Nokia Lumina 928 was, even being the top of Verizon's line), and b) I've had problems with the iPod's WiFi not connecting, which I've researched and found it to be rare, but not uncommon for iPhones. And that made me gun-shy, even if unreasonably so. Though semi-understandably.
Important too is that a friend who's a major, national tech writer has a Windows Phone (the Nokia 928, in fact) and swears by it. Also, he's got lots of inside, non-disclosure information from Microsoft and has dropped hints about some impressive, important things coming next month in the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade. Another tech friend has two -- for himself and his very low-tech wife -- and both rave about theirs.
Also, this Nokia has gotten very good reviews. To be clear, It's not perfect, and there is unquestionably a lacking of apps -- but there are easy workarounds for most missing apps (like, there's no Dropbox app, but you can just open the browser and access your Dropbox account there). And most people really only use 2-5 apps regularly.
I'm sure I'd have been happy with any well-researched phone I'd gotten. Mainly, I preferred the closer integration with Windows. Yes, Windows Phone is a new O.S., but everything I've read is that for something so new, it's well-regarded, and improvements should be growing. In just one year, it has 10% of the market in Europe, which means there's a bigger market for apps that people in the U.S. suspect. And with Microsoft buying Nokia, you know the platform will be supported.
And in the end, I have a two-year contract. If I'm not bowled over by the phone...in two years I'll switch. It's high-tech, not rocket science.
It's amazing, but true, but yesterday I finally moved along and entered the new era.
Until yesterday, I'd never owned a cell phone.
Now, mind you, I've been writing a tech column for almost 20 years. I've been going to the Consumer Electronics Show for those near-two decades, and even went to the old Comdex show in Las Vegas, as well. I've traveled to Germany to attend the IFA tech show the last several years. But before yesterday, I'd never owned a cell phone.
That's now changed. Several of my friends are going to be overjoyed.
To be clear, I've never had anything against cell phones, never looked at them as some new-fangled gizmo. I love technology and new-fangled gizmos. And old-fangled gizmos. All gizmos. I've used cell phones when I've worked on movie sets, and they've been temporarily supplied to me. (One reason I didn't need to buy one.)
The main reason I haven't bought a cell phone is I've never had a "need" for a cell phone. I now work at home. I don't have people I need to stay in touch with. When I've worked on movies, as I said, I've been given one to use. If I went out and people wanted to reach me, that's why God created the answering machine. Over the last 15 years, there have maybe been three times when I've missed a call I'd have loved to have gotten. But life went on.
I have one friend who'd get SO pissed off at me for not having a cell phone. When he'd show up late for lunch, he'd always berate me that "If you had a cell phone!" he could have let me know. I'd simply reply (every time), "I don't mind that you're late. I have a book. And beside -- you knew where we were eating, right? If you wanted, you could have just called the restaurant and told them to find me, to let me know." And each time, he'd sheepishly answer, "Oh. Right. I forgot."
Much as I'd have been perfectly happy having a cell phone, I simply didn't need one. And the times it would have been convenient, there were too many brain-dead, easy workarounds.
The most interesting thing has been the reaction at CES, where high-tech is imbedded into every square inch of the convention and the 250,000 attendees. People there are so over-loaded down with high-tech that it's remarkable the entire city never overloaded its circuitry and blew a giant fuse. Everyone there carries around a cell phone, many two, a tablet, once upon a time a pager, and, it seems, their own personal power station. Around eight years ago, the reaction from vendors there when I'd say I didn't have a cell phone was a look of -- well, not bewilderment but more a case of zero comprehension, as if I was speaking a foreign language. A totally blank, lost stare. The last three years, however, that reaction has changed -- now that mobile phones have become such a mature, all-encompassing industry, where being connected 24-7 is a part of people's live, most especially CES-lives that are at their core inter-connected technology, now when people are told I don't have a cell phone their faces drop to almost beatific awe, "Ohhhh, you're so lucky," they'd say, as one who's life was so deeply tied to their phone and tablet and computer and power center wherever they went.
But now I have a SmartPhone.
It almost didn't come to pass. I don't mean that I wouldn't have gotten one, just not yesterday.
I went to a Verizon store a few blocks from me and said I wanted to get a Nokia Lumia 928. After the saleswoman searched her computer for a while, it was clear that they didn't have any in stock, and so she asked that eternal "I'm now going to try to sell you something else" question -- "Is there a reason you want to get that specific phone?" I could almost see her gears working, unwilling to let me leave without buying something, so the sales pitch was snapping into place up to steer me to some other phone and moved in towards me for the kill. But I'd not only done my research, I had no desire of getting into a debate over it. She planted her feet, all ready to bring out the big guns. But I just looked at her a few seconds without saying anything, until I finally answered. "Yes. There is a reason," and before she could jump into firing, ever-so-slightly thrown off now, I quickly continued, "And I'm here because the Nokia Lumia 928 is the one I plan to get." She awkwardly put her six-guns back in her holster, and happily got the point that there wasn't a need for her to discuss the matter.
But there was still the question of getting the phone. They were indeed out of them. She and her supervisor checked their computer and said that they could get one from the Crenshaw store and have it sent over the next day. Crenshaw? That's all the way across town, there's a very big Verizon store just a mile away, were they out, too?? The reps didn't know. Couldn't they just check there? Simply give them a call? No, they said, they couldn't. Whenever they've tried calling, they weren't given the information. Really?? And they were only able to get the information online about Crenshaw because Crenshaw is in their district, and Santa Monica (a mile away) isn't. Really???? That's just so bizarre. "I'm sure what you're saying is true," I said (and said deeply politely, because in fact I didn't remotely believe it), "but this makes no sense to me. You can't find out from your sister Verizon store in Santa Monica a mile away, just over there, if they have a phone in stock?" No, they couldn't.
Rather than tell them to ship the phone over from Crenshsaw in hopes of it maybe showing up tomorrow, I thought I'd simply check with Santa Monica myself to get it today, since it was so close. I walked the few blocks home to get my car, but first I decided to give the Santa Monica store a call. I just couldn't believe they wouldn't tell me if they had a phone in stock. And...of course, they told me! Yes, they had a phone in stock.
And after discussing the odd situation with the sales rep there, a tale which she found as bizarre as I did, we figured out why the other Verizon store wouldn't tell me:
That other Verizon store was indeed a Verizon store -- but a Verizon reseller. Not an Official Verizon Outlet. So, clearly they didn't want to lose the sale to another business concern. They wanted to keep it in their "reseller family." So, they came up with all that mumbo-jumbo about districts and not being told the information.
But all that's done. The Smartphone has now been purchased. I can now be interrupted during dinner in a restaurant.
And people at CES will now accept me as one of their own.
It's been another quiet week. Deer hunting season has started, and a great story about what you need to tell a great story.
For this episode, we get to see the full introduction of the panelists, which is somewhat flamboyant and a bit of a hoot. (One of the panelists this week, we get Mark Goodson, a producer of the show, from the famous Goodson-Todman game show team.)
Once they get to the Mystery Guest, it's worth the wait. He gets quite an ovation -- Frank Sinatra. As you might imagine, it doesn't take them terribly long to guess, but there's some frivolity getting there. He even tries some funny voices at the top, though largely gives that up quickly. It's a shame, because he seems to have fun with it. But there's a nice twist near the end.
This is another of "those moments" from the Britain's Got Talent TV show. It's a performance of the song, "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, sung by a fellow named Jamie Pugh who has two jobs, driving a van during the day and then at night delivering pizzas.
It's a very nice, moving performance. But what makes the video is the reaction several times during the song when they cut to his girlfriend in the audience who understands what debilitating stage fright he has and therefore how truly difficult it is for him. And also his continued reaction when the number is over.
Interesting too is how perceptive judge Simon Cowell is before the performance begins, picking up that the fellow isn't just shy, but terrified. And how well Cowell handles it after.
I'm not quite sure what to make of NBC's Big Holiday Special, the live version of The Sound of Music starring country singer Carrie Underwood.
For starters though, as one might suspect from reading these pages, I love that they're doing it. Doing musicals on TV is high on my list of...well, My Favorite Things. And as a lover of live television, I think this is a great thing, as well.
And boy howdy, do I ever admire Carrie Underwood for taking this on. For any performer to do a live show on national television, that is a brave thing. But for something as intricate as a stage musical, that's all the more impressive. And for someone who isn't a trained actress, that's just stunning in the admiration department.
But then...well, let's back up a second. You know, to that whole "for someone who isn't a trained actress" part.
I don't have a clue why NBC chose Carrie Underwood to do this, nor do I know why she accepted -- unless it's that she absolutely adores a challenge and just loves pushing herself. There are many admirable stars like that. Yes, I know that she's very popular and sings the Monday Night Football song. But there are other, more popular singers out there, both country and not country. Particularly "not country." (Though maybe they all said, "Oh, God, no way!!")
And while I think she's a very good singer, I don't think she's a great singer. Nuance is not one of her strong points. A strong voice is one of her strong points.
But mainly...well, we have to keep coming back to that "for someone who isn't a trained actress" thing. All the more so because one of the co-stars in this production she'll be acting opposite is Audra McDonald -- who's won five Tony Awards for stage musicals. She'll not just be going up against the memory of both Julie Andrews and Mary Martin -- she'll be there on camera next to Audra McDonald.
I saw a TV special Carrie Underwood did a couple years ago, or at least part of it. She handled the written material fine and professionally -- but not a whole lot more than that. And it wasn't remotely as demanding as acting in a play. It was chitter-chat bantering with her guest star and with her mom. And taped, allowing them to do re-takes.
I'm guessing she's had acting lessons since then -- though that's just a guess. And it's also a guess that they are rehearsing up the wazoo. And I hope she's improved. Because that earlier TV special got somewhat cloying after a while, and I turned off.
One thing I'm sure of -- there is an abundance of trained musical comedy actresses out there in the Great White Way of Life who are right now calling their agents and friends and strangers on the street saying, "Carrie Underwood??? Why in the world didn't call me??!!!"
And to be clear, I'm not talking about unknowns, or even big Broadway stars who the general public doesn't particularly know, who'd likely be brilliant. I'm talking about people like Amy Adams or Kristen Chenoweth or Anne Hathaway or Anna Kendrick (she has a Tony nomination, by the way), or Gyneth Paltrow, or Jessica Biel (yes, Jessica Biel -- she did Guys and Dolls at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago), or Zooey Deschanel, or Scarlett Johansson, or Renee Zellweger, or Kristen Bell (I saw her in Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the Los Angeles Opera's production at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion), or Amanda Seyfried . People like that.
How many of those actual, trained actresses who can, in fact, sing and are stars (and some, huge stars, and quite of a few trained in musical comedy) would you like to see starring in a live TV production of The Sound of Music FAR before Carrie Underwood? And that's just for starters, without doing research.
(By the way, Jennifer Aniston can sing. Do you think a live TV production of The Sound of Music starring Jennifer Aniston returning to her old NBC network would attract an audience..?)
To be fair, maybe all of them were asked. And they all said, "Oh, dear God, no way!" For all I know, they went way down the list and got to Carrie Underwood. But if you were head of programming at NBC and were planning to do a live TV musical...would you want to go ahead if you had to go way down the list?? For anybody?
But then, maybe Carrie Underwood was their first choice, or near the top. Stranger things have happened. Not a lot stranger, but they have.
And all I can't think about when I see the ads is the movie, Scrooged, where Bill Murray's network devotes the whole evening to a live production broadcast from around the globe of A Christmas Carol starring Buddy Hackett as Ebenezer Scrooge. The difference is that, big a joke as that is in the movie, Buddy Hackett had actually starred on Broadway in the musical, I Had a Ball.
To be clear, I don't think Carrie Underwood will be a disaster. I think she's a solid singer with a pleasant personality who can deliver lines professionally, and I'm sure that company is rehearsing more than thought humanly possible. If I had to bet, it would be that she's just okay -- but she could be surprising and do a charming job.
But even if so, what this is all about is that I still don't understand choosing to do a live TV production of The Sound of Music that stars Carrie Underwood. When there are SO many other people who, if available, would seem to be worlds, universes better, even more popular and far more intriguing. Even if she does a solid job. Even if she's great. What I don't understand is the decision because it's such a massive risk. And TV is perhaps more averse to taking risks than any venue in the entertainment world.. Even more than feature films, because TV has that tick-tick-ticking clock always relentlessly pounding away, and a voracious schedule that must be fed every second of every day. And a live -- live!! -- intricate, TV production of a musical is about as risky as it gets. That's tightrope-walking across the Grand Canyon without a net, during a hurricane.
What I don't understand is how that decision came to be. However she turns out to be. It can't be because of her experience as an actress. It's not because she's such a better singer than anyone. It would seem to be because executives at NBC think she's SO popular that she'll draw a massive audience. Except...not only do I not think she's that "must-see" popular, more to the point is that -- even if she is, that's not what will draw an audience for this. I mean, honestly, if you can't draw a huge audience to a live (live!!!) TV production of The Sound of Music before Christmas with whoever you cast as Maria, you are doing some seriously bad promotion. I understand wanting to get a Big Star. But a live TV production of The Sound of Music -- which is the reason to watch -- needs 100%-certain "great" much more than Big Star. Especially if you want to GUARANTEE people sticking around for the full three hours.
That's why I don't get the decision. However Carrie Underwood does.
And I hope she does wonderfully. I wish her well. (I mean it. I love musicals. I want to watch this for all three hours. Not turn off after 45 minutes.) And I admire the bejeepers out of her for tackling this. The hills will certainly be alive...
Okay, I've posted this before. And it's from a movie (Scrooge) about Christmas. But -- so what?! The song is about someone thanking others, so you should be able to play -- and re-play -- something called "Thank You Very Much" on Thanksgiving.
The number, by Leslie Bricusse, got an Oscar nomination for Best Song. It's song here by the wonderful, though little-known to American audiences, Anton Rodgers, along with an assist from Albert Finney.
As I wrote before, Anton Rodgers was a great British stage actor, who did his fair share of movies and TV, though mostly in England. But he's forever endeared in my heart for playing 'Alfred Jingle,' in my beloved musical Pickwick, both on the West End and Broadway, which I wrote about, in part, here. (My parents saw the show in London, and much as they loved Harry Secombe in the title role and raved about him for decades after, 40 years later they'd still go all googly at the mention of Anton Rodgers, even though it was a supporting role, oozing charm and virtuosity. I think the reason for that becomes clear in this performance below from Scrooge.)
Among some of the things which people might recognize him for are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which he played 'Inspector Andre,' Son of the Pink Panther as 'Police Chief Charles Lazar, and -- for fans of the legendary The Prisoner, he played one of the 'Number Two's' in the episode "The Schizoid Man." Rodgers also was in a great mini-series on PBS, Pictures, about the early days of the talkies, playing a genial, ham actor. But it was on the stage, in dramas, comedies and musicals, where Anton Rodgers' great versatility shined. He was in A Doll's House, played 'Macheath' in The Threepenny Opera, starred as 'Walter Burns' in a musical version of The Front Page called Windy CIty, played Henry V, was in Shaw's Saint Joan, directed Death of a Salesman and The Fantasticks, and even played 'Grandpa Potts, in a recent stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
And here, despite taking place on Christmas Eve, here's Anton Rodgers with a lot of thanks giving in his heart.
And if we're going to have a tale from Stan Freberg about how the first Thanksgiving came about, we of course have to have one of his songs about it, as well --
We can't have Thanksgiving without Stan Freberg's version of how the holiday came to be. This comes from his classic album, Stan Freberg presents The United States of America. Volume 1: The Early Years.
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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