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I normally don't do reviews of films or shows here, but a Broadway show we saw the other night is worthy of mention.
Amazing Grace, which opened a week ago, didn't get great reviews and the dismal box office numbers in its first week since opening might mark this show for an early demise.
That would be a shame, since we thought Amazing Grace is a good show, well-performed.
The writers' notes in the Playbill say the show is based on a true story, although some characters and timelines have been altered or combined for the sake of storytelling. It's the story of John Newton, an Englishman who in 1772 wrote the iconic song Amazing Grace. (I had always assumed it was an old spiritual repurposed as a folksong by Judy Collins or Joan Baez.)
Newton, so the story goes, was the son of a British slave trader who, after a stint as a sailor to escape his domineering father, returns and tries to prove himself by getting into the slave business himself.
Set in 1744 and onward, the show doesn't whitewash the inhumanity and brutality of slavery. It has scenes that show the cruelty. A key character is Newton's childhood girlfriend, who joins the abolitionist movement. And the show let's us see special relationships between master and slave, especially between whites raised by slaves who acted in many ways like teachers and parents. It also shows how quickly a lifelong bond like that can be severed, when Newton sold off his friend and constant companion Thomas, who after all was still Newton's slave.
After nearly perishing out at sea on a slave ship, Newton sees the error of his ways and sets out to make things right, including a cross-ocean search for his old friend Thomas.
It's a great story that makes for good theater. Although not memorable, the music is good and there are some outstanding acting and musical performances by Newton (Josh Young), Thomas (Chuck Cooper) and an African princess (Harriett D. Foy) who becomes Newton's partner by enslaving her own people.
I recommend it, but you may have to get tickets quickly before the mediocre reviews force it to close.
Amazing Grace is playing at the Nederlander Theater.
Journalists being manipulated by political candidates and elected officials is nothing new. The term "pack journalism," in fact, goes way back to the early 1970s when Timothy Crouse published "The Boys on the Bus" in 1973, detailing the reporters covering the most recent Presidential campaign. Hunter S. Thompson touched on it the year before in his "Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail."
I've come to expect the tabloids and the "Access Hollywood"-type gossip shows to pander the to the exploits of crazy wannabe politicians. Look at all the coverage Sarah Palin got a few years ago. As unqualified as she may have been for the VP job, she at least had some experience as a governor. But Trump... come on.
I was disappointed to see his planned visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas as one of the lead stories on today's CBS This Morning, the one morning news show that touts "real news." This is just another campaign stop for a loud-mouthed candidate, but even CBS News is giving it coverage (and thus credibility) over what so many of the other candidates are doing and saying.
It's truly a shame that the media are letting one kooky candidate hijack the campaigns and important discussions of real issues by other real candidates.
Even conservative Rupert Murdoch has said he doesn't like Trump's style and self-aggrandizement. But he's not above using his name and antics to sell papers and get ratings on his TV stations.
I thought some of the other major media were above that, but hysterics get eyeballs on the page and on the screen... and that translates to money.
If I were advising any of the other candidates, I'd say to simply ignore the ranting and taunting of the crazy rich New Yorker and stick to the issues and platforms that you've identified as important. Don't get drawn into the fray, because it only validates and brings more exposure to the crazy one.
Here I am, writing this at LaGuardia Airport. I've been here since 9:30 this morning. It's now 3:55 p.m. on Thursday.
I'm trying to get to Charlotte, N.C. to represent my client The National Road Safety Foundation at the National PTA Conference, which begins tonight at 6:30. I'm supposed to be manning the client's exhibit.
My flight on Delta was supposed to depart at 11:10. When I got through security, the monitors said the flight was departing from gate C29. I went there, but the sign at the gate was for a different flight. I saw I had received a text from Delta, which said the flight was at a different gate in another wing of the terminal. When I got there, the sign at that gate was for a flight to Kansas City, leaving 5 minutes before my flight. There was no one from Delta at the counter. There were many passengers milling around, and none knew anything about the flight.
I walked back and found the Delta customer service center. The agent there had absolutely no information except that the flight was on time to leave from gate c21, where the Kansas City flight was about to board. So I waited there, just to have a place to sit
At the Delta terminal at LGA, they now have iPads at the seats, so I went on one and looked up flight info. The Delta site said the flight was departing on time from yet another gate. I knew this couldn't be accurate, since it was already close to 11:20 and the sign at gate c21 now did say Charlotte.
At about 11:45, some people were saying the flight was delayed till 1. I went to customer service, where they made some calls and learned the rumor was right...the flight was going out at 1:43. Gate still unknown.
I asked for a lunch voucher. The agent, a supervisor, said they only give vouchers if the delay is more than 3 hours. I said, you're going to let a difference of 30 minutes stand in the way of satisfying an upset customer? Its our policy, she said.
We did finally board for the 1:43 flight, after I received 3 different texts from Delta, each 2-5 minutes apart, saying the 1:43 would depart from three different gates. Got settled in, they closed the door and... we waited. After a few minutes, the pilot came on the P.A. and said they had discovered a dent on the wing, and the plane would need to be checked further. So we got off the plane, as they canceled the flight.
Of course, it was a madhouse at the customer service desk, although I was impressed with how calm the agents were. But then again, their travel plans hadn't been disrupted. One woman I spoke with was on the verge of tears because she was supposed to be in Charlotte for her niece's 6:30 wedding.
Delta told me I could be on their next flight out at 9... tomorrow morning. "Unacceptable," I said. "You will get me to Charlotte tonight."
The agent found a seat for me on a U.S. Air flight, going out from the same terminal at 6 tonight. So all is working out, at least so far.
My issue is not with the delays. Stuff happens. Planes break and need repair, weather makes a messs of things, computers go down. My issue is with Delta's total failure to communicate with passengers No one, even after I asked, got on the P.A. to tell us anything, even if just to say there were delays and that they had no further information. They told us nothing.
Some basic information and maybe some small niceties like offering everyone coffee or bottled water would have gone a long way in showing they really do care. A small and inexpensive gesture, along with some information, could have saved the day. Right now I'm looking at a bunch of people who, if they have the choice, will not choose Delta again.
Oh by the way, I am about to have dinner on Delta, using the voucher the airline ended up giving me.
I've always found it difficult to take Donald Trump seriously.
Over the years, he's been exposed many times for exaggerating or maybe even outright lying about things. He has boasted how he's never gone bankrupt, yet his casino properties went bust while he still controlled them.
He exaggerates his wealth, which has now been exposed with his sketchy financial disclosures as he announced his run for the White House. Yes, he's a very wealthy man (much of it thanks to the business he inherited from his father). But if he's worth "only" $350 million or so, that's a lot, so why does he need to tout himself as a billionaire?
Plain and simple -- Mr. Trump is a tacky guy. Does a real billionaire like Michael Bloomberg or Warren Buffet constantly remind us how wealthy he is?
Now it's come out that he paid actors $50 each to come to his campaign announcement and cheer for him. For him, money talks.
The media don't seem to be taking Trump seriously in his latest political bid. Here are links to two examples – from columnist Phil Reisman at The Journal News in suburban New York, and from media and ad critic Barbara Lippert at MediaPost.
I wouldn't be surprised to see him come up with some flimsy excuse for dropping out so he can stay on TV with his "Apprentice" show, with a message and an image he can control. Total control over your message just doesn't work that way in the world of politics. See what happened to Trump's pal Sarah Palin. (Maybe, like Palin, Trump's just looking to ramp up his speaking engagements, which get him a reported $1.7 million per speech. (Jeez, maybe he's not as crazy as he seems.))
Donald might be very nice in person, one on one. I wouldn't know. He certainly can be generous, donating big bucks to various charities, even if he does undermine some of that generosity by insisting his name be plastered all over things he donates or supports. (See what columnist Phil Reisman says about his donation of land for a state park in Westchester.)
But Trump's public persona, accurate or not, is hardly stellar. His public feuds with others over the years have shown him to be petty, thin-skinned, nasty and, in my opinion, a blowhard -- not traits this country wants or needs in a President.
If he stays in the race, he might have the support of some of his "Apprentice" viewers. But even at its peak, the show had some 6 or 8 million viewers, which is hardly enough to form a real base for a national election. And we haven't even talked yet about his experience. Running a family business -- however large -- is not like running the Government, leading a nation and dealing with other nations whose interests don't always mesh with ours. Would the domestic policy and international diplomacy of a President Trump (oooh, the words "President" and "Trump" together are very scary) be based on attitudes like "Take it or leave it," "Money talks," "We want it all, our way" or "You're fired!"
If nothing else, we and the media are sure to be scratching our heads and having some fun for a few weeks or a few months as we Trump-watch to see what zaniness comes from his camp.
Some excerpts from today's press are shown below...
Earlier this week he finally revealed how he will defeat ISIS: He will bomb them, surround them and then send in ExxonMobil to take their oil.
Sounds like a plan.
Up until now, his greatest success in fighting international terrorism was to inadvertently rent out his lush Bedford estate to Moammar Gadhafi. This was in 2009 when the Libyan dictator was in the neighborhood to give an incoherent speech to the United Nations.
Word got out, though. There was an uproar and the mad nomad from hell was sent packing along with the camel he rode in on. A couple of years later, Trump triumphantly claimed he "screwed" Gadhafi out of the rent money. – Journal News columnist Phil Reisman
Let’s face it: Donald Trump’s presidential announcement (otherwise known as throwing his hairpiece, or clown-nose, into the ring) was the gift that keeps on giving (in premium gold lettering, with signature molding, lit-up-in-neon and then set on fire.)
From its very first moment of optical pompitude, the launch achieved heights of comedy platinum that defied even Candidate Trump’s newly silver (but still differently abled) signature combover-whirligig hair-chitecture. That’s when, rather than choosing to deliver his address from on high, the Donald instead rode the TrumpTower’s escalator down into the bowels of his announcement pit, while waving to his fans Kim Jong Il-style. An unwitting reference to an Austin-Powers joke; all he needed to do after that was arrive by the pretend power of canoe-paddling.
Some theorized that the rambling announcement/45-minute speech/pre-made "Saturday Night Live" skit was so stupendously over-the-top, even by the Donald’s super-mogul standards, that it might actually be enough to keep Jon Stewart in his job at "The Daily Show." -- Barbara Lippert, MediaPost
(Trump's) discursive, pugnacious announcement was one of the more bizarre spectacles of the 2016 political season thus far — and one of the most entertaining. – Adam Lerner, Politico Click here to read the 10 best lines, true and funny.
Nothing in Donald Trump's funhouse-mirror presidential campaign announcement Tuesday made sense. Why did he ride down an escalator to get there? Why did he pick Neil Young for his entrance? Why did Neil Young play again over the tepid applause that greeted his official announcement? And: Why did he stray so far from his already amazing prepared remarks?
The unsatisfying answer to all of those questions is the same: Because he's Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is un-fact-checkable. That's his gift and his angle. As he made clear today, he says whatever he wants for as long as he wants, because, why not? If I sat down with him and said that he was wrong on GDP or wrong on premiums, he would call me a hater and a loser and disparage my dog or something. Who knows? Who knows?!
He's programmed to talk about how he's the best and President Obama is the worst and he can fix everything. "Donald, what time is it?" "I can tell you because I own the biggest, most luxurious watch in the world," etc. etc.
So here's the fact-check: Much of what Trump said is nonsense. If nothing else, let his candidacy serve as a reminder that no matter how rich or powerful you are, it's useful to have someone around who can say "no." – Philip Bump. The Washington Post
Nancy Silberkleit, a friend who is Co-CEO of Archie Comics, is a firm believer that comic books, or graphic novels as they are sometimes called, can teach and inspire.
The iconic Archie series is often about teenage puppy love and the angst of growing up.
But Nancy has used the Archie platform, as well as the comic book medium in general, to help young readers deal with issues like bullying and self confidence. She even formed a foundation called Rise Above Social Issues to help kids deal with the issue, and she is a frequent speaker through out the U.S. and as far abroad as India and Africa.
Nancy also believes comics can inspire positive action. She recently added a teacher's guide to an Archie story titled "Get Drastic with Plastic," where Archie's pals Betty and Veronica, after hearing a speaker at school talk about the environmental impact of plastic, got their school and the community to do more to recycle. Nancy made the lesson plan available at no charge to teachers.
Hats off to Nancy Silberkleit for showing how a medium many see as simply light entertainment can be used to inspire and promote responsible action.
When it comes to preferences in music, movies and media, different age groups don't agree on much. But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials do agree on which news sources they feel they can least trust.
All age groups say sources they trust least for accurate reporting are Buzzfeed and three widely-syndicated conservative radio shows hosted by Glenn beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Although many listen to the opinionated radio shows, they may tune in more for the entertainment value than for trustworthy news reporting.
The Pew study found more of a discrepancy by age groups when asked which news sources they can trust. Millennials (ages 19-34) say they rely on two faux-news shows, The Daily Show and the recently-ended Colbert Report. Almost as scary is that this group also lists Al Jazeera America as one its most-trusted sources of news. Boomers and Gen Xers, maybe with wisdom that comes with age, said they don't rely on any of those programs for reliable information. They say they get much of their news from local TV.
Troubling, to me at least, is that newspapers didn't figure into the picture for reliable news. (And where do you think local TV gets many of its story leads? The morning paper.)
For 24 years, Bob Schieffer has helped make sense out of what too often seems like a senseless place -- Washington DC. As host of CBS' Face the Nation every Sunday morning, he'd ask tough questions of those we pay to represent us.
In his closing broadcast today, he said he's enjoyed every bit of the 58 years he's spent as a reporter.
Good luck, Bob, and thanks for your probing and your insights.
Many of us New Yorkers can be a bit sensitive when someone criticizes our city. One frequent -- although really unfair -- criticism is that we New Yorkers are rude. I've come across plenty of rude and selfish people in other cities, large and small. It's not a trait we here in New York own.
So I have to admit, I was pleased to see a story in The Chicago Tribune by transportation reporter Jon Hilkevitch. I've dealt with Jon. He's not at all rude. But evidently many of his fellow Chicagoans are, which has caused the Chicago Transit Authority to launch a new campaign calling for courtesy on the trains and buses serving the windy city.
According to Hilkevitch's story, thirteen humorous messages addressing rude behavior began appearing this week on trains and buses and in stations. The ads address things like blaring loud music, littering and spreading out to take two seats. (New York's MTA has a campaign that addresses that same issue, which they call "manspreading.")
So it's good to see that rudeness is rampant in other places. It makes me feel that much better about this great place that I call home.
With the end of David Letterman's 22-year run in CBS' 11:35 p.m. spot, the network seems to be missing a real opportunity to keep a hold on the late-night spot. But instead, they're pretty much giving up on it until September when Stephen Colbert begins his new show.
In the meantime, CBS has an hour of "The Mentalist" reruns filling the hole between the local news and the promising new talk show being done by James Corden, who took over Craig Ferguson's spot a few months ago. When it was a first-run series, "The Mentalist" did pretty well for CBS. But now that the show is out of production, it becomes one of many re-runs that can be seen late-night on local affiliates and on cable.
Dropping the late-night talk show format at 11:35 puts CBS back in the dark days before they hired Letterman. Although he consistently trailed Jay Leno in the ratings, Letterman did build a solid and loyal following that was a profit center for CBS – more so than the reruns that had filled that time slot for many years.
So I can't understand why CBS is just giving up the slot. If I were CBS CEO Les Moonves, I'd do one of two things.
If Letterman would permit it, I'd run a "Best of Letterman" series of reruns until the new guy comes on board. It would hold the Letterman fans, and after all the hype of the past several weeks, it would probably draw lots of new viewers who never watched Letterman but would now tune in out of curiosity about what they've missed all these years.
If Letterman doesn't want to license those shows to CBS, preferring to have his final show mark the end of him on TV at all, there's another option. Start re-running past Late Late Shows with James Corden. There aren't a lot of them yet, but showing them at 11:35 might build an audience for him in his 12:35 spot.
Actually, there's yet another option which CBS already tried when Craig Ferguson left. During the few months before Corden started, CBS had a series of guest hosts, including many show biz people who you wouldn't expect to see in that role. Some turned out to be pretty good doing soft interviews, and at the least it kept the talk show format alive in that time slot on CBS.
It seems that CBS is just throwing in the towel at 11:35, waiting for Colbert. But as viewers surf over to Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, they'll get comfortable with either or both Jimmy's, and some won't come back – even for Stephen Colbert.
It makes sense to me, but what do I know? I'm not getting anywhere close to the $54.4 million Les Moonves earns, so he must know a lot more than I do. Maybe.