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Mark Steyn: Time for some serious art about war
Chicago Sun-Times ^ | 06/06/04 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 06/05/2004 8:19:15 AM PDT by Pokey78

I bought a Glenn Miller CD the other day. Impulse purchase. I'd careered off the highway and into the mall to grab a big geopolitical analysis book I suddenly needed and, as I dashed in the store, I ran straight into a new best-of-Miller compilation they had on display. I had a long drive till past midnight ahead of me and it seemed just the thing.

They'd had a lot of it on the TV last weekend: featurettes about Washington's new World War II memorial, plenty of interviews with veterans and plenty of period music in the background. Though, of course, if it's your period, you don't think of it as period music. I'd caught a snatch of that marvelous, confident bounce of ''Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (With anyone else but me)'':

''. . .I just got word

From a guy who heard

From a guy next door to me

The girl he met

Just loves to pet

And it fits you to a tee. . .''

For younger readers, I probably ought to explain that Glenn Miller was a bandleader, and when America joined the war he persuaded the brass to let him run an Army Air Force band to pep up the spirits of the boys far from home. He died in December 1944 when his plane came down over the English Channel en route from London to an engagement in France.

For older readers who've been watching the D-Day anniversary celebrations, I don't need to explain a thing. I shoved the Miller compilation in the CD player and up came his theme tune, ''Moonlight Serenade.'' I was driving through the mountains on a beautiful blue moonlit night, which ought to fit the tune perfectly. But it doesn't. That warm, sweet sound is linked to wartime forever, even for those of us who weren't there and know it only as the incidental music to films and TV drama. The serious jazz guys are sniffy about the Miller sound. That clarinet lead with the tenor saxes playing along an octave lower can sound awful cloying in large doses, but, if the mood's right, it's gorgeously romantic. It's the music oozing across a crowded floor in the dying moments at a palais de danse in southern England, and you're pressed together till the final bar because tomorrow you're shipping out . . .

Flash forward 60 years: The old Allies are gathered at Normandy for the D-Day anniversary at a time when we're well into a new war. This time around, the only pop star in uniform is Madonna. On her current world tour, she wears a blue burqa and, when she disrobes, as she inevitably does, she's wearing a U.S. army uniform underneath. Geddit? The Taliban and the Bush administration are both equally oppressive, see?

Not so long ago, Madonna knew her place. It was hanging naked over a wall with her bottom in the air and a German wolfhound giving her the come-hither look while a gay dance troupe cavorted in the background. See Page 67, if memory serves, of her 1992 picture book Sex. If only Madonna went to as much trouble to take a novel position when it comes to war. But no, there's only the usual lazy vapid soul-deadening equivalism: Bush, Saddam, Ashcroft, Mullah Omar, what's the diff? The herd mentality of celebrity ''dissent.'' Would it kill 'em once in a while to dissent from their dissent and try something other than the stultifying orthodoxy of Hollywood cardboard courage?

Sixty years ago, it wasn't just the love songs. James Lileks wrote a column last week about an old Disney cartoon in which Donald Duck gets drafted and assigned a million potatoes to peel. So he carves the skins into the word ''PHOOEY.'' As Lileks says, ''It takes a confident culture to take the average gripes of the enlisted man and put them front and center.'' A ''confident culture'' is exactly the right expression: so confident it could acknowledge soldiering as a disruption both comic (KP) and painful (faraway sweethearts). It's not fake, it's not rah-rah, but it's in tune with the moment.

Once again, flash forward six decades: We've been in the new war now for almost three years, and, unlike Donald Duck and Bogey and Bergman, and Eleanor Powell tapping her patriotic heart now, Hollywood has absolutely nothing to say on the subject, except for a couple of Michael Moore crockumentaries.

I went to see ''The Day After Tomorrow'' the day before yesterday, and it's a hoot, highly recommended -- the best enviro-doom comedy I've seen in years. The director, Roland Emmerich, has made an entire career showing famous Washington and New York landmarks getting destroyed by space aliens (''Independence Day'') and underwater monsters (''Godzilla''). Before 9/11, this was cheesily opportunist. Now it just seems perverse. When the Chrysler Building comes crashing down due to a freak cold snap brought on by Dick Cheney (I hope I'm not giving any plot details away), it's the reductio ad absurdum of the lengths Hollywood's willing to go to avoid saying a word about the fellows who actually did bring down a New York landmark.

Even when some hapless studio exec accidentally options a property that happens to have Islamist terrorists in it -- like Tom Clancy's The Sum Of All Fears -- the first thing they do is change the enemy to German neo-Nazis. Imagine it's 1943, you're in a script meeting about ''Casablanca,'' and Jack Warner says, ''I like it. But do the bad guys have to be Germans? How about if we reset it in Massachusetts and make them sinister British neo-Redcoats?''

Something has gone badly wrong when (with the exception of a few country songs) our popular culture visibly recoils from the biggest event of our time. Hollywood has plenty of ''courage'' when it comes to Michael Moore conspiracies or Madonna's bottom. But ask them to make a post-9/11 thriller in which Americans are the good guys and the enemy is, well, the enemy, and they'd tell you there's no audience for it. Just like they told Mel he'd lose his shirt on ''The Passion of the Christ.'' It's not about economics, it's about the loss of that ''cultural confidence'' James Lileks wrote about.

Which is a big problem, because the smarter Islamists have figured out that's the way to beat us. Imagine our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at ceremonies 60 years from now: Where's the soundtrack?


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: marksteyn; marksteynlist
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1 posted on 06/05/2004 8:19:16 AM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Howlin; riley1992; Miss Marple; deport; Dane; sinkspur; steve; kattracks; JohnHuang2; ...

2 posted on 06/05/2004 8:19:55 AM PDT by Pokey78 (quidnunc: A one person crusade to destroy Mark Steyn.)
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To: Pokey78

Sadly, he's right.


3 posted on 06/05/2004 8:22:28 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Pokey78

Steyn, he's the best.

Bump.


4 posted on 06/05/2004 8:27:41 AM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: Dog Gone

The only part of The Day After Tomorrow that I like hearing about is when the tornado rips through Hollywood.


5 posted on 06/05/2004 8:31:33 AM PDT by Paul Atreides
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To: Pokey78

Poifekt!


6 posted on 06/05/2004 8:31:40 AM PDT by arasina (So there.)
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To: Dog Gone

Let's see how long it takes Traitorwood to do a movie about Abu Greb.


7 posted on 06/05/2004 8:32:54 AM PDT by Paul Atreides
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To: Pokey78; tet68

Greatpiece. However, there's NO WAY int he world he was sober when he wrote this....he HAD tohave a little buzz on. So, the question is, WDSD?..what does Steyn drink..Lawdy, I hope it ain't Molson's or Labatt's..my money's on Jamieson's..


8 posted on 06/05/2004 8:33:51 AM PDT by ken5050
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To: Pokey78

This is why soldiers come to rule in Later days.

They're the only figures the mob respects.


9 posted on 06/05/2004 8:34:48 AM PDT by headsonpikes (Spirit of '76 bttt!)
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To: arasina

heres the title for the movie, Abu Ghraib , WHEN THE GOOD BAD GUYS BEAT THE BAD BAD GUYS.


10 posted on 06/05/2004 8:35:51 AM PDT by lillybet (oireadmefirst)
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To: Pokey78
" When the Chrysler Building comes crashing down due to a freak cold snap brought on by Dick Cheney (I hope I'm not giving any plot details away), it's the reductio ad absurdum of the lengths Hollywood's willing to go to avoid saying a word about the fellows who actually did bring down a New York landmark".

BANG! He nailed it!

This is his best yet!

11 posted on 06/05/2004 8:37:30 AM PDT by JOE6PAK ("The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein)
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To: Pokey78; WhistlingPastTheGraveyard

Thanks for the ping... passing it on.


12 posted on 06/05/2004 8:39:18 AM PDT by cgk (Rumsfeld: Our task, your task... is to try to connect the dots before something happens.)
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To: Pokey78

Well, yes and no. There were some great songs out of World War II. Fantastic songs. The only problem is if we watch a current movie depicting that era, the only song that's played is "In the Mood". I like the song but you would think it was the only one that was ever composed from the years 1940-45.


13 posted on 06/05/2004 8:39:38 AM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Vote a Straight Republican Ballot. Rid the country of dems.)
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To: Paul Atreides; Dog Gone

This largely apolitical girl I've fallen for with a thunk that could be heard in the next country convinced me to see Day After Tomorrow with her. I didn't like the idea because I didn't like the film's politics, and I don't like seeing thousands of people die, even in a movie. But of course it was with Her, and so I did.

It was the most ridiculous movie I've ever seen. There were plot holes you could drive a truck through; of course going out was suicidal, and the temperature was dropping by "ten degrees a second", and yet people went out and survived anyway. Sheesh. If the temperature was dropping 10 degrees a second, everyone in the movie would have been dead within a minute! Argh!

It was rather interesting, though, that it was a feel-good movie that in the end played all the death and destruction for laughs. Weird. I don't get it. I suppose it makes it watchable - as I told Her at the end of the movie, "It wasn't nearly as harrowing as I would have thought". But my moral sense hated that. Geez.

Thoughts?

D


14 posted on 06/05/2004 8:45:56 AM PDT by daviddennis (;)
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To: dighton; general_re; Pokey78
Michael Moore crockumentaries
15 posted on 06/05/2004 8:47:33 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: Pokey78

> with the exception of a few country songs

He's right about that. Thanks to Toby Keith, John. M. Montgomery, Daryll Warley, and a few others for the rare exceptions.


16 posted on 06/05/2004 8:49:47 AM PDT by Paul_B
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To: daviddennis
I haven't seen the film and don't know that I will. In order to enjoy it, I think I'd have to go in with the mindset that it's a comedy.

I guess the good thing about it is that the plot and science is so absurd that many environmentalists are worried that the movie's political message will backfire.

17 posted on 06/05/2004 8:53:09 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Pokey78

Toby Keith and Ted Nugent. Sad that it's so few, and there are no movies.....none. Hollywood has become a foreign country.


18 posted on 06/05/2004 8:53:27 AM PDT by McGavin999 (If Kerry can't deal with the "Republican Attack Machine" how is he going to deal with Al Qaeda)
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To: daviddennis

I've not seen the movie, and don't plan to see it. That said, I think this movie is one of those movies that is unintentionally funny. If you have ever seen Exorcist II: The Heretic, you'll know what I mean. It was made as an election-year movie, and has all of the earmarks of one. It speaks volumes that it was heavily touted in the media, before the premiere, and endorse by Algore.


19 posted on 06/05/2004 8:54:17 AM PDT by Paul Atreides
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To: aculeus
dissent from their dissent

I like this one among his many quotables.

20 posted on 06/05/2004 8:55:25 AM PDT by Carolinamom
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To: Paul Atreides
Oh yes, Algore the famous movie reviewer who also endorsed Howard Dean.

How come everything he endorses becomes an object of ridicule?

21 posted on 06/05/2004 8:57:06 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone

Well, when you are an object of ridicule yourself....


22 posted on 06/05/2004 8:58:44 AM PDT by Paul Atreides
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To: scholar; Bullish; linear; yoda swings

Ping


23 posted on 06/05/2004 8:58:51 AM PDT by knighthawk (Some people say that we'll get nowhere at all, let 'em tear down the world but we ain't gonna fall)
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To: Paul_B

I learned to dance to Big Band music and the popular music of WW2 was popular for years after.

Where are our Andrews Sisters...our Irving Berlin?...Where are our John Wayne war movies?...Where is a depiction of what we faced and are facing still...

We have heros...why no movies?


24 posted on 06/05/2004 9:00:06 AM PDT by MEG33 (John Kerry's been AWOL for two decades on issues of National Security)
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To: Pokey78; devolve
bump !

Flash forward 60 years: The old Allies are gathered at Normandy for the D-Day anniversary at a time when we're well into a new war. This time around, the only pop star in uniform is Madonna. On her current world tour, she wears a blue burqa and, when she disrobes, as she inevitably does, she's wearing a U.S. army uniform underneath. Geddit? The Taliban and the Bush administration are both equally oppressive, see?

Not so long ago, Madonna knew her place. It was hanging naked over a wall with her bottom in the air and a German wolfhound giving her the come-hither look while a gay dance troupe cavorted in the background. See Page 67, if memory serves, of her 1992 picture book Sex. If only Madonna went to as much trouble to take a novel position when it comes to war. But no, there's only the usual lazy vapid soul-deadening equivalism: Bush, Saddam, Ashcroft, Mullah Omar, what's the diff? The herd mentality of celebrity ''dissent.'' Would it kill 'em once in a while to dissent from their dissent and try something other than the stultifying orthodoxy of Hollywood cardboard courage?


25 posted on 06/05/2004 9:00:52 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP (There is ONLY ONE good Democrat: one that has just been voted OUT of POWER ! Straight ticket GOP!)
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To: Pokey78
Even when some hapless studio exec accidentally options a property that happens to have Islamist terrorists in it -- like Tom Clancy's The Sum Of All Fears -- the first thing they do is change the enemy to German neo-Nazis. Imagine it's 1943, you're in a script meeting about ''Casablanca,'' and Jack Warner says, ''I like it. But do the bad guys have to be Germans? How about if we reset it in Massachusetts and make them sinister British neo-Redcoats?''
26 posted on 06/05/2004 9:02:02 AM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Paul_B

Watch True Lies. Islamist terrorists there. Pre 9/11 but they are there. The trouble is the star ain't making movies anymore and at the time the movie came out muslims protested their depiction. I wouldn't be surprised if a new version comes out some day with terrorists suddenly being neo nazis.


27 posted on 06/05/2004 9:06:00 AM PDT by xp38
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To: daviddennis

Thoughts?

Danger, danger two heads and not enough blood.


28 posted on 06/05/2004 9:10:30 AM PDT by DUMBGRUNT (Sane, and have the papers to prove it!)
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To: xp38

Also the 1988 movie Frantic with Harrison Ford has some Iraqi agents trying to get a hold of nuclear bomb detonators although most of the movie is a kidnapping mystery.


29 posted on 06/05/2004 9:12:19 AM PDT by xp38
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To: Pokey78; All
"...it's about the loss of that ''cultural confidence'' James Lileks wrote about...[sic]"

This is something I am very interested in ~ does anyone have a link to what he is refering to by James Lileks?

30 posted on 06/05/2004 9:20:49 AM PDT by expatguy (Fallujah Delenda Est!!)
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To: Constitution Day

Un-Quidnunc hacked Stein,back at Ya'.


31 posted on 06/05/2004 9:21:08 AM PDT by Redcoat LI (You Can Trust Me , I'm Not Like The Others.....)
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To: Pokey78

I'm guesing this guy doesn't listen to any country stations.


32 posted on 06/05/2004 9:21:44 AM PDT by fella
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To: Dog Gone; Paul Atreides
If Al Gore endorsed it, he must not have seen it. Either that, or he's wacko. Wait ... I suppose that's established already, no?

I thought it was an amazingly bad movie. I think She was impressed by the special effects, as was my friend Bill. I thought even the special effects were a little cheesy. Bill told me that the special effects were great, and that's what people saw it for.

I don't think it was effective in bringing any kind of great morality to people. If the moralizing was the purpose of the film, it's a failure.

But it looks like a significant financial success no matter what your other thoughts, so I guess we're doomed ... to see a whole bunch of weather-related disaster movies in the near future.

D

33 posted on 06/05/2004 9:25:33 AM PDT by daviddennis (;)
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To: daviddennis

That's so sweet!

Ain't love grand?


34 posted on 06/05/2004 9:36:57 AM PDT by altura
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To: JOE6PAK
" When the Chrysler Building comes crashing down due to a freak cold snap brought on by Dick Cheney (I hope I'm not giving any plot details away), it's the reductio ad absurdum of the lengths Hollywood's willing to go to avoid saying a word about the fellows who actually did bring down a New York landmark".
BANG! He nailed it!
This is his best yet!

You nailed it too. That sentence literally jumped at me from the screen. Steyn is a National Treasure.

35 posted on 06/05/2004 9:39:37 AM PDT by Oatka
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To: MEG33

Ironic that the dynamic portrayed in "Reds" has been turned around, so that when someone like Mel Gibson, or a Charlie Daniels, breaks orthodoxy the persecution begins in earnest. All I can say is thank God for much of the new country music. Guess that makes this New Yorker a bit of a counter-eletist.


36 posted on 06/05/2004 9:43:34 AM PDT by Paul_B
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To: xp38

I will. Thanks for the reco.


37 posted on 06/05/2004 9:44:19 AM PDT by Paul_B
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To: Paul Atreides
The only part of The Day After Tomorrow that I like hearing about is when the tornado rips through Hollywood.

Never mind the politics, it's a funny movie. It's science fiction, the key word is fiction.

I'm not even convinced it was made as propaganda, though the 'rats are using it that way.

38 posted on 06/05/2004 9:46:07 AM PDT by Salman
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To: Pokey78
Steyn takes on Hollywood.

Hollywood loses!

Thanks for beating you-know-who to this Steyn masterpiece, Pokey78.

39 posted on 06/05/2004 9:46:11 AM PDT by Gritty ("Hollywood has nothing to say on the war, except for a few Michael Moore crockumentaries-Mark Steyn)
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To: Paul_B

I am a Texan,loved big bands.. Country when I was growing up was really twangy and I didn't really like it. Patsy Cline I did like..

Now country is different...I have saved the good country songs you talk about to my computer...


40 posted on 06/05/2004 10:01:20 AM PDT by MEG33 (John Kerry's been AWOL for two decades on issues of National Security)
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To: Pokey78
It's not about economics, it's about the loss of that ''cultural confidence''

This is sad, and more than a bit frightening. When the majority the media do not believe we are the good guys, it becomes more difficult for the general public to remember that we are, in fact, the good guys.

41 posted on 06/05/2004 10:07:31 AM PDT by Friend of thunder (No sane person wants war, but oppressors want oppression.)
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To: daviddennis

Date conservatives.


42 posted on 06/05/2004 10:18:28 AM PDT by Max Combined
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To: Pokey78
I agree with him, however, I think that unlike WW II, surfeit is another bad art culprit. The period that preceeded WW II was a period of deprivation, and a pretty serious and long-lived one at that. That, in and of itself, paves the way for artistic expression in a way that surfeit probably never can. Goya's Colossus, not only symbolizes Spain's experience with War, it symbolizes the near absolute destruction of ordinary living that normally accompanies war. Iraqis, have a much better chance of proudcing great Art, then any of the people the Coalition Forces are acting in defense of.

Another problem with producing good Art, is that a lot of what needs saying has already been said many, many times. Sure, you can find myriad ways to express age-old themes, but who's really living the age-old themes? Who really would like them to be revived? Not near the majority, if you ask me.

The theme of love is virulently manifested in the inability of 1/2 of the population to stay true to their commitment, their word, and they don't want to have the theme of an all-enduring love brought back around, IMO; too much to think about, too much of an indictment against the call for them to live a life of abandon, be filled w/self-esteem, etc. This of course doesn't apply to the men and women who are divorced, but would have given everything to tough it out, if the other partner had been willing. Unfortunately, I don't think these people represent a large portion of that 1/2 of the population.

Maybe we produce bad art, because a whole lot of people don't really want it, they see it as harsh judgement.

43 posted on 06/05/2004 10:19:14 AM PDT by AlbionGirl
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To: ken5050

Pure grain alcohol and rainwater.


44 posted on 06/05/2004 10:23:31 AM PDT by atomicpossum (I give up! Entropy, you win!)
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To: Pokey78

Didn't the band Three Doors Down do a video featuring US servicemen and women for their song "Here Without You?"


45 posted on 06/05/2004 10:25:27 AM PDT by ryanjb2
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To: daviddennis
Thoughts?

Many. But it's your relationship, not mine. :-)

46 posted on 06/05/2004 10:25:38 AM PDT by atomicpossum (I give up! Entropy, you win!)
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To: Shooter 2.5
Well, yes and no. There were some great songs out of World War II. Fantastic songs. The only problem is if we watch a current movie depicting that era, the only song that's played is "In the Mood". I like the song but you would think it was the only one that was ever composed from the years 1940-45.

And if there was a song from The War, it was "I'll be seeing you."

Like everybody who wasn't gimpy, Johnny Carson served. His last week on the air, he put on some amazing shows. One night, Bette Midler performed not one, not two, but four songs, accompanied by some comely ladies in mermaid suits. I always forget one, but I recall "Miss Oda Regrets," "One for My Baby," and in closing, "Here's That Rainy Day." I could have sworn I saw Johnny wipe away a tear at the end of that song, but he did it in such a subtle way, I've never been absolutely certain.

The last night wasn't a normal show at all, but a camera following Johnny around for a typical day of producing the show. As far as I'm concerned, the penultimate show was his send-off. He had the surviving performers who had been his guests on his first show, in 1962 -- Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett. Bennett gave a beautiful, perfect rendition of "I'll be Seeing You," which was Carson's favorite song.

47 posted on 06/05/2004 10:27:13 AM PDT by mrustow
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To: Pokey78

Thanks, Pokey!


48 posted on 06/05/2004 10:32:50 AM PDT by UnklGene
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To: expatguy
http://www.lileks.com/bleats/

"ask and you shall receive"

49 posted on 06/05/2004 10:45:00 AM PDT by Countyline
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To: ken5050
... what does Steyn drink..Lawdy, I hope it ain't Molson's or Labatt's..my money's on Jamieson's....

If he's anything like me, he drinks whatever he fancies.

50 posted on 06/05/2004 10:51:41 AM PDT by Agnes Heep (Solus cum sola non cogitabuntur orare pater noster)
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