Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Quips and Quotations (Budding Star Edition)


I'm gonna go have a beer. Love ya!

--Dylan Mulvaney, upon winning a Streamy Award for a series of TikTok videos chronicling her transition.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Under the Radar: Charles Fleischer


Born on this day in 1950, Charles Fleischer has been a stand-up comedian for going on half a century. Though the work has been steady, with many, many movie and television appearances, to date Fleischer has not become a household name. His own name, anyway. A character he lent his voice to...

...was on quite a few lips in the summer of '88.

Fleischer discusses that role as well the rest of his career in this 2015 interview:

We'll get a look at Fleischer's scientific side in a bit, but first let's take in a movie:

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg, 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes place in an alternative 1947 in which the animated characters of the era live in Toontown, a cartoon neighborhood in an otherwise live-action Los Angeles, and commute to Hollywood, where they're employed on shorts and feature films not inked on celluloid but shot on sets just the same as movies with flesh-and-blood actors. If by that description alone it sounds like an extradimensions-intensive science-fiction drama, The Twilight Zone by way of CalArts, let me assure you that it's nothing more, and almost defiantly nothing less, than a symphony of silliness, a multiverse as merry as a melody and as light as Dumbo's feather, the high-concept plot gleefully undermined throughout the flick by the toonful loons punny dialogue (such as when Jessica Rabbit says, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.") Watch:

God knows what negotiations took place between two legendary animation studios to make it happen, but for me personally one of the joys of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is watching Walt Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters cross paths, along with a few outliers like Woody Woodpecker (Walter Lantz) and Betty Boop (Max Fleischer, no relation to Charles.) SPOILER ALERT: The following clip comes at the very end of the movie (though it's not like you're watching Agatha Christie):

Yes, Tinkerbell upstages Porky, but what do you expect? It's a Disney production.


Finally, Fleischer in the flesh doing what he does best. On the YouTube site I snagged this from, someone in the comment section accuses Fleischer of "trying to sound like Robin Williams". Since the two men started doing stand-up at roughly the same time, and Fleischer's first TV appearance (in 1974, though this clip is from about 1980) predates Williams by three years, it just may have been the other way around. Watch:

He's even more animated when he's not animated!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Lost in Space


The James Webb Space Telescope recently chanced upon something rather interesting, which can be seen in the center of that red-outlined square at the bottom of the above picture. Well, as it is, I guess it's a little too small to be of much interest to anybody, so let's enlarge it a bit:

That's right, it's a cosmic question mark! Boy, we've wasted all these years debating the possibility of extraterrestrial life when we really should have been focused on extraterrestrial punctuation. Scientists theorize it's merely two galaxies colliding with each other, which can result in all kinds of interesting shapes when seen from a very great distance. Andromeda and our own Milky Way galaxy are set on a collision course some four billion years from now, so who knows, we may end up an exclamation point or even a semicolon. An ampersand would be cool. With our luck it will probably be an asterisk, just another footnote in interstellar history.

As you might expect, there are those who don't buy it as an astronomical optical illusion at all, but instead see it as evidence of a Supreme Being. If so, then I find the prospect profoundly disturbing. After all, we're the one that are supposed to be asking the questions, not God!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Vital Viewing (Mister Fantastick Edition)


What book? What lyrics?

Let's go find Mr. Jones and ask him.

No, not him.

Not him, either.

There's the Tom Jones we want! Lyricist Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt (1929-2018) cooked up twelve stage musicals together, the most well-known of which is...

...this one. Since it opened off-Broadway in 1962 and ran all the way to 2002, a total of 17,162 performances (earning the original investors a 24,000% return), it's no wonder it's the most well-known thing the two ever did. Now, as he passed away just yesterday at the age of 95, I can't really ask Mr. Jones about his book and lyrics. However, what I can do is dig up the following video from when he was still among the living and discussing his most famous work:

If you haven't seen The Fantasticks, let me sum up at least the first act. Two middle-aged fathers, one of a son and the other a daughter, decide amongst themselves that their two kids would make the perfect married couple. The problem is convincing their kids of that. Figuring that reverse psychology would work the best, they pretend to feud, thus turning the son and daughter onto the idea of forbidden love, a la Romeo and Juliet (or maybe Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.) Now that the kids are smitten, the two dads need to end the feud but not the romance. To this end they hire El Gallo, a wise, kindhearted crook with occasional godlike powers, to abduct the daughter (a scheme merrily carried out in the unfortunately titled "Rape Ballet"--try not to judge the semantics of the past too harshly, dear reader, they know not what they say.) Like a boxer in an old black-and-white movie, El Gallo takes a dive when the boy comes to rescue the girl. How can any two young lovers not stay true young lovers after all that?

Jerry Orbach, best-known for his twelve-season portrayal of wisecracking police detective Lennie Briscoe on TV's Law and Order. However, that's not his original claim to fame. Orbach was the first actor (and singer) to play El Gallo in that long-running off-Broadway production. Now, in addition to staging abductions, Gallo also serves as the musical's narrator, giving Orbach the chance to vocalize the show's most well-known number:

I personally associate the month of September not with anything to do with romance but the beginning of the school year. Hearing that song makes me want to bug my mother into buying me a new lunch box, preferably one with Snoopy, but I digress. As Jones said in that interview, The Fantasticks is both a send-up of love stories and at the same time an honest-to-goodness love story. If you pay attention to the following number closely, you can somewhat detect the send-up, but the honest-to-goodness love story is what, for the time being, wins out. Playing the young lovebirds are Matt Leisy and Juliette Trafton, both of whom appeared in a 2010 off-Broadway revival:

As you just witnessed, not only was the above off-Broadway but outside-the-theatre as well. It's actually Bryant Park in Manhattan, something for the lunch crowd before heading back to work.

Now, that happy ending Julliette Trafton refers to is not the musical as a whole, but just the first act. Things sour before--I hope I'm not giving too much away--things get better again. My final video comes before the final happy ending, and I want you to see it because, frankly, it's a hoot. What follows is a 2010 high school production featuring Sara Niemetz (who's gone onto a professional career in the theatre), and this time as El Gallo, Jacob Thomson (who doesn't appear to have turned professional, but he's pretty good anyway.) Watch:

As another Tom Jones once observed, it's not unusual to have fun with anyone.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Recommended Reading


I don't spend too much time on this blog discussing happenings in my home state of Ohio for the simple reason that so many of my readers reside outside of Ohio. However...

...even if you've never been to the Buckeye State, even if you have no immediate plans on visiting the Buckeye State, even if you have no idea what a buckeye is, you may find the following dispatch from the Columbia Broadcasting System of some interest. It's all about reproductive rights and, more broadly, how the future of the democratic process has just been democratically decided in these parts:

Ohio votes against Issue 1 in special election. Here's what that could mean for abortion rights. - CBS News

Odd reading rather than watching something from CBS, but I guess it's the times we live in. Meanwhile...

...can you guess which side of the issue I was on?

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Quips and Quotations (All's Pharmacologically Fair in Love and War Edition)



I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.

--Alexander Fleming, born on this day in 1881.