The Great Debate

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This parody debate of Trump vs. Sanders was done on the @midnight television show in 2016, but it looks like we may be experiencing Groundhog Day soon. James Adomian does a nice job of capturing Bernie, but Anthony Atamanuik’s Trump is uncanny. It’s way beyond Alec Baldwin’s very good impersonation; it captures something more sinister.

Thanks to YouTuber Comedy Central

Folsom Prison Blues: Carson McKee and Josh Turner

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Carson hits those low notes and Josh does his usual amazing guitar work. I’m not even a Johnny Cash fan, but I really enjoyed this.

More at Josh Turner Guitar

“Hard Luck”: Sholom Aleichem

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Above is one of Sholom Aleichem’s amusing railroad stories, “Hard Luck,” which I performed and produced, as broadcast on WBAI radio’s Arts Express program last night.

Shakespeare Master Class: Fry and Laurie

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Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in a great, funny send-up of a Shakespeare acting class.

The two of them were poking fun at a popular British television series of the 1970s where director John Barton and the young actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, like Ian McKellen, Ben Kingsley and Judi Dench, were put through their paces.

You can reference a clip from that series here.

Thanks to YouTuber CineLad

Oh No, Not My Baby

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Maxine Brown never broke through the top 10 on the US pop charts, but her talent was respected by producers like Berry Gordy. This song, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, has been covered by lots of artists,  but I like Maxine Brown’s original version the best.

Thanks to YouTuber RAGEnFORCE

“Weary With Toil, I Haste Me To My Bed”

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It’s always a pleasure to welcome the Annual Shakespeare’s Birthday Sonnet slam. This is the 9th slam produced by director and Shakespeare scholar Melinda Hall,  (you can listen to an interview I did with her a few years ago where she talks about, among other things, who Shakespeare was), and this year introduces a change of venue. Usually the slam is in the center of Central Park, outdoors at the Naumburg Bandshell. But if you’ve dropped by in the last few years, you may have noticed that the bandshell is in a precarious state with pieces of roof falling and stones from the stairs getting dislodged. Just as Shakespeare moved his company in the winter from the naked elements of the Globe Theatre to the more protected clime of the indoors Blackfriars Theatre, this year we now go to the cozy environs of Riverside Church’s 9th floor lounge. You can see in the picture above that it looks a lot like a Shakespearean stage. While it’s true that we will not get the traffic of curious passersby, it looks like we may actually have chairs in this space for the audience to sit in, which would be a treat.

I just got my randomly assigned sonnet number this week and the luck of the draw has given me sonnet #27. It’s probably the most straightforward sonnet I’ve been assigned to over the years:

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo, thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

I’ve talked several times before about how I go about analyzing a sonnet. Last year’s sonnet had a very similar conceit concerning day and night, light and dark, but there is much less involved wordplay in this one. Often when I’m faced with an unfamiliar sonnet, I feel like I have to wrestle it to the ground to get it to reveal its secrets to me.  That fight results in a kind of tension in the performance that reflects the prior struggle with the meaning, syntax, and meter. But this time, especially since this sonnet is so accessible to a modern audience, my goal will simply be to relax and let the sonnet and the words do the work. In a way, I want to see how little I can do and yet still be effective, if that makes any sense.

The 9th Annual Sonnet Slam will take place Friday April 26th from 1-4pm at Riverside Church, 9th Floor. Use the 91 Claremont Avenue entrance. It’s free and it should be a lot of fun. Or better yet, sign up to read a randomly assigned sonnet. You can find the information here.

 

“Baby You Knock Me Out”

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Monday morning, the extraordinary Cyd Charisse floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, and schools the boys in boxing lore in this dance clip from It’s Always Fair Weather. Music and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

Thanks to YouTuber Warner Archive Instant

Dead Easy Way To Do Impressions Of Famous People: Albert Brooks

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This had me rolling in laughter. Comedian Albert Brooks explains to Johnny Carson his invention that helps him impersonate famous people.

More Johnny Carson clips at Johnny Carson

You Can’t Get Stoned Enough: Phil Ochs

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Every once in a while an old demo tape or casual recording of Phil Ochs singing turns up. He wrote far more songs than he ever recorded commercially, so it’s always a treat to find one I haven’t heard before.

Thanks to YouTuber Boot Leg

Just Like Romeo And Juliet

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Monday morning, my first exposure to the classics  at age eleven via the one-hit wonder group, The Reflections. It would not be until a few years later that I found out that someone else had written a similar story about lovers with the very same names. Imagine that.

Thanks to YouTuber MusicMike’s “Flashback Favorites”

Making Allowances

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Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign yesterday at Brooklyn College to a quad-filling crowd of over 10,000 people on a cold snowy day.

Best Bernie line: “I didn’t come from a family who gave me an allowance of $250,000 every year—from the time I was three years old.”

“As I recall, my allowance was twenty-five cents.”

Bedford Avenue,

Brooklyn, New York

The Magic of Li King Si

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The performance of magic by Caucasians in yellow face has a long history. The most famous practitioner was William Robinson, who performed as Chung Ling Soo, though he was by no means the only one. Throughout the 1950s and 60s in America (and other Western countries) it was a common trope. Here’s a clip from a 1957 television magic special hosted by Ernie Kovacs with a performance from a magician who called himself Li King Si.

I’ve not been able to find out too much about him or his assistant, but Magicpedia says he was a Frenchman whose real name was Edouard (Georges) Cassel He does a credible Zombie, but the most interesting effect to me was the banner waving that his assistant does in the middle of the act.

You can see the entire 1957 television special (it includes the famous television performance of Cardini) by visiting the YouTube channel of  Todd Karr.

The Road Not Taken

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The picture above is one of my favorite optical illusions because it looks so simple. I don’t remember where I first encountered it, but the question it poses is not complicated: which of the two figures representing roads above are identical?

We’ll give you a bit of space here to consider before we continue

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Most people say that the two figures on the left are identical, and the figure on the right is the odd one. But that is incorrect. The two end figures are alike and the middle picture is different. It’s difficult to believe, but I did a little experiment with Photoshop that will help to convince you.

Using Photoshop, I cut the figure on the right, leaving only its outline behind, and moved the figure over to the left, overlapping the leftmost figure. Here’s what it looks like:

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You can see that the two figures are identical, and surprisingly even the road division lines line up, something not so apparent in the top picture.

Now let’s try the same thing, only this time we’ll cut the leftmost figure, and let it overlap the middle figure:

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You can immediately see that the middle figure does not match the leftmost figure as it appeared to do so in the top picture.

Now that you know what’s going on, go back to the top picture. Does it change your perception? Not mine. It’s one of the most disheartening things to me about optical illusions—even though we know exactly what is going on,  our perceptual apparatus is still fooled.

Magicians like to summarize this kind of realization by the simple statement: “Misdirection works.”

Apply to advertising and propaganda at your leisure. It works even when you know what they are doing.