Sunday, October 30, 2016

Invitation to the Monster Mash-querade

Greetings! I, Professor Frank N. Stein, cordially invite you to a Hallowe'en celebration!

All our friends will be there, including my esteemed Transylvanian colleague, Dr. Acula, who has offered to mix his famous Bloody Marys, Bloody Caesars and blood orange cocktails--heavy on the blood.

The Wolfman will forage for food, the Beast with Five Fingers will perform piano favourites ("Ghost of a Chance," "Haunted Heart," "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You"), and Snow White"s wicked Queen is bringing poisoned apples for bobbing.

Of course, the Phantom of the Opera, the Invisible Man and the Incredible Shrinking Woman all will be present, but the Mummy has sent his regrets--says he is all wrapped up.

And at this very moment, the Three Weird Sisters from "Macbeth" are preparing their famous broth--eye of newt, swamp snake, bat's fur, worm's stinger, dragon's scales, lizard's leg, goat's bile--

Wait, we're out of goat's bile? Run next door and borrow a cup from the Harpies!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Please, let it be over!

The US election campaign, of course, which has become something like circling Dante's seven regions of hell.

What new surprise? First the "Hollywood Access" bus video, now the Weiner e-mails--who is writing this series?

David Brooks, who has been able to hold on to his sanity, says the two parties have achieved a "parity of sleaze," and on election day, he will write in, as president, one of the Chicago Cubs hitters. Good choice.

And FBI Director James Comey? Depending on who is elected president, he will either be appointed Attorney General or find himself checking license plates on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Friday, October 28, 2016

US Election Detritus

We are almost done with a US election campaign so nasty it would make even Frank Underwood cringe. But there are a few leftovers; to wit:

Have you noticed that Donald Trump always enters his rallies clapping, and that he continues to pound his palms vigorously for a very long time? It's like those contestants on "Wheel of Fortune," who appear drugged into non-stop clapping even when they've lost.

Chelsea Clinton, introducing a TV bio of her mother, described Hillary as "the most famous woman in the world." This may have come as a surprise to Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel and Beyonce.

Finally--Trump supporters are holding clinics to prepare poll watchers to guard against voter fraud on election day. This means heavy leaning on women, African-Americans, Latinos, white guys in skinny suits, and pretty well anyone not wearing a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap.

But, hey--only four years until 2020!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump TV

There is continuing speculation that, post-election, Donald J. Trump, whether President Trump or merely Citizen Trump (and where is Orson Welles when we need him?) may create his own television channel.

Our resident seer and TV critic has imagined the program lineup for DJTV, and here are some of the highlights:

"Locker Room Talk"-- Raunchy remarks and bawdy badinage, sponsored by Tic-Tacs.

"The Donald Trump Diet Plan & Personal Manliness" -- Become gorgeous enough to be Miss Universe, tough enough to take on Joe Biden.

"Hair Styling with Mr. Donald" --You thought Warren Beatty was hot in "Shampoo"? Just wait!

"Grope for the Top" -- Contestants battle to see who is attractive enough for the boss to grope.

"Where Are They Now?" -- Follow Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani down memory lane.

"Getting Even" -- Successful Suits & Libel Litigation, or: "Taking On the Scum."

Sign up now, for Truly Towering Television entertainment!  It is going to be so great!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mercer's Autumn

Johnny Mercer may have written some of the most optimistic song lyrics ("Accentuate the Positive," "Too Marvellous for Words"), but he also--with Harold Arlen--wrote the two best-known crying-in-my-beer saloon songs ("Blues in the Night," "One for My Baby").

And Mercer wrote the most elegiac end-of-summer songs: "Early Autumn," "Autumn Leaves," and, at the very end, "When October Goes."

The lyrics for "When October Goes," perhaps the last Mercer wrote, were found by his widow. She gave them to Barry Manilow, who set them to an appropriately melancholy melody. The song may have been recorded more than once, but the only recording we know is on Rosemary Clooney's album of Mercer songs. Worth a search. "When October Goes"--song of the month.

To hear Mercer, who was also a fun singer, in a cheerier mood, Google his name. Even in October, you can accentuate the positive.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sing Along with Don

The Committee to elect Donald J. Trump has announced a new campaign song:  "Putin On the Ritz."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today's Play List

"Here's That Rainy Day."

"Stormy Weather."

"The Day That the Rain Came Down."

"Pennies from Heaven."

"Singin' in the Rain."

"I'm Just a Fella with an Umbrella."

"Till the Clouds Roll By."

"Splish Splash."

"Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella."

"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."

"The Wind and the Rain in Your Hair."

"Stormy Monday (Seems Like Tuesday's Just as Bad)."

"Famous Blue Raincoat."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nobel Laurels for Mr. Tambourine Man

Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. It was thought the fix was in for ABBA, but Sara Darius, speaking for the Swedish Academy, said the prize went to Dylan because "he's such a dynamite songwriter." (Little Swedish humor there.)

Some expressed surprise that, for the first time, the award in literature had gone to a songwriter; but it was pointed out that many previous laureates also had written songs. Who can forget T.S. Eliot's "Let's have a Tiddley at the Milk Bar," Thomas Mann's "Beer Barrel Polka," or Saul Bellow's "Louie, Louie"? It has been whispered that Alice Munro was an uncredited co-lyricist on Hank Snow's "Music Makin' Mama from Memphis."

Most, however, expressed delight at Dylan's recognition. Praise was given by Dylan fans from Barack Obama to Stephen King. Salman Rushdie said, "I intend to spend the day playing 'Mr. Tambourine Man'."

Philip Roth, however, will spend the day playing his own recording of "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues." Back-up vocals by Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates.

Next year? We're pulling for Leonard Cohen.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Doing the Turkey Trot

With Thanksgiving here, and soon to come for our American cousins, it's time to practice our footwork for the traditional holiday dance--the Turkey Trot.

The Turkey Trot was introduced by John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning, dancers who also gave us the Grizzly Bear. Danced to ragtime, it was enormously popular in the first ten years of the twentieth century, even though it was considered "immoral," and some dancers were charged with "disorderly conduct." Then the foxtrot came along, and the Turkey Trotters were toast. Or roast.

Until now.

Are you ready? Here's how it goes: arms around each other's waist (they called it "hugging") with feet far spread, hop sideways four times on one leg, and then four times on the other. Do a few scissor steps, and fast trot down the floor.

This weekend, fifty of the world's most glamorous gobblers and goblettes will present the classic Turkey Trot on "Dancing With the Stars"!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bill Gilmour's Pronunciation Guide

Bill Gilmour came into the announcers' lounge, something between a walk-in closet and a telephone booth, and grabbed our attention. "Guys," he said, "I have found that the word 'garage' should be pronounced to rhyme with 'barrage'!'

We were amazed, because for years, we had been saying "gradge," as in, "Get the car outta the gradge."

Professionals that we were, we learned then to say "temperature" instead of "tempachurr," "interesting" rather than "innaresting," "engine" instead of "ingin," and "Wednesday" instead of "Wedunsday." We are still wrestling with "February," but then, who isn't?

And for those words or names that are really tough, like Aug San Suu Kyi and Jovan Olafioye, Bill had the solution: "Just flash your hand across your mouth," he said. "Listeners will say, 'Hear that, Irma? I think something went wrong with the radio'."

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nobel Prize for Bagels

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics to a trio of physicists working at different U.S. universities, although all three are British.

The award-winning research, by David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, was in the field of topology, which deals with the effects of various forms of stress on matter.

To illustrate their work to journalists, most of whom are still trying to understand how gravity works, Thors Hans Hansson, a member of the Nobel committee, produced a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a pretzel. He demonstrated that no matter what he did to these baked goods, the number of holes in them would remain the same.

Unless, of course, he ate them. Journalists applauded, and asked if he could repeat the demonstration, using a pizza, a po' boy and a cheeseburger.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Calling Uncle Sigmund

Recommended reading for our age, following the Brexit vote in Britain, Colombian voters' rejection of an end to a fifty-year war, and the lemming-like rush to Donald Trump: "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," by Sigmund Freud, described as "the pioneer study of the death instinct in man.'

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Peanuts, Ice Cream, Bagels & Lox

Consulting the "Writer's Almanac" and "A Book of Days for the Literary Year," we find that October 2 is the birthday of Wallace Stevens, writer of memorable if impenetrable poetry ("The Emperor of Ice Cream"), and who, like composer Charles Ives, never gave up his day job at an insurance company.

It is also the birthday of Graham Greene, whose many novels and essays and plays deserve re-reading. Greene was frequently nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but there was one (unnamed) member of the Swedish Academy who had taken a vow never to allow Greene the honor. Greene did achieve a dubious sort of fame when, as a film critic, he was sued by the nine-year-old Shirley Temple.

And it was October 2, 1950, that the comic strip "Peanuts" first appeared. What springs to mind is a Downtown East Side performance of the musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," with the young Brent Carver of Cranbrook in the title role, a few years before he went to Broadway and won two Tony Awards.

Finally, we are at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We want to join the celebrations, but we're reminded of a day when we were lunching with Bill Phillips at the now sadly vanished Rubin's Delicatessen. Gerry Altman appeared behind us, and said, "It doesn't matter how much bagels and lox you eat--it won't make you Jewish."

Happy New Year anyway.