Archive | Arts & Music

Get Him to the Greek

What else can you do when it’s this friggin’ hot? We went to the heavily air-conditioned movies to see “Get Him To The Greek,” a good-natured summer film that manages to be funny without insulting your intelligence. (Look for an amusing walk-on by Paul Krugman.) It’s a cross between “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Spinal Tap,” only on acid.

‘1776’: The Eagle Inside Belongs To Us

Yesterday I was downtown, driving through the historic area so many Philadelphians take for granted. As always, I was deeply moved by the sight of the visitors who come all over the world to spend Independence Day in my home town.

Think about that. They could have gone somewhere else, or stayed home for a backyard barbecue. Instead, they came to Philadelphia for July 4th because they’re drawn by the idea of liberty, and the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence.

It seems our elected officials forget about those ideals. But we haven’t! Sure, there are many reasons to be depressed, but don’t give up. Get mad, get organized! Remember, it’s our country. It doesn’t belong to the corporations.

It belongs to us.

Adams:
It’s a masterpiece, I say!
They will cheer every word, every letter

Jefferson:
I wish I felt that way

Franklin:
I believe I can put it better
Now then attend, as friend to friend
Our Declaration Committee
For us I see immortality

All:
In Philadelphia City

Franklin:
A farmer, a lawyer, and a sage
A bit gouty in the leg
You know it’s quite bizarre
To think that here we are
Playing midwives to an egg

All:
We’re waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp
Of an eaglet being born
We’re waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp
On this humid Monday morning in this
Congressional incubator

Franklin:
God knows the temperature’s hot enough
To hatch a stone, let alone an egg

All:
We’re waiting for the scratch, scratch, scratch
Of that tiny little fellow
Waiting for the egg to hatch
On this humid Monday morning in this
Congressional incubator

Adams:
God knows the temperature’s hot enough
To hatch a stone

Jefferson:
But will it hatch an egg?

Adams:
The eagle’s going to crack the shell
Of the egg that England laid

All:
Yes, so we can tell, tell, tell
On this humid Monday morning in this
Congressional incubator

Franklin:
And as just as Tom here has written
Though the egg may belong to Great Britain,
The eagle inside belongs to us!

All:
And as just as Tom here has written
We say to hell with Great Britain!
The eagle inside belongs to us!

Cool, cool considerate men

The musical “1776” is one of my very favorite movies, and it rings as true today as it did in 1972, when it was first released. Michael Winship of Public Affairs Television writes:

In some ways, this sparkly paean to patriotism is a subversive little hand grenade, its liberal politics woven into the plot at a time when Richard Nixon was still in the White House. In an exchange that stings now even more than it did then, John Hancock tells John Dickinson, “Fortunately there are not enough men of property in America to dictate policy,” and Dickinson replies, “Perhaps not. But don’t forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor.”

When the movie version was released its producer, Jack Warner — allegedly at the behest of Nixon — removed a song, “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” sung by loyalist, conservative delegates who smugly shout, “We have land, cash in hand, self-command, future planned!” According to “1776” writer Peter Stone, “The opponents of independence were very much involved in commerce and profits, so they were very much allied to modern conservatives. Nixon didn’t want Americans to be reminded of this as he faced re-election in 1972, and the country was preparing to celebrate it’s bicentennial. I think that’s why he hated the song, and why Jack Warner took it out.”

Luckily, the missing footage was found and has been restored to the version we see today on TV and DVD.

“1776” is a reminder that the embrace of the status quo in the face of revolutionary ideas is nothing new. Nor is bloody legislative compromise or our ongoing frustration over a Congress mired in petty squabbling, unable to take action.

At the beginning of the story, John Adams sings, “A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I’d accept with some despair. But no, You sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?” Later he laments, “I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress!”

But the Tea Partiers and Glenn Becks of America who scorn government and who have tried turning the Founding Fathers into libertarian deities will find little comfort in “1776.” As Franklin says in the film, “We’re men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.” Rather than fall hopelessly into endless name-calling and mudslinging like today, ultimately these men engaged in forthright debate and overcame ideological differences that threatened to stop their revolution before it began. They managed to produce a nation, an experiment outlined in a Declaration of Independence that is, as the movie version’s John Adams says, “a masterful expression of the American mind.”

And they did so realizing, as a character in the film says — quoting the words of conservative icon Edmund Burke, member of the British Parliament — that a representative owes the people not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.

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