Archive for December, 2017

The Daughter was singing We’ll Meet Again. I asked her how the heck did she know that song, which first came out long before I was born?

She was watching a video called Film Theory: Gravity Falls ISN’T OVER! (Bill Cipher LIVES!) Gravity Falls is an animated TV series that ended a couple years ago. There’s a reference to We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn at the 9:00 mark.

Then The Daughter tested me to come up with the songwriter – not that she knew herself, mind you. Not only did I not know, none of my choir buddies did, though we guessed a lot of the likely suspects.

It turns out that it was written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, who also wrote “There’ll Always Be an England.”

The singer most associated with the tune is Lynn who turned 100 on March 20, 2017 and is still alive, I believe. She was described as England’s most popular singer during World War II, and she appeared on British TV for many years.

From the Wikipedia:
The song gave its name to the 1943 musical film… in which Dame Vera Lynn played the lead role. Lynn’s recording was used in the closing scenes of the 1986 BBC television serial The Singing Detective. British director John Schlesinger used the song in his 1979 World War II film, Yanks, which is about British citizens and American soldiers during the military buildup in the UK as the Allies prepared for the D-Day Invasion…

Lynn sang the song in London on the 60th Anniversary of VE Day in 2005.

Pink Floyd makes reference to this song and the performer in Vera, a song from their album The Wall: “Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?/Remember how she said that we would meet again some sunny day?”

Listen to We’ll Meet Again (chart action from US Billboard singles chart):

Vera Lynn, #29 in 1954

Kay Kyser, Ginny Simms, Harry Babbitt, and ensemble vocal, #24 in 1941

Guy Lombardo, #24 in 1941

Benny Goodman with Peggy Lee, #16 in 1942

The Ink Spots, 1949

Frank Sinatra, 1962

The Byrds, closing track of their debut album in 1965, inspired by the Lynn version’s use in the film Dr. Strangelove

Johnny Cash, closing track on his 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around, the final album released during his lifetime

She and Him, 2014

Is God a Robot That Just Hasn’t Been Invented Yet?

Hating the poor in the season of giving

How to Hire Fake Friends and Family

Fiction from the New Yorker: Cat Person

Thousands Once Spoke His Language in the Amazon; Now, He’s the Only One

How ancient mastodon bones sparked a modern-day battle among scientists

Chuck Miller: When I caught the Times Union editing my blog headlines without my permission

RIP, Sue Grafton at 77 – Y Is For Yesterday: her last mystery series novel

Arthur answers Roger’s questions about the regime in DC and the nasty people in DC and blogging, and Kiwi language and his most evergreen post

RIP to Rose Marie, who was of an uncertain age; at least she was around for this; Dick Van Dyke has lost two costars this year, with Mary Tyler Moore passing in January

2018 US postage stamps: Musician John Lennon, performer and activist Lena Horne, America’s first woman in space Sally Ride, and children’s television pioneer Mr. Rogers

Mark Evanier has been blogging for 17 years this month, a site I check out daily

RIP Dick Enberg

Clifford Irving, Author of a Notorious Literary Hoax, Dies at 87

Quotable Kirby

Erie, PA Receives Record 53 Inches of Snow in 30 Hours

Now I Know: The People Who Protect Chewbacca and The Worthless $65 Million Masterpiece That Cost $29 Million and The Town That Pays Criminals to Cut it Out and The Accidental Masterpiece and The New York Police Department’s Giant Problem and The People Who Protect Chewbacca

What is it like to go through a car wash with the windows down?

Wise Old Sayings

TICKS, MANY OF THEM

What Do You Call a World That Can’t Learn From Itself?

This is the thanks he gets for “overhauling” the American tax system?

‘He Would Probably Be a Dictator by Now’

The Nationalist’s Delusion

The United States of America Is Decadent and Depraved

Should We Care What Happens to the GOP’s Soul?

I Won’t Tolerate A ‘Different Viewpoint’ When It’s Based On Blatant Lies

The Whoppers of 2017: the year’s worst falsehoods and bogus claims

“Neoliberalism” isn’t an empty epithet – It’s a real, powerful set of ideas

How life is now in Puerto Rico

“Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” – Augustine of Hippo

TWENTY-SEVENTEEN

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2017 and 1957

2017 is the best?

Instagram’s Favorite New Yorker Cartoons of 2017

YouTube’s highest paid stars – who ARE these people? I’m old

The Biggest Tech Fails of 2017

Turner Classic Movies’ annual Obituary Video

The Daily Show team looks back at the biggest events of 2017 in news, sports, and pop culture

MUSIC

RIP Keely Smith

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron

Keep On Doing What You’re Doing/Jerks On The Loose – Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor

Two songs from Björk’s 2017 album Utopia

Dmitri Shostakovich – Waltz No. 2

Regretro -Lifestyle album

The Last Day of Summer – Elyxr, ft Color Theory

Retrospect -Freen in Green, ft. Liz Enthusiasm

Heavensent – Bao

TWO TICKET TO PHUKET

Sufjan Stevens, Chris Cornell, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Taylor Swift on longlist for Best Original Song Oscar

Dominic Frontiere, Composer for ‘The Outer Limits,’ ‘The Flying Nun,’ Dies at 86

Capt. Amy Slinker, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard’s 134th Public Affairs Detachmen, poses for a photo with Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson during a meet and greet event held Nov. 6, 2010. Photo by Maj. Guy Hayes, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs Office.

There’s a cover story about Ted Danson in AARP, The Magazine, with a coquettish tease about him revealing his age. Interestingly, it states that, while his career may have hit a peak with the May 20, 1993 final episode of the TV show Cheers, his personal life was “approaching a nadir.”

“He had suffered through a costly divorce, his highly publicized 18-month relationship with Whoopi Goldberg was ending, and he found himself at the center of [a] controversy over his notorious appearance in blackface at a Friars Club roast.”

His life turned around when he met actress Mary Steenbergen, and hers as well. He stopped playing the carousing lightweight of Cheers and the movie Three Men and a Baby. I’m not the only one who thinks bartender Sam Malone was written more stupidly over the 11 years of Cheers.

After being in dramas such as Damages and CSI, Danson’s back in a comedy, The Good Place, which is, or not, about heaven. He notes, “Professional athletes are always in rehab and laying hurt. That’s me at 70. I have to work harder to memorize my lines. Same with my body – I have to work a little harder, but so what?”

As a regular reader of Ken Levine’s blog, I’m amazed how often the former writer of Cheers has mentioned Ted Danson, and always in a positive light. On December 24, in listing his blessings, Levine noted which actors were a pleasure to work with and Danson tops the roster.

Guest blogger Dave Hackel explained how Danson took the job on Becker, the misanthrope who was the opposite of Sam Malone.

Danson twice has played characters distant from his real personality. “Sam Malone was a former athlete and womanizer. Ted knew very little about baseball and was as far from a Lothario as one could be. It actually took him a while that first year to get into a groove because he was so the opposite of Sam. And then as Becker. Ted is the world’s nicest guy playing a disagreeable crank.”

Also, listen to Episode 50 of Levine’s podcast for an Behind The Scenes Cheers Episode Commentary, naturally mentioning Ted Danson throughout.

When I started reading Marvel Comics in the early 1970s, Stan Lee wasn’t writing them anymore. He became the publisher right around that time. When I started looking back at what came out before I started collecting, Stan the Man was in the center of it all.

As most even casual comic readers know, the man born Stanley Lieber co-created the Avengers, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men, among many others in a shared superhero universe.

Moreover, it’s was Stan’s Soapbox which really established the Marvel brand throughout several comic books by various creative teams. He also “addressed issues of discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice.”

Lee took a lot of grief, not entirely of his making, because Marvel, in the main, created him, if not entirely fairly financially, then certainly less badly than Lee’s co-creators, people such as Steve Ditko, and especially the late Jack “King” Kirby. This was particularly egregious because of what was dubbed the Marvel method, as described in the Wikipedia:

“Typically, Lee would brainstorm a story with the artist and then prepare a brief synopsis rather than a full script. Based on the synopsis, the artist would fill the allotted number of pages by determining and drawing the panel-to-panel storytelling. After the artist turned in penciled pages, Lee would write the word balloons and captions, and then oversee the lettering and coloring. In effect, the artists were co-plotters, whose collaborative first drafts Lee built upon.”

This tension has largely dissipated to a great degree when Kirby’s heirs settled with Marvel in 2014, which has meant the artists behind the characters are getting on-screen notice as well as compensation when those films show up in the movies.

And speaking of cinema, Stan Lee has cameo appearances in every single feature film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that he has appeared in the movies that have grossed more money than any other actor. More than Harrison Ford or Tom Hanks or Frank Welker or even Marvel movies actor Samuel L. Jackson.

“At the 2016 Comic-Con International, Lee introduced his digital graphic novel Stan Lee’s ‘God Woke’, with text originally written as a poem he presented at Carnegie Hall in 1972. The print-book version won the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Outstanding Books of the Year Independent Voice Award.”

Sadly, Joan, Stan’s wife of nearly 70 years died on July 6, 2017 at the age of 95.

Fun Home

My wife and I saw Fun Home at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady back in November, and it was revelatory.

It’s about a girl named Alison, played at three points in her life, by three different actors. Small Alison lives in a funeral home with her brothers, making up would-be commercials for the facility. Her father Bruce is a professor but also the funeral director. Helen, his wife, tries to keep the house up to his exacting standards or retreats to playing the piano.

Medium Alison goes away to college, realizes she is a lesbian but is not eager to share this news with her father. She sings my favorite song from the show, “Changing My Major,” a paean to her girlfriend Joan. The adult Alison ruminates on all of this, including the death of her father shortly after she came out; is there a connection between the two events? Sometimes, there are two or even three Alisons on stage simultaneously.

The musical was adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir. It is not at all a linear telling but bounces back and forth in time, yet it works.

I’ve had the cast album for well over a year, so I knew the songs. “Ring of Keys” by Small Alison & Alison is another favorite. But “Days and Days,” sung by Helen near the end of the production, was particularly moving in the show I saw.

Considering that the show won the 2015 Best Musical Tony for Best Musical in 2015 and other awards, I was slightly surprised how many people are unfamiliar with the story. Then again, I actually WATCH the Tonys.

Not only that, one of my colleagues had a relative who played one of Small Alison’s brothers, so she’d seen the show on Broadway. She’s also seen a couple other productions and shared with me the fact that the show can be performed “in the round” or on a traditional stage.

It’s an odd thing getting a subscription for Sundays when the shows only run six days, starting on Tuesdays. I see the last show before it leaves town, and can’t say, “Go see it!” And in the case of Fun Home, I’ve discovered that the touring company ended its run on December 3.

This means that perhaps some local theater company in your area will be doing a production. I imagine it will be worthwhile.

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