Not As Live As You’d Hope

To: “Live From Here”
From: Mitch Berg, ornery peasant
Re: “Out In America” with Tom Papa

Have you ever listened to a putative “comic” bit where a “comedian” reads a (for purposes of argument) “comic” monologue of intermittently (very very intermittently) amusing observations, interrupted with a tag line that isn’t especially funny the first time, but gets repeated 3-5 times every episode, to the point where you want to spray him with spray cheese on stage?

I have.

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Comfort Food For Thought

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Stouts Pub at Snelling and Larpenteur opened as an English pub, serving bangers and mash, fish and chips, and Guinness beer on tap. Lately, with the cool wet weather, I’ve been feeling a need for comfort food. Mutton stew with thick warm bread. Maybe a shepherd’s pie.
But when I looked at their menu online today, it’s all trendy stuff, the kind you could get at Applebee’s or Chili’s. Spinach and artichoke dip. Cheeseburger with sharp cheddar and applewood bacon. Margherita pizza. Chipotle BLT. And all kinds of wraps and salads.  Yuppie Paradise.
I don’t blame them, that’s where the money is. But what happens to us crusty curmudgeons? Where can I go to get my pre hibernation food?

Joe doakes

You got me. Most “comfort food” is well outside my diet these days.

But let’s hear it, hive mind. Comfort food sources in the Metro?

Only In Minnesota

Such is the inferiority complex of Twin Cities media that this story is getting major airtime; the iconic TV sitcom Friends discussed relocating the show to Minnesota for half a seazon:

I said “discussed”:

The relocation to Minnesota developed in the writers’ room during the fifth season, thanks to a recurring desire to genuinely surprise the audience with plot developments. (Just like season four’s episode “The One With the Embryos,” where Monica and Rachel lose a bet and switch apartments with Joey and Chandler.) “The idea was that Chandler would be unexpectedly transferred to Minnesota for work,” Austerlitz writes. “Since there was no urgent reason for the characters to stay in New York, each of his friends would ultimately choose to join him there, and Friends would keep them in Minnesota for half a season.” The gang would grow to love this magical Midwestern respite from their go-go-go New York lifestyle, with “cheap apartments, friendly neighbors, and subzero temperatures.”

Bear in mind – the change was shot down. Hard. 20+ years ago.

Tailgunner Joe Is Alive And Well In Hollywood

Eric McCormick calls for a blacklist of Trump supporters in Hollywood:

Your first question might be “Who in the flaming hootie-hoo is Eric McCormick. Truth is, I had to ask, myself. Turns out he was in the once-upon-a-time hit TV show Will and Grace.

Which I watched maybe twice. It was basically Friends, but with characters.

Anyway, where were we?

Oh, yeah. Eric McCormack accidentally voicing the inner id of “progs”

We know it was an accident, because Mr…let me look back up to the top…McCormick is trying to walk it back. I suspect a social media spanking was involved.

Land Of The Free And Home Of The Flaming Hot And Dusty

America asks “when will Hollywood make movies about things that genuinely matter to us?”.

Hollywood answers; a biopic about the “only in America” origin story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and the broom-to-mahogany-row story of its inventor – directed Eva Longoria:

Longoria is officially attached to direct Flamin’ Hot, a biopic about Richard Montanez, the man who the invented iconic snack, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. DeVon Franklin (Breakthrough) will produce through a deal at Fox, and the film is slated to be a Fox Searchlight title.
Flamin’ Hot tells the story of Richard and Judy Montanez. The son of a Mexican immigrant, Richard rose from humble beginnings, working as a janitor at Frito Lay when he developed the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, inspired by the flavors of his community. The spicy snack (and twist on an already popular brand) not only revitalized Frito Lay, but disrupted the food industry and created a pop culture phenomenon.

Is it a move to virtue signal to the Latino community?

Do Cheetos leave dust on your fingers and everything else they touch? Of course it is. The devil is in the execution – and given that it’s Hollywood, the odds are overwhelming that it’s gonna be crap (if it’s ever released).

But one can hope. The world could use a good ” this is what America is all about” story.

One Place That Ain’t Looking Through Me

About a decade back, I heard an interview on All Things Considered with Sarfraz Manzoor, who’d just come out with his book Greetings from Bury Park – his memoir about growing up as a British-Pakistani in Luton, in the Midlands, and getting immersed in Bruce Springsteen’s music. And I think I sat in the garage for a solid half hour, catching the whole fascinating story; someone who couldn’t have come from a more different culture than me, getting pulled on the same musical and personal odyssey by the same bunch of records.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you can see the grab. Right? I don’t think I need to restate the obvious.

I caught the show the other night.

First things first: This isn’t Mama Mia with Springsteen music. While there is the requisite act of the movie where Manzoor’s fictionalized version of himself, “Javed”, gets the same burst of recogniton while listening to “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, the musical epiphany only opens the door to all sorts of conflict in real life – which, in turn, illuminates all sorts of the musical themes.

Any description of “musical epiphanies” from ones’ teenage years is bound to swerve into the cloying and mawkish at times. Teenagers are cloying and mawkish, and it doesn’t matter what culture they’re from. And so the movie’s occasional short-cuts through plot points, via lyric drops or the occasional borderline production number that might – hell, probably will – come across as cringingly sentimental to the non-belever comes across as cringingly autobiographical to those who’ve (raises hand) been there.

So – did I enjoy the movie? Yes, but that wasn’t my main takeaway. It’s more accurate to say I felt a lot of it in the pit of my stomach. The movie took me back to a lot of things from my teens and twenties, in pretty much the same way Manzoor remembers them. That’s a good thing.

Mostly.

And – no spoilers, here – the music isn’t necessarily the most important point of the movie. There’ll be another post about that before too long.

Cons? Yep, there were a few.

It’d be impossible to do a movie about eighties Britain, especially as a Pakistani, without throwing in some of the politics of the era. And Manzoor’s memories of the era include a lot of the prattle of the anti-Thatcher left – which sounded at the time every bit as intolerent and libelous as Big Left’s cant against conservatives (to say nothing of Trumpkins) today. The infantlism of today’s campus “progressive” seems modeled on the prate and gabble of European lefties of the era. That, and the occasional bout of Thatcher-bashing were to be expected. That wasn’t unexpected, or especially dishonest. On the other hand, the rest of the movie – which imparted a lot of humanity on Manzoor’s very traditional Pakistani family and most of the movie’s other, very disparate characters – had me expecting much better of one of the side-conflicts; when “Javed” met his (inevitably left-wing) love interest’s (inevitably) Tory parents, they were portrayed with all the nuanced humanity of a Joe Piscopo sketch on SNL. It was a throwaway – and the movie would have been better had it been thrown away.

So do I recommend it? If you’re not a Springsteen fan, you may not “get” it. Or then maybe you will. Who knows?

If you are? It’d be interesting to see what you think.

ASIDE: By the way – the movie reminded me that my theory – Springsteen is America’s best conservative songwriter – has been completely vindicated this past year. I suspect this would be to the chagrin of a former regular commenter – but alas we’ll never know.

More coming in the next week.

Deja Vu All Over Again

One of my life’s great face-to-desk moments was in the fall of 2004.

Back in 2003, I’d participated in “National Novel Writing Month”, usually known as NaNoWriMo. “Nano” takes place every November; the goal is to write a novel – 50,000 words worth – in those thirty days. It doesn’t have to be much of anything – it’s just gotta be done.

Now, I went into NaNoWriMo 2003 with an outline for a book that I’d been tweaking in my mind, and then on paper, for 5-6 years. I’d fleshed out characters, come up with a pretty cool plot, and had things pretty well laid out. And I hit Nano running; I think I got through 100,000 words – and 40% of my outline.

I put it away for a bit – but figured I’d finish it between then and the next Nano, in the fall of 2004.

That fall, the opening of the TV season included a series that smacked into me like a Proust compilation hitting a cement floor; my novel about a bunch of people stranded by a crash under bizarre, perhaps supernatural circumstances suddenly went from “original” to “just like Lost“.

And so it was back to dreaming about writing a novel.

That opportunity came to me finally six years ago, as I started writing a series of satirical observations about local Libertarians, which morphed – at the suggestion of commenters, truth be told – into a “Dickensian serial” about a highly tongue-in-cheek collapse of civilization and “reboot” of the political order. Trulbert was a hoot to write, and even more fun to see people reading. I sold probably 500 online copies – profiting enough to take a halfways decent vacation.

And it whetted my appetite for more.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the US finally taking some critics’ suggestions (including, occasionally, mine) and breaking up into some smaller, more politically contiguous countries, and what that’d mean. There was on the one hand an urge not to go full-blown satirical, a la Trulbert; I still go back and forth on that, as “desire to try something different” runs up against “go with what you know, and also unknown people can’t get typecast”.

So the urge to do another Dickensian serial about a divorce – maybe amicable, maybe not, a la my 2005 serial, Secession Diaries – between the several states has been bubbling around since, well, Trulbert came out.

That urge has been mightily tempered by the fact that Kurt Schlicter seems to have taken over that market.

And The Social Media Lynching Will Begin In 5…4…3…

Scarlett Johannson lashing back, in her own way, at the PC police’s affect on acting:

She addressed was she called the ‘political correctness’ in casting without directly mentioning her controversial casting in Rub & Tug. 
‘You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job,’ she said point blank.
She continued: ‘I feel like it’s a trend in my business and it needs to happen for various social reasons, yet there are times it does get uncomfortable when it affects the art because I feel art should be free of restrictions.’ 
‘I think society would be more connected if we just allowed others to have their own feelings and not expect everyone to feel the way we do.’

Between that and supporting Israel, she’s never gonna do lunch at Spago again.

But you know what? The interview was in conjunction with a very style-y retro photo shoot for a magazine. I’m gonna focus on that, if that’s OK. Thanks.

Backlash

Last week, I caught Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix special.

I’ve always like Ansari. This special is far and away the best thing he’s done in his career.

Is it connected to his getting caught up in the #MeToo purges?

Perhaps.

But far from groveling to “woke” culture, gives the PC horde the sort of response it’s been needing from more participants in pop culture – an astringent satirical enema:

From Robert Verbruggen’s review:

Perhaps the most memorable routine, though, involves the famous Pizza Hut swastika story, where a restaurant was accused of making a pizza with the pepperoni arranged in the shape of a Nazi symbol — but some people saw it as just a regular pizza. Ansari asks the audience to clap if they thought it was a swastika, and then if they thought otherwise.
The story is made up. There never was a swastika pizza. But some audience members take sides and clap anyway. One even identifies the news source where he read about the incident. It’s a stunning illustration of how political polarization rots the brain, and it fits into a broader theme that we could do with less outrage and more honest discussion among people with differing opinions — a point Ansari makes more explicitly when discussing the uproar over a white teenager who wore a traditional Chinese dress to prom.
Refreshingly, Ansari avoids the incessant and usually unfunny Trump-bashing too many comedians rely on when short on better material. To the contrary, he points out how trivial modern America’s problems are relative to what previous generations dealt with. “Could you imagine if we had a draft with today’s people?”

It’s worth a watch.

What Chu Wantin’ In De White Man’s World

Over this past weekend, I saw the movie “Rocket Man”, the Elton John biopic.

And while it was a good movie, as these things go – more below – it left me with one huge, nagging question unanswered.

To wit: what ghastly crime did Bernie Taupin see Reginald Dwight/Elton John commit, and promise to keep quiet about forever, in exchange for Elton John turning his “lyrics“ into songs?

Because it say what you will about Elton John’s music – I liked some of it – but Taupin was the one lyricist in the history of the world that can’t get away with mocking and taunting Desmond Child.

There simply has to be some ghastly conspiracy. There’s no other rational explanation.


More seriously, now – I did in fact see the movie over the weekend.

Truth be told, I was way too cool for Elton John when he was at his peak. I loved the Clash, the Ramones, Springsteen, the Iron City Houserockers, Television, Emmylou Harris, the Pretenders – all the stuff that the rest of the kids in my high school weren’t listening to. It was how a tall, geeky nerd with no athletic talent stood out from the crowd (or thought he did).

And I never had much time for pop stars disintegrating in public, as I watched Elton John (among many other celebs back then) collapse in a welter of excess, booze and cocaine. “You think you got it tough?”, I muttered, reading every week in the pages of “Rolling Stone” down at the library. It’s why I had no time for a lot of seventies pop stars; half the reason I couldn’t stand Styx as a kid was Dennis DeYoung’s constant whinging about what a meaningless illusion being a star was; “then go back to Chicago and work in a ^%$#@ meatpacking plant and make some room for someone else”, I muttered.

And he was a piano player. Nothing against keyboard people – I always wanted to be decent on keys. But they have a very different approach to music than guitar players do. Some of his stuff, like most of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, was marvelously melodic, in the kind of way that piano players can tease out of a song in a way guitar players can’t.

So Elton John was…well, not a non-entity for me as a kid. His public image was something that annoyed me; his music sometimes grabbed me (“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” was guilty pleasure), some didn’t.

Anyway.

“Rocketman” is billed as a “fantasy biopic”, which started me off thinking “what could go wrong?”.

Short answer: Nothing!

In its own way, telling the story of Elton John’s path – from neglected child to piano prodigy to sideman to “overnight star” (it actually took him eight years of gigging, song-writing and session work, given very short shrift in the movie) to one of the biggest selling singers of all time, to recovering addict and, we’re told at the end, happy, loved, well-adjusted elder, is a lot more interesting in the telling that it was in the watching 30-40 years ago. Taron Egerton plays a better Elton John than Elton John himself ever did.

One interesting bit, if you’re a serious music trivia buff; there’s a scene where John and longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin are auditioning for a manager (in a scene that could have come out of every iteration of “The Jazz Singer” or “The Star Is Born”). The manager asks John to play some of his stuff. John, at the piano, tosses out a few songs that the manager cuts off immediately…

…that are actually from the early ’80s, when John and longtime Taupin were on the outs – things like “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” and other stuff from John’s fallow years after going through treatment. The manager only warmed up when John played “Border Song”.

It was just one of the ways in which John – one of the movie’s executive producers – seemed to be saying that his career without Bernie Taupin was never quite what it should have been. Every single non-John/Taupin song is associated with failure, with bottoming out (as when “Victim of Love”, one of John’s most vapid songs, is playing in the background during a scene when he meets the partner in his ultimately sham 1984 marriage). In some ways, Taupin is every bit as much the star of the movie as John is.

So I won’t be coy about it – it’s a lot better than I expected.

Live From Where?

Riffing on Garrison Keillor – his smug, somnolent, peculiarly-Minnesotan brand of entitled arrogance – literally put this blog on the map back in 2002.

Keillor was (according to many people who’d passed through and near his production) a terrible, vindictive boss, someone who piddled on people he considered his inferiors while being a relentless upsuck to those he perceived as being higher in station. Beating up on his infantile politics was the least I could do.

But for all that, “A Prairie Home Companion” was a weekly ritual for me for a very long time. For all Keillor’s ideosyncrasies, aPHC had a wry but deep sense of place – and that place was the same place I was from. Rural upper-midwestern Scandinavian culture was my culture, and Keillor sent it up pretty brilliantly.

After thirty-odd years, some things were starting to get a little stale – how many times a year did Robin and Linda Williams need to be on the show, really? – but I was still a regular up until Keillor retired the show a few years back.

Keillor’s handpicked successor was alt-bluegrass mandolin player Chris Thile – who carried on the PHC brand until Keillor’s untimely #MeToo-and-hubris driven demise. The show changed names, to “Live From Here”. It’s been going for about two years now.

And while the format has stayed fairly similar – an eclectic mix of music, sketch comedy borrowed from the old “radio drama” school, and gently acerbic commentary, it’s changed a bit.

Noise: In a lot of ways, LFH has upped the musical game – if you’re eclectic in a fairly focused way. PHC used to have some fun gems hidden away – hearing Suzy Bogguss again after all these years was a treat – but the Williams’ and the Steele sisters, good as they are, were starting to wear grooves into the dressing room. The music on LFH is great – if you really like alt-country, alt-rock, and alt-trip-electronic-trance-techno pop. Gone are Keillor’s occasional forays into big band, classical, gospel and choral miscellany. I call it even – but for Thile himself, whose own frequent musical interludes with the house band are pretty brilliant.

So I have little to complain about there.

Drammer: Keillor’s sketch comedy – featuring old-school sound effects whiz Tim Newman Twin Cities voice actors Sue Scott and Tim Russell, plus a cast of hundreds of others here and there over the years – were often brilliant.

I know, I know. I hate to say it. But it’s true. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Because Thile’s writers sound like they’re trying to audition for NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me”; they miss more than they hit.

Edge to PHC, here.

Hah: One area where LFH has changed the format from PHC is in having more frequent appearances by comedians…

…or so we’re told. In two years, I’ve heard a fair number of standup comics on LFH, with a lot of different schticks – black comics, feminist comics, acerbic comics, depressed comics…

…but, perhaps twice, have I heard comics that made me laugh.

It’s almost as if someone is booking these people because they lost a bet.

Live From Everywhere: The considerable charms of Prairie Home Companion were largely rooted in Keillor’s fictional-yet-autobiographical Lake Wobegon, the place that was both nowhere and yet, if you grew up in upper-midwestern Scandinavian small-town culture, everywhere.

And for all of Keillor’s arrogance and all his many, many tics, that kept the show grounded. For better or, sometimes, worse. You can only go so far afield when your stock in trade, week in, week out, is chronicling the Thelma Monsons and Reverend Tostengards of the world.

Live From Here has a sense of place, too.

Unfortunately, that place is Brooklyn. Or Austin. Or Portland, Mission Hill, Seattle, or the lower part of Northeast Minneapolis. It’s an alt-bluegrass background soundtrack to a hipster coffee shop, full of bad wall art and people in their thirties acting like people in their twenties.

Live from Here is live from somewhere a lot less interesting .

This Is What $91 Mill Gets You

Jeff Koons’ Rabbit has sold for $91 million dollars.  

Yep. It’s a steel rabbit, all right. You could have bought a late-model F16 for that kind of money, with a MacLaren to get you to the airport, and money to run ’em both for years…

It’s a three foot tall steel casting made from an impression of…a balloon rabbit.  

It’s the sort of thing that gets the usual people huffing and puffing the usual blandishments – but not everyone is kissing up to the artist or the buyer. This from – who else – NPR’s Neda Ulaby:

ULABY: Jed Perl, another distinguished art critic, is even more grossed out than Jerry Saltz by the sale. Perl doesn’t even like the sculpture. Here’s how he describes the most expensive piece of art by a living artist.
PERL: It’s a metal molding of a plastic blow-up toy.
ULABY: Perl finds the smooth, faceless “Rabbit” emotionally empty to the point of being dead. But plenty of other people see a sense of humor in the sculpture and in its highly polished surface, a reflection of our increasingly impersonal and overhyped world.

Well, I certainly see humor in the fact that something this trite has people this completely bonkers.

Is anyone but me working on a polished-steel casting of a tulip bulb, just out of pure ironic commentary? (Liberals – ask you economically-literate parents).

With The Band

“Hired Gun”, on Netflix, is a movie about “sidemen” – guitar, bass, drum and keyboard players who get hired by musicians to support them on tour, sometimes for a tour or two (Jason Hook, a metal guitarist spent time touring with Mandy Moore and Hillary Duff), sometimes joining the band (Jason Newsted with Metallica), sometimes bouncing around between being session musicians, touring with other musicians and being part of their own bands (Steve Lukather, Ray Parker Jr.).

It’s a little like “20 Feet From Stardom”, only with teeth.

Takeaways:

  • I’d have never thought Rudy Sarzo – who played with Ozzy Ozbourne, both editions of Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake – would come across as pretty savvy philosopher.
  • If you don’t like Billy Joel, get ready to hate him. If you like Billy Joel, get ready not to like him so much. While I acknowledge his talent, I’ve never liked him much (other than “Songs in the Attic”, which had some cool songs, and “Innocent Man”, which was a great album), but the stories that Russ Javors and Liberty DiVito tell about Joel’s snide arrogance (and the role it may have played in Doug Stegmeyer’s suicide) re-centered my attitude on the little fop.
  • Alice Cooper (as a friend of mine pointed out on Facebook) is the opposite of Billy Joel – a great boss.
  • Kenny Aronoff – who played drums on all of John Mellencamp’s best records in the eighties, and is currently with the BoDeans – may be becoming my favorite living drummer. His story behind that little two-bar drum solo in “Jack and Diane” is a lot cooler than I’d imagined it would be.
  • If all you think about when the name “Ray Parker Jr.” comes up is “Ghostbusters”, then stop what you’re doing, cuz I’m about to ruin the image of the star that you’re used to (#NailedTheReferenceTieIn!). The guy was one of the better session guitar player in R&B for a looong time. But the story of how “Ghostbusters” came about is exactly as dorky as the video Parker shot for it back in ’84.
  • I will never feel adequate on guitar again.

There are happy endings, some really sad ones, and all in all if you care about music at all you should just watch it.

Cultural Nausea

I want to make a video, fisking John Oliver’s moronic piece claiming Australia’s gun laws “debunk” the “American gun ownership myth”. Spoiler: the only parts that are wrong are the parts where Oliver is moving his lips.

The problem is, watching John Oliver gives me a very unpleasant physical reaction. Watching him literally makes me ill.

It’s not just how he smugly mangles context and cherry picks factoids, and mugs for the trained seals in his audience; that was Jon Stewart’s schtick, too. But I can watch (and heckle and fisk) Stewart and enjoy doing it.

John Oliver could read a phone book, or “Goodnight Moon”, or even quotes from Margaret Thatcher and William F. Buckley, and I’d still feel my skin crawing, and start wanting to throw up.

I don’t even react like this to the useless Steven Colbert.

I literally get ill watching Oliver.

The only other thing like it? I get a headache watching Tim Burton movies. No kidding – I even got a headache watching one Burton movie even before I learned what it was and who directed it. It can be a Burton movie I love (“Nightmare before Christmas”) or hate (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), but it’s the same headache. Something about his style. I don’t know.

But even that reaction is nothing like the one I get from John Oliver.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Prediction: Dead On

I favor defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Not because I’m against art. Far from it. This blog. and my talk show, perhaps the Twin Cities’ finest two pieces of political performance art, should be proof of my commitment to art.

t the lesson is straight out of Econ 101; if you give people money to do something – in this case, to make art that may or may no be garbage, but matches some funder’s agenda or another, people will line up to take the money.

Now, I’m not sure that this “installation” last week was funded by the NEA:

According to a press release from the activist group Indecline, over two-dozen “men and women of color and members of the LGBT community” placed leashes and custom made dog collars on white men in red M.A.G.A. hats and walked them on all fours up and down Hollywood Boulevard on Sunday.
The group says that their “performance” was based on Cardi B’s recent Twitter battle with Tomi Lahren, in which the crass rapper told the right-wing pundit,  “Leave me alone, or I’ll dog walk you.”

VIA GATEWAY PUNDIT

(Note – vile misogyny is apparently OK if it’s a “conservative” you’re misogynizing).

But on another level, even if there wasn’t a single penny of NEA money behind it (and I can’t imagine there wasn’t, at some level or another), the whole farce is a symptom of the sort of entitled, smug, cliched “art” that arises from “artists” who have little to fear financially, and nothing, really, to fear socially.

To say nothing of critically.

Counterfeit

How do you fight a piece of popular culture that completely mangles history?

You put out some popular culture of your own

Historians fighting back against the pop revisionism of Hamilton with a musical of their own.

Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” is an uncompromising take-down of “Hamilton,” reminding viewers of the Founding Father’s complicity in slavery and his war on Native Americans.
“My goal is that this to be a counter-narrative to the text that has been distributed to thousands of students throughout the country,” said Reed, who teaches at the California College of the Arts and the University of California at Berkeley and whose latest novel is “Conjugating Hindi.”
Reed, whose play had a recent reading in New York and who is raising money for a four-week production in May, is part of a wave of “Hamilton” skeptics — often solitary voices of dissent amid a wall of fawning attention — who have written journal articles, newspaper op-eds and a 2018 collection of essays, “Historians on Hamilton.”
Miranda’s glowing portrayal of a Hamilton who celebrates open borders — “Immigrants, we get the job done!” — and who denounces slavery has incensed everyone from professors at Harvard to the University of Houston to Rutgers.
They argue that Miranda got Hamilton all wrong — the Founding Father wasn’t progressive at all, his actual role as a slave owner has been whitewashed and the pro-immigrant figure onstage hides the fact that he was, in fact, an anti-immigration elitist.
“It’s a fictional rewrite of Hamilton. You can’t pick the history facts that you want,” said Nancy Isenberg , a professor of American history at Louisiana State University who has written a biography of Aaron Burr and is the author of “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.”

It all fits into my plan to do a musical on the life and legacy of Calvin Coolidge.

A Spoonful Of…Doakes?

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails a movie review:

I saw “Mary Poppins Returns.”  Sold out show.  Herewith, my movie review.  Don’t go.  Wait for Netflix.  SPOILER ALERT: Mary Poppins wins in the end.  Sorry if I ruined it for you.

First off, let’s be clear.  The original Mary Poppins movie is one of my childhood favorites.  After 50 years of listening to the songs on my mother’s phonograph and watching the reruns on television, I know it by heart.  The movie is better than the book, by the way.  The theater was full of old people my age – it’s clearly a nostalgia movie, not targeted at kids like all the modern Disney princesses.

Mary Poppins Returns clearly was intended as an homage to the original.  They rebuilt Cherry Tree Lane perfectly.  It’s a musical: the singing and dancing is spectacular.  It’s a Disney movie: the human-animated scenes are incredible.  Emily Blunt as Poppins is excellent: not a Julie Andrews mimic, but believable.  Stern and smart-alecky, but playful and softhearted, too.  She slides up the banister, her parrot umbrella talks, her carpet-bag-of-holding is still bottomless, same shoes, same quips about Michael being stubborn, Jane inclined to giggle, Mary being practically perfect, same mirror trick, music from the first movie plays in the background at opportune moments.  All scenes to bring a touch of the old into the new because the audience knows the inside jokes and expects to see them.  In that, the movie does not disappoint.

Having said all that, this version isn’t as good as the original.  Not just because sequels never are, but because the film makers misunderstood the first movie.  They saw the elements and thought they could repeat the success by using the same elements.  They forgot that the original story made fun of the parents for their human foibles (a classic Comedy).  This story is a Comedy only in the sense that the Good Guys win in the end.  The story itself is no fun.

In the original, Mr. and Mrs. Banks are so preoccupied with adult concerns, they have no time for the kids. The bankers are such a stiff bunch they can’t understand a simple joke. The whole theme of that movie is “lighten up, be more childlike.”  Splurge on feeding the birds.  Go fly a kite. Mary Poppins leaves the Banks family when the parents are focused on the family again, as they should be.

This movie is darker.  Jane and Michael have grown up. Jane is modern feminist: unmarried, activist for labor unions.  Michael is a pajama boy:  works a meaningless day job to support his real life’s work as an artist whose pictures won’t sell.  He lives in the family house with his three kids but no wife – she recently died – and he’s losing the house to foreclosure.

The bankers in the first movie were starched shirt, upright, careful investors but they weren’t wicked, evil, cheats.  They didn’t try to steal Michael’s tuppence, they wanted him to prudently invest the tuppence in railways to India instead of wasting his money feeding the birds.   The banker in this movie is a crook who intentionally tries to cheat Michael’s family to steal their house.

The big difference between the films is the first was a Comedy but this is a modern Liberal movie.  Crooked banker. Exploited workers.  Dead Mom.  Heartless lawyers.  And, of course, the obligatory 18% Black characters and one Admiral in a wheelchair, historical accuracy be damned.  Yes, Mary Poppins and the Banks family win in the end but even that is annoying [HERE’S THE SPOILER, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH]: the tuppence the banker got from Michael in the first movie was indeed prudently invested which, with interest, is now worth enough to pay off the mortgage in the second movie.  The bankers were right – adult prudence over childish frivolity – which destroys the theme of the first movie.  Did the film makers even realize they were stabbing the first movie in the back?

The film makers dutifully included all the elements from the first film:  animation, penguins, Dick Van Dyke, singing, strange words, dancing, a cannon, bankers, a country fair, a horse race, one of Mary’s weird relatives, flying a kite, even a shaggy dog.  But the movie is a jumble as if it was made by cargo cultists who saw the images but didn’t understood what they stood for.  The songs have nothing to do with the action.  Crooked bankers and a dead Mom don’t make a lighthearted, uplifting story.  The characters themselves don’t grow in wisdom, Mary Poppins swoops in to save the day. She’s not a nanny, she’s a superhero.

Mary Poppins Returns made me want to cry.  No, not for the exploited workers or dead Mom Banks, couldn’t care less.  I wanted to cry for what’s been lost.  Disney didn’t understand why the first movie was beloved so their remake is a swing-and-a-miss.  Not Jar Jar Binks bad, but certainly Ewoks bad.

A friend argues that the first movie was just as political as the second, but the first movie reinforced my political beliefs so I liked it.  Feminists are air heads.  Prudence is boring.  Kids are the most important people in the family.  This was the dogma of the 1950’s so it’s no wonder I liked the first movie but not the second. I’m a relic.  Times have changed.  Move On!

I wanted to cry because I miss London. Not the actual city but the London I know in my mind from Ebeneezer Scrooge, Constable Grant, Sherlock Holmes and especially, from Mary Poppins.  I miss the London of my imagination.  It’s dead and Liberals killed it.  That, most of all, is their unforgivable sin.

Joe Doakes

At least they didn’t make Mary a lesbian.

Er – they didn’t, did they?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Just Take My Money

Roger Daltrey has a new autobiography,  Thank You Mr. Kibblewhite.  It sounds like…

…well, exactly what one would expect of a Daltrey autobio.

Excerpt:

The band that would become The Who began in 1961 as the Detours, when Roger Daltrey, then age 17, talked bassist John Entwistle into joining his group. A few months later, guitarist Pete Townshend would join. During that period, Doug Sandom, a decade older than the rest of the members of the Detours, served as their drummer. He would leave the band in 1964, and be replaced by the now legendary Keith Moon, then age 18.

All during this time, Daltrey was driven by a statement from his headmaster at Acton County Grammar School, Mr. Kibblewhite, who told him on his 15th birthday that “you’ll never make anything of your life, Daltrey,” after expelling him for truancy. Determined to escape his lower-middle class existence in the west London district of Acton, Daltrey was driven to be the lead singer of a rock and roll group. What he couldn’t know is that he had stumbled into the rock and roll group, one of the most influential bands of the 1960s and 1970s.

And it’s off to B&N for me.

Aborted In The First Trimester

Michelle Wolf’s really awful Netflix show canceled after three months:

The move comes just a couple of weeks after BET announced it was cancelling The Rundown with Robin Thede after its first season. That cuts the number of late-night-style shows hosted by women in half, with only TBS’ Samantha Bee and Hulu’s Sarah Silverman left standing.

And with a little luck, Bee’s wretched show will be dying from apathy before too long.

It’s not all good news: The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale also got tubed.

 

The Fringe

A friend of the blog writes:

Marxist collectivism mixed with the egalitarian charm of Rousseau.

The MN Fringe Festival is the most natural child of The Blue Blouse (Синяя блуза) theatre troupes of early USSR.

Here you will find every SJW/Artiste that suckles at the teats of state government and the Foundation Hive.

The big buzzword in this year’s prospectus is the delivery of a limited number of Juried, Curated (read pre-censored) productions

I think that’s all true – at least in directly. Because the writer is correct – it’s impossible to calculate the damage that government subsidy of art has done to, well, Art. And the Fringe Festival is often a great place to see what happens when society pays for way too many mediocre terrible artist to create too much “art”.