I realized that I've gotten out of the habit of posting wonderful little-known songs from little-known musicals, and so it's time to get back to that on occasion. And this first song easily qualifies...because it didn't even make it into its show. For reasons I have no idea, because it's my favorite song from it.
The musical is Goldilocks, which has nothing to do with the children's story. Rather it's a spoof of the silent movie era. (A friend who is a deep Broadway aficionado insists the title makes sense. Perhaps it does, but I can't figure how.) The show was produced in 1958 and has great and fascinating pedigree, though it had a short run of just 161 performances. The music is written by one of my favorite composers, Leroy Anderson -- who wrote so many wildly-fun songs, many for the Boston Pops, like "The Syncopated Clock," "Bugler's Holiday," The Typewriter Song," "Blue Tango" and most-famously "Sleighride." The book was jointly-written by Jean Kerr (who wrote the huge hit play, Mary, Mary, which ran for almost four years, and the book Please Don't Eat the Daisies, later made into a movie and TV show) and her husband Walter Kerr, the famous New York Times theater critic -- so highly-regarded that there is a Broadway theater named after him. (Fun fact: the recent one-man show that Bruce Springsteen did on Broadway was at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Additional Fun Fact: when I graduated from the School of Speech at Northwestern, our commencement speaker was fellow-alumni Walter Kerr!) And the Kerrs collaborated on the lyrics with Joan Ford. The show had a solid cast, as well -- Elaine Stritch, Don Ameche, Russell Nype (who had starred opposite Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam), and Margaret Hamilton (yes, that Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.) But alas, it only ran about five months.
The score is quite pleasant, though not what I'd call standout, but with a few fun songs. But my favorite song is one cut from the show. Perhaps the story got changed, a scene dropped, and the song just didn't fit anymore. I don't know, but it's a lot of fun. Fortunately, there's a series of CDs, Lost in Boston, which is a collection of songs cut from musicals during out-of-town tryouts, richly re-created. It's fun to hear them all, but most for my taste were understandably dropped. A few though stand out and are terrific. And this is one of them. It's called, "If I Can't Take It With Me," performed by Alet Oury.
It was another of those All Trump Stories days yesterday. Clearly, the story that overshadowed them all was Michael Cohen pleading guilty and providing problematic evidence on Trump. (And that's only what little Mueller chose to show the public. He has testified for 70 hours.)
But then there also was Trump canceling the summit with Russia. And Trump offering a $50 million apartment in Trump Tower to Putin. And a New York Times story about how a memo was sent out to two million Federal employees that they couldn't discuss impeachment at work or use the word "resist." Or that Rep. Eric Swalwell on the House Intelligence Committee revealed that chairman Devin Nunes has buried "pages of lies from a number of witnesses particularly in the Trump family, Trump campaign, the Trump business" that he has been protecting each time Democrats on the committee have tried to turn them over to Robert Mueller. That should change when Adam Schiff becomes committee chairman in January. Also in January, House Democrats have made clear their interest in calling Michael Cohen to testify.
But it was one small detail in the Cohen story about pleading guilty that I wanted to reference.
You'll note that when news reports delved into story for its details, a significant one was about plans Michael Cohen was trying to set up with Russia about building a Trump Hotel in Moscow -- and the name of the person he was dealing with and trading emails with (which they quoted from) was...Felix Sater.
And there he is. Again. It's been a while. But longtime readers of these pages will recall the several articles I've written in the past (most notably here, last August) about how critical Felix Sater is to the Russia connections. Well, it's nice to see those details finally bubbling to the surface. No doubt there are many more to come. We tries nots to steers ya wrong...
I thought that in honor of Trump flying to the G20 Summit in Argentina, I'd show their entry in the "Comedy Against Trumpism" series, making their case why, if American is first, they should at least be second. Alas, Argentina does have a video -- perhaps they don't care where they fit in the food chain -- but there is one for Chile which borders Argentina...and they do mention Argentina in it...so that's the best we can do.
In an interview with the New York Post yesterday, Trump said that he thought he would "never" get the Nobel Peace Prize.
This gave me pause, and I sat back to think of all the other things I predict Trump will "never" get --
A real Purple Heart.
A majority of Americans voting for him.
Total honesty from his staff.
The National League MVP Award.
Respect from actual billionaires.
A sense of compassion.
The NAACP Man of the Year.
A high credit rating.
Electoral votes from California.
A bigger inaugural than Barack Obama.
Invited to a CInco de Mayo block party.
The Nobel Prize in Physics.
A loan from a U.S. bank.
The love of his father.
This will be a twofer. I believe I've posted the first video before, a long while back, but not only has enough time passed to have it again, but it's of a piece with the one to follow.
I've long been a huge fan of Tom Lehrer -- the mathematics professor at M.I.T., Harvard, Wellesley and University of California, Santa Cruz -- who had a very successful side career writing (and performing) wonderfully funny and offbeat songs.
It was a surprise and treat to find that Daniel Radcliffe is a fan, as well, so much so that before appearing as a guest on the BBC's The Graham Norton Show, he learned what is probably Lehrer's most difficult, tongue-twisting song, "The Elements," where every element of the Periodic Table was put to music, so that he could perform it on the show.
Two notes: the first is that when Radcliffe asks if anyone in the audience knows Tom Lehrer, there is near total silence. This is understandable on the one hand, given that Lehrer is an American and not terribly well-known here, and his peak was in the late-'60s, early '70s. On the other hand, it's a little surprising became legendary producer Cameron MacIntosh produced a very success musical review of Lehrer's songs on the West End, called Tom Foolery, so I would have thought the London audience might have a few more people who knew his work.
And the second is that because I think he's thrilled simply that he made it through, Radcliffe leaves off the very short last verse, which is a fun one. More on that in a moment. For now, here's that appearance --
And now for the bonus, twofer part of the evening's entertainment.
This is rare footage of Tom Lehrer himself, performing "The Elements." Complete with that last, very short verse. Actually, there's a full minute of additional material, as well, along with what he refers to as "an earlier version" of the song. (The video shows that it goes on for another half-minute, but it doesn't.) This comes from a 1967 concert in, of all places, Copenhagen.
Daniel Radcliffe delivers a highly-admirable, enthusiastic, a capella version of the song. Challenged even more by having an audience and panel that doesn't know what to make up of it. Tom Lehrer has a piano and adoring audience. And he wrote it. But this is how it goes best --
Over the past few years, I've written several times with updates about a company called Stream TV Networks, which has developed a terrific glassless 3D-TV technology called Ultra-D. You can get the whole story here, but the short version is that the technology is tremendous, it works exceedingly well and resolved the huge problem of needing to wear those 3D glasses, since it doesn't require any. And it's resolved, too, the issue of there being almost no 3D content for TV by being able to convert 2D material to 3D in real-time.
That's the good. (And it's very good.) The bad is all those updates. The technology has been ready for primetime for at least five years, and I've seen working models. In fact, the Ultra-D technology is being actively used in a related business, that of signage. But for a variety of reasons, the TV division hasn't kicked in yet, despite having deals with major TV set companies and several "it's coming in a few months" false starts. It hasn't been because of no market -- among other things, they not only do have those deals in place, but also TVs that use Ultra-D can watch normal programming in 2D, unlike the older 3D-TVs requiring glasses which could only watch in 3D, so at its core, TV sets using Ultra-D have the same basic market as any television -- but the continued delays are the results of other hurdles which its president Mathu Rajan has discussed with me along the way. One of them, for example, has been the desire to stay ahead of technology, and these new sets aren't just 4K models which are now prevalent in the marketplace, but rather 8K and 8K-compatible. (Again, as before, there's no issue with there being no 8K content, since the Ultra-D technology can convert standard content to 8K compatible in real time.)
I now come to the part where I once again say about the delays, "That may be about to change..." and we'll find out if it is, indeed, about to change this time, or if another hurdle gets in the way. A wait-and-see attitude is always a good starting point here. But this one seems to have a couple of things going for it that make it appear that serious progress has been made.
The first is that I was recently in the market for a new Smart TV (long story...), and I like the Ultra-D technology enough to be willing to wait a bit if the sets had a specific date when they'd be coming to the market. So, I brought it up to Mathu. He gave me a target date they now have -- and it's reasonably close, but not imminent and given the uncertainty of market dates being "flexible" in the past, I didn't want to put things off.
And the second is that just yesterday I received an email from Stream TV Networks announcing a big press conference. This is something that Mathu has spoken about having "soon" -- and that was initially a couple years ago, but they each ended up having to get cancelled and no invitations were ever sent out. So, to actually get an invitation is a huge leap forward in this all becoming a reality. Furthermore, the date of the press conference is close enough that there's no wiggle room to cancel it. I don't mean "little wiggle room," I mean none. The press conference is set for...tomorrow.
(I did find one thing amusing about the invitation. Over the past years when they've been planning for the press conference, Mathu has always said how he'd like me there, since I've been writing about Ultra-D so much. And though I'd love to go to press conference -- not only is heading off out-of-town with two days notice a bit of a burden, especially now (long story, see above...), this would be an even significantly bigger burden, since the press conference is being held at 10 AM at the Westin Hotel in...Beijing, China. It was great to see that they're finally having the press conference, but I do have my limits.)
Anyway, for these two reasons together, I do sense that their hurdles may actually have been overcome, and the glassless 3D TV sets may actually be coming to market reasonably soon. (I don't want to jump the gun of the press conference, since the date Mathu told me was off-the-record.) Also the press conference will not only be introducing their 65" model, but also a 10.1" glassless 3D display -- which seems to be the tablet screen the company has been developing alongside the TVs.
So, we'll see what gets announced at the press conference, and how it overlaps with the latest news I'd been told about the upcoming entry to the market. And again, if you're coming to this after the initial articles I've written on the subject, and are interested (which if you've gotten this far, you probably are...), check out the link above.
Watch this space. Still. Updates as they occur. We'll see. Hopefully, literally.
Since the holiday season is one of the periods when TV airs the Oscar-winning Going My Way -- repeatedly -- I thought that this would be a proper time to have the great character actor Barry Fitzgerald as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line? (Among the eight Academy Awards the film won, including Best Picture, Barry Fitzgerald won as Best Supporting Actor.) Given his incredibly-distinctive and highly recognizable thick Irish brogue, the big question was how on earth would he disguise it. Rather than tap the table or work around it, he actually comes up with a fun, fake voice -- though at one point he almost slips up but immediately recognizes his gaff.) If you want to jump right to his segment, it starts at the 16:30 mark.
This didn't make a great deal of news, but it was a critical occurrence nonetheless.
Over the weekend, conservative pollster and Republican consultant Frank Luntz appeared on the MediaBuzz "Fox News" program with host Howard Kurtz. Just to refresh your memory, Luntz is a messaging guru for the GOP, the fellow who came up with naming George W. Bush proposal to remove environmental protections as "the Clean Air Act." He was one of the forces behind Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. And in 2010, PolitFact gave Luntz its "Lie of the Year" award for his pushing Republicans to call the Obama Administration's healthcare reform as a "government takeover."
Okay, so, yes, that Frank Luntz.
Luntz was unexpectedly downbeat when discussion the state of his party. “It’s hard to be a partisan warrior when you see the damage that’s done,” Luntz commented.
In fact, he was so discouraged that host Kurtz asked him, “Do you still consider yourself a Republican?”
“I don’t know,” Luntz answered. He then quickly recovered by trying the ol' "Both Parties" (tm) gambit, but the best he could do was criticize Republicans and Democrats about inner-city policies.
So, that leaves us with "I don't know" as Frank Luntz's response to being asked "Do you still consider yourself a Republican?"
When the Republican Party has lost Frank Luntz as a guaranteed "Yes," and can no longer count on their longtime message expert to provide their message, then the party has officially crossed the line into the abyss and are rolling downhill out of control towards the vortex of the netherworld.
I got a note yesterday from my pal Dr. Greg Van Buskirk, one of the funnier chemists you'll find. (And yes, the list is longer than you'd think -- I say that based on the assumption that most people probably think the list is zero. So, Dr. Buzz has the field pretty much to himself. And to his credit, he's worn the mantle well.) Anyway, he noted that he has long-loved the work of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and thought her acceptance monologue for the Mark Twain Prize was wonderful -- althhough he noted that as great as he thinks she is, he has a hard time rationalizing her receiving the Prize over some legends who have been overlooked.
And I agree. To be clear, this is just a totally subjective honor, and in the grand scheme of things it's not a huge deal who receives it, and everyone who has done so far has been a wonderful comic talent. That said, the Mark Twain Prize is different from an industry award honoring itself. It's a national honor. And so I do think it deserves a step back to put it in perspective.
Much as I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus (and I absolutely adore her and her work, and she gets big bonus points for having gone to the beloved Northwestern) and some of the other recipients, like Will Ferrell, I do question them getting the prize above some legends who set a groundwork for comedy. Like the AFI award, which I gave up watching many years ago, the Mark Twain Prize lately has seemed to be turning into an award for acting given to star names in order to get TV ratings. To be clear, comic acting is a terrific skill, and I always appreciate it when comic actors receive the prize. But given that Mark Twain, who the prize, after all, is named for, was...a writer, I personally like it when recipients also have some involvement writing. I don't "insist" on it, but I do think it adds foundational substance to the prize when disciplines overlap.
I also think such a prize is best-served when those received it aren't just wildly talented, but legends in their field who had an impact on generations after them, honoring the fullness of their influential career. After all, they only give one Prize a year. It's not like a sports hall of fame where they can vote in half a dozen at a time. If you're really great in your prime, that standard will always be there, and hopefully you'll get even better and perhaps more adventurous. So, you'll be high on the list in five years, or 10 -- or more. Jonathan Winters was brilliant in his prime -- when he received the Mark Twain Prize, there was a richness to his being honored at that point instead.
We all can have personal favorites who think would have highly deserving of receiving the prize in years past, after it began in 1998. And listing them is just a Name Game. But it's an enjoyable game, and my list tends to focus on legends who pushed the field of comedy forward.
For starters, I'll add a personal choice, and though I was friends with him and am biased, but I'm also right, and that's putting Larry Gelbart on the list -- I mean, all he did was write A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Oh God!, Tootsie, Barbarians at the Gate, the Tony-winning City of Angels, Your Show of Shows, develop the TV series M*A*S*H, and on and on. Or here's a few legends who are either still alive -- Mel Brooks (he's 92, I'm not quite sure what they are waiting for), Mike Nichols and Elaine May (alas, they missed Nichols by four years, but May is still around to accept on both their behalf). Woody Allen. Jerry Seinfeld. Garrison Keillor. All of whom write. As did Billy Wilder. Robin Williams. And Stan Freberg, all of who were are around after the award as initiated. Or for that matter, if you're going to give the prize to someone who has largely acted (and for all her other work is mainly known for two TV series), why not Tom Hanks? Or Dick Van Dyke. (He too is 92, so perhaps he's also fallen in the "Let's wait and see" category...) Or Mary Tyler Moore, who they waited too long and missed by a year. (And not just for her two classic series, but running a production company that created a couple dozen comedy series -- hey, they gave the prize to Lorne Michaels.) Or Goldie Hawn. Or hey, here's someone they overlooked -- Bob Hope! (Hmm, think he'd done enough comedy?) Or Sid Caesar. Jack Lemmon. And...well, fill in your own blank.
Again, I adore Julia-Louis Dreyfus, and I've liked all the people they've honored. But liking someone's work -- and even loving it -- are not the same as thinking they're close to legend status deserving (yet) a national prize. And much as I love her work, I not only don't think she's at the status of "legend" that these others are -- I suspect that she'd say she isn't either. And to be clear, I'm not singling her alone out. There are others who, for me, don't reach that level -- yet. Like Will Farrell, Jay Leno, and a few others. Very talented, funny, terrific careers. But there's a higher bar for me, and there are still other steps to get there.
Back in 1998, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made reference to a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband President Bill Clinton. Not shockingly, she was roundly lambasted and ridiculed by the right-wing.
And yesterday, only a mere 20 years later, Trump's former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, a long-time mainstay in far right Republican politics, confirmed that she was right.
No, I don't mean he sort of acknowledged something along the lines of what could be construed as admitting it, if you looked between the cracks. I mean that he specifically confirmed it. And then even corrected the "Fox News" host who presumed Bossie was merely speaking metaphorically.
On Fox News Sunday, Bossie -- who was a past-president and chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United (during which, besides the infamous Supreme Court case, he oversaw the making of several documentaries, including an attempted take-down, Hillary: the Movie.) -- was talking with host Chris Wallace, when he began slamming liberals and then sought to put it in perspective:
“There is a vast left-wing conspiracy that has been going on since the president [Trump] won this election," he said, "All throughout the transition and through his first two years.” To which he added to clarify the point -- “A vast left-wing conspiracy, similar to what Hillary Clinton used about a right-wing conspiracy.”
That's when host Wallace interrupted him to make sure the audience understood that what Bossie was saying was being ironic. “Which incidentally didn’t turn out to be true,” Wallace thought he was clarifying.
“No, it did turn out to be true,” Bossie quickly corrected him. “Chris, there was a vast...there was an effort by the conservative movement to undermine President Clinton.”
And in case you're thinking, "Oh, c'mon, but how would he know...?", David Bossie's first job in Washington was when he was hired in 1997 by Dan Burton (R-IN), then chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to be chief investigator looking into possible campaign finance abuses by President Bill Clinton.
Gee, go figure. Who would have imagined. Hillary Clinton was right. There was a vast right-wing conspiracy against her husband. And against her. Kind of puts the wounded howls by the far-right in hypocritical, lying perspective.
(Here's the video of his "Fox News" appearance.)
Fun historical note for the sake of comparison: the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton spoke about was a secret one, operating in the shadows that took 20 years for David Bossie to finally acknowledge. On the other hand, the supposed "vast left-wing conspiracy" that Mr. Bossie tries to equate with it is, in fact, known as The Resistance and is very intensely public and above board. And there is nothing conspiratorial about that. It's protest marches. It's protest meetings. It's get-out-the-vote campaigns. The only thing he has correct is that it is vast -- as witnessed in the mid-term elections, where Democrats cast 8.7 million more votes than did Republicans.
The thing is, eye-opening as this is, this story doesn't stand alone. When I read the article and saw the video, it immediately reminded me of a somewhat-similar occurrence which has played out even more seriously.
Cast your memories back to 2009. That was during the Obama Administration when the Department of Homeland Security under Janet Napolitano released an assessment warning about how one of the biggest dangers to the U.S. were right-wing extremist groups. As the New York Times wrote then --
"The April 7 assessment warned that the faltering economy and the election of the country’s first African-American president could fuel support for right-wing extremist organizations. And it said that proposals for new restrictions on firearms could lead some groups to begin stockpiling weapons and ammunition."
And the reaction from the right-wing? Yes, once again, we got the same wounded howls of outrage. This was so unfair and wrong and politically-motivated, they screeched. Except just nine years later, there we see it throughout the news for the past two years. A major increase in very public activity by right-wing extremist groups, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. All of them so pleased to be given a platform thanks to Trump and, among many other dog whistles, him saying that their racist hate groups are made up of many fine people.
It should be noted that this 2009 DHS assessment overlapped with an FBI report only three years earlier in 2006, which addressed the threat of white nationalist infiltrating the police. PBS described it this way --
"In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas."
So, not only do we have these two, fairly-recent government reports about the threat of far-right white supremacist organizations -- followed by the faux-cries of the far-right claiming they were wronged -- which, to the contrary, we see validated regularly now by a range of right-wing extremist activity, but we also have seen a near-explosion of shooting deaths of unarmed black men and women by the police, so tragically commonplace that it's brought about the Black Lives Matter movement. Whether there is a connection between these shooting deaths by the police and that 2006 FBI bulletin, that's something which might require another study. But the circumstantial evidence is palpable.
And each time these reports are released, the right-wing squeals in agony -- only to have it all later confirmed by the actions of reality.
And so in the end, the reports about White Supremacists and conspiracies to undermine the government were right. Far right.
As I have written often: this is not about Trump. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who enable it all. And who squeal in wounded howls. Trying to be loud enough to drown out anyone hearing their party's hate and racism. But there is no volume loud enough for that.
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