If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, his Main Story was on bankruptcies -- an issue that has grown significantly during the past decade, but has become more critical the last year due to the pandemic. The report is fascinating, looking at the two different kinds of bankruptcies and the many conditions that lead to them, not nearly as often because of bad decisions as people assume. And yet, he and his staff are able to make it all funny and entertaining at the same time.
We are nearing the tragic and sick point where it has become difficult keeping track of mass gun killings without a scorecard. Just yesterday afternoon on Sunday, I saw a story about a mass gun killing in Austin, Texas. I got confused because I thought the mass killing in the news was in Indianapolis, but checking the story out realized it was a separate, new one -- and then when adjusting to that, read about a mass gun killing in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And I had to check out the date on that to find out if it was an old story being updated, or yet another new one.
It was yet another new one.
Yesterday, I posted my tweet that read -- "when the NRA says new gun laws aren't needed, and we only have to enforce the laws on the books, they are acknowledging that they support gun laws. So, that's the starting point: the concept of gun law regulations is fine, even to the NRA." I want to be clear that when I wrote this, it had absolutely nothing to do with this two new, mass gun killings. I had no idea about them, that they had even occurred. It was just a comment made in response to the FedEx mass gun killing in Indianapolis and all the sad news coverage and all the gun supporters running in circles trying to made to explain it all away and offer another bundle of "Thoughts and prayers" (tm).
Only hours later did I learn about the other two, mass gun killings.
I have this image of executives at the corporate gun manufacturer-owned NRA terrorist organization saying "Now is not the time to discuss gun laws" -- and then "Now is not the time to discuss gun laws"...and then once again ""Now is not the time to discuss gun laws" and them getting confused if they were just being emphatic about the Indianapolis mass gun killings, or referring to the two other mass gun killings on Sunday.
Either way, what I always say is that they're right, now is not the time to discuss gun laws -- the time to discuss gun laws would have been before these mass gun killings took place.
As for "Thoughts and prayers" (tm), I too offer them. Though my thoughts and prayers are that we never have another mass gun killing again, and that Democrats and the Biden Administration are able to get sane gun laws passed.
And no, this is not hyperbolic. The Kenosha event was the 31st mass gun shooting this month April alone! And we're barely halfway through the month. It was the 150th mass gun shooting this year, after only 105 days. Yes, that averages to almost one-and-half mass gun shootings every single day -- after day after day after day after day -- this year, so far. (For the record, a mass gun shooting is defined by the FBI as one where at least four people have been shot or killed...not including the person with the gun!) The good news is that this total is not the number of mass gun killings. But the bad news is that that's the good news. (A mass gun killing is one where at least three people have been killed, not including the gunman.) So, anyone who says "Now is not the time to discuss gun laws after a mass gun shooting" -- the disgusting reality is that by these standards there pretty much is no time to discuss them, since they happen on averages one-and-a-half times every single day! After day after day after day after day.
And if executives of the gun manufacturer corporate-owned NRA once more try to claim that we don't need new laws because all that's needed is enforcing the laws that already exists, it's appropriate to remind them that they are acknowledging that they actually do support gun laws. And so that is the starting point, that gun law regulation is fine, even to them. It's also appropriate to remind them and all gun supporters and all people who try to fight off any regulation of the Second Amendment that the Second Amendment has the worlds "well-regulated" in it -- not even merely "regulated," but well-regulated. And then a reminder that many Amendments, if not most, if not perhaps all, have regulated limitations -- including the First Amendment. After all, as foundational as Free Speech is to America, you can't libel or slander another person. Nor can you call "Fire!" in a theater where there is no fire, nor are you allowed to have hate speech.
Only last week, a friend told about how he and his wife try to go to a nearby park on the weekend, and recently while they were they a man was harassing so, so the police got called. It turns out that he not only had a concealed gun, but his car was full of weapons. Happily, a possible mass gun-killing tragedy was averted, stories like this rarely get reported and we only hear of the far too many tragedies that didn't. So, the problem is likely much more pervasive than we think. And it's pretty darn pervasive already,
Hey, who knows, maybe now is the time to get some sane gun laws passed because the NRA is distracted in court trying to defend themselves from being shut down -- while defending themselves in their claims of bankruptcy?
Thoughts and prayers.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is food expert Sam Sifton, creator and editor of New York Times Cooking for the paper’s app and site. He and host Peter Sagal have a very personable conversation about the world of restaurant reviewing, which he did previously, before getting into recipes. Though their talk about recipes is fun, as well.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell who “wonks on with Al on economics, race, healthcare – you name it!” Or as Al puts it more succinctly: “A wide-ranging conversation on a wide range of issues. It’s wide-ranging!”
This week's contestant is Benjamin Keating from Monticello, Illinois. I got the hidden song within a few notes, and I think most people should get it soon enough. Oddly, though, the contestant was stumped by it – yet got the composer style right off. In fairness, he acknowledges he’s pretty young, and with a lot of clues does eventually get it. As for the composer style, it didn’t sound like an area in my wheelhouse, though my guess wasn’t terribly wrong. But when I heard the answer, I think I should have gotten it, and some of you may.
Back in college at the beloved Northwestern, they would have a campus movie night where they'd show a different film every Friday night in the big Tech Auditorium that probably seated 1,000 people. Sometimes it would be a fairly recent movie, sometimes a classic. One night, they showed a Hitchcock classic, the 1956 thriller, The Man Who Knew Too Much, that starred James Stewart and Doris Day. It's a wonderful film that even won an Oscar. (It's also a remake from an old black-and-while movie that HItchcock had made in England.)
James Stewart, of course, was very well-known and much loved. Doris Day was popular herself, though that at point her persona wasn't as high with a college crowd, more known for her cheeriness and singing, in particular her huge hit, "Que Sera Sera," written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, which she seems to sing everywhere. It even was used as the theme song for when she had a TV sitcom. Like Bob Hope with "Thanks for the Memories" and Jack Benny with "Love in Bloom" -- and any president with "Hail to the Chief -- wherever Doris Day went, it seemed there was someone there to play her song, "Que Sera Sera."
So, anyway, back to movie night on campus. The Man Who Knew Too Much was going along, very well done, interesting, and then, somewhat early on...there it was -- "Que Sera Sera" started playing, and there was Doris Day, of course, singing it and dancing around the room. And most of the 1,000 college students began laughing in ridicule. Even in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, she had to sing "Que Sera Sera." Ha ha ha.
And the laughter got even more scathing later in the movie, deep in the third act, when the plot was coming to a tense head, she and her husband Jimmy go to a party because it's where they know their little son has been kidnapped and is being held, and -- because she plays an entertainer in the film -- she's asked to sing for the gathering. And their plan is that if she sing Really Loud Enough, her voice will carry through the mansion, and they child will hear it and also recognize the song and know that his parents are there. And so, she sings -- yes, you guessed it, "Que Sera Sera," at the most tense point of the movie. Of course. And not only did she sing it, but she virtually shouts it as loud as she can, so that her voice will carry to her son, but it's so loud that even party guests give each other glances, like "Hey, this is pretty weird." Which is what those 1,000 college students were doing, hooting it up. That even in the climax of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Doris Day insists on singing, "Que Sera Sera."
What I wanted to do from the audience was stand up and shout as loudly as I could, "YOU IDIOTS!!! Doris Day isn't singing this song because it was so famous and her signature song and it had to be in everything she did. No, THIS WAS THE MOVIE THAT INTRODUCED THE SONG!!!! It had never been heard before! She'd never sung it before! This is the first time it was ever sung!!! All those other times you've heard the song -- it came from this movie, this moment!! And the reason she's singing it a second time and Really Loudly is because it's part of the plot!"
And by the way, do you remember that Academy Award that I said The Man Who Knew Too Much won? It was for Best Song! For "Que Sera Sera"!
That's what I wanted to yell, but I didn't. I just sat and watched and enjoyed the movie.
I mention this all because TCM is running it's annual "31 Days of Oscar," when every movie they show during these 31 days days either won or got nominated for an Oscar. And The Man Who Knew Too Much was on last night. Because of its one Oscar -- for...oh, you know.
(As a footnote, I should add that Livingston and Evans won three Oscars for Best Song, the other two being "Buttons and Bows" and "Tammy." The also wrote the song "Silver Bells" for the Bob Hope movie, The Lemon Drop Kid.)
This is the scene that introduced The Song.
And this is the climatic scene at the party, where Doris Day is invited to sing at the piano, and as the guests watch her with rapt -- and bemused -- attention (from her intentionally singing Really Loud), James Stewart waits for his chance to sneak away. If you haven't seen the movie and think you may want to, then don't want the full clip. It isn't the whole final sequence, but it's a lot of it. However, you'd be fine watching the first two minutes.
We're going to finish out our Phil Ochs fest by making it a trilogy, though this requires a bit of a backstory and goes into some unexpected directions. Bear with me, I think it's worth it.
I've often mentioned the classical radio station in Chicago WFMT, which once a week veers off from classical and has their Midnight Special show on Saturday nights. That show is largely folk, with comedy, Broadway and odds-and-ends. It's been running on the station for over 67 years after being created in 1953 by one of their staff announcers, a fellow named Mike Nichols, who went on to have so respectable success with his own comedy and then directing.
(Quick side note: when he was working at the stations, Nichols would occasionally bring a woman there who he was beginning to develop a comedy act with. And together, during down time when a long piece was playing or when he was off the air, Nichols and Elaine May would improvise and practice. And WFMT recorded these and retained the rights to them. Every once in a while, they would place one of these unreleased comedy treasures. I only heard a very few, but they were hilarious.)
Anyway, until the previous host Rich Warren stopped doing The Midnight Special last year after several decades, and gave way to their current host, he would always end each broadcast with the song, "When I'm Gone," performed by two groups, Kim & Reggie and Magpie. It's a terrific rendition, which I posted here a while back, very rich and moving, gentle, but almost like an anthem..
The reason I posted it was because my folks absolutely loved the song and that recording. They loved The Midnight Special, though more in its earlier years, they weren't as thrilled by the song selection in its more recent years, but still listened on occasion -- but they made sure to try each week to tune in at the very least for that closing song.
As it happens, the song "When I'm Gone" is by Phil Ochs. So, yeah, the story comes full circle.
This isn't his recording of it. Nor is it the one by Kim & Reggie and Magpie, since I posted that before (and included the link above.) Instead, I came across this rendition by Sarah Lee Guthrie, who I hadn't hear of before. But if her last names seems like she should be a folksinger, that's for a reason -- yes, her father is Arlo Guthrie, and her grandfather was Woody Guthrie.
And her version of Phil Och's wonderful song "When I'm Gone" is exquisite. A very different interpretation, tender and heart-aching. I hope you get a chance to check it out. For both the song and performance.
Whoa, so it was collusion after all. Go figure. Who knew?!
Mind you, for all the Republican acolytes who tried to make the case that Robert Mueller's report showed there was no collusion...in fact, his report (which I read from cover to cover) actually said there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it couldn't be proven to be a criminal conspiracy -- and that, only because there was obstruction to keep them from getting the evidence.
But now, a U.S. Treasury Department investigation has followed the crumbs and come up with the evidence, officially saying that the polling data that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort passed along to the since-indicted Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik...was, in turn, passed along to Russian intelligence agencies. Official enough for the United States to now impose new sanctions on both Russia and Kilimnik.
That strikes one as real colludey. For all I know, it's also real criminally conspiratory. The good news for Manafor is that Trump pardoned him.
To be clear, the Senate Intelligence Committee -- at the time run by the Republicans -- already released a report a year or so ago that concluded the same thing that the Mueller Report did, that Manafort colluded with Kilimnik. They just didn't have the final piece of evidence to go further. So, this should come as a huge shock -- which again makes Trump's pardon of Manafort all the more quaint. But having the evidence to make the official connection is always A Good Thing.
During the election, Joe Biden held an online Town Hall with Barack Obama, and questions were solicited by the public. I decided to send one it. It was, "If you are elected, what will be the first think you say to Vladimir Putin?" The question didn't get asked, but I'm very pleased -- and not surprised that President Biden has put Russian actions of the past five years in full focus and enacted numerous sanctions against them already, only 85 days into his administration. And I'm not surprised.
Trump, the gift that just keeps giving.
We're going to head back to Phil Ochs again today. That's because there unfortunately isn't much video of him performing, but happily I found a couple of wonderful ones. The first of these may be his most-famous song, the terrific "There But for Fortune."
And as a bonus, though it's only a minute long, here's a short video of him singing the song I posted yesterday, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends." It's a shame that this is so short -- it appears to be part of a documentary -- but since there's so little video of Phil Ochs performing, any material, especially of one of his better-known songs, is a treat to have.,
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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