This is a charming and exceedingly low-key video that Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made, singing "What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" Not-shockingly, I figured that it was reasonably appropriate tonight. How low-key are the production values? At the end, Ms. Deschanel leans over to click off the camera.
On the site, she also posts the following explanation --
"I have known Joe Gordon-Levitt for going on 12 years. We first met in the summer of 2000 while doing a tiny movie called Manic, where we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Harry Nilsson and Nina Simone and I have been lucky enough to call him one of my dearest friends ever since. When we did 500 Days of Summer 8 years later, we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun. I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he's simply the best. But in the meantime, we made a little New Year's duet for all of you! The original by Nancy Wilson. ENJOY!"
For the sake of accuracy, she's wrong about a couple of things. For starters, it is not "by" Nancy Wilson. Yes, I know she (like many singers) is referring to who recorded it, but who a song is "by" is personal bugaboo of mine. And it's especially notable here because this particular song was written by the great Broadway composer Frank Loesser (who wrote Guys & Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, among others), though it wasn't for any show or movie, just a standalone song.
She's also wrong that the original was not recorded by Nancy Wilson, missing by almost two decades. The original recording was performed by Margaret Whiting in 1947. (Wilson didn't record it until 1965, though she had a big hit with it, reaching #17 on the Billboard charts.)
But those are details. The performance itself is the lovely point of it all --
The other day I posted a couple of songs from the recent Broadway musical Bright Star, that had a score by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, with a book by Martin. While tracking them down, I came upon this video by chance.
The show, which is based on a true story, ran for 109 performances and got five Tony nominations including Best Musical. It closed on June 26 of this year...but only about two weeks ago -- on December 12 -- the entire original cast and original stage bad reunited to put on a concert version of the show. I'm not quite sure why, but perhaps it was to promote the cast album which was nominated for a Grammy. Though that's awfully uncommon, so who knows?
It's not the full show, but a trimmed down version that focuses mainly on the music, as Steven Martin explains in his very entertaining introduction. Also worth-watching at the beginning is a song that was cut from the show which he and Edie Brickell perform. (The song, by the way, won a Grammy in what I assume was a separate presentation than the main Grammy Awards night.)
If you don't want to watch the whole video, but only those first five minutes, I still suggest jumping to the 1:15:40 mark. That's where Carmen Cusack, who got a Tony nomination for the show as Best Actress in a Musical, sings her gorgeous anthem, "At Long Last." That's the song I embedded the other day, but it was the audio only. Needless-to-say, it gets a rousing reaction from the audience -- and since this is just a concert reuntion, she doesn't feel a need to stay in character, and her reaction afterwards is charming.
Also worth jumping to is the Q&A that Martin and Brickell participate in along with the principals that starts at the 1:25:40 mark. Actually, it starts a couple minutes after that, but you might enjoy the introductory remarks by the album's producer, Peter Asher. If that name is familiar to you, it's becauses he was half of the popular singer duo in the '60s, Peter and Gordon.
As I said, I don't know exactly why they did this reunion concert -- since not only the concert, but also this video recording are professionally done. Great video, solid sound (with some hiccups) and well-edited. Perhaps it's for later broadcast on PBS. That's my leading guess, as I think of it. But then, why release it on YouTube. It's posted by the BroadwayHD group, which has a commercial site, so...I default back to "I don't know."
But I'm glad they did.
It's been a while since we had a Mystery Guest segment from What's My Line -- but this one we're goiing to do a little differently.
Back in the 1950s, Irving Berlin wrote a musical called Call Me, Madam, which starred Ethel Merman. She played 'Sally Adams," a good-natured socialite who's made ambassador to a tiny country, Lichtenstein, often seen boisterously talking on the phone with her good pal, Harry, who appointed her. The story was very loosely based on the life of Perle Mesta, a popular Washington party-giver, nick-named "The Hostess with the Mostes'", who was eventually appointed ambassador to tiny Luxemburg by President Harry Truman, where she served for four years. Basically a fund-raiser for Democrats, she had a good relationship wirh Republicans, as well. (One of the later songs in the musical is titled, "I Like Ike.")
You may know the movie version, which has a fun score with one big hit -- "You're Just in Love" (a counterpoint song that begins, "I hear singing, but there's no one there..."). But if not, here's the trailer --
I mention all of that for one particular reason --
The guest on What's My Line? here is the real Perle Mesta. As you can see from the graphic below, this episode is from August, 1952, and I believe that she served as ambassador from 1949-1953, which means she still was likely ambassador at the time.
On Thursday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) was on MSNBC denying that Russia hacked into the government despite insistence by the FBI and CIA that they did, along with pieces of evidence to support this. (By the way, the next time a Republican tells a reporter that they don't believe that Russia did hack to influence the election, I'd love the journalist just once to ask, "On what do you base that belief?" It's fine, after all, that we all have the right to believe whateve we want, but merely, "I just don't believe it," isn't a terribly substantive argument -- especially in the face of the FBI and CIA saying they did.)
Worse, though, was when he went on -- “There’s no suggestion that Russia hacked into our voting systems or anything like that. If Russia succeeded in giving the American people information that was accurate, then they merely did what the media should’ve done.”
Before we even get into substantive specifics, Mr. Franks makes a bizarre, pointless defense by saying that there as been no suggestion of something being done, while the FBI and CIA have made clear statements of all the very bad acts that were done. This is like defending a bank robber by claiming there's been no suggestion he stole any children's lunch money.
But as for those specifics --
For starters, there's been evidence that not all the information that got released by Wikileaks was accurate, and some if it was manipulated, which creates a serious problem of knowing what was real and what wasn't.
In addition, Russia's involvement in trying to influence the election involves more than "just" hacking. There's much documented evidence of a large network of Russian trolls spreading fake news and disinformation, which in its own way is just as problematic.
But far more to the point, one of the many massive problems with the Russian hack and release of information was that it was done to influence the election, which means only stolen material from Hillary Clinton was made public, not anything about the Trump campaign or Republicans. If Rep. Franks actually, truly wants the media to get involved in the same way, and provide the American people "information that was accurate," then he is ignoring the blatantly obvious realitiy that this means he's calling for them to hack into Republican systems, as well. Not just those of the Trump campaign, of course, but all Republican officials -- including his own. For that matter, if the goal is to simply provide accurate information, then he seemingly has no problem with hacking anyone citizen's system. Unless, of course, he's being totally, pathetically disingenuous and only wants Hillary Clinton and Democrats' privacy hacked.
But mostly, above everything, it's bizarre that it seems necessary to remind Rep. Franks that hacking is actually illegal. A crime, that sort of thing. And he's actually calling for the media to do. But in the end, that's how "Russia succeeded" in getting the private information he seems to so desperately want released.
It's important to note one other major reality about the Russian hacking that gets overlooked by Repubicans so anxious to dismiss the claims of the FBI and CIA in order to defend their party's interests and Donald Trump, at the expense of national security. And that's the reality that reports have said that Republican servers were hacked. The fact that the information wasn't released doesn't mean the Russians don't have the information -- they do -- it's only that they didn't release it, which supports the contention that the hack was done to help get Trump election president. And what's critically overlooked is that, by not releasing it (yet), they hold material that could be used to, in essence, "blackmail" Republican officials or even Trump in pushing polices that Russia wants in exchange for secrecy. In fact, going even further, if anyone thinks that Russia hasn't been hacking Donald Trump for years -- thanks to his involvement with Russia and his expressed interest in running for president -- then you are acting like a naive, innocent fool.
There are many reasons why it is to everyone's best interest to support an investigation into Russian hacking to influence the U.S. presidential election. And by "everyone," I mean...everyone. Including Republicans, including Trump. If you close your eyes when someone is swinging a baseball bat at your head, that won't stop the bat from continuing towards your skull.
I thought I'd add a mid-week Piano Puzzler, since it's holiday time and all. The contestant here is Matthew Johnson from Chattanooga, Tennessee. This Puzzler is a bit of an oddity -- since I got the composer style, but not the song, and it's usually the other way around. And I felt annoyed at that, because it was clear where the hidden song was and sensed I should know it. I did at least guess it when played the second time around, though I'm not sure if composer Bruce Adolphe might have highlighted things a bit. It's defiitely a well-known song, but not a wildly-known one.
This is a two-part video posting about Sutton Foster, for whom I've had a few videos here in the past. I haven't seen her on stage, but from the performances I've come across on TV and video, I find her a wildly, multi-talented performer. Her two Tony-Awards aren't shabby either. But then, it doesn't hurt too that when she won her first Tony, she thanked her acting teacher, Joan Rosenfels -- with whom I went to grade school at North School in Glencoe, Illinois.
The story slipped under the wire, but it turns out that she's appearing in New York now in a limited-run production of the musical, Sweet Charity. And "limited" is the appropriate word -- it opened in late November and runs through January 8. And that's with two extensions. There's a charming and not-surprisingly energetic video posted of her in one of the more-fun numbers from the show, "If My Friends Could See Me Now." Unfortunately, the production didn't release the full performance, only part as (I assume) a teaser, but it's pretty long one, as far as teasers go, so we get to see her charming rendition.
(It must be a wonderful production to see, since this is clearly in a very intimate setting, with a thrust stage going into the audience, rather than a Big Broadway House.)
Given that the show is only running for six weeks, is in a small theater, and likely was sold out within weeks, if not days of being announced, I doubt there was a great need to tease anything, and a longer video wouldn't have been problematic. But still, it's good to have this.
That brings us to part two. And this is the part that says we should have seen this coming.
Back in 2012, Foster starred in a short-lived series on the ABC Family channel, called Bunheads. She played a former ballerina who ends up a Las Vegas showgirl, and then ultimately, through a variety of plot twists in the pilot, becomes a ballet teacher in a small California coastal town.
She still has thoughts of dancing, and in one episode she does go and audition for a show. The number she auditions with? "If My Friends Could See Me Now"...!!
(For the record, no, I wasn't aware of this connection. I didn't especially watch the series and only saw two epsiodes, though it was well-done. But I read a comment online with the Sweet Charity video, and tracked down this clip below.)
Ah, simpler times. Remember back when the far-right spun themselves into a tizzy and was outraged (!!) when Barack and Michelle Obama made a supposed fake-terrorist fist bump? The good ol' days.
Imagine this from them.
I think the screaming would have been even louder and more horrified than when Starbucks changes its holiday cups from red to green.
On the other hand, I did figure out why Trump sent this! He must have been watching an old rerun of Seinfeld and instead of "Festivus" thought they said they were celebrating..."Fistivus"
What I still can't figure out though is why, in a family card, it didn't include his wife and children. Just him and his tiny fist.
Well, that was unexpected. But quite a fun game. Big upset, the beloved Northwestern wins the Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24 in an upset against #24 Pittsburgh. Okay, so the Pinstripe Bowl isn't one of the more epic, but it's a classic venue at Yankee Stadium, and a win helps recruting, as I said earlier.
Clearly they had some lucky breaks, like Pitt losing their star running back (and inspiration, coming back from Hodgkins) James Conner, as well as their quarterback, Nathan Peterman. But Pittsburgh has a very good team, and a win is a win. It counts.
One offbeat note. The winner of the game is awarded the Steinbrenner Trophy, named after the late owner of the Yankees George Steinbrenner. Though I was never a fan of his, I mention it for a little-known reason -- very early in his career, George Steinbrenner was actually an assistant football coach at Northwestern! Really.
Okay, so I don't think most people will care, but given it's loooong history being dismal at football, the beloved Northwestern Wildcats are actually playing in a bowl game that starts at 11 AM today, Los Angeles time. It's not a particularly big bowl -- the Pinstripe Bowl played at Yankee Staidum -- though it's certainly a high-profile one.
And alas, they are not expected to win. They had a medicocre season at 6-6 -- looking great in some games, and pathetic in others. And Pittsburgh is actually pretty good. They're 8-4, ranked #24 in the country, and beat two Top 5 teams this year. But...hey, it's a bowl game, so that becomes a good selling point for recruiting. And a guy can hope...
By the way, in a small historical note, the two teams have played once before in the '70s. Pittsburgh won 21-14 in Evanston, a game that I attended when a student. It might seen odd to remember a game after so long, but this was memorable. That's because Pittsburgh had a freshman who no one had ever heard of, in fact playing in only his second game. And that day he ran for what was then a school-record 265 yards. His name was Tony Dorsett, and he later went on to have a Hall fo Fame career in the NFL.
I came across this video totally by accident last week. I wasn't looking for something with Carrie Fisher since she was in the hospital in critical condition. I wasn't looking for something with Carrie Fisher in it, period. I didn't even plan the watch the whole thing. As great as the video was, which got me to keep watching until I saw the whole thing, I wasn't planning to post it here. But with the news yesterday that Carrie Fisher passed away, I thought I should post it. It was too fitting not to.
I generally watch the Graham Norton Show on BBC America, and this past Saturday she was one of the guests, the reason she was in England, to promote her new book, before flying back when she had her heart attack. But I wasn't looking for a video clip to post -- I hadn't found that particular episode all that interesting and even fast-forwarded through a bit until I finally turned it off .
I can't even tell you right now how I came across it. I was doing some normal browsing on YouTube, when I saw a video that had both Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds together, on Oprah Winfrey's show in 2011. I was intrigued to see them together, since I never had. But I didn't want to watch the whole thing -- I'm not big on "celebrity scandals," and get zero scheunenfreude pleasure from other people's troubles. If there's a scandal story on TV, I generally will click away. If there's a headline online, I'll click to something else. If I'm driving on the freeway and traffic slows down for an accident, I turn my head away and don't gawk when passing the cause. So, I really didn't intend to watch.
As I said, I just wanted to see a few minutes of Carrie Fisher and her mother together. I thought that might be nice.
As it happened, the two didn't come onstage together. Oprah had Fisher on first. But I didn't know how long that would be, maybe just a brief who minutes for all I knew. So, I watched. And it was fascinating -- open, funny, thoughtful, no self-pity. And it went on for a while until finally Debbie Reynolds made her appearance. And that, too, was thoughtful, open, funny, and no self-pity and even little sense of scandal...even when talking about scandals. And we still hadn't gotten yet to all that much with mother and daughter. And when we did, it was touching, lively, funny, wistful and mature.
And by that point, I figured out that it was a pretty fine broadcast -- along with interesting "coming up later" promos spaced throughout. Most especially the last one...which was pure fun, and particularly moving to watch again, but this time after the loss: mother and daughter singing together on stage for the first time ever. And they were both of them wonderful.
And so I watched the whole thing.
If you want to watch it all, too, here it is. If you just want to see the singing, jump to three seconds before the 40-minute mark.
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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