As I've mentioned in the past, the wonderful classical music station in Chicago, WFMT, has had a unique and joyful show every Saturday night, The Midnight Special, that tosses aside fine art and presents instead, folk, comedy, Broadway, and "madness and escape." The show was created by one of their staff announcers in the 1950s, a fellow named Mike Nichols who went on to far bigger things.
Every New Year's Eve, they do a special Special, taking listener requests and often having live performances in the studio -- or by remote from a stage. This year marks the New Year's Eve Midnight Special's 60th anniversary, so in its honor I thought I post a selection that tends to get requested every year.
This is the Rocky Mountain Boys -- actually, it's from a performance in concert of The Second City -- singing their hit classic, "I Hate Live."
Yesterday, I had a piece here about the Kennedy Center Honors, which lead, in a convoluted way to a discussion of French composer Marguerite Monnot and a video of Edith Piaf singing one of her signature songs, "Milord," co-written by Monnot. I also mentioned that she'd written another of Piaf's iconic songs, "The Poor People of Paris," which became a hit in the United States and has been recorded by many, including Yves Montand and Maurice Chevalier.
I suspect that the name of the song is more familiar to most people than having the tune on the tip of their tongues, so I thought it would be nice to have a little reminder, and another video of Edith Piaf singing it.
But a brief story first.
The original French title of the song is "La Goualante du Pauvre Jean". The complaint of poor Jean. So, how did it get to be "The Poor People of Paris," if it's poor jean who is the one upset? One story I've heard is that things got lost in translation. The name "Jean" in French is the same pronunciation as the word "gens." Or -- people! And it's possible that someone wrote it down as "La Goualante du Pauvre Gens". Mind you, I'm not sure if that's exactly what happened. But it's possible that the story is related. More likely might be that the person doing the translating recognized the homonym and realized a story about the people of Paris might have a more interesting connection for American and world audiences than the tale of one guy who's bothered.
Beyond that, it's a fun little video that looks as if it's taking place at a party, and begins with a fellow named Nate Jacques Pills talking with a friend. M. Pills, it should be noted, was the husband of Edith Piaf. As for his friend, it's some guy called Maurice Chevalier.
Anyway, I suspect that after a few bars of Marguerite Monnot's music, most people will look up and say, "Ahhh, that's 'The Poor People of Paris'"!
Except for Poor Jean who will say, "Non, ce n'est pas des gens, c'est moi!"
As a public service, I was scrolling through the channel guide to see what sort of festive broadcasting would be on television New Year's Eve.
ABC is airing 30 Greatest Women in Music, followed by Dick Clark's Primetime New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. (The holiday special which holds the record for most apostrophes.)
NBC has A Toast to 2013! and then News Years Eve with Carson Daly.
PBS will be broadcasting Live From Lincoln Center, featuring the "New York Philharmonic Gala with Yo-Yo Ma."
And CBS has NCIS, then NCIS: Los Angeles, and finally Person of Interest.
(On Sesame Street, this is where they'd begin singing, "One of These Things is Not Like the Other.")
If you've ever looked for a definition of "counter-programming," this is it.
To be clear, I'm not making a value judgment here, just an observation. I don't think a network is under any obligation to have a rockin' night on New Years Eve -- or even a rocking one -- or have a "big festive party" for all the folks at home not having a party at all, or have a Gala Special. I think it's nice when something musical is done, or light and lively, but mainly I think it's nice when something particularly entertaining is on. Like a "marathon" (I like marathons, particularly Law & Order. Or a good Marx Bros. marathon.) But if a network wants to program some of its dramas, fine. I do think that perhaps that's an odd choice of dramas for New Years Eve, but hey, their network, their choice. Maybe they figure that since it's the only network choice that's not a gala, they'll draw in some new potential audience members for the future who'll want to watch anything that night that isn't bubbly.
By the way, Food Network has a marathon of Chopped All Stars. Passable by their standards, but I think they could have done better.
And TCM has a marathon of the three That's Entertainment movies. Followed by That's Dancing! And then the documentary, Musicals Great Musicals, about producer Arthur Freed, who made so many of the musicals they'll have been showing clips of for the previously nine (seriously) hours. A solid choice, though it seems a bit overkill and repetitious. I'd rather have had the full version of half a dozen of those great musicals in full. But -- it's fine.
Anyway, it's all warm-up for the next day. That's when all the football Bowl Games start and overrun the airwaves.
I've got my chips and dip all ready...
Language is a funny thing. Time, too. Especially in the world of high tech, where a year can be a lifetime and moments are measured in nanoseconds.
SugarSync is a very good cloud file-sharing service for sharing and syncing files. It's also been well-regarded for its ability to also sync folders across machines automatically. Among its pricing plans was a starter option that offered 5 GB of space for free. Forever.
For those of you keeping calendar notes, "forever" came to a close on December 10, when SugarSync announced that time, as we know it, has ended. They will be stopping having any free SugarSync plan as of February 8. As you might imagine, a lot of people have been unhappy. If "all PR is good PR," then SugarSync has been getting a lot of great PR. Semantics aside, the words being written don't appear as good.
Here's how one online customer (sorry, former customer) explained in his his comments after an announcement article on the subject on the SugarSync website forums --
I understand that you will need to earn some money to survive but why this sudden cancellation of the free plan? Do you want to loose a large proportion of your customers? Did you forget that all your competitors are offering free plans?? Skydrive (7 GB free, 50 GB for $50/y and well integrated with Windows 8.1 and Office) and Google Drive (15 GB free) just to name some. Also their service is in most cases not bad at all! Moreover, how reliable will you be for your customers in the future? If you are smart and you really want to keep at least some of your "smaller" customers now on a free plan, offer them a 10, 20, 30... etc GB plan for an affordable price. 60 GB and higher may be good for business not for a private user!!!.
In your email to your customers you are offering a reduced rate if the customer will upgrade before December 16. If you would have some feeling for doing business and respect your customers you would offer this at least for a couple of month untill or even after the February upgrade deadline.
You also do not tell anything in you email what will happen with the free GB's earned by referrals after upgrading. Is that the excellent service you and your moderater is referring to?
Indeed, to be clear, just as even this pissed-off note suggests, few fair-minded people begrudge a company making money and not giving away its business for free. But in a world of trust and security (which cloud file-sharing is related to), going back on your word is not considered a great foundation for trust. Especially since the company helped build its base by having these free users get extra free space by getting friends to sign up. That's pissed off a lot of folks, who are expressing online how used they feel. It's likely that if SugarSync had offered a low-cost option for those 5 GB, people might have grumbled, but accepted it. But the company's lowest-cost plan is now close to $100 a year for 60 GB of space. Clearly the business model is now for companies, not individuals, since few people have great need for that much cloud space. Let alone pay $100 every year for the storage.
For those of you who might be using SugarSync and are now looking to move, there are a lot of alternatives. Services like Dropbox, Skydrive and Google Drive head the list. But sites which offer automatic folder sync is less crowded. I haven't found one yet to recommend, though I've read positive word about such services as Spideroak, PCloud, Bitcasa and BitTorrent Sync.
By the way, my favorite comment in all of this came from a publication called Tech Week Europe. In expressing the problems with the decision, the author decides to bend over backwards to sound oh-so fair-minded and metaphysical, like a deeply philosophical Gandalf. He writes about the free service and free apps that synced it with your devices, and then all-knowingly, looked down upon thee and added, by the by -- "Those free apps for everyone’s smart phone aren’t really free, after all. You’re paying for them through either your attention or your product loyalty."
Oh, just freaking sigh. In other words, according this twisted theory, if someone gives you something for free, without any remuneration required whatsoever, and you actually look at this gift in your hands with a warm smile and like it...it's not free -- because you actually look at it, use the freaking thing and like it.
I'm sorry. That's not a cost. That's the definition of appreciation.
The product was free. Really. At least until February 8.
I've finally gotten past unclenching my teeth over the Chicago Bears loss yesterday. It was bad enough that the loss was against their Big Rivals, the Green Bay Packers. It was worse that it knocked the Bears out of the playoffs. And it was worse still that it allowed the Packers to make the playoffs. But it's how they lost that was teeth gnashing.
Even if you don't follow sports, this is a tale that is easy to follow and borderline inexplicable. At the very least, clicking on the two links to see the replays will be equally as clear and easy to see the mind-numbing screw ups.
You'd think that if a team knew that their fate was in their own hands, and that all they had to do was win one game to make the playoffs, then that team would be SO focused and battling tooth-and-nail on every single play to get that win. And I'm sure the Bears are all telling themselves that they did just that.
But seriously folks.
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, when all the Bears had to do was win, and they were in the playoffs, they got crushed 54-11. It was one of the most-lopsided loss in the teams' very long history.
This week was almost worse. Mind you, the score was much closer, 33-38. And the Bears were even leading with 38 seconds left. And it was fourth down for the Packers, who needed eight yards to keep their hopes alive. Instead, they got 48 yards and a touchdown to win the game.
On what was clearly going to be a pass play, somehow the Packers receiver not only got behind the Bears defense, but so far behind them that no defender was within five yards of him. I know the explanation was that the Bears were focused on the eight yards needed and set-up to stop that. But that's the explanation -- the reality is that they let a receiver get beyond them uncovered on a pass play that would have won the team the division.
I can't embed the play directly, but this NFL Tweet has the video embedded in it.
But here's the thing. THAT isn't the most galling, unfocused, unthinking play.
That one came in the second quarter. The Packers were driving for a touchdown, on the Bears 15 yard when. Their quarterback Aaron Rodgers went back to throw, but was hit and the pass fell incomplete on the ground. However, it wasn't a pass, it was ruled a fumble. The referees never blew their whistles meaning the play was still active.
And with the ball just sitting on the ground, active, in play, no Bear leaped on it. In fairness, no played leaped on it, everyone thought the play was over. But one Packer, Jarrett Boykin, runs over to pick it up. Only after wandering around for a few seconds, thinking the play is over, too, his teammates on the sidelines began screaming at him to run, and he finally turns and races off to score a bizarre touchdown. As the Bears stood around.
Again, I know the explanation was that everyone thought the play was over. But -- this was the game where if you won you went to the playoffs, and if you lost you went home. You'd think that on every play, every player on your team would leap and dig and scrabble after every ball -- until you heard the referee's whistle that a play was over. And you'd think that your teammates on the sideline would be so focused on the game that they, too, would be screaming at you to get the ball just laying there, because the whistle hadn't blown. (In fairness, maybe they were. But given that no Bear on the field seemed to be doing anything other than wandering aimlessly, I suspect that that isn't the case.)
Again, I can't embed the video of that bizarre play directly, but here is a link to the page that has it imbedded. Even if you don't follow football, it will be clear how utterly strange -- and really bad -- this is.
Click here to see the play in action.
But here's the photo of the Chicago Bears, with everything on the line, just standing around. As the ball on the right sits there. Waiting for a Packer to pick it up. And score what turned out to be the difference in the game.
If you watched the Kennedy Center Honors last night, there are a couple of tidbits worth passing along about the tribute section for Shirley MacLaine. The segment was an homage to Broadway, a notable though somewhat odd choice considering that she's really only known for two musicals -- a chorus part in The Pajama Game which led to her Hollywood career, and the movie version of Sweet Charity.
They performed songs from those two shows, but also from two others, the songs "Irma La Douce" and "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish." There are reasons for those two numbers, though.
The first is somewhat obvious if you know Shirley MacLaine's career, since she starred opposite Jack Lemmon in the movie, Irma La Douce. However, if you know her career and that movie, you also know that there are no songs in the movies, and there's certainly not that song. However, the movie is based on a stage musical of the same name, and when they made the film, co-writer/director Billy Wilder cut out all the songs, and make the movie as a straight dramatic comedy. But that number performed on Sunday was the title song of the original musical. (Some of the music from the stage show was, at least, included in the film's background.)
The second song is from a stage musical called Seesaw, with a score by Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman. The connection to Shirley MacLaine is that the show is based on the movie, Two for the Seesaw. And that starred Shirley MacLaine and Robert Mitchum.
So, now you know.
By the way, moving in a different direction, but connection, that musical, Irma La Douce, didn't begin life on Broadway. Previous to that, it played on London's West End -- and before it, it originated in 1956 in Paris, where it was a huge hit and ran for four years. The original French lyrics were written by Alexandre Breffort, with music by Marguerite Monnot.
And that's the reason for bringing this up. Marguerite Monnot was a renowned French composer who's best known for writing many of the great songs performed by Edith Piaf, including most famously "Milord," one of Piaf''s two most renown songs..
(Another especially big song that Monnot wrote for Piaf was what was known in the U.S. as "The Poor People of Paris," which ultimately took on a life of its own and got recorded by many artists, including Maurice Chevalier and Yves Montand)
For those of you who saw Marion Cotillard's Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf in the film, La Vie en Rose, I thought you might like to see the real deal.
Here then is Edith Piaf herself with a tremendous performance of that same "Milord" (with music by Marguerite Monnot) on The Ed Sullivan Show. Stick around to the end -- not only does the song build to a roof-raising conclusion, but you'll get to see why Ed Sullivan really means it when he refers to her in his introduction as "the diminutive French star," when he calls her over afterwords. But all that explanation is unnecessary. I suspect you'll want to stick around to the end, period.
One of my favorite actors is Edward G. Robinson, and this is a particularly fun Mystery Guest segment on "What's My Line? He's having a joyful time with his accent, and not just answering with a simple "Yep" or "Nope" like most guests, but engages the panelists with witty chatting. The additional treat is when one of the panelists has a revelation on who the guest is.
Here's another in our series of adverts for the British mobile company, Orange, that played in movie theaters in England. This one features Steven Seagal pitching a romantic company to the mythical Orange Film Board, headed by the unimpressed Mr. Dresden.
This particular video I've embedded may start with an ad (what irony...), but it has better visual and -- important when dealing with Steven Seagal -- audio quality. You can click off the ad after just a few seconds.
When Dana Stevens agreed to do an Email Interview, she'd just written her first big, breakout hit. Previously, she'd been an actress and had regularly gotten parts, but all in small, supporting roles. She started to move in a different direction and sold her first screenplay, the thriller, "Blink." A few years passed before she wrote the screenplay for the romantic fantasy, "City of Angels." Her writing career has kept going upwards since. In rereading what she had to say back near the start, I found it particularly amusing and appropriate that one of her influences in writing was the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, "The Hobbit."
By way of reminder to readers new to this, the Email Interview were originally written for the Writers Guild of America. I sent a series of questions -- usually the same, core ones -- to each writer, and they did the harder work of answering them.
Edited by Robert J. Elisberg
At the time screenwriter Dana Stevens did her Email Interview, her writing career had just started to blossom. She had first written the thriller, “Blink,” and then a few years later wrote her breakout hit, “City of Angels.” Subsequent to the interview, she has written “For the Love of the Game,” “Life or Something Like It,” and last year’s “Safe Haven”. She also created the TV series, “What About Brian?” and currently has filming the upcoming CBS crime drama series, “Reckless.”
>> Were there any movies, TV shows or books that first got you interested in writing?
DS: I was very influenced as a kid by “The Way We Were.” It was the first “grown-up” movie I saw, and after seeing it on television recently, I have come to realize that I am writing "The Way We Were" over and over again. It has influenced my writing style right down to the rythms of the scenes. That movie is really underrated and terrific, despite Barbra Streisand’s over the top performance. It’s a movie where so much is said with so few words. That’s what I try to do; it’s a game, how much can I convey with the fewest amount of words? I think screenwriters are like poets in this way. Another influential film was “Annie Hall,” because it was so theatrical, it broke rules, and it was personal. Books? I was very influenced by fantasy books like C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Hobbit.” I started out as a kid trying to write my own fantastical story. Later it was “Franny and Zooey” by Salinger. Yeah right, me and every other college girl. A guy I dated a few times, a Cuban named Carlos gave me that one and it really changed my writing style.
>> When you write, how do you generally work? Is there a specific time you prefer to write?
DS: I would like to be like a writer I admire, Nick Pileggi, who works from nine to five and takes lunch and coffee breaks and just does his work, like a normal person, but I have a hard time settling down. I get very distracted. I have recently rented an office and am attempting regular hours from nine to two. I used to love to write late at night, but that was when I was single. Writing a script is a very workman-like process for me; it doesn’t all come in a flood. Each day I work and slowly build up the connective tissue, slogging my way toward the end. After four hours my brain really gets tired and I start to hate everything I’m writing. So I stop. The next day I can look at it again and really see whether it’s good or not. I spend weeks prior outlining and thinking. At a certain point I do feel “ready” to jump in, even if the outline isn’t exactly complete. My one ritual is that I make a tape, a compilation of music I feel evokes the tone and emotions I’m trying to convey. And I listen to that tape until it wears out, all through the writing of a project. Sometimes I make a second one. The music really gets my head in the right place to imagine the film.
>>> What sort of characters and stories interest you?
DS: Well, I love a love story. I don’t think I would be a writer if I couldn’t have a romance in the plot. I’m not an action writer or a comedy writer. I tend to like to drive my plots with psychological motivations, with relationships, as opposed to outside forces. I like melancholy characters who are searching for something. I like a good cry. I am very inspired by people I see in the street or on the beach or whatever. I see certain little tableaus or hear snippets of conversations and I imagine the movie of their life. I also like research, real stories and places help me come up with ideas. I sometimes see a movie someone else has written that is totally unlike anything I would be attracted to or would be able to write, and I love that too.
>>> How do you work through parts of a script where you hit a roadblock in the story?
DS: What a horrible horrible feeling, those roadblocks. I had great advice from a friend recently who told me to take a break and just stop, even for days. I tend to think I have to sit there all day till my eyes bleed to solve it. But distance really does help. I also think it helps to just stop, go out for coffee, and think to yourself, “What would I do if I were this character? In this situation?” Try to make it really real. I also sometimes go back. Sometimes the actual problem is not where you are stuck at, but an earlier turn that was wrong and led you in the wrong direction. It’s good to go back and ask yourself, what if I change my mind, what if the character does this? How far would that get me? I think the secret of plot is a very clear chain of cause and effect. This happens. And because that happens, the next thing happens, and because that happens, the next thing happens and so on. It can be a psychological or actual events, but this is the key. If you’re stuck, it’s probably because there connections aren’t logical. Someone in the story did something that didn’t follow logically from the last thing.
>>> What is your best experience as a writer.
DS: “City of Angels.” I was very included in the process by the director and the actors. I loved the crew and being on the set, I learned a great deal about film-making, I made mistakes, I saw what worked in my writing and what didn’t.
>>> Was there any particular writer who acted as a sort of mentor to you?
DS: Ed Solomon. He was my boyfriend off and on all during my 20’s. He was a successful writer, but he encouraged me greatly when I made my early attempts. To this day he is my touchstone, my toughest critic, but also the smartest. He makes you go back and really think. Be clear. And be true to the vision you are trying to realize.
7) Why do you write?
DS: Here’s my touchy feely answer. I write because I like to feel. I love drama, all those intense, swept away feelings that movies can give you and have given me my whole life. I love to create those intense moments, to live in the fantasy world of the movie, and hopefully to see it realized on screen. I also write because I find it comforting to be able to take my time, in my little room, getting everything just right. Much better than the extemporaneous communication we have to face out there in the real world.
It's been a quiet week. But a lot of tales, culminating in one of the most different monologues the show has had, where Garrison Keillor brings in some other voices to help when when he reminisces about not having a TV when growing up but getting to watch one on Sunday night.
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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