And as a bonus for good measure, in honor of Franklin's scientific achievements...what the heck, here is "Let's Go Fly a Kite," from Mary Poppins.
Oh, okay, we can't go through his 312th birthday without a song from 1776, for goodness sake. Here's Howard DaSilva, William Daniels and Ken Howard -- all of whom I saw in the original Broadway production (on my first-ever trip to New York, by the way. In fact, the first stage musical I ever saw on Broadway. Not a bad start, eh?) -- in "The Egg."
And as a bonus for good measure, in honor of Franklin's scientific achievements...what the heck, here is "Let's Go Fly a Kite," from Mary Poppins.
The good fellow was born on this day, January 17, 1706. So, he'd have been a frisky 312 today, if it wasn't for that darned gout.
While I know it would most leap out to have some songs about Franklin for the musical 1776, instead I'm going with another Broadway musical, Ben Franklin in Paris. The show starred none other than Robert Preston and, though not successful still had a solid run of 215 performances, about half a year. It tells the story of Franklin going to France to try and raise money for the American Revolution. The musical opened in 1964 and has a score by Sidney Michaels and March Sandrich Jr. The songs are just fair overall, though there are several which are quite nice -- two of which I'll post here. (When the show was out of town, Jerry Herman was brought in to work on it, and added two songs, neither of which are these below.)
The first is my favorite, and happily there's video of it. "Half the Battle."
The second number actually had a little bit of a life outside the show, with several recordings, including one by Robert Goulet. "Look for Small Pleasures," sung by Preston and the female lead Ulla Sallert.
The only week when Trump was getting into his snit-fit was Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson, some people on social media were posting video clips of lawyer Joseph Welch during the famous climax of the Army-McCarthy Hearings calling out Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) with his "At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency" speech. Welch was special counsel for the Army. With the hearings broadcast on television during the early days of the medium, the moment was widely viewed and seen as one of the several turning points in helping end the period of McCarthyism.
That clip most-likely exists today for its use in the wonderful documentary, Point of Order, by Emile de Antonio and Daniel Talbot, about those Senate hearings. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to post the full, riveting film here, which I suspect most people haven't seen.
It was made in 1964, a decade after the hearings themselves. Several versions of the documentary exist, since it was edited a few times for different purposes, including showing on television, but this is the original. It runs about 90 minutes.
I am generally loathe to post full movies here, but there are qualifications. In this case, though a DVD does exist of the film, it's not only incredibly difficult to find, but the prices I've seen for it are in the hundreds of dollars, $264 is one that stands out. And from that, I suspect that the purchase price is not going to the rights holders, but just some individual trying to sell his used copy. The original DVD may well be out-of-print at this point, so posting it here is the only way to see the film.
This particular video is captioned for the hard of hearing, and unfortunately there's no way to turn that off, so it might be a bit distracting, but the film is well-worth it.
One final...er, point of order is that when you see McCarthy's venal lawyer, Roy Cohn, sitting on the committee, know that later in his life he was one of Trump's early political mentors. During his last years when he was dying of AIDS and had other troubles, he reached out for assistance from Trump and was ignored. He died in 1986 and I believe is currently rotting in hell, awaiting arrival of his prize pupil.
For reasons I don't quite understand, they've brought back the game show, The Tell the Truth. Of the major game shows of that era -- notably I've Got a Secret and What's My Line?, I find it the least interesting, and even sort of annoying. While I know it's the one that's most-easy for the home audience to play along with, there are two huge problems for me. The first is that when you have an interesting guest...two-thirds of the time you're not hearing what he or she has to say, and worse, for all you know, what you're hearing about this interesting guest may not even be remotely true, but one of the impostors guessing. But secondly, what bothers me the most is that, after the real-life, interesting person is identified, and you'd love to hear what this remarkable person has to say, now that we know who it is -- the show uses this post-guessing time to interview the two other people! When we want to hear from the actual, real person, we instead hear from the two fakes!! Honestly, I don't care who the two fakes are, I want to hear from the Actual, Real Person.
It's for that reason I don't post many clips from To Tell the Truth. But once in a while, I come across a guest who's so fascinating to see in person, that it's outdoes any hindrances. Sometimes, at this point, decades later, we can identify who it is when the game starts and watch while knowing. But even if we can't, we do find out at the end, and can go back and replay the thing.
This is one of those times. It comes from the October 10, 1960.
I suspect that most people here have seen the movie, Inherit the Wind, about the famous "Monkey" Trial (or Scopes Trial, as it was also know). That was based on the stage play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (no, not that one...) -- who oddly enough also wrote another famous play totally different in subject and tone, Auntie Mame (which they later adapted themselves as bookwriters of the musical version, Mame.) The play, of course, told a fictionalized version of the battle between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, over schoolteacher John Scopes, who had taught evolution and Darwin's Origin of the Species which was against the law in Tennessee.
Well...the guest here is -- John Scopes! Yes, the actual, real. Even the panelists are impressed. (As one notes, "It's like having a national monument here.)
The questioning is sort of bizarre. (The polite term for "bad.") They spend so much time asking about the casting of Inherit the Wind, rather than the Scopes Trial. And what he went through. And the history of the time. Worse, they ask about the casting of the two lawyers...and not who played Scopes himself! The guy who is right there in front of them they're trying to guess.
Still, it's great fun to see, odd questioning and all.
Fortunately, he's the first guest, so you don't have to scroll through. And happily, since when I do watch the show I'm not very good at it, I guessed correctly here. Unfortunately, as always, no, they don't talk to him afterwards. Just the two fakes. Sigh...
Serious admiration for Billy Joel for his wardrobe stance during his recent Madison Square Garden concert, a reaction to the White House response after Charlottesville by a reminder to WWII when the Nazis overran Denmark. By way of reminder, they ordered Danish Jews to wear a yellow Star of David so that Jews could be singled out and always identified -- and pretty much the entire nation wore one, including the Danish king, which rendered the decree meaningless.
Joel wore this jacket during the encore of his New York City concert. It also had a second Star of David on the back.
"The poem you are referring to is not part of the original Statue of Liberty. It was added later.”
-- Stephen Miller, White House spokesman, dismissing "The New Colossus" poem about immigrants
To paraphrase the great Molly Ivins when she wrote about Pat Buchanan's culture war speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, Stephen Miller's press conference yesterday probably sounded better in the original German.
A quarter century later, they haven't changed, still battling against immigrants. Not even illegal immigrants, but in this case, legal ones! Just as a starter, this position he made above trying to rewrite reality about the Statue of Liberty is one taken by many white supremacists and passed along on their websites. Just a very quick historical note to Mr. Miller and any of his like-minded friends on the point of the words being "added later." So too was "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.
(The words "Under God" were "added later" to the Pledge of Allegiance nine years after it was adopted. So, perhaps by the standards of Stephen Miller and pals, God can be ignored in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Almighty has no meaning to its intent.)
And as long as Mr. Miller and his white supremacist followers -- unless it's the other way around -- are so concerned about the lack of importance for anything "added later," it's worth noting that the Bill of Rights and all 27 Amendments were "added later" to the United States Constitution. These include the Second Amendment which so many on the far right and white supremacists swear by, and also the First Amendment which allows them to say such stupid things without fear of incarceration or being thrown into the loony bin. Moreover, as the inveterate Chris Dunn pointed out, 37 of the 50 states were "added later" to the United States As was Washington, D.C. as capital of the nation.
By the way, so is water when you make Cup o' Soup. Man, if Stephen Miller thinks the concept of "added later" means you can dismiss its importance, I'd like to see him try eating that dry mixture on its own. Maybe in white supremacist world, but not in any delicious culinary universe I know.
Of course, given that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, its "intent" is not from the Founding Fathers or the U.S. government in the first place, but rather...France. When the words of Emma Lazarus were added to the Statue, that in and of itself is a specific act and absolutely clear intent of the government. Besides, why do Miller and his merry band of white supremacists think it was put on the water's edge to greet incoming ships in the first place? If it wasn't to welcome immigrants, they could have just put it in Nebraska, which needs a tourist attraction a whole lot more than New York.
And as long as we're dealing with history, reality and facts, the poem "The New Colossus" was written as a donation of artworks at an auction raising funds that would allow for constructing the pedestal under the Statue of Liberty -- three years before the the Statute itself was dedicated. So, in fact, it is part of the history of the Statue of Liberty pedestal on which it is engraved, before the pedestal even existed!!
Alas, all of this is really pretty much for naught. For all the Sturm und Drang from the White House and the belligerent Stephen Miller yesterday on this anti-immigrant bill, reporter Sam Stein of the Huffington Post commented on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell that the proposal has NO chance of passage. And every other panelist agreed. But at least the administration got its dog whistle out to the base, and its white supremacist wing. However many dwindling dogs there are.
But still, just as a reminder --
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Heading back On the Road with Charles Kuralt, this is a much more wistful piece than usual, as he looks at Fort Motte, South Carolina, one of the many small towns in the South disappearing as a way of life is gone, and the once-sleepy cities grow.
This is too bizarre and hilarious. Now Golf Digest is uncovering Trump stories.
On Trump's golf course in Virginia, there his a memorial, signed by Trump himself, honoring the dead soldiers in a Civil War battle so bloody apparently that it's called "The River of Blood." Unfortunately, there's one big problem -- the battle NEVER TOOK PLACE!
(The "funniest" part of the article is when a reporter asked Trump about it, and the best he could come up with as a response was, "How would they know that? Were they there?" No, but they're scholars and study and do actual research from records of accounts of military actions from the army and from people who were -- in fact, really -- there.)
And so now we can add one more to our honor roll of moments of silence in memory and the fallen in non-existent massacres and faux-battles of today and throughout history --
Remember Bowling Green.
Remember The River of Blood.
And in the end, once again, we find the real source and admirer of creating fake news. It's a third-graders gambit: if you don't know the answer on your test, make it up and hope the teacher won't notice. And suddenly, Trump not knowing that Frederick Douglass died 120 years ago, that China and Korea have a complicated history going back 1,500 years, and that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before he could have solved the Civil War becomes ever more clear. And gives fodder to those planning to sue Trump University for fraud.
You can read the article about it here.
"[Hitler] was not using gas on his own people."
-- Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Happy Passover from the Trump administration.
I swear this is true. I swear he said that. Actually it's worse than that -- he was asked to clarify his initial ghastly statement and this was his "do over"!! Really. His initial statement had been, "You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,”
He was attempting to shame Russia into supporting the Assad regime, but it came out oh-so wrong. That's when he was given his mulligan and a second chance to explain better what he meant. Apparently in TrumpLand, where tone deafness, anti-Semitism and ignorance seems to be the norm, cluelessness covers a wide swath. His clarification was worse than the first try.
But it gets even worse, as near-impossible as that would seem.
That's because he followed up this comment that Hitler "was not using gas on his own people" by adding that instead "he brought them into the Holocaust centers.”
Mr. Spicer makes the facilities sound oh-so refreshing, like a Club Med spa. One wonders why the people even had to be "brought" there at all, but didn't come rushing in on their own to sign up for a membership. Though I'd hate to see the brochures. And just to clarify, the proper translation from the original German is "gas chambers."
One also wonders if Sean Spicer meant that Hitler "brought them" much the same as United Airlines brought their reluctant, struggling, screaming passenger off the plane back to the terminal.
Let's be clear: The ghastly Assad chemical attack which brought the Trump attack killed 70 people. (The earlier chemical attack by Assad four years earlier killed 1,700, though Trump's relentless response to that was we should not get involved.) Adolf Hitler rounded up six million Jews into concentration camps and killed them in gas chambers, while putting together a massive military offensive in order to subjugate Europe and ultimately rule the world.
Assad is gruesome and hideously bad. He doesn't come close to Adolf Hitler. And the pathetic, ignorant, shameful, tone-deaf, clueless attempt to make a comparison speaks loudly and emphatically to what exists in the White House.
Sean Spicer tried three times to make a clarification. The thing is, there is no further clarification due. The only proper response at this point is -- "Oops. I screwed up. Oops. Comparing anyone to Adolf Hitler is idiotic. Assad is a war criminal and despicable. But it was foolish to drag Adolf Hitler into this. I'm sorry. Oops."
The only good thing to come from this is the knowledge that Melissa McCarthy will be hosting Saturday Night Live in only one month, on May 13. Which will be broadcast live in prime time.
We made it in. And just in time to wish Happy birthday, Benjamin Franklin. On January 17, 1706, the good fellow was born 311 years ago today. And he might be one of the least-likely historical people to be depicted in two Broadway musicals.
You well-know the second show he was featured in, the Tony-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning 1776. But the first musical is far-lesser known, Ben Franklin in Paris, which opened in 1964. The show followed Franklin's efforts to raise money in France for the American Revolution, and it certainly had a major star in the role, none other than Robert Preston. And though it wasn't successful, it nonetheless ran for a moderately respectable 215 performances.
I'm not crazy about the by Sidney Michaels, though it had a few very nice songs. And one of them, happily is actually available on video. Not great quality but very watchable. It is likely from a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show (to bring Ed up again...) and includes the scene that leads into the song -- "Half the Battle."
The other song from the show that I like a lot is "Look for Small Pleasures." It's audio only from the original cast only, but well-worth including here. Here is Robert Preston and the female lead Ulla Sallert
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, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. 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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