As I think should be clear by now, I'm a big fan of John Mulaney. If you have a Netflix streaming subscription, his stage concerts are wonderful -- especially Kid Gorgeous at Radio City.
This is a half-hour montage of wonderful Mulaney material. It doesn't have the flow of one of his concerts, and despite what the video says I wouldn't call it "The Best" (for starters, it doesn't include his classic "a horse in the hospital" bit, which I've posted elsewhere here) -- but some of it is among his best, and all of it is a hoot, like his stories about zoning out, wanting to get Xanax, and his love of the show Law & Order.
I have the sense that the Republican Party in Congress has pretty much given up even trying to avoid the perception of being shameless.
Yesterday, I saw the following tweet from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
The good news is that his comments apparently on behalf of "ethics" and "transparency" did not go unnoticed by social media, and he was rightfully shredded for supposedly discovering the concept of "ethics" over aides who may not have ethical problems in the slightest -- after ignoring actual corruption directly by Trump himself for four years, not to mention by his family members who are top aides to him, as well as by some of his cabinet members, like Wilbur Ross. And none of this even touches on the basic, regular ethics violations by the Trump White House, including almost weekly breaking the Hatch Act ethics rules, which are SO far down the list of Trump administration ethics violations that they almost seem quaint.
In fairness, it's possible that after ignoring White House ethics violations for four years, Republicans in Congress may have forgotten what ethics actually are.
Having said that, I do think Sen. Cornyn deserves a big "thank you" for presenting voters in Georgia with yet another reason to vote for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, to give Democrats control of the Senate, rather than more years of Republican "...but what about Benghazi"-like fake hearings to obstruct governing and keep from helping Americans.
The bad news is that I hope Joe Biden notices Sen. Cornyn's tweet as a reminder that this kind of thing is the Republican Party in Congress who, as President, he'll be dealing with.
After all, consider that most Republicans in Congress haven't even admitted that Joe Biden is the winner yet (!), but already are claiming that he has -- no, not even that, but rather just possibly has -- an "ethics" issue because of perhaps, maybe questionable ties to unknown firms by...no, not by Biden himself, but by...by...nominated aides!!!
So, it turns out that "aides" is the new "Hunter Biden."
The good news is that on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States. And also that if this is all that the Republicans have, they are going to be firing blanks for a long time.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the socially-distanced NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is pro basketball player A'ja Wilson, who was this year’s Most Valuable Player in the WNBA. In her good-hearted conversation with host Peter Sagal, she talks about playing the past season in their official “bubble.” (She says that one of the biggest challenges during the season was that, with no fans in the stands, the referees could hear everything you said.) Also fun is how worked up and competitive she is playing the quiz.
On this week’s episode of 3rd & Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Scott Frank, who is the co-creator-showrunner-writer-director of The Queen’s Gambit, the most-watched limited-series on Netflix. He talks about adapting Walter Tevis’ novel, as well as his other work, that includes Get Shorty, Minority Report, Marley & Me, Logan, the limited-series Godless (for which he wrote and directed all episodes) and more.
From the archives. This week's contestant is Jim Hanson from St. Paul, Minnesota, It's a short, fun piece -- and I didn't get any of it. And my teeth were chattering enough because so much sounded familiar that i felt I should get both the hidden song and composer style. It turns out that while I do indeed know the song quite well, it isn't one that I know as wildly-familiarly as I thought. To the contestant's great credit, he guesses it -- so it is gettable.
I've posted a bunch of videos from JL Cauvin, who I think is terrific, not just for his basic humor and the vocal quality of his impersonation, but also the little details he tosses in. His latest is a hoot -- Trump feeling sort of obligated to contact the troops overseas for Thanksgiving.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, he talks about the election and “heaps scorn and ridicule upon Trump & his team.” This includes, as a bonus, that he opens the show with a fun sketch interviewing a Trump election attorney about a press conference he plans to hold. Also, former GOP political operative Stuart Stevens joins the show later as a guest to talk about on his mea culpa” as described by his book’s title, “It Was All A Lie,” and discusses what the GOP has become.
It's relatively well-known that Arlo Guthrie had the first hit recording of Steve Goodman's song "The City of New Orleans." Except he wasn't the first person who had the opportunity to record it. Initially, Goodman took the song to Johnny Cash. That seemed a natural since Cash was known for the many train songs he'd recorded. The problem for Cash, though, was that he had indeed recorded many train songs -- and so he passed. And always acknowledged it was not among his best decisions.
To his credit, Johnny Cash didn't avoid the song, but performed it often and recorded it. as well, albeit belatedly. He even featured the song at length in a TV special he did, Riding the Rails. And he occasionally had Steve Goodman open for him in concert -- and included Goodman in a gala TV concert he had.
So, how would Johnny Cash have done with "City of New Orleans"? Seriously, now, how do you think? Here he is singing the song on what appears to be the series, Hee-Haw. And it sounds like a perfect song for Johnny Cash. But then, it's a perfect song for most anyone who decides to sing it...
No, the other one.
This is a huge treat for classical music lovers. But I also think that for those who aren't, at the very least the first 20 minutes or so of this video may well still be fascinating. It's a video that the Chicago Symphony posted on their new CSOtv website of Sir Georg Solti conducting the orchestra in 1989 playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I believe this may have aired originally on PBS Great Performances. I don’t know if this video will only be up during the holiday weekend or longer. I suspect the latter, but no guarantees
What's important to add – this isn’t just Solti conducting Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They call it “Revisited,” and the video begins with over 20 minutes of Solti talking about how and why he chose to interpret the performance this new way, which is much more “violent” than usual, but which -- after years of studying it -- he believes is close to what Beethoven wanted, and that is intercut with extensive clips of him rehearsing the orchestra to get what he wants. Only after that do they have the full piece. The whole thing is wonderful but it's that first 20 minutes that's riveting. So, you really get an idea what a conductor does, better than almost anything I’ve seen – and you also see why Solti and the CSO were considered so great together.
For those who only want to see and hear the symphony itself, you can jump to the 22:30 mark. Any who just want to see the documentary part, it runs...well, 22-and-a-half minutes. But you probably figured that out.
Because it's only on the CSOtv website, I can't embed it on these pages, but you can watch it here.
By the way, speaking of Solti and his deep connection to the Chicago Symphony brings up a fond memory. Back in 1997, I was home visiting Chicago and remember going to a CSO concert with my mother to what was supposed to have been Solti's 1,000th concert with the orchestra – but he’d passed away a few weeks earlier (having done 999 concerts). They still went ahead with the scheduled festivities, but it was more a memorial than gala celebration.
After the concert, they still had the planned reception for invited guests. We found this out as we were leaving and passed by a large, glass-enclosed conference room, and my mother asked the security guard at the door what it was for. Now, for this tale to have any meaning, you must understand that my mother was 74 at the time, tiny (about 5’-2” 90 pounds), had had polio and was deeply Midwestern polite, she never swore, always went by decorum, tried to be nice to everyone, if you or she or anyone did something rude, even accidentally, it really bothered her, and she was a full-believer in apologies – the point being that she was profoundly sweet, on the frail side, and very lowkey -- but when she found out about the reception she insisted to me on getting inside. When I explained that it just didn't seem possible, she stood her ground. (My joke about her -- and I even said it to her -- was she was someone who wouldn't take "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no" for an answer. And the reason she was so insistent on getting inside was because, as she said -- I want to see Lady Solti.” So...we actually sneaked it. Somehow. My recollection was that the security wasn’t very tight, to say the least, but thankfully not because it made her SO happy that she did get to see Lady Solti.
I never would have imagined that she’d have wanted to sneak into anything. But she did. So, that’s what convinced me that it must me done.
We'll end our Fest with a longer, special treat.
This comes with thanks to Eric Boardman who brought it to my attention. Eric and I share a love for Jack Benny. He particularly loves the radio show -- and while I do, as well, I also enjoy watching the later TV version which airs two episodes ever Saturday night on the Antenna TV cable channel.
This is the "Jack Benny Thanksgiving Program" episode from his radio show on November 30, 1952.
As Eric wrote, "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 political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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