Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Amazing Mr. Marshall

Often one has to stop and take a big deep breath, otherwise you forget how great it is to be able to breath. Mostly breathing happens when we pay the least attention to it.  The same holds true with gratitude.  Sometimes one has to stop and take inventory of the things for which you are grateful lest you take them for granted.
At the top of my list of gratitude is friendship.  I hope my epitaph says, "He had wonderful Friends." I hope those friends know how blessed I am to be considered their friend. I don't have a ranking order of friends because they are all unique and all crowd the top because of their own special and wonderful qualities.  However...
Last night was a wonderful reminder of how blessed I am. It was an evening at the Paley Center for the Media honoring Peter Marshall.  It was also his 90th birthday.  The audience was filled with 300 or so invited guests, family and friends.  What struck me most about the crowd was the depth of performers from every field of entertainment.  There is no type of show business Peter Marshall has not excelled in. From first banana in a comedy duo, to  big band singer, to stage star, to movie and television actor, recording star, to pitch man, night club performer, game show host, variety show host and guru expert on the music of Big Band Swing, Peter has done it all, extremely well.  He is the happiest, nicest most engaging person who commands a steel trap mind and memory with twice the energy of people half his age.  His singing voice is as strong and beautiful as ever and he remembers every detail of every moment of his life.  Treasures like Peter defy what age is supposed to act like. 
Fred Willard and Peter Marshall

First came a 40 minute video tribute to Peter gathered and edited by Jim Pierson. It started with film clips of Peter singing from 1949 Television shows and included cherries picked from the best moments of his 16 years as host of Hollywood Squares. After that,  Peter Marshall himself took the stage. 
Leading Peter in an informal conversation about his life and career was his friend Fred Willard. Fred, one of the great comedy minds of all time and Peter one of the great comedy team straight men of all time, made for very easy listening.  It was not an interview nor even a chat.  It was like eaves dropping on two amazing minds having a dinner conversation. The Paley Center was filming the entire event, but to be there "live" as it was happening is a moment that can not be captured by any media. 
Jay Johnson - Jim Pierson - Peter Marshall
Photo by Steve Cox
I marveled at what a large brush this artist named Peter Marshall has used to paint his life.  The best game show hosts, the best game show producers, best actors, best comics, best writers, best dancers, singers and musicians (not to mention a ventriloquist) were there to honor the 90th anniversary of the birth of their friend Peter.  We have all been touched by the charm of his personality and the joy of his talents.   The very same can be said of Peter's beautiful wife Laurie who was the force behind the event. To meet Peter and Laurie is to love them.
Peter is my hero. At 90 years old his is not the guy who screams "kids get off my lawn",  he is the guy who says, "hey kids, come over to my lawn so we can play together." The world would be a better place if there were more humans like the Amazing Mr. Marshall.
As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Allah we have a problem.....

I'm baffled.  Even as I write this I am not sure it will or should be published. But as I hear Presidential candidates wax political on what they would do to combat terrorism, something is missing. It is the voice of Muslims around the world.
It is an easy comparison to make between the KKK and ISIS. KKK hides behind the American Flag and Christian religion to justify violence and racism.  ISIS hides behind a black flag and Islam to justify violence and extremism.  When the KKK was taking responsibility for the terrorist activity in Mississippi, the bombing of black churches and the lynching of black people, Christians all over the country stood up to condemn them as not representative of America nor Christianity.  Christians rightly pointed out that violence and the killing of innocent people was not accepted by their religion. The KKK was rightfully pointed out to be "radicalized" Christians who were minority thugs who did not share the beliefs of the majority of Americans and Christians. We could therefore condemn the actions of terrorist and their violence without condemning an entire country or religion.  
Where are the Muslim leaders, the Imams, the leaders of Mosques around the world voicing their disapproval and condemnation of suicide and murder? In the news coverage after the Brussels attack, I have not heard one Muslim voice of authority rise to say, "We do not accept this as a representation of our faith." The only thing I have seen in all the coverage is a reporter finding moderate Muslims to ask if they feel they are being persecuted as a group for the actions in Brussels.  To a person they say yes. The reason they are feeling that way is partly because the leaders of their faith have done nothing to distance themselves from the violence.  If leaders of Islam do not come out and condemn the actions of ISIS unilaterally, stating firmly that Islam does not stand with a small group of radical terrorist's, then they become complicit in their silence.  If the leaders of the millions of Muslims living peacefully and harmoniously do not come out and condemn the violence of ISIS as not a part of their religion, then we can only assume they all support it.  
I have Muslim friends. They do not support the ISIS mandate nor their actions.   They do not attend radical Mosques nor tolerate extremist views. I have the feeling most Muslims feel that way as well. Why are they not speaking out? Why are they not attempting to organize and find ways to show another side of this ancient religion? Why are they letting a few thugs and killers define their life style?
As I said, I'm baffled.
As you were,
Jay


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beware the Ides of March

It is the Ides of March - which was a pagan religious holiday until Julius Caesar pissed off the wrong politicians. (Cautionary tale for the Republican front runner).  Because I do not wish to tempt fate with any questionable missives on the Ides of any month, particularly today, I will keep this blog post short. 

For contractual reasons I can't be totally forth coming on today's subject. I think people who followed the line of reasoning in yesterday's blog will get it, even if the message has to be encrypted slightly.


Yesterday I posed a theory that the more times you repeat a word or phrase in a blog, the more hits you would get on that subject. It isn't really a theory as much as it is a statement of how the Internet works. Search engines are just looking for similar sets of code (ultimately specific groups of 1s and 0s). Once found, programing can do all kinds of things with that discovered information.  

So yesterday, as you know, I tried to use several names and words repeatedly in the post to see what the algorithm gods of the Internet would make of it.   Pictured are two screen grabs of that blog post as it appeared on my virtual desk top yesterday. These ads are the real thing and I did not choose them nor place them in and/or near the blog. The ghost of the Internet did that.  As you can see it "read" the post and stuck in ads which seemed appropriate to the subject matter. They are self explanatory and not surprising at all.


It's not that the NSA, CIA and FBI are looking over your shoulder as  you write online, they don't have to. This trolling, searching, calculating digital brain is sorting through your data using a sophisticated algorithm. Basically what we do and say, click or like, repost or retweet on line is being used to profile us.  These screen pictures are proof although in this case the information is being used strictly for advertising. If you click on the ads that appear on any page, it adds to the metadata of your profile. 
I have been over careful about NOT writing the words and names I over-used in yesterday's blog. I doubt if the same ads will appear as part of today's blog but,  there is a bigger worry I have on this day of March 15th.  What other profile data is being gathered about me, and you right now.  These algorithms are so good they are probably doing a psychological analysis of the style tone and voice of these writings and coming to a much more complicated idea of who I am. Since I struggle with that personal identity myself, I wish there was a way to check the profile not unlike the way we can log on and check our credit score.
"Beware the Ides of March", said the soothsayer to Julius Caesar, predicting the day he would be assassinated. We don't have soothsayers to predict the future anymore, now we have algorithms and they don't seem to want to share.
As you were,
Jay  


Monday, March 14, 2016

Click here for the News.

If the NSA, FBI and the CIA have more sophisticated analytical tools than I do with this blogger app, then we Internet users definitely have no secrets to keep.  With the information I have available to me about each post I write, I can pretty much predict what kind of numbers it will garner and what subjects matters will increase the "circulation" of an individual post. It colors my choice of what to write about if raw numbers are my goal.  Perhaps on a much grander scale this is what is happening in this modern day 24/7 cycle of news.  
The fact is,  I started writing this blog as a personal recollection of my experience on Broadway.  New York is a writers town and it was easy to get material to write about. I simply had to comment on my walk to work each day. But eventually the show closed and I moved back to Encino. Driving the streets of Encino will never be as colorful as walking two blocks through mid-town Manhattan.   Over the years this blog has become more of a stream of consciousness attesting to life and career "ATA" (After a Tony Award®).
As a performer it is hard to disconnect from numbers. Continuing to do the thing you love the most: Performing (in my case that would be "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only") requires an audience. An audience is made up of a number of people. The greater the number of people the more financially successful your  performance. The more successful your performance the more often you get to perform/work.  In the voodoo mathematics of performing it goes something like this  Love = performing = audiences = numbers.  So  Love = Numbers in an emotional non-linear very unscientific relationship.

"That is Disgusting" said Donald TRUMP. 
So it is hard for a performer like myself NOT to be mindful of the "numbers" attracted by what I am writing in a blog. Greater blog numbers, even though totally disconnected from paid ticket sales, become the game. In the Internet world, a click (good or bad, like or don't like, read or don't read) is registered the same. After all it is not a poll, it is simply an activity tracking number.  Here are some conclusions I have come to about blog numbers.  

Numbers for a blog will go up if you:

Attach at PICTURE. - 
(even if it has nothing to do with the story or text. Particularly if it is gratuitous in nature.)

Use the words like : RELIGION, POLITICS, REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT, ANAL, PENIS, VAGINA, PORN, BAPTIST, EVANGELICAL, MUSLIM, ISLAMIC, FACIST, SCIENTOLOGY or TERRORIST. 

Use names like: TRUMP, CRUZ, RUBIO, SANDERS, CLINTON, RYAN, HITLER, OBAMA, KARDASHIAN, KANYE, ASSAD, REAGAN or NIXON.

All the better if you can combine the words like: VAGINA MUSLIM, FASCIST RUBIO, PORN KARDASHIAN,  TERRORIST ASSAD,  ANAL CRUZ, ASSHOLE KANYE, PENIS TRUMP.
(note almost any word can be used to modify TRUMP)

Or it also works if you combine names like: TRUMP beds KARDASHIAN, CLINTON screws RYAN, HITLER endorses CRUZ, RUBIO appoints KANYE, OBAMA rejects HITLER or TRUMP beds SANDERS. (Almost any name can be used to modify TRUMP)

The reason for adding these words to your blog is simple. Search engines like Google just look for words and how many times they appear in a certain text.  If someone is searching TRUMP, for example, the more times a word like TRUMP is used in the text,  the higher up on the list of hits in a search for TRUMP. TRUMP is a great word to repeat because with TRUMP there are so many searches that include TRUMP modified by almost any adjective to TRUMP. Dump TRUMP, Dick TRUMP, delusional TRUMP, disgusting TRUMP,  destructive TRUMP all fit and that is just a quick look in the "D" section of the dictionary.  Even if you do not mean TRUMP, as in the name DONALD J. TRUMP, it is still a search engine hit. i.e.  TRUMP suite in a game of cards. There was a TRUMP to his proposal. Aces are TRUMP cards in this game. The point with TRUMP is to just repeat it so that the word TRUMP is registered in a TRUMP search.  It is all about numbers. TRUMP seems to TRUMP other words for getting hits.
TRUMP said it best when TRUMP said, (and this is a legitimate TRUMP quote.)  "I'm educated. I know words. I have a lot of words." said Donald TRUMP.  If TRUMP knows words and TRUMP seems to be leading in the REPUBLICAN polls perhaps we should all start using words. 

So this is what passes for news when you are only looking at the numbers. TRUMP. You throw in things, TRUMP FASCIST PORN BAPTIST, that are not really relative, PUSSY TRUMP PENIS, to the story or in any way important news. KARDASHIAN ANAL CRUZ, are just words, ASSHOLE, to  grab your attention and make you click. TRUMP, NIXON, HITLER, EVANGELICAL RELIGION because once you click you are counted and that PENIS is all that matters.

So,  understand that when I use words like: RELIGION, POLITICS, REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT, ANAL, PENIS,VAGINA, PORN, BAPTIST, EVANGELICAL, MUSLIM, ISLAMIC, FASCIST, SCIENTOLOGY or TERRORIST. Or names like: TRUMP, CRUZ, RUBIO, SANDERS, CLINTON, RYAN, HITLER, OBAMA, KARDASHIAN, KANYE, ASSAD, REAGAN or NIXON. Or try to combine them like: TRUMP beds KARDASHIAN, CLINTON screws RYAN, HITLER endorses CRUZ, RUBIO appoints KANYE, OBAMA rejects HITLER or TRUMP beds SANDERS. or any other combination of the words like: KARDASHIAN ANAL CRUZ, ASSHOLE, TRUMP, NIXON, HITLER, EVANGELICAL RELIGION, PENIS it has nothing to do with what I am thinking or VAGINA posting.  And if they get repeated over and over (not unlike a CNN new clip) well that is just good journalism. PENIS, ANAL, VAGINA, TRUMP, ASSHOLE, CRUZ, DOUCHE, CLINTON, BITCH, SANDERS, COMMUNIST, RUBIO, ANCHOR BABY, KARDASHIAN, SLUT, KANYE, FUCK YOU, TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP.

Remember this: it's not news.  It's not important, it's not necessary, it's CAPITALISM.  Anything for the buck. News today is not a service it is a hugely profitable business.   TRUMP, PENIS, RUBIO, MEXICAN, CRUZ, SOCIOPATH, CLINTON, FELON, SANDERS, COMMUNIST, SENATE, IDIOTS, SCOLLIA, DEAD, OBAMA*
(*Our first Negro president).

All I really want to do is tell stories.  I wish I didn't care if anyone was listening.
As you were,
Jay  




Thursday, March 10, 2016

Opus Dunka

Reprint from: 03/10/12-  On Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 8:12 AM my niece Nicki and her husband Jeff had their first child.  She is a beautiful girl named Noel Paulene. I was in Dallas, where she was born, over the weekend and actually got to meet her about three hours after she arrived.
  
I have always been very close to Nicki. In her younger years her attempt to articulate Uncle Jay came out Dunka Day.  Being a Dunka Day is the best job I ever had.  As usual Nicki's timing, having Noel when I was there in town, is typical of her incredibly loving nature.








End of Reprint: (The original blog is a longer and a more detailed account of the evening Noel was born. You can read it by clicking here....But now we fast forward to 2016)

Background:
Family myth has it that the very same Dunka Day has in some way (unknowingly) frightened several generations of kids with his humor and or tricks.  Speaking from Dunka Day's point of view it could be considered entertaining or practicing his act while babysitting though the years.
  
­čĺą Noel, my great niece, turns four years old today.

Yesterday Nicki, Noel's mother, sent me this text: 

Easier to read:
 Oh!  There's something else I've been meaning to tell you for awhile. Your influence on the little ones continues even from afar. Noel has this new thing she's been doing for a couple months now. Anytime she does something that makes us correct her or say don't do it that way, do it this way she responds with " well uncle jay said I could do it like that" or " uncle jay taught me to do it like that when I was a little baby. He said it was ok". It's never anything really bad, it's just funny how she tries to argue about it and invoke your name. We struggle not to get caught laughing constantly. 


So... I can proudly say, I've DONE MY JOB!

Carpe Opus Dunka
As you were,
Jay


Monday, March 07, 2016

In the Proximity of Racism....

It happened quite innocently. I stepped into the grocery store to pick up a couple of items.This particular market does not have a self check out line but it does have a "10 items or less" aisle. I only had three items so I went directly there.
A couple of people were ahead of me in line, but I wasn't paying much attention, just waiting my turn. What caught my eye was a publication on the magazine rack featuring a picture of Donald Trump.  I never purchase those magazines but I do like to gawk at the headlines just to see what sensational gossip is up for sale.  
My hands were full so I didn't reach for the magazine but did lean in to read the fine print.  A middle aged man came up behind me to wait his turn.  He saw me looking at Trumps picture and he said," That Trump, he's something, isn't he?" 
Now I am not much for small talk in a grocery store line.  I try to be polite but I really don't want to get into any sort of real conversation especially with this guy.  He was the age of one who could have been a SOAP watcher.  Especially when I am on a quick trip to the market I really don't want to be "recognized".  I know every performer and actor yearns to be famous and get recognized, but having experienced some of that in my career, it is not what it's cracked up to be.  Here is the truth.  The people you would love to talk to in that situation are the very ones who are polite enough to know this is not the time nor the place.  Those who see you as an object from television are the ones who have no sense of personal space nor an understanding of your discomfort. 
So when the guy behind me says something about the magazine I am staring at, I give monosyllabic answers so as not to engage, but still be polite.  In this case his statement, "That Trump, he's something," was vague enough to answer with a neutral position.  I simple said, "He certainly is."
In a perfect world at that moment the checker would have scanned my purchases and I would have been gone. It is not a perfect world.
The lady ahead of me had more than ten items. It was not an excessive overage but more than the rest of the people in line.  Because of this it was taking longer than usual in the express lane. The man behind me began to grumble.  Directed at me but loud enough for everyone in the area to hear he said, "Well it looks like someone can't read." There were glances at the man from several corners of customer's eyes.  He continued. "Perhaps the sign should have been written in Spanish." It was then that I realized the lady ahead of us was Latina.  The guy continued, "Maybe it is not a reading problem but a math problem, didn't they teach you to count? When you came over here for a free education, didn't you even try to learn?"
As she is paying the man sort of taps me on the arm, buddy style and says, "That's why we're voting for Trump right. Get that wall up and keep these people out of here. Make America Great again for Americans." 
The lady turned as she was leaving and gave a look. It was a sad, angry, screw you look that seemed to include me, because she assumed I knew him and was  of a like mind.  Legal, illegal, native born or immigrant , it didn't matter what her real status of citizenship is.  She was insulted by some ignorant, judgmental  ass hole because of her ethnicity.  I didn't like being associated with that attitude, even in error.  I wanted to run out and appologise to her or let her know in some way that I was not in lock step with that attitude, but she was long gone. I missed my chance forever.   She may have forgotten it by now, but I have not.
I am not a Trump supporter and if this guy's personality is typical of his base, then the country is going backwards with this campaign.  
As you were,
Jay


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Second Hand Depression

"Just snap out of it. Look at your life. Look around. Think of all the good things you have," said a well meaning friend to a man with the rope around his neck.  As the man inched closer to the edge of the chair he was standing on, the friend continued.
"Think about the people who don't have half the things you have.  You can be sad that you don't have the best shoes, but think of the person with no feet." 
The man wearing the rope collar thought about it for a moment. The chair wobbled but did not tip over. Why would this analogy cheer him up? His depression had led him to the edge of his life; to think that there was even more suffering in the world meant there was a state of existence even further down than his own. Why not end it now before life took his feet as well? He did not respond to the friend's admonition but closed his eyes and lowered his head as if to more intently listen. 
"Today is first day of the rest of your life.  There is so much more for you to do. All those bad times are past. Tomorrow is a new day."
With that the man opened his eyes and slowly took the rope from around his neck. He carefully and purposefully stepped off the chair and stood facing his friend. 
"There you go. See life is really not that bad, it's all in the way you look at it. I think very soon you will see that this depression of yours is just a passing bad mood.  I predict that you will start to feel better right away." 
Suddenly and with purpose the man balled up his fist and fueled a round house punch that struck the friend very hard in the face momentarily knocking him lifelessly to the floor.
"You're right," the man said,"I do feel a little better."
Try and tell a person with stage four cancer that it is all in the way they see their disease. Get over it and think of the people who are in stage five of their cancer? If a depressive could have empathy for someone else at the moment of their despair they would not be depressed. The emotion you are telling them to experience is the very one they are unable to express.  You can not see the light if you are unable to open your eyes. 
It is bad enough that the entire world is stressing the negative aspects of humanity right now. Trash talking everything from religion, to ethnic groups,  to government, to scandal to how much a person sweats. It is a constant 24/7 stream of nonsense, only interrupted by commercials for medications to make something better; better if you do not suffer the laundry list of complications that can be worse than the problem. There is, however,  no pill that can make the insanity of what passes for news go away. 
They always say the same thing about a mass murderer. "No one knows what made him/her snap." Really, we don't know? Read all the Facebook posts to your news feed for a couple of days or turn on the television and stream CNN and Fox News for a day or two. It will make you feel mad, then fearful and eventually hopelessly numb.  If you have the brain chemistry that some of us have you might continue on to anxiety, depression, suicide or possibly murder.  A lot of people disregard the evidence that we humans are causing global climate change,  so how can we ever get them to believe that humans are also creating a mental climate change as well.  Pollution of the information highway causing aggression and rage? surely that can't be.

2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. What about violence and crime?


    Stop telling me it is all in my head. Stop telling me I'm better off than some. Stop telling me to just get over it.  Perhaps you should just STOP TELLING ME... anything. The "second hand opinions" are killing some of us quicker than tobacco smoke.  
    As you were,
    Jay