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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just How Much Reviewing Does Sondheim Need? 3.

Plan D was sitting right under my nose all the time.
I just didn't think to look there.

Over the phone, I lamented my plight to my loyal friend and blogreader, Lee.
He quickly asked "What do I do?"
I responded "You're an archivist".
"Correct," he said.
And where do I do it?"
"At the Brooklyn Public Library", I replied.
"And what do you suppose they might have there?", he asked.
"You think they have the Sondheim Review?" I asked, in anticipation.
"We have EVERYTHING", he replied with pride

Within fifteen minutes, I received PDF files of ALL the puzzles.
Well, ALMOST all the puzzles.

There's a great old joke about an old Jewish woman taking her grandson Irving to the beach at Coney Island,
Irving goes into the ocean, wearing his water wings, because he can't swim without them.

Cue the thunder and lightning.
An enormous downpour fills Coney Island and the ocean.
Little Irving in his little water wings is stuck out in the middle of the ocean, fighting for his life.
Grandma is frantic. She approaches the lifeguard.
"Mister! You've got to save my little Irving!
He's out there in the ocean and he can't swim!
Irving goes under for the first time.
The lifeguard swims out after him.
He catches up to him.
Irving goes under for the second time.
The lifeguard pulls him up, and drags him back to shore, performing mouth to mouth rescusitation on little Irving.
Irving recovers.
Grandma is beside herself with gratitude.
"Oh, thank you! Thank you Mister! You saved my little Irving"
"Just in the line of duty ma'am" responds the lifeguard.
Grandma then adds "Oh......just one more thing. He had a hat".

Lee had not sent the Winter 2010 issue, assuming I had it.
But the complementary issue they sent me was for Spring 2011
I alluded to "He had a hat", he got the reference immediately, which is why I love him, and five minutes later, I had the hat.
The entire ten puzzles. For free.

Speaking of free, this gave me the freedom to send the e-mail that I wanted to send them all along.

For your perusal:


Well. it's becoming apparent that I've been dissed, blown off, and left to twist in the wind.
Just because I asked you for some cryptic puzzles at a fair price.
I suppose you have the right to do that.
I suppose you consider yourself above haggling.
Or even responding to haggling.
But you don't seem to be above panhandling: Placing TWO, count'em, TWO solicitations for donations on the front page of your Website.
I guess this means that you consider yourself at least TWICE as worthy of donations as the folks of Darfur, Haiti, Katrina victims, Jerry's Kids, The Salvation Army, Orphans, Food Banks,and the Homeless.
Because, after all, you're doing the world such a noble service: Telling us more about Sondheim than anyone could possibly want to know.
If I was James Lapine (Sondheim's chief collaborator) or Jonathan Tunick (Sondheim's chief orchestrator), and asked for those puzzles, I would already have them, at no cost, with no haggling, with your lips firmly pressed on my ass.
Because they are so much more important than I am.
I guess you only want donations where you don't have to lift a finger.

I originally approached you about these puzzles because the nearest library that had back issues of your magazine is over a hundred miles away from my house. Another example of not cost-effective.
But, as it turns out, I have a friend who works for the Brooklyn Public Library system.
With very little prompting, he sent me all the puzzles.
I now have them.

I also have a very popular blog that has a far larger readership than you do.
And there's probably some overlapping.
I write about Sondheim occasionally.
When someone does a Google search for Sondheim, my articles are often hit.

I now intend to tear your fawning, snooty, sycophantic, elitist, masturbatory magazine a wide one in an upcoming article on my blog called
"Just How Much Reviewing Does Sondheim Need?".
I'm already sharpening my darts.

By rudely ignoring me, you've created a lose-lose situation for yourself: You won't get my money, or my renewed subscription, and you'll get some very negative publicity.
Who knows? Maybe you regard negative publicity as better than no publicity at all.
You've also created a win-win situation for me: I'll have the pleasure of doing the puzzles for free, and I'll have the pleasure of writing and posting this article.
At the moment, I don't know which will give me more pleasure.
It will appear at
Coming soon to a computer near you.
This is what happens when you give someone the back of your hand for no reason.

Mark Rothman

If you are a subscriber, I mean no offense. Who knows? Maybe you're in it for the puzzles.
But these are the kind of people you're dealing with.

So whattya think? Did I tear them a wide enough one, too wide a one. or just the right size wide one?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just How Much Reviewing Does Sondheim Need? 2.

When Stephen Sondheim's great book, "Finishing The Hat" was published, he'd said it all.
It pretty much negated any reason to read any other articles about him.
Particularly the pedantic, sophomoric, self-indulgent articles that were spewed forth by
The Sondheim Review.

Which was why I indicated to it's publisher that in a perfect world, I had no desire to renew my subscription to it.
Okay. I didn't use "pedantic", "sophomoric", and "self-indulgent" to him in describing
the articles.
But there was an excellent chance that he knew I was thinking it.

So perhaps that was what got his back up.
And that my offer to renew my subscription in exchange for getting the Cryptic Puzzles from the previous ten back issues at three dollars a pop did not elicit an overjoyed reaction.
And maybe that's why I never heard back from anyone from The Sondheim Review.

But, boy, did I want those puzzles.
I alluded yesterday about the old burlesque routine where one character says to another "It's not the money, it's the principle".
At eight dollars a pop, plenty of principle was involved.
The burlesque routine, more elaborately, went "It's not the money, it's the principle! You think I care about the money? I throw money away! That's how little I care about money!"

It builds to everyone on stage tearing up money.
It can be found in the movie "The Night They Raided Minsky's", where it is brilliantly executed.

So I was desperately looking around for a Plan C to get my hands on them puzzles.
I thought I might have found something when I looked at The Sondheim Review website, and noticed that there was a place where they solicited donations to keep
the website going.
Then, I noticed that there were actually two places on the first page of the website where donations were solicited.
This led me to formulate two potential emails: One, at least in my eyes, a far more polite one than the other.

It's the one I sent.

This is it:

Dear Sirs,

As a former subscriber, and as you were kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of the current issue of the Sondheim Review, I was delighted to find that it contained a cryptic puzzle.
I did some checking, and learned that many, if not most of the issues going back to 2008 contain cryptic puzzles. There are about ten of them..
I would like to get copies of these puzzles without having to order back issues at $8 a copy.
I think a fair price for what would be maybe 20 minutes worth of copying and sticking them in an envelope and mailing them to me would be $3 a copy.
That's what I pay for my subscriptions of Games Magazine, which contains one cryptic per issue, and Games World of Puzzles, which contain sometimes as many as six per issue.
I have a subscription to Harper's Magazine, which contains Richard Maltby Jr.'s Cryptic puzzles in each issue. I pay $1.25 an issue for that.
So you can see why $8 a puzzle might stick in my craw a little.
I cancelled my Sondheim Review subscription because I found myself knowing just about everything I wanted to know about Sondheim.
And I just finished reading "Finishing The Hat". And there's tons of information about him on the Internet.
So now, all I'm really interested in are the puzzles.
I briefly spoke to your publisher this past Monday, and presented this proposition, also offering to pay for postage, and renew my subscription, if I could get my hands on these puzzles.
I was told that someone would get back to me about this.
It is now late on Friday, and nobody has.

As you actively solicit donations on the front page of the Website, why not consider what I'm proposing a donation?
One that would require very little effort on your part to earn.
Money that you would not get otherwise

I can be reached at (I gave them my phone number)

Please at least do me the courtesy of responding to this email soon.

Mark Rothman.

This, of course, led to nothing.

Then, almost by accident, Plan D fell into my lap.
This enabled me to turn the threats of negative publicity for them that I had in my other potential email into promises of negative publicity for them.

One of my loyal readers pointed out to me that I had just recently gone over the half-million mark in numbers of hits.
This is in two years.
The Sondheim Review, in seventeen years, has reached about a fifth of that total.
But maybe that's what happens when you devote at least three pages per issue on where each and every production of a Sondheim show that appears in this country is going to happen.
I know that if there's going to be a High School production of "Assassins" coming to my neighborhood, I want to be there.

So maybe I'm shooting a flea with an elephant gun.
But sometimes fleas can be awfully annoying, and it doesn't necessarily matter what weaponry is involved.

Tomorrow: Plan D, how I got the Puzzles, and the somewhat more vicious e-mail that ensued from me.

See ya then!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just How Much Reviewing Does Sondheim Need? 1.

There is a magazine called The Sondheim Review.
It comes out quarterly.

It is about all things Sondheim.

I used to subscribe to this magazine, but stopped several years ago, when I realized that they were telling me far more about Stephen Sondheim than any human being could possibly want to know.

A typical article is them interviewing the surviving Oriental actors from the original production of "Pacific Overtures".
Who would want to read that?
Their relatives, I guess.

There was one, at best two, articles an issue that could possibly hold my interest.
So I cancelled my subscription years ago.
The Sondheim Review has a very limited circulation.
As well it should.
I think next month, they're planning a three part article entitled "Sondheim: Boxers or Briefs?"

So why am I choosing this time to write about this unnecessary waste of paper?
A couple of months ago, the people at the Sondheim Review were kind enough to offer me a complementary issue of their upcoming edition.
They were trying to lure me back into the fold.
Be careful.
That's the last time the word "kind" will be used.

I looked it over and it looked like the same old tedious stuff.
Until I stumbled upon a Variety Cryptic Puzzle in the back of the issue.

I've mentioned previously about my love for Variety Cryptic Puzzles.
I checked the Website.
It seems that the last ten issues or so had Variety Cryptic Puzzles.

My first move was to go to my local library in Detroit.
I was told that the nearest library that had these puzzles on line was in Lansing.
Almost an hour there, and an hour back.
Not particularly cost efficient.

Plan B---I called the Sondheim Review.
On the website, they offered back issues for eight dollars a pop.
I didn't want to spend no eight dollars a pop.
That's eighty bucks.
For ten puzzles.
Games Magazine, Games World of Puzzles, and Harpers each have one of these puzzles per issue.
The average cost for the first two is three dollars a pop.
Harpers can be gotten for a buck and a quarter a pop.
As they used to say in the old burlesque sketch, "It's not the money, it's the principle".

I wasn't asking for complete back issues.
Just for someone to copy the ten puzzles in question for three bucks a pop, put 'em in an envelope, and I'll gladly pay for the postage.
I even offered to renew my subscription.
That would have caused me to spend five bucks a pop.
I needed it like I needed a hole in the head.
But I offered.
I thought three bucks a pop was a very fair price for what I was asking.
The Sondheim Review guy, the publisher no less, couldn't wait to get me off the phone.
He said he'd get back to me.
After two weeks, he never did.

So I was looking around for Plan C.
Only none was staring me in the face.

This is as expansive as I feel like getting today.

But we're a long way from home.

For more, manana will have to be good enough for all of us.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Time I Wish I Wasn't Right.

This article first appeared on this blog on June 16th, 2009, under the title
"The Bum's Rush":

"Okay. So Letterman made another feeble apology to Sarah Palin.
And whattya know?
People are now gathered around his theatre with picket signs calling for him to be fired.
Over a joke that hurt no one.
So it didn't even work.
The irony here is that there are people on the air who have said far worse, and the effects of what they have said are so much worse, that a good case can be made that they should be removed from the airwaves.
I've usually been amused by the notion of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, with their audiences becoming more and more fragmented, causing them to become more and more shrill, if such a thing is possible.
Watching them become a daily embarrassment to the Republican Party has provided even more fun.
But as much as I've enjoyed the Carnival, I'm afraid that it's time for something to be done.
Something that in many peoples eyes might infringe on the First Amendment.
But there's nothing in the First Amendment about the right to be on TV or the radio.
Both Limbaugh and O'Reilly have seriously gotten into what can very reasonably be called "inciting violence".
Limbaugh, with his daily hatespeak about how he hope Obama fails: Limbaugh preaches to the people with the guns.
What better way for Obama to fail than by getting himself assassinated?
Does anyone really think that this is beyond the scope of Limbaugh's more passionate audience members?
O'Reilly providing information on how to find the surviving abortion doctors:I can't imagine why. Can you?
These actions themselves bespeak treason.
I don't know if it goes that far legally, but I know they're walking the tightrope.
So let's give them the benefit of the doubt. It's not treason.
But it's definitely incitement to violence.
So we don't arrest them.And yes, there's freedom of speech, which ends with the classical example of Shouting "Fire" in a crowded movie theater when there isn't one.
What Limbaugh and O'Reilly are doing, to me, goes over that line.
Therefore neither of them is owed a place on the public airwaves, no matter how popular they are.
There's such a thing as the FCC.They issue the licenses.
The FCC, if it chose to, could revoke the licenses of any station that carried Limbaugh or O'Reilly on the basis that they are inciting violence.
The two of them could then concentrate their efforts on their websites.
This might cut down on their influence, because it would require their audiences to read.
And go try and build an audience on webcasts alone.
I, for one, do not want to see any more people get shot at Holocaust Museums, or any more abortion doctors get killed.
Limbaugh is offering up the propaganda that this was caused by the liberals, but if you don't think that Limbaugh and O'Reilly, however indirectly, had a hand in those events, I would like to offer up for sale to you my 51% interest in the Brooklyn Bridge.
It would be difficult, and certainly out-of -character for President Obama to commandeer any effort to influence the FCC.
But there are plenty of political types (Senator Schumer?) who can certainly carry this ball and run with it.
Limbaugh and O'Reilly have outlived their dubious entertainment value.
There's nothing "amusing" about them any more.
On any level.
They are no longer "entertainers".They are rabble-rousers.
A responsible society must find a way to at least discourage the rabble from being roused."


Yeah. And those things on Sarah Palin's map weren't Rifle Crosshairs.

And there's no humility about it. Perfect.

Because SHE was the victim here.

It was all about her. Not the people who got shot.

She's at least as dangerous as Limbaugh and O'Reilly.
Because her followers are that much more rabid about her.

Welcome to hard times.

I hope I'm wrong about this one too.


Monday, January 10, 2011


Ever see "The Defiant Ones"?
Tony Curtis? Sidney Poitier?
Two escaped convicts, handcuffed together? They hate each other?
I never saw it. Until last Friday.
I Tivoed it a couple of weeks ago. For a specific purpose.
It is a tremendous piece of work.
You know how, in my Report Cards, I ask "Is it well cast, well acted, well shot, well written?"
It is all of these. To the nth degree.
When I wrote my Report Card on the remake of "True Grit", it was already on my mind to do a post on the subject of remakes in general.
I suppose there are a couple of instances where they are justified.
Epics like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur", when done the first time around, there was no sound, color, special effects, or wide-screen to overwhelm you.
Otherwise, they are pointless efforts to cash in on someone else's previous success by someone who can't come up with something original to put on the screen.
Letterman had Matt Damon on last week so he could flog "True Grit".
Letterman was fawning all over it and him.
And the best reason either could come up for why it should have been remade was that it was much more faithful to the novel it was based on than the John Wayne version was.
How many moviegoers do you think have read the novel?
How many of you even knew it was based on a novel?
And based on what I saw, it couldn't have been much of a novel to begin with.

There is this story that I heard many years ago, perhaps apochryphal.
I don't know for sure. I wasn't there.
But I know at least some of it was true.
Here goes: In the early 70's, Marlo Thomas got it into her head that it would be fantastic if she remade "It's A Wonderful Life" as a TV movie, with Marlo in the Jimmy Stewart part..
All those around her, whether they actually believed it or not, agreed that it would be fantastic.
Marlo then said to her troops, "You know what would be even more fantastic?
If we all went over to Frank Capras house and told him about this in person."
So they all piled into Marlo's car and went over to Frank Capras house to deliver him the good news.
Mr. Capra was purported to reply "Not only will I not watch it if you manage to get it on the air, but I'll go to court and get a restraining order if I have to, to prevent you from doing it".
She ended up following through and doing it, so either it was an idle threat on Mr. Capras part, or he simply failed in his efforts.
I saw it. So she did have the idea, and she got it made.
That's the part I know is true.
Marlo wasn't as good as Jimmy Stewart, for what it was worth.
And I know that's true too.
What does all this have to do with "The Defiant Ones"?

In the mid-80's, a TV movie remake of "The Defiant Ones" was made with Robert Urich and Carl Weathers in the leads.
Entertainment Tonight interviewed the producer, or the director, or whomever that putz was that they interviewed, and asked the magic question:
"Why are you remaking "The Defiant Ones"?
He responded with, and I'm not kidding, "Well, the original was so good that we all felt it deserved to be remade".
So good that it deserved to be remade.
That sentence stuns me every time I think about it.
No disrespect to the dead, but with Robert fucking Urich and Carl fucking Weathers?
That's how it deserved to be remade?
Because it was so good?
I never saw this remake, and as I said, I never saw the original until last Friday.
Seeing the original only compounds the felony that ensued.
I looked up the remake on the IMDB.
There was one review.
The tone of it was somewhere between "It doesn't hold a candle to the original and "How dare they?"
Actually, that last part was mine.
If it's a matter of not getting anyone to watch the originals because they are in black-and-white, like "The Defiant Ones", then colorize the damn things and be done with it.
But please, as Jerry Lewis used to say on the Colgate Comedy Hour when he'd say
"DON'T lick it!!!"..........
DON'T remake it!!!!!!



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."