'Best of TBH Politoons'
Baron Dave Romm
By Baron Dave Romm
Radio Theater podcasts
2007 Minnesota Fringe Festival -- the early days
2007 Minnesota Fringe Festival -- Final Report
Mary Poppins: The Boomer Musical
Lots of stuff going on, from the Minnesota State Fair to the I-35W bridge collapse to country music CDs, but I'm going to talk about an old favorite that I'm watching on DVD.
Watching childhood favorites for the first time as an adult is an iffy proposition, as not everything I enjoyed as a kid stands up. But Mary Poppins not only holds up marvelously, it's better when seen from the other side of adulthood. Set in pre-WWI England and shown to pre-Vietnam kids who would soon be eligible for the draft, the movie tackles hard, adult questions but doesn't pretend to know any answers. Work ethic, discipline and tradition are important, but take a back seat to being part of your children's lives. The film is so well written that the Disneyeque ending doesn't seem tacked on or false. The music is as good as ever. I haven't even tackled the bonus disk yet, or plumbed the features on the main disk.
Theme and Exegesis
When it comes to Movies That Are Better Than The Book, Mary Poppins is #1, #2 and #3.
I haven't seen the movie in over forty years, though I've heard the soundtrack a zillion times. I forgot just how magical it is, and how well the themes are developed and explored without a wasted motion. No villains! The protagonist is the father, who is a good man trying to do well by his family and largely succeeding... but needs Mary Poppins to show him where his true path lies. Extraordinary.
Where the PL Travers books are about a "mysterious, vain and acerbic magical English nanny", the movie is about What It Means To Be A Father. The books were written and take place in the 1930s but the film goes back to an earlier period. Disney had been negotiating for a film since 1938, and only when book sales declined in the 1050s did she agree, under certain conditions. Travers is listed as "Consultant" to the film, which has lots of scenes right from the books and more inspired by them. She had script approval, and insisted that Mary Poppins would be live action. Disney had to assure her his studios could handle a live-action film, and Mary Poppins is his first, though the animated underpinings still show. (It's been a long time since I read the books as well, inspired to so so by the film.) (Hmm... now that I think of it, Mary Poppins could teach at Hogwarts or be a Hufflepuff painting...)
Just how much the movie hangs together is a revelation. Indeed, the movie's theme, about fatherhood and responsibility vs. childhood and having fun, is summed up by a little verse in "A Spoonful of Sugar", featuring a duet between Mary Poppins and a bird (whistling by Andrews) and lyric repeated as a duet between Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins (in a mirror):
A robin feathering his nest
has very little time to rest
while gathering his bits of twine and twig.
While so intent in his pursuit
he has a merry tune to toot.
He knows (he knows)
A song (a song)
Will move the day along.
This is a the lesson taught to Jane and Michael but foreshadowed early in the movie and learned the hard way by George Banks (and Mr. Dawes, Jr.). All the themes collapse on an emotional climax. Ingmar Bergman, eat your heart out.
Dick van Dyke's dancing and comic mugging are great. (Some Brits complain about his accent, which is well taken, though even at nine I knew it was an exaggeration. Did the over-the-top accents in Fargo add or subtract from the experience?) Riding high with The Dick van Dyke Show, he could claim (as does the commentary) to be "the funniest man on Earth" at the time. Certainly, one of them.
The 1964 special effects, audio animatronics and animation creak a bit, but just let the lush photography and constant movement wash over you. The long shots of London are amazing. The costumes and many of the sets were done by Tony Walton (Julie Andrew's husband at the time) and take you back to pre-WWI England. The music is marvelous, the best Disney ever, which is saying a lot.
Some of the themes are a bit subversive. Mary Poppins is set in 1910 England, not far after the Victorian era, though made in the early days of the feminist revolution. In the books, the mother doesn't do much, but in the movie she prepares to throw rotten tomatoes at the Prime Minister to help women get the vote. My one Wiscon in 1989 kept reminding me of the lyric to "Sister Suffragettes": "Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid." Since Wiscon didn't follow that up with a great moral lesson about self-discovery through kite flying, I never went back. I daresay Mary Poppins raised the consciousness of more women (and more men) than more strident tracts.
Bert, Mary and the kids enter the world of a sidewalk chalk drawing, and encounter a foxhunt, where the aristocrats go after a small lower-class fox (you can tell by the accents). Guess which side Bert is on?
The father wants the son to invest his tuppence in a bank, but the kid wants to feed the birds. Guess which side Mary Poppins is on?
Composer Richard Sherman (in the commentary) says, "This song is Mary Poppins' magnum opus of mind control. By planting the seeds of social responsibility in Jane and Michael's heads, she knows that havoc will reign... her magic doesn't even look like magic. She's just singing another lullaby."
The psycho-social dynamic of a changing language is tackled head on:
No points for a correct guess. I bet you can sing it now. Go ahead, you know you want to.
How much of a paradigm shift was "I Love To Laugh", detailing differences in autonomic reactions (and promoting a desire for nitrous oxide)? I suspect this one song changed people watching forever. And helped some along their career path: After seeing Uncle Albert, wouldn't you want to float in space and express pure joy?
Nothing can truly said to be in the popular consciousness unless parodied by The Simpsons, And Mary Poppins gets a whole Simpsons episode. Lovingly cruel, the cartoon rips the movie to shreds (among other swipes). The episode can probably be enjoyed without seeing the movie first, but why?
Messages For Parents In The 1960s
Most Disney films are about the children, and Mary Poppins is no exception. But where most are about the children growing up, this film is about the father growing into his role. After the Leave It To Beaver 1950s (which weren't nearly as purely white-bread as sound-bite nostalgia says), by the 1960s the Baby Boom Generation was in full swing. The earliest Boomers would have been 18 when Mary Poppins came out; the biggest Boomer year was 1960. Kids of roughly Jane and Michael's age were a huge portion of the population, magnifying parenting problems creating new child rearing strategies. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, the 1946 best seller by Dr. Benjamin Spock, was the new bible, and his subsequent books were on almost every parents' bookshelves.
Spock's books are full of practical medical advice, but they also give confidence to the parent: You can do it. The movie advocates everything from getting kids to do their chores by making a game out of it to putting them to sleep by telling them to "Stay Awake", but always with love. If you care enough, and listen to your children and chimney sweeps and don't get too wrapped up in your job, your kids will be okay.
At the end, it's not just about being a father, it's about being a son: Both Michael and "the younger Dawes" do right by their sire.
Soundtrack CD and Two-disk DVD
According to the Sherman Brothers interview on the Mary Poppins soundtrack CD, Walt Disney's favorite Disney song is also my favorite Disney song: "Feed The Birds". It's a simple, haunting song of charity and empathy. For a hard-won tuppence, Michael Banks can feed the birds (who are trying to feed their "young ones", just like his father is taking care of him) and help out the Bird Woman on the steps of St. Paul's. The DVD comments on this song are illuminating (see above for one).While the allowances of an fictional upper class child don't necessarily map to today's purchasing power, I decided to try to find out what that might mean. According to measuringworth.com, two pence in 1910 = ¬£3.00 of average earnings in 2005 and with ¬£1= $1.82, Michael is donating $5.46 to feed the birds (and help out a homeless lady) rather than start an investment account. Probably a large amount to a kid, but hardly anything to a family that can afford a huge house and three live-in servants, emphasizing the father's rigidity.
The DVD comes with commentaries recorded separately by numerous people, including audio clips from Walt Disney and Music Supervisor Irwin Kostal, and others who weren't around at the time of the DVD. Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke reminisce, Richard Sherman (one of the song writers) and Karen Dotrice (Jane) fill in tidbits, and the whole thing is edited together especially well. You get history, behind the scenes gossip and they point out little details which get lost (like the guy sitting on the bench blowing smoke rings that even Dick van Dyke never noticed and Julie Andrews just spotted).
The text options include two with special features: I don't know what one does, but the second one has boxes with Fun Facts. The Bonus Disc promises deleted scenes and featurettes and more. A lovely package.
Mary Poppins is my favorite musical, beating out The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which probably tells you altogether too much about me) and one of my favorite movies of alltime. It's not perfect, but I'd be hard pressed to point out where it's less than sublime. I'll give the practically perfect nanny a practically perfect score, and round up to perfect for the DVD extras. On the Shockwave Radio Theater rating of 9 to 23, Mary Poppins steps in time to a 23. What a great movie.
Baron Dave Romm is a conceptual artist and a noble of Ladonia who produces Shockwave Radio Theater, writes in a Live Journal demi-blog, plays with a very weird CD collection and an ever growing list of political links. Dave Romm reviews things at random for obscure web sites. You can read all his music recommendations from Bartcop-E. Podcasts of Shockwave Radio Theater. Permanent archive. More radio programs, interviews and science fiction humor plays can be accessed on the Shockwave Radio audio page.
Thanks to everyone who has sent me music to play on the air.--////
Thulani Davis: Remembering Grace Paley (1922-2007) (Women's Voices for Change)
When the writer and activist Grace Paley died this week at the age of 84, we were left much poorer in a world already running short of honest and fearless souls.
Nat Hentoff: "Bush to CIA: 'Leave No Marks'" (villagevoice.com)
With no sign of torture on a prisoner, then it didn't happen, right?
Dave White: Gayest thing on TV right now: High School Musical 2 (advocate.com)
The High School Musical franchise is the most-watched sugarcoated lie on basic cable-you'll still love it.
Jessica Jones: Interview With Amber Benson (afterellen.com)
The actor, writer and director takes your questions.
Heather A. O'Neill: Where Are They Now? Two Nice Girls (afterellen.com)
We talk to band members Gretchen Phillips, Kathryn Korniloff and Laurie Freelove 15 years after their debut album was released.
Roger Ebert: "It's about customizing your body..."
He couldn't hear, I couldn't speak, and we had a great interview.
Scott Foundas: Bugaboo Confidential (villagevoice.com)
Life as a young, hot, white, educated nanny in the city sure is a drag.
Steve Miller: JOHNNY RAMONE (officialramones.com)
What the public didn't know about Johnny Ramone is that he cared. Johnny cared about the people he may have not paid enough attention to during his life and he cared about anybody he might have inadvertently hurt along the way to creating music history. ''I didn't ever want to do anything to hurt anyone,'' he told me as we gathered notes for his upcoming memoirs, which we began working on in April. ''I was always doing the best with what I had.''
Jed Davis: "Guitar God: Johnny Ramone"
The whole story of Johnny Ramone is right there in the guitar. In the cracked and mottled paint, the dented neck, the slashed body, the beat-up pickguard held on by a half-dozen mismatched screws. Johnny played this guitar from 1977 to 1996. Here, slip it on. When you sling the strap over your shoulder, the guitar freefalls right to your knees - stopping with a jerk just when you think it's gonna crash to the floor.
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow (villagevoice.com)
Karl Rove's Secret Plan to Discredit Conservatives.
Commentoon: Rover Attacks Hilary (womensenews.org)
Sylvia by Nicole Hollander (womensenews.org)
I saw Mary's post about no more Kisses being made in PA and wondered if Reading PA and Hershey PA are the same place. I read that the Hershey company is closing some of their US plants, including one in Reading PA, but not all of them.
Here's the link to Snopes.
As for what kind of chocolate I buy, it's all about taste and availability and cost. If I could afford it, I'd buy See's candies because I grew up with them, I worked at one of the plants and I know how high the quality is. But it is pricey and Hershey's has always been a good economical substitute for me.
What I AM irritated about are the ten or so "associations" (including the Cattlemens Association - huh?) who want to change the definition of chocolate.
"The broadly written petition skimps on the details but includes an appendix that lists examples of proposed changes. Tucked between requests to allow antifungals on bulk cheese and powdered milk in yogurt is what has people riled up the most: a proposal that would let manufacturers "use a vegetable fat in place of another vegetable fat named in the standard (e.g. cacao fat)."
Manufacturers already can use vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter - they just can't call it "chocolate." Hundreds of people have filed comments with the FDA, with the overwhelming majority seeking to keep it that way." Source
ya know, pretty soon, what a food is called won't bear any resemblance to what it really is.
soylent green anyone?
as always, thanks for all you do
Reading (which is pronounced 'redding') and Hershey, PA, are 2 different places, unlike, for example, University Park, State College and Penn State, which are all the same place.
Reading hosts the Flaming Foliage Festival, and Hershey hosts Pennsylvania Dutch Days.
When I was in grade school we went on a family vacation to Hershey, and I remember fixating on the street lights. They're shaped like Hershey kisses.
OTOH, that was about the last time that Hershey chocolate tasted like chocolate, not brown wax, at least to me.
And now, with corporate America trying to cheap-out, again, we're gonna get even waxier, more tasteless brown gunk that passes as chocolate.
Like Winston Smith in '1984' - a childhood memory of what chocolate is supposed to taste like.
Hubert's Poetry Corner
MITT ROMNEY & SONS, dba JINGOISTS
The family business of giving others the business?
Re: NBC Countdown on Sunday
As I tuned into Pittsburgh's NBC channel WPXI at 7:00PM to watch the much looked forward to 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann' it wasn't on.
The preseason football game was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, WPXI shut out Countdown with local programming.
I thought that it might be on later. No such luck. It was on WPXI digital! But that is not something that I have. Bummer. I know why it was shutout, but I don't have to like it.
Also, enjoyed your link to "What Not To Crochet".
Have fond memories of when they were WIIC. Thanks to them, I hold the always fabulous Bill Cardille responsible for my love of cheesy sci-fi movies.
OTOH, it's just another example of how consolidation and the Communications Act of 1996 really fucked up broadcasting.
Thank you congressional whores and your pimp, Rupert.
from that Mad Cat, JD
In The Chaos Household
Mostly overcast and a bit of very unseasonal rain.
Disputes Disney Spin
Film critic Roger Ebert said he never gave a "thumbs down" to the use of thumbs in reviews for "At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper" during contract negotiations.
In a statement released Friday to The Associated Press, the TV show's distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said Ebert had "exercised his right to withhold use of the 'thumbs' until a new contract is signed." Ebert is a copyright holder on the signature "thumbs up-thumbs down" judgment that's part of each film review.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic responded in a statement Saturday on his web site, saying he "had made it clear the Thumbs could remain during good-faith negotiations," contrary to Disney's press release.
"They made a first offer on Friday which I considered offensively low," he wrote. "I responded with a counteroffer. They did not reply to this, and on Monday ordered the Thumbs removed from the show. This is not something I expected after an association of over 22 years."
Colorado Park Dedicated
A new park that features fly-fishing, scenic trails and a huge bronze eagle was dedicated Saturday to the late "Gunsmoke" actor Dennis Weaver on 60 acres of land his wife donated to the town.
Weaver moved to Ridgway in 1988, building a home made of recycled tires and cans on 175 acres along the Uncompahgre River.
The centerpiece of park opened in his name is a 2,800-pound bronze eagle with a 21-foot wingspan.
"His favorite word was passion. If you don't have passion, what do you got?" said Gerry Weaver, widow of the actor-environmentalist.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to her favorite family vacation spot Saturday to raise money for her presidential campaign at a celebrity-studded event where she took some pointed swipes at President Bush.
Clinton - accompanied by her husband and their daughter Chelsea - smiled broadly and swayed to the music as singer Carly Simon and her two children, Ben and Sally Taylor, sang "Devoted to You" for a Martha's Vineyard crowd of more than 2,000.
Simon, along with actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, showered the Clintons with praise and predicted the senator from New York will be elected as the nation's first woman president.
"Is it Mrs. President or Madam President?" Simon asked a smiling Clinton.
To Visit Iran
Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra
A German orchestra will play Beethoven and Brahms in Tehran in a rare visit by a European ensemble amid tension between Iran and the West.
The 60-member Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Hermann Baeumer will perform Wednesday and Thursday as part of an exchange that saw the Tehran Symphony Orchestra perform to a packed hall last year in Osnabrück.
"It's a very small step in improving relations between the people in the two countries," said Michael Dreyer, head of Osnabrück's Morgenland Festival, which hosted the Iranians last year.
Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra
"Red Elvis," a new documentary about a rugged maverick who quit the American West for communist East Germany, has hit the screens, shedding light on Dean Reed's unlikely stardom and mysterious demise.
Reed was a US country singer and actor who emigrated to East Germany for love in 1972. In 1986 he was found face down in the knee-deep water of an East Berlin lake. In those 14 years, Reed became a Cold War icon.
With a mop of wavy brown hair under his black Stetson and celestial blue-grey eyes, the Colorado native was a dashing political idealist active in the pacifist movement, fighting military regimes and social injustice.
Recognize Fake Money
A man who authorities say used his computer to make fake $100 bills to buy lap dances at a strip club has pleaded guilty to counterfeiting charges, federal prosecutors said.
Strippers at Deja Vu in Nashville were suspicious of the bills and called police after Damon Armagost spent $600 of the fake money April 16, authorities said.
When officers arrived, Armagost first told them he got the money when he sold gold coins for $1,400 to an unidentified person.
U.S. Secret Service agents later determined that counterfeit bills with the same serial number had been passed in other parts of the country. When they went to Armagost's Smyrna home, about 20 miles southeast of Nashville, a family member told agents that an image of a $100 bill had been on a computer there.
Sand Replacement For Florida Beach
Picture a beautiful beach spanning miles of coastline, gently lapped by aqua-colored water - and sprinkled with glass.
Faced with the constant erosion of Florida's beaches, Broward County officials are exploring using recycled glass - crushed into tiny grains and mixed with regular sand - to help fill gaps.
It's only natural, backers of the idea say, since sand is the main ingredient in glass.
Sells For $8,000
A fossilized penis bone from an extinct walrus went for a whopping $8,000 at a Beverly Hills auction Sunday.
The 4.5-foot-long bone was sold to the company that runs the Ripley's Believe It or Not museums. The price will top out at $9,600 when auction fees are included.
The final price was well below the $12,000 to $16,000 the item had been expected to bring.
Discovered in Siberia, the fossilized penis bone is from a species of walrus that went extinct 12,000 years ago. The piece curves to a point and is covered with weathered skin and dry muscle tissue.
Biologists Bring Back To Maine
It doesn't seem to matter to one puffin waddling over to join another of the birds that his chosen companion is a one-legged, wooden decoy. Puffins love company.
The deception is one of the techniques that Stephen Kress has used to lure the colorful birds back to this rocky island.
Puffins, which resemble half-pint penguins except that they can fly, were heavily hunted along the Maine coast for their meat and feathers, and by 1901 only one pair remained, researchers said.
They remained plentiful elsewhere, however, and Kress set out three decades ago to bring them back to Maine's islands, on the southern end of their range around the North Atlantic.
Still A Spanish Legend 60 Years On
The legend lives on, 60 years after romantic bullfighter Manolete died in the ring he had resolved to quit for a love match which did not find favour among his entourage.
The matador had fallen for controversial actress Lupe Sino but met an untimely end aged just 30, gored in the thigh in the ring at Linares, deep in southern Andalusia on August 28, 1947.
Sino herself has been the subject of recent cinema gossip, but ahead of the 60th anniversary of Manolete's death a swathe of tomes have been hitting the bookshelves looking at the life of the man who was identified as the Franquist dictatorship's torero-in-chief.
Many of the books shed a positive light on the relationship between Manolete, born Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez, and Sino, whose love tryst shocked the conservative Spain of the era.
Weekend Box Office
Hollywood notched its first $4 billion summer as teen geeks helped Hollywood end the season in record fashion.
Sony's "Superbad," the comedy about three dorky high-schoolers trying to score booze for a party, was the No. 1 movie for a second straight weekend with $18 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday. The movie raised its 10-day total to $68.6 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Superbad," $18 million.
2. "The Bourne Ultimatum," $12.4 million.
3. "Rush Hour 3," $12.3 million.
4. "Mr. Bean's Holiday," $10.1 million.
5. "War," $10 million.
6. "The Nanny Diaries," $7.8 million.
7. "The Simpsons Movie," $4.4 million.
8. "Stardust," $4 million.
9. "Hairspray," $3.5 million.
10. "The Invasion," $3.1 million.