Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Hong Kong . . . and an NBC announcement

A
 release from NBC regarding their top-rated show on television that starts in a week with a special Thursday episode had me reminding myself of what has been happening in Hong Kong.


If, in the words of the late Jim Lange (from the 1980's version) or if you're even older, James Narz (aka Tom Kennedy) from the 1970's version that the lady we now know as the Mrs. Frank Gifford was part of that version, you "listen and name that tune," you will catch the reference to this tune with the recent NBC announcement.

Can you identify the reference?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

#DennyDelivers number of channels, anyone?


I have to roll out a FedEx Toyota with a boatload of cash delivered by NASCAR superstar Denny Hamlin to the winner of the PGA Tour championship in East Lake -- but really it's an annuity the winner doesn't take home now, it is kept for the player in the future.

But that reminds me of his Toyota's number -- #11 -- and this disturbing statistic I caught while scanning channels today. This year's MTV Video Music Awards  air on eleven different channels under MTV's control. That's as bad as ESPN's College Football Playoff and, in alternating years, the NCAA Men's Final Four and Championship when AT&T carries them.  How have we spun numbers where 11 different limited access channels air major events instead of one broadcast network channel, which is what college football and basketball once were?

Just sad how far we've fallen when you use 11 different channels to air one show for one night.

In 2007, we were stunned by a "relevant Bible study" for youth in church featuring MTV stars.

And of course, in 2003, after the Spears-Madonna-Aguilera incident, we called all three of them to the Big Red Truck.  This time, who gets called to the Big Red Truck?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Retro TV Friday: Television does imitate life!

The recent "sequel" of Beverley Hills, 90210 as a six-episode summer mini-series on Fox, once I read details on the preview listed by our television, I thought was based on the real-life actions of classic television fans. The Aaron Spelling series was a coming of age for both the stars and the Fox network, which by 1994 had become a major network while CBS (which now owns the franchise after acquiring Mr. Spelling's library) had been relegated to minor status (and as I've learned over the years, our market came precariously close to losing the network as a whole).

The setting of the show's first episode was naturally, a classic television convention which our esteemed editor knows very well from having been to a few, and fans know from seeing classic television shows featured in these events. So it came to my attention that art had to imitate life when the show's setting was a classic television convention, and the fans had arrived to see the stars of the show. Someone writing this sequel must have seen what actually happens in those classic show meetings to get a script for this episode. Though I may have wanted Bob Jenkins to be a guest star on this, since for a few years on ABC, Jason Priestley was the INDYCAR analyst, a move similar to Dennis Miller on NFL coverage. What?

So those who attend these classic television meetings, such as the one in Maryland, are able to see it referenced on a present-day television programme. Go figure.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Is Francis the sorrow and the pity of the Catholic Church?

Back in the day, when I was going through my instruction prior to converting to Catholicism, a priest asked this question: "If you stood accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"  It's an excellent question, thought-provoking but also chilling, when one is forced to admit (as I do, freely) that most of the time I'd get off scot-free.

Pertinent to this, here's a corollary to that question, which I don't mind posing today: "If you weren't already Catholic today, would you be convinced to convert?"

I'm not entirely sure what my answer would be—it's always hard to answer a hypothetical, especially in a situation that depends on ignorance of what you already know. Given that, my temptation is to answer that question: No.

(If this were a radio program, you'd now hear me say, "The reason why, in a moment," followed by a commercial. But since I don't have commercials, you'll just have to imagine it, as a way of building a dramatic cliffhanger.  OK, we're back.)

Catholicism had held a great deal of interest for me over the years prior to my conversion. At the beginning, there was an aesthetic component to it, what with the ritual and the symbolism and the ceremonial nature of the Mass.*  I'd been drawn to the news coverage of the deaths of Paul VI and John Paul, I in 1978 and the conclaves that had ensued, and I'd been impressed by the dignity and bearing of the new pope, John Paul II. I'd begun reading more about the Church some time after that, and found not only an intellectual component that had been missing from my spiritual life, but a core set of beliefs that convinced me the Catholic Church stood for something.  There wasn't anything particularly political or ideological about it—it was more of the idea that the Church, in her teachings, was something worth living—and dying—for.

*Much of which had, in the post-Vatican II world, disappeared by that time.  Nonetheless, there were memories of earlier days, seen on television; in addition, mass media has always had a hard time shaking the myth of the old days in the Church; whenever you want to suggest religion on television or in the movies, the shorthand is always an ornamental Catholic church.

I've not made many comments about the current pope; it's a fray that for the most part is not worth getting into, since the voices that speak the loudest often have the least influence. Wading into the Catholic blogosphere is also an invitation to act in an uncharitable manner, and God knows I don't need any provocation in that area; I do well enough on my own.

However, based on the few things I've written, it probably would come as no surprise to you that I'm not a big fan of this Bishop of Rome. One must be careful here in parsing words; to say that I do not like him does not mean that I dislike him. It's more of a studied indifference, I suppose; nonetheless, I say in honesty that I do not like him. I worry about the fast and loose way in which he appears to use words, his apparent indifference to liturgical beauty, his identification with social justice to the (perhaps) detriment of theology. I don't like the way the MSM fawns over him. I don't like the way liberal Catholics use his words to justify their own reactionary beliefs (assuming, that is, that those beliefs are different from his own—with him, who can tell?), and I don't like the way "conservative" Catholics ridicule those who express such concerns.

This last group can be the most infuriating. When I was in politics, I used to say (coming from a conservative Republican perspective) that at least when the Democrats stabbed you, they did in in the chest, which meant you could see the blade coming. If you were stabbed by a Republican, on the other hand, you wouldn't know about it until you saw the tip of the blade protruding through your chest—in other words, after they had stuck it in your back. I feel much the same way about these supporters of the pope. They seem to go out of their way to antagonize people like me, using phrases like "those of us who get him" (meaning the rest of us are just too damn stupid to understand), and "I love this guy" (and the rest of us, apparently, don't). I'm not sure if these words are meant to infuriate, like poking a stick in the tiger's cage, or if they're just thoughtless. However, as is the case when a hammer falls on your foot, it doesn't matter whether it was accidentally dropped or if someone hit you with it: it still hurts.

I've resolved over the past months to watch this fight from the sidelines. When I was hospitalized a few years ago, I made a vow that I would try to avoid any discussions which tended to inflame the situation*. (I've been pretty good about that, but not perfect.) So I've had some time to think and observe what's going on, and try to keep from getting sucked into a whirlpool of depression.

*I also knew, instinctively, that were he at my bedside the pope would be as gentle and gracious as anyone could ask for. Which, again, is why I caution that I do not dislike him, something that would require active participation. Plus, just because someone is kind and loving, that doesn't necessarily mean they're competent.

And to get back to the question from the beginning of this piece (before the commercial break), my feeling is that there's very little coming out of the Church right now that can be considered a flag to which the wise can repair. There's precious little intellectual stimulation emanating from Rome; people who try to assure us of the orthodoxy of papal pronouncements often seem to be required to twist themselves into shapes that even the best chiropractor would be challenged to untie. For the first time since before my conversion, I didn't watch any of the papal ceremonies at Christmastime; I just didn't have the interest in it. There's no heft, no gravitas.

Frankly, were I approaching this as an outsider, I'm not at all sure I'd see anything that would convince me of what the Catholic Church stood for, if anything. That whole, "Who am I to judge?" fiasco was, I think, incredibly damaging to the Church, because it not only implied (rightly or wrongly) a lack of importance in taking the measure of a situation, it also encouraged people to parse all of the pope's other words on that basis. When words can be twisted as easily as this, then everything becomes relative. I'm only glad that the workers who build airplanes work from more specific instructions than those that come to us from Rome.

At worst, this pope is a dangerous man, prepared to set the Church back to the dark ages following Vatican II, a time of confusion, disappointment and alienation, a time when "everything goes" seemed to apply to everyone except those who thought they were following what the Church had always taught.  This would be an invitation to the second pontificate of Paul VI, and we all know how successful that one was. At best, this pope is a man who means well, has a good heart, and lives by orthodox beliefs, but has an amazing lack of awareness, an almost naive misunderstanding of the media, and a stunning inability to express himself with clarity and authority, leaving demoralized and dispirited believers in his wake. At any rate, a man who lacks the ability to be "as cunning as a serpent." Either of these alternatives, it seems to me, suggest an uncertain future - uncertain, and just as disastrous as the one above.

Much has been written about the "cult of personality" surrounding the modern papacy. I think there's more than a little merit to this, although in an era of 24/7 news that seeks to turn all leaders into media "newsmakers," it's probably impossible to completely avoid such a situation. But there's an old saying that I think applies in this case—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And anyone who's part of an organization, large or small, knows that they may be the ones responsible for the first impression someone else gets. In other words, we're all role models.

Perhaps, with the oversized papacies of John Paul II and (to a lesser extent) Benedict XVI, we became used to seeing the pope as synonymous with the Church, and that's obviously false; over two centuries, the Church has survived many a bad pope. Still, for an outsider, someone who looks at the Catholic Church with an eye to conversion, that first impression may well come from the world's most visible Catholic.  What impression is he giving?  That of a man ready to lead a Church during uncertain times in a hostile world? A man of strong beliefs, representing solid ground upon which the faithful can stand? A man who understands the problems the Church faces? Or is it a man reassuring us that we're all OK, someone who places earthly needs above spiritual ones, someone who in his celebrity is all style, no substance? A man content to be all things to all people, with nobody quite sure of what he really believes in? A man hostile to the traditions of the Church, and indifferent to those who have fought hard to preserve them?

So here's the answer to my question: if I were looking at the Church from outside, I would see few of the things which drew me to Catholicism in the first place. I'd see people campaigning for social justice rather than trying to bring salvation to men's souls. I'd see that Church being led by a man who is soft, who doesn't have the stomach for the fight that lies ahead. I'd see dissension and discouragement in the ranks. I'd see very little that would convince me it was worth dying for.

I might still convert. I'd like to think that, thanks to the Grace of God, I would do so in spite of any doubts I might have, because I would then be joining the One True Church. But in doing so, I'd keep in mind the words of Whittaker Chambers, who remarked that in leaving Communism, "I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism."

The Catholic Church cannot be the losing side. Christ Himself promised that "the gates of Hell" would not prevail against His Church. And that is the reassurance that keeps us from slipping into despair. If the pope can't infuse us with that confidence in Christ's words—if he cannot share with us that hope amidst a world of despair—then, quite frankly, what can he do?

Originally published January 8, 2014

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Opera Wednesday

Xrom 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!)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Keep Your Faith To Yourself – Unless I Say Otherwise

In 2015, a county clerk for the state of Kentucky named Kim Davis decided to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, in open defiance of federal law. She did this, she said, because she believed the teachings of her church were more eminent than those of her country.

For doing so, she was roundly condemned and eventually relieved from this responsibility. The loudest voices of opposition came from the political left who howled about “separation of church and state!” She’s free to believe what she wants on her own time, they generously consented, but as long as she lives in this country she better abide by its laws, by jingo.

They probably didn’t say “by jingo,” but it seemed to fit.

These crusaders against Christianity having any say in politics probably don’t know where the concept of “separation of church and state” originated, and why it was created in the first place (it’s certainly not for the reason they think). But that is not relevant here.

What is relevant is that last week, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) just became the country's first 'sanctuary church body.’ They have proclaimed their intention to shelter and protect those who are in this country illegally, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that are attempting to enforce a law that has existed for decades under both Democrat and Republican administrations.

And the same people who mocked and condemned Kim Davis are now at risk of spraining their wrists from applauding so hard, in celebration of Christians openly defying federal law.

Has something changed? Did we become a theocracy when I wasn’t paying attention? Come on, you guys, someone should have told me.

This announcement was particularly troubling to me because I was baptized and confirmed in a church that now identifies as evangelical Lutheran. It was just plain old Lutheran back then, but I guess someone decided 32 Christian denominations weren’t enough, so it was time to add a few more.

I went to the ELCA’s Facebook page to get a sense of what the rank and file were saying about what I assumed would be a controversial decision. I expected opposing views, intelligently expressed; what I did not expect was insults, arrogance, and a level of discussion as puerile as what you’d find in the comments section of a fringe political blog. With few exceptions there was no attempt at respectful dialogue and debate. It was like a Trinity Broadcast Network version of Crossfire.

But if the question were to be decided by popular vote, the consensus on that Facebook page suggests this decision has majority support.

I think it’s terribly misguided, and the fact that I would even have to explain why is a sad reflection on how the world has changed. Right and wrong, legal and illegal, have all become amorphous terms in a society that is now allergic to emphatically expressed truths.

A legitimate government is enforcing a just law. Every country can and should regulate immigration as a right related to its national sovereignty. Period.

What message is the ELCA sending to the million or so immigrants who come to America legally every year? That they’re like fools who circle a parking lot for ten minutes waiting for someone to leave, when all they had to do was pull into that handicapped spot without a placard? Who cares about doing things the right way?

What message does it send to other churches who may wish to defy a law it believes is unfair? If the ELCA can shield an illegal immigrant from lawful deportation, why can’t a Catholic church detain a woman who wishes to terminate her pregnancy, to protect the innocent life of her child, because that too would be in accordance with a higher law?

This is a big door swinging open, and my guess is that all the Trump-haters who love seeing him get a middle finger from a house of worship have not considered all of the ramifications. This time it’s great because they agree with it. But they reserve the right to tell the church to hit the road on issues where they don’t. I’ll take “Cafeteria Christians” for 600, Alex.

Yes, there is a Gospel imperative to “welcome the stranger.” But any legitimate church’s doctrine also supports the right of sovereign countries to have borders, and the reality that immigration must be subject to some regulation.

The ELCA has elected to separate from that doctrine. That will get them some good press from a left-leaning media for a while. But I wonder if anyone will ask its members (or those cheering from the secular sidelines cause Jesus finally got one right) if they ever gave a thought to the strangers laying all over the sidewalks of San Francisco and Seattle and Portland.

I’m guessing they haven’t – thankfully the Catholics and the Protestants are doing their best to provide food and shelter and counseling. Maybe if some of those pitiful souls decided to have a gay wedding, they’d get a little more attention.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Wish I'd written that: The trouble with developing taste

A critical faculty is a terrible thing. When I was eleven there were no bad films, just films that I didn’t want to see, there was no bad food, just Brussels sprouts and cabbage, there were no bad books—everything I read was great. Then suddenly, I woke up in the morning and all that had changed. How could my sister not hear that David Cassady was not in the same class as Black Sabbath? Why on earth would my English teacher think that The History of Mr Polly was better than Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie? And from that moment on, enjoyment has been a much more elusive quality."

Nick Hornby
Fever Pitch

Monday, July 29, 2019

Wish I'd written that: How religion dies with a whimper

T
here was no fanaticism or intolerance in [Pastor] Lund. Like a long line of Lutheran ministers I had known before him, he was well-meaning if somewhat narrow in his views and comfortable in his faith without being smug. At the same time, it had always impressed me that in the hands of men like Lund, the strange, bloody, and wonderous Christian story inevitably turned rather drab.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

July 23 Notebook

Now That's a Watching Party.  The husband of a contestant on RTL's Press Your Luck 2019 (airing on ABC, produced by the German television network Radio Television Luxembourg) made some crazy tee-shirts for the viewing party when the episode she taped in May debuted.  Contestants of the ten-episode summer third revival of the 1977 Second Chance (ABC daytime) and 1983-86 Press Your Luck (CBS daytime) William A. Carruthers Company and 2002 Whammy! The All New Press Your Luck (GSN) production were told of their air dates afterwards, and a watch party was organised by the contestant's husband.

Ironically, the contestant's opponents ended up with red fur as both of her opponents were disqualified from the game for reaching the Chinese adage why elevators do not carry the number of a certain NASCAR Monster Energy Series champion that won his first race Sunday.  (It's used in Asian-themed cooking shows also why they assign certain number of servings they avoid that number of servings too!)

Is This the Future?  The controversy over the Women's World Cup National Football Team that won it all continues.  But meanwhile, as we see masculine failure around us, the question will arise as more "equal pay" and "equal use of venues" becomes the issue thanks to Title IX, and even research by groups.  In college, a student who was my classmate did his Senior Thesis paper on how Title IX abuse ran him out of his previous college, as he was a wrestler on scholarship and lost his scholarship and his admission to the school as a result of abusing the Patsy Mink Education Act of 1972.  I made a reference in 2012 to the consequences, but after women scored $3,000,000 in the last World Cup and men were BUST (as they say in RTL's Card Sharks bonus round, another classic game show revived for 2019, but I am not a fan of how slow the game is because Joel McHale doesn't do it the way Bob Eubanks and the late Bill Rafferty or Jim Perry did the game), the debate opens.

The controversy over the national football team will be a warning for parents of boys.  The feminine superiority and masculine failure wil lead to the advancement of ideals in high schools, as we see participation of sports by boys drop and girls rise in many states.  Friday Night Lights will soon be girls' high school futbol, with dance teams dancing at halftime.  Boys will soon be losing their entire extracurricular activities as Title IX activists will ensure only girls are allowed to have events, and boys will not.  Dance teams are replacing cheerleading at many schools because it is girls only while cheerleading is becoming coed in order to give boys who are proficient at gymnastics (which for men is a strength sport, as seen in high bars and rings) and want to be in CrossFit (gymnastics activities are required in those events) a chance to participate in strength activities.  In New York, we learned when new schools opened, only girls could have sport activities in the schools to meet Mink Act rules.  Will boys be subject to these heinous rules in new schools first as schools try to appease the wishes of these authorities working to eliminate masculinity?

You wonder what's next.

What Are You Teaching?  Visiting a church in the area after a long day out of town, there is a discipleship training class (which is an evening Bible study before church services).  As we went through Elijah's story of discouragement, somehow Mendelssohn's Elijah came back to my head after reading about "O Rest In the Lord" and "If With All Your Hearts".  Those songs were written from the oratorio based on the Bible.  Compare that to today's modern worship songs based on feelings of the writer, and not a single part from the Bible.  Go figure.  Why are we teaching feelings instead of objective Word?  That's part of the problem in our culture today.

Regietheater Run Rampant.  So MGM/UA and EON have decided James Bond is retiring and will be in Jamaica for the next film, while regietheater freaks have replaced him with . . . someone in the PC world.  This person fits all the checkmarks of the modern progressive movement.  What?

A Tribute.  The Take-No-Prisoners editor of The Washington Times, Wesley Pruden, died Wednesday at 83, hours after just another hard day of work for the legendary editor.  The man who was that newspaper from its 1982 founding all the way to the end of his life just hours after finishing up another day at the office leaves a legacy of a newspaper he edited and knew how to do things.  Sadly, Amazon, which indirectly owns the rival The Washington [BLEEP], left insults at Mr. Pruden's stepchildren that Media Research Network noted.

An appreciation of Wesley Pruden can be found here.

And here is Pruden's last column.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Age of the Clueless White Guy

The current Hollywood crusade (well, one of them anyway) is inclusion and color-blind casting.

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s The Little Mermaid will feature an African American as Ariel; the new 007 will be a black female. Other characters originally established as one race and one gender have been played by those outside those groups in projects related to Harry Potter, Frozen, Marvel’s Thor, and nearly every other fictional construct introduced in times now rebuked as less enlightened.

As a result, though they would never dare say it aloud or post it on social media, actors cursed with the affliction of being Caucasian may wonder if there will now be fewer roles open to them.

But fear not – this shift in perspective has resulted in a new and flourishing growth segment in the lucrative field of television commercials: the clueless white guy.

If you choose to watch a few commercials instead of fast-forwarding past them, it won’t be long before you’ll spot one of the copious examples of this popular trope. Usually, the ad opens with our dim-witted protagonist saying or doing something no rational human being would ever dream of doing, until he is shown the error of his ways by a smarter, better-looking, and just plain cooler person of color.

I was going to list several examples, but watch TV for five minutes and you’re sure to spot one. Or check out this compilation that someone put together on YouTube.


To be clear, there have been clueless white guys in commercials dating back to the 1950s. Demonstrating the benefits of one product was frequently achieved by introducing some hapless soul still using ‘brand X,’ who has yet to realize what he’s been missing if he’d only switch.

But as everyone else in those commercials was also white, there was no association between his race and his obliviousness. Today these same scenarios play out with the same frequency, but when it comes to filling the role of the dumb sap, casting directors find themselves limited in their options. To have a white person explain to a person of color that the product they are using is wrong would clearly send an inappropriate message. Reversing the roles is the easiest way to avoid condemnation.

Is there anything wrong with this? I don’t know. If every role should be open to every actor, that should mean heroes and villains, geniuses and dullards, cool kids and nerds, can all be played as easily by a man from Hong Kong, Mexico City, or Somalia as they can by someone from Nebraska.

If this is penance for the stereotypes of decades past, then it’s apparently appropriate to right a wrong against one group by perpetrating it on another. Once everyone gets to be in the alpha class for a while, perhaps we’ll reconvene and figure out something else.

Either way, the Republic will survive. And as an observer of television I just find it interesting. If this writing gig doesn’t pan out, it’s good to know that I may have a future in commercials, as the guy who can’t figure out how kitchen appliances work.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...