IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

John, Ringo, Paul and George were the original social distance practitioners

We’re Number 2!

Overnight the United States surpassed 15,000 deaths and as of this moment has reached 15,634 deaths. We are now second behind only Italy (17,699) in deaths and, of course, number one worldwide in number of cases. Of course, no one knows for sure what the actual case and death totals are anywhere, in terms of accuracy.

But right now, we’re Number 2! Only five to six weeks removed from the infamous “When you have 15 people and, in a couple of weeks, it’s going down to close to zero.”

Give ‘Em Hell, Chamath

MH staff slept more than 11 hours last night (No, we’re not sick… or hung over… the new job is rather arduous and today’s our first day off in six) and so we woke up, on Pacific Time, to Chamath Palipitiya, a socially conscious rich guy investor (he’s worth $1.2 billion), as a guest on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” In short, he was glorious and what was fascinating is how obtuse host Scott Wapner appeared to be.

First, and I wish I had the entire video, he noted that the government would have done a much better job of stimulating the economy, not to mention helping more Americans, if it had, instead of handing out $2 trillion to large corporations so they could manage their balance sheets, instead looked at every American’s W-2 form and given each what would amount to their monthly income. Downtown Josh Brown, with whom we normally agree, countered that you just can’t go around handing people bags of money. Oh, but you can hand grain sacks full of money to corporations?

Then Wapner asked his put-you-on-the-spot question: “Do you think the airlines should be allowed to fail?”

Chamath: “Yes!”

Wapner: “Why? When it’s through no fault of their own?”

Chamath: “Because, first of all, when the airline fails it isn’t firing all of its employees. It goes through bankruptcy and those employees wind up having a bigger stake in the company. And second, because that’s the rules. (Let us replay that for the people in back: because that’s the rules. How come dyed-in-the-wool capitalists gets so upset when Fortune 500 companies are subject to the same trials that mom-and-pop stores are).”

Wapner: “Why should they go under when it’s through no fault of their own (He honestly asked this)?”

Chamath: “Look around. Look at today’s unemployment figures. Millions of Americans are going under through no fault of their own. They don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills or feed their families. Now look at who owns the airlines. It’s large private equity firms like Blackrock. So the airlines go under and you don’t get your summer in the Hamptons, so what (he actually said this and at that point I may have begun clapping and a happy tear may have escaped from my cheek)?”

There was more and if I can find the video, I’ll post it. Kudos to CNBC for giving such a progressive thinker (but of course, only because he’s rich was he allowed to be on) that much space to talk, but it’s truly disheartening to see what hypocrites some of these guys are. They say they’re for capitalism, but really what they’re for is the status quo.

We’ll post this now since it’s late and continue working on the blog because that is what we do, America…

The Upside of a Pandemic Catastrophe: A Rai Of Hope

Early on I said I was rooting for the coronavirus and in a bizarre way, I still am. Certainly the death toll is tragic, and there’s no escaping that. But look at some of the residual effects. In no particular order:

–Average Americans are finally recognizing that doctors and nurses are the real heroes, not the military. I’m not at all against someone serving this country, but I’d grown past nauseous seeing ESPN and others glorify these “reunited at sporting events” moments for service members who’ve come home from abroad in nations where WE, the USA, initiated the engagement. WTF? Seeing New Yorkers clap and cheer every evening at 7 p.m. to honor health care workers is a sign that people are beginning to get their priorities in place (that and parents at last beginning to see just how woefully underpaid teachers are for watching their kids six hours each day).

–The air is cleaner in major cities.

–Animals are getting a better chance. I saw this video of cats and dogs being able to roam through an aquarium the other day and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

–Donald Trump is, daily, being exposed for the fraud and miscreant that he is. The virus doesn’t have a political agenda, but its numbers are stark and real. The MAGA cult will continue to attempt to absolve him from blame, but there’s no getting around it. A man and a cult who think that money and whiteness can overwhelm any problem or adversary are being brought to their knees. Intelligence matters. Truth matters. Science matters. God bless this pandemic for exposing that.

–The goodness in most people is coming out and being exposed. Last night Lawrence O’Donnell showed a video posted by a young anesthesiologist, Dr. Ajit Rai, who graduated from UCLA a year or two ago. He was working in Los Angeles but had done some residency work in New York City only a year ago. Dr. Rai was so overwhelmed by what he was seeing in Manhattan that he obtained a leave of absence from his residency at a Los Angeles hospital, bought a one-way ticket to New York (“flying into the inferno,” he called it), and got put on staff at his old hospital in New York City to be part of the fight. He said that the hardest part of this was telling his parents what he was doing.

To a lot of Red State America, this young man might not look “American.” But what Dr. Rai is doing is the most American thing you can possibly do.

Jane Says

Yesterday CNBC’s Jane Wells reported from a berry farm in Camarillo, Calif. (above is NOT that farm), about 60 miles northwest of L.A., I’m estimating. In a 2-minute report Wells touched on a number of things that could have all been turned into a John Steinbeck novel (or perhaps already have):

–First, she noted that the farmers are losing money because Americans are no longer dining out and simply not spending as much on food. They’re wondering if the government can’t step in and buy the food and donate it to food banks, which makes me ask, Why can’t the farmers just donate it to food banks? Oh, yeah, cuz they don’t want to lose money. So, welfare under another name, but at least they didn’t simply have their hands out.”

–Wells also noted that most, if not all of the workers, are there under special work visas (she never used the terms “Mexicans,” “Central Americans” or “Illegals) and would not normally be permitted to do so under this administration. In other words, they’re rapists, drug dealers and murderers until America has a job for them to do. Wells, who is nothing if not smart and shrewd, did point out that Hey, doesn’t America have this massive unemployment problem and aren’t these jobs that need doing but then just as quickly noted that the average American will make more in a week off his or her unemployment check than he or she will doing this back-breaking field labor. Funny how that goes.

–Finally, Jane brought up one final, ominous point. These workers are violating social distance rules constantly and are housed in dormitories. What happens when one of them tests positive? What she didn’t need to add is that none of them will because the moment someone gets sick they’ll simply be sent away or back across the border. As foreign workers go, Rudy Gobert gets tested. Carlos in the strawberry field does not.

TCM Has A Major Woody

Keaton and Allen, beneath the 59th Street Bridge, feelin’ groovy…

Tonight on TCM a Woody Allen double feature in prime time. First, at 8 p.m. EDT, it’s Annie Hall, his 1977 classic that won Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s the only comedy I can think of that won Best Picture and it’s undoubtedly Allen’s best picture or, as Roger Ebert noted, “everyone’s favorite Woody Allen film.”

Then at 10 p.m. it’s Manhattan, which is a sequel of sorts in spirit, though the characters have changed. Once again you get Allen and Diane Keaton, but also a young and captivating but cold Meryl Streep (buffs will note it’s one of two Streep films from this year in which she plays a Manhattan wife who leaves her Jewish husband) and an ingenue, Margeaux Hemingway, who serves as a harbinger to Allen’s real-life previsions to come, i.e., having sex with underage girls (a lot of that going on with Upper East Side millionaires and billionaires it seems).

The real star of Manhattan, shot entirely in black-and-white, is the city island itself. It’s never looked lovelier onscreen and yes, always looks better in black and white and gray.

Bye, Bye, Bernie

Bernie Sanders suspends his presidential campaign. Larry David doesn’t have to fly coast-to-coast any more.

If this even opens the slightest crack of a window for Governor Cuomo, we’re all for it.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT…

Just this morning I’ve seen that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is going to donate $1 billion to COVID-19 relief and that Dell founder Michael Dell is going to donate $100 million for the same cause. Hey, that’s great, but let’s assess a few things:

–If these two men can afford to donate that much, they’re not exactly digging into the bottoms of their pockets for this loot. Even if Dorsey is donating one-third of his net worth, and that’s incredibly generous (if you ignore the tax break he’s yielding from this), but he still has $2 billion more to get by on.

–Second, let’s look at the number of employees Twitter and Dell have, respectively, and then do a little long division. Twitter has roughly 5,000 employees. So, and I know this is overly simplistic, but if Dorsey had simply been putting that type of money into his employees’ pockets annually and not his own, he could give every single employee of his a $200,000 bonus. Imagine that. Imagine the type of work force, in terms of talent, you could assemble, if you treated your employees that well. Imagine how loyal they’d be.

As for Dell, he has far more employees and his contribution is one-tenth that of Dorsey’s, so his donation parceled out to each of them would only be $700 or so.

But here’s the larger point. The men at the very top of the food chain are stock-piling funds while scores of people who work for them are stuck in the middle class at best. And then something like this happens and they donate a huge chunk of cash and CNBC hails them as heroic. What I’d like to know is how come they weren’t paying their employees better and stimulating the economy the entire time as opposed to sitting on top of a mountain of cash?

True, Dorsey and Dell created businesses, created thousands of jobs, and for that they deserve credit. I’m just wondering what possesses men to be THAT rich when so many people working for them are still involved in class struggle. I hereby promise that when MH Industries is a a major conglomerate that we’ll pay executive assistant Susie B. at least $200,000 per year and even throw in free MH merchandise.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

We Need A Leader, Not A Cheerleader

It happened again on Tuesday when our nation’s President as well as his own acting Press Secretary (John Miller never really dies, does he?) invoked his Pom Pom Powers: “I’m not going to go out and start screaming, this could happen (on why he did not inform the nation of the pandemic potential clearly outlined in Peter Navarro’s memo more than two months ago). I’m a cheerleader for this country. I don’t want to create havoc and shock.”

I’m a cheerleader for this country.

This cynical and insidious ad campaign sounds as if it was cooked up in Stephen Miller’s dark, soulless mind. Here’s the concept: When the news is bad, and it’s mostly your fault, play the rah rah, sis-boom-bah! card. Dismiss truth and transparency (because it will hold you accountable), using as your excuse that you’re here to root for the red, white and blue.

Now look at New York governor Andrew Cuomo: transparent, knowledgeable, informed, concerned, realistic, credible.

It’s quite incredible how much better of a national leader Gov. Cuomo shows himself to be every single day of this crisis than Donald Trump. Our thoughts are with Randy Rainbow exactly (minus the sexual overtones).

Coronering The Market

A couple thoughts on the coronavirus reported death tolls… 1) They’re not accurate. They can’t be. For numerous reasons, the first of which is that coroners are receiving bodies faster than they can test them, often because they don’t have testing kits. A death is a death, of course, but rest (or cardiac arrest) assured that the actual number of people dying from the coronavirus, both domestically and abroad, is higher than what has been reported. 2) I’m all for transparency, too, but I tuned in to a channel yesterday morning where on the right side of the screen was a running tally of cases and deaths, both in the U.S. and worldwide. I began to wonder, if the U.S. were involved in a Vietnam-type conflict in 2020, would a cable news channel keep a running body count tally onscreen? Is everything sports these days? Do we eventually get numb to the actual human toll of all these deaths when all we see is data?

Beyond The Pail

Came across this Carol Burnett Show sketch this morning and it’s worth it. One thought: How come the players at SNL, at least many of them, need to read from cue cards while doing their sketches while here, in a sketch that went nearly 10 minutes, Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman had their lines memorized? Granted, they weren’t doing it live, but I don’t think they shot many re-takes on CBS, did they?

Prine Time


Didn’t really know a lot about John Prine, the New Orleans-based songwriter who passed away yesterday from COVID-19 complications at age 73. When I think of under-appreciated songwriters named John who have collaborated with Bonnie Raitt (she collaborates with everyone…such a hussey), my first thought is of John Hiatt.

But I got to appreciate Hiatt from that Stephen Colbert clip we ran last week and you could tell that more than a songwriter, he was simply a gifted writer. Here’s what he told Paul Zollo in an interview for Bluerailroad about songwriting, which is essential again in any good writing:

“I think the more the listener can contribute to the song, the better; the more they become part of the song, and they fill in the blanks. Rather than tell them everything, you save your details for things that exist. Like what color the ashtray is. How far away the doorway was. So when you’re talking about intangible things, like emotions, the listener can fill in the blanks and you just draw the foundation

And here, from Rolling Stone, is a list of 25 essential songs from a man who served in Vietnam and also worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Rest in Peace.

SportsYear 1870

Schooner rather than later

The Cincinnati Red Stockings lose for the first time in nearly two years, 8-7 in 11 innings, to Atlantic of Brooklyn (the National League is still six years away from formally organizing)…The first America’s Cup challenge race hosted in the U.S.A. is staged in Newport, R.I., with the New York Yacht Club’s entry, Magic, emerging victorious… Also on the Thames, but not on the same day, Cambridge defeats Oxford in the Boat Race, their first win in nine races… Columbia joins the world of college football (increasing its membership by 50%) and loses its only game, to Rutgers… Both Young Tom Morris and The Colonel repeat as winners in the British Open and the Grand National, respectively… The top American boxer, Jimmy Elliott, is arrested for highway robbery and assault. Elliott is sentenced to 16 years in prison and will serve eight. Hashtag It’s All Been Done… An anonymous surgeon writes to The Times (of London) complaining that rugby football is dangerous. Hashtag ItsAllBeenDone (#IABD).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Saul In A Day’s Work

Last night Better Call Saul had its “Pine Barrens
episode. And nearly its “To’hajiilee/Ozymandias” episode. With an assist from the first 30 minutes of No Country For Old Men (Alan Sepinwall in his review notes that it’s akin to “Four Days Out” from Season 2 of Breaking Bad and also picks up on the space blanket tie-in that I missed) and the Marathon des Sables. This one will go down as, if not quite a classic, certainly a landmark episode in the series.

Jimmy travels southeast, near the New Mexico/Mexico border, to be Lalo’s bag man. To pick up his $7 million in bail money that the Salamanca twins drop off to him. On a carefree drive home in his Esteem, he is ambushed by three vehicles. They take the two bags of cash and are about to put a bullet into his forehead when shots ring out. Turns out Mike Ehrmentraut had his back.

Los Lobos Hermanos

Mike shoots down all but one of the thieves. Now it’s time to hike through the desert (hints of Biblical trials). Finally, Jimmy is ready to give up and die when Mike explains why he does what he does: to provide for a better life for the people in his life. Suddenly the thief who got away, still on the hunt, drives into view (with a passenger). Jimmy doesn’t care any more. He makes himself an open target and tells Mike to get his rifle ready. Mike takes care of business in a scene that, while being shot, must’ve scared Bob Odenkirk half to death and had him muttering “Vic Morrow” under his breath. If you saw it, you know.

Kim, meanwhile, sets up a meeting with Lalo. Exposes herself while not accomplishing a thing. As Lalo smartly tells her, her husband will either show up with the dinero or he’s dead. So why tell her the drop point? Meanwhile, as Mike told Jimmy, “She’s in the game now.”

Yes, she is. Is Kim fated to become the Hank Schraeder of Better Call Saul?

The good news: Jimmy doesn’t have to drive that Esteem around any longer. And he’s got $100,000 to go car shopping.

The other residual effect: this episode cements Jimmy’s and Mike’s bond. Mike literally saves Jimmy’s life. Jimmy demonstrates to Mike that he’s tougher than either of them thought.

When it comes time for the Emmys/Golden Globes next time around, Better Call Saul is going to win Best Dramatic Series for this season. You just watch. This has been its strongest season yet, with incredible imagery.

Pandemic Playlist (Cont.)

Thanks to everyone who contributed yesterday. We give AIR’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” the jury prize as the top suggestion. Here’s a few more that came to mind as we slept…

  1. Invisible Touch ……………………………………….. Genesis
  2. Lost In The Supermarket ………………………….. The Clash
  3. All By Myself ……………………………………………… Eric Carmen
  4. Can’t Touch This …………………………………….. M.C. Hammer
  5. Dancing With Myself………………………………… Billy Idol
  6. The Mask …………………………………………………… Roger Glover

10K (And Counting)

Denver, like many cities, is experiencing its cleanest air in decades. There is a better way.

The U.S. coronavirus body count eclipsed 10,000 dead yesterday and it’s already breaching 11,000 this morning. Who knows where it will stop, although we’ll go out on a limb and predict there will be fewer than 100,000 domestic deaths due to the coronavirus.

A friend, a Trump supporter, pointed out that deaths in so many other categories are down this year which is a little like pointing out that all the theater goers at Our American Cousin probably got their money back. But, hey, there’s always a bright side.

Meanwhile, have you noticed something wonderful? The streets are quieter. And, in major cities, the air is cleaner due to few cars and almost no airplanes. If coronavirus teaches us anything, I hope it will be that fossil fuels need to disappear and that car horns are pure trash.

Lastly, stocks are up for a second consecutive day on news that the rate of new cases is decreasing. We’ll see if our “leaders” jump the gun on ending the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home edicts or if they remain disciplined. Hey, I’m no doctor but I do like to think of myself as “a social scientist.”

Pink Moon Fever

Tonight is “Super Pink Moon” night, the night of the year when our closest celestial neighbor will come closest to the Earth (a mere 221,772 miles away) all year. Also, because the Earth, Moon and Sun are all in alignment, we’ll get a full moon. So maybe turn off “Tiger King” for 10 minutes, go outside and experience the wonder of it all, baby. Nature puts on the best shows —and there’s no monthly subscription.

SportsYear: 1869

Belmont Park. Tailgating is as old as sport itself.

–On March 3, The Colonel wins the 31st running of the Grand National, an annual 4-mile steeplechase horse race run at Aintree, near Liverpool, England.

–On March 17, Oxford defeats Cambridge by three lengths in the already famed Boat Race on the Thames. The Dark Blues set a course record of 20 minutes and 4 seconds on the 4.2-mile course. It was their ninth consecutive victory in the race that dates back to 1829.

–On June 5 Fenian, a two year-old, wins the third running of the Belmont Stakes, held in Jerome Park (located then in Westchester County, but has since been claimed as the northern Bronx). Fenian’s owner? August Belmont, the race’s namesake.

–June 15: Irish-born heavyweight Mike McCoole, who already owns a saloon in St. Louis, defeats Tom Allen on a 9th-round DQ. McCoy is the world’s top fighter.

–Tom Morris, known as “Young Tom Morris,” wins The Open (a.k.a. The British Open) for the second year in a row. The year before, at age 17, he’d become the youngest winner in the event’s history (and still is). Morris was born at St. Andrew’s, where his pops (same name) was the head greenskeeper and himself had won four Open championships. You can practically hear Mike Tirico whispering this info into your ear.

–November 6: You know this one. Rutgers defeats Princeton 6-4 in front of approximately 100 spectators in New Brunswick, N.J. One week later Princeton returns the favor, winning 8-0. The Ivy League school is named national champions. Even then, with only two teams, college football courted controversy.

SPORTSYEAR

A few hours after Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the coronavirus and the sports world tilted off its axis, I hatched the idea for a daily column (or ESPN segment) that would educate viewers on the modern history of sport. For a few reasons: 1) first, I felt as if I had so much to learn and that I can’t be the only one and 2) If there’s one thing ESPN and SI and The Athletic, etc., desperately need this minute, it’s content.

I reached out to a few folks. Interest in the project was not exactly animated. And you may not be, either. Twenty years ago I worked on a series of sports books for a buddy of mine, Jim Buckley. They were aimed at teens and the idea was an annotated history of the 20th century in sports. Jim let me do the year 1900-1940 and I came away gobsmacked. History is fun! And I learned a lesson we all should know by now: It’s all been done.

Yesterday at my blue-collar job a fellow inmate employee dropped a term I’d never heard: the Dunning-Kruger Effect. To define, it is “cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.”

In other words, ignorance is bliss.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!

Anyway, as my co-worker explained, the Dunning-Kruger Effect has the postulate of “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.” How much more you need to learn. I see a lot of Dunning-Kruger Effect happening at MAGA rallies, at Trump pressers, and also on Sports Twitter where people who cannot name more than three NBA players before Bird and Magic feel confident throwing around GOAT accolades. So I thought, Why not attack the Dunning-Kruger Effect right here, while we all have a little time?

We’ll start with the year 1869, not because that’s the first year of modern sports but because it’s the first year that sports began to matter in the USA. One thing I read while beginning my research that intrigued me: a good origin point for modern sports is 1830. Why? That’s the year the lawnmower was invented. Makes sense when you think about it.

We may begin today, may be tomorrow. We’ll see what time allows.

Cuomo Is Not A ______

We found this on the home page of The Arizona Republic this morning. Maybe someone is very incompetent. Or maybe someone just wanted to slander someone at CNN who often takes shots at President Trump. If you click on the sponsored content, it’s actually about Chris Cuomo‘s CNN colleague, Don Lemon. But to think, of all the CNN prime-time anchors you could write a story like this about (and how is someone still being with his or her partner even news, by the way), to use the one person who’s actually married to a female.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

” A Lot Of Death”

By this time tomorrow the number of Americans who will have died from COVID-19 in the past five weeks will have doubled the total who died at Pearl Harbor (2,403) and in 9/11 (2,996) combined. And the weirdest thing is that President Donald Trump is still making this all about him.

In just the past five days:

Thursday: “Did you know I was number one on Facebook?”

Friday:

“I want to come way under the models (a reference to the casualty projections). The professionals did the models. I was never involved in a model… at least this kind of model.”

Rimshot! At the coronavirus presser.

After Pearl Harbor: “A day that will live in infamy…” –FDR

After 9/11: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.” — GWB

During COVID-19: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” –DJT

Frank Bruni’s column in this morning’s New York Times examines Trump’s dearth of a soul. Myself, I’ve found there are two types of original recipe MAGA types remaining. Those who are so far lost that they’ll still not abandon him and those who simply say, “I don’t listen to the news any more,” because obviously that’s easier than saying, “I was wrong.”

I used the quote from this weekend as the hed here because it’s so Trump. In a moment that requires an artful use of language, the President reverts to his 3rd-grade level vocabulary. This is what you voted for, America.

Pandemic Playlist

In 1983, kids in America knew about the Red Rockers while kids in Phoenix also were aware of the Red Rocker (Dave Pratt)

Has someone produced one of these yet? Here’s our incipient effort:

  1. The Air That I Breathe …………….. The Hollies
  2. Miracle Drug……………………………… U2
  3. Keep Your Hands To Yourself…… Georgia Satellites
  4. Alone Again, Naturally…………….. Gilbert O’Sullivan
  5. China…………………………………………. Red Rockers
  6. Doctor, Doctor………………………….. Thompson Twins
  7. Masquerade……………………………… Berlin
  8. Love Is Like Oxygen……………….. Sweet

Help us out here. Contribute to the playlist…

Doubling Down on Dowd

Two terrific columns by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times in the past five days. Late last week, she visited (via Skype or FaceTime or some such gizmo) Larry David, for whom Shelter At Home is a lifestyle decision, for a breezy conversation about quarantining (he probably has compiled enough notes in the past month to fill Season 11) and Curb.

Kushner: “It’s OUR stockpile”

Then on Sunday, she put on a HAZMAT suit and took out the industrial-strength radioactive flamethrower to torch the Trump presidency, its response to this crisis, and to its insipid and cruel choice to put Jared K. in charge (“He Went To Jared”). Kushner may be Jewish, but he’s the perfect Nazi.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (With TCM)

Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd and some yokel who can tell his friends he had a scene in one of the iconic films of the past 50 years

Between sundown Saturday and noon Sunday —now, we’re not proud of this, but we’re not exactly ashamed, either — we watched four films, plus intros and outs, on Turner Classic Movies: Targets (1968), The Last Picture Show (1971), Address Unknown (1944) and Mrs. Miniver (1942). Observations, epiphanies and random thoughts to follow:

Targets, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, was somewhere between a student film and a first effort. Bogdanovich was the beneficiary of a deal between infamous director Roger Corman and the prince of terror films, Boris Karloff. Five years earlier Karloff had starred in an awful film, The Terror, directed by Corman (also starring an unknown Jack Nicholson). Because the film never earned $150,000, Karloff did not receive his deferred $15,000 fee. So Corman approached Karloff and said that if he’d give him two more days of shooting, he’d get the money. Karloff agreed.

Bogdanovich plays a young screenwriter trying to persuade Karloff to appear in one last film, which he wrote

Corman told his protege, Bogdanovich, then 29, that he had Karloff. Now all he needed was a script. So Bogdanovich and his wife, Polly Platt, came up with a goof. A film that begins with Karloff watching The Terror in the screening room, pronouncing it awful, and declaring that he’d never make another picture. Then Bogdanovich crossed this subplot with the story of a freeway shooter, which he says he took from the tower shooter one year earlier in Austin, Texas, though it’s impossible to see this film without being reminded of the JFK assassination.

A great film? Not quite. But it has shades of Tarantino (of course it’s the other way around) and it gave enough people enough confidence in Bogdanovich to let him make his masterpiece, only three years later.

–I’d never seen The Last Picture Show in full until a year ago and now I’ve seen it twice. It fully deserved its eight Oscar nominations (Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman each won in the Supporting Actor/Actress categories, and deservedly so). Between the black-and-white footage, the whistling wind, the desolate prairie and the Hank Williams tunes, Bogdanovich perfectly captures the bleakness of a dying north Texas town. He also got really lucky with casting (not sure if he or a different casting director deserves a cookie here): unknowns Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Ellen Burstyn give career-making performances, while Cloris Leachman shows chops you never quite saw on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ben Johnson is simply incredible. You won’t see a finer performance anywhere.

Curiously enough, the production designer here is Polly Platt, Bogdanovich’s wife. But during the shoot she lost her husband to the film’s ingenue, Shepherd, who was 20 at the time. Over the next few years Shepherd would date both Bogdanovich and Elvis Presley (she’s a Memphis native), ultimately choosing the former b/c The King was too reliant on drugs. Final note: Shepherd landed the part after Bogdanovich and Platt saw Shepherd on the cover of Glamour while waiting in a checkout line and Platt said, “That’s Jacy (Shepherd’s character).”

–Like Targets, I’d never heard of Address Unknown, a bold and ballsy film about Nazi brainwashing that was released in the midst of World War II. Eddie Mueller put it on Noir Alley for two reasons, as he would state after th film aired: One, because he’ll never pass up an opportunity to show off the work of director William Cameron Menzies (the man who was responsible for all the imagery you remember from Gone With The Wind) and two, because the film is so relevant today.

Yes, Eddie went there and good for him. On a weekend after Jared Kushner all but Seig, Heil!’ed his father-in-law, it needed to be said. The film, like Mueller’s comment, has the temerity to show Nazis to be every bit as Fascist and awful as you’d think, but it also takes a moment to explain from whence their mindset sprang. This isn’t just an “All Nazis are evil” film. It’s an examination of how and why they got there. If you ever get a chance to see this film, do so. It’s artistically shot, in the stark manner of Metropolis, but it’s also a gripping story.

The title won’t make sense to you until the final scene, by the way.

–Finally, we end with an MH favorite, Mrs. Miniver. It won eight Oscars in 1943, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Greer Garson). A few notes: 1) Garson’s husband is played by Walter Pidgeon, the spitting image of Don Draper. Hollywood sensed their on-screen perfection as a couple, and paired them in eight films together (quite like William Powell and Myrna Loy). However, a year after this film was released, Garson would actually marry the tall man in the photo above, Richard Ney, who played her son Vin and was 12 years younger, 2) Garson’s acceptance speech at the Oscars was 5 1/2 minutes long, still the longest in the show’s history, and it instigated the move to put a time limit on acceptance speeches, 3) Again, this film was released in 1942, when the outcome of the war was still much in doubt. There’s a moving scene in the film in which the title character tries to provide comfort to an injured German soldier. He refuses, and brags about how the Germans destroyed Rotterdam in less than a day and killed 30,000 innocent. He’s proud about it and predicts that the Nazis will do the same to England. She slaps him in the face, but unlike a modern film she doesn’t bust out a can of whupass (even though she has his gun). Only minutes later the scene is played for one of the film’s best laughs after Mr. Miniver brags about how brave he was during the Dunkirk evacuation and frets that it must have been so boring for her to be home and doing nothing.

Four great films, one long weekend on TCM. Oh, and Ben Mankiewicz is moving into “national treasure” territory.

Classic REM (Cont.)

On successive summer nights in 1985, I saw REM (in a theater in downtown Phoenix) and Tom Petty (at an outdoor pavilion off I-10 in what is now just south of Ahwatukee). We had no idea how spoiled we were.

The show above, I believe filmed in Germany, took place less than two months later. If you were listing REM’s most lyrically pleasing songs, I’d put these two atop the list. Though, as you can see here, “Fall On Me”, which would not appear until the following album, Life’s Rich Pageant (1986), was still very much a work in progress live. Something that makes each tune special: Mike Mills’ backing vocals. Also, Michael Stipe’s inimitable voice never gets enough credit. No one sounds quite like him; Mills’ ethereal vocals are a perfect complement.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

Starting Five

Burn, Baby, Burn

Because we watched the final episode of this season’s Curb Your Enthusiasm this week, along with the most recent episode of Better Call Saul, we spotted a little theme. Businesses going up in flame. Set on fire by someone who works there. Both businesses, by the way, are side businesses.

Hasta la vista, Los Pollos Hermanos. Shalom, Latte Larry’s.

The final scene of the season from Curb, by the way? How brilliant was that. They built an entire season around that payoff. Spite House!

Cold Comfort

A story in The New York Times details how the USNS Comfort, which sailed to New York City under the auspices of relieving the toll on hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, only has 20 patients. Twenty! The ship has 1,000 beds.

Apparently, the ship not only will not take coronavirus patients, but it lists 49 other conditions that, if a patient checks one of those boxes, would render a potential patient unqualified. If only it were that easy to be refused by the military during a draft.

How does this happen?

Doctors, Nurses And The Wedding Singer

A tune from Adam Sandler on the pandemic heroes…

REM-ember A Classic

Early REM is the best REM. This is from the spring of ’84, when the airwaves were being bombarded by Def Leppard and Madonna. Prince, Bruce and Night Ranger would own the summer. It would be another year before I began to discover the foursome from Athens.

Revisiting The Astros Scandal

Not in the face. Everywhere else, sure, but not in the face

Listen, it was already a crappy year before coronavirus happened. Kobe died. The Astros cheated (for three consecutive seasons, most likely). A Korean movie won all the Oscars (it’s been the year of Parasite and a pathogen, both from Asia).

But we could get one thing right. Rob Manfred could strip the Astros of their 2017 World Series championship. Remember, only about seven weeks ago as we were hearing Important People say that you can’t rewrite history? No, you can’t, but you can still punish people. And you can deal with unexpected hurdles when they arise.

There may not be a 2020 World Series champion and you know what? The Earth will continue spinning. So why not allow that there’s no 2017 World Series champion, either.

Then again, I just thought about this: the coronavirus has saved a lot of current Astros from being beaned in the past month, hasn’t it.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

Starting Five

Save Dr. Fauci!

Don’t know if these reports are overblown, but CNN has a story posted this morning that reads “Dr. Anthony Fauci Forced To Beef Up Security As Death Threats Increase.”

To begin with, the “Anthony” in the hed is rather superfluous, no? Are there other Dr. Fauci types out there in the public realm? Second, “increase?!?” Why were there any in the first place?

Could it be that MAGA Nation loathes Dr. Fauci for making Donald Trump look bad (over… and over… and over again)? It’s one of the great rarely spoken truths about the Trump Virus: he has, for a large swath of this nation, legitimized ignorance. Made folks proud of their stupidity, or their inability to grasp grammar (while arguing on Twitter… don’t enter an auto race if you don’t know how to shift gears), or to understand how government works, etc.

MAGA really stands for Make Ignorance Great Again and I know that doesn’t work as an acronym, but that’s kind of the point with these people, now isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid as long as they believe in it.

Labor Pains

A record 6.6 MILLION Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (we are not among them), which more than doubles what Department of Labor officials were expecting. There’s been a lot of that going around lately, hasn’t there?

A quick editorial (as if there’s ever anything more to this site): If times are tough, we get it. File for unemployment. Sadly, though, our experience, and this is anecdotal, we’re not saying EVERYONE (hoping this staves off a letter from a younger loyal reader), is that most younger adults view the government as its rich uncle. They’ll take a side job and still file for unemployment. Or earn enough in six-plus months and then file for unemployment as their five-month vacation plan.

To us, that’s sad. And wrong. WE are the government (I know… I’m SO naive). America is not only a melting pot, but it’s a pot-luck supper. If you don’t bring a dish, you shouldn’t be at the party.

Again, I know we are living in difficult times, perhaps the most difficult of our lives. And if you’ve looked for work and cannot find any, then by all means. All I can say is that, Me, I’ll work almost any job before sitting at home and waiting for a check from Uncle Sam. And yes, I know the government screws us ten ways to Sunday and that we all pay into unemployment in our pay checks. I just hold out this naive thought that that money is for the desperate and the needy, not for the “I’m-drinking-quarantinis-and-watching-Netflix-til-this-all-blows-over” crowd.

And people call me a liberal…

From Playoffs To Layoffs

No Giannis for awhile

This week Sports Illustrated announced that it would be laying off 9% of its staff. Senior writer Chris Ballard, who had been with SI for at least 20 years, was one of those let go. Dig, it’s difficult to gin up much interest in sports web sites and publications when there are no sports taking place (it’s the reason I let my subscription to Conductors of Classical Music For Kids run out).

It’ll be interesting to see when all the other feet begin to drop at other sites. On the one hand (which you should have washed), you have a captive audience as like no other time. On the other, I don’t care much about sports these days, do you?

And ESPN, well, their approach has been far from revolutionary, from what I’ve seen (David Faber on CNBC this morning: “They’re airing stone-skipping on ESPN.” Not sure if he was or wasn’t being facetious, but it wouldn’t surprise me; Faber’s just salty cuz he cannot get in his daily swim at NYAC; I feel you, David).

By the way, my boss at my new job tells our co-workers that “he writes for ESPN.” This is the second person I’ve met this year who, when being told I wrote for Sports Illustrated, automatically turns it around in his head that I write for ESPN. That, my friends, is solid branding.

And also a sign of the times.

Smithy!

This week the Medium Happy Book Club suggests Random Harvest, by James Hilton. Released in 1941, it’s a wonderful love story revolving around a World War I—known then as The Great War… hey, Star Wars wasn’t originally known as “A New Hope,” either— British soldier (played in the 1942 film by Ronald Coleman, above), who experiences shell shock and loses all memory of his life before the war.

Then, in a fascinating twist, he falls and hits his head again, which renders him able to remember who he was, but nothing about the previous two years from Armistice Day through a very affectionate courtship and marriage (the lass is played by MH dream girl Greer Garson).

Without spoiling it (too much), and while thanking our cousin M. for turning us on to the tome, we’ll note that most readers likely will find the last page or two the most affecting. For us, it was different. It happens earlier in the book when our British soldier, fearing that he has badly misbehaved and embarrassed himself (he hadn’t), runs away from the lass and her friends as far as he can (to a distant town, in an idyllic setting). She tracks him down, however.

“There’s only this between us, Smithy,” she says. “I remember when you needed me, and I’m sure I’m not going to hang around when you don’t need me any more. But I thought you might need me today—that’s why I’m here.”

We could all use someone like that in our lives, no? Or, better yet, be someone like that.

Radiation Vibe

You may have read that Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of the band Fountains of Wayne, died of complications due to the coronavirus. He was 52. Schlesinger and fellow co-founder Chris Collingwood met as freshmen at Williams College (the Harvard of non-Ivy League schools) but would not found the band until a few years after they graduated.

The Nineties Alternative Nation favorites are best known for “Stacy’s Mom,” but here’s the hit for true believers. Schlesinger, who played bass, was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing “That Thing You Do,” from the eponymous Tom Hanks film from 1997 (so there’s your circular coronavirus linkage).