This short article in the Los Angeles Times talks about how the Red Roof In chain received the highest customer satisfaction for economy hotels, in a survey done by MarketMatrix research. The article notes that Red Roof Inn makes a concerted effort to pay attention to user comments on the Internet, and keeps making little additions that get suggested, like outlets near beds for portable electronic devices, and free Wi-Fi.
I happened to stay at a Red Roof Inn last year, when I went to Asheville, North Carolina, for a cousin's wedding. And the room was indeed terrific. (They screwed up on the first room they gave me, which hadn't been made up yet, but the room they switched me to was wonderful.) In fact, one of the things it was easy to notice was that free Wi-Fi the article mentions. My recollection is that it was free for only an hour, but that's fine. Simply offering it for free, whatever the length, made a good "we actually care about the customer" impression. (And for all I know, it might have been longer.) And the rest of the room was clean, well-appointed and comfortable.
The price was good, too -- probably on the high-end of economy, but still very reasonable and worth it. I wouldn't hesitate staying at another Red Roof Inn. I'd just double-check to make sure they got the room right the first time...
Yesterday, I posted an audio link for a song from the musical, Barnum, a show which starred Jim Dale, who narrated all the Harry Potter audio books. I've come across a 6-1/2 video which demonstrates wonderfully why he gave an acclaimed, Tony-winning performance as Best Actor. And why I think this is a very under-rated score. (The female lead of Barnum, by the way, Tony-nominated in a supporting role, was an up-and-coming actress, Glenn Close.)
When I first came across the score to Barnum, I'd presumed it had music by Cy Coleman (who wrote, among many things, the show Sweet Charity), with lyrics by Michael Bramble, and a book by Michael Stewart. I presumed this because Michael Stewart was one of the more accomplished book writers of Broadway musicals, with shows like Hello, Dolly!, Bye, Bye Birdie, the recently-mentioned Carnival!, 42nd Street and many more.
I was very impressed with the very smart, sharp and clever lyrics by Mark Bramble, who I hadn't heard of before. But only after a few years did I look more closely at the credits and discovered that I was wrong. Mark Bramble didn't write the lyrics to Barnum -- Michael Stewart did. Bramble wrote the book. I was flabbergasted, since as far as I knew, Michael Stewart was exclusively a book writer, never before a lyricist, and these were the work of a seriously-accomplished professional. Unfortunately, for reasons I don't understand (since Barnum was a big hit, running 854 performances on Broadway), never wrote lyrics for any other shows, though he did do the book for a few musicals. He passed away seven years later, and there wasn't much information on him about it.
However, one day I was visiting with the legendary writer Larry Gelbart and mentioned this to him. (I think it's impossible to mention Larry Gelbart and not refer to him as "legendary." It might be illegal not to, as well, for all I know.) He had been on the writing staff with Stewart decades earlier for the show Caesar's Hour and also worked a great deal on Broadway, and so I figured he might know something about it. Fortunately, he did. He said that Michael Stewart had always wanted to be a lyricist, but because of his success as a book writer, he was never given the opportunity and felt very frustrated by it. He'd finally written the lyrics to a small show -- either off-Broadway or it might not have even gotten that far, I forget -- but that was it. But he finally got his chance with Barnum, and got a Tony nomination for the score. It's a shame he never wrote lyrics to any other musicals, but it's a joy that he got to do this one.
This video is actually two numbers from Barnum at the 1981 Tony Awards. The exuberant Come Follow the Band (which gives a great sense of the grand extravaganza the show was), and then Jim Dale shows clearly why he won the Tony for Best Actor with "There is a Sucker Born Ev'ry Minute," where he bounces his way enthusiastically through every note.
(It's worth noting that not only are lyrics wonderful for the latter -- including a rhyme for "Phineas" -- but writing a song based on a famous line is an extremely tough thing to do. And Stewart pulls it off.)
There's one other thing worth mentioning in the video, though it's really just of a personal nature. At 1:28 into the clip, you'll see a pert, young girl come bounding onto the stage from the left-hand corner, twirling a baton. Her name is Sophie Schwab, and for such a small role in the show, she got a lot of attention. Critics were stunned by a chorus member who not only could toss a baton, but was so truly amazing at it, doing some gasp-worthy tricks. What they didn't know at first -- but I did -- is that although Sophie Schwab had been in the theater department at Northwestern University, she had also been the school's majorette in the marching band and had won many awards as a twirler. I began going to Northwestern football games with my dad from the time I was eight, and we had adored watching Sophie, looked forward to Sophie. She wasn't just a twirler, she was absolutely remarkable. (In an interview I later came across, she said that she could never remember dropping the baton during a performance -- she didn't mean the performance of Barnum, but any performance, whether while marching or in a competition. From what little you can see in this clip when they cut to her -- her boundless skill is clear.) Our time attending Northwestern overlapped, so I got to see her tossing batons for years. I also saw her co-star in a hilarious play, the Flying Karamazov Brothers' version of Shakespeare's, A Comedy of Errors. It was wildly entertaining, filled of course with much juggling and every bit of vaudeville shtick you could imagine. Including, yes, there was baton twirling. The audience went wild. It's one thing to see a baton twirler in a musical about the circus. But in Shakespeare, during a soliloquy, no, the audience really wasn't expecting it. Well, okay, I was...
So, here is an enthusiastic Jim Dale, preceded by the showstopping, "Come Follow the Band." (With Sophie Schwab at 1:28...) The video quality isn't great, but everything speaks for itself.
Windows Secrets is an excellent newsletter that I subscribe to, though you can also get access to their articles online. This is a detailed piece they did that's sort of a refresher course about Facebook security. It's well-worth taking a look at if you are a subscriber to the service.
During last year's Republican primaries, much was made of Ann Coulter fatuously begging Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) to run for president. And so too did many other Republicans, seeing him as a hope of the party with no real, substantive other candidates who could compete on the national stage. That perception has continued, following his actions during Hurricane Sandy, helping give him a high approve rating in New Jersey.
At the time, a year ago, at the peak of the, "Oh, dear God, please run, Chris Christie," mania, I would discuss with others my confusion about all of this. After all, while I knew that Gov. Christie -- for all his many flaws to my own views -- was the most appealing of potential candidates to Independents and Democrats...he wouldn't be running for the nomination of Independents and Democrats. And, indeed, the very things that would be more appealing about him than any of the radical right candidates -- that he was only moderately conservative -- were the very things that today's Republican Party would gutterly hate about him.
To be clear, Chris Christie isn't even a moderate, he's conservative, but compared to today's far right GOP, he's almost a radical Hippie leftie. And for all his popularity in New Jersey, a lot of that recently has come from how he worked with Barack Obama and praised the president -- something that rational humans appreciated, but is akin to being in league with the Devil to the Republican base.
So, for all those Republicans who were (and are) pining for Chris Christie to run for president, all I could think was, "Be careful what you wish for." He's not really someone you'd like. Democrats might be able to borderline tolerate him slightly, but his own, national Republican Party would hate him. Alabama and Mississippi and Nevada and Wyoming are not New Jersey.
And so it has come as no shock to me the reaction that Gov. Christie has received from this year's major CPAC convention, the Conservative Political Action Committee. It's not that attendees didn't like what the governor had to say -- it's not that they gave him a bad speaking slot -- it's that...well, you see...he hasn't been invited.
Let me repeat that: he hasn't been invited. They don't even want Chris Christie there.
Keep in mind, this is supposedly the candidate who was supposed to lead Republicans to the Promised Land. "If you don't run, Chris Christie, we'll lose." And the Conservative Political Action Committee -- the base of the Republican Party -- does not want Christie to say a single word.
Sarah Palin will be speaking. Rick Santorum will be speaking. Newt Gingrich will be speaking. Rick Perry and Paul Ryan, too. All of them losers in the Republican Partiy's recent attempts at winning the White House. But CPAC doesn't want Chris Christie.
They do want Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and his water bottle, Bobby Jindal (who blew his presidential hopes the year before Mr. Rubio gave his address), Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush all to be there. But not Chris Christie.
Maybe Gov. Christie will eventually get an invitation for the March 14 event, because someone will pull some strings, or it will be too embarrassing not to have him there. But right now, just a couple weeks before it's scheduled to start, no one has yet sent him a dance card.
The point here is that the next time you read about how much Republicans want Chris Christie to run for president because he has a chance of appealing to Democrats and Independents, just remember this -- first, he has to appeal to Republicans.
I posted a bunch of videos yesterday from the group The Seekers. What I found out later from reader Shelly Goldstein, who I wrote about here, is that both songs -- "Georgy Girl" and "I'll Never Find Another You" -- had music written by Tom Springfield, brother of Dusty. Shelly also mentioned that Tom wrote many songs with a lyricist named Jim Dale. She wasn't sure if he was the Jim Dale, though, but suspected he was.
I checked into it -- and it's one in the same. Jim Dale is widely known to a huge generation of listeners as the narrator of the Harry Potter series of audio books, and won two Grammys for it. He also served as the narrator on the off-beat ABC series, Pushing Daisies. But for many others, they likely know of him for his many films (such as the villain in Pete's Dragon) and on stage, most notably his amazing, Tony Award-winning role in Barnum, where he exploded on stage non-stop for 2-1/2 hours, doing most every circus and non-circus acrobatic imaginable, from juggling to actually tightrope walking.
Back to his songwriting though at the beginning of his career. It turns out that among the songs Jim Dale wrote the lyrics for to Tom Springfield's music was the beloved, "Georgy Girl."
Anyway, for those who've only heard Jim Dale narrate, or maybe seen him act -- here he is singing, from Barnum. It's not the best song in the show, but it's certainly one that shows off how wildly energetic his performance was. He probably deserved the Tony Award for simply getting through this remarkable tongue-twisting number every night, "Museum Song," written by Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman.
Oh, the world can be whimsical.
So, on the same day that Rosa Parks got a statue in Congress, commemorating her courageous actions in the Civil Rights movement, the Supreme Court began hearings to gut the Voting Rights Act.
Most indications appear to suggest that there are five votes on the Court to strike down the measures.
Hey, the way I see it, you might lose your protection, but you got a statue! That seems a fair trade.
A suggestion. Instead of "We Shall Overcome" as the anthem of Civil Rights, how about using a song from South Pacific. "This Nearly Was Mine."
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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