Archive for February 17, 2017

Today’s General Strike Solidarity Rally in NYC

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, Protests with tags , , , on February 17, 2017 by travsd

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Theoretically today was a day of a general strike, which normally means a day when no one works or buys anything or conducts any business, but looking around the busy city I got the feeling there was precious little inactivity. But there was a rally at Washington Square Park with a couple thousand people. Wearing my critic’s hat, the event felt like a bit of a missed opportunity, particularly in the wake of the President’s deranged press conference yesterday and the thousand scandals bouncing around out there. The main problem was the lack of a decent P.A. Some guys spoke into a weak bullhorn but no one could hear them and they gave up…which translated into a lack of an organized, focused program.  It was less galvanizing than such events can often be. When some people started chanting “This is what Democracy looks like!” I found myself saying, “You got THAT right!”

But it wasn’t a waste of time, by any means — people rallied and chanted and talked and bonded. Appropriately we gathered near the statue of the great Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garbaldi: 

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My old pal the public historian Kathleen Hulser was there! I've learned a lot from this lady. It was kind of perfect running her next to the statue of Garibaldi.

My old pal the public historian Kathleen Hulser was there! I’ve learned a lot from this lady. It was kind of perfect running into her next to the statue of Garibaldi.

 

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It’s hard to make the fluorescent yellow writing out, but this flag has the verbatim language Trump used when he did his off-camera pussy brag

 

Protest merch salesmen. I'll lay dollars to donuts that NYC has a higher percentage of these guys at its rallies than other cities do.

Protest merch salesmen. I’ll lay dollars to donuts that NYC has a higher percentage of these guys at its rallies than other cities do.

Across the street from the park I came across this bus. At first I thought there’d be trouble from pro-Trump people…but it turned out to be some kind of satirical art project, which the details below made clear:

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Tomorrow: Granny’s Blue-Mers at Freddy’s

Posted in BROOKLYN, Contemporary Variety with tags , , on February 17, 2017 by travsd

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Keeping Up Appearances: The Comic Genius of Patricia Routledge

Posted in Comedy, Sit Coms, Television, Women with tags , , , , on February 17, 2017 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of the brilliant British comic actress Dame Patricia Routledge (b. 1929). What a testament to the importance of luck in the creation of performance magic is Routledge’s career. Her resume is stuffed with substantial credits: a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, winner of an Olivier Award and a Tony. I’d previously seen her in films many a time without particularly noting her.  She’s in To Sir With Love (1967), Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968) and If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969). Her list of credits is much much longer than this, and she is much better known to British audiences to American ones, through tv, film and theatre.

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But talent and experience are only part of what makes for greatness. Sometimes the right actor gets the right part at the right time and alchemy occurs. Such is the case with Routledge’s role as the ever-striving (upward) housewife Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s pronounced “Bouquet’!”) on Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995). I was instantly smitten with this comic creation the first time I saw it. Hyacinth is a middle class provincial woman  who makes life hell for everyone around her with her insufferable pretensions.

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Meanwhile, reality is always giving the lie to her schemes. Her origins are in the lower classes. Her crass relatives are always showing up to her embarrass her. She’s always being appalled, chagrined, exasperated.  And she herself is never quite up to what she attempts. She mispronounces words. Her attempts at a posh accent and manners are transparently silly. Her efforts to claim her modest home and surroundings are somehow grand are at once heroic, sad, and obvious. In her denial of the world around her, she is definitely a spiritual heiress to Don Quixote. And Routledge has the prodigious talent, skill and intelligence to play it that way. She has the range to give us the pretentious elocution and rolled “R”s, but at the same time she’ll go for broke and rob the character of ALL dignity, and just go into utter slapstick in her desperate attempts to keep her subterfuges going. She pulls funny faces, and falls into the mud. She’s constantly peeking from behind things to see how her plans are playing out — and not liking what she sees.

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Along for the ride is her long suffering husband Richard (Clive Swift), a minor local official whom she is forever trying to turn into a big shot. If Hyacinth is Quixote, Richard is less like her Sancho than her Rocinante, the pathetic, elderly horse who passively accepts his miserable lot in life. He grumbles but he doesn’t fight Hyacinth’s plots and schemes. He just does what she tells him, always with full knowledge of impending disaster. Her constant cycle of failure gives the show a poignancy, and elevates Hyacinth to one of the great modern comic creations.

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Credit must be given to the show’s writer/creator Roy Clarke (obviously not the country singer) who conceived and built this perfect comic engine. Not only does it contain everything Routledge needed to give full-on broadly comical performances, but there’s something inherently, timeless, eloquently English about the theme of class-jumping and the clash between reality and fantasy in Hyacinth’s head. She wants to be “somebody”. She is not to content to be herself. The theme is also modern and universal, which is why Keeping Up Appearances has proven to be the BBC’s biggest export. It certainly resonates here in America. It struck an enormous chord with this correspondent.

A few months ago, the BBC launched a prequel series called Young Hyacinth, without Routledge’s participation. She’s 87 today; she’s earned a rest. Happy birthday Dame Patricia. How glad Hyacinth would be to know that she’s being portrayed by one of the nobility!

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