A moment of personal privilege. I listen to at least part of about 150 Chicago Cubs baseball games a year. In part because I love the team, but also in part (even when the team is deeply far out of contention) because I love their radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes. In fact, when I watch games with my MLB.TV account I use their "overlay" feature so that I can synchronize the TV video with the radio audio, just to hear Pat Hughes instead. It's not that I don't like the TV announcers -- they're good -- I just love Pat Hughes. The team has had some legendary announcers in the Baseball Hall of Fame -- notably Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray -- and Pat Hughes fits in with them, calling the team's games now for over a quarter of a century.
So, it was a joy to read today that Pat Hughes was named the Ford C. Frick Award winner by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be entering the Hall of Fame in July.
As the Hall of Fame announced -- “Known throughout the Midwest for his easy delivery and unparalleled knowledge, Pat Hughes has called some of the biggest moments in Cubs history and has provided the narrative for one of the most successful eras in the history of the franchise. Since arriving at Wrigley Field in 1996, Pat has served as the radio voice for nine postseason teams – matching an ardent fan base with his own passion in every broadcast. His reverence for baseball history and gift for storytelling have made him one of the game’s broadcast treasures.”
I love the charm and humor of his announcing, but also the profound decency he shows on air, dealing with his radio partners, guests and audience.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately put on WSCR (which carries the Cubs games on radio) and caught the end of their live interview with him. His last comment was pure Pat – saying that "Talking about this seems like I'm talking about another person."
I'll leave it at that and just embed a brief congratulation video the Cubs put together in his honor, with some of his great moments -- ending with his most memorable: calling the last out in 2016 when the team won their first World Series in 108 years.
As a bonus, this is a lovely moment from last year. That's when Cubs President of Business Operations came to the radio booth to announce the two player who had been voted into the Cubs Hall of Fame -- and then finally surprising a totally unsuspecting Pat Hughes that he too had been selected. Marquee Sports split the screen so you could watch his reaction and almost tongued-tied comments while watching the play-by-play.
Oh, okay, one more bonus. Here's Pat Hughes' full radio call from 2016 of the final pitch when the Cubs won their first World Series in 2018, synched together with the TV video.
We interrupt the Holiday Music Fest currently in progress so that we my bring you this special posting. The Holiday Music Fest will return soon. This afternoon, though, we honor the State of Illinois on the 204th anniversary of it being admitted to the Union. Huzzah!
In honor of it as the true birthplace of America, or at least me, we do have music, so those of you who miss the latest installment of holiday songs at least have something to hold on to. It's the state song, "Illinois," quite an aptly-named title, I must say. It's also often know as "By Thy Rivers Gently Flowing," the song's first line, which adds a bit of grace to something otherwise more perfunctory. There's a lovely chorus that sings along, very slowly as if it was a religious hymn. For all I know, that's what they songwriters intended, rather than something to rouse the spirits -- or not. Hymn-like does make it lovely, albeit interminable. I have a feeling that it's all because of the word "Thy." When you put "Thy" in a song, people are going to sing it like a hymn. And if you give people a hymn and make it long-enough, there's a reasonable chance they'll turn it into a dirge.
By the way, why on earth that video says, "Illinois, Worth Fighting For," I have zero idea. I wasn't aware it was under attack. Not when the song was written, not in the intervening years and not now. (Unless you count by people from Wisconsin driving down on tractors wearing their cheeseheads. But that usually isn't legally considered an act of war.)
Why on earth they also print the verses out of order -- even acknowledging doing so -- is another matter of bewilderment.
The thing is, as I watched the video again -- after having originally posted this in 2018 for the state's 200th birthday -- a few things stood out that missed before: notably that every politician shown was a Republican. Lincoln and Grant are fine. And Everett Dirksen is okay, since he was a Senate Minority Leader. Though his fellow-senator Paul Douglas was a truly great man, but no photo. And a photo of Rep. Henry Hyde was odd, since he had resigned in scandal disgrace. And while a photo of Ronald Reagan makes sense since he was president...there's no photo of President Barack Obama. But there's a photo of Trump Tower in Chicago, which hasn't aged well. So...nope, sorry, as beautiful as the montage of images from around the state are, I don't have it in me to repost. Which is okay, too, since the version of the state song is dirge-like
Instead, here is a significantly shorter, 1-minute orchestral, rousing version played like a state's anthem should be played!
And for those who want to sing along, I'll post the lyrics to the first verse below. You're welcome!
By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,
O’er the prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,
Comes an echo o’er the breeze.
Rustling through the leafy trees,
And its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois,
And its mellow tones are these, Illinois.
This is a television news report from the other day in Los Angeles from station KTTV. It's not the sort of thing I post here, but there's a reason, a sort of point of personal privilege. It's an awful story about a confrontation between neighbors and concerns a pet dog being killed, so I want to make there clear up front. You don't see anything, but it's heart-breaking. Just sick and inhumane. But if you don't like such things, I want to give a warning.
I bring this up because I was made aware of it when a friend sent me the video. And it turns out that he sent the TV report because he's on the legal team of the family that suffered the loss. I told him that I hope he the nails the defendant to the wall and makes the guy's life a living hell. But he was waaaay ahead of me on that.
Anyway, I wanted to bring as much attention to this story, not for my friend's sake, but because the defendant deserves as much attention for his mindless cruelty as possible.
As I watched the story, by thought was, "There is no way this will be a bench trial to be heard before a judge. I am absolutely sure the plaintiffs will only agree to a jury trial, knowing that all 12 people will sit there aghast, anxiously waiting to string the guy up the moment they hear the story." As you hear the story develop, I can't imagine any defense, other than insanity. And that's not on the table.
Just from the very opening five seconds of the story (I'm not exagerating), the sadness of this will be clear, because I'm not sure if I've ever seen a TV reporter so upset over the pure mindlessness of animal cruelty as this. I'm just glad that my friend is on the legal team going after this. It's the one thing that gives me great comfort.
Back in 1966, when I was but a kidling, I went on a family trip to Europe, and when we were in London, I went with my older brother to see Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap. (Our folks went to a different play.) I was very excited about going, since I liked Agatha Christie mysteries and had heard so much about this monumentally long-running play. So long-running that it was a phenomenon. I'd read the short story (though a long one, almost a novella) beforehand, so I knew whodunnit -- but at intermission I asked my brother who he thought the killer was. (Don't worry, I won't give it away.) He kept changing his guess -- "no, wait, I think it's..." -- and I just politely sat there smiling at him. (Fun fact: He didn't guess it.)
Two years later, on another family trip, I got a poster for the show. I later had it framed, and it sits on my wall --
For the record, I saw the play in its 14th year.
What I love about the poster is how it trumpets, "THE LONGEST RUNNING PLAY OF ANY KIND IN THE HISTORY OF THE BRITISH THEATRE." That was in 1968. Its 16th year.
Today, the production celebrates its 70th!
The play opened on November 25, 1952. And yes, it's still running. After 21 years, it moved next door to the St. Martin's Theatre, and it's changed casts (often) -- over 400 actors and actresses have performed in it -- but those are pretty much the only differences.
(Though it's changed casts often -- in fact, now, they change casts every year, generally in November -- some actors stuck with the show for a long time. In the poster above, you'll notice at the bottom of the cast list one of the actors I saw, David Raven. He stayed in the show for 11 years! Not a bad daily job for a stage actor...)
The show has currently run for over 28,000 performances over those 70 years. To put this in perspective, the longest running show in the of history New York theater is the off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, which ran for 42 years and 17,162 performances. And eventually closed. (On Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera is still going with a remarkably long-running 34-year production, however its producers recently announced that they would be closing the show in five months, in April.) Meanwhile, Ol' Man Mousetrap, it just keeps rolling along.
Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography that her agent thought the play would run for an impressive 14 months, but she totally disagreed. "It won't run that long," she said. "Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months." Even that would have been a great run for a play. Today, it's a joke.
My favorite story about The Mousetrap is that before it opened, Agatha Christie signed a movie contract, though with one proviso: no movie could be made until the play finally closed for six months. And that was 70 years ago, with no closing notice in sight. (The show's website says that it is taking ticket orders through November, 2023 -- a year from now.) That's why you haven't seen a movie of The Mousetrap.
(By the way, the movie producer in question was John Woolf, who happily went on the have an notable career despite this, most memorably winning an Oscar for Best Picture with Oliver! His other movies included Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and Room at the Top, among many others.)
Also fun is that when the play opened, Agatha Christie gave the rights to the play to her grandson Mathew Pritchard as a gift for his ninth birthday. (This article here is an interview with him about the birthday gift.) With the returns, he later set up the Colwinston Trust, which among its many donations to the arts has supported some of the most famous venues in Wales, including the Wales Millennium Centre, The Welsh National Opera, and Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre.
Noteworthy, too, is that in the opening night cast, a young actor Richard Attenborough played the investigator, 'Detective Sergeant Trotter'. His wife Sheila Sim was also in the cast as 'Mollie Ralston,' one of the owners of the snowbound Monkswell Manor where the play takes place. They each received a 10% profit-participation in the show, which was deducted from their combined weekly salaries. ("It proved to be the wisest business decision I've ever made," Attenborough later said, not shockingly, though added, "but foolishly I sold some of my share to open a short-lived Mayfair restaurant called 'The Little Elephant' and later still, disposed of the remainder in order to keep Gandhi afloat." However, considering that Gandhi won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Attenborough won for Best Director, it does seem like money very well-spent, and got its own financial -- and professional -- return.)
There are a few things I didn't know about The Mousetrap until very recently. Starting with that it did not begin life as a short story. Rather it was originally written as a 1945 radio play for the BBC, in honor of the birthday of Queen Mary. (It was presented under the name Three Blind Mice.) Agatha Christie adapted the radio play as a short story, which she then adapted for the stage. The title had to be changed, though, because there had been another play with the same name, done before World War II.
(The new title was suggested by Christie's son-in-law Anthony Hicks. Of all things, it comes from Hamlet. And in a nice bit of appropriate whimsy, from the famous "The play's the thing" scene when he is giving advice to the actors. Asked the name of the play, he jokingly refers to it as "The Mousetrap.")
What I also didn't know about The Mousetrap until just a few weeks ago is that the background for the reason of the murder was loosely inspired by a true life story.
In another odd twist, somewhat similar to that of the movie rights, Christie requested that the short story not be published in the United Kingdom as long as the play was running in London's West End. When I read about that, I couldn't figure out how I was able to have read it. But it turns out that the story was allowed to be published in the United States and appeared in the collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
I've still kept my copy all these years. A whopping 45-cents. And the original title is duly noted on the cover.
By the way, if you haven't seen last year's movie See How They Run with Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan and Adrien Brody, it's a fun, comic-murder mystery that's centered around a murder that occurs backstage during the early days of The Mousetrap. The story is totally fictional, but real details are mixed in -- including Richard Attenborough being a character, as is John Woolf, it taking place at the Ambassador Theatre and a few other matters, as well as Agatha Christie taking part, as well.
Also, on more of a personal note, when I returned to London in that aforementioned 1968 family trip, I went to see a wonderful one-act play by Tom Stoppard called The Real Inspector Hound. It was a deeply-clever satire of theater, critics, drawing-room murder mysteries and, in particular, The Mousetrap. And such a total joy that even as a kid I could appreciate it (especially having seen The Mousetrap two years earlier). My poster of it sits on the wall next to the one of The Mousetrap.
And let's just add another twist to the story. Because this is Agatha Christie and The Mousetrap, after all --
Though The Mousetrap has been running for 70 years in London's West End, it has oddly never played on Broadway. Until...now! Producers in London and New York just announced today that The Mousetrap will finally play on Broadway some time in 2023.
That’s a pretty good, pre-Broadway tryout.
(I still don’t know why it took this long. Nor do articles I've read about this Broadway opening. Though a large Broadway house might not be the best idea for this intimate show, at the moment its schedule for a limited engagement, so it seems like that could be the right choice. Of course, there's always the possibility of it being extended -- although for 70 years might be a bit of a stretch...)
Producers say that the Broadway run's set design will include an authentic touch -- the only piece of the original set that still survives— the mantelpiece clock — will be loaned from the London production. Also, the backstage wind machine (which was described as "unique") that has the original producer’s name imprinted on it and still used today, will also be loaned.
Anyway, to find out more about the original London production, you can check out the official website for The Mousetrap here.
And here's their current trailer.
Over the weekend, actress Valerie Bertinelli decided to show how ludicrous the new “Twitter Blue” verification policy was. And so, she changed her screen name to “Elon Musk” and tweeted out about a dozen messages, many of them in support of Democratic candidates. She then changed her name back.
I was curious how Elon Musk reacted, so I went to his feed. It was not pretty. My intention was just to check out if he had a response, and my post a reply. But what he wrote on the subject and so much of the other criticism was just jaw-droppingly bad. It was sort of like forming a comedy duo act, and he decided to be the straight man. Tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet.
I kept thinking, “Okay, that’s it.” But then I’d read the next one. And then think, “Okay, I can’t not comment on that.”
Here’s how I spent about a half-hour last night --
Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.
Well, y'know, getting rid of the Identity Verification protocol was a *Really Bad* way to start going about this. By the way, you did a nice job in "One Day at a Time."
My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.
What about someone else's direct personal safety risk? (Like, say, where people tweet that someone deserves to die.) Are you committed to *that*??
Or to the safety of democracy? As in "spreading misinformation to help destroy people's trust in institutions."
Power to the People
Like no voter suppression!
And no laws that discriminate against anyone, regardless of race or gender!
And laws that require corporations pay fair taxes, like The People!
And a woman's right to choose for HER life!
And no book banning!
And teaching the truth of slavery!
Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.
This sounds a little like a line from the commandant in "The Great Escape."
BTW, what if one has not signed up for $100/year "Twitter Blue" and therefore not received the "warning?" Will they get suspended even though they weren’t warned?
Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended
You seem a bit touchy.
Define "parody." How does it differ from "mocking"? Or "social protest"?
P.S. Are you aware that when you tell a joke but say, "OK, this is going to be a joke, it's funny" it generally ruins the joke.
Ohh, I get it. This is "free speech." With limits.
Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark
This is an added burden for women who get married and change their name.
And Kanye West a couple times a year.
Trash me all day, but it’ll cost $8
It will cost $8 to criticize someone now on Twitter?? Or just if you are criticized.
Is that $8 per criticism, or will it cover criticizing you for a full month?
Free speech seems to be getting more expensive by the day.
Again, to be crystal clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged. In fact, we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press.
And your whitewashing note is contrary to what I see on my actual feed.
We have totally different definitions of "crystal clear" and "commitment." I believe mine are more accurate. Though, to be crystal clear, I'm biased.
Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.
No one forced YOU to vastly overpay $44 BILLION for Twitter. So, that was a choice.
And you chose to change policies about verification & making hate speech more accessible, driving away advertising.
Cool, so it was "You're fired, instead of 2 weeks severance, here's 3 weeks."
Excellent summary of Twitter’s Trust & Safety from the head of the team. [He then attached a statement from the head of the team.]
”As proof that all our new policies are GREAT, our new company official who I hired to install them will now tell explain the new policies are GREAT!!"
Followed by creator monetization for all forms of content
Is this from you or Valerie Bertinelli?
Today we take another of those Points of Personal Privilege. Readers here may recall that I periodically write about my friend, Dr. Greg van Buskirk, chemist extraordinaire. I met him and his wife Sharon Kantor when we lived in the same graduate dorm at UCLA.
The eminent Dr. Buzz worked for years at Clorox, where I've always liked to say he invented Scrubbing Bubbles, even though a) he didn't, and b) that was from another company. But he was in charge of some top products, and when he went out on his own, he invented a fabric softener, Sofft, that also acted as a stain repellent (a project which is still ongoing).
And then a couple years ago, I wrote here about how he not only has a new one, but this invention is a full line of home products that has actually started to hit the shelves. The only unfortunate news is that it came to the market too late to qualify for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he long deserved.
It's a product line called, Sensitive Home, which are cleaning products, particularly suitable for those who suffer from chemical sensitivities and people who are concerned about toxins in their home -- but it's made, as Greg says with his usual eloquence, "for use and enjoyment by all!"
Well, just to let you know that – as I always say – I tries nots to steers ya wrong. Yesterday, Greg announced that Sensitive Home was chosen as a 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the second year in a row! And just to be clear, it’s “only” two years in a row because the company has only been in business for two years.
(What this all means is that the “EPA Safer Choice” program helps identify products with safer chemical ingredients that don’t sacrifice on quality or performance. It focuses on efforts to advance sustainability, environmental responsibility, and product safety. These are considered by many to be Good Things. And all the better, the entire line of Sensitive Home products is certified. Which is also considered A Good Thing.)
I feel obligated by contest rules of fairness to point out that the award is for the entire Sensitive Home team, not just its esteemed inventor. But the inventor gets to sleep with the award under his pillow.
There -- proof that I’m not lying about the award. And that Dr. Buzz actually exists, and is not a character like Mr. Clean. (Well, okay, he is sort of a character, but he is real and has a PhD, so you don’t just have to call him “Mister.”)
Well, I must say that I knew he had it in him!! I knew it. When everyone else was saying, "Greg, stick with the guitar and taking apart motorcycles just so you could put them back together, I said -- No! You can do so much more. Like at least try to make sourdough bread and invent a line of great, environmentally friendly and safe homecare products. (It’s long been my theory that he moved to Northern California in order to be closer to the sourdough industry. That and so he and Sharon could be around more Dungeons and Dragons geeks. But that's a long story, made more aching and memorable with Thanksgiving being only a few weeks away. So, we'll leave it for now and stick with Sensitive Home, the EPA award, and sourdough bread.)
I am deeply impressed by this. Actually, I was seriously impressed just by him inventing the Sensitive Home products, period. And getting a company started. This simply takes it to another level. Though there was nothing simple about it. So, big, huge congrats to Dr. Greg van Buskirk -- the chemist who takes chemistry out of chemistry by using chemistry. Voted one of the world’s Top 8 most sensitive chemists six years in a row. And seven years out of the last 10.
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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