Monday, December 31, 2007

Remembering at the End of the Year

By Mitchell

We do a lot of obituaries here - someone once said that, although we don't tend to write much of a personal nature, you can tell a lot about each one of us based on the obits we do. Some of them are for people who are simply too important to ignore, but most typify for us a moment in time, an era, a cultural landmark of one kind or another.

I think we do pretty well at painting that kind of cultural picture, but nobody does a better job of remembering those who've passed on than TCM. Their year in review is currently running a few times each day, but you can see it online here. You'd be surprised how many familiar faces died this year - those you knew of, and a few that will come as a surprise. And for good measure, while you're at it check out last year's review and see how quickly those names fall away if you don't take the time to remember.

Notable Quotables 2007

By Bobby

A computer crash removed so many quotes I can't believe how dumb I was! But I had enough quotes from 2007 to compile an entire season of Notable Quotables! A computer crash removed so many quotes I can't believe how dumb I was! But I had enough quotes from 2007 to compile an entire season of Notable Quotables!

“Have we secularized Christmas to the point that at schools and churches, we permit Elmo and Patsy sing ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,’ we let any type of bogus vocalist perform ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ or other winter music tunes of snow (‘Santa Baby,’ or ‘Let It Snow’) replace songs of Christmas such as ‘Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion’ (as sung by The Mississippi Squirrel), or The Brittnee lead us in ‘O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion’?

“Of course, the two songs from Messiah are appropriate for Christmas; the winter songs are for the winter season, and could be played once it snows or has ice! Santa Baby, on the other hand, is awful and the only time I've heard it was a 2003 CapitalOne Holiday on Ice event at the Colonial Center that was taped for an InterSport / NBC special.

-- On Messiah.

"Händel's Messiah is the great masterpiece that symbolizes God's greatness. Sadly, today's Emergent Church attitudes dislike such masterpieces while rewarding pieces that lack theology and are based on the beat. These majestic masterpieces with live accompaniment and sound doctrine and theology form the backbone of the Christian life and the Christ Child. The second and third parts are suited for Easter."

-- Another Messiah quote.

"It should be exciting as Helen (an older student of my voice teacher, by two years) wears the 'C' and I wear the 'A' for this event of hope, which is in a way a great way to minister to these adults, when considering the song I sing is 'O Rest in the Lord' from Mendelssohn."

-- On a benefit at Still Hopes (an Episcopal retirement home). The "C" and the "A" are hockey references. The captain's sweater has the "C" and the alternate captain has the "A". Helen is older and has more experience. She sings at her church and in the choral society, something we don't have at home, sadly.

"Five years from now, who will remember 'He Reigns' from the Newsboys, or even the latest Chris Tomlin piece which is the #1 song on the radio, or the current GMA Dove Award winner for Song of the Year? Do you remember the popularity of the latest song off the radio from five years ago?"

-- A question to those about 'modern worship' and the trends of pop that fade away quickly. This was asked in a controversial letter I wrote to the church about the dangers of the Emergent movement.

"Too many 'modern' musicals have adult themes inappropriate for the kids who are in attendance."

-- On the inappropriate themes of modern musicals such as "Hairspray," transvestites) and "Mamma Mia!" (same-sex unions)

"I noticed how even people in my generation and the newer ones have bought hook, line, and sinker the entire idea that the theology-lacking modern rock worship is better than the hymns. In a meeting brought after some younger church members wanted me disciplined for questioning the theology of the songs, one person referred as 'dead music' that children will not listen as Bach, Händel (love participating in the sing-along!), Mozart, and Mendelssohn (whose 'O Rest in the Lord' was sung by me at a recent event at Still Hopes), while the music called 'relevant' is the latest song they hear from the rock radio station, especially (Chris) Tomlin or a wild rock star.

“At this rate, church music singers should ditch the lessons, ditch the classics, and sing or scream only the latest songs off the radio, and even dance to them. I questioned our music leader's decision to tell children 11-17 that they will not be singing -- the only music opportunities will be to dance to pop/rock songs or hip-hop tunes (which they call a great opportunity) or be puppeteers. If they had a choice between singing Händel and dancing to Chris Tomlin tunes (a popular modern rock musician), they would dance to Tomlin. Their MTV philosophy has sadly struck the church, and money, not God, has taken priority in church music it seems.

“I think today that 'relevance' only means relevant to today's secularist minds, as they are taught a diet of secularism in schools today."

-- Reponse to "God, Mammon, and The Worship Wars" by Warren Smith, The Charlotte World.

"Often times, unfortunately, the legacy of a person can be attained to comments made later in their life, especially when the nation is at war. Unfortunately for Beverly Sills, one of her last appearances on television was a November episode of ABC's 'The View,' when she supported the show's outrageous co-moderator, Rosie O'Donnell, days following the Liberal Revolution, which cemented her disgraceful comments to a national audience."

-- On Beverly Sills' death.

"(Spirit in the Sky) violates basic Biblical principles, and after talking to friends at our church's Santee outreach (which is now a full-blown church), the pastor and I both agreed are we sacrificing the Message of the Bible in favor of the danceable beat of pop radio?

“It's a far cry from Bach, who wrote songs to glorify God, and the great composers who set the Bible to music. When you are a classically trained vocalist, you need to learn to sing songs with proper message and theology in church."

-- An investigation of the song "Spirit in the Sky" after it was questioned by a member at church over its lack of theology led to an investigation. It was inappropriate for it to be used in church was the main objection.

"Women have it easy when it comes to fashion over men when they are singing, and that showed when I found myself wearing a shirt that was a little too tight on the collar, because it interferes with my singing, especially when I am wearing a tie!"

-- After a performance went awry because of a collar that was too tight, I noted women don't have the problem of collars! When do you see a female vocalist wearing a blouse that covers the neck the way men's shirts cover their collars?

"The best of those at Darlington was Ann Benson (who sang the Anthem at the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400; Mike McCarthy of the old, now a NASCAR public relations official, asked what demographic the track was aiming with an 'opera singer in a zebra suit'); I was chatting with Ann at 'Postcards from Morocco,' and my voice teacher was talking about 'Ann's national television appearance' with a friend when she saw me, luring me to her. I was about to break into 'Have you ever?' when she talked about Ann's appearance. "

-- While attending Postcards from Morocco, my voice teacher had nobody to sit with her, and I had nobody to sit with me. She was talking about Ann Benson (her boss) to a friend about her national television appearance my voice teacher has been on our state's public television, and that's about it) while I chatted with Ann, and my teacher and I seated ourselves together at the opera. This reference came after Carol Einarsson of Race Journal Online criticized Lisa Hudson's bad performance of the National Anthem at the Dodge Avenger 500 May 12 on her site. "Have you ever" refers to Mike Joy's comments in the aftermath of the finish at the Florentine circuit in 2003 (margin of victory .002 seconds, closest finish in motorsports), and was repeated after the wild 2007 Daytona 500 finish, again by Joy.

"I asked myself this weekend if making sanctuaries friendly to rock bands makes them unfriendly to classical singers. Note how many of the stages now include $25,000 loudspeakers on stage and around the church so the 'house can rock to the wicked subwoofers' (a comment by pop singer Wes King, the brother-in-law of the former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris). If people are saying we don't need a Christin Owens, Cynthia Hanna, Walter Cuttino, Marc Rattray, Marina Lomazov, or a Stephen Beall, but we do need boom boxes, As I Lay Dying (the name of a rock group very popular with church youth), Toby McKeehan (another leader of a rock/r&b/hip-hop group popular with the youth), and the latest off the pop charts, that's worth flinging my jacket from the suit and asking this: What good is it for people to be bombarded with loud rock music for 45 minutes before going to church?"

-- Written after a newspaper article referred to a church's sanctuary being revised for rock music.

"So, Sanjaya (Malakar) has met his Waterloo, ironically, on Country Night."

-- An Idols incident. Know your history to understand this quote.

"It tried to make its way down Richard Dawson's Creek, but instead, it was XXX on the board and found itself in the Room of Doom, busted. Miss Troccoli . . . Mr. Waltrip!"

-- An AOL Music site called "Kiss Me" one of the 111 worst songs ever. The reference of the former two would be to a certain RTL game show hosted currently by John O'Hurley. The latter referred to the GMA Dove Awards' notorious inspection of that year and the Song of the Year presenters.

"The church music ministry is not a dance club; what the leader is doing is converting it into a dance club, which is not the goal of music ministries at church."

-- My comments in an official commentary about the church music ministry's troubles.

"(The book by the mother of the Spears sisters) is the type of book I knew would be a signature product of the Thomas Nelson publishing régime after it was sold to secular liberal interests in 2006. Leo Hindery Jr, a top liberal venture capitalist, took over sole control from the Moore family when he bought Nelson Publishing in a leveraged buyout deal in taking the firm private.

“As a private firm, there is no accountability required in the way it was required when it was a public company . . . It's not the Sam Moore people anymore. I don't think Sam Moore or the Board of Directors would have approved this book in the past."

-- On the publishing of a book on parenting by the mother of the Spears sisters in the light of Jamie Lynn, an MTV star, being knocked up by a boy.

Friday, December 28, 2007

This Just In

By Steve

Clemens Vows to Launch Own Steroid Probe
Says He Will Not Rest Until He Determines His Own Guilt

(Houston, Texas—December 28, 2007) Citing what he called “dubious sources, innuendo, and lack of clear-cut evidence,” baseball legend Roger Clemens announced today that he plans to launch his own probe into illegal steroid use in major league baseball to determine whether or not he is guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

(Left) Is Roger Clemens guilty? That's the question Roger Clemens wants answered.

“If I am guilty of using steroids or any other drug, I want to know about it,” Clemens announced at a packed press conference. “So far the evidence in the Mitchell Report doesn’t prove anything. It is time to get to the bottom of this and let the truth be known.”

Clemens announced that he will seek to retain noted self-investigator O.J. Simpson to assist him in his independent probe. “Who better to find out whether or not I’m on the juice than the Juice?” Clemens asked rhetorically, prompting laughter and applause from many of the journalists attending the conference. Simpson, facing legal problems of his own recently, and still purportedly engaged in a decade-long search for his wife’s killer, had a 10 a.m. tee time and was not available for comment.

“Justice must be served,” Clemens continued, his voice at times quivering with indignant, some said slightly exaggerated, rage. “If I am guilty of illegal drug use, I will demand that I be punished to the fullest extent of the law and Commissioner Selig’s authority. If I am innocent, I will seek to clear my own name. America’s baseball fans, especially the kids, deserve nothing less.”

Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young Awards, abruptly ended the news conference without taking further questions, telling reporters he needed to return to the gym where he has begun a training regimen for his 2008 late summer baseball comeback.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Top 10

By The Editors

We don't normally do memes here - nothing wrong with them, but they often take more time than we have, and they usually refer to things we aren't big into. But we received one the other day from our old friend Cathy of Alex that was too good to pass up - our list of the top 10 blog posts we've done.

Now, this can be a particularly challenging task in the best of times, let alone when you're talking about a blog that has six people sharing writing responsibilities. Nevertheless, exercising our authority as Managing Editor, we've come up with the following selection, in no particular order, of the posts we're most proud to have hosted:

1) Perhaps the best piece that Mitchell has written didn't appear on the blog at all, at least not directly. His TVParty article on the premiere of Amahl and the Night Visitors, he says, will always occupy a special place in his heart.

2) The "Triumph" of Leni Riefenstahl. Drew originally was commissioned to write a series of posts exploring the relationship between art and morality. We liked him so much we asked him to stick around. This, one of his early pieces, challenges readers to take an honest look at art and the artist.

3) Aussie Police Searching for New Suspects in Irwin Killing. One of our true pleasures has been welcoming Steve and his often absurd, always hilarious "This Just In" pieces. This one is a typical Steve masterpiece - so good it inspired this follow-up from new Hadleyblogger Kristin.

4) Rider Stripped of Title After Having Failed to Fail Drug Test was Steve's first piece for Our Word. It convinced us in a hurry that this guy was too good to let go.

5) The Indignity of Work was a very early piece, but still holds up as one of the best at describing what we see as the contrast between morality and whatever it is that so much of Corporate America believes in nowadays.

6) Snow White and the Seven Wagners was Judie's piece that combined Wagner and Christmas. Come on, how could you pass this up?

7) No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, also known as "The Holiday Diversity Party," says all we care to say on the subject. As we said in another context, don't read it on a full stomach.

8) This is a trick selection - actually four posts in one. But our roundtable discussion on Art in Politics was the first of what we hope will be more discussions between our contributors, and was perhaps the most fun we've had - here's your chance to see what our editorial discussions really sound like.

9) Broken Families: How Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Sided With Hendrick Motorsports was Bobby's behind-the-scenes look at the breakup of one of NASCAR's leading families. Not only did Bobby have the story, he had the facts to back it up.

10) This is an unusual selection, and a personal one. It's the post we haven't written. What does that mean? Well, bloggers tend to get themselves into a lot of trouble by writing first and thinking later. It's a great temptation - after all, in this age of instant communications, technology has made it just so easy to shoot your mouth off, without much thought as tot he consequences that follow. Now, we're not saying we're perfect around here, but we surely know that there are some pieces that came very close to publication, but were dumped at the last minute after we'd thought better of it. There are blogs and bloggers out there that drive us crazy - two in particular for which we have a fair amount of contempt - and it's a constant temptation to take off the gloves and rip them a new belly button. (And we don't doubt at lesat some of us are capable of it.) But to what end? It doesn't dignify us, nor what it is we're trying to accomplish. It's one of those things that feels good at the time, but you regret it afterward. This doesn't mean we're better than everyone else, or smarter. We know that's not the case. It just points out the value of counting to 10 before doing something that's going to go out under your name, and has the ability to affect a lot of people other than yourself.

So that's the top 10 - feel free to agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

As everyone is recovering from the excesses of Christmas Day, here's a Merry Christmas message that gives the best reason for all the celebration. It's nice sometimes to look at the lyrics of Christmas carols without hearing the music (except in your head) and ponder what they mean and why they were written. Happy Christmas everyone.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing!

Joy to the earth, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ!
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His rightousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

By Mitchell

It's Christmas Eve, for children (and many adults) the most magical night of the year. Christmas Eve was always a very special time for me when I was a child, and it's remained so ever since, filled with its own rituals and traditions.

Tonight we have a bit of the bleak mid-winter; the air is cold, the ground white with new-fallen snow, the streets quiet and still. Some of you may have already attended church services, others are on their way or planning to go tomorrow. In the house the tree is trimmed, the presents wrapped, turkey and ham in the refrigerator ready for tomorrow's meal. Company is on the way, or already there.

And as we prepare to celebrate this day which the Lord has made, on behalf of all the Hadleybloggers from Minnesota to South Carolina, we wish each and every one of you a blessed and most joyous Christmas. Enjoy this day, revel in the moment, and cherish the memories for years to come.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random Christmas Notes

By Mitchell

  • As most of you know, I'm a big fan of TVParty, and not just because I've written for it. Billy Ingram's site is one of the most entertaining around, with an exceptional collection of TV clips, facts, and other features. Be sure to check out its wonderful collection of stories on Christmas TV shows (here, here, here and here, just for starters) and see if they don't bring back some fun memories.
  • So what was wrong with Tiny Tim anyway? LiveScience provides some interesting possibilities. (Thanks to Jonah at NRO.)
  • Speaking of A Christmas Carol, is this one of the greatest Christmas stories around, or what? And one of the most-often made. Mr. Magoo stars in a wonderful animated version that's actually pretty faithful to the story, with a musical score that would put some Broadway shows to shame. (Not surprising, since vets Bob Merrill and Jule Styne were responsible for it.) Naturally, TV Party has a rundown on many of the TV versions. But if you want the complete story of A Christmas Carol and its adaptations, check out the book of the same name, which I guarantee will delight you with its detail.
  • Boomers like us have a continuing affection for the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Perhaps it's the Animagic animation, or the songs, or even the General Electric commercials featuring the Rudolph characters. It's definitely of an age, and it's impossible for anyone of that age to watch it without being swept back in time. (Speaking of books, Rick Goldschmidt has a terrific book about it, as well as more info on his blog.) Good thing it has all that going for it because, let's admit, the story is a little weak. Do Santa's reindeer really have families? (No. Everyone knows there are only eight flying reindeer.) Would Santa disparage Rudolph's nose? (Of course not. Santa would never do such a cruel thing.) And what's with that misfit toy bit? I thought I'd covered all the bases over the years, but Likeks provides the definitive version.

Friday, December 21, 2007

It’s a Wonderful (Financial Development) Life

By Steve

I work in financial development for a living. And to most people, "financial development" means one thing: asking people for money.

But is there more to it than that? That was the basic but crucial question that faced me when I entered the field later in my career. And I needed a quick answer.

I found it on Christmas Eve while holding a bowl of popcorn.

My holiday tradition is watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve. This now classic Capra film features Jimmy Stewart as broken and befuddled George Bailey. You remember that George discovers life’s true meaning when Clarence, a clumsy but lovable old angel, shows him what the world would have been like if George had never been born. It’s a bit sappy but deftly delivers touching moments and I find myself pulling it out again each year.

When you’ve seen a movie more than once, you appreciate new angles and nuances. Last year I discovered the story’s real hero. Not George. Not even Clarence. But dear, sweet Mary Bailey, George’s loyal and loving wife, played by Donna Reed. Mary’s shining moment is the film’s finale, and although her screen time in it is brief, it is unforgettable.

A large sum of money from George’s savings-and-loan business has gone missing. The next couple of busy hours find him facing financial ruin, getting drunk, getting punched, contemplating suicide, being touched by an angel, and straightening out life’s priorities. But George still has a problem—that missing money. A warrant is out for his arrest that could land him in jail. On Christmas Eve, no less.

In steps Mary. While George gambols about with Clarence, Mary takes off her apron and goes to work. She intentionally and creatively communicates to George’s family and friends that he’s in trouble. Big trouble. George needs them right now. Specifically, he needs their financial help. And it’s urgent. Very urgent.

They respond in a big way. People who care for George and respect him for the good work he’s done—and the good man he is—joyously converge at the Bailey house with donations galore. It’s an incredible scene with lots of laughter and singing and ornament bells ringing and giant smiles all around.

The biggest smile belongs to Mary. You find her standing quietly next to the Christmas tree in her husband’s warm embrace, surrounded by her children, family and friends. And she is absolutely beaming, just soaking in the joyous waterfall of love and support that’s flooding into their home.

As I watched that scene, with popcorn in hand, I discovered the answer to my financial development question. I found it in the actions—and the face—of Mary Bailey. I realized I was watching a world-class financial development professional.

What Mary did was simple but powerful. She wasn’t just “asking for money.” She was helping connect a recipient with a giver, and ended up meeting deep needs in both. And it did something very special for her as well.

What did George Bailey need? Obviously, for practical reasons, he needed money. But George also needed the support of his friends and loved ones at a crisis point in his life. And that’s exactly what he received.

What did his family and friends—the “givers”—need? Whether they realized it or not, they needed an opportunity to express appreciation to George for the ways he had helped them in the past. They also needed to say thanks for the blessings in their own lives. And here was a perfect way to do it.

And what about Mary? What was she so happy about? Definitely for her husband, who would still be home for Christmas. And happy for the love and support she was seeing him receive from people who meant so much to him.

But at least a small part of Mary’s smile was knowing she had played a vital role in all of this. She had taken the initiative—intentional and creative initiative—to connect the need to the giver. And it worked. And she felt great.

Look at Mary’s face one more time. That is the smile of a financial development professional who has discovered what it’s all about. Financial development is intentionally and creatively connecting a need to a giver for the mutual benefit of both. And when it works, all three parties involved—need, giver, professional—share a joy that well, makes for a wonderful life.

Thanks, Mary Bailey, for a Christmas story and a career lesson that lasts way beyond Christmas Eve. And please pass the popcorn.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Energy Act a Product of "Dictator" Pelosi

By Bobby

The federal Energy Act of 2007 has shown how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has virtually assumed control of the federal government. The policy was nearly singlehandedly written based on the virtues of fringe environmentalists who endorse policies of former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting this policy. Having the two-thirds majority pass the bill following the dictatorial policy of writing the bill, not permitting much debate, and forcing an up-or-down vote on the policy as it was written by the virtual dictator shows the tactics of modern liberalism resemble Hugo Chávez, North Korea, or other known dictators. What is wrong with this bill? Let me count the ways.

The incandescent bulb ban is outrageous because it enforces a ban that makes no sense. Most cars on the road use incandescent bulbs in their domelights, interior lights, and most turn signal lights. Many restaurants' heating lamps are also incandescent, and some facilities must use incandescent lamps because they do not have mercury. The ban will effectively take cars off the road, eliminate heating lamps used for restaurants, and create more safety hazards, But liberals, more interested in feelings than logic, override the national security in favor of the ideas of "An Inconvenient Truth."

The new fuel economy standards are also designed to destroy the American automobile industry and give the budding Chinese Communist automobile industry the upper hand in the process. Furthermore, safety standards will be sacrificed even more than they were when the original CAFE standard was set, since this standard also affects light trucks. It would seem the environmentalists would rather have Americans in two-seat minicars with 40-cubic inch two or three-cylinder engines that save fuel but may cost lives (since they are easily destroyed in light crashes), while virtually banning the bread and butter of American automobile manufacturers, the eight-cylinder full-size truck. This is reminicent of how the first CAFE rule killed the eight-cylinder family sedan. They write this law once again to please the standards established by the"An Inconvenient Truth" crowd and European policies. The 35 MPG policy also bans the specially secured vehicles used by world leaders and businesses to fight the terrorists.

When a two-thirds majority using tactics of dictators written by the new leader of this country, Nancy Pelosi, base policy on European policy and films created by fringe environmentalists, and not based on common business sense, this country's decline can be traced to these leaders who base themselves strictly on unrealistic policies that have no logic, just feelings.

But feelings is the only thing needed in modern liberalism, since feelings override all forms of common sense.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

I'm giving myself a birthday present today by looking at a poem by one of my very favorite poets, Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894). We'll review her work again in the coming year, so I'll save the biographical material for later. However I will say that this poem, like last week's Longfellow selection, is a poem that was adapted as a Christmas carol. Often, only the first and last stanzas are sung, and the lyrics are slightly altered to fit the tune, but the whole poem describes the power and majesty - as well as the humility - of the story of the Nativity. It has a quiet strength like "Silent Night."

The song is called "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" (click here to see it performed by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir, music by Gustav Holst), but Miss Rossetti calls her poem, simply, "A Christmas Carol."

A Christmas Carol

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Throng'd the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part, -
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wish I'd Written That

By Judith

In an interview with Colin Covert of the Star Tribune, Francis Ford Coppola had this to say in response to the question, "If you could speak to the Coppola of 30 years ago,...what would you want to tell him?"

"Trust your personal instincts, trust your feelings and don't be afraid of risk because you're going to die anyway. The one risk that you don't want to take is that when you die you say, 'Oh, I wish I had done this and I wish I had done that.' Do it all because that's what life is for. The things you're fired over when you're young are the same things that they later give you lifetime achievement awards for. So trust your intuition."

The World's Stupidest Lovers

By Mitchell

The second season of Metropolitan Opera high-def broadcasts to movie theaters began on Saturday with Gounod’s sumptuous Roméo et Juliette, Shakespeare’s famed story of the world’s stupidest lovers. I mean, think about it for a minute. Juliet we can at least understand – after all, she’s a giddy fifteen-year-old drama queen, caught in the throws of passion for the first time in her life, and as heady teenagers will, looks at everything as life and death. For her the choice is obvious – once things start to head south, the only alternative is to take her own life, in the most dramatic fashion possible.

But Romeo, we expected far more from you. He’s often thought to be older than Juliet, perhaps as old as 18. He’s old enough to kill a man, at any rate, and it’s obvious from his conduct that he knows how to carry himself in public. Therefore, we’d hoped for a little better than an impetuous suicide. His simultaneous reactions of surprise, joy and despair when he discovers that Juliet is still alive truly bring home the value of thinking important decisions through carefully before jumping into them. Alas, wisdom is often wasted on the young, and the dead.

Not surprisingly, the audience in the movie theater Saturday was younger than had been the norm last season, especially when it came to teen-aged girls, who have become the natural audience for the Bard’s tear-jerker. Fortunately, for those of us who are neither teen-agers nor girls, we had Anna Netrebko in the title role. For those of you who might not be familiar with Netrebko, she’s what opera aficionados would call a diva. To everyone else she is, simply put, a babe. She leaps off the screen in these HD broadcasts, as if only she was in HD and everyone else was analog. Both on-stage and off, it is clear that she loves the camera, and the camera loves her back with a passion. There may well be some controversy as to whether or not Netrebko has the chops to be considered one of the all-time greats, but there can be no doubt that visually she more than fits the bill. (And, by the way, she does sing awfully well.) Her Juliet was by turns bubbly and despairing, full of the confidence of youth, struck with the headiness of first love, at once both self-centered and totally giving. If Britney Spears can sing of being “not a girl, not yet a woman,” it was clear that Netrebko’s Juliet was all girl and all woman.

Needless to say, it takes a special Romeo to be able to stand next to this kind of wattage without being either totally eclipsed or burned to a crisp. Roberto Alagna, Saturday’s Romeo, was up to the task. He joked during the intermission interview that his graying hair made it more challenging to get into roles such as this, and perhaps it was this visual maturity that gave his Romeo a gravitas that isn’t always present in these productions. His Romeo was no pretty-boy; indeed, in the thrilling fight scene that brings Act One to a conclusion he carries himself as a man accustomed to the ways of fighting as well as those of the world. Unlike Juliet, this is not the first time he has found himself ensnared in the throws of passion, although this may well be his first experience of true love. In his initial encounter with Juliet, he courts her through the mask of a masked ball, in a sort of wooing by proxy, showing himself to be confident, teasing, ardent, a man of far more experience than his counterpart. Yet he, too, succumbs to the pain of Cupid’s arrow, only to be replaced in the end by pain of a much different kind.

The supporting cast, including the chorus, showed themselves to be reliable as usual. All of this, however, would have been of less import without Gounod's romantic melodies, seldom put to better use than in this piece. And surely there was no better ensemble to pull it off than the Met Opera Orchestra, conducted this day by Placido Domingo. One suspects that it was Domingo's presence in the pit, as much as Netrebko's on the stage, that gave this production its bling. The opera world is by no means unanimous in its view of Domingo as conductor, but on this day he kept the orchestra in line, kept time with the singers (especially after the intermission), and delivered a sound worthy of both the orchestra and the composer. As a personal aside, I thought the camera lingered over shots of Domingo far more often that it did with other conductors in previous broadcasts (with the exception of James Levine, who we all know is King of New York) . But it is Domingo's dedication to music and opera, as he makes the transition from performer to conductor, that helps wash away the bad taste left from the Three Tenors cheese, and serves to put further distance between Domingo and Pavarotti. (Can one seriously envision the lumbering Pavarotti, barely able to navigate the stage at the end, going down in the pit where he'd be invisible to the audience for most of the performance? Not likely.)

The Met has expanded its schedule from six to eight in this, its second year of HD theater moviecasts. By all accounts it's been a roaring success, with crowds growing and the number of theaters increasing. The theater we go to started out last year with one screen; it soon expanded to two, with both filled nearly to capacity. And, as we saw this year with the decision of St. Olaf College to simulcast its famed Christmas concert in theaters nationwide, it is a trend that appears to have legs. With this, the Met has reinforced its reputation as a national opera company, and it's going to give regional companies such as our own Minnesota Opera something to think about. The MO had a table set up in the lobby with information on the current season and an opportunity for people to register for free tickets to its own production of Romeo and Juliet (as if we couldn't figure out the French translation), running next month. As season ticket holders we already have ours, but in the lobby between acts one could hear more than one conversation, the jist of which asked why anyone would want to by tickets for our own Romeo after having experience the Met's production.

Why indeed? With the superior technology available in movie theaters, and the star power on both sides of the footlights, it's no longer good enough to simply cite the live theater experience as justification to spend one's disposable income. Operas such as the MO are going to have to deliver an experience that confirms the ticket buyer's decision. I haven't always been sure that the MO could deliver on such an experience - next month's production of Romeo will go a ways in telling whether or not such apprehension is justified. Time, as always, will tell.

Stingray Attack Linked to Irwin's Killer

By Kristin

New photographic evidence captured last week appears to have debunked the Lone Stingray theory dominating conversations surrounding the late naturalist Steve Irwin. This dramatic secquence of pictures, captured by world renowned nature photographer K.A. Barbieri, show grusome images of a man being attacked by the murderous stingray:

"I wanted to help," recalls Barbieri, "but professional photographers have a strict no interference policy when it comes to photographing nature. " Authorities remain on the lookout for the murderous stingray. Supporters of Stingrays Anonymous have declined to comment.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It Is What It Is

By Drew

The great thing about being a blogger on Monday is that when you find someone who says exactly what you feel, you don't have to bother trying to improve on it. You just accept it with gratitude. Here's Jay Nordlinger in this morning's NRO:

Oprah has given Obama a powerful boost, and that provoked a memory. In September 2000, Governor Bush was trailing Vice President Gore, pretty significantly. A prominent political analyst declared Bush “toast.” And then Bush went on Oprah and Regis — had very good appearances. And his numbers rose. The Oprah appearance, in particular, was thought to be a real boost.

A second prominent political analyst, in a private remark, said, “What a stupid country.” I’ve never forgotten that.

What more, really, can you say?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This Just In

By Steve

Selig Stunner: "I Used 'Roids"
MLB Commish Admits He Too Was On the Juice

(Milwaukee , WI)—December 14, 2007—Bud Selig acknowledged for the first time today that he, too, had taken steroids during his time as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Unnamed sources had earlier claimed that Selig confessed his usage to former U.S. Senator George Mitchell as part of Mitchell’s probe of steroid use in the major leagues in the last decade. Today was the first time Selig personally acknowledged those reports were true.

(Left) Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, pondering the future after admitting he had been implicated in his own probe of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

“Look at me,” said Selig, in an angry, some said almost "‘roid rage" tone, at his press conference this morning. “I’m a pretty wimpy guy, not much meat on my bones. It might have been enough to run a mediocre baseball club in Milwaukee, but it sure as hell wouldn't do in New York. How was I going to stand up to guys like Steinbrenner and Pete Rose and Donald Fehr and all the rest of them? I needed something extra to give me a boost, and steroids is where I turned. Sure, it wasn’t right, but I had to do something. And, by God, it worked.”

Selig pointed out that the extra confidence led to some of his finest moments as commissioner.

“Remember that All-Star game in Milwaukee , when I had to decide whether to call off the game or keep it going in extra innings?” he asked rhetorically. “The ol’ Bud would have just caved in, or maybe just crawled under my seat until they stopped yelling at me. But not Bud on the juice. I was able to stand up to the whole world, Fox Sports and everybody, and boldly call the whole thing a tie. I definitely grew a new set of them that night.”

Selig admits, however, that what he did was wrong and that he thinks he won’t do it again. “We must set a good example for the youth of America . They need to know that taking these illegal drugs is wrong and that it really won’t help you get ahead in life. Sure, many of the players on the Mitchell list are hundreds of millions of dollars richer today than they would have been, and some will still make it to the Hall of Fame. But are they happier for it? I mean, really.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Real NCAA Football Championship

By Bobby

Whilst the controversy over who deserves to play in the Allstate BCS Championship Game (Ohio State vs Louisiana State), let it be remembered the biggest upset in Division I football, Appalachian State’s win over Michigan, should be back in the issue in light of the Mountaineers’ big 55-35 win over the Richmond in the NCAA Division I Semifinal.

The NCAA Division I Tournament, at 16 teams, is the smallest of the divisions considering the number of teams that play Championship Subdivision Football. Only a selected number of conferences automatically send their champions, while other conferences have to be wary just to earn a postseason bid especially with the number of at-large bids. (The Ivy, Southwestern Athletic, and a few smaller conferences do not want their teams in the NCAA Tournament, with the SWAC wanting better exposure with well-attended rivalry games after Thanksgiving and their conference championship a week later conflicting with the tournament. The other major Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Division I conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic, sends their champion into the tournament.)

Like basketball, the controversy over the RPI index drew the attention of the selection process when the second-place team in the Southern Conference, Appalachian State (Boone), earned a home playoff game, while SoCon champion Wofford (Spartanburg) had a road game in the first round. (Wofford won the head-to-head, and the automatic bid as both teams were tied in conference standings.) Appalachian State’s big win over Michigan was worth points in the RPI index that helped when playoff bids were awarded.

The beauty of the Championship Subdivision is shown in those fifteen games known as the playoffs. While everyone in the BCS is playing in warm climates for their games such as Glendale, Pasadena, Miami Gardens, or New Orleans (with the first and last in domes; Glendale has a retractable dome), the NCAA Division I Football Tournament, like their professional brethren, is played on home fields of the higher-ranked team in the playoffs. The players are playing on Friday nights or Saturdays (depending on ESPN’s request), and the best part of playoff games comes with playing championship football in frigid temperatures, whether it is in Amherst, Bozeman, Boone, Youngstown (where Jim Tressel honed his coaching skills before heading to Columbus), Wilmington, or any of the other cold-weather climates of FCS football. They don’t play in pampered conditions that a Bowl Subdivision team earns with their nice games (and yes, that includes a postseason game in Michigan and one in Ontario played in domes) that mean nothing, but the importance of winning a playoff game, especially if you can upset a highly-ranked team with a big road win, and advancing to the championship, cannot be taken lightly.

In fact, once in the 1980’s and once in the 2000’s, there has been a team in the NCAA Tournament where at the start of the decade, the team did not field a football program, and that team advanced to the tournament very early in their careers. Georgia Southern, which hired Erk Russell (who was behind Georgia’s “Junkyard Dogs” defense) to run their new football program in 1982, was by 1985 a tournament team and became a SoCon force and National Championship winner of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, despite being a new program; their stadium is supported by the Paulson family of Gulfstream Aviation. Coastal Carolina, based in Conway, had its first class of seniors (began play in 2003; started recruiting in 2002 and redshirted all players) make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large (the Big South does not have the automatic bid) in 2006, and has their stadium endowed by the Brooks family of Hooters of America (including Eastern Foods, makers of Naturally Fresh salad dressing). I wonder if by the early 2010’s, if Old Dominion University in Virginia (recruiting for the Monarchs’ first football team begins this recruiting season; all players will be redshirted, and the first team plays in 2009) will be the same.

Oddly, South Florida (which started an FCS team in 1997, and moved to FBS in 2002; the Bulls’ head coach was hired in the recruiting-only year and has been with the program since the inception) did not make an FCS playoff in their time as an FCS team and only recently began playing FBS postseason games.

When Appalachian State and Delaware play Friday in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game, they were not selected to the title by a poll of man, their peers, or computer power rankings. The Mountaineers and Blue Hens were the best two that came from a sixteen-team tournament that included conference champions and worthy teams, and earned their way to the NCAA Championship in three hard-fought playoff matches in the hardest conditions possible, that included the NCAA giving Delaware a shot at in-state rival Delaware State (automatic bid MEAC) of Dover in the first round, a match that took over 100 years to finally play.

When they take to the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Friday, they will truly play for the official NCAA Division I Football Championship, and the survivor can truly show why they hold the distinction as the true NCAA Champion as they will have defeated four teams in four weeks to determine the title, and not face any subjective polling to advance to such a game.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Woman Want?

By Drew

Most of you are probably familiar with the story that came out a few months ago, pointing to an "epidemic" (I think that's the word they used) of student-teacher sex affairs. Of particular interest to many was the number of female teachers who had become involved with young male students, many of them in their early teens. Some call these teenage boys "abused," others consider them "lucky." Whatever, clearly the answer to ending this scandal is to allow teachers to marry - wait a minute, my mistake; it's allowing priests to marry that's supposed to end sexual abuse of teenage boys.

Clearly, if we learn anything from this whole mess, it's that the theory that allowing priests to marry will eliminate the pedophile scandal is nothing but a red herring. First of all, it's not pedophilia but pederasty that drove the Church's scandal - that and a rejection by the priests involved of Catholic teaching.

This, however, is a matter for another day. What interests so many about this teacher abuse study is a fundamental question of human curiousity: what do these grown women see in teenage boys? There's something almost nauseating about the whole thing. What I find interesting about it is how this behavior contrasts so dramatically with how women used to behave, or at least how they were portrayed in popular culture. Forget for a minute whether or not that pop culture portrayal was an accurate one; what mattered, in order for the portrayal to be a successful one, was that it was plausible.

Nowhere is that more evident than in pulp detective fiction, especially that from one of the genre's masters, Mickey Spillane, and his greatest creation, Mike Hammer. Hammer is, to put it mildly, a chick magnet (as well as a magnet for bullets, fists, Commies, Mafia, and all sorts of other unsavory characters). And we're not talking about ordinary women here - just beautiful ones. Breathtakingly beautiful ones. Hammer, at first blush, would seem to be the most unlikely object of desire.

He is, by his own admission, not a handsome man. It’s true that women often meet him after he’s been beaten virtually to a pulp by some nefarious perp, who invariably winds up dead, either right away – in the “you should see the other guy” school – or later on, when Hammer fulfills his mission of revenge. It’s clear, though, that Hammer harbors no illusions about his own appearance, even in the best of times.

And yet women literally throw themselves at him. Within minutes of the initial meeting, they’re tossing off suggestions and bon mots at him that would make a sailor blush. To these invitations Hammer often reacts lewdly, taking advantage of some, distaining others. It must be nice to pick and choose that way.

Hammer is by no means unique in the world of detective fiction. Philip Marlow, for one, has the same, shall we say, problem (especially when he’s played by Humphrey Bogart), and easy sex with loose women is a staple of both pulp and mainstream mysteries. Even Nick Charles, he of the Thin Man series, is one of those men who women want and men want to be like. Nick is considerably smoother and more handsome than most of them, however, plus he has Myrna Loy to come home to, and so he remains above those kinds of temptation.

Nevertheless, what is it about these characters that causes beautiful women – far more beautiful than the men are handsome – to throw themselves at them with a speed worthy of a Puccini opera? The reason for this animal magnetism, implicit in the Hammer books, is a simple one: manliness. Hammer is a real man, not a fake – a man who knows what he wants, knows how to get it, and, most important, isn’t afraid to take it.

And this is what brings us back around to the central question asked at the beginning – why the epidemic of female teacher-male student affairs? What is it that these older women – some barely older, some much older – could possibly find of interest in these boys? One theory that I find plausible is that implicit in these actions is a rejection of modern malehood – the lack of manliness so prevalent in men today. As the metrosexual (if that term isn’t already passé) becomes a dominant archetype of the modern man, more and more women yearn for that old-style masculinity found in the likes of Hammer and others. Enough with men who seek to be in touch with their “feminine side.” To many women, this breeds doubt, uncertainty, an unwillingness to take the initiative – hardly qualities that make a man truly attractive. Hugh Grant may be the ideal man for those tissue-drenching chick flicks that Lifetime and Hallmark live on, but it’s not hard to imagine that a real relationship based on that Hugh Grant character would lead to frustration and exasperation before too long.

So, confronted with the lack of “real men” out there, and dismayed by the alternative - young men wrapped up in rude, crude and boorish Maxim-like behavior, women reject the choices presented to them by conventional society and instead turn to the raw material, the stuff that their dreams can truly be made of. In the handsome, virile boy in their classroom they find a boy eager to learn, eager to please, with much to offer in the physical sense; but also one not yet corrupted by sensitivity training. Perhaps he’s a rugged jock, or a boy who exhibits all the hesitant masculine boisterousness that teenage boys usually have. Or he’s untapped ground, one who can be shaped not by the demands of society to emasculate himself, but by the desires of a woman who thinks (however misguided) she can teach him how to be a real man.

This kind of thing is really nothing new however, as is shown by Richard Strauss’ comic opera masterpiece Der Rosenkavalier. The subject matter in this story, written in 1911 but set in 1740s Vienna, was the source of some controversy as well. In it, we have the Marshallin, a charming but aging noblewoman, who is involved with Octavian, described as “a handsome young man with an eye for beautiful women.” Through a series of impossibly convoluted twists and turns, Octavian loses his heart to the beautiful young Sophie, who herself is engaged to the inept and repulsive Baron von Lerchenau.

Although the Marschallin is captivated by her affair with Octavian and falls in love with him, she knows that eventually he will leave her for a younger woman - one more his age. Eventually, this happens, and in the heart-wrenching trio "Hab' mir's gelobt" she releases Octavian to follow his heart and go to Sophie, saying she loves him so much she only wants happiness for him, even if it is with another woman.

With this ending, Strauss hints at the natural law of things, that eventually people - especially young ones - gravitate toward those of their own kind, their own age. And I think that what people most strongly object to in these teacher-student affairs is the idea that the young are being robbed of their future, of their natural maturing into the world beyond their youth, in essence being trapped into a lifestyle (and the consequences) long before they're ready to accept - or even understand - that life. Thus, they are not victims of sexual abuse per se, but of the same kind of abuse that we see in advertising campaigns, in peer pressure, in a hundred different ways - the abuse of forcing children to become adults before they're ready. Some would say that the unfortunate, if not ironic, aspect of this is that in the teacher-student case this is often being done by women who refuse to grow up, who yearn instead for their own childhood, free of responsibility.

As I say, I’m no sociologist, so I don’t pretend that this is anything other than a theory that I find compelling. It also suggests, but doesn’t necessarily deal with, the immaturity that these women themselves exhibit, their own failure to grow up and act responsibly. It does, however, answer a great many questions. And undoubtedly it says a lot about the present state of masculinity – or the lack thereof – in the modern male. I don’t know if we should be more worried about this epidemic of schoolhouse abuse, or the cultural forces that may be playing a part in it.

Whatever the case, this whole phenomenon should cause us to look closely at what our culture has become - how we view childhood, what it means to be a "real man" (and how through our culture so many of the natural aspects of manhood are being stripped away), and how for so many nowadays, adulthood is something to be put off as long as possible.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

Today we have both a poem and a song lyric (it's a dessert topping and a floor wax!).

On Christmas 1864 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882) penned this poem, reflecting the weariness of the country with the Civil War, and the hope that it might soon end. There was probably some of his own personal despair, having lost his wife in a fire three years before that and then having his oldest son severely wounded in battle.

(As an aside, I learned that the reason Longfellow had that long thick beard was because he no longer could shave after having also been burned, trying in vain to save his wife.)

I fondly remember seeing a statue of Longfellow every time I went to downtown Portland, Maine. His boyhood home was on the main drag (Congress Street), surrounded by a large retail building on one side and the even larger Portland Public Library on the other. However, there was a charming little garden right next to the house that was always open to the public, and visiting it was like a trip to an enchanted place, blocking out all the sounds of the city.

As, for the poem: it was first set to music in 1872 by John B. Calkin and then, more commonly known, by Johnny Marks ("Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer") in the 1950s. This is the one you hear if you happen to have Christmas CDs. The fourth and fifth stanzas are usually omitted, since they most directly deal with the Civil War and would make the song less timeless. However, it is the poem that we print here, with all seven stanzas.

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Wish I'd Written That

By Drew

"I have no time for any music which does not stimulate pleasure in life, and, even more importantly, pride in life."

Miklós Rózsa, happily stolen from Terry Teachout

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Story of Christmas

An Our Word Flashback

'Tis the season for Christmas television viewing as well as gift-giving ideas. In this piece from 2004, we take a look at something that fits the bill in both areas: the long-forgotten program that was once considered a Christmas treasure, Tennessee Ernie Ford's 1963 The Story of Christmas.


Now available on DVD is the landmark 1963 special The Story of Christmas, hosted by Tennessee Ernie Ford and featuring music by the Roger Wagner Chorale.

What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard of The Story of Christmas? Well, to tell you the truth, until a few months ago neither had I. I first discovered it while I was looking through an old 1963 Christmas Week TV Guide that I’d purchased to add to my collection (we’ll talk about that another time!). In it was a feature story on an upcoming special called The Story of Christmas. Specifically, the article talked about one segment of the program, an 18 1/2 minute animated sequence depicting the story of the Nativity done by artist Eyvind Earle, who had previously worked at the Disney studios on such movies as Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty. Now, The Story of Christmas is a pretty epic title for any program, even a television show, and an additional close-up in the program listings led me to believe that even then, the show must have been considered a big deal. As Daily Variety put in in their review, "The tape should be preserved and played back for years on end. It's brilliance will never be dimmed or excelled." Judging by how the show had faded into the historical dustbin, their advice was obviously not taken.

It was clear that the animated Nativity story was the centerpiece of the program. The color pictures in the TV Guide were striking, and the more I thought about it, the harder it was to believe there wasn’t more information out there. I Googled Earle’s name in hopes that perhaps there were more pictures, or even some footage, of the Nativity film. (As it turns out, Earle was actually quite famous for his Christmas card designs). Well, no luck in finding that, but I found something even better – the Tennessee Ernie Ford website, where the DVD (as well as the CD soundtrack) was readily available, which just goes to show you how terrific the Internet can be for finding out this kind of thing.

I’ve always thought that TV Guide was about as good a snapshot as you could get of what the social culture was like at any given time (see also this). Movies like Going My Way paint a vivid portrait of what our country used to be like - not necessarily a picture, but more like a painting; an idealized image perhaps, but the making of the image itself is a product of its time. But while they may show how Christmas used to be celebrated, it’s television, in the form of variety shows like The Story of Christmas and the old Bing Crosby specials (hokey though some of them may be) that demonstrates how Christmas was commemorated once upon a time; or, as the song says, they tell the "tales of the glories of Christmases long ago."

Friday, December 7, 2007

What's Really Important

By Mitchell

You may have read about the recent remarks by Professor Richard Dawkins (he of the book The God Delusion) in which he attempts to rationalize adultery, or at least defend it, within the greater context of an attack on "the green-eyed monster," jealousy. (Although, as those who are gravely wrong often do, he stumbles into the truth with his remark early on that "of course" adultery "is forgivable." It is indeed, as are other sins, but only if one expresses true repentance and a desire to reform one's life. As far as I know, this doesn't include rationalization.)

But that is a discussion for another day and another forum. For those of us inclined to look behind the headlines, of far more interest than Dawkins' remarks is the fact (with a nod to Iain Murphy at NRO) that Dawkins is married to former Doctor Who star Lalla Ward. Who knew? Did you, Badda?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Pain of Losing

By Bobby

In our unfortunate society of self-esteem, we have lost the attitude of what the penalty of losing means in our society.

Thus came a recent incident where recently, I was reduced to Nancy Kerrigan complaining after seeing my rival beat my alma mater in the worst possible way, denying a postseason bid and forcing me to moan while everyone else had a party. This had me contemplating suicide off the Ponte Vecchio into the Arno River, a certain Geisel character who took my Christmas away, losing my car, and hearing the dreaded “losing horns” on a Radio Television Luxembourg show.
All four of these symbols of losing are painful, and when I think of each of them, they mean different things, but the same to me, who has lost my Christmas and now can’t go anywhere.


This one’s funny. In Gianni Schicchi, which I have said is one of the funnier operas I have attended, Lauretta pleads with her father (the titular character of the opera) she wants to find a way to marry Rinuccio from the Donati family (whose patriarch had just died). The will of Buoso Donati states the entire empire is going to the church, and the monastery. Gianni was hired by the Donati clan to rewrite the will so they could earn their take instead, and the dueling clan irritated him, so he wants to leave. Lauretta pleads not to leave, since she loves Rinuccio, and in the signature aria O mio babbino caro, she requests the will be rewritten so that she can marry Rinuccio. Failure to do such, she pleads, will lead to her suicide off the Ponte Vecchio into the Arno River.

I told my voice teacher a week after the depressing loss and she responded, “Did you see Gianni Schicchi (there was a performance three weeks prior to this incident)?”

I grinned.


Do our children forget to read today? The feeling that my Christmas had been lost to the Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) was the exact feeling of depression. And how many people know that the Grinch is a character of Theodore Geisel, who used his middle name in his pseudonym.


Fox Cable Networks’ Speed Channel airs a television series, Pinks, hosted by Rich Christensen. The show, easily the most popular series on the channel, was created by the University of Northern Iowa graduate, who admits he has sold television show concepts for a living. Many shows were rejected, but this concept was given a trial on Speed with just a small budget, a few officials and three cameras. Its popularity is based on a best three out of five 1950's-style street race on a drag strip, complete with the show devisor as lead official and starter. The winner takes the loser’s car (sometimes truck, motorcycle, or snowmobile) with him in this battle.

My anger with losing comes to the point I think I am the loser on Pinks. There is something about not being able to lose, and the show is one of those shows which teaches the concept of not being able to lose. Losing leads to losing the car.


Radio Televison Luxembourg, which is 90% owned by Bertelsmann AG, is the successor to Mark Goodson - Bill Todman Productions, and the owner of the entire library of game shows of that firm through its FremantleMedia arm.

RTL’s current game show library includes Family Feud/Fortunes (the UK version uses the latter), Temptation (was known as Sale of The Century until recently; from the Reg Grundy library), two shows on the CBS roster, The Price Is Right (Drew Carey) and Password (set to be revived during 2008 with Regis Philbin), the Idols franchise, and international versions of The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader / 10-Year Old (the show’s name differs by country).

Many Mark Goodson shows play a losing horn after a contestant loses games, such as losing bonus games on many of their shows, especially with double overbids or certain painful losses on The Price Is Right, which is RTL’s only show that currently uses losing horns.

Now you do know why losing hurts, and sometimes too many game shows teach the lesson that you cannot afford to lose, since losing results in painful sounds or in the worst case, losing what you have.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

This time of year makes us turn again to song lyrics for our poetry fix and the two songs we'll look at today are associated, natch, with Frank Sinatra. They're also songs that aren't heard as often as Frosty and Rudolph, which makes them fun because they're familiar yet fresh.

The first is a tune called "Mistletoe and Holly." Written in 1957 by Doc Stanford, Hank Sanicola - and Mr. Sinatra - it was introduced on the album "A Jolly Christmas." It was also sung on Sinatra's television show, which aired December 20, 1957. It was a half hour of Sinatra singing and singing, along with his guest, Bing Crosby. The song is reminiscent of tunes such as "The Christmas Song" and "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays," portraying how Christmas should be celebrated. Were Christmases ever like this or do we wish they had been?

The second is "The Christmas Waltz" by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Sinatra, being a friend of Cahn's, was one of the first people to record the song, and he recorded it at least twice with arrangements by Nelson Riddle and then by Gordon Jenkins.

These are both lovely lyrics, conjuring up warm feelings of Christmases past.

Mistletoe and Holly

Oh by gosh, by golly,
It's time for mistletoe and holly,
Tasty pheasants, Christmas presents,
Countryside's covered with snow.

Oh by gosh, by jingle,
It's time for carols and Kris Kringle.
Overeating, merry greetings
From relatives you don't know.

Then comes that big night,
Giving the tree a trim.
You'll hear voices by starlight
Singing a yuletide hymn.

Oh by gosh, by golly,
It's time for mistletoe and holly,
Fancy ties and Granny's pies
And folks stealing a kiss or two,
As they whisper Merry Christmas to you.

The Christmas Waltz

Frosted window panes
Candles gleaming inside
Painted candy canes on the tree.
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh
With things, things for you and for me.

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love.
Every song you hear
Seems to say: Merry Christmas
May your New Year dreams come true
And this song of mine
In three quarter time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing too.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Random Notes

By Mitchell

  • Happy birthday, Andy Williams! Since the death of Bing Crosby, Andy Williams is probably the closest we have to "Mr. Christmas." His Christmas shows in the 60s and 70s were classics of the genre - slightly corny, drenched in color (as so many programs were during the explosion of color broadcasts in the 60s - but check out the red and orange shoes!), and featuring a nice mixture of secular and sacred songs. The the entire Williams clan appeared in these programs, including Andy's brothers (the Williams Brothers got their start as a quartet in the late 30s before Andy made it big on his own, and it's no surprise that the Osmond Brothers, who were featured on many of his shows, strongly reminded him of his own roots), his mom and dad, and his wife Claudine Longet and their children. The Best of the Andy Williams Christmas Shows is a terrific reminder of how television viewed Christmas in the 60s; get a copy by all means if you can. And by the way, did you know that the classic song, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," was actually written for one of those Christmas shows? Andy Williams is 80 today, and here's to many more!

  • Speaking of Christmas programs, a big thank you to Jim Fanning at the blog Tulgey Wood for his very kind words and link to my Amahl article at TVParty. I was quite touched by his very generous comments. Jim has a terrific blog, especially for anyone who, like me, is a nut about TV, movies and the like - be sure to check it out!

  • Still on the TV track, a couple of obits from before Thanksgiving. First, Dick Wilson. You may not recognize his name, but if you're of my age you'd know him when you saw him - especially if he was giving his trademark line, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin." That's right: Mr. Whipple. And also, for classic TV fans, we note the passing of Sigrid Valdis, who played was Hilda, Colonel Klink's second secretary, on Hogan's Heroes, and was Bob Crane's second wife. Just in the last couple of years, she'd recorded a commentary track for one of the boxed set seasons of Hogan. Dick Wilson was 91, Sigrid Valdis was only 72. R.I.P.
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