November 24, 2017

Stay Tuned with Preet, a podcast for legal eagles

One of my adult piano students encouraged me to download my first podcast, Stay Tuned With Preet, a weekly audio program that talks about law, justice and politics. What could be more apt right now?

If you are a news junkie, you may vaguely remember the name Preet Bharara, the U. S. Attorney for the Southern district of New York who was fired by the Trump Administration. The show not only explains the details of his firing, but features interviews with people “in the know.”

Leon Panetta is the podcast’s first fascinating guest who has held such illustrious titles as Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget as well as U. S. Representative from California. Talk about an insider!
Other not-to-be-missed guests in the podcast series are Sen. Jeff Flake, Judd Apatow, Bill Browder (I wrote about his book Red Notice in a previous blog post) and John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism for the NYPD and a noted journalist.

Like me, you may just start with the first program from Sept. 19, 2017 and binge-listen all of the current episodes.

The quality of guests along with Preet’s probing questions and articulate comments make this one of the smartest shows in any format. He ends each program with a positive anecdote, rather like a bit of dessert after a very heavy meal.

Born in India to a Sikh father and a Hindu mother who immigrated to the U. S., Bharara is a great example of the richness of our immigrant heritage. Keep asking questions about the truth, Preet! We’re listening.

Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix

With the Great British Baking Show on hiatus, Netflix has added an Aussie baking show called Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Much flashier than its British counterpart, the Zumbo set is reminiscent of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The season starts with twelve contestants of varying ages and both genders. Each program features a general assignment that all current contestants tackle. The two lowest scorers have to undergo a Zumbo test to create insanely complicated dessert creations. The lowest scorer of that competition is eliminated. Like other reality cooking shows, the winner is the last one standing.

The hosts are genius Australian dessertmaker Adriano Zumbo, British cook, writer and broadcaster Rachel Khoo and Gigi Falanga, their outspoken Brazilian cooking assistant.

Some viewers may not like the colorful flash, the quick camera edits and dramatic music this show embraces, but I find the program untaxing and cheery after a rough day. Non-chef that I am, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is a veritable palate-cleanser for me. Sweet indeed.

Birthday nod to lyricist Marilyn Bergman

Marilyn Bergman is co-lyricist with husband, Alan Bergman on countless songs for movies, recordings and theater. She is the former president of ASCAP, the performing rights organization for songwriters and publishers.

Their hits include What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, How Do You Keep the Music Playing, The Way We Were, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Where Do You Start, The Windmills of Your Mind, It Might Be You, The Summer Knows, So Many Stars, The Last Time I Felt Like This and many others.

NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett

I continue to adore my WBEZ app which allows me to catch all of my favorite NPR broadcasts no matter the time or day.

One of the marvelous programs that concerns itself with philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical topics is On Being with Krista Tippett. As the web site notes, “We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Not only have I heard celebrities interviewed like poet Nikki Giovanni and actor Martin Sheen, but also academics, religious figures, artists, poets, civil rights advocates and thinkers of all stripes. Big questions about life, death and meaning are frequently tackled.
Seekers of audio fluff need to look elsewhere!

Four ways to experience On Being:

Live on air Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 7 a.m. on WBEZ (91.5 FM)

At the WBEZ Web site: https://www.wbez.org/shows/on-being/53693dfa-bfc9-43ec-a09f-6f5de55e9e9f

as an On Being with Krista Tippett podcast

or add the WBEZ app to your smart phone or tablet.

One of my favorite recent programs is with Daniel Kahneman, author, psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. He discusses why we think and do what we do which sheds light on the current cultural and political scene.
https://www.wbez.org/shows/on-being/unedited-daniel-kahneman-with-krista-tippett/ef9062da-7f48-4249-8d8a-b14180f3b5a7

Riverdale on Netflix and the CW

Veronica, Betty & Archie on the CW’s Riverdale

Riverdale, originally conceived as a movie, took life instead as a tv series on the CW produced by CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Based on the Archie Comics, the main characters would be familiar to anyone who has ever read the iconic comic strip or one of the Archie comic books.

KJ Apa, a New Zealander who won the worldwide contest to play the red-headed Archie is amazing, as is Lili Reinhart embodying the blonde ponytailed Betty, the raven-haired Veronica brought to life by Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse as the endearing loner, hat-wearing Jughead Jones.

The episodes are far darker than any comic book story line, however, with murder, teacher-student sexual relationships, teen pregnancy, drug-dealing, gang activity and financial skullduggery being essential points in the over-arching plot.

The script makes references to news events both current and past. When a teacher is suspected of seducing a student, someone calls it going “Mary Kay Letourneau.” Veronica’s father is a Bernie Madoff-type character who is doing prison time for ripping off investors.

Indeed, the dialogue has much in common with the Gilmore Girls for mentions of cultural trivia in whip smart banter, but that is where the comparison ends.

The cinematography, lighting and general tone are darker than midnight. The villains are over-the-top with mean comments that make no bones about their selfishness, vindictiveness and ill intent. This is not cinema vérité, but stylized soap opera and horror.

The notorious Blossom family on Riverdale

As an additional blast from the past, veteran actors with main and recurring roles are Luke Perry (90210), Robin Givens (Head of the Class), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho , Law & Order: LA) and Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks).

Riverdale might be the series for fans of the Archie comic books, or parents who want to share a CW show with their kids. Just be prepared for some interesting discussions about thorny topics.

Season One is available for streaming on Netflix. Season Two is currently being broadcast Wednesdays on the CW network.

Wanted: Australian tv series on Netflix

If you need a high octane tv show to get caught up in, look no further than Wanted, a two season Australian thriller currently streaming on Netflix.

Imagine two women, à la Thelma and Louise, at a suburban bus stop Down Under, one a youngish accountant and the other a middle-aged check-out clerk who inadvertently get caught up in murder, drugs and kidnapping.

Rebecca Gibney as the older, more streetwise Lola Buckley plays well against Geraldine Hakewill as the more timid rich girl, Chelsea Babbage. They encounter dirty cops, human traffickers, loan sharks, a crime lord and people with longstanding grudges. A little bit of romance is injected into the scenario as they elude both the police and the bad guys who sometimes are one and the same.

As an added bonus, the women find themselves in gorgeous locations like Thailand and New Zealand so fans of beautiful cinematography will be rewarded. Make no mistake, this is no Charlie’s Angels, however, with coiffed hair and designer clothes. In the 12 episodes (6 per season), these gals opt for being formidable instead of fashionable.

Americans and Aussies will have to wait until 2018 to see what happens to our two ladies on the lam when Wanted continues with Season 3.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

When a book wins the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and is a choice for Oprah’s Book Club, notice must be taken. Such is the case with The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, an epic novel about Cora, a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation.

The book has been on my “to read” list since its 2016 release, but I must admit, the topic of slavery was a tough issue for me to tackle; likewise, the Holocaust. How can anyone justify such inhumanity to other sentient beings? Whitehead, however, allows the reader to think about these issues through the eyes of slaves, slave owners, slave hunters and people on both sides of Abolition.

The Underground Railway is fiction with a touch of magical realism. In Whitehead’s world before the Civil War, the railroad is an actual transportation system with secret stations, tracks and volunteers both black and white who keep the conveyance running.

The novel has much in common with The Iliad and other ‘grand journey’ stories, but Whitehead has imbued the writing with emotional scenes and unforgettable character depictions. Cora encounters villains and heros alike on her flight from slavery.

I often found myself close to tears while listening to this masterful work. Yes, I used an audio book to experience The Underground Railroad.

However you choose to experience this award-winner, I urge you to consider reading The Underground Railroad. I plan to get a paper copy in the near future so I can further appreciate the fine writing of Colson Whitehead.

And what a movie this will make! Spielberg or Oprah, have either of you bought the movie rights yet?

Julie Wilson, cabaret icon and mother

I had chosen Cabaret artist Julie Wilson as my honoree since she would have been 93 this week. As luck would have it, I had also selected Mind Hunter for a blog post. Imagine my surprise when I realized that her son, Holt McCallany was one of the stars of this Netflix original series. Synchronicity at work.

Whenever I was in New York, I would stop in to see Iowa-born make-up artist Steven Herrald and buy products from him. He was also the make-up man for cabaret icon Julie Wilson who was originally from Nebraska. Our paths crossed at his studio where I first heard about her son, Holt McCallany, the actor. She was rightfully proud of his success.

For those who need a refresher on who Julie Wilson was, her career spanned from her Broadway stage debut in 1946 all the way to her cabaret engagements before her death in 2015.
Career highlights included her Tony nomination for Legs Diamond in 1988, a Broadway musical starring the legendary Peter Allen, her appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and roles on the soap opera, The Secret Storm. I even saw tv footage where she did a head stand on one of the late night talk shows. She was an avid practitioner of yoga!

Wilson resided in London in the early 1950s while performing in productions of Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific and Bells Are Ringing. She also did American national tours in Show Boat, Panama Hattie, Silk Stockings, Follies, Company and A Little Night Music.

She was best known to me as a superlative interpreter of Great American Song with collection recordings featuring material by Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, Harold Arlen, Cy Coleman, Stephen Sondheim, and the Gershwins.

Julie, we miss you but we see a bit of your signature eyes in the face of Holt. Your legacy lives on in son and song.

Mind Hunter on Netflix

Netflix recently premiered an original series called Mind Hunters which dramatizes the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s initial research into serial killers. Strange to think that before the 1960s, the FBI had yet to compile data on individuals who had murdered multiple people. Richard Speck, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam and many others changed all of that.

Jonathan Groff of Glee and Hamilton fame plays special agent Holden Ford who begins to interview incarcerated murderers and sees some patterns in upbringing, methods and thought processes. The behavior science team is rounded out by partner Bill Tench played by Holt McCallany (see the post on his mother, Julie Wilson) and Anna Torv who is the academic who comes up with a questionnaire to show some commonality in the crimes of these killers.

The murders mentioned are gruesome and true so this is not a series for the faint of heart. Some reviewers have said the pacing is slow, but the ten episodes kept my attention. As a fan of crime drama, I found this dramatic history of FBI “profiling” to be incisive.

earthcam.com

Someone tech savvy recommended the app earthcam.com to me. I have been taking vicarious trips ever since.

Many famous venues have real-time video feeds which you can access through this site. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Times Square in New York, to name but a few.

Think of any place on earth and there just may be live video footage available. Want to see an osprey nest or a rare plant? You just may be in luck.

Categories include National Parks, Iconic Landmarks, Animals and Zoos, Weird & Bizarre along with very amateurish video footage that viewers submit. A Peeling Paint cam in London, England goes in the “no thank you” column.

Now, back to my virtual travel browsing! Let me see… the Great Wall of China, the San Diego Zoo, the Vatican, Millenium Park in Chicago, Wrigley Field for one last post season look…….

http://www.earthcam.com/