Shore and Cher Get Jiggy With Ziggy and Iggy [YouTube]

In the later 1970s, David Bowie had a penchant for turning up on in unexpected contexts on U.S. television.  The most notorious, perhaps, is his holiday-special duet performance of "The Little Drummer Boy" with Bing Crosby.  Thanks to YouTube, several other examples have been preserved.

In 1977, between albums of his own, Bowie co-wrote and produced two collections with seminal American punk Iggy Pop, and toured as keyboard player in Iggy's band.  Somehow, the group was booked on Dinah Shore's afternoon talk show, a context as pleasant and genteel as Iggy's music was not.  I saw that broadcast when it aired -- I must have stumbled on it by accident while flipping channels -- and the contrast between Iggy's and Dinah's sensibilities was something to behold.  This clip (which looks to have been lifted from a VH1 Behind the Music show) includes a small snippet of the interview, in which Dinah expresses her concern for Iggy's health, given his oft self-damaging behavior.

If you pay close attention in that excerpt, you will discover that Dinah throughout the interview insisted on calling Iggy by his given name, "James." 

The interview segment followed this performance of "Funtime."  Dinah's introduction gives an idea of her progam's usual level of decorum, which was promptly shattered by Iggy getting his shirt off in the first seconds of his performance.  With his dangling cigarette, Bowie at the piano seems to be channeling Sinatra's cameo from Around the World in 80 Days:

And here we have Mr. Bowie on his own in 1975, as a guest on Cher's comedy-variety show, duetting with his host.  There's trouble from the outset, as the studio orchestra and choreography conspire to strip nearly all the soul from "Young Americans," but at the 1:17 mark it launches into an entirely new realm of dreadfulness: Great heavens! it's a medley!  And the theme is: take a random word from the lyric of the song you happen to be singing and switch in mid-phrase to another song in which that same word appears.  Cher is also sporting one of her more ill-considered wigs, a striking contraption that's half Toni Tenille, half mushroom.  Somehow, consummate professionals that they are, both David and Cher get through this with at least a semblance of their artistic credibility intact, but it is a near thing.

Beyond Our Ken

I am a one-time champion on "Jeopardy!", in both senses of the phrase: (1) once there was a time when I was a champion, some seventeen years ago, but that time is gone, and (2) I was such a champion only once, succumbing on the following episode to a slow buzzer-finger and a really embarrassing confusion of Field Marshall Montgomery with General Omar Bradley.  I earned some $13,000 and a recliner chair.  The chair is still with me, and is quite comfortable, thank you.  The highlight of my victory was my unstoppable sweep through the subject of "Tunes of the Twenties," which gave me occasion to say on national television: "What is 'Toot Toot Tootsie'?"  Ah, memories!

My earnings on the show come to approximately one-half of one percent of what has been gained (gross, before taxes) by the seemingly unstoppable Ken Jennings, but that rough beast's time has come 'round at last: the Mighty Ken falls today, and if you wish to know the details in advance, you can find them here.  [Link via Colby Cosh.]

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go stir my schadenfreude.

Update [later that same day]:Wow!  I bear witness to the awesome power of trackbacks.  Welcome, and my thanks, to all Jason Kottke readers following my link back here.  I note that Jason has been obliged by some of my brethren of the Bar at Sony to take down the audio file he posted of Ken Jennings' last hurrah, but he is still disclosing the (seemingly easy) Final Jeopardy question that ends Ken's long run.

Further Update [later still that same day]: Well no, actually he isn't any longer disclosing that final question.  Apparently Sony's legal counsel are persuasive chaps when it comes to keeping a lid on prior to broadcast.  Much the same substantive information is available, however, through the Washington Post, a link to which Mr. Kottke thoughtfully provides.

Non-Stop Topless Towers

Fig. 1 -- A lovely Mycenaean stirrup jarNo doubt inspired by the opportunity to coattail on the upcoming Brad Pitt epic, last week saw the long-awaited DVD release of the marvelous 1985 BBC documentary series In Search of the Trojan War, hosted by Michael Wood.

Over the course of six episodes, Wood provides insights on the Wild West exploits of the notorious Heinrich Schliemann (who destroyed as much as he uncovered and was not above Making Things Up) and other, more reputable searchers after the site of Troy and similar Homeric hot spots, with side jaunts into the bardic tradition and everything you ever wanted to know about Mycenaean stirrup jars (fig. 1). I am also regularly reminded by my Lady Wife that Mr. Wood looks very nice as he strides across Greece and the Levant in his tight historian's jeans. I maintain that this is about as good as history-television gets.

After years of making do with fuzzy VHS copies taped off the air when PBS last broadcast it, I am looking forward to seeing this series again in proper pristine form. Wood's book to accompany the series, also entitled (surprise!) In Search of the Trojan War, was updated in 1998 and is recommended for all you armchair archeologists and mythographers.

And now, with that as an excuse, it's time for a freshly composed double dactyl:

Excerpts From the Anachronistiad I

Ilium! Ilium!
Mighty Achilles quotes
Dylan to Hector: “So
How does it feeel?

That’s for Patroclus, pal!
Now, where’s my chariot . . . ?”
Hector’s penultimate
Thought? “What a heel.”

Update: By timely coincidence, Greg Perry voices some doubts concerning the Pitt version at g r a p e z. Hunkiness is next to godlessness, eh?

Taking Debate, Hook, Line and Sinker

I suspect, based upon no evidence beyond my own experience, that many weblog posts are conceived and gestate of an early morning while their author struggles to consciousness under the soothing blast of a showerhead. On this particular morning, my thoughts turned to presidential politics and to the eventual, inevitable presidential debates between Messrs. Bush and Kerry.

I have already made one helpful suggestion in the interest of streamlining the next seven interminable months until Election Day. No one took me up on that one, but as the poet says "they all laughed at Edison and also at Einstein," so I am prepared to try, try again.

Two premises to begin:

1. A debate between candidates should assist in the voter's search for truth, and it is well settled that a search for truth is best accomplished through the participation of attorneys and the application of the rules of evidence.

2. Requiring the candidates to handle their debate performances as solo artists renders the debate an incomplete simulation of the conditions under which the prevailing party will be called on to serve the citizenry. In reality, once a candidate is victorious and has actually to do the job of the President, he will not be called on to do so alone. He will, like many another successful executive, have a vast support staff ready at his command. Even Donald Trump consults with his advisors before firing each week's hapless Apprentice.

From these premises, I derive a modest variant on the traditional debate format. In addition to the candidates themselves and the panel of distinguished journalists who will question them, two additional participants will be allowed per side:

1. The role of the Candidate Advocate, one for each side, will be to raise appropriate objections to the opposing candidate's response to questions. Objections based on ideology will not be allowed; the only permissible objections will be those that could be raised under the rules of evidence. If a timely objection is made, the responding candidate would not be permitted to make statements of fact of which he has no personal knowledge, nor to rely on hearsay -- subject, of course, to the admissibility of admissions or prior inconsistent statements by the opposing candidate. Most usefully, the Advocate would be permitted to move to strike non-responsive "answers" to the journalists' questions, with the voters being instructed to disregard those statements that do not directly address the question that was actually posed.

All objections are presumed to be well taken, and the candidate against whom the objection is raised must stop the offending response immediately and either provide an admissible answer or hold his peace. No appeal will be permitted during the debate, but the candidates' spokespersons will be permitted to critique the opposing side's objections following the debate's conclusion, with no time limit.

2. Just as an attorney needs an assistant in a major trial, each candidate would be permitted one staffer of his choice to serve as his "Bag Carrier." The Carrier would be permitted to bring to the debate any documents -- hard copies only, no computers permitted -- to which the candidate may wish to refer, limited to what fits into a single briefcase. Prior to answering any question, the candidate would be permitted to consult -- on camera but without sound -- with his Bag Carrier to obtain necessary advice or information, such consultations to be limited to 45 seconds. A running tally will be kept of the number of times each candidate exercises the right of consultation, perhaps to be cross-referenced to each candidate's blink rate.

An additional suggestion: Let's designate one debate to be devoted to "Positive Statements Only." All questions would be couched in terms such that the responding candidate would be required to Say Something Nice or Nothing At All about his opponent in response.

Examples: "Mr. President, please tell us at least three occasions on which Senator Kerry has displayed exemplary patriotism." "Senator Kerry, what are the three or more actions taken by the President following the September 11 attacks that you could not possibly improve upon?" "Sir, how will our country be improved by your opponent's election?" "Which of your opponent's accomplishments do you most hope voters won't notice?"
The responses to questions like these might be refreshing, or the awkward silences might be deafening. Or both sides might just spontaneously combust. Riveting television, any way you slice it.

Un-Conventional Wisdom

First, congratulations are due to Senator John "Johnny the Chin" Kerry on his Super Tuesday victories and his apparent lock on the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

Now that there is little or no doubt concerning the identities of the major parties' candidates for President, let me address a humble request to broadcast and cable television news organizations: Please, let's just give the national party conventions a miss this year, shall we?

It has been decades since anything newsworthy (or much of anything else) was actually decided at a convention, and the entire affair has become little more than an extended episode of Bad Theater: one self-important spokesperson after another mouthing the same predictable platitudes, each party ostentatiously displaying its supposed "diversity" and "inclusiveness" and "caring" as if anyone is likely to be fooled. I will grant you that we should perhaps be given live coverage of each presidential candidate's acceptance speech -- those are the traditional starts of the "real" campaign, after all -- but for the rest of it: spare us, please.

If I were running one of the parties, I would be actively working to keep television coverage of my convention to a minimum. Each party will be so focused on "firing up the base" that there's more risk of driving voters away -- as Pat Buchanan and his fellow culture warriors did for the Republicans in 1992, or as Walter Mondale did for Democrats with his solemn promise that he would raise taxes if elected in 1984 -- than there is a likelihood of converting the unconvinced. There is still plenty of time after the conventions are over for pursuing those elusive swing voters. Why take the risk of losing them from the outset through an excess of party zeal?

In a speech to television critics back in January, Dan Rather opined that the day was coming when live convention coverage would dwindle to virtually nothing. NBC is already planning to roll out its Fall lineup during the week of the Republican Convention -- and I'm reasonably certain that the group America will want to see in New York that week is more likely to be Donald Trump and his Apprentices than it is the President and my fellow Republicans. Broadcast decisionmakers: listen to Dan Rather's sage counsel, learn from NBC's example. Just step away from the conventions, and no one will get hurt.

Heck, we all get most of our news from weblogs now anyway . . . .