Friday, March 27, 2015

Flashback Friday: Dorothy L. Sayers on the feminization of religion

DETAIL.CHRIST EXPELS THE MONEY CHANGERS OUT OF THE TEMPLE, CARAVAGGIO, 1610 
We cannot blink the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language, that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbetted as a firebrand and a public danger. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah into a household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

Dorothy L. Sayers

Originally published October 7, 2008

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Opera Wednesday Special - In Memoriam 4U9525

The tragic news of the crash of Germianwings flight 4U9525 has affected the opera world.

Deutsche Oper am Rhein bass-baritone Oleg Bryjak and contralto Maria Radner (who had her husband and child on the flight), performed in the roles of Alberich and Erda, respectively, in a performance of Wagner's Siegfried at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona Monday night, perished Tuesday on the return flight home in 4U9525 when it crashed in the Alps.

Thoughts and prayers to the Bryjak and Radner families, along with the Rhein German Opera and the Liceu Grand Theatre staff following this tragic news.  Flags were lowered at Liceu.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Retro TV Friday: 2003 at the start of MTV's Spike channel - it's not what you think it is

PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL KOLSTI
Here's my thoughts from 2003 over the development of what is now the Spike channel, which I've despised for all 14 and a half years since it "unofficially" began, mainly because of a friend whose family members were executives at CBS cable operations in Charlotte when it was shut down in order to create the adult-oriented channel.  Enjoy this "retro television" thought from early in the century.

And you wonder why adult-oriented television is now too prominent today.

***

I was reading the wires of Fox News when I read a quirky news story about film producer Spike Lee, who sued MTV in an eventually futile attempt to stop them from changing MTV National (formerly The Nashville Network) to Spike TV.

When I originally read of the name “Spike TV,” I associated it with volleyball of both the traditional indoor game and the burgeoning outdoor (two-man, beach, or as it's called by the NCAA now for women only, sand) game, with the obvious reference of course to spikes, as shown in the volleyball phrase, “Bump, set, SPIKE!,” and discussions on issues such as the game, the players, NCAA, FIVB (International Volleyball Federation), scoring (most federations have switched to the FIVB standard rally to 25, although the NCAA made their games rally to 30, although in all codes rally to 15 in the final game), recreational coaching tips, how the game is played, the libero, a defensive specialist who is restricted to playing in certain positions, cannot make certain hits other players can hit, and wears a different jersey, which would please a few friends at church who are volleyball players.

No, it is not.  Instead, it's a planned ADULT MALE channel, and with the channel slots (Edward Gaylord-owned) The Nashville Network (later CBS-owned The Nashville Network) earned in the early to mid-1990's with Mike Joy, Buddy Baker, Ralph Emery, Lorianne Crook, Charlie Chase, and the great outdoors, Spike TV will erase 20 years of Edward Gaylord's family legacy.  Worse yet, the slots they had are being HANDED to Spike TV, AND Gospel music's top video music channel collapsed after The Nashville Network needed a West feed in 1999 (for NASCAR when CBS was considering a big - MTV's acquisition later ended CBS plans, as we learned;  keep in mind this was written before the big LaRoche turn, when musically I changed after voice).  Now MTV National is gone too.  An ADULT channel gets a basic cable slot on many systems?  Give me a break, drop Spike TV, hand over (another now-defunct channel I shall not name) in that slot.

One sad story after another.  Something's wrong with music videos . . .

As for Spike TV, it further destroys the empire of Edward Gaylord, now run by his children after his death last month (at the time of writing in 2003), and erases 20 years the old Nashville Network of Ralph Emery, Windsor (CT) Town Councilman Michael K. Joy (when he was a host for the channel, he was working as a town councilman in that city), Elzie Wylie Baker Jr, Eli Gold, Lorianne Crook, Charlie Chase, Gary Chapman (who won Male Vocalist in 1996, shortly before Ed Gaylord announced he was the host of the channel's top show, and won a biggie which his then-wife didn't win in her career), and other live characters.

The Edward Gaylord legacy is also nearly gone:

  • Grand Ole Opry
  • WSM
  • WWTN

Under Colin Reed, the Gaylord empire has dropped its entertainment for hotels.

Why is basic cable tolerant to letting Spike TV, an adult male channel, on the air as a basic station?  It's all about things such as the Spike TV Video Game Awards, with awards for best violence, bleep games, and the rest of this trash, and the WWE, and more adult programming which is not suitable for public consumption, such as Striparella?

I don't understand.  Spike TV puts the nail in Ed Gaylord's legacy, and worse yet, is a way to push adult television on basic cable.  This smut is one more reason we won't see big name singers such as Sandi Patty, Kathy Troccoli, Steven Curtis Chapman, 4 Him, Point of Grace, and others on the air any time soon.  CBS/Nashville let them on Gary's show.  MTV stopped all of the allowing of Christian artists from airing on television.  Now Spike TV is all adult, all the time.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Pope Francis Releases NCAA Bracket; Has Notre Dame Winning It All

(VATICAN CITY – March 21) New Pope Francis announced his NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket today, and revealed that he thinks the championship will be won by the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

In an exclusive interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy Father admitted that although he hadn’t had as much time to work on his bracket as he has in the past, he still feels confident about his selections.

“Notre Dame,” Francis said without hesitation when asked who he had winning it all. “I just have a feeling this is their year. If they can get past Ohio State in the second round, I think they will go all the way.” The pontiff added, however, that top-ranked Gonzaga should not be overlooked. “Never bet against the Jesuits,” he said with a smile.

In addition to Notre Dame, Francis’ other Final Four picks are Saint Louis in the Midwest, Georgetown in the South, and Marquette in the East. “I almost chose the Louisville Cardinals in the Midwest, but ultimately I stayed with Saint Louis,” he said.

Pope Francis discussing his bracket with the media
(HNS)
The new Pope revealed that he had discussed his predictions with Emeritus Pope Benedict during a phone conversation the two had on Tuesday, but declined to reveal who the former Holy Father had winning the title. “I know he followed the selections avidly on Sunday. He and I disagree on some of the regions, but if he wants to share his choice with the world, I assume he will do so at the proper time.”

Francis expressed appreciation that this year’s Final Four, to be played in Atlanta on April 6 and 8, does not conflict with Easter. “With the liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, it can be difficult to keep up with the results. Thankfully, this year that will not be the case.”

The Pope chuckled when asked whether his election as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church means that his bracket is now to be considered infallible. “The Catholic faithful are under no obligation to follow my predictions,” Francis said. “In fact, my colleagues in Buenos Aries might suggest one would better off if they didn’t. But it has been a good month so far - perhaps it is a sign that my luck is changing.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just wondering


The recent Run Hard Half Marathon that I ran was not a good one on the clock.  There were issues with the shoes (that gave up and were promptly retired afterwards), but a 2:55:20 for a half -- over 40 minutes slower than my best time over 21,097m, was tough.  But I didn't know how it was until ten minutes later.

Ten minutes later, the first woman -- at three hours, five minutes, and change -- won the Run Hard Columbia Marathon women's division. Chalk up another South African flag.  She won Myrtle Beach Half, and she has won the local hometown 12km for me.

Yes, it was Zola (Budd) Piertse, a coach at Coastal Carolinal, who scored another major running win.  She won a half here (and I ran it), she won a half in Myrtle Beach (and I ran the full), and now she won the Run Hard Columbia (and I ran the half).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dangers of social media, #1,237,639

If you're a fugitive from justice, best to keep a low profile:

The fugitive, who has been at large since violating probation, made a post on his Facebook page inviting friends to join him for batting practice at a specific location. The police, who had been on the lookout for Patterson, immediately alerted the Caldwell police officers who showed up at the softball field where Patterson was and arrested him on the spot.

This reminds me of a story about, I think, Spencer Haywood, the former professional basketball player.  During the contract wars between the NBA and ABA, Haywood was in Seattle to sign a contract with the SuperSonics.  He was instructed to keep a low profile and avoid publicity, yet he was amazed that no matter where he went, people knew who he was.  A friend told him, "Spencer, if you want to remain anonymous, it's probably not a good idea, as a 6'8" black man in Seattle, to walk around in a warmup outfit with your name written on the back."  If it wasn't Haywood, it was someone similar - that's the way the ABA was.

It also reminds me of Slick Watts, the guard who played, coincidentally, with the SuperSonics many years later.  Told that coach Bill Russell was "incommunicado.", Watts responded, "Then let's go there and find him."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Why do we choose sides?

Rod Dreher wonders why we feel compelled to pick a side in Ukraine:

Do you know who the good guys and the bad guys are in Ukraine? I do not. In Egypt, I was not sorry to see the Morsi government overthrown, but one should not be under any illusions that the Egyptian military are the good guys. Why do we have to pick a side? Are we sure we know enough about what’s going on there to do so? Some of us might; one of this blog’s readers is in Kiev, and he has clear and firmly held opinions about the Yanukovych government. I respect that, but it is clearer to me that America does not need to be picking sides in this fight than it is which side we should pick.

Well, the first thought that came to my mind is that we choose sides because we live in a culture today that forces us to choose sides.  The mentality is everywhere.  We love our sports, and we apply its terminology to everything.  Politics becomes a horserace, and it matters less whether a candidate can articulate an issue than it does that he’s scored points, he’s landed the knockout punch, he’s pulling away from the field or falling back into the pack.  Nobody wants to know about the substance of what’s discussed – they just want to know who wins and who loses.

ESPN’s motto on many of its shows is “embrace debate.”  Doesn’t matter what the issue is, there have to be two sides, and they have to be heard out – often at the top of their lungs.  Even if you don’t have a strong feeling one way or another, you take a side, because that’s what makes good television – and good entertainment.

Reality programming dominates television.  And what is it about reality shows that most often appeals to the viewers?  You have a winner and a loser.  And the viewer must take sides; no sane individual would watch a show like Survivor without developing a rooting interest for or against someone – for that’s the other side of the coin.  If you can’t find someone you like, someone to root for, find someone you hate, and root against them.  It’s just as much fun – try it.

Everything is personal.  You either agree with me, or else.  Whether it’s politics, religion, sports, restaurant cuisine: if you disagree with me, it invalidates not only your opinion on that issue, but on everything else as well.  See it on Facebook, read it on Twitter, it doesn’t matter if it’s your battle or not – the important thing is to choose a side, and make sure everyone else knows which side you’re on.  And if they’re on the other side, judge them for that.

Given all this, is it any wonder that we feel compelled to take sides?  Armed conflict is, for us, another form of entertainment.  War is a spectator sport, to be viewed on television in-between highlights of the Olympics and scenes from the most recent argument on Capitol Hill.  We take sides on those, why not on war as well?  It’s a zero-sum game; there has to be a winner and a loser, and Americans love a winner.

Remarkably, for a culture that seems reluctant to view morality in terms of black-and-white, we seem to have no qualms about doing just that when it comes to choosing sides.  It’s hard for us to believe that both sides in a conflict can be “the bad guys.”  The Egyptian rebels fighting to bring down Mubarak must be right; after all, isn’t Mubarak supposed to be a dictator?  So let’s support them, and the fact that there are some pretty bad dudes among them – well, we’ll look the other way on that.

We abhor a vacuum.  Even in a situation such as Vietnam, where antiwar sentiment was rampant, it’s not as if people refused to join sides.  Many of the antiwar activists were openly rooting for the Vietcong, and the conflict between pro- and antiwar sides became as much of a battle as the war itself.  Not choosing a side – there’s just something un-American about it.

We lead with our hearts, not our heads.  We’ve Oprahfied the way we look at foreign policy every bit as much as we have everything else in our world.  Who’s the scrappy underdog, which side has the most malnourished refugees, let’s cheer on the plucky rebels raging against the big bad machine.

You see how absurd this all is?  So when Rod asks this question – and I think it’s a very good one, a very telling one – why should we be surprised at what the answer is?  It is, after all, the world we created for ourselves. And after all - it's just entertainment, isn't it?


Originally published February 21, 2014

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Opera Wednesday - just for fun!

From one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons of all time - here's how Bugs handles an opera prima donna.  I wonder how many children, through the years, had their introduction to opera and classical music from Looney Tunes cartoons?  (And not only children!)


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Random Thoughts

The third month of the year is here, and a few random thoughts came this week regarding news bits.  Here are a few quickies to ponder.

Whose Side Are You Supporting, Congressman?  The relegation of my area (because of certain Tea Party "Spirit of 1773" conservatives in the area, no doubt) to the ultra-liberal, race-baiting Sixth Congressional District is analogous to that of a football club that has gone from the Comcast-broadcast Barclays Premier League to the Al Jazeera [through their sports subsidiary beIN]-broadcast SkyBet Championship (and lower leagues).  The ugly colours displayed itself because this Congressman who ignores me for not being in his qualifications has decided to skip Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to the Joint Session of Congress this week.  Whose side are you supporting?  Either you're with Israel or you're with Iran, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (not the Iraqi government), and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.  Mr. Clyburn is far worse than Mr. Wilson, mind you.

Are Streaming Television Services Opening the Door to the Dreaded X Rating on Television?  It is well known movie theatre chains (Carmike, AMC, Regal) will not accept carrying X-rated (referred by the MPAA as NC-17) movies, as it will hurt revenue because of core teenage audiences (R allows as long as there is an adult watching with the child), there is an association with pornography with the X rating though some are for violence, and additional patrol to ensure those under 17 are not attending an explicit movie.  But with streaming television replacing network and even pay television, the ads for people to subscribe to such services are promoting TV-MA rated series, which are the television equivalent of X ratings.  If the theatre chains make it clear "no means no" for X ratings, why are television viewers being told the best shows on television are the X rated shows?  It seems further that the streaming services are promoting the raunchiest shows, which have no accountability to censors or advertisers, and to claim "artistic excellence" means as raunch as it can be.  Remember that a popular movie based on a raunchy book was awarded a British equivalent of an X rating, and edited to an R in the United States to avoid the X that would drive it away from theatres.  What are we saying when premium pay is opening the door to "too hot for movies" on television, and winning?

The ChromaLusion Dress?  The recent media rush over the perspective that the colours of a dress were of different colours had me looking back at NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet Monte Carlos he raced for his former sponsor DuPont (NYSE : DD, sponsor of Mr. Gordon from 1992-2012, when the company sold the division that sponsored his #24 Chevrolet;  the new successor company, Axalta, NYSE : AXTA, has sponsored his Holden since 2013) around the turn of the century.  Various liveries for Mr. Gordon, especially at the All-Star Race, featured a DuPont (now Axalta) branded ChromaLusion paint that changed colours upon reflection of lights.

Mr. Gordon's ChromaLusion from the 1998 All-Star Race.

Mr. Gordon's ChromaLusion from the 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond.  Note how the light changes the perspective of colour on that car.

There is also a Superman from the 1999 Charlotte spring races that used ChromaLusion.

When I saw that dress story, I looked back at the archives of the legendary #24 DuPont Chevrolet (and successor Axalta Holden Commodore) and see how that the dress story was not new.  I've seen this with a car that changed colours.

A Law With No Sense.  Sixty years ago, the 24 Heures du Mans crash involving Pierre Levegh's Mercedes running over an Austin-Healey into the stands, killing 83, led to a ban in motorsport in Switzerland.  After a test by former F1 test driver and INDYCAR podium finisher Simona de Silvestro, there is a push to legalise only electric motorsport in the country, while the 60-year ban on petrol circuit racing continues.  Why only allow electric cars and not petrol?  Are you selling out to those who push for green standards?  (The 24 Heures disaster also led to a ban of over 30 years of Mercedes-Benz in motorsport and the American Automobile Association disbanding the Contest Board that sanctioned the Indianapolis 500; interestingly, AAA members couldn't race at Darlington in its early years because the AAA didn't like Bill France; when the Contest Board dissolved after the disaster, Mr. France, Mr. Hulman, and the SCCA formed the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, the new national governing body of motorsport in the country;  today, there are six member clubs of ACCUS.  Some INDYCAR fans are outraged because the reigning Rookie of the Year for the Indianapolis 500 recently had his FIA licence suspended by ACCUS for domestic violence, since an ACCUS member can suspend a competitor's FIA licence, and the suspension goes into effect for all other ACCUS members.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wish I'd written that

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)