Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Y.A. Title, R.I.P.

Yelberton Abraham Title Jr., better known to one and all as Y.A., one of the great quarterbacks in the storied history of professional football, died last week at the age of 90. Our own Hadleyblogger Steve had occasion in the past to use Title's legendary as a source for his "This Just In" news bulletins. You can read those pieces here and here, and remember that it takes a true giant (or Giant, if you prefer) to inspire such lunacy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Opera Wedneday

I have to admit being skeptical when the Metropolitan Opera announced plans back in 2012 for an HD broadcast of Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha, based on the life and influence of Mahatma Gandhi. However, having already been surprised once by John Adams’ strangely affecting Nixon in China, we figured there was nothing to lose by checking Satyagraha out in the theater, and it proved to be the right decision.

Satyagraha is an unexpectedly compelling opera, one which is at once both minimal and lush, for although Glass's music is contemporary, it is never atonal, and the notes have the ability to strike at some inner chord. Combined with the effective staging by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, it proves to be, at times, a very moving presentation.

The opera is in three acts, named after people who influenced or were influenced by Gandhi: Leo Tolstoy, Rabindranath Tagore, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Here, from that HD broadcast, is the opera's final aria, the absorbing “Evening Song" (from Act 3; "King"), Gandhi is portrayed by Richard Croft; Dante Anzolini conducts the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Postmodern philosophy shown in Hollywood deaths

There seems to be a postmodern philosophy seen with many in the current generation that history of the past (such as that before they were born, or even their parents in some cases) does not exist.  Such was the case of contrasting Twitter feeds following two recent Hollywood deaths of two television programmes when their developers died within the past two weeks.

When CBS was informed Monty Hall had died, the social media pages for Let's Make a Deal posted a tribute to the 96-year old who developed the show as a tribute to him on social media.  Since the show was taping its Halloween 2017 episode and had two more episodes to tape when word came of Mr. Hall's death, CBS turned the last taping of the day into a Monty Hall Tribute episode, complete with Wayne Brady in an empty set to remember Monty Hall, in a manner similar to that of the pitch film pilot that Mr. Hall used in introducing the show to NBC executives (and it was sold, leading to the legendary franchise).

When MTV learned of the death of Hip Hop Squares creator Merrill Heatter recently, their VH1 channel's Twitter page for the show made no reference to his death.  There was no note referencing the death of the show's 91-year old creator.  It was Wink Martindale, no less, on his Twitter, who referenced the death of Mr. Heatter on Sunday morning.

MTV won't even reference the passing of the show's creator when CBS did with their classic game show's own creator.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jimmy Carter joins the Curses

The Curse of Jimmy Carter is alive and well following the US Failure to qualify for the World Cup last night.  Talk about so many things happening:

Curse of Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter didn't want Americans marching on Luzinski Stadium in 1980.  Thirty-eight years later, an American Outlaws group will not be marching in the stadium.  It is now officially a curse on American teams at what was Lenin Stadium in 1980, and now Luzinski Stadium now.

For further information on the Curse of Jimmy Carter, this document is now officially part of the curse.

Harvey Weinstein Scandal.  Much of Mr. Weinstein's library is now owned by Al Jazeera through its entertainment brand.  The colossal failure of the United States aired on Al Jazeera, no less.

Worse Than NFL Ratings Disaster for Fox.  This isn't as bad as the price Fox will pay for the US failure to qualify for the World Cup.  It's a double whammy now since it makes all of what they've sold for the World Cup pennies on the dollar.  In effect, Fox is now declaring "bankruptcy" on their FIFA contract since the have to return billions in advertising sold for the games since the US failed to make it.  The colossal failure, which aired on Al Jazeera last night (now note Al Jazeera owns much of the Harvey Weinstein Library through Miramax) since Trinidad & Tobago's football federation has home game rights in the US sold to Al Jazeera, means Fox has a "white elephant" in World Cup rights for Russia.

The NFL ratings flop is not as bad as what Fox will endure all 2018 with the Curse of Jimmy Carter.  They may not make it up in the next FIFA cycle.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Throwback Thursday: On telling the truth

When I think of postmodernism I think of people who want to deny truth: There is no such thing as absolute truth. There’s relative truth, subjective truth … or like my friend Werner Herzog would call it, ‘ecstatic truth.’ … I have my own way of describing ‘ecstatic truth.’ I call it ‘lying.’”

Errol Morris, 2010 (H/T Grantland)

Originally published March 3, 2015

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Opera Wednesday

And now for something completely different, not to mention lighthearted. (And don't we need that about now?) The United Kingdom Ukuele Orchestra, which is actually based in Germany but is made up of British musicians, with a charming rendition of the William Tell Overture. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The final "Big Deal"

We know Monty Hall from Let's Make a Deal most probable for the Winnipeg, MB native, who died Saturday at 96.  But there are some other well-known clips we've found of the great Monte Halaprin (as he was known) from other television shows besides the show that he is best known (and a statement was posted by the current version).  An ethnic quota ended his dream of medical school despite hard work during the Great Depression and World War II, but he turned to radio and became wanted in the United States.

One of Mr. Hall's first known shows that made him prominent was Video Village, a Heatter-Quigley game show where he was the third, and longest-lasting host, of the CBS Daytime and even Saturday morning (children's version).

Monty and business partner Stefan Hatos developed Split Second, a quiz show that aired from 1972-75 with James Narz (aka Tom Kennedy) and again in 1986-87 with Hall at the helm.

In this 2013 Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony where Mr. Hall was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, he was presented his award by Wayne Brady, the current host of the show he made famous.  Beware of the Zonks!

An ad for Glen Campbell:

An ad for General Motors with son Richard, now himself a well-known television producer.  Your humble writer owned that generation Cutlass Supreme that was his daily driver in college, and it was part of a series of "next-generation" commercials by the Rocket brand with many offspring of legends (Peter Graves and Mel Blanc were among the others in the campaign).

One of current Let's Make a Deal model Tiffany Coyne's favourite moments was when she and Carol Merrill appeared together to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary in 2013, which now was Monty's last appearance on the show.

But CBS put Monty as a "hostage" in a 2014-15 season ruse that resulted in a wild crossover between the network's two daytime game shows that allowed Bob Barker to host The Price Is Right as the storyline was Drew Carey had been kidnapped.  The Twitter war between the two game shows was Carey and the Plinko board had been kidnapped by Wayne Brady's crew, so George Gray and The Price Is Right crew responded by kidnapping Hall.

Mr. Hall will be missed.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hugh Hefner, R.I.P.

We are admonished not to speak ill of the dead, and yet sometimes the historical record makes an honest appraisal otherwise. It’s hard to know exactly how much responsibility Hugh Hefner bears for the decline of Western Civilization. Chances are if he hadn’t done it, someone else would have (nobody forced us at gunpoint, last time I looked). His legacy, such as it is – the imprint that he leaves behind as he shuffles off these mortal coils, bound for parts undetermined – is that of the bunny’s head, one of the most familiar corporate symbols in the world.

I don’t know, but I suppose Playboy is passé nowadays, considering the nudity in it is probably tepid compared to that which anyone can find online. But the bill of indictment, as it were, is a long one, for Playboy was but one step on a long downhill road that lead to the mainstreaming of soft-core pornography, the acceptance of female nudity for the purpose of titillation, the creation of an “ideal” body type that most women could never hope to attain without the benefit of airbrushing, the commodification of body parts in the form of breast enhancements and other kinds of plastic surgery, the ideal that the “modern man” could partake in sex with as little concern over the consequences as if he were drinking fine wine and sampling hors d’oeuvres while dressed in his tux and listening to cool jazz at the club. With all this going against it, it’s a wonder that the nuclear family has survived as long as it has.

The idea that Playboy was somehow unable to compete with what was available for free led the magazine to try eliminating nudity, an experiment that lasted only about a year before it became apparent that nudity, tame though it may be, was just about the only reason left to buy Playboy. And it’s true that, setting aside the lithe, tanned bodies that jumped from the pages (if one can), the magazine was known for a literary style, often introducing young writers whose works would become far better known, as well as established authors who’d mastered the short story. There were the provocative interviews, a type of long-form journalism that’s hard to find anywhere anymore, as well as lifestyle pieces that on occasion didn’t have anything to do with sex. Hefner himself was a champion of jazz, and a generous contributor to film preservation efforts, which are good things. But other, better, magazines had once contained the same kind of content only to disappear from the shifting cultural landscape. There was no reason for Playboy to be any different, so the nudity returned. At least it’s something, you might have imagined them saying in the boardroom, with a resigned shrug.

One can’t blame Hef for all the evil in the world today, of course, convenient though it might be. Larry Flynt took the stylish sophistication of Playboy to the next logical step, introducing graphic, hard-core porn to mainstream magazine stands. Helen Gurley Brown morphed Cosmopolitan, a grand old magazine, into a sex club for women. Stag films had been around long before Playboy, but there was still a sense of shame attached to it, the idea that it wasn’t something respectable men could afford to be associated with in public. Since the entire notion of shame was something that the modern man no longer need to be concerned with, though, the consequences of living the Playboy Philosophy in public were far more diminished, if not gone altogether.

Yet it remains true that the legacy of Hugh Hefner will mostly be that he made soft-core pornography mainstream, even respectable, and in doing so he lowered the bar for acceptable public behavior. The very existence of Playboy was another step down the slippery slope; its success in making porn fashionable accelerated the decline even more.

By the end Hugh Hefner was, I think, something of a joke. The Playboy Philosophy does not wear so well on a man in his 90s, and the site of his withered, wrinkled body next to the smooth, surgically inflated contours of his latest paramours, was not just painful, it was grotesque. One’s tempted here to insert a comment about Dorian Gray, but even that might be lending the scene an excessive dignity.

We can’t know the final disposition of Hugh Hefner – that’s way above our paygrade. We can only look at the visible: what he accomplished with his life, whether or not he did justice to the many talents with which he obviously had been born. Put it this way – I’ve lived far from a perfect life, but I wouldn’t want to have his record. In the end, he didn’t have to be Satan Incarnate to wreck havoc on the world; being one of his lesser, more insignificant minions was sufficient enough.

The Grand Guignol that Hugh Hefner left behind speaks for itself and will do so for eternity. May God have mercy on his soul.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Throwback Thursday:

Fox News's John Stossel recently had some interesting things to say about how the police have handled the violence in Ferguson. I think Bobby's right about the irresponsibility of the young man killed by police, but Stossel sounds a cautionary note that the police are hardly blameless, either, suggesting that the increasing militarization of police forces everywhere tells us something about what's happening in American, and that ain't good:

[The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson] notes that a man identifying himself as a veteran from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division reacted to video of police in Ferguson by tweeting, “We rolled lighter than that in an actual war zone.”

If authorities arm cops like soldiers, they may begin to think like soldiers -- and see the public as the enemy. That makes violent confrontations more likely.

Again, this doesn't excuse the violence of that segment of protestor who's looking for trouble (cough-cough-Al Sharpton-cough), and Stossel makes clear that lawlessness is never acceptable.  But this whole issue with the police is incredibly troubling, something that should have been addressed quite some time ago; but better now than later.  It's further evidence of why the Founders thought we needed a Second Amendment, and proof of their wisdom in understanding that the government, no matter who's in charge of it, should never be completely trusted.  As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."  We know that this quote has been misappropriated many times, for many different reasons, but there's still something to it, don't you think?

Where do we stand on that today?

Originally published August 26, 2014

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Opera Wednesday

No matter what it is that's bothering you, an overture written by Mozart can usually cure it, or at least make you feel a lot better. Case in point is this charmer, the overture to Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), first performed in 1782.* It's hard to imagine it not being just as sprightly to audiences at its premiere as it is to us today.

*The role of the benevolent Pasha, a non-singing part, was often played by Werner Klemperer, our beloved Colonel Klink.

This performance is by the Vienna Symphony, under the baton of Metropolitan Opera principal conductor Fabio Luisi, in a 2006 appearance in Japan. Enjoy.

Wish I'd written that: On idiots and knees and the Anthem

Idiots say idiotic things. It’s like apple trees produce apples…. The most charitable thing that one can say about her book is that it is complete stupidity, because if one didn’t accuse it of being stupid, one would have to say that it was a deliberate fraud.

- Belgian author Simon Leys, speaking in 1983 about Chinese Communist apologist Maria-Antonietta Macchiocchi, who had written a book in praise of the Cultural Revolution.

The thought had occurred to me to write something similar about the athletes using the National Anthem as a form of protest; most of them are, in fact, either dupes, because they believe the lies that are being fed them regarding some of the "injustices" being inflicted by the police, or idiots, because they willingly work to perpetuate those falsehoods, knowing them to be such. Whenever they open their mouths to speak, they simply confirm one or the other. As someone wrote the other day, if an athlete were to take a knee to protest legalized abortion in the United States, would he be so feted by the press and his teammates? I think you know the answer to that one.

There are, in fact, a lot of things wrong with law enforcement in America, things I've written about before (here, for example), and one would be stupid indeed to overlook it. There are a lot of things wrong with race relations in America; the idea of slavery as America's "original sin" is a profound one, and one we still haven't overcome. Still, the idea of multimillionaires who've clearly thrived in America getting down on one knee to protest "injustice" is laughable - no, idiotic.

Most professional sports teams are located in major metropolitan areas: have all the members of, say, the Cleveland Indians, Cavaliers, and Browns pitched in a million dollars or so* to go toward training police officers in hopes that this injustice will be dealt with, at least as far as law enforcement is concerned? I haven't heard anything about it. Does that mean that such an effort would be useless, that racism is so endemic to America that no amount of education short of reeducation will address it? If that is in fact the case, then what good do social protests to, since they'd have even less effect?

*I know that there are some players who truly can't afford a million dollars, those who are at minimum salary (which is still more than I'm likely to see in my lifetime), but I suspect LeBron James can make up that difference by himself.

The same goes for boycotting White House appearances.* I laugh at how shagreened the Golden State Warriors were when they were disinvited to the White House -an invitation that some of them had indicated they wouldn't accept in the first place. The team protested that this would eliminate the opportunity for dialogue on the burning social issues of the day (I can just imagine the quality of that discussion), but those like Stephen Curry, who'd already said he wouldn't go, apparently had already determined that a show of political defiance was worth more than the chance for dialogue. Look at it - these people can't even sing from the same page!

*Which I think are overdone to begin with. Why should the President be considered the nation's number one sports fan? Why should sports be that important? I'd like to see the institutional cult of personality that surrounds the presidency be eliminated for that reason, but it's another topic for another day.

In the end, the most damning thing one can say about the United States is that we as a people put so much stock in the opinions of celebrities and athletes in the first place. Haven't we heard them complain, usually after having been arrested or called out on some other kind of misbehavior, that they didn't ask to be role models in the first place? And yet now they decide they want to be social advocates? It is to laugh. Perhaps if we're that shallow, then we won't be capable of elevating our national IQ to the point that we can have a serious discussion on race, sex, politics, or anything else. Instead we'll just sit around trading opinions on the cover stories in People, Rolling Stone, Cosmo, Us, and Sports Illustrated (yes, it's come to that). We'll find out not only who's taking a knee, we'll also address such burning issues as whether or not Kylie's pregnancy will change things, if Jen's marriage will survive, the truth behind the breakup of Brad and Angelia, how to drive your man wild in bed, and other screaming headlines. They're all equally important.

Leys is right. They are, for the most part, idiots, so we should expect nothing less from them. Because, to paraphrase his words, in doing so we're being charitable. The alternative is that they're out-and-out frauds, and that wouldn't be a nice thing to say, would it?
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