This most-definitely falls under our umbrella of wonderful, but little-known holiday songs -- it's a hilarious, original song from, of all people, the great folks at Bad Lip Reading. This is their version of Trump singing something that they call "Christmas is Here," along with guest background vocals. Quite a very-offbeat gem, not to be missed. Fa la la...
This is from four days ago and just too good -- and on such an important subject, since the period to sign up for the Affordable Care Act this year is today. Subtle, low-key, self-effacing, pointed and still very funny.
We're going to keep this short, but then the point is short and direct.
I love the story about Russian spy Maria Butina pleading guilty and being a cooperating witness for the Special Counsel. While I'm very happy for the story for what it will reveal about the Trump campaign dealings with Russia, that's not what I love about the story. What I love is for how it is revealing the near-traitorous actions by the gun corporation-owned NRA fringe hate group in their efforts to illegally launder money for Russia into the Trump campaign.
This not only exposes the NRA's galling, anti-American duplicity, but with any luck will not only draw criminal sentences for some of their leadership but will also hopefully help cause the group's demise. And they did it to themselves.
There, only 119 words. A record, I believe. Pithy, and to the point.
It is now officially twelve days to Christmas, so here is the song "Twelve Days to Christmas" from the musical She Loves Me, with a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock. (This is the show based on the movie and play which are the basis for the movie You've Got Mail.)
One Fun Theatrical Fact. The song is performed by the chorus, but there is a main group of people singing, and one of those is an actor named Gino Conforti. A few years earlier, he appeared in another Harnick and Bock show, Fiddler on the Roof, playing the role of...the Fiddler!
For those who want to see the song staged, which gets increasingly frenetic, here's a fairly good community theater production
Yesterday, a friend asked me, "I don't get it. We knew a few months ago that David Pecker was going to a cooperating witness, so what's the big deal today with the news?"
It's a very big deal. Yes, we knew that Pecker had flipped, but there are two important things about the news on Wednesday. The first is that it's one thing to know that someone is a cooperating witness, but it's another thing entirely to have his actual testimony in writing and on the record. And the second is that, while we knew he would be cooperating, we didn't know what exactly he was going to say. For all anyone knew, he could have just testified that Michael Cohen paid him $400,000 in hush money to bury a story. For Pecker to sear in court, though, that he acted specifically in concert with the Trump campaign in order to impact the election is huge. It directly ties the Trump campaign to a major illegal act of fraud.
What my friend still didn't follow, however, was why even that was such big news, since it was merely just connected somewhat amorphously to The Campaign. But that's where earlier news comes into play, that Trump's long-time accountant for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, is also a cooperating witness. A few years earlier, Weisselberg testified in court (in another case unrelated to this) that there are only four people authorized to write checks at the Trump Organization, other than himself -- Trump, his three children Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. Which means that one of them had to have approved writing a check for $400,000 to commit election fraud. And now, here is Weisselberg cooperating with the Special Counsel to go into detail about the hush money paid to David Pecker at AMI Media.
My friend was beginning to get it though still was curious about which one of those five would have authorized the payment of hush money. First of all, that's just a momentary detail of curiosity because it's clearly one of the many things Weisselberg has been cooperating about, and Mueller knows already even if the public doesn't yet. More to the point, it would be improbable that Allen Weisselberg would make such a decision entirely on his own to pay hush money, so that leaves the four Trumps, which would be so damning to the Trump Organization and campaign whoever it was. That said, though, it seems profoundly unlikely that the three children would authorize payment of $400,000 to cover up affairs between their father and a porn actress and also a Playboy model. That leaves Trump himself as who most of anybody would want to keep it all quiet and approve paying the money. And we have him on tape with Michael Cohen talking about it.
And that's the hole that Trump now finds himself in. You have his longtime friend, David Pecker, head of AMI Media, admitting in court that he received $400,000 in hush money to bury a story that would be damaging to the Trump campaign. You also have Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitting in court that he was the middleman for getting and paying the $400,000 in hush money to Pecker -- at the direction of Trump. And so that leaves the only options for Trump to either a) admit it or b) say it's not true, they're lying, it didn't happen. I think we have a pretty good idea which one he's going with. After all, he's been denying it since Day One. The problem, of course, is that now it's not only "he said, THEY said" -- but for him to deny it is likely to destroy all his remaining few wisps of credibility. Yes, his most blindly-loyal acolytes will believe him against everyone. The problem is that most other sentient humans will grasp reality.
And what is Trump going to do? Fall back on his standard "I don't really know David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg, I hardly ever did any business with them. They're pretty much low-level incompetents and also known liars. I only passed along some occasional work to them because they did a favor for me many years ago"? This isn't even a case of "caught between a rock and a hard place." This is just...caught.
The thing is, as horrible as all that was for Trump yesterday, the day was even worse. That's because the newly-elected New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced that she will be using her office to go after Trump, the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation for...well, just about everything. As she's noted, it was one of her campaign promises. And any crimes she uncovers -- and it's difficult not to suspect there are mounds of them, since we largely know about many -- are all outside the protection of a presidential pardon. And as big as these "organizations" and "foundations" sound, the reality is that they're pretty small, just family businesses run by Trump, Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric. So, if any state crimes are found ("if" is used here out of decorum...), then those responsible will be named "Trump."
And as big and terrible a news day as this was for Trump, it isn't "the smoking gun" that unravels everything, this is just the door opening a crack. So, imagine what's behind that door. The deluge is coming. Keep in mind, David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg are almost certainly not just testifying about the payment of hush money to two women. After all, Pecker got a cooperation deal with no jail time, and Weisselberg likely will, as well. They have been close to Trump and worked with him for many years. To get their deals, they are almost guaranteed to be testifying about it ALL.
And then there's the results from the rest of the 18-month (so far) Mueller investigation...
To paraphrase the ad line for Alien -- in the Republican Party, they can hear you scream.
This is one of my favorite sketches from Saturday Night Live” done in 1999. There are several songs in it, so happily it qualifies for the Music part of the Fest. But it would qualify regardless because, for me, it's all Fest.
I've had a difficult time tracking it down over the years, but finally found it last year. I had code to embed it , but for some reason that doesn't work. I did upload it below, but because it's done with a screen video capture, the sound is a bit tinny. Far better is if you click on this link here, which should bring up a player with the video. Try that first. If for some reason that doesn't work, though, check out the video below.
I swear to you that when I first saw it, I didn’t know who was playing the lead “urchin” in the sketch – in part for the hair and make-up (which is light, but enough), but in part because I was thinking about the main cast members and not at all about who was hosting that week. A few years later I saw a repeat of the show, and halfway through the sketch I almost shouted out, “Oh, my God, that’s Jennifer Aniston!” And so it is. Along with Rachel Dratch, and others. And it’s a hoot.
But other than that second viewing, I haven't see the sketch on TV since. Why on earth SNL doesn't include this in their annual Christmas Special compendium of holiday sketches over the years. It's not only one of their best Christmas sketches, it is, for me as I said, one of their best, period.
Much of the news reaction yesterday was how empty Trump was shown to be when he threw his temper tantrum with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. (And that's not just my description -- nor is it Sen. Schumer's alone when he spoke to the press afterwards, but it was also the reaction from the 12-year-old daughter of a friend of mine who after watching the video turned to her dad and said, "So, he just threw a temper tantrum because he's not getting his wall, right?")
The public response was all well-deserved, and it's sort of a complimentary one to an observation I had about Trump only two days before. I had gone over to Trump's Twitter feed and began scrolling through some of his pithy "thoughts," fully prepared to respond to them pointedly as I am wont to do. But as I read through them one by one, my only reaction after tweet was..."Yawn." Total boredom. The same, old, childish whining and flailing, repeating his wildly-empty charges and blatant, egregious lies once again that we've been hearing for two years until he sounded like a broken record, skipping skipping skipping at the same point over and over and over and over and over. And so that's how I began my replies to each of them -- "Yawn." And not much more than that. In fact, I was going to leave each response at that, since it pretty much said it all, but I felt a single added point of corrective ridicule was needed. But that was it. "Yawn."
So, it was nice to see Donny Deutsch say on MSNBC the next day something similar about Trump's tweeting, how "It's pathetic at this point." And noting that his tweets have lost the power to outrage.
It's the same problem any con man has when he sticks around the same corner day after day, pulling the exactly same con repeatedly. Eventually people figure it out.
To be clear, this isn't "normalizing" Trump. Being bored by Trump and no longer being outraged by his shtick is not remotely accepting what he is saying. It's the very opposite. It's dismissing them.
To be clear, what Trump is saying is pathetic, empty and shameful and must be dealt with and pushed back hard. It's just that what he's saying he's said before. And before. And beforebeforebeforebeforebeforebefore.... And the push-back is not only already in operation, but we saw it in action yesterday in the White House with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
I think Republicans are themselves beginning to sense this, too. That's along the lines of what I wrote about yesterday, how some Republicans in Congress are trying to distance themselves from Trump. (An impossible thing to do since they are joined at the hip.) Even they see that the act is no longer playing well.
And that's all it is. Trump is not a politician -- by his own admission and the acknowledgement of his acolytes for why they adore him. He was known to them as an entertainer. Not even a builder, with six bankruptcies. He put on a good show to them. Well, there's a long-standing admonition in the world of entertainment -- never be boring. Trump is now boring. Even his temper tantrums are boring. Because they're all about the Same Thing. Said the Same Way. Over and over. And it will be ever thus -- because he has nothing to bring to the stage but the Same Old Vaudeville Act. And vaudeville ended long, long, long ago.
I have no idea what Trump will tweet today. I just know that there's a really good chance the reaction could be "Yawn." With a brief addendum of corrective ridicule...
This is one of my favorite renditions of a traditional Christmas song, "Der Trommelmann," which is "The Little Drummer Boy," sung by Marlene Dietrich. She isn't the greatest singer by a long shot, but she performs the number with such texture, mood and wistfulness that it all shines through and ends up beautifully haunting and unique.
And as a bonus, this is another recording of hers that I came across when looking for "The Little Drummer Boy." It's a lovely song I hadn't heard before, "Still War die Nacht," (Still Was the Night), and again she sings it with so much thoughtfulness and gentleness.
Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that some Republicans are getting concerned about Trump and have told him “They’re not going to be able to stand by this White House."
GETTING concerned?? They're just now "getting" concerned? Well, there in two words is the problem Republicans face. It is only now just dawning on them that Trump might actually be a problem for them, and standing too close is not a great idea, as he and his administration and family are sucked into the vortex and then bursting into flames, before getting indicted and going to prison.
Note to Republicans: sorry, the point-of-no-return has LONG SINCE passed. You're tied to him. As I've written for many months, this is no longer about Trump, it's about the elected officials of the Republican Party enabling him. The damage has been done. The Pottery Barn Rule applies -- You break it, you own it.
The Republican Party could have put an end to the blatant, crazy damage Trump has caused long ago. They could have supported some of his policies that were important to the party and country, but privately told him that some of this other stuff you want is very dangerous to national security and some is un-American and against all we stand for, and that Congress exists in the Constitution as a check-and-balance on the presidency, so do what you want but don't expect us to support it, and by the way, we're concerned about the criminality about your people conspiring with Russia and we won't tie ourselves to you, that's on you.
But they didn't. They tied themselves to Trump. And doubled-down. And tripled-down. And then just threw off all pretense of Constitutional responsibility and moved in to live together in sin.
Republicans are tied to Trump. There's no "Not standing by him" anymore. That ship has sailed -- and it hit a really big iceberg. And they all were on board. You can't build a house alongside someone you know is making horrific construction decisions, and then when the cracks start to appear walk away and say you had nothing to do with it. You had everything to do with it. When the house comes crashing down, you are tied to it.
If this isn't blatantly clear, here's just one, basic example. CNN reporter Manu Raju asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if he had any concerns about allegations that Trump had committed a felony over the payment of hush money. Hatch replied, “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president.” It was explained to him that the charge did not come from Democrats, but was an allegation from the U.S. Justice Department's Southern District of New York -- to which Hatch replied, “Okay but I don’t care; all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President.”
This is not about Trump. We know who he is. This is about the Republican Party enabling him.
And show the world you love him.
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
For the Holiday Music Fest, I like to find little-known, but wonderful holiday songs -- or at least well-known songs that have unique arrangements. This sort of blends both worlds -- totally unknown, yet hugely-well-known and wonderful. How can that be, I hear you ask??! (Well, those of you who don't recall this from last year are asking. The rest might remember.) I'll explain.
This is a song from the musical, Here's Love, by Meredith Willson, who of course wrote "The Music Man." It's based on the classic film, Miracle on 34th Street. The show wasn't terribly successful, though didn't flop and had a respectable run of 334 performances -- just under a year -- in 1964. The score is inconsistent, but half of it is quite wonderful. (I've actually tried to get a TV production of it made for several years. I think it would be a terrific Christmas special. Hey, who knows, maybe next year NBC will do it live...)
As you might imagine, there are a lot of songs from the show that would fit here. But this one leaps out as the best place to dive in with. The song is called "Pine Cones and Holly Berries," sung by Laurence Naismith who plays Kris Kringle. It's very charming and makes a lovely Christmas holiday song, though is unknown.
But that's not the whole tale.
As you may recall, Meredith Willson loves counterpoint. He used it a great deal, to much good effect in The Music Man, most notably with "Lida Rose" sung counter to "Will I Ever Tell You?", but also famously with "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a Little," sung in counterpoint with an already-existing song, "Goodnight, Ladies."
Well, he used the technique again in Here's Love. He created "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" to be sung counter to an already existing, very famous Christmas song -- but here's the thing: this extremely well-known Christmas song (I think most people will be shocked to learn) was written by...Meredith Willson himself. When I say it's very famous and completely well-known -- trust me on this. And yes, it's written by, of all people, Meredith Willson. I won't tell you what it is, but let you have the fun of discovering it when it comes in halfway through.
The counterpoint, famous song is performed by Janis Paige and -- are you ready? -- Fred Gwynne! Though he utterly hated being typecast in the role, since it almost ruined his career (I worked with him on the movie, Pet Sematary, and we briefly talked about), I feel compelled to identify him in this context for the sheer incongruity of it, as yes, 'Herman Munster,' whose TV series came along soon thereafter.
So, here then is a lovely, sweet Christmas song you don't know, sung in counterpoint to a famous one you do, both by Meredith Willson.
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, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. 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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