It didn’t get a great deal of promotion – in fact, it pretty much slipped between the cracks, and I only caught it on its repeat. But a couple weeks ago, Great Performances on PBS had a sequel to the documentary they did 18 years ago, Broadway: the Golden Age. This one is called Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age.
It’s absolutely great, arguably better than the first one. It’s a bit different– the first was largely an overview of the entire period. This is more focused on several shows, but it gives a sense of the era. And I don’t want to say why it’s so wonderful, since it’s full of surprises -- some of them small but lovely, some huge, some for the people who appear on camera. I’ll only mention one: Robert Redford, who talks with such warmth and affection about the early days of his career on Broadway. Also, the opening 5-10 minutes of the documentary are thrilling, as actors talk about what it’s like preparing for the curtain to go up, beautifully, rivetingly edited. But it’s not like that’s the high point of the production and downhill from there. It’s all terrific.
And sequences and moments are so great of a joyous, distant era, and include some rare, never-before-seen footage.
By the way, after watching it I found out through a friend who knows one of the producers why this appeared to be a bit different from the first documentary. That’s because this was only 98 minutes or so, but the full documentary was 150 minutes. They cut out a third of the film to fit in the PBS timeslot with Pledge Breaks. There’s almost another hour of material left! And yet it was still tremendous. On the positive end, I’m told that the company is looking for outlets.
Both films were directed by Rick McKay. Sadly, he passed away three years ago before this second production was completed. However, the production team and editor were finally able to finish it. A couple of friends got to know him well in the last 15 years or so of his life, though a sort of family connection, and spoke highly of him.
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see it, or will be able to catch it on a repeat on one of the various PBS channels, or On Demand. But it’s also on the PBS Passport website for PBS subscribers. This is the direct link here.
However, good news! It appears that I can embed the show on my website – I just tested it, and that seems to be the case. Just know that the video expires in about two weeks, on September 11.
If you can make it full screen, do so.
It’s great. And one of those things I feel comfortable saying, “Trust me.”
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guests are Laurie Garrett and Andy Slavitt to discuss “Where we are NOW on COVID-19.” As Al puts it, “The Pulitzer-Winner (Garrett) and Biden Covid Advisor (Slavitt) take a deep dive.”
I hope that Terry McAuliffe wins in Virginia.
But I hated the fund-raising email I just got from his campaign telling ME in its Subject line -- "Don't blow this deadline."
With all due respect, it's his deadline, not mine. And if it's "blown," it's on HIM, not me.
And yes, of course I know that it's auto-email. And I know how and why these things are phrased. (Hey, I worked in PR for too many years before escaping.) But there's still a good way and a bad way of doing it -- and this was bad auto-email. Especially when sent to all those who likely have already donated...and may have donated since the last email asking for money. Who are being told they are blowing it.
It's one thing to always, ALWAYS claim The Sky Is Falling, we need your money. That's standard, not the best way to raise money I think -- to me, it shows unending weakness -- but I absolutely get it. It's creating urgency. And I get, too, saying that you're "humbly asking," when there's nothing humble about it at all since it's an anonymous bulk email that the candidate probably didn't even write. But it's another blame the person you want money from (and more money from) that they're causing the sky to fall. All because you aren't doing a good enough job as the candidate.
The NPR quiz show took a week off, and instead posted a “Summer Break Edition” to feature some of their favorite moments from past shows. So, that seemed like a good way to introduce the full program to people who have only heard the “Not My Job” segment that I post here.
I love this exchange with Gov. J.B. Pritizker of Illinois and a radio host for radio station WIND in Chicago, which is a talk-radio Fox affiliate. The host, Amy Jacobson, has been critical about the state's mask mandate, and so tries to make an issue of it with the governor, though asked in a roundabout, somewhat surreptitious way as a supposed well-meaning question about the concerns of parents..
"There were protests out here this morning and parents were crying, screaming," she says to Gov. Pritzker.. "As governor, you should try and calm people's nerves maybe...because there are low-risk groups." Because, yes, telling a governor what he should do at a press conference is always a great, objective idea. It's at that point the his press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh cuts Jacobson off and ends the press conference.
Actually, Abudayyeh's exchange with Jacobson are pretty good on their own. You can't make them out all that clearly on the video, but it begins with the press secretary --
"Amy, as a supposed reporter, you should probably stop the misinformation. We are done here, thank you. Do you know how you stop schools from being closed? You stop complaining about mask-wearing."
"Send me some studies," Jacobson snaps back.
To which Abudayyeh replies -- "It's called Google,"
The event appears over (hey, that's a pretty good curtain line. Or as they say in acting class, "...annnd -- scene"), but it's at that point that Gov. Pritzker decides he does have something to say. What stands out is not only his bluntness, but that as he gives his answer, Jacobson starts talking over him and arguing -- as if this was a discussion on her radio show. When, rather, it's a press conference where you ask a question and listen to the answer for what you just asked. If you have a follow-up, fine, ask it when the answer is finished. But what's so good about Pritzker here is that he doesn't let her interrupt but keeps going with his answer.
How WIND has changed. Once upon a time, when I was a kid back in Chicago, WIND was a nice, low-key, very middle-of-the road pop music station, more adult contemporary, bordering on playing oldies. No more, obvously.
By the way, what I like, too, is that the video of Gov. Pritzker pointedly telling off the "Fox" radio host was posted by a competitor, WICS, which is an ABC affiliate out of Springfield.
[Meaningless Bonus Fun Fact: long ago, I went to summer camp with one of the Pritzker clan, which largely own the Hyatt Hotel chain, among many other things. Actually, I wasn't officially a camper yet, but instead was the Doctor's Son when my dad helped out there for a couple of weeks over several summers. So, I was 10 years old at the time. Because I was going to be a real, full-time camper the next year, it was thought I should spend time with the youngest cabin in camp, where no doubt the Pritzker family had sent their child to do early research on basic overnight accommodations. This story should add a great deal of perspective to the video below, despite the fact that J.B. Pritzker did not go to Camp Nebagamon. ]
The terrorist bombing in Afghanistan by ISIS-K was awful, all the more so since the soldiers and evacuees killed were not only leaving, but leaving in days.
A friend wrote to me about how the terrorist attack won’t help President Biden. And no, it won’t – especially with Republicans doing what Republicans do, playing ghoulish games of politics including some having phony fits and bizarrely calling for the President to resign. But, I think too many people react to the news of the moment, especially when the news is so bad and tragic. But how the country feels today is not how it will feel even in two weeks, if the people in charge keep doing their job and succeed at it, in this case, get out of Afghanistan.
Further, most of the country tends to rally around the president when the U.S. is attacked, and also, the bombing focuses even more the importance of why we’re leaving, why we should never have been there, most especially for 20 years. And with most Americans already entirely evacuated from Afghanistan and over 80,000 evacuations completed so far, those numbers should help the public perception of a leader in charge accomplishing the task, even amid the chaos and death. Also, lest any Republicans keep trying to show President Biden being clueless and not in control, it’s important that only days before, Joe Biden specifically named ISIS-K as a threat in Afghanistan who we were aware of. And ultimately, by the time the mid-term election comes around (which is mostly what my friend was referencing), I think the story about Afghanistan will be that we got out, that we should have gotten out, and that the number of people evacuated was huge.
Two comments on Twitter yesterday stood out for their perspective, something that tends to be missing from instant commentary and analysis.
One was by Farah Stockman, who is on the editorial board of the New York Times. She wrote – “My heart is breaking for Afghanistan. But let's not forget: Kabul has been rocked by explosions and unacceptably violent attacks for many years. If you think the past 15 years has been relatively peaceful there, you weren't paying attention.
The other by Mehdi Hasan of MSNBC. He wrote --
“Worth reminding folks that ISIS wouldn't exist today if George Bush and Tony Blair hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003.
“ISIS in Afghanistan didn't even exist until 2014/2015.
“But hey, it's easier to have a short memory or no memory at all, and blame everything on the withdrawal.”
But speaking of having a short memory – or, in this case, no memory at all, what leaped out yesterday was an amazing awful interview that Trump gave yesterday to Hugh Hewitt. (And this doesn’t even include him going off on a rant about how Pfizer controls the FDA, because Hewitt cut him off and veered protectively to another subject, without challenging him or saying, “What on earth are you talking about??!!”
No, far worse than that – and equally unchallenged by Hewitt – (and remember, this was yesterday!) was when Trump went over the edge trying to pump up how great he was fighting ISIS compared to Barack Obama fighting al-Qaeda. Never mind that it was a division of ISIS in Afghanistan (who Trump has long insisted he ended) that committed the terrorist bombing yesterday. But only yesterday, in trying to explain that Osama bin Laden really wasn't that big, Trump said – please sit down to steady yourself – "bid Laden only had one hit."
Yes, Trump said that, yesterday. And keep in mind, mind-numbingly idiotic and crass as that is on any day, but especially yesterday, making it even worse is that we are just two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Hey, at least Trump did follow that by noting, “it was a bad one.” His deep insight is staggering. Yes, it was indeed a bad one, which changed U.S. foreign policy. Less staggering is that he then says it was in New York City, the World Trade Center. What he has forgotten, this man with the world’s greatest memory, he says, is that bin Laden’s attacks on 9/11 were not just the World Trade Center in New York. Another airplane also crashed into the Pentagon, and a third airplane was on its way to another target, as well, when it was stopped by passengers before crashing.
And never mind, too, that (not shockingly) what Trump said wasn’t even remotely true, since Osama bin Laden ordered many other terrorist raids. In 1998, it was a bin Laden operation that resulted in simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that together killed 224 people. Further, under bin Laden, al-Qaeda also bombed the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 Americans on board.
So, y’know, more than one “hit.”
But then, as far “one hit wonders” go, Hitler only had one war. So, apparently he wasn't that big either, by Trump "standards."
As Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted – “Trying to imagine the reaction if Biden said anything approaching this during a week in which US troops were killed at the end of a war that began after 9/11.”
Instead, dealing with a terrorist attack as America was leaving a 20-year war that went on 20 years too long, what President Biden did say was deep, heartfelt words to try to help console a nation.
By the way, it got even worse for Trump because in the interview he kept referring to ISIS-K as "ISIS-X" which...well, doesn't exist. And because he had no clue what he was talking about, he compounded the problem by making up an explanation for it all. "...and ISIS-X, as you know, I knocked out 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. I knocked it out in Syria, Iraq, we knocked it out, so now they have a new ISIS called ISIS-X, and that's members of the Taliban that are far more vicious because they don't like the way the Taliban is behaving because they're not vicious enough."
It's like he was making up an ad on the sport for "the New, Improved ISIS -- ISIS-X, when regular ISIS isn't vicious enough, and you want to get rid of those nasty trouble spots."
And to be clear, not only did Trump not "knock out ISIS," but the Taliban and ISIS are actually enemies, they hate each other. So, no, there is not a newly-developed division of ISIS made up of members of the Taliban, because each group is fighting the other.
And all this in in interview -- yesterday -- when he tried to whine about President Joe Biden's supposed "bizarre behavior." If ever you wanted an example of Trump Projecting, this would be Exhibit A. Or rather, Exhibit X.
It was not a good day. Republicans will, no doubt, keep trying to make it worse and about things it’s not, and look empty in the process. But soon, President Biden will have gotten America out of Afghanistan. Which is what most Americans have said they want. Getting out of a war is chaotic, tragic and messy. The war -- for 20 years -- was overwhelmingly, ghoulishly worse.
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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