Monthly Archives: July 2016

R.I.P.

1930-2016

Marni Nixon, 1930-2016

You certainly don’t know the face.

And you probably don’t know the name.

But you surely know the voice.

Or, more properly, The Voice.

You see, when Deborah Kerr was singing wonderfully about what she does whenever she feels afraid in The King and I that wasn’t Deborah Kerr singing about what she does when she feels afraid in The King and I. It was Marni Nixon.

And when the very pretty Natalie Wood was singing that she feels pretty in West Side Story, that wasn’t Natalie Wood singing about feeling pretty. It was Marni Nixon.

And when Audrey Hepburn sang about how loverly it would be to have a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, in My Fair Lady, that wasn’t Audrey Hepburn singing about having a better life. It was Marni Nixon.

Hollywood likes to make musicals but there aren’t that many people in Hollywood who can both sing and act. For some of the greatest musicals, the answer to this problem was to hire Marni Nixon, who would step in and sing the lead roles for the non-singing stars. In addition to these roles, Ms. Nixon sang Margaret O’Brien’s role in the 1948 movie Big City and the following year’s The Secret Garden and even hit the high notes for Marilyn Monroe in the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” In addition to singing Natalie Wood’s role in West Side Story she also sang in one song for Rita Moreno. She was even the voice of the angels that Ingrid Bergman heard in the movie Joan of Arc.

Yes, Marni Nixon really was the voice of the angels.

 

A Newspaper Lost in the Woods (or at the Convention)

On Thursday night Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination to run for president of the United States. It’s the first time a major party has ever nominated a woman.

That’s a pretty big deal. Even if you don’t like Hillary, it’s still a pretty big deal.

If you’re a woman, it’s a pretty big deal.

If you’re a parent of daughters, it’s a pretty big deal.

If you just respect women, it’s a pretty big deal.

And her speech? That – at least in The Curmudgeon’s opinion – was a pretty great speech: well-written and effectively delivered.

So how did the Philadelphia Inquirer react to this pretty big deal? By assigning staff writer Elizabeth Wellington to write about it.

About the speech? Nah. About Hillary’s threads.

Let’s see where Ms. Wellington goes with this (and because appearances clearly matter to Ms. Wellington, The Curmudgeon is presenting her story without correcting a number of pretty glaring misteaks in the writing. Yes, The Curmudgeon knows, he just made one: he doesn’t want Wellington to feel all alone). The article starts:

Hillary Clinton took the Democratic National Convention stage in a crisp, white and well-fitted pantsuit. Her perfect Florence Henderson hair was freshly cut, frosted, styled and feathered.

 Her earrings sparkled. 

A vision of loveliness!

And not just mother but daughter as well.

Clinton was introduced by her daughter, Chelsea, who cut a sleek figure – despite the fact she gave birth less than six weeks ago – in a perfect-for-the-occasion bright red sheath. In this case, red was likely the color of love for her mom rather than a reference to the Republican party. Her cheeks were blushed.

 Okay, that’s the description, but after every major speech comes the instant analysis.

Clinton loves monochromatic looks. She’s worn nearly every color of the rainbow. On Wednesday night she stunned in cobalt blue two-piece number. But it’s rare we see her in all white. White is hue that’s both soft and strong. But it was appropriate: Her acceptance speech was a coming out of sorts. Clinton’s white pantusit is telling us she has arrived.

 This is surreal. A dream come true. 

A dream come true!

Since fashion has become so important in politics, it’s become standard, if not expected, for women who take the politcal stage to release the name of their designer to the fashion press.

Wait: fashion has become important in politics? Since when – and why didn’t The Curmudgeon get the memo?

And more:

But Clinton is setting precedent for herself as the first female nominee of the Democratic Party buy not releasing the name of the designer. I could guess that it’s her go to designer Nina McLemore. But it could also be Armani or Oscar de la Renta. But perhaps she’s saying that people should focus on her message, not her clothes.

Not much chance of that happening at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Democratic Convention: On the Other Hand…

When it comes to oratory it’s hard to beat the current Democratic Party when it can run out onto the stage Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama, all of whom, their politics aside, are terrific speakers. Today’s Republicans have no one, at least not as far as The Curmudgeon knows, in their league.

But there was more. Michelle Obama was, surprisingly, terrific.

And Hillary Clinton – even more so and even more surprisingly. The Curmudgeon didn’t know she had it in her, but that was an outstanding, exquisitely written, wonderfully delivered speech.

Nine More Ways the Democrats Said “Don’t Take Us Seriously” on Day Two of Their Convention

  1. Meryl Streep
  2. Lena Dunham
  3. Elizabeth Banks
  4. Tony Goldwyn (who?)
  5. Andra Day (who?)
  6. Alicia Keys
  7. Debra Messing
  8. Erika Alexander
  9. America Ferrara
Really?

Really?

Four Ways the Democrats Said “Don’t Take Us Seriously” On Day One of Their Convention

  1. Sarah Silverman
  2. Eva Longoria
  3. Paul Simon
  4. Demi Lovato

Gender Politics: Meanwhile, Over in England (part 2 of 2)

Did you notice a few weeks ago that when two women, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May, were announced as the finalists to become the leaders of England’s Conservative Party and therefore the successor to resigning Prime Minister David Cameron, Leadsom said she was the better choice for the job because…

She’s a mother.

She said that. Yes she did.

Specifically, she said that being a mother “means you have a very real stake in the future of our country.”

Leadsom immediately denied saying it but then twisted herself in knots by explaining that it was “truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said. I am disgusted.”

Okay, let’s play along with Leadsom for a moment: it was the opposite of what she said? Does that mean she said that being a mother made her a less-qualified candidate?

Surely that’s not what she means.

The reporter stuck by her story and even released a recording of the relevant part of the interview. In it, Leadsom said:

I don’t really know Theresa very well. But I am sure she will be really, really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t,’ because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mom means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. You know, she possibly has nieces, nephews, you know, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.

So when Leadsom said “It’s the exact opposite of what I said,” she may have meant “It’s the exact opposite of what I meant” but it was exactly what she said.

So where does that leave us?

There are still people who think women who hold public office are shortchanging their families.

And there are still people who think women of a certain age don’t think clearly and aren’t fit to make decisions at certain times of the month.

And there are still people who think that women have neither the temperament nor the good judgment to be heads of state.

And now, when it seems that we’re finally starting to leave such nonsense behind, a female candidate, of all people, has introduced another stupid and irrelevant reason for people to declare some women less suited for public office.

Leadsom should be ashamed of herself – and apparently she is: the response to her comment was overwhelmingly negative and she withdrew from the race.

It probably won’t be much of a loss for the people of Great Britain, who deserve better.

Gender Politics: Ivanka (part 1 of 2)

The Curmudgeon has never had much interest in anything the relatives of candidates for public office have to say. He didn’t care that Billy Carter was an idiot, didn’t care that the Bush daughters had a wild streak, and would have been thoroughly uninterested in anything Hillary Clinton had to say back in 1992 when her husband was running for president. He also has no interest in hearing what political and campaign functionaries have to say – people like professional political consultants and party officials and party and candidate spokespeople. That explains why he had no interest in hearing Ivanka Trump’s speech at the Republican convention last Thursday night, whether she was speaking as Donald Trump’s daughter or as an important member of his campaign staff (it was both – she’s a two-fer); he just doesn’t care. He read that she did quite well, and he’s happy for her and, as much he dislikes The Donald, is happy that she made her father proud.

But what didn’t please The Curmudgeon very much was opening his morning paper the following day to the headline

Ivanka Trump at the RNC: Great speech and great fashion

Seriously? A major political party gives a person – any person – an important slot in prime time during a national convention and the Philadelphia Inquirer comments on… her clothing?

This wasn’t a Hollywood red carpet event, but the Inquirer assigned a lifestyle reporter to write about Ms. Trump’s clothing.

Trump relayed this message beautifully, not just through her excellent speech, but through her look as well. She was styled perfectly, from her (probably) Keratin-ed hair, appled-cheeks and a smooth (Botox’d?)  forehead. But the best part of this look was the total affordability of her ensemble.  

Couldn’t you just vomit?

Putting aside the snarky, gratuitous, and even fatuous comment about what Ms. Trump may or may not have done to enhance her appearance, why in the world would the Inquirer assign a style reporter to write about what a convention speaker was wearing?

If it had been Donald, Jr. speaking the Inquirer wouldn’t have done it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed last week's Republican National Convention but the Philadelphia Inquirer neglected to inform its readers about who made his suit and tie.

House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed last week’s Republican National Convention but the Philadelphia Inquirer neglected to inform its readers about who made his suit and tie.

If it had been John McCain or Mitt Romney or George W. Bush speaking the Inquirer wouldn’t have done it.

Or if it had been Marco Rubio, John Kasich, or Lindsey Graham speaking the Inquirer wouldn’t have done it.

And it certainly didn’t assign a reporter to write about the fashions worn by Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Rudy Giuliani when they took their turns addressing the convention.

So you have to wonder: why in the world would the Inquirer choose to marginalize the major role a woman played at a national political convention by assigning a reporter to write about her clothing as if it was Melissa Rivers or Giuliana Rancid interviewing an Academy Award nominee walking down the red carpet and asking the inevitable question “Who are you wearing?”

As much as it annoys The Curmudgeon that candidates for public office keep forcing their spouses and children and political operatives on us, as if any of them matter even a little bit, the fact remains that Ms. Trump had a serious role at this convention and the Philadelphia Inquirer didn’t take her seriously and reduced her contribution to a lifestyle article describing the clothes she wore.

The Inquirer should be ashamed of itself.

The Trump Watch: Donnie Loves Chachi

For months The Donald told us he would turn the Republican convention into a riveting entertainment extravaganza, great television, including terrific celebrities, really, top-flight Hollywood stars.

And the best he could come up with was…Scott Baio?

Now THAT was entertainment!

Now THAT was entertainment!

And a soap opera actor, Antonio Sabato, Jr.?

A soap opera actor?

This is how The Donald delivers on his promises? Seeing Chachi standing on the stage, trying to sound like a grown-up when he just looked kind of lost without Joanie, made The Curmudgeon long even for Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.

On another convention subject, The Curmudgeon understands there’s no truth at all – none – to the vicious, liberal-fueled rumor – okay, his own idle musings – that the phrase “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” was removed from Melania Trump’s speech only at the last minute.

And speaking of Melania…every time The Curmudgeon sees that one photo of her that a lot of publications and web sites appear to be using, at first he thinks he’s looking at…Caitlyn Jenner.

Yikes!

The circus continues.

Okay:  which twin has the toni?

Okay: which twin has the toni?

Am I Caitlyn or Melania?  Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

Am I Caitlyn or Melania? Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

The Myth of the Liberal Media (part 5 of 5)

(This week The Curmudgeon is taking a look at the myth of the liberal media. On Monday he outlined what the issue is and looked at the degree to which newspapers and newspaper columnists are or are not biased toward the liberal perspective. On Tuesday he looked at newspaper endorsements and magazines. On Wednesday he considered television news and what he calls “opinion television.” Yesterday was devoted to talk radio and web sites. Today he concludes by looking at what he considers a special situation and offers a brief conclusion.)

A Special Category

 If there’s one semi-legitimate beef the right might have about the media it’s the accidental success and phenomenon of Jon Stewart and, to a lesser extent, Stephen Colbert, with their former Comedy Central programs.

Jon Stewart poses for a portrait in promotion of his forthcoming directorial and screenwriting feature debut "Rosewater" on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

Not exactly “the media” but not exactly not, either.

But you have to look at intent here. The Daily Show is on Comedy Central, a third-tier cable network “distinguished” by such swill as South Park and The Man Show and roasts of C-list “celebrities.” Comedy Central’s agenda is to make money by being funny and it has tried a lot of things to be funny over the years; some have been more successful than others. The original host of The Daily Show was Craig Kilborn, a former ESPN jock announcer whose comedy style might best be described as “snarky.” The show was moderately successful but Kilborn got a better offer from CBS to follow David Letterman and only then did Jon Stewart join the network. At first Stewart’s show was no more successful, but after The Daily Show’s commentaries on the stolen presidential election of 2000 and then the aftermath of the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001 Stewart somehow was elevated to a respected figure and the show’s popularity rose, as did his influence: the direct role in played in the cancellation of CNN’s Crossfire was an amazing exercise in influence. He had a strong supporting cast, more so in the beginning than in the later years, and the best of those supporters, Stephen Colbert, was given his own program on which he did essentially the same thing in a different way.

There is no evidence – not a hint – to suggest that someone set out to make a liberal comedy show and ended up producing The Daily Show. No, it was an attempt to be funny that stumbled along for a few years until it hit its stride. What some people forget, moreover, is that Fox News tried to create its own version of The Daily Show and failed. It introduced its 1/2 Hour News Hour in 2007 and the program was quickly found guilty of the biggest sin a comedy program can commit: it wasn’t funny. People didn’t watch and it was canceled after only 15 episodes. Does this mean conservatives aren’t funny? Of course not. Does it mean liberals conspired to bring about the program’s failure? Of course not. The first rule of comedy is to be funny, Stewart and Colbert were and the Fox News crew wasn’t, and that’s all there is to it. It’s unfortunate for conservatives but Stewart and Colbert are in no way part of “the media,” to be sure, but they were very, very influential. They’re both gone now, though, and you don’t hear much about their successors, do you? And do you know why? It’s simple: they’re not as funny, and that’s what matters – both to the network that airs them and to the people who choose to watch or not watch them.

 Conclusion

So where is this liberal bias in the media that those on the wrong end of the public discourse like to point to? Maybe it’s hiding in plain view, but The Curmudgeon, for one, can’t find it.

In fact, it looks like it’s the other way around: the conservative media appears to overwhelm the liberal media in the areas that arguably matter most: newspaper columns, newspaper endorsements, opinion television, and talk radio.

And when you think about it, who are the people doing all the complaining about the media?

Think.

It’ll come to you.

Ah, there it is.

The people who complain the most about the media are…Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and O’Reilly. The very people who have the most influence are complaining about anything they don’t themselves influence or with which they disagree.

It is, in other words, the media complaining about the media – and the conservative media complaining about the very media it dominates.

And its complaints are just plain unfounded.

 

The Myth of the Liberal Media (part 4 of 5)

(This week The Curmudgeon is taking a look at the myth of the liberal media. On Monday he outlined what the issue is and looked at the degree to which newspapers and newspaper columnists are or are not biased toward the liberal perspective. On Tuesday he looked at newspaper endorsements and magazines. Yesterday he considered television news and what he calls “opinion television.” Today is devoted to talk radio and web sites. And on Friday he concludes by looking at what he considers a special situation and offers a brief conclusion.)

Talk Radio

Next we turn to talk radio, where what we find is more conclusive than with any other medium.

The Curmudgeon identified the 16 radio talk show hosts with the most listeners per week. Here’s that list (as of May 2015):

  1. The biggest star in the talk radio world.

    The biggest star in the talk radio world.

    Rush Limbaugh – 13.25 million listeners a week

  2. Sean Hannity – 12.5 million listeners
  3. Dave Ramsey – 8.25 million
  4. Glenn Beck – 7 million
  5. Mark Levin – 7 million
  6. Michael Savage – 5.25 million
  7. Jim Bohannon – 2.75 million
  8. Mike Gallagher – 2.75 million
  9. Michael Medved – 2.75 million
  10. George Noory – 2.75 million
  11. Doug Stephan – 2.75 million
  12. Bill Bennett – 2.5 million
  13. Clark Howard – 2.5 million
  14. Dennis Miller – 2.5 million
  15. Thom Hartman – 2 million
  16. Laura Ingraham – 2 million

The Curmudgeon confesses that until he started doing research for this piece he’d never even heard of Levin, Bohannon, Gallagher, Noory, Stephan, and Hartman – half of the top 12. And he thought Michael Medved was just a movie critic. Of course he’d rather go to the dentist, or watch a soccer game, than listen to talk radio, so perhaps that explains his ignorance.

Now let’s throw out a few: Ramsey and Howard have financial talk shows, Stephan’s show is considered general interest, and Noory’s show centers on mystery and the unknown (seriously!).

That narrows down our original 16 to 12, and this time, let’s add a notation of the political perspective of each:

  1. Never, ever trust a man who wears his hair like this.

    Never, ever trust a man who wears his hair like this.

    Rush Limbaugh – 13.25 million listeners a week (conservative)

  2. Sean Hannity – 12.5 million listeners (conservative)
  3. Glenn Beck – 7 million (conservative)
  4. Mark Levin – 7 million (conservative)
  5. Michael Savage – 5.25 million (conservative)
  6. Jim Bohannon – 2.75 million (middle-of-the-road)
  7. Mike Gallagher – 2.75 million (conservative)
  8. Michael Medved – 2.75 million (conservative)
  9. Bill Bennett – 2.5 million (conservative)
  10. Dennis Miller – 2.5 million (conservative)
  11. Thom Hartman – 2 million (liberal)
  12. Laura Ingraham – 2 million (conservative)

Pretty conspicuous, isn’t it, that 10 of the 12 most popular political radio talk shows in the country are conservative and only one is liberal. And who are the people on this list who are most widely considered influential? Clearly, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck. And are they influential? Well, consider the same word The Curmudgeon offered as proof of the influence of opinion television: Benghazi. There is no – no – liberal counterpart to the manner in which conservatives have chosen to raise the profile of that sad but ridiculous issue.

Web Sites

Next we come to another category for which solid information is hard to come by: web sites (or, as some people insist, although The Curmudgeon is resisting, websites). The Curmudgeon had a difficult time finding hard numbers for how many people visit individual web sites but he did find a widely respected source for rating the relative popularity of web sites based on how many visitors they have – although strangely, no one seems interested in breaking down those ratings into hard numbers of visitors. The source is called Alexa ratings, generated by a company called Alexa that a Google search describes as “a California-based company that provides commercial web traffic data and analytics. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com.” Before sharing some Alexa ratings, The Curmudgeon should note, in fairness, that some conservative groups believe Alexa ratings are biased. As far as The Curmudgeon can tell, the only explanation he has encountered to support this charge is that when Alexa reported a drop in ratings among some conservative web sites, conservatives immediately insisted that the ratings therefore must be biased.

Which makes perfect sense, right?

To give you a frame of reference, the top ten web sites in the U.S. – “top” as in “most frequently visited” – are pretty much what you’d expect:

  1. Google.com
  2. Facebook.com
  3. Youtube.com
  4. Amazon.com
  5. Yahoo.com
  6. Wikipedia.org
  7. Ebay.com
  8. Twitter.com
  9. Reddit.com
  10. Netflix.com

No major surprises there, except maybe for Reddit.

According to Alexa ratings, the ten most popular conservative web sites in the U.S. today (and the number following the name of the site is its overall ranking (it’s not clear whether this is a U.S. or world-wide ranking, but The Curmudgeon suspects it’s U.S. only)) are:

  1. If you don't know the difference between The Drudge Report and the National Enquirer - well, join the club.

    If you don’t know the difference between The Drudge Report and the National Enquirer – well, join the club.

    Fox News (212)

  2. Wall Street Journal (294)
  3. Independent Review Journal (341)
  4. The Drudge Report (635)
  5. Western Journalism (819)
  6. New York Post (870)
  7. The Blaze (1045)
  8. Breitbart (1533)
  9. WorldNetDaily (2500)
  10. Conservative Tribune (2555)

An observation:

Huh?

The Curmudgeon confesses that he’s never heard of five of the ten. Well, he’s not conservative, so maybe that’s not so surprising.

How about you? Have you heard of all of these sites?

Now, the top ten liberal sites according to Alexa ratings:

  1. CNN (52)
  2. Huffington Post (393)
  3. Time (553)
  4. NPR (1524)
  5. Slate (1569)
  6. Newsweek (1690)
  7. S. News & World Report (2408)
  8. Politico (2470)
  9. Salon (2455)
  10. Indy Media (3534)

A few observations here.

First, The Curmudgeon has heard of nine of the ten; “Indy Media” is the unknown.

Second, he doesn’t think Time, Newsweek, Politico, and U.S. News & World Report are liberal at all and he doesn’t think CNN’s web site, which he assumes people visit more for breaking news than anything else, is liberal, either.

And third, overall, the top conservative sites appear to be more popular than the top liberal sites – but not by a whole lot in the greater scheme of things. Also, The Curmudgeon questions whether these are really the “top” sites in these categories. Whether they are or they aren’t, it’s certainly hard to accept any suggestion that the most popular web sites lean left, isn’t it?

Tomorrow: We look at a special situation and offer a brief conclusion.