New Year's Eve 2021
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 --
New Year's Eve 2021
I initially posted this a few years back after my dad passed away, but I realized that after the past several dismal years it seemed like a really good way to end what's over and head into a New Year.
This is the Phil Och's song, "When I'm Gone." It's not his version, though, but an absolutely exquisite cover by two groups, Kim & Reggie Harris and Magpie. I first heard it years ago when the long-running Saturday night show, The Midnight Special on WMFT in Chicago played it as their closing song each week. They used it for a great many years, and as far as I know they still may be. I just haven't heard the ending of the broadcast in about five years. But they were still using it then.
My folks absolutely loved the song. Loved it. They enjoyed The Midnight Special, a great deal although they liked it more in its earlier years and not the selections as much in its (and their) later years. But they always listened and, if not always all the way through, they always made sure to listen to the ending, just to be sure to hear The Song.
The song is about all the things to do in life now, because this is your chance to see them through.
We haven't go Out and About with Jiminy Glick for far, far too long, so let's rectify that with another interview with Steve Martin. By this point, it's clear what good friend he and Martin Short are -- indeed, they just starred in the limited series, Only Murders in the Building, which has been renewed for a second year. So, their rapport is always wonderful.
Dancing in the Dark
So, Ted Cruz (R-Cancun) deleted his OUTRAGED tweet about power-drunk Democrats in Washington State actually banning dancing on New Year’s Eve. He was SO angry that he ended his tweet with a crude insult.
Now, for Ted Cruz to delete his “outrage!!” which he knew was sure to make pandering political points, there must be a really good reason, you’d think. And you’d be right. That’s because it turns out the story was not about Democrats in Washington State at all – or about Democrats anywhere, but rather it was about…Australia!
(And wasn't even about NO dancing at all on New Year's, but only about at indoor public events. In part of Australia.)
You see, Cruz had read a Facebook post on the subject that was from “WA Government,” and he took it to mean the postal code for Washington State. In fact, that was an abbreviation for “Western Australia.”
Now, of course, it shouldn’t take anyone, but especially a United States Senator, long to look at that story and think something is odd – and make at least the smallest of effort to find out if the story is true or what in the world is going on.
It took me about eight seconds to find the truth.
I typed “no dancing WA new year's” into the Search box for Google, and all the first results that came up were about Australia. So…y’know, it wasn’t really tough.
As much fun as it is to ridicule Ted Cruz about this – or to ridicule him about anything, which at this point is getting to be almost everything – this is actually a terrible story.
What's so awful about this story is a) how HORRIFICALLY BAD his research was for a United States Senator whose words and pronouncements actually, truly matter, and b) that he merely deleted his terrible mistake but gave no correction, so his followers most likely all still believe it. Indeed, his Twitter feed was full of people equally “outraged” at power-drunk Democrats and liberals, because this confirmed worst fears about them trying to destroy freedom and America. Never mind that it’s the other way around…
Never mind, too, that when Ted Cruz puts himself and his loyal minions on the side of, in his word, the "rational," he's using a big word he doesn't seem to ever grasp.
The thing is, this is not only just SO Ted Cruz, but SO today’s Republican Party. Hey, who cares about the truth?! Throw it out there, get everyone outraged, who cares whether it’s true or not, don’t correct the mistake, don’t apologize, double-down, make sure your base is riled up, and they’ll keep pointing to this false story as proof about The Libs.
It’s so fascist, as we’ve come to expect from today’s GOP. Make everyone uncertain about what the truth is and offer yourself as the only source they can trust. Who cares if it’s all a lie? You’re a fascist, what does the truth matter? Over half the Republican Party thinks Trump was legitimately elected president, despite absolutely zero evidence that could be allowed in court. What does the truth matter to the Republican Party? Hey, science no longer seems to qualify as something that actually offers truth to the Republican Party – with the result that a deadly pandemic has been allowed to spread almost out of control.
This has never been about Trump, we’ve always known who he is. This is about the Republican Party which enabled him and carries it on all by themselves.
One shouldn’t have to say that Washington State allows dancing on New Year’s Eve. One shouldn’t have to say that Washington State is not Western Australia. One shouldn’t have to tell U.S. Senator Ted Cruz that if you make such a damaging mistake after going full-on ballistic, you should correct it.
In the end though, all we have left are the words of Ted Cruz – Piss off.
Will You Merrily Me?
The other day, I wrote here about the Stephen Sondheim musical, Merrily We Roll Along, a story that runs backwards, following the disintegration of the partnership of three friends who write for the theater and go back through their lives to where they met in college, filled with enthusiasm for the future.
A reader, Ken Kahn, sent a link to an excellent production that was done in 2013 as a limited run at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. I've embedded the full show below --
Which reminds me of something related to this that I wrote here two years ago, on September 5, 2019. Here’s that article –
Really, Truly Rolling Along
It was just announced that Richard Linklater is going to make a movie of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, that has a book by George Furth, who had previously collaborated on Company.. The story concerns three people who have been friends for 20 years since college -- a songwriting team of shows and a female theater critic -- whose friendship is disintegrating and looks at their story in reverse, showing us how things fell apart from just idealistic beginnings. This upcoming movie is notable for two reasons: the first is that the original musical was a big flop, running for only 16 performances (though it's had a bit of an afterlife), and the second is that Linklater is going to film it over the course of 20 years!.
Clearly, this is an utterly fascinating way to make Merrily We Roll Along, watching these three people's lives play out "almost" in real time during the 20 years of the show And oddly, it’s not totally surprising that Linklater is doing it this way – because he did a similar thing with the movie Boyhood that was released a couple years ago. He filmed that over a 12-year period.
The musical, by the way, is based on a play by the legendary Kaufman and Hart, who most famously wrote the classic You Can't Take It With You. Though the original play of Merrily We Roll Along (like the subsequent musical) was a flop, as well.
Obviously this is a massive risk -- not just to film it over 20 years, but doing not only a little-known musical, but one that was a flop. (The original London production only ran 71 performances.) But I wish it much success. I actually like the show a lot, and have seen a couple times, as well as the fairly-good 2016 documentary about the original production, The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Ever Happened . But as much as I do like the show, the hardest reality to get around is that most people don’t seem to like it. While making it with the same cast aging along properly could help how people respond, I don’t think that that’s ever been people’s biggest complaint. (Though casting has always been a slight issue.) Mainly, though, people don’t seem to like that the story is ultimately-unhappy and that it's told backwards, which doesn't make it any happier, even ending on youthful optimism as it does, which admittedly is bittersweet, since we know where it leads.
Clearly, they all know what a massive risk this is. And for all the risk went ahead because they're excited by the possibilities and feel it's all very much worth it. And I assume they have big hopes but limited, realistic expectations. But still…
I’ll add one more risk: who knows what the movie industry will be in 20 years? Will there still be theaters? Will it all be streamed? Will they even still be using film? Will it all be digital? Will some other technology have been developed? Will everything be 3-D? Will everything be interactive where you can pick-and-choose angles and scenes? Will everything be high-resolution? Will actors regularly be computer generated? Will technology move so fast (as it does nowadays) that this will look like a black-and-white, herky-jerky silent film of 1919 compared to Gone with the Wind color spectacular in 1939? Will it look like the first 8-inch screen black-and-white fuzzy TV that takes 30-seconds to warm up in the early 1950s compared to living color 30-inch TVs, remote controls, instant-on, and watching big-screen Cinerama in the early 1970s? Will it look like stop-action Godzilla in the early 1970s compared to “Jurassic Park” in 1993? Will it look like the basic movie theater and TV experience in the 2000 compared to a world where watching in the palm of your hand on a 4-inch telephone, streaming services, pausing live action on a DVR and rewinding, 72-inch home Smart TVs connected to the Internet, digital, binge-watching of today are the everyday norm?
But as I said, I do like how they tell the story – and even used a similar technique in part of a very low-budget film I co-wrote. Maybe using the same actors will make a difference to people’s reaction. And maybe they can figure out a way to do the film inexpensively, like Boyhood. But this is a musical, so that’s trickier. Also, 30 years ago, maybe this would be THE definitive way to make the movie work best, filming it over 20 years. But today with prosthetics and computer imaging, I don’t think it’s as necessary. Yes, it will certainly get HUGE attention by doing it this way when it’s finally released, and being done in “real time” will add great emotion to watching it. But today it’s still just not necessary. And doing it this way, while utterly fascinating and in many ways admirable, also has a touch of arrogance and pretentiousness. Because it's not really necessary.
They announced the three leads, and that’s another tricky matter. Not only the question of “Will they still be around in 20 years?” -- which is probable, but still a huge risk -- but will their names matter? One of the three is Ben Platt, who’s a Tony-winner for Dear Evan Hansen and excellent, and a great choice. But the movie of his Tony-winning role flopped. The other two might be excellent -- Blake Jenner and Beanie Feldstein -- but neither are yet stars. He was in Glee,” though not much of nigh note since. She recently starred in Booksmart (which got good reviews but flopped), has had some solid work, and had a role in Lady Bird (oddly, playing the same role in the production of Merrily We Roll Along they do within the film that she’ll play in this movie), and a growing career. But in 20 years…who knows?
Hopefully we’ll be around to see it. And I greatly admire the attempt. And really do like the show. Clearly, there’s a side to this that is really great and adventurous and very cool. And a side that seems arrogant and pretentious. But best wishes to it.
The show also has a very good score that got a Tony nomination. And four standout songs that have had a bit of an afterlife, something incredibly rare for a Sondheim musical. "Our Time" is used by a lot of high school graduating classes. "Good Thing Going" is another. And here are the two others --
This first is a wonderful rendition by Carly Simon of "Not a Day Goes By."
And while this is hardly the definitive version of the reasonably well-known "Old Friends," it may be one of the most fun, and is the way they ended the 1986 Emmy Awards, with a menagerie of legendary, old-time TV stars. (Not to worry, though the video goes for over six minutes, the song ends around four minutes in, following a lead-in by host David Letterman.)
Casting a Paul Over Democracy
Two days ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent out a tweet that quoted from an article in The American Conservative magazine, adding his own five-word introduction.
Blood-curdling as Paul’s comment was (I was going to say “thought,” but I don’t think much of that went into his tweet was), in some ways he deserves a big “thank you” for saying out loud and in clear language what has been obvious to many for a long time about Republicans -- they don't want people to vote who are “legally” (his own choice of word) eligible to do so. To today’s Republican Party, voting legally is "stealing an election."
How very fascist of him. And that can’t be said enough.
And to be clear: to anyone who thinks that saying “To today’s Republican Party, voting legally is ‘stealing an election’ is hyperbolic, consider that well-over half of Republicans say that they believe Joe Biden is only president because, despite winning a 100% legitimate election with zero admissible evidence to the contrary, they insist the election was “stolen.”
So, there is Rand Paul saying it in his outdoor voice.
How very fascist of him. And that can’t be said enough.
Further, notice on the tweet above that as of two days ago, it had over 23,000 "Likes." And yes, in case you were a bit confused and wondering, the United States is still currently a democracy.
By the way, in case the name is familiar, yes, this is the same Rand Paul who has voted against giving federal aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy, Maria and Harvey, but asked for federal aid when tornadoes recently devastated parts of his own state of Kentucky.
As you might imagine, the public reaction to Paul’s fascist statement against "legally valid" voting got a great deal of reaction. Three of the more notable were.
"Convincing potential voters to cast legal ballots is the how you win elections in a democracy."
-- CNN reporter John Harwood
"They really believe it's a scandal to help legal voters who might oppose them to participate in democracy,"
-- Georgetown University political scientist Donald Moynihan.
"This is what we call— wait for it— voting,"
-- Georgia State Law professor Anthony Michael Kreis
What’s so bizarre in what Rand Paul wrote (among many things) is that the quote he used made note that said “in a legally valid way.” And yet still said it was supposedly about “stealing” an election. Indeed, not just Rand Paul, but that’s what the author of the piece in American Conservative said – that this conservative GOP outrage (!) was over something that was “legally valid.”
Wait, that’s not even phrased strongly, pointedly enough. It wasn’t about “something” – it was conservative GOP outrage over “legally valid” voting!!
How oh-so un-Democratic of him. Of them.
How very fascist of him. Of them. And that can’t be said enough.
No perspective is needed to understand Republican efforts in Red states around the country to pass voter suppression laws. To throw out bipartisan election boards and replace them with Republicans. To refuse to have even one Republican in the United States Senate and House of Representatives support Voting Rights laws.
But having Rand Paul say out loud, quoting American Conservative, that voting in a legally valid way was an effort “to steal an election” happily puts that on record the next time a fascist Republican tries to say, “Oh, my heavens, no, we’re not suppressing the vote, we’re just trying to make sure all people who vote do so legally.”
No. As Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and American Conservative make clear – to them, the voice of American conservatives, voting in a legally valid way is trying to steal an election.
How very fascist of them all.
And that can’t be said enough.
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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