No, that's not just a holiday greeting, but something else entirely. Once again, I will explain. And while it's not about music, it is about the holiday and is festive, so I'm going to rule that it counts.
As I've noted before, I’ve remembered to mention this a few times previously, but usually not until a week before Christmas. So, once again, I wanted to be sure to bring it up well in advance this year. And that's to recommend one of my favorite, little-known holiday films, Joyeux Noel. It was nominated for a 2005 Best Foreign Language Oscar, based on a true story in WWI. Since the holiday is still three weeks away, that should give folks time to perhaps get the DVD from Netflix or whatever streaming service you subscribe to before the season is out. (I know that Amazon Prime has it for streaming, for $3.99.) Though it's great any time of the year.
I really thought Joyeux Noel should have won the Best Foreign Language Oscar they year it was nominated, but the award that year went to a South African movie, Tsotsi. That was quite good, but for my own taste Joyeux Noel stood out as a substantially better film. Tsotsi told an important story, in an important country at an important time in its history. And it told its story well, though I didn’t think it was special filmmaking. I suspect its "importance" helped a lot. But Joyeux Noel was just...joyous. And wonderful. And beautifully made.
The film tells a fictionalized version of a famous story you may have heard -- how in World War I, four armies faced each other on Christmas Eve, ready for battle, but among themselves decided to call a truce for that one night. The movie isn't just "feel good," there's a great deal of drama and intense tension, and it's all told superbly.
It was also the first movie I'd seen Diane Kruger in, though I didn't realize it at the time, since she wasn't a well-known star in the U.S. then. She plays an opera singer, and interestingly her singing is dubbed by a soprano who was one of my folks' very favorite, Natalie Dessay.
(I should note for those wary of foreign language films that one of the armies at the crossroads is British, so a good part of the movie is in English.)
Here's the trailer. It doesn't remotely give a sense of the rich, especially-tense drama at stake and tends more to focus on the warmth, coming across like nothing more than a feel-good movie of the holiday season. It's much more than that. But you should at least get an idea of it all, most especially how exceedingly well-crafted the movie is.
By the way, this is a link to it on Netflix, by clicking here. You'll note that it has four stars -- and a 7.8 rating on iMDB. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critics rating is a high 74%...but the audience rating is even higher, at 89%. So I'm not alone on this...
Following up on our piece yesterday, Trump is now spinning his wheels backwards like a cartoon character trying to vamoose out of there, building up a big puff of smoke and then – whoosh!! He’s gone.
In yet another crazed, rambling statement on Trump Social he wrote --
(Quick side note: I'm not sure if it's a great idea for Trump to ever post anything that includes any of the words, "DISINFORMATION," "LIES," "RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA," "HOAXES," "SCAMS, "FRAUD," "DECEPTION" and "FOOLS" -- let alone all of them together. It tends to draw attention back on so many of Trump's worst qualities," and gets people thinking, "Oh, yeahhhh...this guy.")
The thing is, it’s a bit hard to know who this was directed to, considering that he had previous written, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Which, as far as reading goes, is pretty clear.
On the one hand, since it hasn’t been fully established that his base cares to read all that much and therefore might have missed his call for terminating the Constitution, it might have been directed at them. But if so, then there’s a reasonable chance they wouldn’t read his attempt at a denial, so it’s unnecessary. And since his base would almost certainly continue following him even if they knew he called for terminating the Constitution, it’s also unnecessary on that level, as well,
On the other hand, this suggests his act of desperation with this denial was intended for everyone else. But the problem with that is that all these people did read what he wrote – and understand that when someone writes, “…termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” it means, yes, they did, in fact, say he wanted to terminate the Constitution.
The main thing about his denial rant, though, is not who it was intended for – especially since in Trump’s fevered mind it may have just been the need for him to hear himself say it out loud and convince himself of the lie. But rather what’s important is that his writing it shows he’s aware how much he screwed up and is terrified by the problem he created for himself.
And he most certainly created a huge problem for himself – both politically (leaving himself wide open for direct attack, especially since every public official has to swear an oath to God to protect and defend the Constitution he just called to terminate) and legally (since he’s at risk of his words potentially being used against him in court).
It also causes a huge problem for Kevin McCarthy, if he does end up becoming Speaker of the House (still an “if.”) That’s because McCarthy has said that if he’s Speaker, then on the first day of the new Congress all Republicans are going to read the U.S. Constitution. And what that will serve to do, unlike McCarthy’s infantile intent, is shine a massively bright light on what Trump said as GOP leader about terminating the Constitution, in blatant contrast to GOP actions on the House floor. The alternative is backing away from McCarthy’s announced plan to avoid the hypocritical embarrassment. The problem there is that that too will shine a light on what Trump said and show that House Republicans support him for it by not reading the Constitution. I suspect they will go ahead, but it’s still the ol’ proverbial rock and a hard place. Because they’re screwed either way. But that’s what happens when you let a fascist lead you into fascist land.
Oddly, my favorite response to this all has come from a Republican senator. Weird because Republican officials have been notably and reprehensibly silent in their condemnation of Trump calling to terminate the Constitution. It came from Mitt Romney, who’s probably still pissed off by how Trump humiliated him when initially elected and had Romney come in to ostensibly interview to be Secretary of State, a job Trump had no intention of hiring him. Romney wonderfully pulled a page out of the Trump Playbook and mocked him as a RINO!
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Romney said, “Well, the Republican Party is the Constitution party. So, when he calls to suspend the Constitution, he goes from being MAGA to being RINO.”
Putting aside that I’m not sure when the Republican Party has ever been “The Constitution Party,” but most especially over the past six years – and putting aside that Trump didn’t say “suspend” the Constitution, but “terminate” it – it’s a pretty good dig at Trump throwing his own word back at him in a way that can be very impactful.
There was an old deodorant commercial whose ad line was, “Never let them see you sweat.”
With Trump’s latest statement yesterday, it’s pretty hard not to see the sweat dripping from him like a tsunami.
This isn’t a little-known holiday song – actually, it’s a very well-known one. But I’m including it in our Holiday Music Fest for other somewhat lesser-known reasons. And that requires a story.
In the past, I wrote here about the TV series, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The show got cancelled recently after two seasons, but due to massive fan support, the Roku Channel ordered a movie, which reunited the entire cast and premiered in 2021 – and which the Roku Channel made free to stream by everyone, whether subscribers or not – Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.
(Up in the air is whether Roku will order future movies, or even bring back the series.)
The premise of the series is that for whatever reason, the main character Zoey (played wonderfully by Jane Levy) has developed the ability to hear what people are thinking at particularly emotional moments in their lives, which they express through song, what she refers to as "heart songs." And she's grown to hate her "power," as she calls it. It's not only intrusive in her life -- having people break into passionate songs, often with full choreography, that no one else can see -- but also she's realized that whatever is going on in that person's life, she has to help resolve it, or the songs will continue until she does.
As for this song, it comes at the very opening of the movie. She’s in a mall with her friend Mo, explaining why Christmas this year is so difficult for her, because it’s her family’s first since her father passed away. (Which was a major storyline in the second season.) And so, she isn’t in the Christmas spirit at all. In order to be understanding, Mo says she’ll do her best to put aside her own feelings and be low-kay, so as to not cause any problems for Zoey. And so, the two of them walk through the holiday mall all quiet and matter-of-fact.
But of course, no matter how much her friend is sedate on the surface, Zoey can hear her heart song – and those of everyone else in the mall. Which leads us to this song.
But – almost more than all that is something that stands out seriously impressively, even if unobtrusively unless you’re looking for it. And it’s that the huge, extravagant production number that goes all over the mall, up and down the levels…is all done in just one take. Any mistake or error in the meticulous timing, hitting their marks exactly, and they’d have to do it all over again. And just to give themselves an even bigger challenge (beyond filling the number with lots of little kids who have to get their timing right), the very end of the lavish scene deals with properly balancing a bunch of Christmas gift packages. If just one of them fell over (and one almost does)…yes, back to the start and do it all again. And after all that, they still have to get the very last, difficult shot right!
It's a seriously impressive undertaking. And all the more so when you realize that they had a short production schedule -- including only four days to rehearse the dancing for all the songs, and there were at least half a dozen songs in the movie, probably more. It wasn't just a case of "Okay, we have to learn this one production number only and get it right."
(Incidentally, the way you can tell this is the opening, is because the show always begins with Zoey frustrated over something, and blurting out a swear word…that gets cut off by the title of the show slamming in.)
Minor fun fact: another nice thing to look out for is that around the :25 second mark, you'll see a white-haired woman in an untucked, brown shirt and black baseball cap dancing around Mo. That's the show's choreography Mandy Moore. (No, not the pop singer-actress. Same name, different person.)
For those who want to see the full movie (for free), you can stream it here.
And now, onto the one-take wonder. It's worth watching a second time (or more) to catch all the people getting in place, spotting the details even in the far background, and seeing all the meticulous movements of how they pulled it of –
I posted this last year for the first time, and loved the video so much that I thought it deserves repeating on this anniversary day and being made it a bonus posting this year. I've posted a lot of Kukla, Fran & Ollie videos (and will post some more this holiday season), but this is unique for them, and offers an absolutely fascinating (and very funny) look into the early days of television.
A big thanks to fellow Kukla, Fran & Ollie afficionado Nell Minow for passing along this wonderful and offbeat, very early episode from the show than ran 73 years ago today, December 5, 1949.
Kukla, Fran & Ollie went on the air nationally earlier that year – it premiered locally a few months before that -- and TV was in such an very early stage that every time a new station joined the network the show saluted them. But so many new stations had begun joining that the show hadn’t been able to salute them all. So, they decided to do a full pageant in their honor. It wasn’t just to salute the stations, though, but also fill them in about who all the Kuklapolitan characters are and how this television thing works, including the operation of cameras and the commercial possibilities (sponsored as it is by RCA Victor). The whole thing is funny, charming, odd and a fascinating look at the early days of TV. Especially as each of the characters sings a different song about television. (Also, though intended for viewers at the time, it’s also a great way for people today to learn who each of the Kuklapolitans are.)
For all the character introductions, I was sorry that they didn’t have my fave, Cecil Bill on. Though that’s sort of fitting, because he only appeared occasionally, which was much of his charm. Also, a little Cecil Bill goes a long way. That’s because Cecil Bill was sort of nuts and spoke in a “ta toi toi toi” language that only Fran Allison and the Kuklapolitans can understand. However, you do hear Cecil Bill at the 10:20 mark, and they reference him later (at 22:00), acknowledging the challenge some people might have with him.
The songs are a joy. Nell notes particularly loving Beulah Witch’s where she gives the phone number for stations to call if they have a problem with the signal. It all builds to a joyous finale led by Ollie that includes a very funny self-referential joke about puppet shows and Fran being as goofy as I’ve seen her on the show.
What also bears repeating from earlier posts about Kukla, Fran & Ollie is that the show is almost-fully ad-libbed. Burr Tillstrom, its creator (doing all the puppetry and voices), would go through a general run-down with Fran Allison of what was planned and the musical numbers (which of course had to be written…), but that was largely it. (How ad-libbed was it? And one point in a sequence with Beulah Witch, if you listen closely you’ll hear Tillstrom crack himself up before quickly catching himself. And Fran plays right along without skipping a beat – including moments later when Beulah screws up saying “Indianapolis” and Fran again just plays along without skipping a beat) And the show was 30 minutes long – and daily. And also, this wasn’t a daytime show just for the kiddies, but ran at night. (The time and schedule fluctuated over the many years they were on.)
I should note that Ms. Minow’s appreciation of Kukla, Frank & Ollie comes from a well-grounded foundation. The show was done in Chicago, and as I mentioned the other day, her father Newton Minow (later the FCC Chairman under JFK) was Burr Tillstrom’s attorney. Further, when she and her dad were visiting the show’s set one day, a newspaper reporter happened to be there doing a story on it. Seeing a little girl around, the reporter asked Nell what she wanted to be when she grew up. To which she answered, “A Kuklapolitan.” That made it into the article. And the happy news is that it’s my contention that Nell achieved her goal.
Over the weekend, former President Barack Obama said that dangerous attacks on government by the extreme right required terminating the Constitution temporarily. Republicans were united in their outrage at th…
Well, no, of course, Barack Obama never said such a thing. Though, yes, Republicans would have certainly risen as one to scream to the heavens and vigorously condemn such an assault on democracy. As well they should have. And Democrats would have, as well. Even Barack Obama, being a constitutional scholar, would have condemned his words had they ever inconceivably occurred.
But the breathtaking silence by most of the Republican Party officials at what Trump wrote on his social platform on Saturday (and the refusal by the few who spoke to say it disqualifies him from leading their party) is almost as ghastly as what Trump said.
How unthinkable would the words have been if Barack Obama had actually said them? I suspect most people reading that above knew instantly that he never would have said – or even thought – them. However, I'm sure that it was not even remotely a surprise to most people, whatever their political beliefs, when hearing them from Trump.
And to anyone even still trying to defend Trump as not being an authoritarian fascist, their lives were made even more difficult on Saturday. When Trump called "for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution," he not only put his name and picture in the dictionary next to “fascist,” he signed the page and had it notarized.
For those who might have missed the story, no, that's not paraphrasing him, that's a quote from what Trump wrote, calling to overturn the 2020 election and either declare the "RIGHTFUL WINNER" (which apparently, contrary to losing 60 lawsuits -- and the election, he somehow thinks is him) or have a "NEW ELECTION."
But to put it in full, because the sheer lunacy and evil of what he wrote on Trump Social (and yes, I know that’s not exactly its official name, but to use the word “truth” when describing anything to do with Trump is not a canard I plan to participate in – unless it’s “the total and utter lack of…”) deserves to be seen in its total and utter manic and infantile fervor.
"So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great 'Founders' did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!"
Using the phrase “Imagine if Barack Obama had said this” is valid almost every time Trump speaks, and using it regularly at the beginning of his time in office was appropriate. And remained appropriate to give the fascism and lies context. But because it became so regular, virtually daily, such an admonition would have worn out its impact by the hundredth time after just three months with 45 more to go. So, the expression has had to be used expeditiously when most significantly called for. And calling for the termination of the U.S. Constitution is one of those times.
Seriously, can you imagine the Republican reaction if Barack Obama had called for terminating the Constitution. It would have registered in California on the Richter scale. There would have been wall-to-wall screaming non-stop on Fox “News” and Newsmax and OAN and across the Internet. It would have transcended outrage. And should have.
And as I noted above, it would have been equaled by Democrats. And we know this because, for just one example, when Al Franken took a joke photo in immature taste when he was a comedian coming home from entertaining U.S. troops years before he was elected a senator, Democrats (wisely or not) united to push him out of office. And that wasn’t for sedition, just a bad joke.
By the way, whatever adjectives others want to use about Trump’s authoritarian, manic, whining, fascist rantings, they were also problematically counter-productive for him, and yet another self-inflicted error. That’s because his public statement risks being used against him in any of the many criminal court cases he's facing. If he’s ever under oath, he can be asked, "Did you write on your social media platform that the Constitution should be terminated to make you president?" He likely would answer “No” or take the Fifth, in which case those words would just be hearsay – but to not say he didn’t write that under his own name undermines his long-standing position that has driven his supporters, and would be humiliating. (Actually, I'll go a step further: while I'm not certain, I believe he couldn't even take the Fifth, because of an "exception to hearsay," when something isn't against interest. After all, there is nothing incriminating about merely stating your opinion on something that isn't a crime for just thinking it. So, that would leave his only defensive answer as "No, I didn't write that," which risks perjury.) The only alternative then would be to answer “Yes,” which really isn’t a good luck when being prosecuted for stealing secret government documents or inciting an Insurrection. (Further, if it’s ever allowed to be brought up in a civil case, taking the Fifth can be used by a jury as an assumption of assertion.)
But the thing is, as always, this isn’t just about Trump – though admittedly a ton of it is – but it’s also about the officials of the Republican Party who enable him, and have generally be offensively silent about this. But the question every one of them should be asked (if they can be found from hiding…) and should all answer directly is that, regardless of who wrote the words, would they support a candidate for any political office in the country, who says we should terminate the Constitution?
And just criticizing what Trump said about terminating the Constitution (if you can even get most Republican officials to do only that!!) isn’t enough. Because to be president – to be any federal government official, to serve in the military – you have to swear an oath to God to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Trump himself had to swear that when he was in office. Trump wants to be president again and would have to swear it, by law, if he’s ever elected again. So, every Republican official should be asked if they think it is disqualifying for a candidate for president to call for terminating the Constitution that he must swear an oath to God defend. And if they say, no, they should have to explain why not. Especially given that they themselves had to swear the same oath.
And to be clear: if a political official is unwilling to condemn a presidential candidate for saying the Constitution should be terminated, it is foolhardy to think they will suddenly gain new-found morals and personal courage to condemn it should that candidate actually get elected. No matter how much they might possibly say in private how wrong and wrong it is and roll their eyes and go "tsk-tsk," not criticizing it in public not only knowingly enables the viewpoint, but speaks to precisely who they are, as well. This isn't merely "silence," this is acceptance.
For that matter, anyone who is interviewed and said they’d vote for Trump should be asked the same question
But further, anyone who says nothing more than they’d just vote for Trump should, at the very least, also ask themselves that same question. And if they answer to themselves, no, it's not disqualifying, I’m okay voting for someone as president who wants to terminate the Constitution he swore an oath to God to defend, then they can no longer complain and whine and moan when they are described as a fascist.
Like today's Republican Party is described, and properly so.
This is one of my favorite holiday recordings. It's a very well-known song, "Winter Wonderland," but a rare version. It's from Steve Goodman, and not only is a joy, but gives a great idea why he was so incredibly wonderful in concert.
I've written a lot here about Steve Goodman, whose work I love. But wonderful as his songs and recordings are, they still don't give a great sense of how tremendous he was in concert with an audience. I've told the story about being at the concert where he won over the 3,000 maniacal fans of Steve Martin at the Universal Amphitheatre. He just was a joy -- a cherubic, short, enthusiastic bundle of energy and personality.
This comes during one of his concerts -- I think it may have been when he was on Austin City Limits, though for understandable (but wrong-headed) reasons this particular selection didn't make it to air. Someone yelled out a song request, which for whatever odd reason was "Winter Wonderland." Not a song that Steve Goodman was known for. In fact, he didn't even know exactly how it went -- yet, being Steve Goodman, he dove in and tried. And the result is utterly joyous.
What I maybe most love about this recording is that comes as close to giving a sense of Steve Goodman in concert as any, even though it's just audio. A rich connection with the audience, lively, great musicianship, funny and smart. And what he ends up with is not just one of my favorite Steve Goodman recordings, but perhaps my favorite rendition of "Winter Wonderland."
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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