I got some nice comments about my piece with E.Y. (Yip) Harburg singing his own song, "Over the Rainbow," written with composer Harold Arlen. I thought therefore I'd post some more from Harburg, but something that's little known, from a flop musical he did with the great Jule Styne, Darling of the Day. I've chosen this for a few reasons -- it's a wonderful score that no one ever hears, the show even won a Tony Award for its female lead, Patricia Routledge (who folks might know from her BBC series on PBS, Keeping Up Appearances) -- but also because of who its star was. A man renowned far and wide musical comedy -- Vincent Price. Yes, Vincent Price.
Okay, okay, so Vincent Price isn't who leaps to mind when you think of musical comedy. Surprisingly, though not a singer, he does a very nice job on the album. It's sort of talk-singing, but really with more emphasis on the singing end. His voice is a rich baritone. Unfortunately, from what little I've read about the show, he wasn't totally comfortable on stage, so the performance from the album isn't indicative of the theatrical experience. What also hurt the show, which got reasonably respectable reviews, though not great, is that it opened during a newspaper strike, so the reviews didn't appear until much later. Also, there were problems with the book. (The great screenwriter Nunnally Johnson -- who wrote such films as The Grapes of Wrath, Three Faces of Eve, The Dirty Dozen and The World of Henry Orient -- took his name off, and there was no credited writer.) And finally, it's a charming, old-fashioned musical, which opened in 1968, a few months before Hair, and society and soon Broadway had begun shifting to rock music. Ultimately, it ran for 31 performances.
The story is sort of fun, and in large part a commentary on manners and class differences, a subject always dear to Harburg's heart, most notably in Finian's Rainbow . It's based on the play, Buried Alive (no, not a horror story, despite the title and Vincent Price's horror pedigree), which was made into the movie, Holy Matrimony. Set in 1905, it concerns a great artist, Priam Farll, who hates the pomposity of society and moves far from England to the South Seas. When he's knighted many years later, he has to come back, and on the way his butler dies. There's a mix-up, where it's thought that Farll died, and that he (Farll) is the butler. He decides to continue the rouse, which will allow him to live in England again, but unknown. He falls in love with a cockney barmaid and has a happy life, painting for fun. But when his wife decides to sell one of his little drawings, thinking maybe the nicknack painting will bring in a few shillings, the dealer ultimately realizes that Farll must be alive and complications ensue...
I actually got to see a production of Darling a Day a few years ago, when a small theater in the Chicago suburbs did it with a revised book and some song revisions that Harburg himself had done. It was great fun, though the book was still flawed, mostly in the third act, trying to properly work out the complications.
But the score is wonderful. Terrific music by Jule Styne, and really clever lyrics by the always-clever Yip Harburg. One of the wittiest is "Panache," in which the art dealer is trying to explain to a wealthy patron why paintings can become valuable, having nothing to do with quality, but how famous the artist is. He sings --
As for art,
Though the aim and the game of it
Is the fame of the name
On the frame of it,
But panache up the price
And acclaim of it.
Not the hoi polloi,
There are some great ballads, and a show-stopping production number, but I thought it would be particularly fun to hear Vincent Price sing. This then is his number early in the show when he is trying to decide whether to switch places with his butler, "To Get Out of This World Alive."
"As far as I can tell, political leaders are falling all over themselves to endorse your side of the case," Chief Justice Roberts told lawyers arguing on behalf of gay marriage.
The Chief Justice has good eyesight, though it is slightly skewed. Seven senators have come out (yes, okay, pun intended) in support of gay marriage in the past two weeks, though the GOP still stands pretty recalcitrant. So, the fact that political leaders are "falling over themselves" shouldn't be taken as legal evidence that laws don't have to be changed. Leaders may be falling, but they're falling almost exclusively on one side of the aisle. If Republicans aren't careful, they might find themselves without any ballast as the ship tips over on them completely.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told USA Today that in being so intransigent in their moral outrage over gay marriage, the GOP shouldn't "act like Old Testament heretics."
My first reaction was, "But, gee, it's worked so well for them in the past."
My second reaction was -- a heretic is someone who holds religious beliefs that conflict with church dogma. So, in his admonishment of the "heretics," he seems to be suggesting that church dogma supports gay marriage. Gee, first time I've heard that in the debate.
My third reaction was -- "Old Testament"?? Hey, me bucko, don't blame this on the Old Testament. You guys dug your own hole here, don't drag the Old Testament down with you. This is a "Church Thing" with the GOP. If you feel you have to blame someone, blame the sequel.
In an interview with radio station KRBD, Rep. Don Young (R-AL) managed to offend even Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) when using an ethnic slur about Mexicans, latter claiming he meant no offense, though he didn't apologize -- at least until later when clearly someone told him, "Y'know, you didn't apologize." (Mind you, the fact that he didn't think it was offensive to use a slur against Mexican-Americans seems to fit in with the standard attitude of conservatives towards Hispanics.)
In response, Mr. Boehner said, "I don’t care why he said it -- there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology." It's an admirable, blunt statement by Mr. Boehner, so, hat's off. But of course, there is an excuse -- it's that this is close to Standard Operating Procedure for the Republican Party these days, starting with efforts to demean minorities in every way imaginable ever since the first Black president was elected. Only a week or so ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made a major immigration speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and in front of most-especially this group he defended his admiration of Hispanics by referencing a Seinfeld episode and saying, "So it is with trepidation that I express my admiration for the romance of the Latin culture." (Gosh, why would he have any "trepidation" about saying that? It was only a major immigration policy speech. To the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce."
Rule #1 -- When you begin a sentence with "So, it is with trepidation that I express..." -- it's best not to express it. Especially if this is you Big Immigration Policy Speech to Hispanic leaders.
But when this is Standard Operating Procedure for Republicans, it seems okay to say...well, just about anything. Ask the aforementioned Don Young (R-AL).
And all of this comes after the GOP released its Growth & Opportunity Project, which specifically referenced treating minorities with respect. Since all this comes following that admonition, just imagine what the Far Right would be saying about Hispanics and all minorities if they weren't careful to be sensitive."
In his debate with Curtis Bostic for the Republican nomination in South Carolina's 1st congressional district, former Gov. Mark Sanford (you know, the guy who went missing for days and lied about where he went, when he was really cheating on his wife with his Brazilian mistress) slammed Bostic for missing meetings when a councilman. It turns out that Mr. Bostic had a very good, and outraged answer -- he was at home with his wife who had cancer. "My absence is because I was home taking care of her largely, doing what I should've been," Bostic said, "People knew where I was. I did my job just the same."
This is not a mere "oops" moment. This is one of those moments that overlaps with Rand Paul opening a statement with "It is with trepidation that I..." It also falls under the heading of, "People in glass houses should know freaking better than to say something that will shine a Really Big Light on their own idiocy, even if they knew what they were talking about."
In her big speech at CPAC recently, America's Yammering Hypocrite, Sarah Palin, the half-term governor of Alaska, lambasted "the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” In her recent SarahPAC filings with the Federal Election Committee, it shows that she raised $5.1 million. It also shows that of this amount, $298,500 went to actual candidates. The bulk of the remaining $4.8 million went to -- the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media..
In Ms. Palin's case, she shouldn't even concern herself about starting sentences with "It is with trepidation that I..." and just assume that that goes before every word she utters. Or thinks.
One of the great things about reading history and remembering the past is that, as the famous quote suggests, you won't be condemned to repeat its mistakes.
Another is that you don't paint yourself in a fool's corner by getting your facts wrong and misinterpreting what actually happened.
But also, importantly, and one of my favorite reasons is that when you bother to read history and understand what happened earlier, you're simply able to see reality in its fullness and therefore put the present day in a wider, richer perspective. That's something I find interesting at any time, but which I always find most-especially valuable when a controversial issue in the present day had a counter-part in the past, but from a completely different perspective than is ever suspected.
I am currently (still...hey, it's 855 pages) reading What Hath God Wrought, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Daniel Walker Howe, about the communication and transportation revolution that helped transform America between the War of 1812 and the U.S.-Mexican War. And yesterday, I came across a remarkable passage.
It concerns the issues that lead up to Texas independence, beginning with when the territory was still a part of Mexico. The Mexican government had given American Stephen Austin the right to colonize the sparsely populated province, in hopes of attracting settlers. What Howe writes is --
"After the Mier y Teran fact-finding commission confirmed fears about U.S. intentions toward Texas in its report of 1829, the Mexican Congress passed a law suspending immigration from the United States in April, 1830. Austin got an exemption from it for his own recruits, and others found it easy to to slip through the border. Mexico suffered the problem of illegal immigration from the United States..."
Some things need no comment.
But sometimes the fingers must type or burst. All I could think after reading that was, gee, just think if far-right Mexicans had risen in outrage and demanded more security at the border, insisting that a wall be built to keep all the illegals out. If they had, then the outpouring of illegal Americans over the border would have stopped, there would never ultimately have been enough independent-minded outlawed insurrectionists calling for secession and starting a rebellion -- and all those Texans who today keep crying they want to to leave the United States...would have gotten their wish. Because they'd be Mexicans.
No wonder Texas officials love to require history books be rewritten for schoolchildren.
This is a very enjoyable and very readable article by by Brian Lasky from the oft-mentioned here Windows Secrets newsletter. The piece, "The Malware Wars: How You Can Fight It" is an interview with an expert in stopping malware attacks on your computer. How much of an expert is he? He readily welcomes being hit by viruses and such so that he can study it running on his system, to see how it works and therefore create blocks. He also accidentally had a chat-exchange with someone trying to hack his system and relates it. There are a few tips on doing what you can to protect yourself, though most are pretty basic, his point being that you won't be able to stop everything, but doing the core things can at least help.
There are a lot of albums out with songs that were cut from Broadway shows. From a scholarly perspective, I love them. For a listener level -- well, let's just say it's usually clear why they were cut. But every once in a while there are some gems. I've embedded a couple previously, and this is another one in the club.
It's a song from Gypsy, by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, and it's every bit as good as anything is that show -- which is serious praise, considering that Gypsy is considered one one of the all-time greatest Broadway scores. But this song, "Mama's Talkin' Soft," got cut. But it wasn't for reasons of quality (as noted) or because it just didn't fit, or the show was running long, or any of the reasons you'd expect. But another, fascinating reason entirely.
The song is sung by Mama Rose's two, young daughters. It was staged to have them on a high platform above the scene, watching their mother "sweet talk" some poor sap who doesn't stand a chance. Mama may be a holy terror when she's outraged, but when she starts talking soft, you're done. And the daughters commented on it.
The song is wonderful. The problem was that one of the little girls was absolutely terrified of heights. And whenever they'd have to get up to the top of the platform, she'd burst into tears. The creative team had to make a decision -- cut the song or drop the young actress. Remarkably, in the hard-bitten world o' showbiz, they kept the girl. Apparently when you're going to open on Broadway and you have a child actress who's really terrific and just what you want, they're just not that easy to replace...
It's interesting to note that there is a remnant of the song still in the show. In the classic, tour-de-force, "Rose's Turn," that includes a melange of snippets from songs throughout the show, you can hear a few points where she begins ranting references to "Mama's Talkin' Soft." What happened was that they'd written "Rose's Turn" before dropping the song, and it's such an intricate gem, they left it as it was.
This is the song. Saved for posterity on the beautifully-produced Lost in Boston Vol. III collection. It's performed by Lindsay Ridgeway and Sarah Chapman -- neither of who had to climb a high platform to record it.
Two natural gas stations in Indiana using cow manure opened a couple weeks ago and supply enough fuel to power 42 milk delivery trucks from nearby farms. This is good news/ bad news.
The good news is that it's a fascinating advance in creating an alternative to fossil fuel. The bad news is that it means Fox News will have the power to go on forever.
Officials at the Department of Energy have called the program a "pacesetter." The Fair Oaks farm cooperative that's involved has already been using its cow remains to create a great deal of electricity for themselves. This new move takes it to the next step. The New York Times has a detailed story about it. Though this kind of biogas isn't the future of the industry, there are about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations in the country right now, and using such methane-rich "free" material creates a valuable, additional source of safer, cleaner fuel that is reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The process uses the remains from 35,00 cows. “As long as we keep milking cows, we never run out of gas,” the chief executive of the cooperative, Gary Corbett, said. “We are one user, and we’re taking two million gallons of diesel off the highway each year. That’s a big deal.”
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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