Every once in a while, as you may have noticed, I embed a link to a particularly good article on my pal Mark Evanier's wonderful and hugely popular website here, which I once referred to in an article as the "Fourth Best Blog on the Internet." When Time magazine did an article about blogs.last year, they only rated Mark's "News from ME" site as the 15th best. Their mistake. (Though, yeah, still not shabby...) On occasion, Mark kindly returns the favor and posts a link to something that was written on these parts.
It doesn't have quite the same impact in reverse, but when Mark does link to an article here, I thought I'd show you what happens to readership.
See if you can guess when he posted his link --
If you watch college sports on TV, you know that for every game both colleges each get 30 seconds to show a promotional video for their respective schools. And you know that they're pretty much all the same -- basically showing students walking around a beatific campus, some work going on in a science lab, a few seconds of some low level sport like volleyball, a professor lecturing in a class of riveted students, a lake or river or grove of trees, and an authoritative, but warm voice over that says something like, "State University...Where today's students learn to become tomorrow's leaders...Honor...Integrity...And a drive for excellence."
Yesterday, one of the ESPN channels had the Northwestern-Illinois football game. Whichever team won, it would be their sixth win and make them eligible to play in a bowl game. Alas, Northwestern's quarterback had been injured the week before, and their leading receiver didn't play either, nor one of the top linebackers and safeties and so...well, you can guess the rest. They didn't win. Sigh.
But during the game, the broadcast of course aired the obligatory 30-second Northwestern promotional spot. And...well, let's just say that it was COMPLETELY different from any I've ever seen run during a sportscast. And it was wonderful. I wish it was longer, but God love 'em for recognizing these promos for what they are -- in one generic eyeball and out the other -- and doing something that would actually be attention-getting in a funny, totally bizarre and memorable way.
(It cuts off before the very end. The last words are coach Pat Fitzgerald's trademark, "Go, Cats!", with which he ends every interview.)
It's been a quiet week, but the holiday seasons is upon us. The town prepares for ice fishing season, Solveig returns from California to make lutefisk, and the exiles begin to trickle back home for Thanksgiving.
I've been looking for the cast album of Twang!! for a long time, but haven't had any luck thus far.
"Twang!!??," I hear you cry? "What in the world is Twang!!??"
Twang!! is the infamous 1965 flop London musical written by Lionel Bart that was so disastrous that it caused him to lose pretty much all his movie from having written Oliver!
There is a line in The Producers where Max tells Leo that there are two rules in the theater. The first is, "Never put your own money in your own show." And what is the second rule, Leo asks him? Max puts his put right up to Leo's ear and in as loud a voice as he can possibly manage, screams at the top of his lungs, "NEVER PUT YOUR OWN MONEY IN YOUR OWN SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Lionel Bart put his own money in his own show.
When it was clear that the musical -- which is a tale about Robin Hood -- was foundering, Bart tried to prop it up by pouring more and more money into it. It didn't work. And Bart himself was left foundering, and ultimately had to sell off his rights and royalties to Oliver!.
The show was done in a somewhat satirical style, and ran for six weeks on the West End, largely to empty houses at the Shaftesbury Theatre, as word of what a mess it was got out. (It transferred from its tryout without the book settled and the orchestration finished for the second act.) The show apparently closed when the pit musicians took their sheet music home, insisting that they wouldn't bring it back until they got paid. Which didn't occur.
(Remarkably, there's a nice addendum to all this. In 1994, when Cameron Mackintosh staged a revival of Oliver! that starred Jonathan Pryce, he gave a percentage of the royalties to Lionel Bart, even though he was under no obligation to do so. A pretty remarkable and generous act.)
Anyway, back to Twang!! I still haven't come across the cast album, but I did mind a recording from it of the title song. And it's pretty terrible. In fairness, I've read that some of the songs in the show were quite pleasant, so this shouldn't be taken as an indication of the entire score. But as far as a single title song goes -- it's pretty terrible. Almost unlistenable, and it's only 1:47. It's worth watching, though, (if not listening), because there are some nice period photos from the show and program. (Sorry, "programme.")
Hopefully I'll be able to track down some more songs from the show, some that offer at least a semblance of charm, tunefulness and wit. And if so, I'll be sure to post it. For now, however, we'll have to be happy with this, if only as a part of theatrical history.
But the tales doesn't quite end there.
Remarkably, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, though apparently from a sense of history and an idea how to fix things, in 2013 the Guilford School of Acting (whose graduates include Bill Nighy, Brenda Blethyn, and Michael Ball who was in the original London production of Les Miserables, as Marius.) According to this review here, the show went through a major overall, with a brand new book, the worst songs dropped, and several Bart songs from other shows added, along with a new song written by the production's music director, and some other music, and the whole thing done with a deep sense of camp. And apparently it worked well, with the critic Jeremy Chapman noting, "Any connection between the newly-minted version of Lionel Bart’s gigantic 1965 flop Twang!! and a sane, normal evening at the theatre is purely coincidental… but it is tremendous fun." You can read the full review here. .
Here's a "trailer" for that production in rehearsals. Without any of the songs or dialogue or (trusting the critic) sense of fun, it's a tough video to watch, looking pretty darn silly, and not in a fun, campy way. But that's not a fair judgment either, and I'll take Mr. Chapman's word that it worked far better than this --
When I was back in Chicago a couple weeks ago, I saw a new TV ad that Facebook started to run for its Messenger app. And saw it and saw it and saw it. I don't say that in a bad way -- in fact, it immediately became my current favorite ad, so when it would come on, I wouldn't switch away, but put down what I was doing, and watched. Again. And again. My dad, who has been known to complain about ads on TV, thought it was wonderful, too (though he didn't have any idea what it was for, not knowing Messenger).
Back in Los Angeles, I've continued to put down what I'm doing when it comes on, and they seem to have a longer version that they're airing, as well.
I was going to leave things at that, since I figured most everyone has seen the ad -- and repeatedly. But then, when reading a story on it, it turns out that the spot is only being test-marketed now, starting a few weeks ago, in just two markets. Yes, that would be...Chicago and Los Angeles.
Apparently they're testing it in so few markets (albeit huge ones) because the previous Facebook ad -- its first -- was widely ridiculed and mocked. "Chairs are like Facebook." I never saw it (which is so odd, because I've seen this one probably 30 times at this point...), which I gather is a good thing. So, this time Facebook probably wants to be more careful before going wide. Methinks they're juuuust fine this time around...In fact, I suspect theythinks so, too, which is why they've added the longer version.
Here the initial short one. (I think I may like the short version more than the longer one. They're both wonderful, but I find this original one below to to get to its point with even more charm.)
"It is not the most comfortable thing."
-- Officer Darren Wilson explaining why he doesn't carry a taser
I have no idea of all the details about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, when Michael Brown was shot and killed. Part of the reason I don't know is that I wasn't there, and part is because I haven't been following all the daily details. I've read enough to formulate some opinions, but whether I understand completely what happened or just enough to feel comfortable about my perceptions of the tragedy, I don't know.
But it's difficult to read some direct quotes and not feel at the very least perturbed. And I'm just wondering in what world a police officer wouldn't want to taser someone because it's uncomfortable, but he's okay with shooting the person dead.
To be clear, I can't understand why a police officer doesn't want to carry a taser. Maybe it's extra weight he doesn't want to carry around. Maybe he feels tasers aren't effective deterrents. Perhaps he doesn't feel accomplished in their use. One can accept those reasons or not.
But to say it's because they're not comfortable to the victim, so it's better to shoot them dead??? Seriously? I don't even begin to understand that. How many people do you know, yourselves included, who would rather not feel very uncomfortable for a minute, and instead would prefer to be killed?
I'm going to guess that Officer Wilson has the same response to the question as you and your acquaintances. "Better off dead" just doesn't seem to fit here.
I can see why an officer might be reticent to use a taser, and put it off almost entirely, only doing so if it's the very last resort before having to resort to shooting. But to be so deeply considerate of the public to say you won't even carry a taser because it's so uncomfortable to the victim, and instead thoughtfully offer them the only other option after pepper spray as being shooting them to death -- it just is too bizarre.
I believe that Officer Wilson doesn't carry a taser. I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around the reason he gives why not. It may even be his real reason. But if so, it says a lot about the man. And what it says isn't as thoughtful and kindly as he thinks it is.
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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