Friday, November 17, 2017

Wish I'd Written That: Al Franken Edition

"I
don't like the guy at all, and that’s not based on politics but an experience with his extraordinary personal jerkiness. I don’t agree all the time with our other senator, but I like her, because she’s a decent person. Franken is an arrogant toad. I am amused that his sonorous pomposity has been pierced by the boob-grabbing photograph of something he thought was funny, because it cuts right to the heart of his self-conception.

"He’s probably always thought he was a comic genius. He’s second-rate. If that. No one searches Netflix for “Al Franken comedy.” No one who watched SNL ever thought “oh wonderful! It’s Al Franken,” and no one ever said SNL was can’t-miss-TV this week because Al Franken was back.

"I don’t think he should have to resign his Senate seat. That seems a bit much, but I didn’t make the rules. Did he say he doesn’t remember doing what he did? Because if I wrote a script so I could kiss a Playboy model, I think I’d remember.

"Quite a bonfire, isn’t it. You might say a wienie roast."

- From today's Lileks

I couldn't have put this any better myself. To be fair, though, his apology was a model of contrition, the kind that every crisis management team should have on file to give to their clients.

Hopefully, he actually meant it. And that's not meant as a reflection on him, as much as it is the general cynicism in which we find ourselves nowadays. You'd like to think that these people really are sincere when they make apologies like this - or at least that they meant it at the time they said it, if nothing else - but unfortunately, we have too much evidence pointing elsewhere to be able to do so.

As to whether or not Franken should resign - yeah, he probably should. In a perfect world, or a lab experiment marked "U.S. Senate," probably not. A formal censure, even a reprimand, would probably suffice. But I'm not sure that kind of thing does any good anymore; we don't value integrity as we once did, or even pay it lip service. Something like a censure would amount to little more than a slap on the wrist; there wouldn't really be any stigma to it. In the age of lifetime politicians, the loss of their office is probably the only thing they really understand.

It's a chicken-and-egg thing. Is the problem how to punish a guy like Al Franken, or is it how a guy like Al Franken got into the U.S. Senate in the first place?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The dangers of social media

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."


Originally published March 13, 2015

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Short and sweet - Maria Callas (above) and Tito Gobbi perform the spectacular finale to Act 2 of Tosca in a special television broadcast from the Royal Opera House in London. This never gets old.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Food Nazis

One of the things about which it can be certain when it comes to life on Planet Earth is that nobody gets out of it alive. As Harry Reasoner once said, in an aphorism I return to frequently because of its essential truth:

The idea of trying to outguess life, to avoid everything that might conceivably injure your life, is a peculiarly dangerous one. Pretty soon you are existing in a morass of fear. A man makes a sort of deal with life, he gives up things because they are undignified or immoral; if life asks him to cringe in front of all reasonable indulgence, he may at the end say life is not worth it. Because for the cringing he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity.

With all due respect to John Greenleaf Whittier, the saddest words of tongue and are not those which read "it might have been," but "we know what's best for you." The phenomenon of the Food Nazi has always been with us, although it was raised to an art form by the actions of our previous First Lady, and the decrees by New York's Mayor "Nanny Bloomberg." It's true, as our beloved Captain Kirk once said, that too much of anything isn't necessarily a good thing, and the same goes for food. The elites often use diet as a way of judging people, of mocking those that they think belong to a lower class, but in doing so they often display their own inhumanity. It's as if they're the spiritual heirs of the Puritans, the proto-fascists who wanted to take all the fun out of everything. The demonization of food, which unsurprisingly has slipped from the government into corporate culture, overlooks the fact that food is not simply a utilitarian item - it's one of the most human things we have, one that speaks most directly to the human condition of man as a social creature.

For example, at my job in Texas, my last boss was one of those Food Nazis. He was a health freak, and one of his first actions when he moved into his office was to get rid of the candy bowl that sat on the counter in front of my desk in the outer office. Chocolate, he opined, was not a good sign to send if you wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle. And if visitors to the office had spent their time grazing at the bowl, or hoarding pieces of candy as if they were planning to use it instead of having to buy Halloween candy each year.

What the Food Nazis often fail to recognize is the power of food as a means of communication if not friendship, an invitation by the bearer to engage in a form of fellowship. The candy acted not so much as a calorie additive, but as a means of human interaction. People would stop in for a bite-size Snickers, but they wouldn't leave without having exchanged a pleasantry or two, or to catch up on the latest news in our respective lives. In this sense, food serves as an opportunity to strengthen a bond that frequently goes wanting in the man-made hustle of the workday. When the candy bowl was abolished - surprise! The level of drop-in visitors to the office diminished to near non-existence. The boss wondered why people weren't more sociable.

His next step was to skip lunch altogether in favor of a power workout, presumably at which people could stop to admire the sweat glistening from his bald pate. Well, perhaps that comment was unfair, but the point is that soon his associates became extremely self-conscious about their own eating when attending lunch meetings with him (meetings that, by his command, no longer included cookies or other sweet snacks). Should they, like him, be abstaining from lunch? Were they being judged on what they did eat when they were in his presence? More than one confided to me that lunch in the president's office became something of an ordeal, that they were indeed being watched to see what they ate.

I can't imagine what a holiday like Thanksgiving was like in his household. I joked to a friend once that I was tempted to take a picture of our dinner table on Thanksgiving, replete with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberries, and crescent rolls, and text it to him. From one turkey to another, you know. I came to think of him as "The pipsqueak," because although he was not a terribly small man in size, when it came to intellect and feeling for others, he was a small man indeed.

The problem here is that the Food Nazis view food merely as a form of sustenance, a utilitarian means of gathering calories. If one can obtain those necessary calories through foods that supposedly promote a healthier lifestyle, so be it. The problem with this thought is that it misses how food serves as a basic element of the human condition. It provides a level of comfort, of happiness, of an improved quality of life - and since the Food Nazis associate quality of life with number of years lived, they fail to understand how something that objectively may not be healthy is still, in fact, good for you.

Look at the various ways in which food defines our level of humanity. Think of the community social, the "share a plate" mentality that enables people not merely to provide a meal, but to give of themselves. Think of the urge to bake something for the family that has just had a new baby, or to bring to the door a dinner for a family that has just lost a loved one. I can promise you that none of these people paused to read HEPA food standards while they were standing in the kitchen. For these people, food is more than something to consume - it's a way of one person sharing themselves with another. And the act of communal eating is another way in which we are brought together. It's why food is a part of going to the ballpark, or watching a movie. It's why people take their mates to dinner on a date. It's why we wish happy birthday to someone with a cake.

Rockwell's famous painting "Freedom from Want," seen at right, captures the quintessential American moment: the Thanksgiving dinner. Note one of the three words in that title: Freedom. It's something that Americans have always cherished, and while we must always be on guard to ensure that freedom doesn't translate to license, to avarice and greed, we also have to realize that life is made up of simple pleasures - one of which is food - and that someday we're likely to discover that the simple pleasures are the only ones that really matter.

At that first Thanksgiving, the pilgrims understood the ability of food to help form a community, to act as a goodwill gesture. So with the latest edition of Thanksgiving just around the corner, don't be afraid to loosen your belt, to take that nap after the big midday meal - you're in good company. And don't worry about how many years it might take off of your life: none other than Rush Limbaugh reminds us that 100% of those who eat carrots will, someday, die.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Your tuition dollars at work

You have to love this quote from Mark Steyn at SteynOnline:

It is a testament to the wholesale moronization of our culture that there are gazillions of apparently sane people willing to take out six figures of debt they'll be paying off for decades for the privilege of being "taught" by the likes of Professor Bray. 

The Professor Bray to which he refers is Professor Mark Bray of the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth University, a man whom Steyn says is part of "what passes for the intellectual wing of Antifa." He's one of those guys who thinks that if we just outlaw "hate speech," i.e. speech that he happens to disagree with, then we'll be able to prevent "hate crimes." Says Bray, "We don't look back at the Weimar Republic today and celebrate them for allowing Nazis to have their free-speech rights. We look back and say, Why didn't they do something?"

But as Steyn points out, that isn't exactly how it works:

But the problem with it is that the Weimar Republic—Germany for the 12 years before the Nazi party came to power—had its own version of Section 13 and equivalent laws. It was very much a kind of proto-Canada in its hate speech laws. The Nazi party had 200 prosecutions brought against it for anti-Semitic speech. At one point the state of Bavaria issued an order banning Hitler from giving public speeches.

And a fat lot of good it all did.

If these college professors aren't intelligent enough to know this - especially if they teach, say, history - then they oughtn’t be teaching your children in the first place. And if they do know, then not only are they intellectually dishonest, they're lying in order to prove an ideological plot, and in that case you have no business shelling out your (presumably) hard-earned dollars, while these cheats pollute what Rush Limbaugh refers to as the "young skulls full of mush." The ones who populate groups like Antifa while they spread their own fascist ideas to stamp out freedom of speech on college campuses - and they'll soon be coming to a neighborhood near you.

Either way, this speaks as yet another example of how higher education is destroying the fabric of this nation - while they laugh all the way to your bank.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Roy Halladay, R.I.P.


I flashed back to this earlier in the year, but it seems appropriate to return to it now, as the year comes to a close. This week former baseball star Roy Halladay was killed in a plane crash. SI.com said it well when it referred to him as the "beloved hurler" - not only accurate, but a most appropriate use of retro baseball lingo for a man who by all accounts epitomized the grittiness of the old-time ballplayer.

This post originally ran in 2010, when Halladay became the only the second pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter in the post-season. Read and remember the good times for which Roy Halladay was responsible.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Heard this on the radio this morning, and thought it was worth sharing. It's one of the more interesting scenes in opera, the prologue to Pagliacci, which generally takes place in front of a curtain prior to the start of Act 1, directly addressing the audience. His theme, which is the moral of the story we are about to see, is that "actors have feelings, too." When it's done well it's a real show-stopper, and the applause it garners can be greater even than that for the opera's most famous aria, Vesti la giubba.

Here's the great Sherrill Milnes in a concert performance.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A repeat of 500 years ago? Francis 2017 and Leo X 1517

Our blog primarily started in Catholicism, and although we have many Protestants and Catholics that both read this blog for its numerous other issues, we have to reflect on the corruption of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and our articles we've posted regarding his corruption of the Church itself.

Damon Linker noted the current Pope wants to liberalise church doctrine on the sanctity of marriage and the family, lacking support and institutional power, so he attempts to sow seeds of change by undermining doctrinal enforcement.  The way the Pope is attempting to do so is reminiscent of the 19th century Anglicans in the United States, as Anglican Church in North America minister Frank Larisey has referenced when liberal professors were teaching in Episcopal Church seminaries.  What Rev. Larisey noted could be a repeat of what we'll see in Catholic schools to bring such liberal seminaries, hiring more liberal professors, and develop the faith and also the mind of future clergy.

The Catholic Church's splintering now could be a repeat of the exact circumstances that led to a Theology professor at the University of Wittenberg to release a statement which its quincentennial is being observed October 31, after a series of incidents with Pope Leo X, including sales of indulgences to pay for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.   You could pay money for forgiveness of sin, and that infuriated Mr. Luther, who noted people were no longer worried about sin since they could pay for forgiveness instead as part of this fund-raising scheme.  That, of course, led to a major schism in the Catholic Church 500 years ago.  Could the actions of the Pope create a repeat of this legendary document at Wittenberg's All Saints Church sent to Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg?

And what is the document that angered Catholics 500 years ago, but the hatred has somewhat softened in recent years?  Furthermore, Luther's anger at Leo X could be similar now to many Catholics' anger with Francis.  Let's observe this all important document from a half millennium ago.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Man and Superman?

I was never a fan of Mike Tyson, back when I used to follow boxing, although I'll admit that the idea of Tyson playing himself as an animated character in Mike Tyson Mysteries is just short of very, very cool.  What Tyson was good at was being a villain, and having a villain around always makes drama, whether of the sporting kind or not, more compelling.

I've never been a fan of Tiger Woods either, not once I came to know more about it.  His first major victory, at the Masters, was awesome, at least in the sporting sense (and that's not a word I use lightly), and while there were other golfers I preferred, I could at least appreciate his talent. However, the more I got to know about him, the less I thought of him.  While I don't rejoice in his current tribulations, I do often think that what goes around comes around.

And that's the most I would have thought of either Mike Tyson or Tiger Woods, but in this column Joe Posnanski draws some real parallels between the careers of the two men, and in the process takes a look at how we regard greatness; I think it tells us a lot about how we look at our own mortality as well.  The punch line:

Call it Tysonography, our refusal to believe that even the most extraordinary talents fade quicker than we expect. There are a lot of “What’s wrong with Tiger Woods” stories out there right now, and some of them are interesting, but I still suspect they miss the point. Nothing’s wrong with Tiger Woods except that he’s human and he’s fading and it’s the most obvious thing in the world but, like with Mike Tyson, we willfully refuse to accept it.

Very true.  Some people just refuse to believe that Woods can't win it all again.  Hey, maybe they're right.  But if they are, it's not because they have the odds in their favor.

But doesn't this speak to our views on our own mortality as well?  I don't mean the "invincible" stage that teens go through when they think there isn't anything in the world that can hurt them, although that certainly is a part of it.  No, I think it's the way we look at life in general - unable to believe that we aren't the people that we used to be.  That's why we buy Viagra, and color our hair to get the grey out (or buy new hair, which is even better).  It's why we gravitate towards fast cars and trophy spouses, why we dress and talk and act like we're decades younger than we really are.  A perpetual adolescence, some call it, an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of adulthood.  And that's true, but I think it's also our unwillingness to accept mortality, to think about what happens on judgment day.  There's a lot of whistling past the graveyard going on nowadays, but as Harry Reasoner once said, no matter what man does, no matter what he gives up or avoids, "he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity."  Not on this earth, at least.

Anyway, read Poz's column.  It's really good, and not nearly as heavy as I make it out to be.

Originally published February 20, 2015

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Opera Wednesday

A friend challenged us with this Tom and Jerry cartoon the other day. He'd seen it on TV while he was surfing around, and immediately thought of us. What, he wondered, was the piece that the orchestra was playing to Tom and Jerry's conducting? Did we know?

It sounded familiar, that was for sure.  I listened to it for a minute, but Judie was the one who came up with it. "That's the overture from Fledermaus!" And so it is. From Johann Strauss' famed operetta Die Fledermaus (which, by the way, has nothing to do with mice!), here's the overture - Tom and Jerry style.

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