Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Opera Wednesday

From Mozart's magnificent* opera Don Giovanni, here's the great Ferruccio Furlanetto as the Don's sidekick Leporello, reciting the names from the Don's little black book (which isn't so little).  It's "Madamina, il catalogo รจ questo" – "My dear lady, this is the catalogue". The performance is at the Metropolitan Opera; the conductor is James Levine

*Magnificent except for the ensemble ending, that is. I've always complained that after someone is dragged down to Hell, anything that follows is an anti-climax. Up to the early 20th Century, this scene was almost always omitted (the opera was written in 1787) - I don't know why producers think it needs to be done today. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wish I'd written that

I started to feel just a touch of that malaise that has lingered in the air this year. You know that malaise, right? Maybe it’s the election. Maybe it’s the rapid way everything is changing. Maybe it is the division — people seem so repelled by each other that they don’t even try to talk. Maybe it’s that snarkiness so often eclipses wonder.

Maybe it’s that snarkiness and cynicism and weariness often eclipses wonder."

- Joe Posnanski, in Times Square, but he could be just about anywhere this year.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Postscript to Throwback Thursday

Postscript on last week's Throwback Thursday:

CrossFit sent a letter to the man who wanted to participate as a woman following the lawsuit, specifically pointing out the truth.  Here are highlights of CrossFit's letter, with proper (and correct) notes in parentheses:

We have not prohibited (the plaintiff) from participating in the CrossFit Games. We have simply ruled that based upon (this man) being born as a male, (he) will need to compete in the Men's Division. Competing in a sport is very different from the conclusory statement in the first paragraph of your letter, that "[t]hus, by all accounts, both physically and legally, (this male) is a female." This is simply wrong as a matter of human biology and if you can’t see that, there really isn’t much to talk about.

(This man) was born, genetically – as a matter of fact – with an X and a Y chromosome and all of the anatomy of a male of the human race. Today, notwithstanding any hormone therapy or surgeries, (this man) still has an X and Y chromosome. Thus, you’re statement is categorically, empirically, false.  (Editor's note - A woman has only two X chromosomes, and no Y chromosomes.)

The principle intent of the CrossFit Games is to determine the fittest man and woman on Earth. What we’re really talking about here is a matter of definition; of what it means to  be "female" for purposes of the CrossFit Games. We all have nothing but respect and support for (this man's) decision and how (he) sees (him)self. I also understand that in your client-centric world, your concern is entirely for what your client wants, however, we have an obligation to protect the "rights" of all competitors and the competition itself. We are scrupulous about ensuring a level playing field for the athletes. This is not "discrimination" any more than our decision to set Regional boundaries and age limits for the Masters division.

The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who (claims to have) a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women. That (the competitor) may have felt (himself) emotionally, and very conscientiously, to be a woman in (his) heart, and that she ultimately underwent the legal and other surgical procedures to carry that out, cannot change that reality. Further, the timing of her sex reassignment surgery (and any subsequent hormone therapy) does not change this discussion.

Finally, your comparison to the plight of African-American baseball players fails both in the physical reality and on its own terms in the particulars.  We’ll ignore the rather unsubtle offense, as well as your off-handed comment about the exclusion of (this man) being due to "ignorance and difficulty." Our decision has nothing to do with "ignorance" or being bigots – it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.  (NOTE:  In the letter, CrossFit notes MLB threatened two teams for attempting to boycott the Dodgers as not wanting to play against Jackie Robinson.)


The name-calling used by the sexual perversion lobby has always been used to go after anyone opposed to their agenda.  I ask if I, who registers in South Carolina and has been associated with a "box" in the midlands, can represent Nevada in the competition.  Can a 21-year old compete in an over-40 division?

The full letter can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Throwback Thursday: They're at it again

The "sexual freedom" fighters of the sexual deviancy lobby believe they have it won, and are using the common leftist propaganda terms to advance their cause.  Now this disturbing piece of news came across my wires this week.

A man who claims to be a "woman" after "gender reassignment surgery" has now sued CrossFit and The CrossFit Games for $2.5 million and the right for this natural male to compete in the events held at the StubHub Center, in the women's category.

A women read this news and had this to say about the absurd lawsuit"

Would I want to go into a women's locker room with a woman who has a (male sexual organ)? No. That would be out of line. (H)e chose to change h(is) body, CrossFit is trying to be respectful. I'm sorry, my personal opinion here is if you want to make a change in your life you gotta accept the consequences. Don't blame CrossFit for your decisions.

The disturbing point about this lawsuit was following domination by the Soviet-era Press Sisters in Athletics events at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, the IAAF imposed gender verification tests for the 1966 European Championships after concerns by national officials some East Bloc women participating in events were actually men.  This issue began as early as the 1930's, when US Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage asked for tests after suspicious performances in 1932 and 1936.  The Atlanta Olympics was the last time such tests were mandated, though the IAAF can (and has) request one if suspicion arises (and there has been in 2006). After Atlanta, there has been a push by the sexual deviancy lobby to outlaws the sex tests, which happened in time for the next IAAF European Championships.

The organisation that conducts the CrossFit Games is based in Carson, California, and the this questionable athlete is using the legal system and Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose strategy brought down voter-approved Proposition 8, to apply the state's nondiscrimination laws to force this competitor into the CrossFit Games as a woman.  If the courts treat this man the same way as the sexual deviants have favourable judges to play favourites to claim "you can't put a check on us" by overturning state constitutional amendments, we clearly have a judiciary that, in the words of the Heritage Foundation, is "playing favourites".  It would make no sense for a man to be competing in a women's competition.

[Editor's note: it was true then, it's truer now.]

Originally published March 25, 2014

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Opera Wednesday

It's one of our favorites here, and I don't think I ever get tired of seeing it - the spectacular Act Two of Puccini's Tosca, featuring Maria Callas as Tosca and Tito Gobbi as Baron Scarpia, from Covent Garden in London. This was a special performance of Act Two, staged for ITV and broadcast in February, 1964. The television audience was twice that of the Winter Olympics on BBC.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Flashback Friday: a decade - more than just dates on the calendar

I've remarked before, perhaps even on this blog, that I frequently get ideas from unusual sources, and it's even better when, as is the case today, I get an idea that has virtually nothing to do with the source itself.

Over in the comments section at Uniwatch ("The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics"), an interesting discussion broke out in the comments section as to how one defines a decade.  I know, doesn't seem to have anything to do with sports uniforms, right?  Long story short, the question arose as to whether the 1970 World Series falls within the '70s or the '60s.  Not as stupid a question as you might think; since there's no Year 0, most people know that the Ist Century ran from 1 to 100, and so on.  The 20th Century, therefore, began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000.  The question is, do decades operate the same as centuries?  Do the 1970s begin on January 1, 1971 or January 1, 1970?

From there, a commentator named Wiggle Man speculated that culturally, it is events rather than dates that determine a decade.  He suggested the following:

1930’s – Began with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 (“Black Thursday”)
1940’s – Began on December 7, 1941 (“A date which will live in infamy”)
1950’s – Began on January 20, 1953 (Eisenhower’s Inauguration)
1960’s – Began on November 22, 1963 (Kennedy’s assassination)
1970’s – Began on May 4, 1970 – (Kent State) (I would also accept June 17, 1972, Watergate break-in)
1980’s – Began on January 20, 1981 – Reagan’s Inauguration / Hostages released).

Other commentators had different ideas; one suggested that the '60s actually started with Kennedy's inauguration, rather than his death, and that Kent State (as well as Altamont) are more indicative of the '60s than the '70s.  Others chipped in that '90s actually began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the "aughts" (2000s) probably started on September 11, 2001.

I find this kind of discussion exceptionally interesting.  (It's also proof that you should have an eclectic reading list; you never know what you're going to run into.)  I've maintained over at the TV blog that the early years of the 1960s actually are more properly understood as a continuation of the 1950s, and that the last years of the '60s more properly line up with the 1970s - in fact, I'd contend that 1965 might be the prime example of what the '60s would have been like had they not dealt with the JFK assassination (at the beginning) and the Vietnam War (at the end).  Many, if not most, of the mores and visuals of the early '60s (not to mention television programming, which was the point of my musing in the first place) would have been perfectly acceptable in the late '50s, and the late '60s are almost indistinguishable from the first few years of the '70s.

The point is, I suppose, every decade has its own tenor, it's own "look."  I think Wiggle Man is correct in suggesting that decades, properly understood, represent events as much as they do actual dates.   We can quibble with the specific events that signal the end of one decade and the beginning of another, but I think the calendar is perhaps the least important part of the equation.  Anyone out there have other suggestions?

Originally published October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sleepless in Stamford (CT) . . .

Picked up the DVR after waking up Sunday morning to check the results of the Petronas Grand Prix F1 race in Sepang, and I don't think I've ever seen anything such as what I saw.

It's 3 AM in the NBC Stamford (CT) studios, and there is work being done for the F1 broadcast.  And someone (maybe all three) were seemingly asleep when watching the red lights. There was a delay, but they did not catch when the lights started coming on. Upon checking the video before breakfast, I did not know why.  But I remembered the race started at 3 AM, and the broadcast was done there with sports car racer and Indy 500 only INDYCAR driver Townsend Bell trackside.

There is a reason why broadcasts should be done on site, not in a studio 10,000km or more far away!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Arnold Palmer, R.I.P.

Arnold Palmer was made for TV. By that I don't mean he was prepackaged, like a television movie or a band or the star of a reality show. What I mean is that Arnold Palmer, without a doubt, was made for TV.

The cameras loved him, standing on the tee with that determined look, tossing aside a butt and hitching up his pants and looking down the fairway, then lashing at the ball with a swing that every golfer could identify with. When he sank the last putt on 18 to win a tournament, with that familiar knock-kneed stance of his, he would fling his visor in the air in triumph, a gesture which Tiger Woods would suggest after winning his first Masters. Before televised tournaments became commonplace, he starred with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in Big Three Golf, bringing the sport out of the country clubs and to the masses, becoming the People's Champion. With his combination of charisma, talent and genuine likability, just at the moment television was coming of age, he was the right man at the right moment. Arnold Palmer was very good to television, and television was very good to him.

The cameras loved him equally when he was off the course, on the cover of Sports Illustrated and on the cover of Time, trading quips with Bob Hope or running through airports with O.J. Simpson or doing commercials on ESPN. In 2014 Forbes ranked him third on their list of the highest-paid athletes, even though he hadn't swung a club in anger for a decade. He made $42 million that year,* and I doubt it would have been that much if he didn't come across as such a warm personality on television. No matter where Palmer was when the cameras caught him, he appeared to be at home, probably because no matter how the cameras caught Arnold Palmer, they caught him being himself - a great competitor, a nice man.

*Palmer made $875 million in his lifetime; only $3.6 million came from prize money.

The stories are legion, and probably not worth repeating here, since they're so well-known. Suffice it to say Arnold Palmer may have been one of the most beloved athletes of all time, if not the most beloved. He never left until he'd signed every autograph, and the sportswriter Dan Jenkins once joked that Palmer would use a telescopic sight to make sure there wasn't someone out there still wanting an autograph. His friend and competitor Chi Chi Rodriguez said every golfer should be grateful for the impact Palmer had made on the sport. “When Arnie wins a tournament," Chi Chi said,  I make an extra $100,000.” He was responsible for the British Open becoming an international championship; after Palmer went over there and won, other Americans followed. Women wanted to be with him, men wanted to be like him, a drink was named after him. No matter where Palmer went on the course, his legions of fans - Arnie's Army - would follow. Even God seemed to be on his side - he lost a tournament at Pebble Beach one year because he had twice hit a greenside tree with approach shots; that night, a storm felled the tree. Hey, I report - you decide.

Golf has become such a staple of television nowadays that it's hard to imagine a weekend without a tournament on TV somewhere; there's even a channel dedicated to golf - which Arnold Palmer helped create, naturally. Without Arnold Palmer there wouldn't have been a Jack Nicklaus, a Johnny Miller, a Phil Mickelson, a Tiger Woods. Oh, they would still have played the game, and they would have played it well - but would anyone have been watching? Suffice it to say that no man has ever had an impact on the game, and the culture that surrounds it, than Arnold Palmer. And when he died on Sunday at the age of 87, it was a life well-lived.

Yes, there's no question that Arnold Palmer was a television star. Though there may be better players, longer hitters, bigger winners, there's only one Arnold Palmer, and we'll never see his likes again.

This post also appeared at It's About TV.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wish I'd written that

Art  began to champion everything opposed to the Enlightenment and science:  It exalted emotion over reason, instinct over rationality, sensation over thinking, primitivism over civilisation.  Taught first in art colleges, this avant-garde philosophy found its way into recording studios.  In fact, a number of influential British rock musicians actually started out as art students, among them Keith Richards, Peter Townshend, Eric Clapton, and John Lennon.  As a result, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, and many of the other British bands were deliberately creating music that expressed the philosophy of the artist as a romantic hero who smashes established culture to create a new culture of moral freedom, emotional release, animal energy, and vivid sensation.  The sheer energy of rock -- the pounding beat, the screams, the spectacle -- is intended to bypass the mind and appeal directly to the sensations and feelings."

Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, "How Now Shall We Live?"

Take that from the turn of the century book, then modern pop music being listened by the generation protesting (see the Charlotte riots, Occupy Wall Street, and other left-wing marches) and ponder how the idea of defying authority heard in rock and rap tunes over the past 50 years has given us such lunacy of disobeying authority (note the number of police hatred in NWA's "Foxtrot the Police" and Tracey Darrow's "Cop Killer," and the famed Time Warner shareholders meeting where Charlton Heston protested Mr. Darrow by reading in front of the Board of Directors for the company the ditty whose title is too lewd to publish.

Do you see a pattern based on what Mr. Colson (now deceased) and Mrs. Pearcey wrote a generation ago?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Of Ted Cruz and some old thoughts

It recently came to my attention recently that in 2012, Gaither Music released a DVD and music CD called Gaither Homecoming: Celebration, that features more selections than was originally broadcast live on the now-defunct CBS Cable/The Nashville Network live broadcast on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1998, in what is now the City Park section of Charlotte -- and in the pre-LaRoche era, I took photos liberally of that concert.

That reminded me of of the line in a popular Gaither song that could have been Ted Cruz's theme when endorsing Donald Trump, "Songs That Answer Questions":

I don't wanna spend my time praying prayers bombarding heaven
With requests to reign down fire on saints who care
In our methods we may differ, but if Christ the Lord we live for
May we not forget the enemy is out there.

It's easy to see who "the enemy" is in Mr. Cruz's mind.

But that was not my only thought.  First, the way he did the endorsement was reminiscent of Matthew 6:5 where prayer is not to be done in public, standing, and in public corners by simply announcing the endorsement on social media.  Furthermore, his late endorsement, just before the media conferences as the late Tony Snow called these "debates" 20 years ago on Fox News Sunday, has me thinking both of John Paul Jones ("I have not yet begun to fight") and also of a NASCAR Talladega shootout where after taking the lead for a few laps, he goes in the garage to repair damage, and returns to help his teammate in the draft, forming a long Trump "draft line," as referenced in the late 90's Social Science at 200 MPH analysing the draft and how principles of the Talladega draft work in life.
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