His Master’s Voice

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Given yesterday’s anecdote by Groucho concerning Houdini, I thought it would be fun to hear from Houdini himself. In 1914, magician Harry Houdini recorded the introductory patter for his Water Torture Cell effect onto the cylindrical records of Thomas Edison. The six cylinders are the only known examples of Houdini’s voice extant. The voice begins at 2:00, but watch all of it for the history.

Thanks to YouTuber houdinimuseum

When Groucho Met Houdini

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In 1972, Groucho did a one man show of reminiscences at Carnegie Hall  called An Evening With Groucho. In this short clip, he shares what happened when he encountered the magician Harry Houdini.

Click on the grey triangle to play.

Thanks to https://archive.org

Cutting School, Author Noliwe Rooks

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Yesterday, WBAI’s Arts Express radio show broadcast my interview with Noliwe Rooks, author of the new book, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and The End of Public Education.

Ms. Rooks argues that the current charter school movement is just one more scheme in a long history of school hustles which go back to the 19th century. What these schemes have in common, she says, is the transfer of education and tax dollars from minority and oppressed groups to the pockets of white entrepreneurs, in a process she calls segrenomics.

You can listen to the interview with Noliwe Rooks by clicking on the grey triangle above.

“With Increased Leisure Time…”

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Bob and Ray’s “World’s Oldest Lady Caddy” is one of the first Bob and Ray routines I ever heard.  My son can still break me up laughing by simply saying “With increased leisure time…” It’s kind of the catchall sociological explanation for everything.

Thanks to YouTuber The Classic Archives

Gun Shy

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My friend Alan who is a prolific playwright asked me if I’d like to write a very short three-minute curtain raiser for his new play reading. I said yes, having no idea at all what I would write. As it happened, the Parkland school shootings and the government response were still on my mind, so out came this merry little sketch.

 

Gun Shy

 

Mother in the breakfast room; two children ages seven and eight (should be played by adults) offstage.

Mother: Justin, c’mon you’re going to be late to school.

Justin: (off) I’m coming.

Mother: You, too, Mercy, the school bus is going to be here any moment.

Mercy: (off) I’m coming. Give me a chance. (Justin enters with backpack on hand)

Mother: Look at you. Your hair’s a mess. And what about your sweater?

Justin: Yes, Mom. I have it.

Mother: And did you remember about your homework?

Justin: Really, Mom, you don’t have to remind us about every little thing. (Mercy comes down with her backpack in hand)

Mother: Can’t you get yourself together a little earlier so you don’t have to rush each morning?

Mercy: I’m sorry I was just packing up my backpack. We have a lot of equipment for our new class. And it’s so lame, they make us drag everything back and forth.

Mother: What class is that?

Mercy: Oh, the target class.

Mother: Target class?

Justin: It’s a new required class we have to take in school. We have to be able to kill 65% of potential intruders in order to pass the class, graduate, and go on to middle school.

Mother: How do they know if you’ve done that?

Justin: Well, a wound in one limb counts as a score of 30%, an eye counts for a score of 25%, for a kill you obviously get a 100.

Mercy: Well, unless someone else hits the guy first, in which case you only get 50% for an assist. It’s so unfair. So the thing to do is, if you can’t get a clean kill, try to mix and match so that it adds up to over 65%.

Justin: So two eyes and you pass.

Mercy: No you idiot, that doesn’t add up. That’s only 50—25 and 25.

Justin: I’m not good in math. It’s not my fault. My math teacher only has one eye. She was mistaken for an intruder.

Mother: Well all right, put on your backpacks. Wait a second. What’s that you got in there?

Mercy: Just a gun.

Mother: Oh. Okay. And what’s that?

Mercy: That’s another gun. Hi-powered, semi-automatic.

Mother: All right. (to Justin) You’re looking very guilty young man. And what’s that ?

Justin (ashamed looking down at the floor) Gum.

Mother: Gum? Gun or Gum?

Justin: Uh, Gum.

Mother: Oh my gosh. What is wrong with you? Hand that over young man. You should know by now you’re not allowed to chew gum in school. It’s not allowed. It’s really disrespectful to the teachers and staff. Didn’t I bring you up right?

Justin: I’m sorry. I just couldn’t…

Mercy: Ooh I’m telling.

Justin: Be quiet, you.

Mother: I am really, really so disappointed in you, Justin. Wrigley’s Spearmint. The most deadly flavor. In my day, you know what we did with students who brought gum to school? (pause) We shot them. Of course we were only allowed to graze them in my days. Old-fashioned I suppose, but the world has moved on. I guess you can’t stop progress. I don’t know what we’re going to do with you, Justin.

Mercy: (reluctantly) Ohhh…I guess you can have one of mine. But not the AR-15. Just one of the handguns.

Mother: That’s really kind and unselfish of you, Mercy. Maybe I did bring you kids up right after all. (Sound of bus horn honking) Okay here’s the bus. (kids run off) Don’t forget your lunches. Love ya. And children—No chewing in class! Knock ‘em dead!

Trifecta

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Monday morning, you hit the jackpot: Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, and Sarah Vaughn. As far as I know, this 1979 television special, All-Star Salute To Pearl Bailey, is the only time they had all sung together publicly.

The medley includes:

Stompin at the Savoy
Perdido
Don’t Mean a Thing
Cherokee
Sweet Georgia Brown

Thanks to YouTuber newstart2009

Wallace Shawn: “Feeding The Monster”

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Yesterday, WBAI broadcast my interview with actor/playwright/essayist Wallace Shawn on the Arts Express radio program. You can listen to his provocative discussion of privilege and denial by clicking on the grey triangle above.

525,600 Minutes

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students sing “Seasons of Love” from the play Rent.

It gave me the chills watching it.

Thanks to YouTuber CBS

A World Without Love

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Monday morning, Peter and Gordon’s 1964 terms of endearment are seconded by the Austrian MonaLisa Twins.

The song was written by Paul McCartney, who was dating Jane Asher, Peter’s sister.

More MonaLisa Twins at MonaLisa Twins

 

The Color of Law

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Yesterday, the Arts Express radio show on WBAI FM broadcast my interview with Richard Rothstein, author of an important new book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

Rothstein makes a compelling case which challenges the Supreme Court’s view that nothing from a government standpoint can be done about segregation, due to segregation’s supposed de facto nature. Rothstein’s overwhelming brief charges that the construction and maintenance of segregation is in fact largely a governmental de jure set of policies, and thus demands immediate governmental remedy.

You can listen to my interview with Rothstein by clicking on the grey triangle above.

Dumb Waiter: Shakespeare In the Park Guide

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As the ancients said:

“Art, and the Shakespeare-in-the-Park line, is long, but Life is short.”

One of  New York City’s delights in the summer is the free theater offered by the Public Theater in Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. Usually it consists of two different Shakespeare plays, one that opens in June and the other in July.

To get the free tickets, you have to show up at the Delacorte in the morning and wait on line until noon, when the tickets for that evening, a maximum of two per person, are given out.

The problem is figuring out what time to get on the line; although there are many tickets given out, for a popular production it is possible to be on the line and have enough people in front of you so that the tickets run out before they get to you. There’s nothing worse than getting to the park and seeing a long long line in front of you, and wait for hours, only to be told that there are no more tickets for that evening.

If you call up the Public and ask them what would be a recommended time to get there, they are cagily unhelpful. They will refuse to suggest a time, rightly feeling, I suppose, that if they gave out a time, it would just mean that people would all show up a bit earlier than that and cause a bottleneck even earlier.

If you are 65 or over, or disabled—and they will ask for proof—you may wait instead on a “Senior” line. Each person may still get two tickets, one of which must be for Senior or a disabled person, but the other ticketholder does not have to be a Senior or disabled. But if you call up the box office about the Senior line, they still will be quite Sphinx-like concerning what time to arrive to guarantee a ticket.

So, since I waited on line today, I decided I would keep track of how many people showed up hour by hour. This way you can judge for yourself what time you might want to come.

So, a couple of caveats; the best day, hands down, to guarantee admission, is to come on a weekday while the show is in previews , before its official opening. Once the play gets its initial media reviews, even if they are not positive, potential audience members become more aware of the show and the lines get longer, earlier. With that in mind here’s what happened today, waiting to get tickets for tonight’s performance of Othello:

7:00 AM: I arrived at the park, and there were 35 people ahead of me on the regular line. There was no one on the senior line.

8:00 AM: There were now 80 people on the regular line and 10 people on the Senior line.

9:00 AM: The regular line now had 115 people waiting, and 15 were on the Senior line.

10:00 AM: The regular line grew to 140 people, and the Senior line to 30.

At this point, I stopped keeping track. But when tickets were distributed at 12 noon sharp, everyone got tickets.

I have to say this is the first time of many occasions waiting where the line seemed so short. But as I said before that is probably because it was a weekday, and the show was still in previews. Be aware that these guidelines would be very different on a weekend and once a show has been reviewed.

Hope you get to see some of the shows this summer, the productions are always fun, and a worthwhile theater experience.

 

 

Who’s On First?

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Last week I had the pleasure of being one half of the performers of the classic Abbott and Costello sketch, “Who’s On First?”

I think it is the most perfect piece of comedy ever written—if your native language is English.

My colleague Adam Pisco and I performed it before an auditorium of our public international high school English Language Learner students, none who have English as their native language, and many who have come here with no English at all. They represent dozens of countries and languages.

So we were afraid we were taking a big risk, and we were afraid that the students might not be able to understand the sketch, and not be quite able to get the wordplay involved.

But I’m very happy to report, as you can see and hear by clicking on the video, that we were absolutely wrong.

‘Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do: Jimmy Rushing

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Monday morning, Jimmy Rushing’s upbeat version of a song more usually associated with Bessie Smith, Jimmie Witherspoon, and Billie Holiday.

Thanks to YouTuber K Lou

Paper Roses

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(Click to enlarge)

Union Square

New York, New York

But, as in the Anita Bryant song, they’re only artificial. Each rose is made from just two pieces of paper: one color for the flower and petals, and a green one for the leaves and stems. Worth looking at these as enlarged as you can get it.

Email at OrigamiRose@QQ.com (Leo)