Another Great Song From Bobby Short

Bobby ShortPlease note: I am drinking a second beer tonight. That means I am well past my comfort zone for alcohol. What am I drinking? Our own great local Lagunitas’ The Censored Rich Copper Ale. It’s a damned fine beer.

On this day in 1254, it is possible that Marco Polo was born. There is a 1 in 365 chance. But he’s got to go somewhere and Wikipedia mistakenly put him on this day, so why not? The French astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly was born in 1736. He isn’t that important, but he was executed during The Terror, and that’s pretty cool for a scientist. More cool? Evariste Galois, who will definitely win the day on 25 October.

The author of The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper was born in 1789. Physicist Edward Bouchet was born in 1852. He was the first African American man to earn a PhD at an American college (Yale in his case). He spent most of his life as an educator but you know her must have been an amazing intellect, or he never would have received the degree. In a fundamental way, he is a great example of how racism harms all of us. But there is no doubt that he was a very great man.

Composer Horatio Parker was born in 1863. I don’t especially like him, but he writes nice stuff. Here is the suite that he created from his opera Fairyland:

Novelist Robert Benchley was born in 1889. I mention him only because he is a good example of the fact that America is a class society. Peter (this son) is really not that good a writer. Mystery writer Agatha Christie was born in 1890.

The great filmmaker Jean Renoir was born in 1894. Until today, I had no idea that he was the son of the painter. I’ve only ever seen his movies. And if you haven’t seen his movies, you really should. The following trailer of The Grand Illusion does provide some idea of his greatness. It is, after all, a 1937 film and it looks much more modern than that. On the other hand, it gives a totally skewed idea of what the film is about; it is really about class, or at least, that is always what strikes me.

Jacques Becker was born in 1906. I mention him only because he was Renoir’s assistant director. Co-writer of “Frosty the Snowman,” Walter E. Rollins was also born in 1906.

John Mitchell was born in 1913. He was a real villain as Attorney General under Nixon. But I love everything Nixon. Have I mentioned that I’ve written a number of puppet plays that involve the Nixon administration? But I’ve never included John Mitchell. I really should. I think he would shake things up. Awful people are always improved when they are presented as puppets.

And comedian Nipsey Russell was born in 1918.

Comedian Norm Crosby is 86 today. Most of his act was a series of malapropisms. When I was kid, I thought he was hilarious. Now, not so much. Actor Tommy Lee Jones is 67 and looks 86. And the great screenwriter and director Oliver Stone is 67 and looks about that old. In addition to his art, his politics are right on:

The day, however, belongs to the great singer Bobby Short who was born on this day in 1924. He was great, but I mostly love him just because of the songs that he sings. Unfortunately, it is hard to find much video of him. But here he is doing Cab Calloway’s “She’s Tall, She’s Tan, She’s Terrific”:

Happy birthday Bobby Short!

Jokes to Tell Grandma

This has been on my mind for some time. I come upon jokes now and then that are both amusing and sweet. And so I’ve been thinking that I should package them up as jokes you can tell at family gatherings. There is something else about the jokes. Most of the jokes I really like are very meta. For example, one of my favorite jokes is, “A priest, a rabbi, and a pastor walk into a bar and the bartender says, ‘What is this, a joke?'” I’m also very fond of quasi-intellectual jokes. For example, “Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?” Or the easier, “How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Fish!” These are not especially great jokes for most of my family. But more to the point, they are a little too clever for people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.

So I put together the following video with three of my favorite “sweet” jokes. Will pointed out that the sound is terrible. This is true. In fact, if you turn up the sound, you can hear the camera motor running. Maybe some day I will get an external mic that will work with the damned thing. Until then, I’m afraid that the technical quality of the videos is about the same as the my onscreen acting. But if anyone wants to loan their equipment or face, I am more than willing!


The following is Will’s kids’ favorite joke. It has long been on my list, but you can’t really do it alone:

Slightly Less Crazy Is Still Crazy

John BoehnerABC News reported this morning that Obama will not negotiate with Republicans over the Debt Ceiling. He said, “If we continue to set a precedent in which a president… is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not going to put—pay the bills unless you give us… what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.” Good for him. The problem is that he said the same thing last November and what did he do in December? He negotiated with the Republicans on the Debt Ceiling. So I’m not convinced and I can well see why the Republicans would think that the Debt Ceiling is a good bargaining strategy.

Of course, it is one thing to ask Obama to steal money from the poor and old. After all, he’s neither poor nor old! But asking him to destroy his signature legislative accomplishment? The thing he will be remembered for? His “legacy”? I don’t think so. What’s more, what exactly does Obamacare have to do with debt and the budget? It doesn’t make sense. Stealing money from grandma at least would do something (Very little!) about the debt. Obamacare actually saves money. So this newest Republican demand really is just the conservative issue du jour.

More than anything else, they want to win something. But they aren’t reasonable about it. In the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, there were a number of things they could have gotten that they claim to want. The biggest was that they could have screwed the poor and middle class by changing over to chained-CPI. But instead, they are like children. They don’t want to just make some progress in their goals. And they certainly don’t want to have to give up anything in exchange. So it’s extortion time! As Representative Dennis Ross said, “We have the opportunity of a lifetime. We have public sentiment, we have the facts and figures on our side and we have the leverage with the debt ceiling. Let’s put it all together and make it happen…” Every single thing he said there is false.

The Hill now reports that many in the House Republican caucus are freaking out, Angry House Republicans Demand Better Communication. Conservatives and centrists (whatever that means in the context of the modern Republican Party) are upset that Boehner and Cantor have allowed the “repeal Obamacare” fantasy to grow and fester. According to them, the problem started two months ago when Ted Cruz started pressing the House to defund the healthcare reform bill as a condition for raising the Debt Ceiling. The Republicans are complaining that their leadership didn’t push back and explain why that was a crazy idea.

That is rich! I don’t think that even the most “centrist” of Republicans can think that it would have helped the situation for Boehner to go before the cameras and explain that shutting down the government and defaulting on our debt was not only bad for the country but bad for the Republican Party. Over the last three years, there has been an big rise in the Republican belief that if they are only strong and true, they can do anything. So anything Boehner said that indicated that they couldn’t bring about their preferred policies through force of will would have been taken as proof that he was part of the problem. If only we could get Republicans to believe in fairies:

Do You Believe in Fairies?

I don’t doubt that there are a fair number of Republicans in the House who are now worried about what is coming. First, there is the issue that this whole thing could get out of control and that it could destroy the Republican Party. And second, there is the opportunity costs: if Republicans were acting rationally, they might actually be able to get some policy concessions they want. But I think it is a bit much to blame the situation on Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership. The problem is much bigger—bigger even than the Republican Party.[1] If these “centrist” Republicans want to look at a major villain here, they should look in the mirror. After all, the only difference between themselves and Ted Cruz is that he wants to crash the economy to end Obamacare and they want to crash the economy to end support of the poor.

[1] I continue to believe that the Democratic Party’s move to the right on economic issues has played a big role in turning “conservative” into “crazy.”