Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Birthday, Alice!

April 30, 1877, was the birthdate of Alice B. (for Babette) Toklas.

Celebrate! Bake some brownies!

Comedians in the Post-Lenny Bruce Era

The shade of Lenny Bruce may be enjoying a sardonic grin, now that stand-up comics can get away with routines on network TV far beyond the schtick that got Bruce booted out of tiny clubs. George Carlin used to riff on "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV." Now there are no words you can't say on TV. In fact, there are writers especially hired to add more of those words.

Most recent--and most entertaining--example: Michelle Wolf's 19-minute monologue at the White House correspondents dinner. True, some of those attending might have had a more comfortable Saturday evening by staying home and watching old "Honeymooners" re-runs. And indeed, while Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were sent in to bite the bullet, not all White House stalwarts were present. Mike Pence said, "I didn't feel it would be appropriate viewing for Mother and I."

Some of the event's organizers, and some journalists, felt compelled to apologize for Ms. Wolf's performance, mainly for things they didn't hear. Jimmy Kimmel's retort: "Next time, hire a juggler."

Meanwhile, there's a burst of activity at Democratic headquarters, preparing for 2020: "Jimmy Kimmel for President! Michelle Wolf, VP!" Or vice versa.

Think how much better the debates would be.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Happy Birthday, Melania

Donald Trump confessed on "Fox and Friends" that he has been "too busy" to look for a birthday present for the First Lady.

"But I'll make it up to her," he said. "I may make Melania Attorney General."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Naming the Prince

The arrival of a new Royal has British bookmakers busy taking bets on the infant prince's possible name.

Of course, as the baby was born on April 23, both St. George's Day and William Shakespeare's birthday, he might be named George or William, if those names were not already taken.

Odds-on favorite for the no-name-as-yet prince is Arthur, followed by James, Albert and Philip. Way down the list are Wayne, Tarquin, Boris and Donald.

The names currently most popular for male infants are Liam, Noah, Oliver and Logan. Apparently, none of these is in the running.

Meghan Markle suggested the name of one of the characters on "Suits" might be nice--"Harvey, perhaps, or Lewis." Prince Harry said, "Let's give the kid a name that's tough, like Ving or Rocky. Or a pop star name, like Jay-V or Ice Cube or Prince. Hey, how about that? Prince Prince."

If you're placing a bet on the baby's name, and feel lucky, try Leroy. That would pay off at 500/1.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Shakespeare and St. George

"For Harry, England and St. George!" Henry V cries, to rouse his troops before the battle of Agincourt. And it is our call today, April 23, St. George's day, the day on which we honor the patron saint of England, slayer of dragons, rescuer of maidens.

It is also the presumed birthday of William Shakespeare, who exited this world on the same date, fifty-two years later. Apparently Shakespeare had a flair for drama.

A similar display of mortal showmanship was given by Mark Twain, born in 1835 on a night when Halley's comet flashed thru the sky. Twain predicted he would die the next time the comet appeared, and in 1910, he did. (Next sighting of the comet is due in 2061.)

St. George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday--write a sonnet; take a dragon to lunch (or rescue a maiden).

And a good morning to those still coming in on the Sun Run.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Prize in Every Box

A past week of prizes--the Pulitzers and the Glenn Gould. The Glenn Gould Prize went to the majestic soprano Jessye Norman, whom some of us were fortunate to hear at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre a generation ago. She sang the Strauss "Four Last Songs," which has become her signature work, but she also sang some cabaret songs, giving a clever Dietrich impression.

Much excitement over the Pulitzer Prize in music going to rapper Kendrick Lamar for his album "Damn." it has been noted that he is the first pop artist to receive the prize. The jazz breakthrough came in 1997, when Wynton Marsalis was awarded the Pulitzer for his oratorio "Blood on the Fields." Then, in 2007, Ornette Coleman was rewarded for "Sound Grammar."

The most notorious incident involving the music award came in 1967, when the administrators of the prizes refused the judges' recommendation that it be given to Duke Ellington. The judges, including critic Winthrop Sergeant, resigned in fury, but Ellington remained cool--at least, in public---saying, "Fate has been kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to become famous too young." Ellington was then sixty-seven. He was awarded a citation, posthumously--the same belated honor given to George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Williams. Bob Dylan was still around to receive his.

Not all winners have accepted the prize. Among those who said, "Thanks, but no thanks" was William Saroyan, awarded the Pulitzer for drama in 1940. He declared that "commerce should not judge the arts."

But knowing writers, we bet there were moments later when he wished he had taken the $1,000 prize. (It's now $15,000.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Imaginary Reviews of James Comey's Book

"Really caught the essence of this wonderful President, a man we have all come to know and love for his caring ways" -- VP Mike Pence.

"Big Jim is a real stand-up guy. Just wish I was that tall. Or half as tall." -- Jeff Sessions.

"Delightful! So full of entertaining stories! What adventures Donny has had! Laughed and laughed!"  -- Melania.

"Generally don't read anything unless it's by Tom Clancy, but this book really is the bee's knees. (Do people still say that?)" -- General John F. Kelly.

"Comey not only delivers a great read, he's also a very hot guy. Hubba hubba! (Do people still say that?)" -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"Loved it! Syriaously! Ha ha! Little play on words there. And people say I don't have a sense of humor." -- D. Trump.

"Can't wait for the movie." H. Clinton.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April, one more time

"Oh, to be in England, now that April's there"

Robert Browning was in Florence, where he lived from 1846 to 1861, when he wrote that.

April has stirred the spirits of many songwriters; thus we have "Lost April," "April Showers," "I Remember April," "April Love," and--perhaps best known of all, thanks to Thad Jones's great arrangement for the Count Basie orchestra--Vernon Duke's "April in Paris."

Who can forget seeing the Basie band in Mel Brooks's "Blazing Saddles" playing "April in Paris" in the middle of a desert?

As the Count liked to say, "one more once."

Browning would agree.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Do Not Be a Gowk

April 1, 2018, is both Easter Sunday and April Fool's Day--the first time this curious juxtaposition has occurred since 1945.

The origin of Easter celebrations is well known, but the background of April Fool's (or All Fools) Day is more confused. It may have sprung from the Roman Cerealia, held at the beginning of April, commemorating the rather nasty trick played on Proserpina and her mother, Ceres, by Pluto.

In India, tricks are played as part of the March 31 Holi Festival. In France, an April fool is un poisson d'avril--literally, a poor fish. And in Scotland, a person successfully gulled this day is a gowk, or cuckoo.

Be on guard. Don't be a gowk. And Happy Easter.