For those who like to look at the calendar for such things, today is the 79th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. I thought it would therefore be especially appropriate to post this video. It's the wonderful theme to the movie, The Longest Day, sung and performed most appropriately by the Cadet Glee Club of West Point, along with military band.
I first posted this video five years ago in 2017. It’s my favorite one on the subject – not just for the performance, but for how movingly the video is edited. It's particularly well-done, beginning with a minute of General Dwight Eisenhower's message to the troops before the invasion began, and interspersed with some excellent photos and archival film from the day, amid the soaring music.
By the way, the timpani you hear before the song begins is not only recognizable as the beginning of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but more to the point, it's the Morse Code for “V” for Victory.
Also, in case you weren't aware, the main theme for The Longest Day, used throughout the film not just in the end titles, was written by pop-star heartthrob at the time, Paul Anka.
I will only add that today commemorates when the United States and democracies around the world came together to fight and defeat Nazis and fascism.
The Garbage Collector
Sometimes people are their own worst enemy. Sometimes people are such terrible liars that they're lies transcend mere lying but speak to an underlying reality of who they are.
Put them together, and in this case you get Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
By itself, this occurrence is not overly significant. In part because her initial video and explanation of why she didn't cast a vote on the debt ceiling was so ludicrous that few with even a modicum of common sense believed it. And in part because it's just one instance of one person.
But the level of stupidity in its effort -- lying when just saying, "I had to miss the vote due to an important personal matter" would have been acceptable and normal, and on top of that trying to make your lie a political smear speaks to who Lauren Boebert is, and in a larger perspective, what we see so often in the Republican Party since Trump made doing this sort of thing standard in the party.
Lauren Boebert missed the vote on the debt ceiling. As I noted, she could have just simply said she had an important personal matter but was unable to make it to the House floor in time. That would have been fine. And basic human.
Instead, she put out a tweet that said she intentionally didn't vote as a "protest." And because she was looking out for you because it's wrong, wrong, wrong to add another $4-6 trillion of national debt.
Never mind, of course, that this debt ceiling vote did not add a single penny to the debut, but was only authorizing paying for the debt that had already been accrued. And never mind she has spent her career in Congress enabling Trump who added $8 trillion to the debt.
But importantly, too, keep that phrase, "This is more DC self-created garbage" in mind.
And then, to add impact, she attached to her tweet this video, trying to look hip and cool, slamming Washington politics, slamming being silenced and explaining that by not intentionally showing up she had been making a "Call it a 'No-Show Protest.'"
(It may look like there's no video below, but just click on the arrow. It will play.)
Now, as I said, on the pure face of it, it was ludicrous taking her tweet and video at face value -- that Lauren Boebert was supposedly "protesting" the vote by not showing up. She could have shown up and protested by not voting. She could have protested earlier by not supporting the trillions in debt she had voted for under Trump. Moreover, rather than having no interest in the bill, Boebert was the co-sponsor or author of 14 of the 81 proposed amendments.
But the important thing -- and the whole point here -- is this:
You see, when slamming "DC self-created garbage," Ms. Boebert turns out (not shockingly) to have been writing about herself. That's because the night of the vote, CNN Associate Producer Morgan Rimmer was doing his job, and standing outside the U.S. Capitol on the steps with his camera in hand. And he spoke to Lauren Boebert racing up the stairs, trying to make the vote she was supposedly "protesting" by staying away, and Rimmer telling her that she was too late, and that the vote had closed already.
This, in case you were wondering, is the definition of "DC self-created garbage."
And though it's just one person on one day, it also pretty much defines Lauren Boebert and the core of today's Republican Party, starting with Trump as their guide -- lying when there's absolutely no need to, just because it's almost in their blood to lie and driven to it, and in doing so, making their lie an attempted smear of Democrats. But handling it all so ham-fistedly that they draw all attention to themselves with their very own words and their own "DC self-created garbage."
This is also the definition of projection, trying to paint others with your own deepest flaws, something Trump turned into an art form.
And which here, Lauren Boebert turns into DC self-created garbage
"O mio babbino caro"
Back in February, I wrote here about the great documentary, Turn Every Page, about the half-century working relationship between Robert Caro (who's won two Pulitzer Prizes for The Power Broker and Master of the Senate in his thus far four-volume series on Lyndon Johnson) and legendary editor Robert Gottlieb, who has edited such authors as Salman Rushdie, John Cheever, Ray Bradbury, John Le Carré, Toni Morrison, Bruno Bettelheim and Bob Dylan.
This is an extremely enjoyable 52-minute Q&A with them and Gottlieb's daughter Lizzie who directed the documentary. It was done at the New York Public Library, and is a lot of fun and interesting.
And as a bonus, I feel I should explain the title, which has next to nothing to do with the video, other than having the name "Caro" in it. But "O Mio bambino caro" (Oh, my beloved father) is probably the most famous aria from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi -- and one of the better-known arias in all of opera. Even many people who don't like opera might know it, having been used in many movies and even TV commercials. So, here is Renée Fleming singing it as a reminder with the Berlin Philharmonic --
The Big Mermaid
I think one of the funniest, most pathetic, yet most expected story in the Republican Party's angst-ridden, racist effort to fight a "Culture War" is the empty "outrage" about a black actress playing not only a fictional character in a movie, but playing a fictional character that's mythical.
It should be noted that this empty "outrage" is pretty much limited to the GOP extreme right since The Little Mermaid movie has so far grossed $320 million around the world. (And more than half of that, $184 million, is in the non-GOP racist extreme right part of the good ol' USA.)
This "outrage" is not just, of course, racist, but also idiotically stupid. And yes, I know that "idiotically stupid" is pretty much redundant, but something this idiotically stupid deserves redundancy.
The good news is that I think I've actually come up with a definitive resolution to the controversy. (Yes, really.) More on that in a bit. But first, this insanity has to be put in proper perspective.
For starters, for a political party that has long been trying to cry weeping crocodile tears about supposed "Cancel Culture," the GOP has been doing an impressive job of trying to cancel the parts of culture their intolerant base can't handle -- whether it's criminalizing the frilly clothes that some men may wear when putting on a stage show, or Bud Light using a spokesperson who is out of the mainstream, or an M&M piece of candy being the wrong color and gender or, here, an actress whose skin is not their approved color playing a mythical sea being.
(Additionally, for a political party that tries to claim it's supposedly good for business, a lot of this is incredibly anti-business. Including slamming Mr. Potato Head for selling its Mr. and Mrs. characters in the same box. And outraged that the Dr. Seuss estate wanted to pull some books out of circulation. And claims to want to get government out of ours lives. And is supposedly for personal choice. And...well, you get the point.)
But also, there are three reasons that make the extreme right GOP racist reaction for The Little Mermaid is all the more pathetic. Especially the third of those reasons. Which is my definitive resolution. We'll get there in a moment. But first --
First is the aforementioned point that a mermaid is mythical. And to complain about the skin-color of a mermaid is just weird. And yes, I know that this Disney movie is based on a cartoon where the mythical character was white, but that was a…cartoon. So, who is to say the cartoon didn't get it wrong? That perhaps in real, fictional mythology, an under-water creature like a mermaid, among the various sea beings like whales, sharks, dolphins, otters and all manner of fish, isn't necessarily white. Moreover, the Disney cartoon isn't even the source material, but instead is based on a fairy tale, one written by Hans Christian Andersen. So, to summarize: we're dealing with fairy tales, cartoons, and mythical characters here. And this is what the Republican Party base -- so concerned with "Cancel Culture" - is upset about. And want to cancel.
Second, if someone in the audience is so tied-in-knots racist that they can't handle a mythical mermaid -- That Does Not Exist in Real Life -- in the movie being black, there's a really easy way they can placate their racist angst and makes this okay. They can just twist themselves further into believing that although the actress playing the role is black, she's simply playing a character who is white mermaid. After all, Sir. Laurence Olivier was white, but played the black king 'Othello' in the movie version of Shakespeare's play (as have countless actors over the centuries on stage). And the Catholic Al Pacino recently played a Jewish rabbi in the Amazon Prime series Hunters, and has played the Jewish 'Shylock' in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Oscar and Tony-winning actress Glenda Jackson famously starred as King Lear on the London stage and Broadway. And last year, a revival of the musical 1776 featured an all-female cast playing the Founding Fathers. (Speaking of Shakespeare, in his day, all women's roles -- black and white -- were played by men.) That said, yes, of course, the character of 'The Little Mermaid' in the live-action movie version is, actually, black. But if someone truly can't handle that fact without exploding, then I think to make their tormented existence just a touch easier (and easier for the rest of humanity in the sane world), it's reasonable to point out to them that since they're contorted enough already, they should just keep twisting their warped thinking a little bit more,
But third, and most of all, we have finally reached the definitive explanation. As I said, "The Little Mermaid" is not a Disney story. It's based on a fairy tale that was written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. And while Andersen's original story does say that his Little Mermaid has white hands, it also says she has five sisters, but wait -- Disney's 'Ariel' has six. And Andersen's mermaid is not named Ariel. And he describes his Little Mermaid as having skin like a "rose-leaf," which is red. But then, there are also black roses. (And for that matter, yellow, orange and even green and blue roses. And actually multi-colored ones.) So, oh, my God, hold on, what is going on?? Is Hans Christian Andersen saying his Little Mermaid is like a rainbow?! After all, it's specifically her hands that are described as white, not her face or torso. (And how hellish would that be to the extreme right?!) Is this even the same Little Mermaid? Something is off here! So many changes, so much confusion.
Indeed, as far as we know, one thing that's off is that in this metamorphosis from the page, maybe Disney got it completely wrong in the cartoon. How in the world are we to know?? How?!!
Oh. Wait. There is a way to know! (Well...sort of.) Because I remembered from a family trip I took as a kid, there is a definitive source that I believe can settle the issue.
Hans Christian Andersen's original story is, of course, legendary. But it is especially legendary in Denmark, where it was published in 1837.
And it is so much a legend in Denmark that to honor the tale and the Little Mermaid herself, Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen donated a gift to the city of Copenhagen in 1913. That's when he had commissioned Edvard Eriksen to make a sculpture of The Little Mermaid. And ever since that day, The Little Mermaid sits on a rock by the waterside at Langelinie Pier, where it has been one of the city's most popular tourist attractions for 110 years.
For 110 years, people around the world have come to Copenhagen, the home of The Little Mermaid, to celebrate, honor and appreciate that beloved character.
I remembered because I saw the sculpture on that family trip. Resting there, for all to see the Little Mermaid. Indeed, there on her rock, as much as any physical manifestation of Hans Christian Anderson's mythical Little Mermaid could be. Made of bronze and granite, to last through history. For the past 110 years.
Here she is --
Is this what Hans Christian Andersen intended? Is she like a rose-leaf? And what color rose? Is she a rainbow? Does she have five sisters? Is she even 'Ariel' at all? Alas, he's not around to ask. All we have to go on for her physical representation is what the city of Copenhagen, home and protector of the legend and mythical The Little Mermaid for the past 110 years, has chosen to give to the world.
Is a statue made decades after the story was written irrelevant? I would suggest it is far more relevant, sitting there under the official tribute of Copenhagen for over a century, than the "outrage" by the extreme right for a mythical, fictional character.
And according to Copenhagen, and what the world has seen and accepted for the past 110 years, The Little Mermaid sitting on her rock is black.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is former political advisor and CNN analyst David Axelrod. It’s a charming, pleasant enjoyable conversation with host Peter Sagal, that includes a fun story about Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act and tales of Manny’s Deli in Chicago, a local political hotspot.
This the full Wait, Wait… broadcast, but you can jump directly to the “Not My Job” segment, it starts around the 18:15 mark.
Let's Do Lunch
On this week’s Naked Lunch podcast, hosts Phil Rosenthal and David Wild sit down to eat with Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges. As they write, “The Dude abides and discusses his remarkable life and enduring Hollywood career. He shares amazing stories about his legendary father Lloyd Bridges, his brother Beau Bridges, Robin Williams, The Last Picture Show, The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart, and The Old Man." All this and Jeff's remarkable story of surviving cancer and COVID and what it taught him -- and can teach the rest of us.”
I can’t embed the audio, but if you click on the link here, it will take you to the website, where you just click on the “Play” arrow underneath the photo.
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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