From the archives. This week's contestant is Lorelei Costa from Southern Shores, North Carolina. The hidden song was exceedingly easy, gettable within seconds. The composer style is one of those where there are three of four names I overlap. I got it wrong. But what's funny is that the contestant was a little stumped, too, but said she knows that on "Piano Puzzler" that always say when it doubt, go with your gut, so she did and got it -- and oddly enough, that had been my first thought, too, so if I'd "gone with my gut," I'd have guessed it, as well. But it was a composer I just don't know well, and decided not to go with a composer I didn't know well. Wrong choice..
The guest on this week's 3rd and Fairfax pocast from the Writers Guild of America is writer-director-actor Edward Norton who talks about his career and current film, the excellent Motherless Brooklyn for which he wore all three hats, writing, directing and starring in .
Yesterday, I saw one of those short TV ads with a video that ends with "To see more, go to..." and then gives a URL address to see the full video online. Usually, I don't follow-up on such things. This one, however, was near-impossible not to.
I don't want to give out why or anything about the video. The surprise is too much of a fun "Yipes, wow!!!" thing. The only thing I'll say is that this is SO weird because I have no idea how or why the company -- Xfinity -- got permission to from the rights holders to do this. They've been pretty protective for over 35 years. In the end, this is like a trailer for a sequel to one of the most famous movies ever made, with some of the original cast.
It should be noted that Xfinity is owned by Comcast which owns Universal that made the original movie. So, that clearly helped -- a lot. But the biggest hurdle was probably getting the film's director on board, and he not only gave his approval, but was consulted throughout the project. And one of the actors who was involved with the short film commented, "The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts.” The ad doesn't really seem to have all that much to do with Xfinity except in the most general, tangential way -- but will no doubt get them a lot of attention, which ultimately may be the point.
I shall say no more.
My suggestion is to click to double-arrows in the lower-right corner of the video viewing box to make the image go full-screen.
This is a Must-Read story. The short version is that ICE set up a fake university to lure foreign students, and just arrested 250 of them and so far deported 90. No, really.
What's ludicrous about this story (beyond being sick) is that the government lured foreign students on student visas to the fake school until their visas expired just so they could send them back!
A question: Will students not arrested and just caught up in the scam get their money back? Because millions of dollars were taken in. Since that would mean vulnerable (and now probably terrified) people suing the U.S. government, my guess is that they're out their money.
P.S. On the positive side, it's worth noting that 7 of the 8 RECRUITERS were arrested and have pleaded guilty!
You can read the full, galling story here from the Detroit Free Press. Highly recommended.
We'll end our Thanksgiving extravaganza with one final scene from The West Wing. I particularly wanted to post it, not just for how funny it is about a Thanksgiving tradition, but also because it has one of my favorite lines in the series. It comes around the :38-second mark, and is President Barlett's response to CJ telling him what will happen to a turkey. And as a bonus, there is a hilarious, but very subtle, throwaway line by Donna near the end, so low-key that it's easy to miss.
This song isn't specifically about Thanksgiving -- it's from Scrooge, the movie version of A Christmas Carol, after all.. But since the song is entirely about thanking people, it fits just fine. It also features a fave, but little-known actor here, Anton Rodgers, who my folks had seen earlier in London a supporting role in another Dickens show, the musical Pickwick and they still talked about him 50 years later. He sings and dances up a storm here with Albert Finney supporting him. This is the Oscar-nominated Best Song by Leslie Bricusse (who. as it happens, wrote the lyrics to Pickwick...), "Thank You Very Much."
While there are a bunch of songs that people sing at Thanksgiving -- okay, pretty much one: "We Gather Together" -- there aren't many about Thanksgiving. There's an awful one from the musical Promises, Promises, called "Turkey Lurkey Time," but this is actually a fairly pleasant one from a British musical, written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, The Good Old, Bad Old Days. It's quite appropriately titled, "Thanksgiving Day."
Trundling along with our Thanksgiving gala, The West Wing always seem to go out of its way to have wonderful episodes for Thanksgiving. This is one of the funniest and most memorable scenes from them. President Bartlett and the Butterball Hotline.
Continuing with our Thanksgiving celebration, this is the classic it's near-impossible to get through the day without including. It's Stan Freberg's glorious song, "Take an Indian to Lunch This Week" from his fabled album Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America. Volume 1: The Early Years."
And as a bonus, we have Freberg's explanation of how the turkey took its place on the table.
Today, we'll have a festival of sorts of Thanksgiving related pieces -- from songs to videos to old radio shows. And this is a good place to start.
I'm a big fan of Jack Benny, and have been since a kid. Perhaps I got it from my Grandma Rose who loved Benny, and I remember watching his TV show with her when little. Later, when I was at a senior at Northwestern I finally had built up enough contacts to figure out how to get access to their great radio archive -- it was like entering a wonderful, wall-to-wall recordings of old radio programs, and I was able to tape record a bunch of old Benny shows for my collection, which I still have. They're gems.
It turns out that my friend and reader of these pages, Eric Boardman -- an all-around talented fellow and Second City alum -- is quite the fan, as well. He sent me the following several months back, about the Jack Benny Show's Thanksgiving special on November 30, 1952 --
"It's no secret, I am obsessed with the Jack Benny radio show. Each night I listen to an episode on my phone as I fall asleep. (Do you conk out with a smile on your kisser?)
"Yes, I know Thanksgiving is long over, but this particular program will bring joy to any season. Today's sitcom staffers should study the construction. And everybody else should howl with laughter---and marvel at the gags radio encourages. Benny's writers are constantly surprising us with 'visual" images' And Mr. Benny generously shares the jokes with his crackerjack cast. (Thanks always to the Sportsman Quartet for making cigarette commercials satisfying.) 'The Lucky Strike Program with Jack Benny' is high art, maybe the highest of the genre.
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, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. 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.
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