A few days ago, I posted a video of James Taylor on the Stephen Colbert show singing a "new" version of "Fire and Rain." It turned out that he returned at the end of that same broadcast -- which was a couple weeks after the terrorist attacks in France -- to perform a simple, elegant version of "La Marseillaise," against a backdrop of French flags.
I'm still waiting on Donald Trump to call for building a wall on the northern border of the United States. After all, it's far longer than the southern border,and terrorists can sneak through it just as easily there as below. Probably even more easily since it's so long and so unprotected. Surely he's as serious about protecting America as he says, I'm certain that that must include protecting it on the north. Not just where Mexicans come in.
I'm also still waiting for Donald Trump to call for registering all Christians and to have the government watch churches. After all, since he's explained how concerned he is about religious terrorists and wants all Muslims registered and watched because of terrorism by Muslim extremists, then no doubt he is concerned about ultra far-right Christian extremist terrorists who blow up government buildings and legal abortion clinics and kill doctors, policemen and innocent citizens. Surely he's as serious about protecting American as he says. I'm sure that that must include protecting it from all religious extremist terrorists. Not just Muslims.
Indeed, I'm also waiting for Donald Trump to condemn the mass murders at the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. This is an easy one. It was a mass murder. A police officer was killed, also innocent American citizens
lost their lives. This is like a gimme to golfers, giving them the three-inch tap-in. So...something, anything. "It was awful," there's a start. Surely, he's as serious about making American great again as he says. I'm sure that must include protecting it from mass murders. Not just from Muslims and Mexicans and women and the disabled.
For that matter, I'm waiting for any Republican candidate to say something, anything about the mass murders in Colorado. But so far there's just been silence. Nothing. Not a word about a mass murder where a policeman was slain, along with American citizens. Hey, how's that for "leadership"?! Oh, wait, sorry, Mike Huckabee of all people did just finally refer to the killer as a "domestic terrorist." And I applaud him for that. If only if he would have stopped there and not said it was especially bad for people in the pro-life movement. Personally, I think it's most bad especially for the people who were killed and then for the people who were threatened.
Mind you, I'm not holding my breath while waiting. I've kept active in the meantime. I'm willing to wait -- but after a while entropy kicks in, so you have to keep going in the meantime. Yet, while going on, I wait...
This week's contestant is Nathan Stodola from Brooklyn, New York. I got the hidden song pretty early, though I think it should be quite clear as the piece goes on -- it's not especially well-hidden, though well-blended. I didn't get the composer style, a disappointment since it's one of my favorite composers...though mainly for his symphonies, which this is not.
Well, it's that time o' year. Time to mention my novella, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge. The book was a #2 best-seller on Amazon's Hot New Releases for Humor Parody last year -- though this isn't nearly as impressive as it sounds, not that it necessarily sounds impressive. It's fascinating how few sales can push a book that high on a sub-genre list. But still, being #2 beats not being #2 -- unless you were #1.
The Kindle ebook version is now on sale here for a paltry 99-cents. If anyone wishes to buy it or just throw away 99-cents just because they're in the mood, that would be swell. If you'd like to give it as a gift to someone who has a Kindle reader (or merely a free Kindle-reader app), that would not-surprisingly also be swell. If you'd like spend 99-cents merely to show a misguided appreciation for reading this website, that would be unnecessary but additionally swell,
(We live in a mass-media time when people believe such things like my vote doesn't make a difference. I'll note that it's remarkable how few sales -- seriously few -- are needed to push a book up the best-seller ranks of a sub-genre, so if you don't think a single purchase makes a difference, it's hilarious how wrong you'd be... Two days ago, three copies got sold. The book's ranking in Humor/Parody for Kindle ebooks jumped from #600 to #80.)
A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge continues the Dickens classic in its own comic direction. It begins five years after Ebenezer Scrooge has passed away and left his thriving firm to his former clerk, Bob Cratchit. But returns as a ghost one Christmas Eve to teach Cratchit an important lesson.
The story also includes several dozen characters from other Dickens novels woven throughout the story. God bless them, most everyone. And the book is filled with footnotes of letters apparently from Dickens to his publisher, notes that Dickens may have left, and what I claim is my own scholarly research. Together they tell their own separate story, which by the end explains why this book never got published during Dickens's time and was lot to history until now.
One thing. Though I'm discussing the Kindle ebook version here, and it's the version on sale, I think the paperback version is better -- not because it costs more (I don't get all that much more in royalties), but because footnotes are easier to read in a paperback than on an ebook. The paperback is only $6.95, but I'm not suggesting you get it as opposed to the 99-cent Kindle version, just letting you know the difference for those to whom such things matter.
No need or obligation for anyone to buy the thing, but if you do it's much appreciated. The 99-cent Kindle ebook sale runs through December 5. After that it skyrockets to $3.99.
Again, you can get the book here.
This may not be the last time I mention this during the sale...
I had quite a nice day on Saturday, not the kind of day I've had much of a chance to have too often -- but then, it wasn't the kind of day most people have a chance to have. Ever. I went to to the 100th birthday party for my dad's cousin (my second cousin), Elinor Miller.
Elinor is just a gem of a person. She steps a bit slower than before, but is still sharp, curious, fun, loving and a joy. She even still lives at home, with a caregiver.
Her birthday was actually on Thursday, which was Thanksgiving. As she put it, "I love that the entire country celebrated my birthday." As so they should. The party was a charming, affectionate affair largely put together by her daughter Janice. (My favorite comment was when Janice noted that whenever her mother was at some place that required giving her birthday, she always phrased it as "11/26/15." Never mind that the "15" in question was a century ago.
By all rights, Elinor almost shouldn't have made it. I don't mean to 100, I mean to five. During the the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, between 20-50 million people died worldwide. Her son told about how Elinor had gotten sick with the virus when she was four years old, but she made it through. It took more than a pandemic to stop her.
Probably the most fun speech came when Elinor's granddaughter Kara spoke with a microphone in one hand and juggling her brand new baby -- and a written-out speech in the other. Being a doctor, she's adept at such things, like calming bewildered babies, though she raced through her speech so hilariously fast, to make it through before any crying started that someone had to finally shout out in hopes of understanding more than every third word, "Slow down, Kara!!!" At a somewhat more normal pace (somewhat...), she almost did make it through, though eventually had to hand off Elinor's great-grandchild to her husband.
For all the fun of the day, it's odd to say that the hit of the afternoon may have been the birthday cake. Really. That's because the frosting had embedded in it an edible photograph of Elinor when she was five years old. For those of you without your pocket calculator, that was 1920.
Okay, sorry, but I have to include one other cake picture. This isn't really at all what it seems to be. There are only about 10 candles actually on the cake, not 100, but because of the way the flash worked out, this comes across sort of how most people probably think a birthday cake for someone who is 100-years-old looks like, with the fire department on alert.
My dad adores Elinor, and always has. "Always" generally is a shorter period of time that most people give it meaning. But when the two people in question are 100 and 94 years old, "always" comes pretty close. They don't talk on the phone as regularly as before, but still do talk, and occasionally get together. Unfortunately, he's in the hospital at the moment (happily doing better and might even be released today) and couldn't make the party. (As Elinor put it, "I completely understand. I know about being old.") But he and Elinor have plans to get together very soon and have their own private celebration.
A few Elisberg relatives were there, my Aunt Joan and Dick, and my cousin Susie, among the 100 or so guests, but I was most-pleased that Marion Simon could make it. Another first-cousin of my dad, Marion is 97. I suspect it was a treat for her to be at a gathering where compared to the guest of honor she's just considered a kid. Marion is sort of a doyenne of the Chicago arts scene, and even wrote an autobiography about it all, The Show Must Go On.
Here she is with some guy who likes writing about such things.
It will not likely surprise you that the elves back home were very jealous, since they had to stick around taking care of the homestead and missed out on the gala. It sort of served them right for being so generally-snarky, though I'm sure they would have loved it. Even if they didn't know Elinor. After all, to meet her is to love her.
One final note, somewhat unrelated to the occasion, but of popular culture interest. The somewhat-related part is that where Elinor lives in Winnetka, a north suburb of Chicago, she's surrounded by a tight-knit group of people who just love her, and watch over her, and who raised their kids with her, quite a few of who were at the party and made lovely speeches, including of the kids. They tend to be known as The Ladies of Lincoln, which makes perfect generic sense, but it's really a unique, very adoring group.
The unrelated popular culture part is that this below is a photo of one of "The Ladies" who made a speech. You'll excuse me, but I'll keep her name private, for a reason that will be clear.
Several years ago, Hollywood came to town a film a movie that used the house of this particular Lady. Generally, such things are only seen in an occasional exterior shot, but for this movie the house actually played quite an important part. In some ways, the central part. Elinor always told about walking a few doors down the street to watch the filming, but thinking nothing much of it (for all I know, her own house even might be seen in wide shots). Over the years since, though, she's gotten quite a bit of amusement looking out her window to watch tourists track down the location, drive to the neighborhood, and camp out to take photographs. (Hence me doing what I can to keep it somewhat private.) The movie was a nice, little comedy called Home Alone.
In a bit of ethereal whimsy, last night after the party, it turned out that the AMC channel showed -- yes, Home Alone. I like to think it was intentional and an homage to Elinor.
She deserved it. And hey, the entire country celebrated her birthday on Thanksgiving, so why not?!
It's been a quiet week. Pastor Kohler continues a string of depressing sermons as his time in Lake Wobegon winds down, the town prepares for the upcoming holiday weekend, and Mr. Rosen discovers the meaning of Thanksgiving while deer hunting.
From time to time, I've posted here videos Pete Seeger. For fans of the legendary folk singer, and for the curious, this video is a real treat. It's a full 47-minute concert he gave in Sweden in 1968.
Video of Pete Seeger at that time is pretty rare, because he and earlier the group he had performed with, The Weavers, had been blacklisted. Though the members of the group had successful careers separately, Seeger was the only one who continued with a solo singing career. It wasn't until the Smothers Brothers invited to appear on their CBS television show in 1967, the year before this concert, that that TV blacklist was broken on a national level. (He'd made some local appearances, I believe.)
He continued on with a vibrant career, performing into his 90s, including a moving performance of "This Land is Your Land" at the first presidential inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008, at the age of 89.
For those of you who don't speak English very well, but just Swedish, you'll be happy to follow along with the Swedish lyrics superimposed across the screen...
This is lovely. On the heels of my posting the other day with James Taylor on the Stephen Colbert show, here is the host with Carly Simon. He gets her to do a duet with him of her popular rendition with Taylor of the song, "Mockingbird."
Usually things like this are set up beforehand, and they may be here, especially considering the intricacy of the song. But if that's not the case, it would be for a few reasons. First, she is famously shy with doing interviews and live performances, and her initial cry of "No!!!" seems pretty real. And second, afterwards, he acknowledges not having been strong on all the words, which likely wouldn't be the case if it was rehearsed.
Whatever the truth, it's a totally charming performance. All the more so if it's impromptu with someone so shy at such things.
I’m trying something a little different this year, and we’ll see how it goes. In the past, I’ve had a Holiday Gift Guide, and published it appropriately for my December column. The problem with that, I’ve realized, is that that means it usually doesn’t show up until perhaps the first week of December, at the earliest. That might be perfectly fine for many people, most notably those who look at the calendar a week before Christmas and think, “Oh, perhaps I should start shopping now.” But for those who don’t like to wait until the last minute, nah, not so much. And further, because Hanukkah jogs randomly around the calendar, there have been times in the past when the column hasn’t been online until after that holiday has passed.
So, this year, as I said, a little different. While I’m not thrilled about having a Holiday Gift Guide in November, I think that that might be best, if only to give folks a chance to begin ruminating. (Or shopping, since Hanukkah begins next week, December 6.) And besides, I saw some Holiday Shopping ad as early as September this year, the swine, so I placate myself in that context as being late to the party.
As always, I'm posting a link to the column on its original Writers Guild site, since it's nicely formatted there, and formatting it here is a convoluted process. (It also sits on the Huffington Post, but for the WGA version, being the original, I include all the graphics and the end TWW Notes. You can find it here.
And as always, there's a mixed grab bag of goodies this year, including things like the Divoom Voombox Travel, not the tiniest portable speaker I reviewed this year, but very small and portable nonetheless that has among the best sound I've come across for something this size and with the added benefit of being water resistant (though not waterproof), so you can hang it in your shower, among other things.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.