Today's Piano Puzzler
From the archives. Hey, make it a party game to play on New Year's Eve. This week's contestant is Beatrice "Bee" Newman from Kapa'a, Hawaii. The short version is that it was a washout for me. Though I did come close on the composer. My guess was the same as the contestant, composer Bruce Adolphe said "You couldn't have been closer, and it could have been that person, it's that close," but it wasn't. As for the song, it's hugely known, very famous, but wonderfully hidden, so I didn't get it. There's one passage that might make it clear to some, but I just wasn't focusing enough to get it.
New Year's Eve
This is a charming and exceedingly low-key video that Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made, singing "What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" Not-shockingly, I figured that it was reasonably appropriate tonight. How low-key are the production values? At the end, Ms. Deschanel leans over to click off the camera.
On the site, she also posts the following explanation --
"I have known Joe Gordon-Levitt for going on 12 years. We first met in the summer of 2000 while doing a tiny movie called Manic, where we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Harry Nilsson and Nina Simone and I have been lucky enough to call him one of my dearest friends ever since. When we did 500 Days of Summer 8 years later, we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun. I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he's simply the best. But in the meantime, we made a little New Year's duet for all of you! The original by Nancy Wilson. ENJOY!"
For the sake of accuracy, she's wrong about a couple of things. For starters, it is not "by" Nancy Wilson. Yes, I know she (like many singers) is referring to who recorded it, but who a song is "by" is personal bugaboo of mine. And it's especially notable here because this particular song was written by the great Broadway composer Frank Loesser (who wrote Guys & Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, among others), though it wasn't for any show or movie, just a standalone song.
She's also wrong that the original was recorded by Nancy Wilson, missing by almost two decades. The original recording was performed by Margaret Whiting in 1947. (Wilson didn't record it until 1965, though she had a big hit with it, reaching #17 on the Billboard charts.)
But those are details. The performance itself is the lovely point of it all --
I saw this program listed this afternoon minutes before it started and recorded it, but haven't had a chance to watch yet. But happily if you're in the Los Angeles area, it's being repeated tonight at midnight (Saturday night/Sunday morning) on KOCE. Check your local listing if you live elsewhere, and hopefully PBS stations be airing it nationally.
It's called JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala. The special is footage of the pre-inaugural entertainment for John Kennedy in January, 1961. The description says that the performers include (are you ready?) Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Ethel Merman, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Durante and Metropolitan Opera star Helen Traubel (who later in her career starred in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Pipe Dream.)
Yowza. Quite the historical document.
Fun with Social Media
I've noticed that the two times I've dared to politely criticize a TV host on Twitter, his fans have come out of the woodwork to relentlessly SLAM me for daring to say anything negative about their beloved hero. But the even more whimsical thing is that BOTH TIMES the hosts themselves actually replied politely in basic apology for the gaffe.
The first time was Ali Velshi, which I wrote about here. The most recent was last night, when I sent a note about ESPN's SportCenter with Scott Van Pelt, since oddly the show didn't cover the Northwestern bowl game win -- a game that ESPN thought noteworthy enough to actually broadcast. He very thoughtfully wrote back to say that they'd intended to cover it, but the show got cut back by 30 minutes. Perfectly good and gracious explanation. Yet the slams poured on...
It's sort of a tribal pack mentality (or perhaps a wolf pack mentality...), yet it transcends that because it's SO funny and bizarre when the Beloved Hero himself has actually responded and acknowledged the gaffe. Yet there are the LOYAL AND MOST DEVOTED ACOLYTES defending their Beloved Hero to the ends of the earth and trying to shred any enemy who dare criticize him about anything. I always want to write back to such people, "Hey, y'know, we ALL make gaffes. Even Shakespeare wrote Troilus and Cressida. Even Dickens wrote Barnaby Rudge. Even Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, Me and Juliet. It happens. Deal with it."
It reminds me of when I got into a bit of a kerfuffle with Alec Baldwin on the Huffington Post a few years back in which we traded a couple of articles during the WGA strike. (Long story, but it began when he defended the tactics of directors when it came to strikes, schooling the Writers Guild, and I explained why this was historically wrong-headed. He didn't take well to that, and a further exchange followed. I was chomping at the bit to reply after he snarked at me directly, but instead I followed the Nell Minow Rule: "Someone has to be the adult here" and instead just walked away.) Yet even after stopping, I still kept getting slammed in the Comment Section of my articles by his adoring fans, prostrating themselves to the Beloved Hero. I tended not to respond, but think that I did at one point write back to someone, "No matter how hard you try, he isn't going to invite you over for dinner.")
The inveterate Chris Dunn has described this syndrome well. They way he put it is "If the Beloved Hero isn't looped in [the the Twitter exchange] to begin with, the Defender of the Faith will be sure to @ them into the conversation so as to ensure getting credit for standing up for them. I see it ALL. THE. TIME."
Someone on Twitter commiserated with me and said that this is precisely why the "Block" option exists. That's true, except that, alas, I have yet mastered the skill to Block someone in advance and expectation... That said, after-the-fact, I did choose the Mute option here. Generally, I prefer to utilize blocking for things like racism and crudity, rather than inordinate foolishness...
And speaking of "inordinate foolishness," I might possibly be willing to include the concept of going on Twitter to dare criticize a TV host. Foolish, perhaps, but when deserved at least one is now forewarned. And as such can be ready to duck.
Twitter: It's Not Just for Twits Anymore.
GO U, NU
Just a quick word to say Huzzah for the beloved Northwestern winning the Music City Bowl game yesterday, beating Kentucky in a squeaker 24-23.
No, the Music City Bowl is not quite the most significant bowl game around, but hey, when up until recently your team had the worst record in the history of college football, you take every bowl win -- let alone every bowl appearance -- with joy. Moreover, this was the first time in school history that Northwestern has won two bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Mind you, that's not unexpected considering that they had a 45-year stretch when they didn't even play in a bowl game.
It was a bizarre game, filled with oddities, but...hey, it's a win. So, again...Huzzah!
The guest on this week's 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America is screenwriter Stephen Chbosky, whose most recent work is the upcoming film, Wonder, which he co-wrote and also directed. Among his other movie credits are the live-action Beauty and the Best, Rent and Perks of a Teenage Wallflower, which is based on his novel and he also directed.
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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